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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 379

Paragraph Numbers 230 to 242

Volume 2

Chapter 4

Subsection 25

230 The association of the MDM with commission of gross violations of human rights can be divided into two broad areas. First, violations occurred as a result of organised non-violent confrontations with the state, termed ‘mass action’. This includes mass protests such as marches, stay aways and consumer boycotts directed at crippling state machinery, as well as clashes among township residents. The latter was not always exclusive of the former as, in many incidents, security forces were alleged to have a hidden hand in the violent political conflicts in the townships. Nevertheless, people participating in protest actions were themselves sometimes perpetrators of human rights violations where, for example, they killed people found contravening popular decisions relating to consumer boycotts or strike actions.

231 Second, a number of violations was committed by participants in campaigns. Such violations include direct attacks on government bodies and agents such as community councillors, security forces, kitskonstabels (special constables) and municipal police and those perceived to be, or associated with, informers.

232 Few rank and file members of the mass movements had access to the written propaganda produced by the ANC and SACP in exile. Publications such as Mayibuye, Sechaba, African Communist, Forward!, Dawn and Umsebenzi were all banned for possession and distribution in South Africa. In any case, the ANC’s limited underground structures meant that distribution was limited. Radio Freedom was more accessible, but only to those who had short-wave radios or lived in areas where reception was good. By far the most widespread means of communicating propaganda was through the speeches, slogans and songs.

233 The use of slogans was effective in mobilising people for action, often in undisciplined ways. Where chants and songs were militaristic, they often had the effect of stimulating crowds to take action, to ‘play their part in the struggle’. Individuals associated with the former state frequently became targets for attack.

Crowd violence

234 During the schools uprising of 1976, some individuals were identified as ‘sell-outs’ and became vulnerable to attacks. In October 1976 Mr Mshicele Samuel Sokoyi [CT01045] was shot in his right leg when a group of men attacked his shop and a Special Branch policeman, Pieter Schoeman [CT01045/FLA], in Gugulethu. A month later, after he identified one of the attackers to the police, a mob attacked him. He was stabbed in the back, stoned and his car and furniture were set alight and destroyed.

235 A similar attack took place in Soweto in the early stages of student resistance. Dr Melville Leonard Edelstein [JB00786/01GTSOW], who was killed by student protesters during the Soweto uprising, was the Chief Welfare Officer with the West Rand Bantu Administration Board (WRBAB). The WRBAB, its staff and its property were perceived to be instruments of oppression and were the targets of attacks by the students.

Violations committed during schools boycotts, workers’ strikes, etc.

236 During the 1970s and 1980s, boycotting students threw stones, petrol bombs and hand grenades at the houses of several school principals who opposed school boycotts and who were therefore seen to be ‘collaborators’ with the government. Similar confrontations took place during worker strikes in the 1980s.

237 In these circumstances, it was often assumed that people found killed were victims of strike actions. An example of this occurred in September 1986 when Mr Johannes Witbooi [EC1526/97NWC] was killed by unknown people while on his way to work at the time of a strike at the Cradock Wrought Iron Factory. According to the testimony of his wife, Ms Selina Witbooi, Johannes Witbooi’s hands and feet were tied with barbed wire and his upper body partly burnt. He also had a wound around his neck. She suspected that he had been killed by fellow workers. The Commission was unable to conclude whether the deceased was attacked by his fellow workers who were on strike or was a victim of criminal elements.

Violations committed during mass protests and marches

238 The frequency of massacres increased dramatically in the late 1980s. A vicious cycle of political violence resulted when police used tough measures to stop mass protest actions. Victims and witnesses of incidents often claimed security force participation, although this was not always visible. An example of this is when Mr Peter Sithole [JB02330/01GTSOW] and twenty-five other commuters were hacked to death in the September 1990 train massacre at Benrose station. The deponent in the case said that white men who had covered their faces with a black substance participated in the massacre.

239 The large number of deaths that occurred in the early 1990s are dealt with elsewhere in this report.

Consumer Boycotts

240 In the mid-1980s, community organisations called for consumer boycotts to support national and local political demands. The boycotts targeted mainly white-owned businesses, but spread to include businesses owned by people perceived to be ‘collaborators’, such as black businesspersons who participated in the government established local authorities.

241 Militant youth often took it upon themselves to monitor and enforce boycotts. In some cases, people seen defying the boycott call were punished by being made to eat inedible purchases such as detergents, raw food and to drink cooking oil. Some were killed. For example, Ms Nontina Matyumza [CT01857/97ALB] died after she was force-fed washing powder at her home at Esileyini location, Port Alfred in May 1985. Her daughter, Ms Nombeko Matyumza, testified that her mother bought liquor at a time when the community had decided that all shebeens in Port Alfred should be closed in the early evenings. Comrades forced Nontima Matyumza and her husband to eat Omo washing powder. She died the following day.

242 The former UDF leadership admitted in its submission that there were cases of this nature. The UDF told the Commission that they were diversions from its policies and therefore aberrations and that such incidents were perpetrated by unaligned and uncontrollable youth:

When we were taken into prisons they were left without leadership and many of them, angry even at our arrest, did things which were irrational.

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