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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 486

Paragraph Numbers 313 to 327

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 38

313 On 19 December 1985, Mahlangu, his wife and his mother were abducted by Imbokodo vigilantes from Kwaggafontein. They were taken to Emagezeni, a place of torture. Fortunately for Mahlangu, the station commander at Kwaggafontein police station intervened to save him and his family from physical attack. Following his release into police custody, he was allowed refuge at the police station until a policeman could safely drive him out of the area. Mahlangu fled KwaNdebele.

314 Other Kwaggafontein residents were not so lucky. They were beaten with sjamboks (whips), knobkieries (clubs) and pickhandles. They were forced to go into the house where there was soapy water. Mr Senzani Mateu Morake [JB02793] is today disabled because of Imbokodo vigilantes. Mr Boy Simon Mahlangu [JB2914] permanently lost the hearing in his right ear. Several other Kwaggafontein residents reported similar attacks to the Commission.

315 Despite obvious signs of growing mass resistance, the South African government proceeded with plans for incorporation and independence while simultaneously failing to act against the illegal excesses of the Imbokodo vigilantes.

316 Officials of the South African government received information that could have warned them of the violence to come. The EAC sent a memorandum to both the East Rand Administration Board and to the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning (DCDP), which was signed by over a thousand residents and which outlined the unrest and resistance which had emerged in the township. The area’s highest ranking security officer, Captain Chris Kendall, allegedly warned the homeland politicians that the activities of Imbokodo only served to heighten the unrest and alienate residents. He also told the ministers that the EAC was not a radical organisation and that its members could be counted on to resolve the issue peacefully if given the right conditions. The KwaNdebele cabinet ignored Kendall’s advice. Kendall, who had previously enjoyed a warm relationship with members of the cabinet (he had once been their shooting instructor at Bronkhorstspruit) quickly fell into disfavour with the KwaNdebele government.

317 Following the assassination of Piet Ntuli, the cabinet declared Kendall persona non grata and successfully demanded that the SAP transfer him from the area. Although the KwaNdebele cabinet’s distrust of Kendall was understandable, the South African government’s attitude towards him was less clear. Despite his position as the area’s highest-ranking security officer, Kendall’s perspective on the conflict does not seem to have informed Pretoria’s approach to the situation. In this and other instances, politics – namely, the need to satisfy the wishes of the KwaNdebele cabinet in order to achieve Pretoria’s own objectives – appear to have taken precedence over the security evaluations of the state’s operatives on the ground.

318 With respect to Moutse, South African officials received even more direct and clear warnings on the possible repercussions of their policies. On September 25, 1985, Minister Chris Heunis announced final consolidation plans for Lebowa that confirmed Moutse’s excision. Within the week, officials from Pretoria visited Chief Gibson Mathebe of the Bantoane, Moutse’s largest chieftaincy, in an attempt to secure his co-operation with the area’s incorporation into KwaNdebele. Mathebe warned the government “in emphatic and unambiguous terms” of the “disastrous consequences” which would result from the forced transfer of the area.

319 In the face of opposition from Moutse's leaders and despite predictions of violence, the central government nevertheless proceeded with Moutse's transfer. On 5 December, Heunis issued the last in a long line of public statements confirming Moutse's official incorporation. The date for the transfer was set for the last day of the year. As compensation, the Minister offered to resettle residents who were unhappy with the incorporation at an alternative site being developed at Immerpan, approximately one hundred kilometres from Moutse.

320 On at least two occasions in October and December 1985, Major Daan Malan, Dennilton station commander in Moutse, discovered large groups of armed Ndebele vigilantes roaming around the Moutse area. When confronted by Malan, the group, led by Chief Minister SS Skosana and several other KwaNdebele cabinet members, said that they were patrolling the area to ensure that the inhabitants supported the imminent incorporation. Fearing a potential conflict, Malan ordered the vigilantes out of the area. In turn, the cabinet lodged an official complaint against Malan with his superior, Brigadier van Niekerk. The district commander backed up his officer, however, informing the ministers that they did not yet enjoy any jurisdiction in the area. Van Niekerk further warned Skosana that any operations in Moutse involving force would constitute a public violence offence. On December 16, 1985, when vigilantes were discovered in Moutse for the second time, Van Niekerk went to meet with Chief Minister Skosana personally in a bid to convince him to withdraw from the area. Van Niekerk has recalled that Skosana was furious, asserting that the police had done nothing to ensure that Moutse residents would accept their incorporation into KwaNdebele. The chief minister threatened that he and his own men would act since the police seemed unwilling or unable to do so. Again warning the vigilantes that their actions could result in criminal charges, Van Niekerk finally succeeded in persuading the vigilantes to withdraw and abandon their plans. They were not, however, deterred for long (see below).

321 Despite the frank and clearly stated objections of Brigadier van Niekerk and Gerrie van der Merwe, the South African government transferred police functions to KwaNdebele as scheduled. As with the situation in Ekangala, the central government again followed the dictates of politics rather than the recommendations of its officials on the ground.

322 On 1 January 1986, a large number of Imbokodo members (and KwaNdebele men forcibly enlisted for the day) attacked the Moutse villages of Moteti and Kgobokoane. In their effort to repel the invasion, Moutse residents killed a number of vigilantes. These included four Imbokodo members suspected of trying to abduct the Bantoane chief at the royal kraal in Kwarrielaagte, Moutse. Approximately 360 Moutse residents were abducted from their homes and taken to the community hall in Siyabuswa where they were subjected to up to thirty-six hours of torture and ritual humiliation. While chanting Imbokodo slogans, the victims were forced to perform physical exercises until they collapsed. They were subsequently stripped naked and publicly sjambokked on a concrete floor covered with soapy water. Victims have testified that senior KwaNdebele politicians including Chief Minister SS Skosana and Minister of the Interior Piet Ntuli directed the beatings in the community hall. No one was ever convicted for his role in the attack.

323 In the days following the abductions, police patrolled the Moutse area in an attempt to disperse community gatherings and diffuse resistance. At one such meeting in Keerom, two policemen allegedly fired into a crowd, killing one resident and injuring two more. The enraged crowd chased the two policemen, eventually cornering and killing them. The police responded to their colleagues’ deaths with five days of house-to-house searches. Residents have alleged that the police assaulted them and looted their property in the process.

324 On April 28, clashes between students and vigilantes ensued after Imbokodo members had surrounded the Mandlethu High school in Vlaklaagte no.1. The police eventually intervened to separate the two groups. After the Imbokodo were escorted from the area, the students returned home peacefully. That night, however, the Imbokodo returned and engaged in a house-to-house raid in the village. Those of school-going age were especially targeted. A number of youths were loaded into cars and bakkies (vans) and taken to Emagezini, a small industrial complex in Kwaggafontein, where they were assaulted with a variety of weapons. Many were severely wounded.

325 Jacob Skosana, a father of eight, was the only adult taken to Emagezini. Before the day's events, Skosana had not been active in the unrest. However, after rumours reached him that one of his daughters had been taken from school by the vigilantes, Skosana allegedly confronted various Imbokodo members about his daughter's whereabouts. That night he was abducted from his home by a group of men. Vlaklaagte youth leaders subsequently testified that they saw Skosana, already badly beaten, at Emagezini. Early the next morning, Skosana's dead body was dumped back in the yard of his home and surrounded by fire so that it could not be retrieved immediately by his family. When the body was recovered, it had allegedly been mutilated. News of the incident spread quickly through the village and eventually through all of KwaNdebele. Skosana's burial was the homeland's first political funeral.

326 Although officially limited to fifty mourners, Skosana's funeral drew thousands. When the police arrived, reportedly with SADF back-up, they ordered the assembled crowd to disperse immediately. Shortly thereafter, they fired tear gas, birdshot and rubber bullets at the mourners, creating panic in the crowd. Ms Sara Mthimunye (19) was run over by a bus whose driver had been overcome by the tear gas. Many others were injured in the mêlée. That night, comrades began burning the businesses of suspected Imbokodo members and MPs in the legislative assembly.

327 On 7 May 1986, PW Botha announced that KwaNdebele would take independence on 11 December 1986. When press reports reached KwaNdebele, residents approached the Ndzundza royal kraal and requested the king to call a public gathering with the KwaNdebele cabinet. The meeting was held on May 12 and was attended by an estimated 20 000 residents, the area's chiefs and two representatives of the homeland cabinet (who were advised to travel to the meeting in a Casspir). At the meeting, three demands were presented to the government representatives: the disbanding of Imbokodo; the cancellation of independence; the resignation of members of the KwaNdebele cabinet and legislative assembly for acting without a popular mandate. After the cabinet promised to prepare a response for a report-back meeting scheduled for May 14, the crowd dispersed peacefully.

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