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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 704

Paragraph Numbers 644 to 655

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 89

Train violence

644 Train violence began in July 1990 with a series of attacks on commuters travelling on the Johannesburg–Soweto line that left one person dead and approximately thirty injured. Shortly after the initial outbreak of violence in Sebokeng, Soweto commuters were attacked on trains by armed men alleged to have been Inkatha supporters, who chanted the Zulu war cry, “usuthu”.

645 Although only 15 per cent of commuters used trains, violence on trains between July 1991 and June 1992 occurred twice as frequently as taxi and bus violence combined. Between 1990 and 1993, approximately 572 people died in more than 600 incidents of train violence. Only three people were convicted. Most of the larger scale attacks took place relatively early. Over time, the violence developed a momentum of its own.

646 From July 1990, the death toll steadily mounted, reaching a peak of forty-nine people killed and 129 injured by September. The most infamous of these attacks was the ‘Benrose massacre’ on 13 September where twenty-six people were killed and 100 injured by two gangs of men wielding a range of weapons including pangas, knives, sharpened instruments and guns. Fleeing passengers were killed by a second group of attackers waiting at the next station. Witnesses alleged that some attackers ran off towards George Goch hostel and others that the attackers had been speaking Zulu. The SAP suggested that the attack followed a prayer meeting in the train in which Buthelezi and King Goodwill Zwelithini had been insulted.

647 As train attacks escalated, commuters increasingly organised themselves in defence against the violence. People not ‘belonging’ to a particular coach would be considered a threat to commuters usually occupying that coach. A number of commuters were thrown from trains when they boarded the ‘wrong’ coach (did not have the appropriate political affiliation or ethnic identity). East Rand resident, Mr Paulos Nkondo told the Commission that he got into the ‘wrong’ coach in July 1991 when passengers were violently attacked.

648 Despite the fact that train commuters were usually organised along identifiable lines, train attacks were frequently indiscriminate. Young and old, male and female, supporters of all political parties and representatives of all political groups fell victim to the violence. This apparent lack of targeting seems to suggest that train violence might have been aimed predominantly at causing general terror, rather than at achieving a clear, direct, political objective. The terrible fear induced by train attacks is evidenced by numerous reports of people jumping to their death from moving trains.

649 Of the three people who were convicted in 1993 for train violence offences, two applied to the Commission for amnesty. Both said that they are IFP members or supporters and saw themselves as participating in a political conflict between the ANC and IFP. Mr Xolani Mnguni [AM3551/96] said that he was acting under the orders of an IFP official and describes how he and his accomplice specifically targeted an ‘ANC coach’.

650 On 25 June 1991, an attack on Kliptown train station left seven people dead and eighteen injured. The SAP arrested three men from Nancefield hostel in connection with this incident. Charges were later withdrawn due to lack of evidence. Mr Albert Msuseni Dlamini, a resident of Mazibuko hostel in Katlehong [AM1557/96], was involved in an attack on Katlehong station on 9 October 1991. He was arrested by commuters during the attack and was sentenced in April 1993 to ten years imprisonment on one charge of attempted murder, and one of illegal possession and use of a .38 revolver. He claimed that he had been promised R9000 for the attack by “the Boere”. His amnesty application was rejected on 1 August 1997.

651 Mr Xolani Mnguni received the death sentence in February 1993 for the murder of Mr Matsosale William Aphane on 29 November 1992 on a Naledi–Cleveland train. He said that he was acting under the orders of Mr Hadebe of the IFP who allegedly issued an order to kill any ANC supporter or any person speaking badly about Buthelezi. Mnguni and an accomplice entered a coach on the train that they knew was occupied by ANC supporters.

652 The East Rand was a major site of train violence. According to the Institute for the Study of Public Violence (ISPV), the track from Katlehong to Kwesine station was the line with the highest risk in South Africa. The Human Rights Committee records that the GermistonKatlehong line suffered eighteen attacks resulting in twenty-seven deaths and eleven injuries between August and December 1992.

653 The first large-scale attack on the East Rand took place on 1 July 1991 on the Germiston–Katlehong line when eleven people were thrown from a moving train.

654 In July 1991, Mr Paulos Nkondo ( ) of Mandela Section, Natalspruit was on his way home from work by train, when a group of men he thought were train conductors boarded the train at Germiston and started beating and hacking commuters with pangas.

We were full in the train and different people and women were with us from Thokoza. The train left at 6 o’clock instead of at ten to six and some people came into the train whom I thought were ticket examiners. I did not pay any attention to them… They had dust coats [on] when they got into the train and that led me to think that they were the ticket examiners. When the train took off from Germiston suddenly the people changed and I was so surprised because in my mind they were ticket examiners … From the other coach I heard a gun shot and when I was trying to peep and look to see what was happening I just received this bang on my head and that was from a panga… They were all over the train… They were speaking Zulu… There were many, I think about ten of them standing and seated.

655 Nkondo was stabbed, hacked and then thrown off the train.

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