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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 50
Paragraph Numbers 70 to 82
The Pondoland Revolt11
70 The granting of self-government status to Transkei and Ciskei (in 1963 and 1972 respectively) was a first move towards setting up homeland parliamentary systems, separate homeland legislation and separate homeland police forces. (Military structures followed only at independence.) Although the Transkei Police force was set up in 1966, the SAP retained access to both homelands.
71 The incidents that collectively became known as the Pondoland Revolt took place primarily in 1960-61 in the Pondoland region of former Transkei. The Commission received over 200 human rights violations statements in connection with the Pondoland Revolt, almost all of which were taken in the Bizana-Lusikisiki-Flagstaff regions, mostly from the Bizana area. No amnesty applications were received in connection with this matter. A public hearing was held at Lusikisiki in March 1997, generating enormous public interest. The gap of nearly four decades since the revolt meant that the Commission had difficulty collecting information and retrieving documentation. While some of the deponents had been personally involved in the revolt and could speak from their personal experiences, many stories were given to the Commission by descendants who lacked clear information on what had happened. Some deponents reported victims on both sides of the conflict.
72 The cases reported to the Commission included ten people killed by security forces outside of custody, eight deaths and disappearances in custody, three people killed by iKongo members, five permanent disappearances, seventeen judicial executions, approximately ninety people whose subsequent deaths were attributed to their treatment in custody, numerous cases of assaults and torture in custody, and various attacks on property both belonging to iKongo members and to those who supported Bantu Authorities. A total of fifty-three deaths was directly attributable to the conflict, and a further ninety deaths are believed by community members to have flowed from the conflict. Several deponents reported banishment to different areas.
73 The roots of the revolt were traced back to the 1950s and to the resistance by Pondoland communities to the imposition of the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 (the forerunner to homeland rule) which provided for the establishment of tribal, regional and territorial authorities in the homelands. By the 1960s, the Pondoland communities were accusing the chiefs of being dictatorial and of abusing the powers granted to them, which included the running of tribal courts and the allocation of land. There was dissatisfaction with the rule of Paramount Chief Botha Sigcau, who years later was to become the first state president of the independent Transkei. Requests to the magistrate to meet with the community to discuss grievances were turned down. Mr Clement Khehlana ‘Fly’ Gxabu [EC0882/96ETK] told the Commission:
Our chiefs were singing the same song with the Boers which created the division between Pondo people and the chiefs. In 1960, we took a decision to defy the chiefs’ authority over us. Instead of attending their tribal courts, we decided to go to the mountains to have our court there, to solve our problems without the chiefs.
74 Those who opposed the chiefs’ rule started holding their own meetings, first in forests and later on hilltops, leading to the naming of the movement as the ‘Intaba (mountain) Committee’. It later became known as iKongo12. Statements to the Commission indicated that the first mountain committee was formed at Nonqulwana Hill near Bizana, followed by committees at Ngqindilili Hill, Indlovu Hill and Ngquza Hill, all in the Flagstaff–Lusikisiki area. The Pondoland Revolt was generally referred to by deponents to the Commission as ‘Nonqulwana’ after the first hill committee. While this movement clearly involved ANC supporters, the revolt appears to have been a local initiative in response to local grievances rather than a planned ANC campaign. Of those linked to the iKongo group who made statements to the Commission, all but one indicated allegiance to the ANC; the single PAC member told the Commission that at the time of these uprisings he had been an ANC member.
75 iKongo members and supporters took action against chiefs and those they regarded as collaborating with them. It appears that property was initially the primary target: a large number of huts belonging to Bantu Authorities supporters were burnt down. A few months later, the chiefs and their perceived ‘collaborators’ themselves became the targets. Southall records that twenty-two people identified in some way with the authorities were killed by iKongo members. The Commission received several submissions relating to such attacks, including three killings.
76 Some families were caught up on both sides of the conflict. A local headman, Mr Manhanha Maqewu [EC2067/97ETK and EC1807/97ETK], joined the iKongo group and attended their meetings. His daughter-in-law, Ms Virginia Nodipha [EC1807/97/ETK], told the Commission:
There was a day when he did not excuse himself from attending a meeting at Ndlovu because of an aching leg. Some men came with torches on the night of 18 December 1960 and attacked and killed him.
77 Another daughter-in-law, Ms Nyembani Mafololzi Mbotho, told the Commission that “he was killed with swords as he was suspected of being in informer”. Ms Mbotho added that her husband, Mr Mikayeli Nodipha, was jailed for ANC membership for three years in 1961 and that her house was burnt down.
78 There were also clashes between iKongo members and police. In March 1960, Mr Bhungweni Tshezi [EC1496/97ETK] died after police beat him with rifle butts in the Bizana area.
79 In May 1960, a meeting held at Ngquza Hill was teargassed from a helicopter by the security forces. Armed iKongo members fired at the helicopter. At one of the iKongo meetings in May, Mr Earnest Gwede Pepu [EC1762/97ETK] was shot dead by police and Mr Nkosayipheli Msukeni [EC1828/97ETK] was severely injured by the police and died on the way to hospital.
80 On 6 June 1960, a group of iKongo members were meeting again at Ngquza Hill when two aircraft and a helicopter dropped tear gas and smoke bombs on them13. Mr Clement Gxabu told the Commission that, although some of the iKongo members had been armed at the May meeting; they were not armed at the June meeting because they “intended convincing them that we were not at war with them but only needed a government delegation to talk to us about our grievances”. Thus, they had been expecting a representative from the government to come and meet with them at Ngquza. When the police arrived instead, the group raised a white flag. Police emerged from nearby bushes and opened fire, killing eleven people, including the leader, Mr Wana ‘One’ Johnson [EC0544/96ETK], Mr Sigwebo Mfuywa [EC0335/96ETK], Mr Ntamehlo Sipika [EC0881/96ETK], Mr Khoyo Chagi [EC0534/96ETK] and Mr Ndindwa Popotshe [EC0541/96ETK] and wounding many others, including Gxabu. Mfuywa’s daughter-in-law, Ms Mabathini Ntombizanbantu Mfuywa, told the Commission:
We were told that father was shot in the arm. He fell. As he was down, he was shot at the back of the head and the bullet exited through the nose and he died instantly. We never attended his funeral.
81 Mr Sijumba Mlandelwa [EC0880/96ETK] and Mr Madodana Ndzoyiyana [EC1659/ 97ETK] disappeared permanently after the Ngquza shootings and no bodies were found. Mr Ngangilizwe Bele [EC2066/97ETK] disappeared in the same year, shortly after police arrived at his village to arrest people. His family never saw him again.
82 In late October 1960, an inquest heard that postmortems on the exhumed bodies of the eleven killed at Ngquza Hill indicated that six had died from bullet wounds, three from bullets in the back of the skull. Due to the late exhumations, it was not possible to determine the cause of death in the others. Lawyer Roley Arenstein, who represented the families of some of the dead men, was restricted by the government to the Durban area and could not attend the inquest. Another lawyer appeared instead. The inquest subsequently called the police actions “unjustified and excessive, even reckless”. It appears, however, that no members of the security forces were prosecuted14. This is likely to have been because the Indemnity Act of 1961 provided that no civil or criminal proceedings could be brought against the government or anyone acting under government authority in respect of acts carried out in good faith (after 21 March 1960) with the intention of restoring public order.11 Information on the revolt has been taken from: Govan Mbeki (1964) and Roger J. Southall, South Africa’s Transkei: The political economy of an “independent” bantustan. 1982, and statements made to the Commission. 12 The term iKongo appears to have been a corruption of ‘Congress’ in a reference to the ANC, as many of those involved had joined the ANC before it was banned. Some deponents told the Commission it was a way of referring to the ANC while it was banned, with the pretence that iKongo was a different organisation. It appears, however, that the name was in use in rural parts of Transkei before the ANC was banned [see Robin Bloch, ’The high cost of living: The Port Elizabeth “Disturbances” of October, 1920’ in Africa Perspective No. 19, 1981]. 13 The use of at least one helicopter and two aircraft is mentioned by Mbeki, Southall and in various statements made to the Commission.