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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 482

Paragraph Numbers 303 to 312

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 37

The incorporation dispute

303 The KwaNdebele Legislative Assembly passed a motion calling on the cabinet to pursue independence in May 1982, following Ciskei 's independence the previous year. However, the most significant impediment to KwaNdebele independence was the area's meagre development. KwaNdebele lacked basic infrastructure. It had few roads and no hospitals. In order to boost the area's viability before independence, the South African government planned to incorporate two historically non-Ndebele areas, Ekangala and Moutse, into KwaNdebele. In 1983, the Department of Cooperation and Development ( DCAD) convinced the South African government that Moutse's incorporation was economically and politically necessary to ensure KwaNdebele's independence.


304 On February 9, 1985, Mr Gerrit Viljoen, then the Minister of Co-operation and Development, announced that the nearly 5 000 residents of Ekangala, a “decentralisation” township near Bronkhorstspruit, would be incorporated into KwaNdebele. The announcement initiated a wave of popular resistance amongst residents, most of whom had moved to the area from overcrowded areas of the East Rand. The Ekangala Action Committee (EAC) took the lead in organising a campaign of mass resistance. The EAC turned its attention to fighting plans for incorporation. The KwaNdebele government responded by intensifying the reign of terror against the action committee. Imbokodo vigilantes assaulted and terrorised the people of Ekangala in night raids, using pangas, sjamboks and clubs. Their activities included breaking doors and windows, beating people unconscious and abducting them in boots of motor vehicles to appear before the “tribal court”. A common feature of the assaults was that people were told to get out of Ekangala. A young schoolboy was allegedly shot and killed. At least three other supporters of the EAC were allegedly beaten, including a mother and her daughter. Several others were arrested.

305 After this, repression in the township fell to vigilantes loyal to the KwaNdebele administration. In fact, many of the raids appear to have been planned by senior homeland politicians. KwaNdebele cabinet minister FK Mahlangu was known to have participated in the nocturnal raids of balaclava-clad vigilantes that terrorised the township from late March onwards. The house of Mr Peter Kose, the widely respected vice-chairman of the EAC, was attacked and all its doors and windows broken. Subsequently his daughter and other children of EAC officials were expelled from school. By the end of July 1985, Kose had been abducted three times, the last time in front of witnesses who watched in horror as his abductors swung him around by his heels until his head bounced along the ground. After he lost consciousness, he was bundled into the boot of a waiting car and taken to a vigilante's house for further torture. The police, acting on a complaint from Kose's wife, later rescued the battered community leader. However, Kose was subsequently jailed on an assault charge filed by his abductors. Only after legal intervention were the charges dropped and Kose released.

306 While Kose’s case illustrates the extreme measures to which the vigilantes were willing to go, he was by no means alone in suffering at the hands of KwaNdebele’s intimidators. By the end of the year, The Weekly Mail reported that nearly one-third of the township’s residents had fled the vigilante’s reign of terror. Those who remained demanded resettlement to the East Rand, regardless of the overcrowding that had prompted their original move to Ekangala. Despite evidence implicating the vigilantes in the ongoing violence in the area, South African officials failed to act against the Imbokodo’s excesses.


307 Moutse is home to one of the region’s longest-established communities. Members of the Bantoane, the largest chieftaincy, have lived in the area since the latter half of the eighteenth century. Although their ancestors are Setswana speakers from what is today Botswana, the Bantoane have resided in the area long enough to claim, albeit without proof, that their present boundaries were personally laid down by Paul Kruger. Throughout this century, a number of other ethnic groups have settled in Moutse. According to the 1980 census, 58 per cent of the population was Sotho, 38 per cent was Ndebele and 3 per cent was Shangaan/ Tsonga. Because of the area’s early settlement, 53 per cent of the land was held under individual or communal freehold tenure. The rest of the area was Trust land. By the mid-1980s, the 66 000-hectare region contained forty-three villages with approximately 120 000 residents. Under separate development, three tribal and three community authorities had been designated and jointly formed a regional authority. The Bantoane (later renamed the Moutse) Regional Authority was a constituent part of Lebowa when the territorial authority was established in 1962. From the beginning, Moutse had always been included in the government’s plans for the Northern Sotho ‘national unit’.

308 However, on the recommendations of the 1975 select committee for Bantu Affairs, the government considered incorporating Moutse into the soon to be established Ndebele homeland. Given Moutse’s history and its ethnic composition, many analysts condemned the proposal as a violation of apartheid’s ethnic ideal. Internal DCAD memoranda reveal that the department realised that their plans for Moutse represented a significant change of emphasis. Nevertheless, officials justified Moutse’s incorporation based on a number of administrative, economic and developmental considerations. For its part, the 1975 select committee was motivated by a number of concerns. First, the incorporation of Moutse would have greatly expanded the area of the small KwaNdebele homeland. Second, the enlarged homeland would have remained a contiguous area, a goal frequently mentioned by apartheid planners but rarely achieved. Third, KwaNdebele’s land area and population size would be boosted without the costs and negative publicity accompanying physical removals. Finally, given Moutse’s combination of trust land and African freehold, the area’s incorporation would boost KwaNdebele’s size without the state having to purchase white farms or modify the amount of land occupied by Africans in terms of the limits set by the 1936 Land Act. In 1980, the central government excised Moutse from Lebowa, the first step towards acting on the select committee’s recommendation.

309 Following Moutse's excision from Lebowa, the South African government made periodic announcements on their plans for the historically Northern Sotho area. In ongoing negotiations between Moutse leaders, the Lebowa cabinet and officials of the central government, it had clearly been established that the South African government would offer Moutse to KwaNdebele in order to boost the homeland's viability prior to independence. Throughout this period, however, Moutse's traditional leaders made it abundantly clear to representatives of the South African government, including PW Botha and Ministers Koornhof and Heunis, that they were opposed to independence. Moutse's chiefs and homeland politicians further warned that an attempt forcefully to implement incorporation plans would inevitably lead to bloody resistance.

310 Messrs Mmusi Moses Mathebe, Paledi Cecil Mathebe and Solomon Moseme Malefahlo and many others from Moutse were assaulted by Imbokodo vigilantes after a raid at the kraal of Chief Elliot Mathebe, the Kgobokoane chief who opposed incorporation. The intention of the attack was to kidnap the chief, the

311 Vigilante attacks on dissenters were not limited to residents of areas marked for incorporation. By December 1985, the Imbokodo were also attacking KwaNdebele residents suspected of resisting independence or opposing the homeland cabinet's authority. Members of the Imbokodo viciously assaulted residents of the southern village of Kwaggafontein, especially supporters of prominent local politician Klaas Makhosana Mahlangu.

312 Mahlangu had played a significant, if somewhat controversial, role in Ndebele politics. His position as a community leader was further enhanced by his dual claims to traditional power. In the southern KwaNdebele village of Kwaggafontein where he lived, he was known for his sympathetic understanding of the largely resettled population that he sought to lead. As many of his neighbours had recently fled to KwaNdebele from Winterveld and other areas of Bophuthatswana, Mahlangu was particularly aware of local antagonism towards the concept of homeland independence. Consequently, Mahlangu had long been recognised as a leading sceptic of Pretoria's plans for the homeland. While not critical of the idea of a Ndebele homeland per se, Mahlangu spoke resolutely against attempts to forcibly incorporate non-Ndebele areas or to accept independence. As early as 1977, he was assaulted and harassed by supporters of the KwaNdebele executive for publicly opposing political developments in the homeland. In late 1985, the KwaNdebele cabinet again sought to silence Mahlangu – and his growing number of supporters – using vigilante intimidation.

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