A gunman fired shots into the air Saturday just 20 yards from President Nelson Mandela, who was leading a mass funeral for massacre victims. Mandela was not hurt and was not the target, aides said.
The gunman apparently fired the shots to defend a man wrongly identified by mourners as taking part in the slaughter of 11 people in KwaZulu-Natal province on May 9, witnesses and African National Congress officials said.
Bodyguards shielded the 76-yearold Mandela as the shots rang out near the podium where he stood. It was not immediately known whether anyone was hit or what happened to the gunman.
The man he apparently sought to protect had been beaten by people in the crowd of 5,000 mourners. Riot police then pulled him from the crowd and beat him further while driving him away, witnesses said.
Mandela urged the crowd to remain peaceful.
“There are some among you who could be planted to cause violence and confusion,” he said.
Mandela demanded an end to the killings he called “part of a wellcalculated strategy to undermine the democratic government.”
Mandela’s ANC and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party are clashing over demands by Inkatha for more autonomy.