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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 467

Paragraph Numbers 260 to 268

Volume 3

Chapter 5

Subsection 42

The attacks

260 Between 17 and 21 May 1986, thousands of witdoeke from Old Crossroads systematically torched and looted the satellite squatter camps of Nyanga Bush, Nyanga Extension and Portland Cement. Both SAP and SADF personnel were present at the scene and not a single witdoek member was arrested. Around thirty-eight people were killed in incidents associated with this first attack and many others injured. An estimated 30 000 people were made homeless. The security forces then encircled the area with barbed wire to keep its former residents out.

261 On 21 May the WP JMC reported to the Secretariat of the State Security Council:

the fathers are well-disposed towards the security forces and want law and order. Fathers cannot be openly supported due to the hostility of the leftist press.28

262 When it became apparent that KTC was facing a similar threat of destruction by the witdoeke, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) applied for an urgent Supreme Court interdict against the police and witdoeke restraining them from unlawfully entering KTC and destroying the camp. A temporary interdict was granted on 26 May29, restraining the SAP from “participating in, assisting in, encouraging, permitting, or allowing any unlawful attack upon any person or property residing within or situate within the area known as KTC”. It also directed the security forces to take all reasonable necessary steps within their powers to prevent any member of the SAP or the SADF or any other person from perpetrating any of the acts mentioned above.

263 Despite this interdict, thousands of witdoeke assembled outside the Development Board offices next to Crossroads on the morning of Monday 9 June and moved off in groups to attack. Over three days, KTC was systematically set alight and destroyed. Each morning the witdoeke would gather, march to KTC and engage in attacks, arson and looting. Not one witdoek was arrested during the entire attack, although several journalists were arrested and removed from the area. Scores of affidavits from clergy, journalists and residents on the scene described Casspirs escorting witdoeke and reported other incidents indicating complicity. Approximately twenty people were killed in this second attack and a further 30 000 people made homeless.

264 A total of over 65 persons died in the two attacks and up to 60 000 were made homeless. The Commission received several statements relating to those killed in the two attacks including Donald Mgadi [CT08606], Rennick Ndzishe [CT00888], Zacharia Dumile Ntsethe [CT01572], Dumile Ntantiso [CT00750], John Matatana Galaweni [CT01555], Mhlangabezi Dibela [CT01582], Stewart Maxama [CT01581], Christopher Kwaaiman [CT01575], Sithembiso Sydney Mduba [CT00509] and Makhosi Mdlalo [CT00952]. Other statements were taken in respect of those injured and those who homes were burnt down. ITN cameraman George De’Ath was hacked by witdoeke on 10 June near KTC and died several days later, becoming the first journalist to be killed in the South African conflict.

265 Further examples of state endorsement of the actions of the witdoeke can be given.

a On the morning of the start of the witdoek attack on KTC, the Western Province JMC arranged a flight on an SADF aircraft for two witdoeke leading the attack and Mr Ricky Schelhase and Mr Graham Lawrence from the Development Board to consult Mr Ngxobongwana, then in Ciskei. The flight request details were sent to the Secretariat of the State Security Council.30

b Five hours after the start of the attack on KTC, the Western Province JMC sent the Secretariat of the State Security Council in Pretoria a signal message stating that:

in order to prevent the stayaway actions on 16 June, a gathering of witdoeke in Crossroads has been planned during which the message to go to work will be conveyed to the masses. This action will be a victory feast in the form of a cattle slaughter. The costs have not yet been finalised but can be estimated at about R3 000 and it would be appreciated if the necessary funds could be made available. Finalisation will not be reached until the 11 June when you will be contacted again.’31

266 The document clearly supports and endorses the group engaged in arson and killing. It should also be noted that the attack on KTC ended on 11 June 1986, the date on which ‘finalisation’ would be achieved.

267 A statement to the Commission by former Security Branch member Mr Michael Bellingan further illustrates the attitudes of the local security forces:

Sometime during 1986 I travelled to Cape Town to hold discussions apropos ‘Stratcom’ actions. During our second day at Cape Town Brigadier Strydom (local Security Branch commander) held a meeting with the head of a local vigilante group, named witdoeke … Brigadier Strydom said that the fellow had summed up by saying that they should get co-operation because, in the words of this leader, ‘Ons is mos maatjies.’
Shortly after the meeting the Brigadier, Van Niekerk and I flew over the squatter camps to view the work of the witdoeke. The witdoeke … were attacking the inhabitants and burning their shacks. It looked like a successful war mission because of the ‘line’ of advance and the enormity of the damage.
The SAP were not permitted into the area by instruction of senior command in the region. The uniform members told me they had been told it was too ‘dangerous’ to intervene. The three of us in the helicopter (official SAP helicopter with pilot for SAP) were satisfied that ANC activists in the area were getting a hiding. Furthermore, that the SAP could not be implicated. You can bet that no official correspondence reflected any of these victims!
In official documentation there was an ‘unwritten’ policy to stick to matters which could be justified by the Minister . This does not mean that the SAP always got it right, but it did provide a culture of plausible deniability and also, because of compartmentalisation, most members of the SAP had no idea of the broader picture or specific strategies.

268 The Commission obtained a statement from a person whose identity will not be disclosed by the Commission as follows.

Within a day or two of the conclusion of the Witdoek/Comrades violence I received a telephone call from [an official] of the Western Cape Development Board asking to see me urgently late the same afternoon at my office. He seemed very distressed over the telephone. When he arrived he was clearly very distressed and he asked me to keep absolutely confidential that which he was about to tell me. I agreed to accept his condition of confidentiality. He then proceeded to tell me that he had been that day at a debriefing session on the Crossroads violence that had been held at the Bishop Lavis police facility. They had been informed by [a Brigadier] that the violence between the two factions in Crossroads had been orchestrated by the police. [The official] was clearly shattered by this information, scared and not clear as to what he should do.
28 ‘WPGBS 22/7/7 SITRAP KRUISPAD ONLUSTE (Situation Report: Crossroads unrest). From File 22/8/5/13 Vol 1, Pretoria Archives. 29 Application 5317/86 CPD before Mr Justice Howie. 30 Fax sent from WP Command to 5 Air Command, as well as the SSSC. TOP SECRET. K53/848/JUN86, 061330B. From File No. 22/8/4/1/1, Pretoria State Archives. 31 WPGBS/888/9 JUN 86. From File No. 22/8/4/1/1, Pretoria State Archives.
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