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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 635

Paragraph Numbers 389 to 398

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 55


389 The conflict which had emerged in the urban areas from 1984 began to manifest itself in homelands across the country during 1986. In Bophuthatswana, KwaNdebele and Lebowa in particular, violence reached intense levels.

390 Numbers of recorded violations in the Transvaal homelands rose dramatically in this period, with most reports emanating from KwaNdebele and Bophuthatswana.

391 With the spread of UDF and COSAS activities to the homelands during 1986, many forms of township protest also reached these areas. In most homelands the response to open political protest was severe, resulting in widespread detention and torture by homeland police.

392 The homelands, particularly those that had achieved ‘independent’ status, had security powers that sometimes exceeded those of the South African state itself. A discernible difference in the nature of violations emerged in this period between the self-governing homelands (those without their own police forces and army) and the independent homelands, which had their own security apparatus. In the independent homelands, Venda and Bophuthatswana, acts of torture were by far the most common violations (42 per cent), while in the self-governing homelands torture makes up a relatively small percentage (26 per cent). Many of the statements (particularly for Venda) referred to the detention and torture of activists and suspected MK guerrillas. Almost half of the perpetrators are identified as members of the homeland police forces themselves. However, the involvement of the SAP in detention and torture in both Venda and Bophuthatswana is significant. A number of deaths were reported arising out of acts of torture.

393 In the homelands as in the urban areas, a cycle of retaliatory violence was set in motion as violence intensified between homeland security forces and UDF-aligned youth. Petrol-bombing, arson and necklacing were all used during the course of these attacks. One of the main targets of attack by opposition groups were the chiefs who, like community councillors in the urban areas, became increasingly unpopular for their implementation of government policy. The first major protests in the Transvaal against chiefly authority occurred in Lebowa and KwaNdebele. In many places, chiefs bore the brunt of youth anger, suffering physical assault, attacks on their houses and expulsion from their villages. The rise of the youth movement under the banner of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) and the UDF rapidly and systematically destroyed the power of chiefs in many districts.

394 Partly in response to the rise of youth organisations and in lieu of formal coercive mechanisms such as homeland armies, this period saw the emergence of conservative vigilante organisations, most notably Imbokodo, Inkatha and Kabasa. These are discussed in the section entitled Vigilantes below, and in more detail in the Homelands chapter in another volume of this report.

395 In Venda, gross human rights violations took place in two major contexts. The most significant of these was the conflict between the homeland government and emerging civic, youth and other UDF-affiliated structures which protested against the homeland administration. The second was the conflict between homeland security forces and ANC insurgents crossing the borders from neighbouring countries through the homelands.

396 In 1985 the Northern Transvaal Action Committee (NTAC) was launched in Thohoyandou. The NTAC and the Youth Congress mobilised and organised local residents and students against the homeland system, culminating in an anti-independence campaign led by Venda University students and drawing in pupils from a number of secondary schools. The Venda government responded by setting up roadblocks and raiding villages and townships, searching for local leaders.

397 The Venda government appears to have made extensive use of detention and torture in its efforts to control opposition. The SAP were frequently involved in the interrogation of suspected MK members in Venda.

398 The Venda government experienced considerable instability after the death in May 1988 of the Life President, Chief Mphephu, and his replacement by his cousin, Mr Frank Ravele. Opposition to the homeland government took an extraordinary turn as government officials were widely believed by residents to be involved in more than twenty cases of ‘medicine murder’ (murder of people for their body parts to make medicines or ‘muti’) which took place between 1987 and 1989. Many of the officials appointed after Ravele’s accession to power were reportedly illiterate and deeply rooted in traditional beliefs about the power of ritual sacrifice.

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