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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 489
Paragraph Numbers 328 to 335
328 The next day Jacob Skosana was buried in Vlaklaagte No.1. Late the same afternoon, the local magistrate, JN Theron, prohibited the report-back meeting at the royal kraal scheduled for the next day. A huge crowd assembled the follow- ing morning nevertheless. Most of the estimated 25 000 that turned up were unaware of the magistrate's prohibitions. Commuters were stopped by youths at barricades on the Pretoria road and redirected to the royal kraal. Putco later reported that ‘comrades’ had commandeered its entire KwaNdebele fleet of some 300 buses. While the assembled crowds were still waiting for the KwaNdebele cabinet to arrive, security forces dispersed the meeting with teargas and rubber bullets fired from a hovering helicopter and several patrolling Casspirs. Participants have testified that no warnings or instructions were given to the crowd before the security forces acted. Chaos ensued. A careering bus, whose driver and passengers had jumped from the vehicle when it had filled with teargas, fatally struck a child in the street. The bodies of two other men were later found at the royal kraal.
329 In the midst of the confusion, a number of youths were abducted by Imbokodo members and taken to a makeshift detention camp in the Vaalbank area. Fifty-four youths were held there without food or water and were subjected to periodic assaults by their Imbokodo guards. Allegedly, the youths' stomachs were trampled on, their genitals squeezed in vice-grips and their feet burnt with hot coals. On May 19, one of the youths, Johannes Ramahlale, managed to escape and report the matter to the police, who raided the camp the next day and released the young ‘comrades’.
330 In the days following the dispersed meeting at the royal kraal, conflict spread across KwaNdebele. ‘Comrades’, Imbokodo and security forces engaged in running skirmishes throughout the homeland. In addition to direct conflict, students, teachers and civil servants conducted successful stay-aways in the following weeks in protest of the cabinet's policies and the detention of various resistance leaders. The homeland remained a “no go” area until independence was cancelled some three months later.
331 Following the dispersal of the 14 May mass meeting and the attacks on Imbokodo members' properties that ensued, a virtual civil war spread across KwaNdebele. The Imbokodo responded to attacks on their members by organising counterattacks on their former villagers. These retaliatory raids targeted especially the youth, whom the vigilantes blamed for the attacks carried out against their own properties. The attack on Tweefontein on 12 June typifies such raids. Witnesses have described how Imbokodo members travelled in convoy through the village, firing indiscriminately at youth they encountered. Four young men were killed in the 12 June attack alone.
332 As the conflict intensified over the next several months, KwaNdebele was irrevocably changed. A priest, Father Sean, recalled months of “rioting, burning and looting” in which one could “see shops and houses ablaze” daily. In one week in May alone, youth allegedly burnt a reported thirty-nine businesses, nine homes and nine vehicles, all of which belonged to suspected supporters of the KwaNdebele government. By the end of July, 70 per cent of the businesses in the homeland had been destroyed. One observer noted that virtually an entire class of traders had been liquidated. The few remaining businessmen openly co-operated with the ascendant youth organisations in order to ensure their continued survival. In practice, this often entailed giving away large amounts of stock in the hope of avoiding arson or widespread looting. As the conflict deepened and violence intensified, strong-arm tactics prevailed on all sides. Following mass abductions of youths, the Imbokodo allegedly engaged in torture sessions at Emagezini and at Klopper's Dam.
333 This period of cyclical attacks and counter-attacks introduced an important dynamic into the area’s pattern of human rights violations. In short, the line between victims and perpetrators blurred, as comrades and vigilantes frequently assumed both roles. The youth, relentlessly pursued by the Imbokodo for months, initiated their own campaign against suspected vigilantes, frequently resulting in the most brutal of murders. For their part, vigilantes who had recently wielded immense power in their communities – including a de facto monopoly on force – were suddenly forced out of their homes in fear of their lives. Many of those who survived lost all of their worldly possessions in a matter of hours. Members of the cabinet, MPs in the legislative assembly and some of the wealthiest businessmen were forced to seek refuge in hastily constructed shanties in Verena. Overnight they had been exiled to the southern edge of a homeland they ostensibly still ruled.
334 As the Imbokodo relocated to Verena, daily confrontations between vigilantes and residents were replaced by more infrequent – but equally violent – raids and counter-attacks. One sequence of events in the southern Mkobola district of KwaNdebele highlights the prevailing dynamic.
335 On June 11, comrades carried out a planned attack on a Vlaklaagte business complex owned by Piet Ntuli, the notorious cabinet minister and vigilante leader. The comrades' raid appears to have been part of the ongoing attempt to rid the homeland of the Imbokodo. Although warned of the imminent attack by a local priest, at least one security guard was killed during the comrades' assault. Imbokodo retaliation was swift.