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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 725
Paragraph Numbers 724 to 732
Public order policing
724 In addition to the failure of the security forces to intervene effectively in the internecine conflict that occurred during the 1990s, the police and army also continued, as in the 1980s, to be involved in the direct perpetration of gross human rights violations. Most significant perhaps was the continued use of lethal force to disperse gatherings as well as ongoing use of torture in detention. For the first time during this period, concrete evidence of torture emerged when electric shock equipment was recovered during raids on two police stations. In addition, two major massacres occurred in Sebokeng and Daveyton after police opened fire on public gatherings leading to approximately twenty-six deaths. Renewed opposition to black local authorities in rural and peri-urban towns elicited a violent police response and resulted in a number of people being killed in street clashes with police.
725 On 26 March 1990, police opened fire on a crowd of 50 000 people who were marching from Sebokeng to Vereeniging to present a list of grievances. A petition was presented to the police commander by the head of the Vaal Civic Association, Mr Bavumile Vilakazi. It is alleged that, as he was speaking to the crowd, the police opened fire without warning. Tear gas was also used. At least thirteen people died and more than 400 were injured. Many of the injured people were shot in the back. Police claimed to have acted in self-defence when people started throwing stones and bottles at them. Reporters testified that they did not see any stone throwing. Commanding officer W du Plooy testified that he did not give orders to fire, but added that five stones were thrown at the police and that the reaction of the police officers who began firing was therefore reasonable.
726 In protest at the shootings, the ANC interrupted talks with the government. After calls for a judicial inquiry, former president FW de Klerk appointed Justice Goldstone to head the investigation of the Sebokeng massacre. This was the origin of the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation. Goldstone recommended that the police officers involved in the Sebokeng massacre be prosecuted.71 In August 1993 in the Vereeniging Circuit Court, trial of nine policemen who faced six charges of murder, one of attempted murder and negligent use of firearms in connection with the shootings at Sebokeng in march 1990, was postponed indefinitely.72 The Commission has received seven statements about this massacre, referring to eight victims, one of whom was killed and the remainder injured.73
ON 26 MARCH 1990, POLICE OPENED FIRE ON A CROWD OF 50 000 PEOPLE WHO WERE MARCHING FROM SEBOKENG TO VEREENIGING, KILLING THIRTEEN PEOPLE AND INJURING OVER FOUR HUNDRED. MANY OF THE INJURED PEOPLE WERE SHOT IN THE BACK, INDICATING THAT THEY WERE FLEEING WHEN POLICE OPENED FIRE. THE GOLDSTONE COMMISSION FOUND THAT THE GATHERING WAS PEACEFUL BEFORE THE POLICE INTERVENED AND THAT THE POLICE DID NOT GIVE AN ORDER TO DISPERSE BEFORE OPENING FIRE WITH LIVE AMMUNITION.
IN REVIEWING THE INFORMATION ON GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTED AT SEBOKENG ON THE 26 MARCH 1990, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE SAP AND COMMANDING OFFICER W DU PLOOY WERE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS AND INJURIES THAT OCCURRED.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE FORMER STATE, THE MINISTER OF LAW AND ORDER AND THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE KILLINGS AND INJURIES OF PEOPLE ON 26 MARCH 1990 AT SEBOKENG.
727 On 14 March 1991, thirteen people were killed and twenty-nine injured when police opened fire on a group of approximately 200 residents holding an ‘illegal’ meeting in Daveyton. Township residents alleged that they had gathered because they feared an attack following an Inkatha rally in the township. Police stated that they opened fire after they were attacked by the group that hacked one policeman to death. The Commission received eight statements about the massacre, detailing one death and ten injuries. Two witnesses testified at the Commission’s East Rand hearings. Both were held under police guard in hospital after they had been shot. They were later charged the murder of the white policeman, along with at least thirty other ANC supporters. They were subsequently acquitted.
728 Mr Samson Zolani Xakeka [JB05056/01ERKWA] 74 told the Commission that, as the group stood deciding what to do next, they were surrounded by police and told to disperse minutes before the police opened fire. Mr David Sam [JB00271/ 01ERKWA] testified that the police specifically gave an order to shoot to kill:
This white man who had been swearing at us got out of the Casspir from behind and took out a firearm and said: “Kill”. Before we could even respond to the two men who had come with the message, we heard them say: “Shoot to kill”.
729 As the police opened fire, the group began to flee but they were pursued. Mr Samson Zolani Xakeka was shot in the chest and lay unconscious for some time. The Commission heard that the police showed vicious disregard for the dead and injured. Mr Xakeka said:
I held my chest for quite a while, pressing it. And in the meantime these white policemen and also black policemen were swearing all over us, saying, “Die, you kaffirs; die, you dogs; yes, die…” What really disturbed me the way in which these people were being loaded into the van. They would be taken and thrown into the police van.
730 Some policemen allegedly committed further violence by driving over the head and thereby killing one of the injured victims in a Casspir. Xakeka alleges that he saw a policeman with a video camera put a firearm next to the bodies of one of the deceased and begin filming. Still pretending to be dead, Xakeka was taken along with the corpses of people killed during the massacre to a police station:
I was also taken and thrown amongst the deceased. And when I was thrown in, my hand came away from where I was holding my wound and blood started flowing and when I came to I put my hand back on my chest and I thought we were on our way to the mortuary. But thank God, we were on our way to the police station.
731 He witnessed the police involved in the killings being congratulated by their colleague.
732 Several months later, a judicial inquiry concluded that police had used excessive force in their handling of the ANC supporters during the clash in Daveyton. Rand Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice B O’Donovan, also ruled that a group of six residents who were part of the crowd had taken part in the attack on a policeman, Lance Sergeant Jan Petus van Wyk, were guilty of murder.
IN THE REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED IN DAVEYTON ON THE 14 MARCH 1991, THE COMMISSION FINDS THE SAP RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MASSACRE BY USING EXCESSIVE FORCE AND BY FAILING TO USE NON-LETHAL METHODS OF CROWD CONTROL. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT DAVEYTON RESIDENTS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF A YOUNG POLICEMAN, MR HENNIE VAN WYK.71 Violence in the Vaal, Dutch Observer Mission report, p.11; 72 Human Rights Commission, Monthly Repression Report, p.35. 73 See JB01641/03VT, JB05380/03VT, JB05031/03VT, JB04623/03VT, JB05224/03VT, KZN/TIS/039/BL and JB04929/03VT. 74 Duduza, Benoni, Katlehong and Tokoza hearings.