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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 77

Paragraph Numbers 142 to 150

Volume 3

Chapter 2

Subsection 15

■ 1983–1989

Overview of violations

142 In the Eastern Cape, as in the rest of the country, these seven years were marked by renewed protest against apartheid structures. The UDF established a presence in the Eastern Cape from 1983, leading to clashes with the state and its allies, including vigilante groups. These clashes were characteristic of this period, evidenced in police shootings of UDF-aligned protesters, UDF attacks on police and community councillors – the Black Local Authorities (BLAs) – and the accompanying practice of ‘necklace’ killings and burnings, the increase in (mainly ANC) guerrilla activity in the country and the killing of guerrillas and key activists by the security forces.

143 About half of this period was spent under a state of emergency: a limited state of emergency affecting western parts of the Eastern Cape around Cradock lasted from July 1985 to March 1986, followed by the declaration of a national state of emergency three months later and lasting until 1990. The emergency had a significant impact in the Eastern Cape, with thousands being detained. In September 1985, the courts granted an interdict, brought by district surgeon Dr Wendy Orr and others, restraining police from assaulting emergency detainees.

144 Submissions received by the Commission indicate that violations in the Eastern Cape for this period were once again dominated by severe ill treatment (38 per cent of the Eastern Cape violations).

145 While severe ill treatment and torture remain the two biggest violation categories, as in the previous two periods, killings in this period increased to 16 per cent, becoming the third biggest category of violations reported to the Commission. This is probably a result of the large number of clashes between police and protesters.

146 There was a sharp increase in killings, torture and severe ill treatment in 1985, just before the state of emergency. Torture was a key violation in the Eastern Cape during this period.

State and allied groupings
Public order policing

147 Shootings accounted for about 22 per cent of the serious violations (that is, killings, attempted killings, abductions, torture and severe ill treatment but excluding associated violations) reported to the Commission in statements for the Eastern Cape region during 1983–89. Generally, these occurred in public order policing situations. About half of the shooting violations were fatal and, half of the shooting violations over these seven years occurred during 1985, with another 22 per cent the following year. The Commission received reports of shootings from towns across the province, but the Port Elizabeth–Uitenhage region accounted for nearly a third of all the reported Eastern Cape shootings during this period.

148 Particularly in 1985, there were large-scale police shootings of demonstrators in public order policing situations. Some of these larger incidents are detailed below. Evidence about these and numerous other smaller incidents was heard at the Commission’s hearings. These included the Mdantsane railway shootings by Ciskei security forces in August 1983, the Langa massacre by police at Uitenhage on 21 March 1985 and police shootings at Duncan Village and Aliwal North in August 1985 and at Queenstown in November 1985. In addition, the Commission was told of three incidents during 1985 (in Despatch, Uitenhage and Steynsburg) in which SAP members shot protesters in ‘Trojan Horse’ type incidents. This period thus saw the bulk of the mass shootings reported to the Commission in the Eastern Cape.

149 Police unrest statistics for the Port Elizabeth–Uitenhage area for the period 21 March 1985 (the date of the Langa massacre) to 29 May 1985 give an insight into the level of violence at the time. During this period, 108 people died in unrest: of these, sixty-eight were killed by police and forty by ‘rioters’.

150 The South African Police Services (SAPS) provided the Commission with a copy of the SAP’s Standing Orders (SOs) for dealing with public order protests during this period – SO 210 and 211 effective for the period January 1985 to August 1990. The SAPS stated that these documents were the closest that could be found to regulations for dealing with mass actions. These brief documents do not appear to give police much guidance on dealing with the mass protests of this period. Such outdoor protests were by definition illegal, were often spontaneous and sometimes resulted in violence. The SOs contained no explicit ruling on how to prevent or contain the political protests so typical of the mid-1980s, nor how to liaise with the military if troops were brought in. No mention is made of what equipment police should be issued with for such events, nor is mention made of the use of minimum force.

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