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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 563

Paragraph Numbers 142 to 148

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 18

142 Testimony to the Commission revealed that many of the victims of the ongoing confrontation with the police (which continued for nearly two years after 16 June 1976) were ordinary residents going about their daily business. The police appeared to pursue a policy of generalised intimidation which continued until early 1978. Among the victims of violations was Mr Jerry Radebe [JB01786/01GTTEM], who was shot in the back by the South African Defence Force (SADF) in June 1976, thrown into a Hippo19, and never seen again. Ms Ramotsobane Masenya was shot and killed by the SADF. Ms Esther Denga [JB02475/01GTTEM] was knocked down by a Hippo whilst walking home during the student unrest in June 1976. Mr Joseph Tjao [JB02479/01GTTEM] was beaten by members of the SAP and SADF during June 1976. Ms Eliza Masilwane-Motsweneng, who was pregnant at the time [JB00665/01GTSOW] was shot in the stomach on 14 September 1977.

143 In September 1976, police reacted violently in response to another student protest, this time against the visit of Mr Henry Kissinger to South Africa. Protest actions were confined to school premises in order to avoid a confrontation with the police. However, clashes between protesters and the police resulted in injuries. Ms Nomavenda Mathiane was in Dr Abubaker Asvat’s surgery on the day of the protest. She told the Commission:

The door just opened and a group of children, these students in black and white came in. I mean, these children were bleeding all over. I mean, their white shirts were red, they were just a mess. They were bleeding all over and the way they just burst in and there was so much commotion. As he took one of the children into his consulting room and as he did that the children were in such pain and they all just rushed into the consulting room … So Asvat then said, “Okay, okay, those of you who are not very, very sick, help me. Let us do something about these children.” So he tried to tell us how to get hold of the pellet bullets … They had been shot all over … The most difficult pellets to remove were the ones in the skull because then the hair would come into the way and this little, I guess, little flesh on the skull. So we were busy calling, “come help me this side doctor”, and he would be rushing this way and the children were screaming. We were also, we were not doctors, we were not nurses, we had to handle this blood, but anyway we managed, you know.

144 The earliest known incidents of ‘drive-by’ shootings occurred shortly after the June uprising. The Commission received reports of a “green Chevrolet” occupied by uniformed white men who drove around indiscriminately firing on township residents. Mr Johannes Dube [JB00851/01GTSOW] was one of these victims. He told the Commission that, in August 1976, he and a friend were walking to the taxi rank when a green Chevrolet, occupied by white “policemen … in camouflage” pointed a gun at them. Both he and his friend were shot.

145 Mr Jabu Malinga of Alexandra told the Commission that in 1978 he was abducted by men in a green Chevrolet and taken to a bushy area in Alexandra where he was tortured. Malinga was ordered to collect wood, build a fire and braai meat for the men. He refused to answer the questions they put to him about the organisation of the 16 June march. It was then that they started beating him.

They said I knew too much, they will show me something that I don’t know. They handcuffed me and the fire was still burning at that time. They took me towards the fire, they threatened to burn me should I not be prepared to talk the truth… Whilst they were assaulting me and the other one lifted my leg they dragged me towards this fire. They started burning me, they said I must talk the truth. I refused because I knew that should I tell the truth they will kill all my companions. Then they burnt me. I was dressed in an overall. When they realised that I was burning they took something to extinguish the fire. They extinguished the fire. They said they wanted to know what we were doing on the 17 June. They wanted the truth. I still refused to tell them. I was just being kicked, I was not aware of what was happening, I was unconscious at that moment. I found myself at the clinic. That is when I became conscious. I can’t remember what happened.

146 The first reports of conflict between township residents and hostel-dwellers were received at around this time. In August 1976, violence broke out after students reportedly tried to enforce a stay away without consulting Mzimhlophe hostel residents. Two stay aways were organised in August 1976. The first on 4–6 August was enforced with some degree of coercion such as roadblocks, although it did appear to have genuine support among Sowetan residents. However, during the second stay away on the 23–25 August, migrant workers living in the hostel near Mzimhlophe station – enraged by attacks on the hostel and on some of its inmates who had gone to work, and allegedly incited by the police – went on the rampage through neighbouring Meadowlands and Orlando. Residents fled in terror as the hostel-dwellers broke into homes and robbed, raped and murdered. The battle between hostel-dwellers and township residents, including students, continued for two weeks, leaving seventy people dead.

147 Later, hostel residents explained that they had not understood the reasons behind the stay away. Discussion won the support of hostel residents for the next stay away which took place on 13–15 September. Many of the hallmarks of later hostel/township conflict were evident during the August incident – lack of police intervention, the alienation of hostel residents from the township and the failure of township activists to involve hostel residents in their campaigns.

148 Generational divisions between township youth enforcing the boycott and the gerontocratic forms of control established in hostels, which mirrored similar forms of organisation in the rural areas, were central to the 1976 conflict that developed in townships around Johannesburg. Hostel-dwellers attributed their alienation from townships to the youth.

19 An armoured personnel carrier.
 
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