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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 611
Paragraph Numbers 300 to 309
300 In Alexandra, an attempt by police to disperse a funeral sparked conflict that continued unabated for a week and fundamentally altered the political landscape of the township. The conflict became known as the Six Day War.
301 On 15 February 1986, over 11 000 people attended the funeral of Mr Michael Dirading (19), a member of the Student Representative Council at Alexandra High School, who was shot by a security guard in Wynberg. As mourners made their way back from the graveyard, they were confronted by a large contingent of security police. Soon after people arrived at Michael’s home, the police opened fire on the crowd with tear gas, scattering people in all directions. Youths responded by barricading the streets with burning tyres.
302 By 17 February, at least nineteen people were dead and thirty-seven wounded. Residents stayed home from work and students did not attend school. A protest meeting at the local soccer stadium was attended by approximately 40 000 people. Police moved into the township en masse.
303 Over the following few days, civil war conditions raged in Alexandra. Youths pitted themselves against the SADF, SAP, councillors and informers.
304 The testimonies received by the Commission indicates an extremely high level of apparently deliberate and unprovoked police violence. Victims and relatives alleged that police randomly opened fire on residents in township streets and that, in some cases, those wounded were executed by police. Denial of medical treatment was also cited by deponents as a factor in some of the deaths. This ranged from leaving injured people lying in the streets for hours without help to blocking the ambulances’ access to the victims.
305 Mr Nkosana Mngadi [JB01764/01GTTEM] testified that members of the security forces opened fire without warning or provocation as he and three of his friends were driving in Alexandra on 17 February. Mr Mngadi, who lost his leg as a result of the shooting, was one of two survivors of the attack. He told the Commission that they were shot at from Hippos parked in the area and that it took three hours before police got him medical assistance.
306 Nineteen-year-old Mr Jabulani Mkhele [JB01878/01GTTEM] was shot dead on his way to work on 18 February. His mother, Ms Dora Mkhele, testified that her son was shot dead by white policemen. His brother and two friends fled, but were pursued by the police and shot. Dora alleges that not only did the police refuse to allow any medical assistance to the injured, but they deliberately shot them again to ensure that they were fatally wounded.
307 Ms Margaret Madlana’s [JB01732/01GTTEM] twelve-year-old son Bongani was shot dead by the SAP on 17 February. Ms Madlana witnessed police smashing a child’s head against a rock after he was shot. She had not realised that she was witnessing the death of her own child, Bongani. Later she went to the government mortuary:
I stood in the queue and then one of the people there came to me and asked me what am I looking for. I told them that I am looking for my son. They asked me where is your son from. I told them I am from Alexandra. They asked how old was my son. I told them he was twelve. He said “Mommy, we have seen one child but we don’t think – there is one child here but we don’t think he is twelve years old because he came alone, he was carried in a Hippo, he came alone and he is from Alexandra. I don’t know whether this is the one that you are looking for.” And I told them mine is twelve years old, but he is short. And they asked me, “Are you strong enough to come and identify your child?” I said, “Yes, I can” …
I found so many bodies lying on the ground. This one of mine was sitting on top of the plank and they asked me, “Is this your child?” I said “Yes”. I found this is my child. I said, “Bongani, you left me behind.”
308 After Ms Madlana had made a statement to the police about Bongani’s death, she was questioned and asked to reveal the names of student leaders. Police later showed Ms Madlana and her husband photographs which apparently showed Bongani holding a petrol bomb. Police arrived at Bongani’s funeral and threatened the Madlana family. Ms Madlana expressed her terrible anger and pain about the death of her son:
I would like to apologise before God … The way they killed my son, hitting him against a rock, and we found him with a swollen head. They killed him in a tragic manner and I don’t think I will ever forgive in this case, especially to these police who were involved and who were there.
309 After negotiations following a township stay away, security forces agreed to maintain a lower profile. By 22 February, the township appeared to be relatively quiet. On 5 March, a mass funeral for seventeen victims of the violence was held without incident.