An emotional Nelson Mandela laid wreaths Tuesday in a field in a black homeland where troops killed at least 24 ANC marchers, striking a damaging blow to efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other church leaders went to the site in the Ciskei homeland earlier in the day, kneeling between police armored vehicles to offer prayers for the dead and wounded from Monday's shooting. Angry blacks scuffled with police in Johannesburg and Cape Town.Flanked by South African police and supporters, Mandela walked about 20 yards into Ciskei to place several wreaths.
"There are many people who came to this place with hope and never returned," the African National Congress president said. "It is a very emotional moment for us that those fighting for democracy, for peace . . . should be mowed down by those who fear demo-cracy."
About 20,000 ANC supporters marched into Ciskei to demand the ouster of the homeland's military leader, Brig. Oupa Gqozo (OO-pah KOR-sah), who took power in a 1990 coup. The ANC considers Ciskei and other black homelands as illegitimate creations of apartheid.
The shootings, which also wounded 196 people, threatened to deepen South Africa's political crisis over stalled talks between the ANC and the white government on giving blacks the vote and ending apartheid.
The ANC withdrew from the talks in June after 39 blacks died in a massacre in Boipatong township. The ANC, the country's largest black opposition group, has accused the government of abetting township violence between rival black factions, a charge the government denies.
ANC secretary-general Cyril Ramaphosa, among the marchers who ducked for cover when the shooting began, said relations with President F.W. de Klerk's government were at their "lowest ebb ever."
"My own assessment is that negotiations are in serious jeopardy," Rampaphosa said.
South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha accused the ANC of trying to seize power and said the government would not resume power-sharing talks until the ANC abandoned "communist" plans to choke the economy through protest strikes.
Ciskei, whose 1 million people live in several tracts totaling about 3,600 square miles, was formed by South Africa as a separate nation for blacks.
The homelands, most of which are dominated by authoritarian regimes, are recognized as independent by almost no one. They are expected to rejoin South Africa under a new constitution that would extend voting rights to the black majority.
The ANC said the killings could trigger an outbreak of popular anger.
"People will kill members of the Ciskei police and defense force," said Chris Hani, an ANC leader who heads the South African Communist Party. "This is so much anger and bitterness."
Hundreds of protesters scuffled with police outside the Ciskei consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town.