A 14-year-old black activist "general" allegedly murdered by the bodyguards of Winnie Mandela was buried Saturday in a ceremony that drew appeals for unity in the anti-apartheid movement and warnings against avenging his death.
"These past weeks - (with) the facts of his dying as they have been heard - will be remembered as weeks of shame and tragedy," Methodist Bishop Peter Storey told 500 people at a memorial service for Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, a "young lion" who once commanded a "children's army" in anti-government rioting."Dear God, what have we done in this land so that a child who should be studying in a classroom, or running with his friends in the veld, or playing marbles in his back yard, becomes a 14-year-old general with the tired eyes of an old man," he said.
"In another land you may have been a choir boy. South Africa made you a general," Storey said. "Salute his courage but do not injure him further by using this funeral as a platform for revenge."
Seipei was found dumped in a field on Jan. 6 with his jugulars slashed, but his body was not identified by police until earlier this month. Murder charges have been filed against three of Mrs. Mandela's bodyguards, including her 61-year-old chauffer, who was charged Friday.
Authorities usually impose tight restrictions on political funerals or ban them altogether. But they allowed Saturday's funeral to proceed with remarkable alacrity, evidently convinced the murder has further divided the black resistance movement and that the funeral would provide more negative publicity about Mrs. Mandela.
A number of plainclothes police kept watch, filming youths chanting in the streets, but no uniformed soldiers or military vehicles were deployed as Seipei's severely decomposed body was buried in a hillside cemetery on the outskirts of the impoverished township.
Seipei, whose leadership during township unrest between 1984 and 1986 landed him in jail for 11 months, was hailed by activist Mclean Skhosane as a "revolutionary fighting for his rights."
But hammering on the theme of unity, he said, "We shouldn't point fingers. . . . Don't let his death divide us."
Storey said later he expected the "community will continue to seek justice (for his death), but hopefully without any spirit of retribution."