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The Transvaal township violence, which began in late July 1990, and as of the end of the year had claimed over 1,000 lives, is, according to ANC and Inkatha leaders, "a replica" of the conflict in Natal. It is probably not coincidental that it began the same month as the transformation of Inkatha from a KwaZulu-based "cultural movement" to a national political party. While the police and the press have been quick to attribute the fighting between Inkatha hostel dwellers and non-Inkatha township residents to rivalry between the Zulu and Xhosa tribes, Africa Watch believes that ethnic differences have been overemphasized by both the government and press reports. At the same time, we recognize that, at other times and places, conflicts which have been instigated and exacerbated by governments or political forces for their own purposes have evolved into ethnic conflicts that have taken on a life of their own. Unfortunately, it appears to be easier to create such conflicts than to settle them. The possibility that a long-lasting ethnic conflict will develop out of the current situation in South Africa cannot be ruled out and is one of the disturbing aspects of the violence.

In the Transvaal conflict, as in Natal, members of the security forces have sided with Inkatha in attacks on township and hostel residents, using teargas and firearms. Police have transported Inkatha vigilantes and accompanied armed Inkatha members on marches to and from rallies. They have assaulted residents and looted their homes when conducting weapons raids. They have shot at, killed and injured township residents. They have failed to respond to warnings of impending attacks and have neglected to disarm Inkatha supporters in time to prevent attacks; any disarming was done only after the attacks were finished or, at least, well underway. Africa Watch regards as particularly troubling statements made by police that they were unable to assist residents who were being attacked because they were "waiting for orders," echoing the statements of police in Natal.

As in Natal, groups monitoring the violence, such as civil rights lawyers, religious organizations, the Detainees Aid Group, the Independent Board of Inquiry into Informal Repression (IBIIR),114 Lawyers for Human Rights, and Women Against Repression have gathered convincing evidence supporting allegations of security force bias. In addition, press accounts which report police bias, including photos of police sitting idle during Inkatha attacks, have recently been published in newspapers such as The Star (Johannesburg) and The Weekly Mail.

As in Natal, each side accuses the other of spreading violence. Themba Khosa, Transvaal organizer of Inkatha's Youth Brigade, and two other Inkatha officials told the press that the ANC's attempt to "turn Sebokeng into a `no-go' area for Inkatha" triggered the township wars near Johannesburg. According to Inkatha, the ANC's call for dissolution of KwaZulu and disbanding of the ZP, which was part of a nationwide week of rallies, stayaways and boycotts launched the week of July 2, 1990, set the scene for violence. (The campaign also called for lifting the state of emergency in Natal, the arrest and prosecution of Inkatha "warlords," a commission of inquiry into police action in Natal, effective and impartial action by the SADF and total freedom of political activity.)115 Khosa cited anti-Zulu pamphlets bearing an ANC logo as another factor fueling the violence. He did not believe the ANC's denials of responsibility for the pamphlets.116 Other Inkatha supporters have cited the "anti-Zulu pamphlets distributed by the ANC" as evidence that much of the Transvaal violence emanated from "the Xhosa/Zulu feud."117

On August 17, 1990, the ANC published an "appeal to the people of South Africa," citing mounting evidence that the violence that had swept across the East Rand and spread into Soweto was the result of an orchestrated campaign to bring internecine warfare into the region. As evidence, the appeal specified what it called "obviously forged" leaflets that had been distributed in townships on July 13 and 14. An ANC spokesman, who noted the out-of-date ANC crest on the pamphlets, claimed they were a "classic destabilization tactic" used by security forces. The pamphlets called on Zulu speakers to "move out of the hostels and return to Natal to build factories there," and instructed ANC supporters to "attack Zulu speakers and destroy their homes and property." The appeal also cited meetings held to incite Inkatha supporters to violence against fellow hostel dwellers and township residents in various hostels in and around the East Rand and Soweto.

Africa Watch obtained a copy of one of the pamphlets, which reads:

We want to destroy the Zulus. We want to drive them out of the hostels as we did in Sebokeng. We should cause conflict amongst them, so that we can take the land, while they are still fighting. We have to end their Zuluness of which they are proud about it (sic). They deceive themselves as a powerfull (sic) nation which will take over after De Klerk. There will be no peace in S.A. as long as the Zulus are still powerfull. Let us destroy them all in S.A. in townships, hostels, and in the working places. Let us burn down their houses in townships and drive them out. Down with Zulus.118

ANC supporters claim that the violence was exported from Natal by Inkatha and the government in order to destabilize the ANC and ensure that Buthelezi is accorded a prominent position in the current negotiations. To support their claim, they argue that instigation of Inkatha-ANC conflict is not in the ANC's interest, noting that ANC supporters are not afforded adequate police protection and that such tactics would merely weaken the ANC's reputation at a time when they are negotiating for major reforms with the government.119 Press reports have pointed to the fact that, in some attacks, the assailants said nothing, and claim that this silence indicated that they came from outside the area.120

Among the testimonies and other documents provided by groups monitoring the violence were copies of nine memoranda telefaxed to Minister Vlok, the Commissioner of Police in Pretoria and to the Divisional Commissioners of Police for the Witswatersrand and Soweto in July and August, informing the authorities of attacks being planned by Inkatha supporters from within the hostels. The authorities did not respond to the warnings with any pre-emptive measures.


Statements and reports by hostel dwellers at the Denver, Dube, Jeppe, Jabulani, Morafe, Mzimhlope, and Nancefield hostels near Johannesburg, beginning in mid-July 1990, provide detailed evidence of Inkatha supporters forcing hostel dwellers to attend meetings. At these meetings, Inkatha leaders apparently warned the hostel dwellers of impending attacks by the ANC and planned offensives to be launched from rallies at various stadiums. Witnesses have reported that Inkatha supporters have killed a number of hostel dwellers who refused to participate in attacks or forced the recalcitrant hostel dwellers to leave the hostels.121 Two people were killed at the Jeppe hostel on July 28 reportedly for refusing to join Inkatha. According to a statement by a hostel dweller, one of the victims, a 27-year-old Zulu named Nehangase, was shot in the back. Three days after the murder, Inkatha allegedly held a meeting and instructed members not to kill their fellow hostel dwellers because such killings would be easily traced. To avoid such risks, the leaders said, they should kill only those from outside the hostel. Inkatha leaders at Jeppe reportedly boasted that police would not intervene in their attack on Sebokeng, a township near Johannesburg.122

The first major incident in the Transvaal conflict occurred after a July 22, 1990 Inkatha rally at a stadium in Sebokeng, for which many Inkatha supporters, carrying assegais [spears], pangas, knobkerries and other weapons were bused into the area.123 Inkatha supporters in the Johannesburg area apparently met on July 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Denver, George Goch and Jeppe hostels, and finalized plans for the attack, which was seen as a response to alleged attacks on Inkatha members during the week-long ANC July 2 campaign [see above]. Those planning to attend the rally in Sebokeng the following day were, according to a witness interviewed by New Nation, instructed to bring weapons. Despite warnings to the police, no attempts were made to disarm Inkatha supporters at the rally.124 COSATU claims that nearly 30 people were killed as police escorted several hundred Inkatha supporters on foot and in police vehicles through Sebokeng and that the police reportedly sided with Inkatha in the fighting which followed. Inkatha officials claim that ANC youths stoned buses and ambushed hostel-dwellers trying to return from the July 22 rally. One of the officials, Mrs. Khumalo, reported that 380 Inkatha refugees had fled to a farm near Evaton.125

Residents of Hostel 4 in Sebokeng allege that on July 22 several police vehicles accompanied several hundred Inkatha supporters first to the rally at a nearby stadium, then on their march to an area near Hostels 4 and 5 where they attacked inmates, smashed windows, broke into homes, and looted. Residents said that before the rally Inkatha members threatened to kill them when they returned. Police allegedly watched Inkatha attack without intervening; then, when residents fought back, police moved in with teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the residents. This occurred more than once, according to the residents, who felt they were being attacked first by Inkatha, then by the police. Several residents of Hostel 4 in Sebokeng, an area heavily attacked after the July 22 rally, said that police conducted weapons raids on August 1 and 2, 1990, during which they took money and other belongings and assaulted residents.126

Residents of Sebokeng hostel responded by expelling Inkatha vigilantes, which led to a second round of Inkatha attacks from August 1-11, some with police participation.127

The Regional Secretary of Inkatha allegedly came to the Dube Hostel on July 29 and told the workers that "war was coming," that Zulus were being attacked, and that the war would only stop when Mandela met Buthelezi. Subsequently, the hostel dwellers armed themselves and attacked residents in nearby Meadowlands. Police who were present did nothing to stop the attacks. Morafe hostel dwellers, including some Inkatha supporters, claimed they were tired of having to arm themselves, and that they were being manipulated by right wingers and the police. They believed that the attack on Meadowlands was being launched by "outsiders" in the presence of police.128

In August 1990, the conflict intensified in Soweto, Sebokeng, Kagiso, Thokoza, Katlehong, Vosloorus, Krugersdorp, and other townships near Johannesburg. Inkatha continued to force hostel dwellers to participate in attacks, usually following meetings at which residents from, for example, the Jeppe, Mpetla, Jabulani, and Nancefield hostels, were warned of impending attacks by the ANC. Inkatha members attacked defenseless commuters on several trains and at several stations, resulting in anywhere from 2 to 36 deaths at each attack, with total injuries numbering in the hundreds. Hostel dwellers and township residents told Africa Watch in August 1990 that the security forces were actively facilitating and condoning Inkatha attacks on township residents. Police fired shots at hostel residents in Sebokeng on August 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7.129 South African and international press reports allege possible police involvement in offensives from August through December,130 which the government and the security forces have denied.


Following the August 24, 1990 declaration of 27 townships as "unrest areas"──which grants the police powers similar to those under the State of Emergency──de Klerk said on a televised telephone call-in program on August 25, 1990, that "we dare not allow radicals to send this country up in flames.131 Violence erupts with the click of a finger." Nelson Mandela responded to the imposition of the unrest regulations with a statement claiming that the measures would be counterproductive, that they had not helped in Natal, and that the state of emergency "led to a great deal of dissatisfaction and an excuse for the police to abuse their rights."132

On September 1, 1990, in response to the pressure of mounting allegations, President de Klerk announced that he had requested Minister Vlok to conduct "an urgent and in-depth investigation" into charges that police had fueled the fighting and were siding with Inkatha in recent township offensives. De Klerk claimed that although individual policemen might have acted improperly, it was his belief that the force as a whole was impartial.133 Mandela's response to the proposed investigation was that the issue was too important to be treated as an internal police inquiry. He told the press:

There is no doubt in our minds that the police were deeply involved in fomenting this violence. This matter should be investigated by another judicial commission.

The previous week, Bishop Tutu had submitted a dossier to de Klerk which alleged that police had escorted Zulus at night on attacks and had disarmed local residents while allowing Zulus to keep their weapons.134

By mid-October, emergency restrictions had been lifted in all the townships, but on December 3, in response to two days of fighting that left 71 dead, curfews were imposed on Thokoza, Katlehong, Vosloorus and Bekkersdal.


The respected Independent Board of Inquiry into Informal Repression (IBIIR) issues monthly reports on violence and other forms of repression. Their report for August 1990 documented increasing evidence of collusion between the police and Inkatha. The report identified the two sides in the Transvaal violence as pro-Inkatha Zulu hostel dwellers versus township residents and squatters loyal to the ANC. The IBIIR concluded that if the allegations of a police-Inkatha alliance were true, the collusion would suit the interests of right-wing elements of the security establishment, which favors "black on black" violence as a means of discouraging whites from supporting reforms. The document provides evidence to support the following allegations:

  • Police vehicles accompanied Inkatha members armed with assegais, pangas, knobkerries and other weapons before violence broke out in Sebokeng, and no attempt was made to disarm them.

  • Police had been forewarned of a possible Inkatha attack in Sebokeng by attorneys acting for the IBIIR and COSATU.

  • Township residents have made statements claiming police committed unlawful acts, including destruction of property, theft and assault, during a massive search operation for hidden weapons.

  • Police allegedly failed to intervene, despite a warning by IBIIR and COSATU lawyers, of an impending clash on July 24 between Soweto train commuters and armed Inkatha supporters.

  • While shots were fired, apparently by Inkatha supporters, at a squatter camp in Thokoza, police parked in Casspirs only 200 meters away failed to act, and neglected to disarm Inkatha warriors.

  • Police at times escorted Inkatha members preparing to attack, watched them attack without intervening, disarmed them only after the attacks had taken place, and fired teargas at opposing groups of township residents and not at Inkatha impis.

  • A Father Peter Hortop said he saw Casspirs travelling on either side of a marching column of Inkatha members.

  • According to Cyril Jantjies, a member of the regional convening committee of the ANC, police had shot four people dead in KwaThema.

  • Police colluded with Inkatha in gun battles with residents of Kagiso where 37 people died and 39 were injured.

  • A Kagiso resident, Elizabeth Mashaba, told IBIIR lawyers that Inkatha supporters came to her house in a police van and killed her husband, Michael Mashaba, a 60-year-old pensioner.

  • A hostel-dweller who was forced to join Inkatha or face death, alleged that Inkatha leaders had covert links with police patrols.135

An article by Reverend Sizwe Mbabne, vice-bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa, stated that police refused to disarm Inkatha supporters and that a pattern could be detected in which the groups attacked by Inkatha were subsequently teargassed by the police under the guise of "maintenance of law and order."136 Bishop Tutu made the following comment on the extent of the violence:

Everywhere you go──be it Vosloorus or Thokosa──and ask people what has happened they say "the police are killing us."137

The IBIIR report for the month of November noted the emergence of a new pattern in the violence. Rather than the large impis that attacked during August and September, the Board reported that smaller groups were now responsible for most attacks, usually armed with AK 47s and other firearms. In most cases, victims were shot rather than hacked with pangas.138


On August 16, 1990, approximately 15,000 area residents attended a peace rally sponsored by the Thokoza Civic Association (TCA). The rally had been organized to help end the violence which had erupted there five days earlier. Speakers called on police to remove Inkatha supporters from the hostels long enough for other residents to retrieve their belongings, or to allow them to arm themselves for their safety when entering the hostels. After Mr. Ntuli of the TCA suggested that police should escort hostel dwellers to retrieve belongings they left behind during the fighting, however, about half the crowd angrily walked out. One hostel dweller protested that "we cannot be led like sacrificial lambs, by the police, into the hand of armed men in the hostels." ANC and TCA officials called for restraint and discipline in vain as the disgruntled crowd left the stadium.139

On August 15, a priest with the Witwatersrand Council of Churches [WCC] in Johannesburg told Africa Watch that his organization had called a meeting for the following day with government officials. At the meeting, the WCC planned to report that the police had escorted Inkatha to an attack on Thokoza on August 14 and that 1,000-2,000 township residents were arming themselves to go after the Inkatha attackers. The priest said he believed that the government approved of the killings and that it saw Buthelezi as an ally. Another WCC representative claimed that "whether one person dies or a hundred die, they report one person dead." He believed that the police, rather than the national government, bore the major responsibility for the violence:

Gatsha [Buthelezi] has opened himself to the system, to allow his people to be used by the system. As you have heard, white policemen just come into the hostel and grab people and say, "you have to go to such and such a place." Sometimes they come with buses, and say "these buses will take you," and everybody jumps into the buses.

I do not know whether this is known in the hierarchy of the power of the South African government. I don't know if they actually have knowledge of what is happening, or if they just rely on the information given to them by their chief of police. We believe that amongst the chiefs of police──the captains and generals──is where this is all taking place. But we don't know how much of the real truth reaches the powers....140

Thokoza was the scene of renewed fighting in early December 1990, when 54 were killed in two days of fighting. Wally Mbhele, a reporter who was present during the attack, wrote his version of the events, which, he says, "differed from the police version." The official account is that squatters from Phola Park attacked Thokoza residents, who then retaliated. According to Mbhele, the squatters were not the attackers:

At 4pm [on December 2], youths from Thokoza come running into Phola Park, and announce: "Inkatha has attacked our comrades. Can you come to our rescue?"

I rush to the scene, where a big cloud of black smoke is rising from burning houses. Women carrying small children on their backs run down Khumalo Road, screaming for help. The sound of gunfire fills the air.

Suddenly a group of several hundred men wearing white headbands──which have recently replaced red bands as the "uniform" of Inkatha-supporting hostel-dwellers──and brandishing an assortment of weapons, "traditional" as well as rifles, emerges from Mshayazafe ("beat him to death") hostel. Police hippos follow a distance behind them....

...Both sides open fire from about 50m and two members of the resident-squatter group immediately go down. Others scatter down side streets, some fall and struggle to get up again. A small group of about 30 try to hold out against the Zulus, when the police fire teargas at them, forcing them to run for cover...141

John Carlin of The Independent (London) reported hearing numerous versions of the same story when he interviewed residents of Phola Park:

Again and again, fat women, lean youths, gap-toothed old men told the same story. Police vehicles escorted the Inkatha impis, battalions, to the area and provided transport for the furniture they looted; white men drove the Inkatha men to battle in ambulances or delivery vans; policemen opened fire on the squatters.142

By December 12, at least 124 had died in the previous ten days of fighting.

A recent videotape shot by a television news crew during the fighting on December 2 shows a white paramedic arriving in a police vehicle and treating two wounded Africans, then leaving them behind to be slaughtered by members of Inkatha. The tape also shows police interceding to stop a pro-ANC group as one member fired on an Inkatha group with an automatic rifle. The police did not intervene in the Inkatha counterattack. An excerpt of the tape was broadcast on December 2 by ABC News and still photographs from the tape were published by The Weekly Mail. Minister Vlok, who was sent a copy of the tape, commented that it was "without doubt susceptible to various interpretations" and later said that the police were "the target of a well-planned propaganda campaign."143

On December 11, Buthelezi and Mandela made separate visits to Thokoza. Buthelezi, who had arrived in the area two hours earlier, was accompanied by Minister Vlok, who told a crowd of about 4,000 Inkatha supporters that there was no proof of collusion between the police and Inkatha.144 Mandela visited the area as part of a delegation sponsored by the South African Council of Churches. The SACC delegation was met by the same, now hostile, group of Inkatha supporters who had been addressed earlier by Buthelezi and Vlok. The crowd reportedly "pounded their fists on the dignitaries' vehicles, waved placards denouncing the ANC and yelled abuse at Mandela," forcing him back into his car.145 Buthelezi had refused to join the SACC delegation on the grounds that he had received the invitation too late and had other engagements.


A WCC field worker said that refugees from the hostel-related violence had testified to the involvement of the police:

We are hearing proof that the police are part of this system. We are having again people who are running away from their homes, especially homes under attack by Inkatha fighters, or those from homes nearer to Inkatha hostels. We find people running away from their homes for shelter somewhere else.146

A Mpetla hostel refugee at the WCC said that he had escaped from the hostel at 7:00 a.m. the previous morning, August 16, after witnessing Inkatha members murder another hostel dweller.

At 6:10 a.m., I saw an Inkatha group of about 20 or more kill another man. The man was killed in the hostel because he tried to leave when Inkatha members tried to make hostel dwellers go attack the townships.147

The WCC worker, who had helped translate the refugee's statement, explained the difficulties involved in escaping recruitment by Inkatha. He believed that forcible recruitment tactics were largely responsible for the success of their attacks:

Inkatha is using a tactic of forcing people to join in, so when they come attacking, you'll find a thousand people coming in the street, but not all those people are Inkatha. Most of them are being forced to join, otherwise they would be victimized.

The WCC worker said he had received reports that Inkatha hostel dwellers were being armed by the police, and that police were accompanying them on offensives, failing to disarm them, and shooting and teargassing residents defending themselves from the attacks.


On July 25, Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom, COSATU's attorneys, faxed two memoranda to the Minister of Law and Order, the Commissioner of Police and General Erasmus, Divisional Commisisoner of Police at Witswatersrand, notifying them of impending attacks on trains leaving Johannesburg either that afternoon or the following day. They urgently requested pre-emptive measures. According to a statement made at the COSATU office in Johannesburg, a Nancefield hostel dweller was warned of impending attacks after a meeting held on July 24 to plan assaults on trains at Inhlanzane station and at Jeppe. The Nancefield hostel dweller reported that the police were notified, but that when the attacks occurred on July 26, eyewitnesses saw policemen standing near the platforms while a large number of heavily armed Inkatha members waited for commuters on the platforms. According to two statements received from commuters present during the attack, the police reportedly intervened only after Inkatha members had attacked commuters. At that point, they fired teargas, which increased the confusion and added to the injuries.

On July 26, Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom sent another fax to Minister Vlok, the Police Commissioner, and Generals Erasmus and Swart, Divisional Commanders of Witswatersrand and Soweto, noting that the attacks had occurred and that residents of Nancefield hostel appeared to be involved. They requested that the attackers be brought to justice. On July 27, a day after the attacks on Jeppe, Inhlazane and other stations had occurred, Minister Vlok faxed two acknowledgments of receipt of the faxes of July 25 and 26. Both memoranda stated that he had requested the Commissioner of Police to attend to the matter.148

A Soweto resident, C., told Africa Watch of fighting which had taken place in Soweto, near Nancefield hostel, until that morning, August 18, and of the involvement of the security forces. On August 13 in the East Rand, a number of police vans arrived and picked up Inkatha supporters. Hostel dwellers who did not want to affiliate with Inkatha were driven out of the hostels and went into town, where C. and his companions gave them shelter. Inkatha supporters, angered by the actions of the Soweto residents, attacked on August 16. According to C., the police quickly joined the Inkatha side in the fighting:

We ... convened a meeting for residents to come defend our people. So whilst we were meeting at the school, the police came in and teargassed us. But meanwhile, Inkatha members are holding open air meetings at hostels with witnesses there but they are never dispersed. The police came and teargassed our people and people started running helter skelter. At about 10:30 a.m., yesterday, Friday the 17th, the Inkatha members tried to invade the location but the people who were there managed to prevent them. But what was interesting was that while we were busy blocking those people the police came and started teargassing us.

C. said that, later in the afternoon, Inkatha attacked Klipspruit West, approximately 30 meters from the hostel. Two men died of stab wounds. The attackers were joined by another Inkatha force "and the police were in the middle of them." When asked to disarm the Inkatha members, the police replied: "We can't disarm Inkatha members, they are defending themselves."

By about 7:30 p.m., a clearer picture of police involvement emerged:

Thousands of Inkatha members came in, bused in by kombis and vans of the police. We don't know where these people came from. So now we saw these people were not just fighting with us, they were going into houses and killing innocent kids in their homes. So the people, seeing that, left their homes.

According to C., the police claimed they were "waiting for orders," before they could send for help. When police surrounded and teargassed residents, C. tried to get help.

...We wanted to prove to the police and the world that the police were working with Inkatha, so we phoned the Kliptown police station at about 9:35 to say "Now these people are here and attacking." So they told us that they cannot do anything, that the war is a political war. We said "even if it's a political war why can't you come in? There are people killing more and more." Then they said "we are waiting for the station commander to give us orders." Then we said, "if the decision from the commander doesn't come, while lives are being lost, we are going to defend ourselves." They said we should go on, but they didn't come.

At about 10:15 p.m., C. and his companions, who noticed that the number of Inkatha fighters was growing, marched into the hostels, where police blocked the exits, trapping them, and then teargassed them. Inkatha members continued to shoot, and the fighting continued until 5:30 a.m. Meanwhile, Inkatha members were also attacking nearby Klipspruit West where, by 4:00 a.m., the death toll was about 19.149


A resident of Soweto showed Africa Watch an inflammatory pamphlet which some Zulu cleaning staff from Morafe hostel, who worked with her, had received. She discussed the August 16 attack at Inhlanzani station from the hostel dwellers' point of view, reinforcing allegations that Inkatha has used scare tactics to manipulate hostel dwellers:

...They feel that perhaps some of the hostel dwellers were intimidated by people they saw at the station waiting for the train and that they felt that they were UDF or COSATU people waiting to kill them or fight them. But they personally believed it was not so, that it was all a mistake and unfortunately, the hostel dwellers went for reinforcements and started attacking people at the station and this actually caused a whole outbreak of violence in various areas in Soweto.... It is spreading to other areas as well and our cleaners mentioned that they believe that the police, in trying to disperse the crowds, actually injured some of the people who were there because they started shooting.150

G., a member of the Civic Association in Jabulani who was present at the August 16 battle at Inhlanzani station, believed that the men from Jabulani hostel who were inciting the violence were "warriors who have been imported from Natal." He believed that the attackers "didn't dare come close to us and talk to us, because we knew they were from KwaZulu in Natal. These are the imported people [who] come and cause problems in Soweto." G. reported that he saw police firing teargas and shooting at township residents, but not at Inkatha members. G. said that at about 4 a.m., Inkatha warriors from one hostel were apparently seen on trains, picking up other warriors on the way to Morafe hostel where a meeting was supposed to take place. A small group of warriors went to Inhlanzani station, where they apparently attacked in the morning and killed two commuters. The township residents then stopped four trains going into town, ordered people out, fought with Inkatha and forced them back to Morafe hostel. The police, "realizing the Inkatha people were just a handful, intervened, directing the barrels of their guns at the residents and firing teargas and dispersing the people, but not dispersing Inkatha."151

Between 9-10 a.m., G. said, the number of armed Inkatha members in the area was increasing. When G. asked two policemen: "Why don't you impound them, or just arrest them?" they replied that they were waiting for orders. G. then found the station captain, Captain Sbanze, and asked him why the police did not intervene. Sbanze told G. that the police would take care of the situation. G. pressed him further:

I said "When? When how many people have died are you going to take care of the situation?" He said, "no, no, no──the police will be there to guard those people." I said "what about the weapons that these people are carrying?" He said, "you know, it's a tradition that Zulus do carry [knob]kerries wherever they go." I said, "now we are not looking at these people as Zulus but Inkatha and Inkatha is not anymore a cultural organization. They are now a political organization and it is plain that they have membership right across the spectrum, they have whites, they have coloreds, everybody. Now, are you saying that you are expecting the white members of Inkatha to be walking around carrying kerries and assegias and sticks like Inkatha Zulu people are doing?" He said, "no, but you know that's a tradition." I said, "I am Zulu. And there are a lot of other Zulu people living in the township. We don't go around carrying sticks. After all, sticks were carried on the farms where there were snakes and wild animals. That's what assegais and sticks were meant for. But now we're in the cities. You can't excuse people carrying kerries. The tradition has gone far too long, because I didn't know it was also traditional for them to carry kerries that they can assault people with. They are killing people with these same so-called traditional weapons."

G. then asked a white Colonel Smith why the police did not intervene against Inkatha members. Smith tried to argue that the police were outnumbered:

He said to me, "do you know how many blacks are in Soweto?" and I said, "millions" and he said, "how many police are there?" I said, "thousands." He said, "You see we are outnumbered," and I said, "I don't believe it. Do you see those masses of people who outnumber Inkatha? By far more than 100 to 1. If they march now, down that way, and start looting, I am telling you, colonel, that I believe from experience that in five minutes time there will be enough force to quell that riot and disperse those people. In five minutes, as you always give us five minutes to disperse. But now that your duties have changed you've got to change your direction from the masses to Inkatha, and now you can't do it. All of a sudden you are "few." I can't understand how if you can conduct house to house raids for weapons in a township as big as Soweto and you manage to do that, you can hardly get enough manpower to get into these few houses. In the hostel, there are less than 500, but you can't go in there and just make a house-to-house search and confiscate a lot of weapons and disarm Inkatha people so that our people can move back to their location and feel that the situation is safe.

G. said that the official police report described the fighting as between the "Zulus and the Xhosas," which G. claimed was a misrepresentation:

It's a lie because if you look into the situation at Jabulani hostel, the people who ride the trains there are from areas where Shangaans, Vendas, Zulus, and Xhosas live. They work together and live together in peace and harmony. Why all of a sudden would these people have a Zulu-Xhosa fight? The masses that were there were predominantly Sotho and Tswana speaking people and a lot of Zulus as well who come from the other areas like Jabulani and Zondi. We don't have a large number of Xhosas living in this area, so I don't know where the hell the Xhosa friction with the Zulus comes from. This is merely the state's way to explain things to clear themselves from blame because this is a well-planned thing by the state and police. The police are inciting Inkatha and taking advantage of the fact that these people are illiterate and they are using them, together with their educated leaders. This is why the situation is as it is now.

G. said that at about 11:00 or 12:00 the leader of Inkatha youth brigade, Themba Khoza, came up to G.'s delegation, apparently to negotiate. When G.'s delegation protested that none of the hostel dwellers themselves were in Khoza's party, Khoza told them they "could go to hell." G. noted that Colonel Goosen from Port Elizabeth and three senior officers of the white police were present for the negotiations "because we wanted them to witness the meeting." However, the police presence proved not to make negotiating any easier:

We said, "Colonel, are you aware of [Khoza's] attitude?" and he said, "Are you guys willing to negotiate or not?" acting as if he didn't hear this guy. And we said, "Look. We want to talk and solve this problem, we don't want to go into the nitty gritty of who started it──what can we do to withdraw our forces away from this area without any bloodshed because we don't want to have any number of people dying." Finally, in an embarrassed way, Themba did come down, and agreed to withdraw his guys, but not from the hostels because he claimed the ANC started the whole thing.152

The IBIIR reports that five people died at Inhlanzani station during the 4 a.m. attack. Captain N.J. Ngobeni of the Soweto police confirmed that 97 were injured.153

The Detainees Aid Centre provided several statements about the fighting in Soweto on August 16. One woman witnessed about 1,000 Inkatha supporters singing and marching in the street, then breaking into and looting homes. The woman observed a police caspir a few meters away, "but it did not come to help us!" she claimed. She telephoned the police who said "there are no Inkatha." Police did not show up until two hours later. When confronted about collusion with Inkatha, the police laughed at the residents and when they ran to help put out a fire at a home nearby, police reportedly fired at them. One of the boys died. Two were shot in the legs and taken to hospital.


On September 13, 1990, in a well coordinated terrorist-style attack, two armed African gangs massacred 26 commuters on a train going from Johannesburg to Soweto. The silence of the killers and their style of attack, which was similar to that of rebels of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), led to widespread speculation that the "hidden hand" of white security officials was behind it.

In early November, police arrested five Zulu migrant workers for their suspected killings of 15 of the 26 victims, and claimed they were seeking three more, also Zulu. According to a report in The Washington Post, evidence presented in court, where the five sought bail, indicated that four of the five who were arrested were members of Inkatha. The three missing suspects were thought to have fled to KwaZulu. Inkatha was reportedly paying the legal expenses of the five defendants. According to the chief police investigator, Deon Wessels, the suspects believed that commuters attending a daily worship service on the train had been insulting Buthelezi and praying for his death.154


Africa Watch obtained statements made to attorneys Friedman and Friedman, who represent Inkatha, regarding threats and attacks on the homes of Inkatha members which took place in the month of July 1990 in Sebokeng and Kagiso near Johannesburg.

During an ANC rally on July 2 at Evaton Stadium near Sebokeng, a speaker allegedly called on supporters to burn houses belonging to Inkatha members on July 4, 1990. The meeting was supposedly held to support the "Week of Action," which began with a July 2 stayaway. At a June 30 meeting at Sebokeng of the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP), COSATU and the UDF, South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) representative Vusi announced that from July 4, all Inkatha members in the surrounding area would be wiped out. Shortly thereafter, nine Inkatha homes were allegedly sprinkled with petrol and (according to varying accounts) burned.155

According to Friedman and Friedman, at a July 10 meeting in the Denver hostel in Johannesburg, Inkatha decided to hold a rally on July 22 "to call for peace in the area and for reconciliation and to sympathize with the people whose homes had been destroyed." ANC supporters, fearing an offensive, reportedly informed Inkatha members that they "were not prepared to allow Inkatha to use the stadium at Sebokeng." COSATU's attorneys, Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom, believing that the meeting would spark violence, contacted Friedman and Friedman and urged them to stop the meeting, which they thought was to be held on July 21.

On Saturday night, July 21, ANC youths reportedly ran through the township of Sebokeng shouting that they were not going to allow Inkatha into the area and would blockade the roads, and that they would burn the houses of those who attended the July 22 meeting.

On Sunday, July 22, ANC supporters apparently formed a human chain across the road to prevent Inkatha from entering the stadium. Young people wearing ANC tee-shirts allegedly threw stones at Inkatha members from inside the stadium. They stopped people arriving by bus, threatening them and ordering them to stay away from the meeting. The Inkatha group attending the rally grew to about 600. Buses entering the area at 11:00 a.m., when the meeting began, were reportedly stoned.156

Following the meeting, Inkatha members left the stadium in a group, reportedly to protect themselves from the ANC youth. ANC supporters allegedly attacked the group with petrol bombs, stones and spears, and gunshots were heard. Inkatha members, escorted by the SAP, defended themselves. A policeman was stabbed with a spear, allegedly thrown by an ANC supporter. An Inkatha member was killed. Attacks on Inkatha members attempting to board buses continued until 9:00 p.m. An Inkatha supporter's home was petrol bombed that night.157

114 The IBIIR examines unofficial political activity aimed against anti-apartheid groups.

115 "Protest Marches Planned," Witness Echo, July 5, 1990.

116 Patrick Laurence, "Inkatha: Campaign by ANC Triggered `War,'" The Star (Johannesburg), August 28, 1990.

117 John MacLennon, "Clashes: Police Accused," Sunday Tribune, August 26, 1990, and Musa Zondi of the Inkatha Youth Brigade, "Do Not Blame Inkatha," City Press, August 19, 1990.

118 Xerox copy of pamphlet obtained in Soweto, August 17, 1990.

119 Interviews with Africa Watch, August 16-18, 1990.

120 Dennis McAuliff Jr., "Mozambican Rebels Suspected in South African Violence," Washington Post, October 17, 1990.

121 Statements taken by COSATU and the IBIIR.

122 Statements and reports from hostel dwellers documented by COSATU and the Detainees Aid Centre in Johannesburg.

123 Report for the IBIIR for the Period August 1990.

124 "Sebokeng Carnage," New Nation, July 27-August 2, 1990.

125 Patrick Laurence, "Inkatha Campaign by ANC Triggered War," The Star (Johannesburg), August 28, 1990.

126 Statements given to COSATU staff, July 1990.

127 Summary of the Inkatha Reign of Terror in the Transvaal, July 22nd to August 16, 1990, compiled by COSATU.

128 Statements and reports from hostel dwellers on file at the offices of COSATU and the Detainees Aid Centre in Johannesburg.

129 Statements made to COSATU.

130 Press reports in The Star, August 17, 26 and 28, 1990; The Weekly Mail, August 24-26, 1990; The Daily Mail, August 28, 1990; The Citizen, August 18, 1990; The New York Times, August 25 and September 4, 1990; The Washington Post, September 5 and December 12; to name just a few.

131 In government parlance, the term "radical" has, over the years, been synonymous with ANC-aligned opposition.

132 Alan Cowell, "Pretoria Takes Broad Steps to End Factional Fighting," The New York Times, August 25, 1990.

133 Greg Myre, "SA Government to Investigate Police Violence," Associated Press, September 3, 1990.

134 Gavin Bell, "Mandela Unhappy with Enquiry," Reuters dispatch, September 4, 1990.

135 Report of IBIIR for the Period August 1990.

136 Rev. Sizwe Mbabne, vice Bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa, "Patterns in the Latest Violence Point to a Solution," City Press, August 19, 1990, and documents obtained from Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom August 28, 1990.

137 Mark Gevisser and Glenda Daniels, "Soweto: A City Mourns Its Dead," The Daily Mail, August 28, 1990.

138 IBIIR Report for November 1990.

139 Musa Mapisa and Abel Mabelane, "Walk-Out Ends Tokoza Peace Rally," The Star, Friday, August 17, 1990.

140 Africa Watch interview with a priest August 15, 1990 and interview with a field worker at the Witwatersrand Council of Churches, Johannesburg, August 17, 1990. Names withheld.

141 Wally Mbhele, "The real story of Phola Park," The Weekly Mail, December 7-13, 1990.

142 John Carlin, "Police look on as armed Zulus march to `peace rally,'" The Independent, December 13, 1990.

143 "Did police take sides? Judge for yourself," The Weekly Mail, December 14 to December 19, 1990, and Christopher Wren, "Videotape Cited in Charges South African Police Help Zulus," The New York Times, December 14, 1990.

144 Philippa Garson, "A peace visit that brought only tension," The Weekly Mail, December 14 to December 19, 1990.

145 Allister Sparks, "Zulus Force Mandela, Dignitaries to Flee Hostel During Township Tour," Washington Post, December 13, 1990.

146 Interview with Africa Watch, August 17, 1990.

147 Interview with Africa Watch, August 17, 1990.

148 Statement given to COSATU in Johannesburg, end of July, 1990; memoranda from Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom dated July 25 and 26, 1990; and two memoranda from the Ministry of Law and Order, both dated July 27.

149 Interview with Africa Watch August 18, 1990. Name withheld by request.

150 Interview with Africa Watch in Soweto August 18, 1990. Name withheld.

151 The behavior of the police was also reported in The Sowetan, August 17, 1990, which quoted a witness who reported that police opened fire on residents defending themselves from Inkatha and fired teargas at them.

152 Africa Watch interview at Soweto August 18, 1990. Name withheld.

153 Sowetan, August 17, 1990.

154 David B. Ottaway, "5 Zulus Arrested in South African Train Massacre," The Washington Post, November 9, 1990.

155 Two statements given to Friedman and Friedman, July 26, 1990.

156 See Transvaal chapter for ANC statements on July 22 battle in Sebokeng.

157 Memorandum by J. Friedman and four statements taken July 26, 1990.

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January 1991