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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 606

Paragraph Numbers 280 to 289

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 42

Public order policing

280 Rent boycotts were launched in townships across the Vaal following the announcement of rent increases by black local authorities, now under some pressure to meet their budget deficits and become self-financing. Township residents could not afford the rapidly escalating rents they were expected to pay. The 56 per cent rent increase announced by the Lekoa Town Council affected at least 300 000 people in the Vaal who were already paying some of the highest rents in the country, half of which were in arrears. The rent increases were in stark contrast to a 17 per cent rise in income between 1980 and 1985.

281 Opposition organised through civic and student organisations proliferated. Attacks on councillors trying to implement the increases intensified, leading to the resignation of many in 1984. Between January 1985 and July 1986, rent boycotts were launched in Ratanda, Katlehong, Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Alexandra, Tembisa, Soweto and Vosloorus. By August 1987, it was estimated that rent boycotts in the PWV had cost more that R188 million.

282 Rent boycotts quickly spread beyond the confines of the PWV. In June 1985, tension around rent and school boycotts in the townships surrounding Barberton in the eastern Transvaal reached a peak. Many of those injured in the course of the ensuing conflict were not direct participants in the boycotts. Ms Thoko Lindiwe Mhlabane [JB01211/01MPNEL], eight months pregnant at the time, was waiting for a taxi to go to work during a boycott when she was shot in the hip by the police. She told the Commission that she was teargassed by a black policeman and beaten by a white policeman. When she regained consciousness, she was in hospital.

283 Violent government reaction to rent protests culminated in police shooting on a protest march on 21 November 1985 in Mamelodi where thirteen people died. Most victims were shot in the back. Captain le Roux of the SAP, who participated in the shooting, told the 1989 inquest hearing that the police had adopted a shootto-kill approach, aiming particularly at people who appeared to be leading the crowds.

284 In statements to the Commission, victims of the Mamelodi massacre spoke of a lack of warning before police opened fire. Mr Phillistus Botsietsa Lerutla [JB00756/02PS] was severely injured when police opened fire on the gathering. Mr Simon Boyizeli Msiza [JB00788/02PS] told the Commission that there had been a degree of coercion in getting township residents to participate in the march, although most protesters were supportive of the campaign against rent increases. Before the protesters could hand over the memorandum, he said, the police opened fire. His wife, Ms Elizabeth Baphelile Msiza, was shot in the back three times as they were fleeing, even though they were already more than a kilometre from the scene. “The Hippos”, he said, “moved around the place like rabbits.”

285 The Mamelodi massacre radicalised the township community. As in the Vaal, the violence of the police response to rent protests escalated protest and opposition, rather than curbing it. Sustained rent and consumer boycotts and stay aways were launched. Some of this protest was also accompanied by violence, and the toll of deaths and injuries rose as police again tried to curb the protests.

THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE IMPOSITION OF RENT INCREASES BY THE MAMELODI BLACK AUTHORITIES LED TO INTENSE ANGER IN THE TOWNSHIP AND CONTRIBUTED TO THE VIOLENCE WHICH SUBSEQUENTLY TOOK PLACE. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE MANNER IN WHICH THE CONFLICT WAS MANAGED, BOTH BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND THE POLICE, CONTRIBUTED TO AN ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE AND IMPROPER CROWD CONTROL METHODS BY THE SAP LED TO THE MASSACRE ON 21 NOVEMBER 1985 IN WHICH THIRTEEN PEOPLE DIED AND MANY OTHERS WERE INJURED. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE ADOPTED A SHOOT-TO-KILL POLICY AND FIRED ON PEOPLE REPEATEDLY AS THEY FLED. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT NO ATTEMPT WAS MADE TO USE MINIMUM FORCE; INSTEAD, THE POLICE FIRED ROUND UPON ROUND OF LIVE AMMUNITION. THE COMMISSION FINDS CAPTAIN LE ROUX, THE COMMANDER IN CHARGE OF THE POLICE ON THAT DAY, AND MAYOR NDLAZI RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS AND INJURIES DURING THE MASSACRE ON 21 NOVEMBER 1985. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE MASSACRE CONSTITUTES A GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION AND HOLDS THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, THE MINISTER OF LAW AND ORDER, THE MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR BLACK LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND THE FORMER STATE RESPONSIBLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

286 Further clashes between the police and residents of White City, Jabavu, in Soweto during protests against rent and service charge increases in August 1986 resulted in the deaths of twenty-four people. Mr Tokelo Charles Maloke [JB05246/01GTSOW] was one of those who died in the ‘White City War’.

287 As organisational capacity became stronger in Soweto, public protests against rentals and council bodies proceeded with vigour between March and June 1986. (The partial state of emergency was lifted on 7 March, but a new nation-wide state of emergency was declared on 12 June.) A total of 75 000 houses were involved in a rent boycott. The Council responded by cutting off services and prosecuting rent defaulters. On 16 June 1986, Soweto municipal police raided homes in Naledi, demanding rent receipts. One thousand women and high school students took to the streets in protest.

288 By September 1987, at least 166 families had been evicted from their homes for not paying rent between August 1986 and September 1987, by which time the debt of the municipal council had risen to R122 million. In 1987, the Soweto Civic Association was restricted and many of its leaders detained.

289 The Commission received statements from people who were shot by the police during conflicts around the rent boycott. On 14 November 1986, Ms Lillian Sibongile Mnguni [JB01859/01GTSOW], an executive member of the civic association in Meadlowlands, was shot in the back by police evicting people from their homes. At the time of the shooting, the deponent and other activists were barricading the streets to prevent the police from entering the township.

THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE RENT INCREASE IMPOSED ON RESIDENTS IN SOWETO RESULTED IN A RENT AND MUNICIPAL LEVY BOYCOTT BY THE SOWETO CIVIC ASSOCIATION. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT TWENTY-FOUR PEOPLE WERE KILLED AND HUNDREDS WERE INJURED IN THE ‘WHITE CITY WAR’ BETWEEN POLICE AND SOWETO RESIDENTS. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE USED EXCESSIVE FORCE AND IMPROPER CROWD CONTROL METHODS TO QUELL THE PROTESTS. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE STATE ATTEMPTED TO STIFLE AND SUPPRESS ALL POLITICAL PROTEST BY IMPOSING RESTRICTIONS ON THE SOWETO CIVIC ASSOCIATION AND DETAINING THE LEADERSHIP. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, THE MINISTER OF LAW AND ORDER AND THE LOCAL COUNCIL RESPONSIBLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
 
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