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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 386

Paragraph Numbers 190 to 200

Volume 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 24

Civilian right wing, white farmers and the police

190 Among the identifiable right-wing groups active in the Orange Free State during this period was a group known as Toekomsgesprek16, an organisation established in opposition to the NP and Broederbond. The group was responsible for various sabotage and arson attacks on NP offices. Members of the Broederbond were also targeted for attack in an attempt to pressurise them to resign and to oust them from agricultural and municipal organisations.

191 According to Mr Daniel Benjamin Snyders, a member of Toekomsgesprek, the organisation set fire to the offices of a Frankfort attorney who had represented black people against white business people during a strike at Vryheid [AM9974/96].

192 Right-wing attacks reported to the Commission included racial incidents, attacks by the AWB, by white farmers and by the police. The latter were sometimes alleged to be AWB members themselves, or colluding with AWB members and white farmers. The AWB announced that it would mobilise its ranks in retaliation for the ‘One Settler, One Bullet’ campaign. Random racial attacks were reported to the Commission in which, for example, ordinary members of the public were accosted on the street and assaulted. The Thaba'Nchu road, in particular, was alleged to be the scene of random attacks on blacks.

193 Mr Samuel Chobane Papala reported that three men, allegedly AWB members, abducted him in Hoopstad in 1993 while he was walking in the street wearing an ANC flag. They put him into a bakkie [van] and sat on top of him so that he could not see what was happening. He was assaulted, hit with a gun butt and kicked. He was then locked in a garage from which he managed to escape. The attackers were not identified [KZN/BEN/001/FS].

THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MEMBERS OF CIVILIAN RIGHT-WING GROUPS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR SEVERAL RACIAL ATTACKS ON BLACK PEOPLE IN THE ORANGE FREE STATE. THESE ATTACKS FREQUENTLY LED TO INJURIES AND DEATHS OF THE VICTIMS AND CONSTITUTE A GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

194 The head of the Free State Agricultural Union, Mr Pieter Jakobus Gouws, told the Amnesty Committee that the farming community perceived themselves to be the targets of APLA and MK, which had intentions of driving them off their farms. He said that they felt under attack as the liberation forces wanted to destroy their economic power and political influence. This perception was derived from acts of aggression on farmers. Farmers had to live with the perceptions, rumours, and the utterances made by these organisations.

195 In response to this, the Union appealed to the farming community to protect themselves, to unite with the police and security forces, to form farm watches and to take on security matters themselves. Farmers became actively involved in policing and patrolling their areas in vehicles. The farm watches bound the police, security and defence forces and the farming community together in a direct working relationship. Many farmers enlisted as police reservists (described by Gouws as ‘special constables’) who dealt not only with security matters but with ordinary criminal matters such as the theft, for example, of copper wire or cattle.

196 An atmosphere of siege prevailed, characterised by what Gouws described as a “general psychosis of fear, distrust, aggressiveness”. Gouws said that farmers and police found it difficult at the time to distinguish between acts of a criminal nature and acts of political intention. He believed that the level of brutality witnessed in the attacks set them apart from ordinary criminal activities. He noted that their aim was to instil fear and that the perpetrators were usually very well armed, planned their attacks well and went mainly for firearms.

197 Little villages like Vierfontein and possibly Kragbron were bought up by the farming community as safe settlements for elderly Afrikaners, often retired farmers. Security arrangements were tight, with residents and police taking special safety measures. Even these communities were targeted for attack.

THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE INJURIES AND DEATHS CAUSED BY APLA MEMBERS IN THE ORANGE FREE STATE PROVINCE BETWEEN 1990 AND APRIL 1994 WERE GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE DELIBERATE ACTIONS OF APLA MEMBERS ACTING WITHIN THE MANDATE OF THE PAC’S POLICIES. APLA AND THE PAC ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR SUCH VIOLATIONS.

198 It would appear from the evidence available that white farmers enjoyed close working relations with police officers and would often turn to the police for assistance in dealing with ‘troublemakers’. In the Northern Free State area, poor whites would often aspire to be police officers because this was considered prestigious and was a means of improving their lot in life. Many security force members therefore came from local farming families. In smaller, more conservative communities, police were very much members of the community and more subject to pressure than in larger areas.

199 Police appear to have had free reign to deal with ‘troublemakers’ on farms. However, farmers also declared that unless the police dealt with the situation first, they would deal with the criminals themselves. Offenders would be punished, tortured and assaulted, sometimes fatally.

200 Reports were received of white farmers in the Orange Free State who assaulted farm workers severely when disputes arose on farms or when workers were thought to be involved with political organisations.

16 Meaning discussion or conversation about the future.
 
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