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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 426

Paragraph Numbers 130 to 136

Volume 3

Chapter 5

Subsection 22

Resurgence of public protest: the Defiance Campaign, 1989

130 After the 1986 declaration of the state of emergency, the Peninsula experienced only isolated clashes between protestors and security forces. Of particular note were the large high-profile burials of MK operatives such as the ‘Gugulethu Seven’, Mr Ashley Kriel, Mr Robbie Waterwitch and Ms Coline Williams. The Kriel funeral in 1987, attended by thousands of mourners, was marked by uproar as police failed to stick to undertakings not to interfere in the event. Major Dolf Odendal marched into the funeral procession and attempted to seize the ANC flag off Kriel’s coffin. With such incidents sustaining the political tension, the Peninsula took the lead in spearheading public protest, defiance actions and mass action in 1989.

131 The Defiance Campaign against apartheid laws was launched as a national initiative by the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM),9 but the Western Cape was to play a leading role. By March 1989, protest actions resulting in arrests had begun in Cape Town. There followed a proliferation of defiance activities targeting a range of apartheid laws, peaking in opposition to the ‘whites-only’ election of 6 September 1989.

132 On 6 August 1989, sixteen restricted activists announced their defiance of their restriction orders at an Athlone church service, sparking off a cycle of arrests and continued defiance. On 8 August, defiance rallies were held at schools and campuses in the Peninsula, and the UDF was declared ‘unbanned’ by a mass meeting in St George’s Cathedral followed by a march under the banners of banned organisations. On 12 August, restricted activists again publicly defied their restriction orders at a National Women’s Day rally in Hanover Park, which was then teargassed. Many were detained under the emergency regulations.

133 On 19 August, thousands of people set off to defy ‘whites only’ beaches at Strand and Bloubergstrand in a high-profile act of ‘beach apartheid defiance’. Some groups were shot at with birdshot, others were sjambokked. There were multiple public protests in the following weeks. On 23 August church leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were teargassed on a march in Gugulethu, and a week later 170 women were arrested while kneeling during a women’s mass march in town. In a climax of the defiance campaign, thousands of protestors participated in a three-pronged march to Parliament on 2 September. The march was dispersed with batons and a water canon loaded with purple dye, and more than 500 people were arrested. Altogether, over 1000 people were arrested during these defiance activities.

Election day, 6 September 1989

134 Election day itself saw an explosion of resistance and police repression in which at least 23 people were killed and hundreds injured. Statements were received regarding the following fatalities: Ms Liziwe Masokanye (23), Stellenbosch [CT00829]; Mr Patrick Muller (13), Bellville South [CT00322]; Mr Joseph Michael Makoma (25), Kalksteenfontein [CT00300]; Mr Leonard Rass (13), Kleinvlei [CT00673]; Mr Pedro Page (18), Grassy Park [CT00416]; Mr Ricardo Levy (11), Kalksteenfontein [CT00313]; Ms Yvette Otto (16), pregnant [CT00300]; Ms Elsie Chemfene [CT008605]; Mr Thembinkosi Tekana, Khayelitsha [CT01535] and Mr Lubalo Mtirara (20), Khayelitsha [CT00217]. On and around election day, several motorists were seriously injured and at least three killed.

135 The public horror at the extent of the violence reached into sectors of the western Cape not previously drawn into oppositional activity. This sense of outrage culminated in one of the largest mass marches ever seen in the western Cape on 13 September, the so-called ‘Peace March’. The march, led by a range of religious, community and political leaders including the mayor and members of the city council, brought Cape Town to a standstill.

136 Simultaneously, a senior policeman ‘broke ranks’ and publicly criticised the actions of the police. Lieutenant Gregory Rockman described police action in his area, Mitchell’s Plain, as ‘brutal’, saying that the riot squad had “stormed the kids like wild dogs. You could see the killer instinct in their eyes”. The SAP were forced to initiate an inquiry into the behaviour of the Riot Squad in these incidents as well as the election night violence.

9 MDM was the the formulation used by the UDF and its allies after their restriction in 1988.
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