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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 364
Paragraph Numbers 127 to 139
Attacks on the Kasana home
On at least three occasions in 1985, the A-Team attacked the home of Ms Nomosonto Kasana, assaulting members of the family. On one occasion the Kasana sons, Mbuselo, Mafuza and Peter, attacked the gang with pangas, hitting Phakathi in the face. Phakathi then opened fire with a revolver, killing one and injuring another family member. In a later attack, the victims’ father, Mr Moffat Kasana, was also severely beaten with a stick [KZN/AT/010/FS].
127 Vigilante action surged again in Thabong in 1986, when parents and elders launched a violent attempt to get children back to school. The council, which had by this time set up an official law enforcement unit, was said to be actively organising adults to beat up children.
128 At Meloding, Virginia, parents and vigilantes allegedly combined forces early in 1986 to get the children back into schools. Allegations are that pupils were beaten back to school and that surveillance kept on school premises was so close that pupils were at risk of being beaten if they so much as went on errands.
129 The vigilante group active in Tumahole (Parys) was also known as the A-Team. It is alleged to have congregated around a certain member of the police force and her family and friends, and to have been closely associated with the local council and councillors. Both aligned and non-aligned members of the public were harassed and assaulted by the A-Team.
130 When the local council imposed rent increases in Tumahole in July 1984, widespread protests resulted. Township residents clashed with civic organisations and the A-Team, supported by the police. Witnesses told the Commission that, in late 1985, vigilantes stoned and burned community leaders’ houses and also stoned activists’ homes, threatening families and assaulting primary school children. The property of police officers and councillors was also attacked during rent and consumer boycotts.
The attack on David Nhlapo and Lefu Rasego
In November 1985, ANC/UDF member David Sello Nhlapo (17) was attacked by unknown members of the A-Team in Parys. He was stabbed and severely beaten, and his attackers attempted to necklace him. His friend Lefu Rasego was beaten to death in the incident. Nhlapo was rescued by friends [KZN/ZJ/007/FS].
131 The Commission heard that the Eagles Youth Clubs were initiated in schools in Mangaung (Bloemfontein) in 1981, under the auspices of the state. By 1985, it was reported that up to fifty-eight branches of the club, with a membership of 16 000, had been established throughout the province. They were controlled by the Orange Free State Administration Boards until 1986, when they were registered as a private organisation and sponsored privately.
132 The constitution of the Eagles Youth Club was said to be based on ‘Christian National Principles’ and pursued its objectives by means of camps offering a variety of activities, including political education. Lectures in political education covered subjects as diverse as Christianity, Communism and the culture and history of the ANC and PAC. Eagles were encouraged to co-operate with state structures, particularly with the police and the SADF, who were described in the courses as ‘your friends’. At the same time, members were encouraged to report ‘terrorists’ to the police and warned against ‘people who are trying to tell you bad things about South Africa’. They were told that ‘comrades’ organisations in townships were part of the ‘enemy’ and should be neutralised. Eagles members became sources of information concerning the identity of ‘comrades’ in townships, and were used to monitor the strategies and plans of ‘comrades’ organisations, particularly around popular events such as the commemoration of 16 June (Soweto Day).
133 By 1986, Eagles members had become visible in local communities, identifiable by their yellow-cuffed, green T-shirts sporting an eagle emblem on the left breast and the name of the club on the back. However, the Eagles also became known in townships as being aligned to the state, and were perceived to be co-operating with the security forces in the targeting of activists.5
134 Former SAP member Mphithizeli Nelson Ngo told the Amnesty Committee that the Eagles club was formed by members of the Security Branch who recruited students in Brandfort and sent them to the SADF base at Roodewal for courses in intelligence and counter-revolutionary strategies.6 Special instruction was given in suppressing student opposition and crushing student bodies in schools – such as Students’ Representative Councils and branches of COSAS – in order to replace them with the prefect system. Teachers were also co-opted and instructed to support the activities of club members in schools. The Eagles, who were also allegedly paid informers for the Security Branch, were protected and armed by the police for activities such as disrupting political meetings in schools and harassing and victimising student leaders.
135 Conflict between the Eagles and members of youth organisations began in Brandfort in 1985. The Commission heard that the Eagles would disrupt community meetings convened by youth organisations to discuss concerns such as health facilities, education and rent increases. At the time, Ms Winnie Mandela (see above) had become an important mobilising agent for ‘comrades’ in the area. In one incident, ‘comrades’ who had gathered at her house were attacked by a force of Eagles, backed up by the police. Other townships around the province also experienced conflict between ‘comrades’ and the Eagles clubs, with deaths reported on both sides.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE EAGLES YOUTH CLUB WAS ESTABLISHED BY THE SECURITY BRANCH OF THE SAP AND WAS RESOURCED AND CONTROLLED BY THE STATE IN THE FORM OF THE ORANGE FREE STATE ADMINISTRATION BOARD. THE CLUB WAS ESTABLISHED AS PART OF THE STATE’S PREVAILING COUNTER-MOBILISATION STRATEGY IN TERMS OF WHICH SURROGATE OR ‘MIDDLE’ GROUPINGS WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY WERE IDENTIFIED AS ALLIES OF THE STATE IN ITS ‘TOTAL STRATEGY’ RESPONSE TO CIVIL UNREST.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE CREATION OF GROUPS SUCH AS THE EAGLES, AND THE STATE’S SUPPORT OF OTHER GROUPINGS SUCH AS THE A-TEAM AND THE THREE MILLION GANG, CONTRIBUTED DIRECTLY TO INCIDENTS OF PUBLIC AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND FOSTERED A CLIMATE OF VIOLENCE IN WHICH SUCH UNLAWFUL ACTS COULD TAKE PLACE. THE SAP IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS CONNECTED TO THE UNLAWFUL ACTIVITIES OF SUCH GROUPS, TOGETHER WITH THE GANGS THAT CARRIED OUT SUCH VIOLATIONS.
136 Reports of the activities of the Three Million Gang, which comprised forty-five to fifty members, emanated from various centres in the province, although it appears to have operated principally in the Troubou area of Kroonstad. The gang was led by Mr George Diwithi Ramasimong (now deceased) and is said to have originated in the early 1980s with no particular political agenda. According to statements received by the Commission, most incidents involving the gang took place between 1989 and 1992. Criminal incidents were reported from as early as 1984.
137 As with the other groups, the activities of the Three Million Gang appear to have been aimed at intimidating and attacking UDF activists and student organisations believed to be involved in campaigns against rents and service charge increases. It is evident that the gang acted in collusion with councillors, police and justice officials.
138 According to Mphithizeli Nelson Ngo, the gang was created and supported by the Security Branch on instruction from the highest regional level, as part of its counter-insurgency strategy to neutralise and undermine UDF and ANC-aligned activism in the mid-1980s. He told the Amnesty Committee that the Three Million Gang operated on a part-time basis in Brandfort, reinforcing the operations of other vigilante groupings. Leaders of the various vigilante groups would meet with members of the Security Branch at the Brandfort police station to discuss their strategies and to receive equipment, weapons and money as well as tobacco and alcohol from the police.7
139 Their modus operandi was to attack in groups and to stab their victims.5 Information gleaned from Dr Ian Phillips, Report in mitigation of sentence, State v Sishuba and two others, Supreme Court of South Africa, Orange Free State Division, Bloemfontein, December 1989. 6 Recruits to the Eagles club included Mr Papie Mokalake, Mr Butie Sentso and Mr Search Kotoane.