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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 387

Paragraph Numbers 271 to 283

Volume 2

Chapter 4

Subsection 29

Types of gross human rights violations by mass movements
Burning and the ‘necklace

271 In general, the violations perpetrated by supporters of the mass opposition movement in South Africa involved the attacking of vehicles and buildings with stones and petrol-bombs, stones, sticks and knives. It was only from the mid1980s that people had access to more sophisticated weapons such as hand grenades and firearms. However, what distinguished South Africa from elsewhere was the killing of people by burning.

272 Except for a few cases discussed below, until 1977 the main target of arson attacks was government property such as Bantu Administration offices, school buildings, rent offices, beer halls and other government-related buildings. This was particularly so during the anti-pass campaign in 1960, the 1976 students’ protests and the 1980 schools boycotts.

273 A new concept was added to the vocabulary of the resistance struggle in South Africa from the mid-1980s – the ‘necklace’ method of killing. In addition, when the government introduced community councils in African townships, houses belonging to the those associated with the council system became targets of petrol bomb attacks. The first case of death by burning recorded in the Commission’s data base took place in Crossroads, Cape Town in April 1983.

274 It is believed that the necklace method of killing originated from the Eastern Cape in early 1985. On 23 March 1985 in KwaNobuhle Uitenhage, police shot and killed twenty-one people. Angry residents retaliated by necklacing a staunch community councillor and his three sons. Thereafter, every known house of a policeman and informer was attacked and burned. The necklacing method subsequently spread to other areas of the country.

275 Tyres and petrol were easily available in most townships. Many victims of the necklace method of killing were already dead by the time their bodies were burned. Burning was also used by the police to cover up killings. Well known cases are those of the PEBCO Three and Cradock Four (See Volume Three).

276 The Commission heard that, in some townships, ‘comrades’ attempted to prevent the burial of victims before the bodies had been burnt. For example, community councillor Mr Archibald Siqaza [CT01340/FLA] was burned to death on 26 December 1985 in Crossroads. His son, Mandla Siqaza, told the Commission that the family buried the body very early in the morning. ‘Comrades’ attempted to prevent the burial and, within a month, the body had been exhumed by the ‘comrades’.

277 While initial cases of necklace murders were clearly targeted at suspected ‘collaborators’ and ‘informers’, as the years progressed, targets became blurred. Political activists also became targets of burning by either petrol bombs and or tyres.

278 From evidence before the Commission, it appears that the burning of a body was a sign of contempt for the victim and his/her deeds. No act could convey a deeper sense of hatred and disrespect. The practice was also used to make an example of the victim, so that others would be inhibited from behaving like the deceased. Burning a body could also remove traces of evidence of the killing. In some cases, the practice of burning a body was used to disguise criminal murders as political killings. In other cases, criminals themselves were targets of necklacing as they were seen as vulnerable for recruitment as police spies.

279 The responsibility for burning and necklace killings can be attributed to a number of individuals and groups. The nature of the responsibility ranges from failure to condemn, to verbal encouragement to the commission of the act itself.

280 The following statistics reflect the extent of reported deaths related to political violence and those resulting from burning and necklace killings for the years 1984 to 1989. The figures in brackets are the numbers captured on the Commission database.

Deaths related to political violence and to necklace/burnings10
Year Total political violence deaths Necklace/burning
1984 175 (164) 3 (3)
1985 922 (636) 67 (28)
1986 1352 (834) 306 (84)
1987 706 (361) 19 (35)
1988 1149 (401) 10 (20)
1989 1403 (474) (21)
TOTAL 5 707 (2 870) +/- 700 (191)

281 The table indicates that, except in 1986, the number of people whose deaths were associated with burning is far lower than the total number of people who died in each year between 1984 and 1989. Despite higher figures of burning and neck-lacing in 1987 (35) and 1988 (20) reflected on the Commission’s database compared to figures from secondary sources (19 and 20 respectively), the trend is similar. Thus, it seems that incidents of burnings and necklace reached a peak in 1986. The database suggests, however, that the number rose again in 1990.

282 During the Pondoland revolt, at least eight chiefs and their councillors were killed and their huts were burned. Some people burned to death inside their houses. The headmen and chiefs were seen to be collaborating with the government in implementing new government policies, high taxation and conservation measures. They were often suspected of being involved in corruption such as bribery.

283 In the 1980s, people serving in institutions of government were labelled as ‘collaborators’, especially if they did not heed the call to resign. Community councillors and security forces fell into this category.

10 Sources include: Indicator Project of South Africa (Ipsa), South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), figures by the minister of Law and Order and SAP files. Not all figures from secondary sources are accurate. The highest figures have been taken in each instance and calculations have been made based on information from a combination of sources.
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