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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 344

Paragraph Numbers 55 to 66

Volume 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 7

Resistance and revolutionary groupings
Sabotage attacks

55 The national sabotage campaign launched by MK in the 1960s was felt in the Orange Free State during this period. A series of explosions, mostly in and around Bloemfontein, caused considerable damage to key installations and various sites associated with the apartheid administration, among them:

a The destruction of eight fuel tanks in a series of blasts at Sasol and Natref on 1 June 1980. While no injuries were recorded, damage was estimated at R58 million.

b The cutting of power lines at Vrede as part of anti-Republic Day protests on 25 May 1981.

c An explosion at the Fort Street railway bridge at Bloemfontein station on 27 January 1983, shortly after a passenger train had passed. One man was found fatally shot at the scene.

d The bombing of the South Free State Administration Board offices in Bloemfontein on 8 February 1982, killing two people and injuring seventy-five.

56 On 7 February 1979, YCW members Mpho Peterose Makae and Jacoob Mosiuoa Tlelima, both from Kroonstad, were charged with conspiring to commit sabotage. The state alleged that they had planned to blow up the Kroonstad power station, a military camp, the magistrate’s court, a police station, an office of the Security Branch and other buildings during a general strike of black workers. They were convicted and sentenced to five years, but the conviction was set aside by the Orange Free State Supreme Court in November 1982.2 In July 1982, Elliot Zulu, Jacob Thabethe, Alfred Malema and Frans Kekana were also charged with con spiracy to sabotage a power station and a training college in Kroonstad3 .

Banishment of Winnie Mandela

57 At the beginning of the period under review, Ms Winnie Nomzamo Mandela, who had been restricted under various banning orders since 1961, was restricted to her home township of Orlando, Soweto. In May 1977, a new order was served on her during a dawn raid, banishing her to the Orange Free State town of Brandfort. She was taken there immediately, together with her daughter Zindziswa (Zindzi), and was allocated a three-roomed house without electricity or sanitation. She was to remain at Brandfort for eight years.

58 Soweto had become a boiling cauldron of political tension in the months following the June 1976 uprising. Mandela’s banishment to the remote town of Brandfort was apparently intended to weaken the ties between the influential community leader and the Sowetan youth who looked to her for political leadership.

59 However, from 1977 to 1985, Ms Mandela made her mark on the small community of Brandfort and became a particularly important political figure for young activists in the township. When she defied her banishment order by returning to Soweto in 1985, she left behind her a legacy of resistance upheld by a militant group of ‘comrades’.

60 During her time in Brandfort, Mandela contributed to the life of the local community through a variety of projects. She initiated a feeding scheme and a day-care centre for the children of working mothers and set up a small clinic in her back yard. She also encouraged township residents to plant their own food gardens. Her efforts did not go unnoticed by her detractors, however. In 1980, white residents of Brandfort applied to the Minister of Justice to have her presence in the town reconsidered as it was causing ‘unhappiness’.

61 The parents of township children also expressed ambivalence. By the 1980s, Ms Mandela had established herself as an influential figure in the township and her presence was beginning to have a polarising effect on the community. Some residents felt anxious about her influence over the children and their powerlessness to intervene. Her home had become a hub of activity for township children and youth.

62 Brandfort became one of the more volatile urban centres in the Orange Free State. The Commission received reports of brutality by the police and by the so-called ‘anti-comrade’ groups associated with the police and municipal structures in the Brandfort area.

63 In addition to her banishment to Brandfort, Mandela’s banning orders prevented her from meeting with more than one person at a time and from talking to any other listed person. To monitor her compliance with these orders, a police sergeant was specifically assigned the task of keeping surveillance on her movements and was assiduous in the harassment of her friends and visitors. Zindzi Mandela, though neither banned nor banished, was also harassed and intimidated while she lived with her mother at Brandfort. This compelled Mr Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned on Robben Island, to bring an urgent restraining order against two police officers to prevent them from harassing his daughter and her friends.

64 By the 1980s, police were using methods that were insidious. In particular, a number of secondary school students were recruited into a gang to undertake vigilante-type actions in the township. The activities of this gang persisted well after Ms Mandela’s departure from Brandfort, and are discussed in more detail below.

65 In August 1985, Mandela’s home in Brandfort was petrol-bombed. Mr Mphithizeli Nelson Ngo, formerly a member of the SAP, told a hearing of the Amnesty Committee that all instructions to target Mandela’s property in Brandfort came from Security Branch headquarters in Bloemfontein. The attacks had been intended “to scare her a bit”. He said that it was known in Security Branch circles that Mandela’s house was being used for meetings. The clinic was also believed to be a meeting place.

66 At the time of the attack, Ms Mandela was in Johannesburg for a medical examination. She moved back to her house in Soweto and did not return to Brandfort in spite of a letter from the police saying that the house had been repaired and that she was required to return there by 4 November of that year. On 20 May 1987, the Brandfort home was attacked again, causing extensive fire damage to both the house and the clinic. As with the 1985 attack, no one was injured.

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