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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 93
Paragraph Numbers 205 to 217
‘Trojan Horse’ killings: Despatch, Uitenhage and Steynsburg
205 The so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ incident that took place in Athlone, Cape Town, on 15 October 1985 is well known: police hiding in boxes in the back of a delivery van opened fire, killing three youths. Similar tactics were used in the Eastern Cape, twice before the Cape Town incident and once afterwards.
206 On 18 April 1985, a municipal truck loaded with branches drove past the Nomathamsanqa Higher Primary School in Despatch. Scholars were on boycott at the time but were playing games in the school grounds. The truck was stopped by youth in the street. The driver got out and fired a gun into the air, at which police officers emerged from under the branches and opened fire on the group of youths, hitting six people. Four died, including Mr Xolisile Nqandu [EC0679/96TSI], and two survived.
207 Mr Henry Sawuli told the Commission at the Uitenhage hearing that he had seen the ambush being prepared. He had been on his way home, waiting for a bus, when he saw a municipal truck loaded with branches stop behind a tree at a shooting range, next to a police Hippo (armoured personnel carrier):
Two policemen alighted from the Hippo, the others remained in the Hippo, and they got under the branches in this truck and I realised that these boys are up to something … Since there was no bus, I stopped a car. You must remember it cost me 30c to get home, but I paid somebody R2 to take me home, to save our children from the lions … I ran past no. 6 and no. 5 to my house at no. 4, and I put my bag on the table and as I walked out, the shots rang out and they started shooting.
208 Mr Lulamile Base Peter [EC0680/96TSI], who was fifteen at the time, told the Commission he had been shot and injured. He was arrested at hospital, convicted of public violence and given a suspended sentence. He requested medical assistance as he is still affected by the shooting. When asked by the Commission why he thought the incident had occurred, Peter said:
It is because they thought that we were going to burn their truck, because we were a group, and yet we were coming from school.
209 Mr Mntukanti Mbolekwa [EC0688/96TSI] also survived; he was sixty-nine years old at the time:
I was sitting outside basking in the sun when I saw this lorry. A green lorry appeared near the school and when it got near our blocks, it stopped and these branches, first you only saw branches and then the next thing people appeared from amongst these branches with their arms and they started firing … They shot at everyone around … They struck me while they were shooting. They even followed me. I was crawling to the other side.
210 Mr Mbolekwa was wounded in the left arm and chest. Now in his eighties, he is weak and in pain, and says that the government should compensate victims and build houses with running water as “this would make people happy and also make them feel like human beings”.
211 A few weeks later a similar incident took place in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, close to Despatch. Seventeen-year-old COSAS activist Khayalethu Melvin Swartbooi [EC0175/96UIT] was killed. Swartbooi’s mother, Ms Meyi Mabel Swartbooi, told the Commission:
On 2 May 1985, a Hippo had collided at the Filtoni Bottle Store, Mabandla Road, Uitenhage at about 11am, damaging a door. Khaya and another comrade left to go and see this accident. While travelling up Mabandla Street, a municipal truck loaded with cardboard boxes passed by. Police came out of hiding under the cardboard boxes and shot at Khaya who fell. The truck stopped and they picked Khaya up and put stones in his hands and put him in a plastic bag and loaded the bag before they drove off.
212 On 27 December, a third such incident took place, this time in Vergenoeg township at Steynsburg, a small town which had also been experiencing violent clashes between youths and police. Three youths, including nineteen-year-old UDF activist Buyisile Guga [EC1514/97NWC], were killed. Guga had been part of a group of youths staging a toyi-toyi (a form of chanting and dancing often used in protests) demonstration at the time. His mother, Ms Notyaya Elise Guga, told the Commission:
As they were running up and down the streets they were approached by police in a bakery truck who dispersed them. Some gunshots were fired and my son was hit by one of the shots in his spinal column. The police who approached the crowd had hidden themselves in a bakery truck, so as to give the impression that it was an innocent delivery truck so that nobody would suspect any danger from it. This delivery truck, which disguised itself as some kind of a Trojan Horse, was followed by a police van.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THERE WERE THREE INCIDENTS IN THE EASTERN CAPE IN WHICH THE SAP ACTED AGAINST PUBLIC PROTESTS BY AMBUSHING AND SHOOTING PROTESTERS IN TROJAN HORSE-STYLE OPERATIONS — IN DESPATCH ON 18 APRIL 1985, AT KWANOBUHLE IN UITENHAGE ON 2 MAY 1985 AND AT VERGENOEG IN STEYNSBURG ON 27 DECEMBER 1985. IN REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE BEFORE THE COMMISSION, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE ACTION OF THE POLICE IN THESE THREE INCIDENTS WAS CONTRARY TO NORMAL PUBLIC ORDER POLICING PROCEDURES AND THAT THESE INCIDENTS WERE DELIBERATE ATTEMPTS BY MEMBERS OF THE SAP TO CREATE SITUATIONS IN WHICH PROTESTERS WOULD BE KILLED IN ORDER TO SUPPRESS SUCH PROTESTS. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE ACTIONS OF THE SAP AMOUNT TO GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR WHICH THE SAP IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
Kitskonstabels and municipal police
213 In some areas special constables or kitskonstabels (instant constables) and municipal police were brought in. Both kitskonstabels and municipal police were often implicated in attacks on activists.
214 Kitskonstabels were brought in to reassert state control over the township at the small rural town of Hofmeyr during this period, but instead brought more violence. Hofmeyr and its Eloxulweni township are about sixty kilometres north of Cradock. The Catholic Institute for International Relations [CIIR]27 reported that a successful consumer boycott was implemented in Hofmeyr in 1985, and a schools boycott was widely supported. The community council was forced to resign, and street committees were implemented to ‘govern’ the township. Mr Matthew Goniwe launched the Hofmeyr Youth Congress in 1985. In the 1985–86 period, police admitted that they had “lost control of the township”. A number of incidents of violence occurred, including killings by both police and residents.
215 In response to the worsening situation, the state deployed a group of thirteen kitskonstabels in Eluxolweni in April 1987. The public prosecutor for Hofmeyr was also at times the station commander of the South African Police, and thus would not take action against members of the security forces accused of being ‘above the law’. Residents felt that it was useless to lay complaints against the kitskonstabels at the charge office, but approached lawyers to apply for an interdict against them.
216 On 30 October 1987, kitskonstabels shot seven people leaving a concert in Eluxolweni. Five of them were hospitalised. One was taken to the kitskonstabels’ quarters, kicked and threatened with a shotgun and an axe. Despite a temporary interdict granted against the kitskonstabels, in February 1988 a kitskonstabel shot one of the applicants outside a memorial service.
217 During 1985 there were a number of incidents of shootings and torture by police in Jansenville, south-east of Graaff-Reinet. On 1 January 1986, Mr Pieter Rapudi [EC1399/96KAR] was shot dead while part of a group of youths celebrating the new year by singing freedom songs. Four months later, Mr Vuyani Douze [EC1397/96KAR] was shot dead by the same municipal police officer. Rapudi’s brother, Mr David Velele Mgona, asked the Commission to ensure that the police officer concerned was not employed by any government structure.27 CIIR, Now everyone is afraid: The changing face of policing in South Africa, CIIR, August 1988.