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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 185
Paragraph Numbers 85 to 102
Resistance and revolutionary groupings
85 In this period, security trials relating to organisational activities outnumbered those relating to violent action by resistance movements. People were tried for community and labour mobilisation, membership of the banned resistance movements, recruitment to banned organisations or military training, and the possession of banned literature. However, an increased number of sabotage attacks were reported across the whole province. In February 1977, Mr Thembinkosi Sithole and Mr Samuel Mohlomi, both from KwaMashu, were charged with taking part in ‘terrorist activities’ and for attempting to leave the country for military training. They were also charged and convicted of arson in respect of firebomb attacks at KwaMashu schools in October 1976.
86 Skirmishes between guerrilla fighters and members of the security forces were also reported in this period. In one such skirmish near Pongola in November 1977, a guerrilla fighter was killed and a policeman injured. In December 1977, ANC guerrilla fighter, Oupa Ronald Madondo, was caught by the police in the Pongola area. An ANC commander, thought to be Mr Toto Skhosana, was killed in the clash. Police recovered two scorpion pistols, ammunition and three grenade detonators. Madondo was convicted under the Terrorism Act in an Ermelo court in March 1978 and killed by members of the Security Branch in April 1980 (see above).
87 A number of acts of sabotage were reported. The ANC claimed responsibility for some of these.16
Historical overview of the period
88 In KwaZulu and Natal, this period was dominated by conflict and violence that reached the proportions of a civil war in some areas. Political allegiances were crucial in the conflict, with lines sharply drawn between the supporters of Inkatha and the supporters of the ANC-aligned UDF, which was formed in 1983 to co-ordinate protest against the new Constitution and the proposed Tricameral parliament. The conflict manifested itself in all spheres of political life in the province and was felt particularly in educational institutions and in the workplace.
The Ongoye Massacre
On 29 October 1983, four students and an Inkatha supporter were killed and many others injured in a clash between students and a group of approximately 500 Inkatha supporters at the University of Zululand (Ongoye), south of Empangeni. The clash was triggered when students opposed an attempt by Inkatha leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to use the campus for a ceremony to commemorate the death of King Cetshwayo. Attackers broke down locked doors behind which students were hidden, dragged them out and assaulted and stabbed them with traditional weapons.
This event, known as the ‘Ongoye massacre’, was another decisive turning point in the relations between Inkatha supporters and those aligning themselves with the banned ANC.
89 In the labour field too, the conflict between the two movements took organisational form through the formation of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in 1984, and the counter-formation by Inkatha in 1985, with substantial state funding, of the United Workers Union of South Africa (UWUSA).
90 The SAP and other security personnel were frequently and directly involved in political violence in the province. Security and public order policing became characterised by a failure to apprehend known criminals, poor investigations and active collusion of the police with one side of the conflict. The most obvious case of security force collusion is that of the Trust Feed massacre on 3 December 1988 (see below).
91 The state’s National Security Management System (NSMS), with its web of local Joint Management Councils (JMCs), was fully operational by mid-1985. Inkatha members became members of JMCs by virtue of their positions in township councils, tribal authorities and the KwaZulu civil service.
92 In August 1983, the 1982 Black Local Authorities Act came into effect, imposing local black town councils on a number of townships. In line with its policy of countering apartheid from within the system, Inkatha moved quickly to gain control of these councils. At that time, national opposition to black local authorities, to homeland governments and to traditional leaders was on the increase, and emerging extra-parliamentary opposition groups strenuously opposed the creation of these town councils which were perceived to be dominated, if not controlled, by Inkatha.
93 Through the NSMS, the South African government planned to win the war against the ANC and its affiliates, not through military might but through destabilisation. The government was sensitive to international opinion and, to avoid images of white policemen assaulting and shooting at black demonstrators, it sought to delegate repression to counter-revolutionary forces with black faces. A wide range of such surrogates emerged, including vigilantes, warlords, gangsters, hit squads, auxiliary forces, agents provocateur and moderate black organisations. The strategy was thus to cast the political conflict in the country as ‘black-onblack’ violence. For this to work, the involvement of the state had to be secret.
94 Furthermore, during the PW Botha era, the state perceived the primary threat to national security to be external. Its counter-revolutionary strategy was therefore based on pre-emptive intervention beyond the country’s borders in both defensive and offensive actions. By 1985, when the situation inside the borders had entered a revolutionary phase, the state began to apply its principle of counter-revolutionary warfare internally. Revolutionary opponents of the state became ‘legitimate’ targets for attack. The enemy included not only armed cadres of the liberation movements, but trade unionists, activists and sympathisers. Moderate black leaders and organisations had to be co-opted to combat the revolutionary threat. A wide range of support, including military training and finance, was given to moderate black organisations, including Inkatha, as exemplified by the Caprivi training initiative (see below).
95 As conflict developed in the form of attacks, revenge attacks, sieges and assassinations, each side blamed the other for the violence sweeping the province. Each accused the other of collaborating with the apartheid government to bring about violence and mayhem.
96 Death threats against Chief Buthelezi prompted the Inkatha leader to claim that the ANC was out of touch with the realities of the country and served the interests of the state by fomenting dissent. The security establishment was well placed to feed the rumours of assassination with evidence gleaned from informers, from ANC propaganda and from its own unsubstantiated beliefs. Chief Buthelezi’s response was to turn to the South African government for assistance to combat the ANC/UDF. These appeals led to the clandestine training of some 200 Inkatha members by the Special Forces arm of the South African Defence Force (SADF) in the Caprivi Strip in Namibia (see below).
97 By 1988, some of the principles of the state’s security thinking could be seen reflected in security force operations, particularly in the use of auxiliary forces such as special constables and surrogate forces such as vigilante groups. The Commission heard reports of vigilante groups operating side by side with members of the security forces. Both perceived the same enemy, and were perceived as the same enemy. Security Force members who testified before the Commission spoke of the various ways in which the security forces had collaborated with Inkatha in attacks on the UDF. This included warning Inkatha supporters of impending attacks, disarming ANC supporters, arming Inkatha supporters, transporting Inkatha attackers and standing by while Inkatha supporters attacked people.
98 Whereas vigilante formations often started out simply as local suppressers of petty crime and school-related unrest, as the political battle lines sharpened in the early 1980s they became the shock troops of politically aligned warlords. They engaged in a variety of criminal and lethal activities, even recruiting from criminal gangs. The vigilantes’ initial targets were community structures, groups and individuals campaigning for the dismantling of homelands and black councils. Later the targets became less specific and vigilante tactics switched to indiscriminate terrorising of township communities.
99 Opposition to the government’s authority structures (including traditional chiefs and urban town councillors) was perceived as rebellion. Once chiefs and councillors came to realise that their survival in office depended on neutralising the militant opposition, their involvement in the violence was almost inevitable. Some chiefs, therefore, became known as ‘warlords’. The Commission received evidence of collusion between the security forces and Inkatha warlords.
100 The Commission heard evidence that some members of the ANC also behaved like warlords, gathering strongmen about them, intimidating people and directing acts of violence. This was particularly so in the Natal Midlands towards the end of the 1980s, where charismatic ANC leaders like Harry Gwala rose to prominence and offered a rallying point for UDF/ANC supporters who had been exposed to and engaged in the political conflict for some time.
101 Towards the end of this period, the UDF adopted a campaign to make the townships ungovernable. Educational institutions and trade unions became key sites of revolutionary activity. School boycotts and strikes were transformed into scenes of violent conflict and bloodletting. At the Kabwe Conference17 in June 1985, the ANC took a decision to drop the distinction between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ targets. This resulted in an increase in the killing and maiming of civilians in MK sabotage operations where targets held only a tenuous link to the state and its institutions.
102 The period 1983–89 is remarkable for the emergence of organisations and associations in a rising tide of opposition to the imposition of local authorities and the incorporation of certain areas into KwaZulu. Such organisations included residents’ and ratepayers’ associations and rent action committees. There was also an increase in the number of NGOs set up to promote social justice and democracy in all arenas of civil society. Many of these organisations, based chiefly in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, ran on a non-profit basis and were supported financially by churches and other donor organisations. Many became affiliates of the UDF in 1983, although some later withdrew from active participation when the political situation in the province became more sharply polarised in the later 1980s.16 They included: several explosions on railway lines in the province with no reported injuries; the February 1981 explosion at Scotts’ store in Field Street, Durban; the sabotage of the Lamontville power station on 14 April 1981; an explosion at Francis Farewell Square on 26 June 1981; explosions at McCarthy Leyland and the Peugot Sale House in Durban on 26 July 1981; an explosion at Esikhawini on 11 October 1981, injuring one person; an explosion on 3 November 1981 at the Indian Affairs Office in Durban; an explosion on 17 February 1982 at the Durban Game Discount store; the sabotage of an Umlazi water pipeline on 25 April 1982; an explosion at the Lamontville offices of the Port Natal Administration Board on 24 May 1982; the sabotage of a pipeline at Chesterville on 24/25 May 1982; an explosion at the Kemps List coal mining installation, Northern Natal, on 2 June 1982, followed the next day by an explosion causing damage to storage tanks at the Total fuel depot, near Paulpietersburg (ANC members arrested in connection with the blasts were allegedly shot dead by civilians in the Paulpietersburg area two days later); an explosion at Vryheid on 6 June 1982, damaging a grain silo; an explosion on 10 October 1981 at the Whitehead Building in Durban (housing the offices of the Department of Co-operation and Development), injuring four people. An organisation known as the Committee for the Consolidation of Natal and KwaZulu claimed responsibility for the latter attack, although the SAP attributed it to the ANC. The ANC claimed responsibility for the following: sabotage of a railway line between Richards Bay and Vryheid on 14 April 1981, resulting in the derailment of a goods train; the limpet mine attack on two transformers in the Durban region on 21 April 1981; an explosion at the Umlazi highway bridge on 25 May 1981; an explosion at the Durban recruiting office of the SADF on 27 May 1981; the sabotage of a railway line on the Natal North Coast on 11 June 1981; the sabotage of a railway line at Empangeni on 28 June 1981; the sabotage of a railway line at Delville Wood, Durban; explosions at the Pinetown and Durban offices of the Department of Coloured Affairs on 21 May 1982; an explosion at a railway depot at Scheepersnek, Vryheid, on 28 June 1982; an explosion at the Umvoti Mounted Rifles army camp at Red Hill, Durban, on 28 August 1982, causing extensive damage to buildings and SADF vehicles; three explosions at the Drakensberg Administration Board building, Pietermaritzburg, on 26 October 1982; an explosion at a Mobil fuel storage depot at Mkhuze on 8 November 1982, causing severe damage to the site of an operational military airstrip. 17 Second National Consultative Conference of the ANC, Zambia, 16-23 June 1985