SABC News | Sport | TV | Radio | Education | TV Licenses | Contact Us
 

TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 198

Paragraph Numbers 135

Volume 3

Chapter 3

Subsection 19

The Trust Feed Massacre
In the early hours of 3 December 1988, gunmen opened fire on a house in the Trust Feed community, near New Hanover, killing eleven people and wounding two. In October 1991, seven serving and former members of the SAP stood trial on eleven counts of murder and eight of attempted murder. The accused were Captain Brian Mitchell, Station Commander at the New Hanover police station at the time of the massacre, Sergeant Neville Rose and Captain Jakobus van der Heever (both of the SAP), and four former SAP special constables, Mr Kehla Ngubane, Mr Thabo Sikhosana, Mr Dumisani Ndwalane and Mr David Khambule.
Brian Mitchell, his colleague Sergeant George Nichas and two Security Branch members, together with the Inkatha leader in the area, Mr Jerome Gabela, were involved in setting up the Inkatha-aligned Landowners’ Committee in opposition to the largely UDF-supporting Trust Feed Crisis Committee. Gabela was also, at the time, in the ad hoc employ of the Security Branch as an informer on trade union members at the bakery where he worked in Greytown.
At a meeting at the Inkatha headquarters in Edendale in August 1988, attended by Terreblanche, Mitchell, David Ntombela, Gabela and two other Inkatha members, an attack on the Trust Feed area was planned for December 1988, involving members of Inkatha and special constables. After a police ‘clean-up’ operation to disarm and round up UDF suspects, the police would withdraw, leaving Inkatha members and the special constables to launch an attack on UDF members.
On 29 November, Constable Willem de Wet brought four special constables to New Hanover police station. They wore civilian clothing and lodged with Mr Gabela, who provided them with firearms. On the following day, Captain Van der Heever arrived to run the operation from the police and Riot Unit side. He requested Mitchell to assist in ‘sweeping’ the area after the operation, picking up used shells (doppies) and removing evidence.
On 2 December, about thirty to forty policemen rounded up known UDF members, videotaped them all and detained them under state of emergency regulations. The police were then withdrawn from the area. At midnight, Mitchell, who had been drinking heavily, went to see how the operation had gone, accompanied by two police reservists. Disappointed that only a building had been burnt and no one had been killed, he instructed the special constables to attack and burn the shop of Mr Faustus Mbongwe, chair of the Crisis Committee, and to attack a particular house. These instructions were carried out, and the doppies disposed of in a long-drop toilet at Gabela’s house.
In the attack on the house, which became known as the Trust Feed massacre, eleven people were killed. The victims had been attending a night vigil following the death of a relative. The deceased were Mr Mseleni Ntuli, Ms Dudu Shangase [KZN/KM/728/PM], Mr Zetha Shangase, Mr Nkonyeni Shangase, Mr Muzi Shangase, Ms Filda Ntuli, Mr Fikile Zondi [KZN/KM/735/PM], Ms Marita Xaba [KZN/KM/736/PM], Ms Sara Nyoka [KZN/KM/706/PM], Mr Alfred Zita and Mr Sisedewu Sithole. Ms Ida Hadebe and Ms Nomagoli Zulu were injured. None was a member of the UDF.
Following the massacre, Mitchell reported to Major Deon Terreblanche who was the first senior officer at the scene, joined by acting Greytown District Commander Davies and Brigadier Marx who, according to Mitchell, knew of the special constables’ involvement in the attack. When the two police reservists who had accompanied Mitchell volunteered information to the investigating officer, Mitchell informed senior officers of the Security Branch in Pretoria. He was told not to worry. Indeed, he told the Commission that he had never worried that he might be arrested, and was sure the evidence would be covered up.
At an informal inquest into the deaths of the massacre victims at New Hanover, the magistrate found that Mitchell and the special constables were all involved in the killings.
Warrants of arrest were issued for the special constables but were never circulated or sent to the criminal record register in Pretoria. Almost immediately after the massacre, the special constables were taken into hiding by certain senior KZP and Inkatha officials. They were hidden for some time at the Mkhuze camp (which fell under the command of KZP Captain Leonard Langeni) and continued to receive their salaries. Later they were taken to the KZP barracks in Ulundi, and then to the homes of various Inkatha-supporting chiefs. In 1990, they were assisted in joining the KZP.
In July 1991, SAP Captain Frank Dutton took over the investigation of the case. He traced the addresses of the special constables and was able to arrest two of the four: Khambule, who was in Mpumalanga using a false identity document, and Ndwalane who was in hiding at the home of an Inkatha-supporting Chief Khawula on the South Coast. Both were still serving KZP members. They both made full admissions of guilt. Mitchell was arrested on the 2 August 1991 in Mooi River, despite being warned by colleagues of his impending arrest.
Immediately after this, General Van der Westhuizen, Colonel Langenhoven and Captain Kritzinger from Pretoria were sent to Natal, ostensibly to assist with the investigation. It soon became clear to Dutton that they had been sent to obstruct the work and prevailed on the Attorney-General to remove them from the case.
Captain Dutton traced the other two special constables via the then Commissioner of the KZP, General Jac Buchner, who arranged for them to be delivered by Langeni from their hiding place at Mkhuze within days. In his section 29 hearing, Buchner confirmed the cover-up and conspiracy in Trust Feed, claiming the involvement of not just one or two individuals, but many.
JMC records seized from the Wartburg police station during the investigation implicated Mitchell in the creation of the Trust Feed Landowner’s Committee as a STRATCOM project.
In court, Mitchell, the special constables and Mr Jerome Gabela changed their evidence to exonerate Captain Van der Heever. However, Van der Heever was implicated in Mitchell’s amnesty application. During the trial, it became evident that the special constables were to take full responsibility for the massacre. They demanded separate legal representation, which set about exposing the role of Mitchell’s command. By this time, Mitchell could not implicate his senior officers without revealing his earlier perjury.
In his judgement, Mr Justice Andrew Wilson called for a full, open inquiry into the matter of SAP cover-up and rejected a departmental investigation. He questioned, amongst other things, the actions of General Van der Westhuizen and his two officers, the promotion of Mitchell despite knowledge of his complicity, and other areas where the police failed to investigate. He also questioned the readiness of the Commissioner of Police to authorise the employment of senior counsel to assist a police officer who, on the face of it, appeared to have acted improperly.21
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT ELEVEN PERSONS – MR MSELENI NTULI, MS DUDU SHANGASE, MR ZETHA SHANGASE, MR NKONYENI SHANGASE, MR MUZI SHANGASE, MS FILDA NTULI, MR FIKILE ZONDI, MS MARITA XABA, MS SARA NYOKA, MR ALFRED ZITA AND MR SISEDEWU SITHOLE – WERE KILLED AND TWO PERSONS – MS IDA HADEBE AND MS NOMAGOLI ZULU – WERE INJURED ON 3 DECEMBER 1988 IN AN ARMED ATTACK PERPETRATED BY SPECIAL CONSTABLES OF THE SAP AND COMMANDED BY OFFICERS OF RANK IN THE SAP.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT SENIOR INKATHA MEMBER DAVID NTOMBELA ATTENDED THE AUGUST 1988 MEETING AT MARAWA HOUSE IN PIETERMARITZBURG, WITH THE LATE SAP MAJOR DEON TERREBLANCHE, FORMER SAP CAPTAIN BRIAN MITCHELL AND THREE INKATHA MEMBERS, MR JEROME GABELA AND TWO OTHERS. AT THIS MEETING, AN ATTACK ON THE TRUST FEED AREA NEAR NEW HANOVER WAS PLANNED TO TAKE PLACE IN DECEMBER 1988, INVOLVING MEMBERS OF INKATHA AND SPECIAL CONSTABLES OF THE SAP. DETAILS OF THE ATTACK WERE DISCUSSED AT THE MEETING BY NTOMBELA, TERREBLANCHE AND GABELA. ON 3 DECEMBER, THE PLANNED ATTACK TOOK PLACE, RESULTING IN THE BURNING OF A NUMBER OF HOUSES AND BUILDINGS, THE DEATHS OF ELEVEN PEOPLE AND INJURY TO TWO OTHERS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MR DAVID NTOMBELA’S ACTIONS CONSTITUTE GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS: CONSPIRACY TO KILL, ATTEMPTED KILLING, KILLING AND ARSON.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT, ON 3 DECEMBER 1988, SGT WILLEM DE WET TRANSPORTED A NUMBER OF SPECIAL CONSTABLES OF THE SAP TO TRUST FEED NEAR PIETERMARITZBURG, IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THESE SPECIAL CONSTABLES WOULD LATER THAT NIGHT UNDERTAKE AN UNLAWFUL ATTACK ON RESIDENTS OF TRUST FEED. DE WET FAILED TO TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT THE ATTACK FROM TAKING PLACE AND FAILED TO BRING THIS UNLAWFUL INCIDENT TO THE NOTICE OF THE APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT DE WET IS AN ACCESSORY TO THE KILLING OF ELEVEN PEOPLE AT TRUST FEED ON THE NIGHT OF 3 DECEMBER 1988 AND THAT HIS ACTIONS CONSTITUTE A GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE ACTIONS OF SGT NEVILLE ROSE CONSTITUTE A GROSS VIOLATION IN THAT HE WAS AN ACCESSORY AFTER THE FACT TO THE KILLING OF THE PERSONS WHO DIED AT TRUST FEED, AND DEFEATED THE ENDS OF JUSTICE BY FAILING TO TAKE ANY STEPS TO ENSURE THAT THE PERSONS RESPONSIBLE WERE CHARGED AND PROSECUTED.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE ACTIONS OF THE THREE OFFICERS WHO WERE APPOINTED TO ASSIST POLICE OFFICER FRANK DUTTON IN THE INVESTIGATION, NAMELY GENERAL RONNIE VAN DER WESTHUIZEN, CAPTAIN KRITZINGER AND COLONEL LANGENHOVEN, CONSTITUTED GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN THAT THEY ATTEMPTED TO DEFEAT THE ENDS OF JUSTICE BY DELIBERATELY HAMPERING AND ATTEMPTING TO COVER UP THE INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE KILLING AND ATTEMPTED KILLING OF THE PERSONS ATTACKED AT TRUST FEED ON 3 DECEMBER 1988.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT GENERAL MARX, THEN HEAD OF THE CID SERVICES IN NATAL, DEFEATED THE ENDS OF JUSTICE BY ADVISING MITCHELL, WHEN HE ADMITTED COMPLICITY IN THE TRUST FEED KILLINGS, THAT THE INCIDENT WOULD BE COVERED UP. MARX’S ACTIONS AMOUNT TO GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR WHICH HE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
20 Details of the incidents on which these findings against De Wet have been made appear elsewhere in the Commission’s report. 21 On 29 April 1992, Mitchell was sentenced to death eleven times for his role in ordering the attack. The four former special constables were each sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. Rose and Van der Heever were acquitted. Mitchell’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in April 1994 by former State President F W de Klerk. His first and second applications for amnesty were turned down, although the Currin committee recommended his release. President Mandela, on the advice of the Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, turned down the application, despite approving the applications of the four special constables. Brian Mitchell’s amnesty hearing with the Commission began on 15 October 1996. The civil claims by the victims of Trust Feed were paid out on the second day of the hearing, nearly eight years after the massacre. The victims opposed the granting of amnesty to Mitchell but, after a meeting between the commissioners and community members, they expressed their willingness to try to forgive Mitchell if he would involve himself in the reconstruction of the community he had been responsible for destroying. Mitchell’s application was approved by the Amnesty Committee and he was released from prison in November 1996.
 
SABC Logo
Broadcasting for Total Citizen Empowerment
DMMA Logo
SABC © 2022
>