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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 339

Paragraph Numbers 39 to 49

Volume 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 5

■ 1976–1982

Historical overview

39 The 1976 Soweto uprising triggered a surge of student protests in centres around the Orange Free State, bringing young people into the frontline of anti-apartheid protest. A number of influential student organisations were formed during this period. 1978 saw the establishment of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) whose aim was to work, within a Black Consciousness framework, towards a common education and political system for all people. The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) was formed in June 1979 with the aim of striving for an education system that would meet the needs and aspirations of the post-1976 situation. In the Orange Free State, both organisations involved themselves in a range of community concerns, such as organising commemoration and funeral services for students shot by police and participating in marches to protest against removals, increases in rent and bus fares, and detention without trial. These activities often brought them into direct clashes with the police.

40 Early in 1980, boycotts started in black secondary schools in Cape Town and gradually spread countrywide. Although initial grievances concerned mainly the quality of education offered to blacks, it became clear that students were challenging not only the educational system but also the political system. Indeed, student organisations like COSAS promoted the idea that the struggle for quality and equality in education went hand in hand with all other struggles in society.

41 Students continued with sporadic protest and boycott actions and, in November 1980, the Department of Education and Training closed seventy-seven secondary schools across the country. Three of the five secondary schools for black pupils in Bloemfontein were amongst those that were closed indefinitely. Schools in that city had responded to the call for a schools boycott in April 1980, leading to several outbreaks of violence. Violence also broke out in schools in Onverwacht (later known as Botshabelo) at Thaba'Nchu in July 1980, where up to 600 pupils boycotted classes. Boycott action also occurred in schools in QwaQwa during 1980.

42 Disturbances, protests and boycotts spread to schools around the country and many students experienced intimidation, harassment and detention at the hands of the police. In the Orange Free State, student organisations came to play an important role in representing the interests of victims of police brutality, since only a few of the many hundreds of non-governmental organisations which took root in centres around the country during this period were established formally in the Orange Free State. The Commission received several reports of students who were detained and tortured during this period.

43 There were a number of convictions under the Terrorism Act for, amongst other things, sabotage and conspiracy to commit sabotage, receiving military training outside the country, possession of firearms and ammunition and the possession of ‘terrorist’ propaganda. In some cases, activists were allegedly assaulted and forced to make statements before being charged. Many convicted activists from the province were sent to Robben Island to serve their sentences.

44 In May 1977, Ms Winnie Mandela’s banning order restricting her to Orlando, Soweto, was changed to an order restricting her to Brandfort in the Orange Free State. During her eight-year banishment to Brandfort, Ms Mandela became an important political figure for many students and youth in the area.

45 The Community Councils Act of 1977 replaced the Urban Bantu Councils Act and gave the community councils more duties and power than previously enjoyed by the UBCs. Community councils had a mixed reception in the Orange Free State, being accepted in Bloemfontein, for example (though with a 29 per cent poll), but rejected from the outset by UBC councillors in other townships, because of a lack of proper consultation with local representatives.

46 The Black Community Development Bill No 112 of 1982 proposed yet further changes to black local authorities, expanding the functions of community councils to include tasks previously undertaken by administration boards and town councils. One of the purposes of the Act was to bolster the status and autonomy of the black authorities. They were vested with specific powers and responsibility for services including waste disposal, sewerage, electrification, health, sport, recreation, housing and so on, but without commensurate sources of revenue. Finance had to be raised from a number of sources including increases in service charges, site rent, fines for infringing by-laws and the sale of sorghum beer. It was the efforts of councils to raise finance, particularly by increasing rent and service charges, that eventually brought them into direct conflict with township residents (see below: 1983–89).

Overview of violations

47 The Commission received twice as many reports of violations in the Orange Free State for this period as for the preceding period. Most reports referred to police brutality, including torture and assault in detention. Two of these incidents resulted in deaths in custody.

48 Many detentions were recorded for this period, arising largely out of the 1980 school boycotts and the disturbances that preceded them. Students and student leaders were detained, including members of AZAPO, the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the Bloemfontein Students’ League. Some students detained during this period reported to the Commission that they were tortured in detention.

State and allied groupings

Torture in custody

49 The first reports of torture at the ‘Adami House’ police premises in Bloemfontein were recorded in this period.

The torture of Alfred Raymond Thabo Pieterson
The Commission heard that, in June 1978, Mr Alfred Raymond Thabo Pieterson of Young Christian Workers was detained by the Security Branch in Bloemfontein and taken to Adami House where he was questioned about the activities of his organisation and was tortured. He was later taken to a police station in Vredefort where he was again tortured. In December of the same year, Pieterson was detained again in Bloemfontein and tortured by means of electric shocks [KZN/PJM/032/FS].
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