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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 638
Paragraph Numbers 408 to 416
408 In Bophuthatswana, freedom of political expression and activity could hardly be said to exist. The ruling Bophuthatswana Democratic Party dominated parliament throughout the territory’s history, and various attempts to establish alternative parties and associations floundered as a result of severe repression.
409 Mr Matome Cornelius (Ronnie) Sekhaulelo [JB03711/03NWRUS], a nineteenyear-old COSAS activist, and Mr Mahase Rampone [JB02751/03NWRUS] were two of the students killed by Bophuthatswana Police during student protests in February and March 1986. Mr Sekhaulelo’s aunt, Ms Thalitha Sekhaulelo, told the Commission that she went to the bus stop where the incident took place:
… at a distance I was seeing police beating with batons and sjamboks and iron bars. When I arrived there they were picking Ronnie to police van … When I arrived at that van Ronnie was inside that van and he was lying, his leg was curled as if it is broken … I handled his leg and I said to Ronnie, “Ronnie!” then he didn’t respond, then I did that again and then he didn’t respond.
410 The police informed Sekhaulelo’s family that he was dead and restricted his funeral to family only.
411 Not only did the government of Bophuthatswana act coercively against its political opponents, it was also involved in the ongoing persecution of non-Tswanas in the homeland, whom Chief Minister Mangope blamed for political opposition in the territory.
412 The experience of the Winterveld community is a stark example of this ethnic persecution. By 1986 it was alleged that the police had killed fifty people in the Winterveld area and detained and tortured approximately 500.
413 Winterveld, an informal settlement in the Odi district of Bophuthatswana, was inhabited mostly by non-Tswanas, but was incorporated into Bophuthatswana at the time of the territory’s independence. From this period onwards, the Winterveld community experienced ongoing harassment by the Bophuthatswana authorities.
414 On 26 March 1986, conflict between the Winterveld community and the Bophuthatswana authorities culminated in a meeting of between 5 000 and 10 000 people which was held on a soccer field in Winterveld. Bophuthatswana police, led by Colonel AM Molope, opened fire on the crowd, killing eleven people and injuring 200. More than 1 000 people were arrested and charged with attending an illegal gathering or with public violence. Police allegedly continued to assault residents even as they fled, dragging them out of houses and subjecting them to extensive battering, both at the scene and at GaRankuwa police station. Colonel Molope, who had given the order to open fire, was promoted soon after the massacre. A commission of enquiry into the shootings (the Smith Commission) began its investigation in April. Two months later, Colonel Molope was shot dead in a Winterveld house. Both the PAC and ANC claimed responsibility for the shooting. In July 1988 the Bophuthatswana administration announced that it would not publish the commission’s finding as its recommendations had already been implemented.
415 Although the findings of the Smith Commission were never published, this Commission was able to gain access to the report. The evidence given to the Smith Commission states that the majority of the people being arrested for suspected involvement in these activities were between the ages of twelve and twenty, and that many were assaulted while in custody, kept for longer than the statutory forty-eight hours without charge, and then often released without charges being brought against them.
416 The report said “initially the meeting was calm but sometime after the arrival on the field of Brigadier Molope the crowd became unruly. It was probably something that Brigadier Molope said to the people that upset them and triggered off an advance on the police.” The report found that the shooting was justified in order to protect the lives of the policemen.
THE COMMISSION, HAVING HEARD THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES AND HAVING READ THE REPORT OF THE SMITH COMMISSION, FINDS THAT ON 26 MARCH 1986, RESIDENTS GATHERED IN THE ODI STADIUM TO ELECT A COMMITTEE TO NEGOTIATE THE RELEASE OF DETAINEES WITH THE BOPHUTHATSWANA GOVERNMENT. THE PEACEFUL GATHERING WAS DISRUPTED BY THE BOPHUTHATSWANA POLICE UNDER THE COMMAND OF COLONEL MOLOPE, WHO THREATENED THE CROWD IN HIS ADDRESS TO THEM. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE STARTED BEATING PEOPLE IN THE CROWD AND ALSO SHOT TEAR GAS INTO THE CROWD. THE CROWD BECAME INCENSED BY COLONEL MOLOPE AND HIS POLICE, AND STARTED THROWING STONES AT THEM. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE POLICE DID NOT ENGAGE IN PROPER RIOT CONTROL MEASURES BUT INSTEAD USED EXCESSIVE AND DEADLY FORCE ON THE CROWD. THE POLICE FIRED REPEATEDLY ON THE CROWD WITH LIVE AMMUNITION, KILLING ELEVEN PEOPLE AND SEVERELY INJURING TWENTY-EIGHT OTHERS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT COLONEL MOLOPE INCITED AND ENRAGED THE CROWD WITH HIS THREATS AND THEN UNLEASHED VIOLENCE ON THEM WHICH WAS EXCESSIVE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES. THE COMMISSION FINDS COLONEL MOLOPE AND THE BOPHUTHATSWANA SECURITY FORCES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WINTERVELD MASSACRE. THE COMMISSION FINDS COLONEL MOLOPE, THE BOPHUTHATSWANA SECURITY FORCES AND THE BOPHUTHATSWANA GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE COMMUNITY, AND PARTICULARLY ACTIVISTS IN THE AREA, WERE ENRAGED BY THE ACTIONS OF COLONEL MOLOPE. THIS LED TO HIS ASSASSINATION ON 21 JUNE 1986. WHILST BOTH THE ANC AND THE PAC CLAIMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS DEATH, THE COMMISSION IS UNABLE TO DETERMINE WHICH OF THE LIBERATION MOVEMENTS SHOULD BEAR RESPONSIBILITY. THE COMMISSION FINDS, HOWEVER, THAT HIS ASSASSINATION CANNOT BE CONDONED AND FINDS THE ACTIVISTS IN THE WINTERVELD AREA RESPONSIBLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.