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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 371

Paragraph Numbers 152 to 161

Volume 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 17

■ 1990–1994

Historical overview

152 Conditions in the Orange Free State remained highly charged in the early 1990s. The Commission received reports of ongoing police brutality in the province in relation to public gatherings and demonstrations. Reports of torture and deaths in custody were also received. New kinds of popular militancy proliferated. Examples of this included the rise of the ANC SDUs and the declaration of an offensive on the part of APLA.

153 Statements from all sides of the political spectrum at this time convey an impression of significant political and social instability following the February 1990 release of Mr Nelson Mandela and the call to the security forces to make the necessary adjustments to their perception of the ‘enemy’. Despite this, the Commission heard evidence that members of the SAP continued to target liberation organisations. There is also evidence of extra-judicial executions having taken place with the knowledge and approval of senior police officers. Amnesty applicants told the Commission that most criminal events were regarded as political and that the more brutal and shocking events were likely to be seen as politically motivated. Members of the security forces, along with white farmers and members of civilian right-wing organisations, perceived themselves to be more than ever under siege by resistance and liberation organisations, particularly APLA. APLA, indeed, had publicly identified these groups as the enemy.

154 The PAC and its military component, APLA, launched the so-called ‘One Settler One Bullet’ campaign in 1990 and later targeted white farms in a bid to reclaim the land and return it to what the PAC perceived to be its real owners, the African people. The white farming community, the security forces and right-wing organisations rallied to counter this threat.

155 Conflict between councillors and activists also intensified during the early 1990s. Councillors who refused to resign risked attacks on their homes and business premises. Increasing numbers did resign, and eventually town councils were no longer able to function. January to July 1990 saw 119 councillors resigning, with a further 139 following suit between August 1990 and September 1991, citing intimidation as the main cause. Only 41 per cent of council seats were occupied at the end of February 1991. The majority of councils no longer had quorums and were being run by administrators. Only twenty-six of the seventy-one were still functioning. In March 1992, the government announced that racially based municipal elections would be suspended pending the establishment of an interim government.

156 Vigilante activity persisted during this period, most notably by the Three Million Gang in the Kroonstad area. ANC SDUs were established with the ostensible objective of protecting communities from a variety of perceived threats, some in direct response to the perceived onslaught of vigilante groups.

Overview of violations

157 As with the previous period, the majority of reported violations for 1990–94 pertained to violations by the police, most commonly in the form of shooting by the police. The second highest figure was for torture in detention.

158 This period saw a significant increase in the number of reported acts of aggression on the part of ANC SDUs, involving shootings, stabbings, arson attacks and assault. Other political groups allegedly involved in human rights abuses in the Orange Free State in this period are the AWB, vigilante groups and, to a small extent, the IFP. Further reports were received of attacks perpetrated against members of the DNP.

159 Several witnesses told the Commission that their relatives failed to return from exile when this became possible in the early 1990s. Mr Somahlenga Billy Mokhonoana and Mr Leoatle Ishmael Mahlolmola were reported to have died while in exile. Mr Edward Vuyo Charles [KZN/ZJ/014/BL] and Mr Mohale were said to have been killed in the course of MK activity within the country. On the available evidence, the Commission was not able to make findings as to how these people died or who was responsible for their deaths.

160 A common feature of the evidence provided by families of those who died in exile is that next of kin were often not given reliable information about the deaths. Conflicting facts and other suspicious details led witnesses to believe that information about the deaths of their loved ones was being withheld or distorted for unknown reasons.

State and allied groupings
Torture in custody

161 In the early 1990s, police continued to act forcefully against those thought to be organising and leading rent boycotts and protests against local councils. Many reports of police brutality towards detainees in custody were received, particularly from students, members of labour unions and civic organisations. The Commission heard of a variety of torture methods used to coerce individuals to make statements or to act as state witness in unrest-related court proceedings.

The torture of Moloi Kgotsiesile
Mr Moloi Aaron Kgotsiesile was tortured on 26 August 1990 when he refused to appear as witness for the state concerning conflict at a Sasolburg mine during the course of strike action [KZN/JRW/011/ BL].
The torture of a named community leader
In one case reported to the Commission, a community leader was arrested in 1990 by the police on suspicion of playing a leading role in a rent boycott in the Clocolan area. He alleges that while he was in custody, he was handcuffed and put into a sack with a cat. Water was poured into the sack and the detainee was injured when the animal panicked and attacked him [KZN/LMR/002/FS].
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