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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 731

Paragraph Numbers 747 to 755

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 102

The reincorporation of homelands

747 Political events in South Africa resulted in increasing pressure for the re-incorporation of the independent homelands and self governing states, resulting in a series of coups and attempted coups in the 1990s. In Ciskei, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo led a military coup against Mr Lennox Sebe on 4 March 1990. Venda followed suit on 5 April 1990, with Mr Gabriel Ramushwana ousting Mr Frank Ravele. In Transkei, Colonel Craig Duli failed to overthrow Major General Bantu Holomisa in November 1990. In Bophuthatswana, Mr Rocky Malebane-Metsing of the Progressive People’s Party and some disaffected elements of Bophuthatswana Defence Force failed to overthrow Mr Lucas Mangope on 10 February 1988. Mangope continued to lay claim to independent status for Bophuthatswana and attempted to impose this through increasingly violent means.


748 During the 1990s, the conflict in Venda centred primarily on witchcraft and medicine murders, which had become increasingly politicised during the 1980s. During the 1990s, protests against witchcraft were closely linked to the rejection of the homeland government, which was believed to be responsible for or complicit in this practice. Protests against the homeland government lead to a military coup on April 1990 in which Chief Minister Ravele was ousted.

749 Between January and March 1990, about twenty people were reported to have died during anti-witchcraft unrest. People accused of being involved in medicine killings or being witches and wizards were hacked or burnt to death. After a rally in Venda capital, Thohayandou, celebrating the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990, more than fifty houses were burnt down and hundreds of people had to flee their homes. Many of the victims were elderly.80

750 The link between anti-homeland government protests and anti-witchcraft protests in Venda is reflected in the amnesty applications of a number of youths involved in the murder of alleged witches and wizards. The amnesty applicants specifically state that they believe their actions contributed to the downfall of the former Venda government, that medicine murders were associated with the homeland government, and that the practice of witchcraft by witches and wizards had to be routed out as it reflected backwardness and superstition. By eliminating such ‘backward’ practices, they believed that they were helping to ensure that Venda became a modern and democratic society.

751 The Commission received some statements from people who were attacked on suspicion of being witches and consequently suffered gross human rights violations.

752 Mr Tshililo Jackson Mulaudzi [JB01750/02NPVEN], a pensioner in his early seventies, was accused of being a wizard by ‘comrades’. His house was burnt down during this period.81 Mr Thari William Masithi [JB01366/02NPVEN] was attacked by a group of youths, which accused him of practising witchcraft, turning people into zombies. His house was burnt down on 11 February 1990, and his mother Ms Nyamukamadi Masithi was trapped inside and burnt to death.82

753 A number of people were killed or injured during clashes with the Venda police over the issue of witchcraft. Mr Asivhanga Rueben Mugivhela was shot dead by Venda police whilst he was amongst a group of men who went searching for an old man who had mysteriously disappeared.83 Ms Joyce Bongwe [JB01970/02NPVEN] was also allegedly shot dead by the Venda police in March 1990. She had left home to attend a political meeting organised by the youth. Her body was found the next day with a bullet wound in her head.84 Mr Lufuno Simon Mariba [JB01372/02NPVEN] was arrested and severely assaulted when Venda police raided his village after young people tried to pursue a Mr Sinthumule whom they believed to be a wizard. Mariba alleges that he was not involved in this incident, but was taken into custody nevertheless. He later made a statement reiterating his lack of involvement in the attempt to attack Mr Sinthumule with the result that he was labelled a spy by members of the community.85

754 When organisations such as the ANC were unbanned in 1990, they met with considerable hostility from the Venda homeland government. Detention and torture was used to control this new wave of political opposition.

755 Mr Mbiza Mbokota, an ANC activist who had recently returned to his village from Turfloop University, was detained and tortured in February 1992 in the wake of the burning of a policeman’s house.

80 A de V Minnaar, D Offering & C Payze, To live in fear: Witchburning and medicine murder in Venda, Human Sciences Research Council, 1992. 81 See Mr Tshililo Jackson Mulaudzi [JB01750/02NPVEN]. 82 See Mr Thari Williams Masithis [JB01366/02NPVEN]. 83 See Ms Elelwani Violet Mugivhela [JB11378/02NPVEN]. 84 See Ms Ndivhudzannyi Alvina Masia [JB01384/02NP], transcript, Venda Hearing, 3 October 1996, Mr Rembuluwani Mantsha [JB01970/02NP]. 85 See Mr Lufuno Simon Mariba [JB01372/02NP], transcript, Venda Hearing, 3 October 1996.
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