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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 169

Paragraph Numbers 21 to 27

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 3


21 The former state was reputed to have one of the highest rates of judicial execution in the world. In the period covered by the Commission’s mandate, over 2 500 people were hanged, 1 154 between 1976 and 1985. Some 95 per cent of all people executed were African. Studies have noted that the death penalty was far more likely to be imposed if the victim of a capital offence was white and the perpetrator black.

22 While the vast majority of executions were for criminal offences, capital punishment was also used against those found guilty of political offences, in defiance of the Geneva Convention. South Africa was a signatory to the 1949 convention, but declined to sign the 1977 addenda extending the definition of prisoner of war to captured guerrillas.

23 The death penalty could be imposed under the General Laws Amendment Act (1962), the Terrorism Act (1967) and the Internal Security Act (1976) (which replaced the Suppression of Communism Act).

24 The first ‘political hangings’ took place in 1959, a year before the beginning of the Commission’s mandate period. In 1961, approximately twenty people were sentenced to death after the Pondoland revolt.1

25 In the 1960s, almost one hundred Poqo activists were hanged for involvement in acts of violence in Paarl, Mbashe (Bashee Bridge), Ntlonze Hill, Queenstown, Cofimvaba, Krugersdorp, Pretoria, Umtata, Langa and other areas.2

26 On 6 May 1964, three ANC members in the eastern Cape – Mr Vuyisile Mini [EC2097/97PLZ], Mr Wilson Khayinga and Mr Zinakile Mkaba – were hanged after having been found guilty for killing a person suspected of informing on the ANC.

The case of Mpumelelo Bongco
Mr Mpumelelo Washington Bongco [EC 2165/97ETK], the Eastern Cape regional commander of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), was detained at about midnight on 15 February 1963. He alleged that he was handcuffed behind a door, and beaten and kicked during questioning the following day. After he collapsed, the handcuffs were removed. Security Branch members continued to kick him with their boots and also trampled on his face. Knowing that he suffered from tuberculosis, they threatened: “We will kill you with your TB”. On his release, he was charged with being in East London illegally and acquitted. He then laid charges against Sergeant Donald Card for assault, and alleges that he was again arrested and assaulted for pressing the charge. Released once again, he was hospitalised for some time.
In July 1963, he was detained under the ninety-day detention law. After repeated threats, he was forced to sign a statement withdrawing the charge against Sergeant Card. He was subsequently charged under the ‘Sabotage Act’ and sentenced to death in the Queenstown Circuit Court on 23 March 1964 in connection with a petrol bomb attack on the home of Mr Ddomboti Hovi. At this trial, two prosecution witnesses admitted having been assaulted during their detentions.
A security branch member is alleged to have visited Mr Bongco in his death cell and offered to have his death sentence commuted if he gave evidence against the others. Mr Bongco refused and instead went ahead with the assault charge, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court in East London on 17 November 1964.
On 10 December 1964, Washington Bongco was executed.

27 On 1 April 1965, Mr John Harris, a member of the African Resistance Movement (ARM), was executed for placing a bomb at the Johannesburg main railway station, resulting in one death and several injuries. Harris was the first and only white person in the mandate period to be hanged for a political offence. His widow, Ms Anne Wolfe, told the Commission:

5.30 am was the time set for the execution. We were all awake, thinking of John … Not long afterwards the phone rang. Ad Hain answered. The voice said: ‘Your John is dead.’ She recognised the voice as one of the Special Branch men’s.
1 The Commission received statements in connection with the following persons executed for their part in the Pondoland revolt: Nyamaayipheli Dinwa [EC1684/97 ETK], Shadrack George [EC0656/96ETK], Cenjulwa Hlongwe [EC0337/97ETK], Barnabas Mahlati Magawana [EC1632/97 and 1777/97ETK], Douglas Khewula Magawana [EC1532/97 & 1777/97ETK], Nkanyezi Mdayimani [EC1777/97, 2069/97 & 2169/97ETK], Mtholeni Msolobhana Mfuywa [EC1972/96ETK], Marelana Horace Mgulwa [EC1777/97ETK], Sheleni Mehlokhulu [EC0656/96ETK], Mnconco Mjanyelwa [EC0582/96ETK], Ntomisa Ndinwa [EC1683/97ETK], Yiva Ndisile [EC0581/96ETK], Masipalati Ntshekevana [EC0339/97ETK], Majola Shusha [1777/97ETK], and Gavu Mkhize Zadunge [EC0655/96 & 0789/96ETK]. 2 Among them were: Gqibile Nicholas Hans [CT00269/WIN], Bonakele July [EC2713/97WTK], Bubele Koboka [EC1272/96STK], Lennox Mngambi Madikane [EC1270/96STK], Right Mangqikana [EC2079/97UTA], Zenzele May [EC2661/97WTK], Modi Mbizo [EC2664/97], Nkosinam Ngalo [EC2658/97WTK], Gadavu Johannes Notyhawe [EC1273/96STK], Advocate Mteteleli Ntuli [EC2667/97WTK], Katsekile Pilaphi [EC2683/97WTK], Joseph Bhazalele Qitsana [EC1344/96CTK], Goli Sonamzi [EC2663/97WTK], Nontasi Albert Tshweni [CT01338/ECA] and Mzwandile Leonard Zambodla [EC2710/97WTK].
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