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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 727
Paragraph Numbers 733 to 743
Protest against black local authorities
733 In urban areas, most black local councils had collapsed during the height of conflict in the mid 1980s. In rural and peri-urban areas, however, opposition had been less intense owing to an intensively conservative environment and many local councils remained intact. The opening up of the political process from the
1990s gave residents the opportunity to begin to form civic organisations and openly oppose the local authority system, as well as raise other issues of concern such as value added tax (VAT), high rent tariffs and so on. Conservative white town councils responded to these campaigns by cutting off water and electricity supplies to many black townships. Hundreds of thousands of residents were left without water. Sewage systems broke down and some townships were blacked out at night.
734 During 1990, there were a series of clashes between police and residents in the Northern Transvaal towns of Messina and Nancefield over protests against black local authorities and a campaign opposing VAT which was initiated by the recently formed Messina civic association.
735 On 10 March 1990, Mr Wilson Ndambale [JB04013/02NPLTM] was shot dead by police in Nancefield during a protest against black local authorities. His death lead to the launch of a consumer boycott and a week-long stay away. During the course of the conflict, there were a number of arson attacks on the homes and vehicles of councillors.
736 On 4 August 1992, Ms Sarah Sekhwana, a mother of three small children, was shot and blinded by a member of the SAP in Messina during a protest march against the implementation of VAT. Ms Sekhwana was on her way to run an errand when she was caught up in the march. Her sister, Ms Annikie Sekhwana [JB04010/ 02NPLTM], testified that she was shot at point-blank range by a policeman sitting in a van. Sarah Sekhwama lost her sight in one eye as a result of the shooting. Annikie Sekhwana made a statement at the police station and contracted the services of a lawyer but the case was never taken any further. Ms Jeanet Ramakokovu [JB04006/02NPLTM] was also detained in the anti-VAT protests in Messina.
Detention and torture
737 Although the 1990s was not characterised by the mass detentions that took place in the 1980s, torture during detention continued to occur. This is reflected in the data collected by the Johannesburg regional office, which indicates that, although levels of torture decline substantially during the 1990s, it remained a major gross human rights violation.75 During this period, however, the number of reported killings exceeded the number of reported torture violations. By far the majority of torture victims who identified themselves as members of a political organisation, were ANC members.76 A larger proportion of torture victims during this period came from the 25–36 group than was the case during period three where victims of torture were substantially dominated by the 13–24 age group.77
738 In 1992, well-known pathologist Doctor Jonathan Gluckman stated that he believed the police to be responsible for ninety per cent of the deaths of 200 people whom he had examined after they died in detention. In 1993, torture equipment was found at the ISU base in Vosloorus on the East Rand and a special crime combating group, the Yankee Squad, was disbanded after numerous allegations of misconduct were made against the unit, including widespread use of torture and assault.
739 The July 1992 death in custody of Mr Simon Mthimkulu, an eighteen-year-old Sebokeng youth, provoked pathologist Dr Jonathan Gluckman to make public his concerns about the treatment of people in police custody. His previous appeals to former President de Klerk, senior cabinet ministers and the Commissioner of Police, had proved fruitless. The Human Rights Commission confirmed that, at the time that Gluckman made his allegations, an average of three people died every month while in police custody.78
740 On 16 July 1993 the ‘Yankee Squad’, was disbanded and three of its members suspended pending further criminal investigation. The ‘Yankee Squad’ was a police unit set up in February 1992, purportedly as a special crime-combating group. It specialised in covert operations in the Vaal, in particular the tracing of illegal weapons. The disbanding of the squad followed intensive investigations by police reporting officer, Mr Jan Munnik, into numerous allegations of assault and torture against the squad. Furthermore, it was alleged that the unit was responsible for the death of ANC activist Mr Edgar Mohapi [JB00967/01GTSOW] who died in the custody of the unit.
741 In September 1993, the ANC won an order restraining members of the ISU from assaulting and torturing people at Nyoni farm, the ISU headquarters in Vosloorus. The following month, the Complaints Investigation Unit of the Peace Accord conducted a raid on the ISU base next to Natalspruit hospital on the East Rand. A number of instruments of torture were allegedly found, including electric shock equipment and rubber tubing. East Rand residents arrested by the ISU had frequently reported electric shock treatment and suffocation with tyre tubes placed over their faces.
742 A special police task force set up in July 1991 in Khutsong on the West Rand (as a result of escalating violence in the area between the Zim-Zim and Gadaffi gangs) led to the suspension of thirteen policemen and the closure of the Welverdiend Police Station dubbed the ‘House of Horrors’ by the media (due to the high number of cases of torture taking place at the station). Over one hundred cases were reported to the task team; only one resulted in a conviction.
743 The task team was set up and investigated over a hundred cases of torture and assault as well as seventeen cases of extra-judicial executions, two of which involved sixteen-year-old Mr Nixon Phiri [JB01068/03WR] and fifteen-year-old Mr Eugene Mbulawa [JB00462/03WR]. Both youths died after being detained by the SAP. The police claimed that Phiri died as a result of an epileptic fit. There was no history of him having this condition at the time of his detention. Two witnesses who were detained with him and who witnessed his assault died in ‘unrest incidents’ shortly after making statements to the Phiri family’s attorneys.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE SAP RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH IN CUSTODY OF MR EUGENE MBULAWA AND MR NIXON PHIRI.75 See Graph B3 in Johannesburg overview. 76 See Graph D2c.5 in Johannesburg appendix. 77 See Graph D1c.5 in Johannesburg 1983–89. 78 Peace Action Monthly Report, August 1992; Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Update, July 1992, p. 9.