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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 662
Paragraph Numbers 497 to 506
Resistance and revolutionary groupings
497 As the conflict deepened and escalated during the mid 1980s, gross human rights violations became increasingly generalised, drawing in an ever-widening range of sectors, organisations and individuals as perpetrators. The ANC, MK and individuals associated with the UDF were identified as perpetrators during this period.
Attacks on representatives of government authority and informers
498 Individuals aligned to the UDF, frequently referred to as comrades, engaged in a range of violent actions against local representatives of the apartheid government and anyone perceived to have been beneficiaries of the apartheid system, targeting councillors, police and government-appointed chiefs in rural areas. People who owned businesses, and any other individuals who were perceived to have unfairly amassed wealth in poor townships were also vulnerable to attack. Teachers and school principals who were conservative or opposed to school boycotts were targeted in some instances. Black local authority offices, schools, homes and businesses were also frequently attacked.
499 Many youths associated with the UDF increasingly became self-appointed community police, identifying and sometimes eliminating alleged informers or ‘impimpis’. Methods used included petrol bomb or hand grenade attacks on homes, necklacing, stabbing and beating. This policing role also extended to the implementation of the UDF’s programmes, such as the consumer boycotts and stay aways. This phenomenon reached its peak in the ‘people’s courts’ which were set up in some townships as a rudimentary form of alternative governance.
500 The period between 1983 and 1990 was marked by a significant shift in the nature of the ANC’s armed campaign within the country. This was at least partially precipitated by the popular rebellion which swept across the country after the clashes in the Vaal in September 1984. At the ANC’s Kabwe conference in 1985, consensus was reached about the need to increase the organisation’s military and political offensive. A strategy was adopted which aimed at the seizure of power through a people’s war. This involved integrating armed MK combatants with mass organisations inside South African townships, and rendering the townships ungovernable through attacks on the security forces and other representatives of the state.
501 Two campaigns were launched in 1985–86 in the Transvaal, one involving bomb attacks on urban targets, the other involving landmines. Both led to civilian casualties. Most of the people who testified to the Commission about this type of violation are white, though it is evident from police statistics that the majority of victims of the ANC’s armed actions were black.
502 From late 1985 to mid-1987, certain MK units were tasked with the laying of antitank landmines in the rural areas of the northern and eastern Transvaal, the aim being to target military patrols. A number of civilians – farmers, farm labourers and members of their families -– were killed in approximately thirty landmine explosions. According to the ANC, twenty-three people died, two of whom were MK members laying a mine. However, other sources give a death toll of thirty-seven: twenty-five civilians, nine MK members and three security force members. Some of the victims of these landmine explosions have testified to the Commission. Most of the casualties appeared to have been women and small children.
503 On 16 December 1985, the Van Eck and De Nysschen families were holidaying at Messina when their vehicle detonated a landmine. Three women and four children between the ages of three and nine died in the blast. There were four survivors: Mr Johannes Frederick van Eck [JB00707/01MPWES] and his eighteen-month-old baby boy, Mr de Nysschen and his daughter, who was seriously wounded. To this day, Mr van Eck does not know what happened to his three-year-old son, who had been travelling with them. He described the emotional trauma to the Commission:
Do you know how it feels to be blasted by a landmine? Do you know how it feels to be in a temperature of between of 6 000 and 8 000 degrees? Do you know how it feels to experience such a blast that is so intense that even the fillings in your teeth are torn out. Do you know what trouble reigns if you survive the blast and that you must observe the results thereof? Do you know how it feels – how it feels to look for survivors, only to find the dead and maimed? Do you know how it feels to see crippled loved ones lying and burning? Do you know how it feels to look for your three-year-old child and never, Mr Chairman, never to see him again and for ever after to wonder where he is? … Mr Chairman, do you know how it feels to try to cheer up a friend while your own wife and two children lie dead? Do you know how it feels to leave a baby of eighteen months behind to go and look for help?
504 Two ANC insurgents, Mr Mthetheleli Mncube and Mr Mzondeleli Nondula were subsequently arrested for their involvement in the landmine blasts. They were tried for murder and possession of illegal weapons and were sentenced to death, later commuted to life. In 1992 both were freed in terms of an indemnity agreement on the release of political prisoners between the ANC and the De Klerk government. According to Van Eck, Mncube was given a hero’s award by Mr Nelson Mandela in 1993.
505 In 1986, Ms Lindiwe Mdluli, a farm worker in the eastern Transvaal, and her eight-month-old baby were on their way to spend Sunday with their family when they were also killed in a landmine explosion.
506 Mr Johannes Roos [JB01350/01MPNEL] and his family were on their way home from a Sunday evening church service on 17 August 1986. Roos was following his wife in a separate car when the vehicle she was driving detonated a landmine. Ms Roos died three days later as a result of her injuries. Their son sustained severe brain damage and died seven months later. Mr Roos told the Commission of the trauma of seeing this happen right in front of him.
THE COMMISSION FINDS MR MTHETHELELI MNCUBE AND MR MZONDELI NONDULA RESPONSIBLE FOR PLANTING THE LANDMINES THAT KILLED MEMBERS OF THE VAN ECK AND DE NYSSCHEN FAMILIES. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THREE WOMEN AND FOUR CHILDREN WERE KILLED AND THE REMAINING MEMBERS WERE INJURED. THE COMMISSION FINDS MK AND THE ANC RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MK PLANTED LANDMINES RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF MS LINDIWE MDLULI AND HER EIGHT-MONTH-OLD BABY. THE COMMISSION FINDS MK AND THE ANC RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MR JOHANNES ROOS LOST HIS WIFE AND THEIR SON IN A LANDMINE EXPLOSION FOR WHICH MK WERE RESPONSIBLE. THE COMMISSION FINDS MK AND THE ANC RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE ANC’S POLICY OF MINING AREAS IN THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN TRANSVAAL LED TO THE DEATHS OF A NUMBER OF CIVILIANS. THE COMMISSION ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THE ANC HAS ACCEPTED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE LOSS OF LIFE THAT OCCURRED DURING THE LANDMINE CAMPAIGN. THE COMMISSION NOTES FURTHER THAT THE LANDMINE CAMPAIGN WAS TERMINATED BY THE ANC DUE TO THE HIGH NUMBER OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES.