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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 659
Paragraph Numbers 485 to 496
485 The eastern Transvaal self-governing homeland of KaNgwane, led by Chief Minister Enoch Mabusa, also experienced an escalation of tension at this time. At the end of 1985, violence flared in the Nsikazi region of KaNgwane, claiming the lives of at least two leading businessmen, a trade unionist and a chief. In February 1986, education-related protests led to sustained conflict lasting well into the year. In February alone, at least four people died in unrest-related incidents in KaNgwane, and damage estimated at R2 million was caused in the townships of Kabokweni and KaNyamazane.
486 It was in this context that the vigilante group, Kabasa, emerged as a powerful and violent conservative force in opposition to the wave of radical protest in the homeland. The Kabasa gang was formed in 1986 and operated in the areas surrounding Nelspruit, including KaNyamazane, Pienaars Trust, Luphisa Trust and Kabokweni.
487 Accounts from members of the community suggest that the Kabasa gang, which had about seven members, was formed essentially to fulfil the needs of a group of elite businessmen known to the community as Sibaya S’khulu (meaning the main or central kraal). The most prominent members of Sibaya S’khulu were Mr Enos Mazibuko and Mr Julius Nkosi. It seems likely that the Kabasa gang was first mobilised in response to violence associated with the school boycott launched in February 1986. This included attacks on businesses, development board offices, a school and police vehicles.
488 On 14 January 1986, development board offices and police vehicles were stoned and petrol-bombed at Kabokweni. The crowd was dispersed with birdshot. On the weekend of 22 February about 4 000 youths set fire to the Khumbula High School and two shops, one of which belonged to a school inspector. A week later, twenty-three vehicles and a number of buildings were burnt in further unrest in KaNyamazane.
489 Twenty-six pupils appeared in Kabokweni Magistrate’s Court on charges of public violence. Thousands of fellow pupils marched to court to attend the trials, and pushed down a courtyard fence to get in. Police opened fire, killing at least three pupils and injuring eighty. Ms Elizabeth Mdluli [JB00954/01MPNEL] was one of those shot outside the court. The lawyer for the children appearing in court stated later that there had been no provocation by the crowd and that the police had given no warning to disperse. In later reports it emerged that most of the pupils had been shot in the back. The shootings later came to be known as the Lowveld massacre.
490 The court shooting was followed by several incidents of unrest, including an attempt by a group of 200 pupils to hijack seven buses. In another incident. a boy was killed when police dispersed a group of alleged stone-throwers. At Kadisiki school, a boy was seriously injured by police firing birdshot at 400 pupils who were ‘intimidating’ scholars.
491 Restrictions were placed on the funeral of the three students killed in the Lowveld massacre. However, hours before the funeral on 22 March, as mourners were returning from the night vigil, there was further confrontation between students and police. Mr Msongelwa Amos Maseko [JB00943/01MPNEL] was walking back home from the night vigil with a group of friends when they encountered the police. He told the Commission that the police opened fire from a vehicle without warning. Maseko was shot and injured. One youth was shot dead by police, another was run over by a police vehicle, and four were seriously injured.
492 It is in the wake of these events that the Kabasa gang appears to have come to the fore. The Commission received several reports of joint activities between the security forces and Kabasa during June 1986. The Kabasa gang appears to have co-operated closely with both the SAP and the SADF. KaNgwane did not have its own security forces at this time.
493 On 16 June 1986, a meeting of students to mark the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising was violently dispersed, according to Commission deponents, by members of the SADF and Kabasa. Students had gathered on the previous evening to prepare for the commemoration. Ms Mildred Mthethwa’s [JB01224/ 01MPNEL] fifteen-year-old brother, Bethuel, was killed when the members of the SADF and Kabasa opened fire on the protesters. Ms Mthethwa told the Commission of events before the funeral:
When the hearse arrived, the police were following the car … When the police arrived at home they take the door, they were questioning where Bethuel is, they went here and there until they found him. They kicked him even while he was dead, they continues kicking him. When they were busy kicking the corpse, my father was becoming very angry. He tried to fetch something which we could use to fight the police because he was angry at what they were doing to the corpse. He questioned them, how can they kick somebody who is already dead? He therefore asked the police to kill him and when we all saw that our father was angry, we also decided to help our father to fight against the police. We fought against them. The police went out of the house.
494 Ms Phindile Mavis Ngobe [JB00984/01MPNEL] told the Commission that she was also shot. She and three other injured students were taken to Temba hospital by township residents. They were followed by members of the SADF who refused to allow the students to be admitted to hospital and instead called the police in Nelspruit to come and detain them. In detention they were assaulted and denied medical treatment.
495 Mr Madala Andres Ndlazi [JB00949/01MPNEL] lost his teenage son, Sydney, during the same incident. Ndlazi told the Commission that he came home to find his son lying dead in the dining room. He questioned both the army, who were at the scene, and police at the local police station, about the shootings. Both denied any involvement.
496 Mr Neville Shabangu [JB00940/01MPNEL], a founding member of the Lowveld Youth Movement, a local UDF affiliate, alleges that Kabasa members were involved in burning down his home. His nephew had been one of those shot dead by police outside the Kabokweni court about a month earlier. Shabangu was at home at the time of the arson attack and suffered severe burns which hospitalised him for more than four months. While in hospital, he was questioned by police about the identity of the arsonists. The day after his discharge from hospital, Shabangu was detained for three months and tortured. He told the Commission that members of the Kabasa gang were working with the police and were seen helping in the police station.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT STUDENT ORGANISATIONS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BOMBING OF POLICE VEHICLES AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD OFFICES IN KAPOKWANI, KANGWANE, ON 14 JANUARY 1986. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE STUDENTS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ARSON ATTACKS ON THE KHUMBULA HIGH SCHOOL AND TWO SHOPS ON 22 FEBRUARY 1986.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS GATHERED PEACEFULLY ON 11 MARCH 1986 TO SUPPORT TWENTY-SIX STUDENTS WHO WERE DETAINED AND CHARGED WITH PUBLIC VIOLENCE. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE KANGWANE POLICE ATTACKED THEM WITHOUT PROVOCATION AND WITHOUT GIVING THEM ANY WARNING TO DISPERSE, FIRED REPEATED ROUNDS OF LIVE AMMUNITION INTO THE UNARMED CROWD. THREE STUDENTS WERE KILLED AND EIGHTY WERE SERIOUSLY INJURED, MOST BEING WOUNDED IN THE BACK. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE KANGWANE POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE KILLING AND SEVERE ILL TREATMENT OF THE STUDENTS, AND THUS FOR THE GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE MINISTER OF LAW AND ORDER AND THE CHIEF MINISTER OF KANGWANE RESPONSIBLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.