< Back

Memorandum from Nelson Mandela to President F W de Klerk: Annexure A

23 June 1992

Memorandum on Attempts to Prevent the Boipatong Massacre

From: Nicholls, Cambanis, Koopasammy & Pillay

INTRODUCTION

  1. Since the Massacre on the Night Vigil in Sebokeng in January of 1991, where 38 people were killed, there have been ongoing incidents of violence in the Vaal Area.
  2. These incidents are characterized by the fact that they are random insofar as they are perpetrated against residents of the Vaal Townships in an indiscriminate manner. For example, numerous attacks by gun-wielding men have taken place at shebeens and stations where patrons and commuters are killed and injured indiscriminately.
  3. During the course of 1991 and 1992 it became apparent that the perpetrators of these attacks were living in the Kwa-Madala Hostel situated in the ISCOR Compound in the Vaal Triangle. Pursuant thereto, efforts were made repeatedly to prevent violence emanating from the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  4. The Boipatong Massacre could have been pre-empted if the South African Police, the ISCOR Management and the Goldstone Commission had acted immediately and effectively on receipt of the numerous representations to them about the Kwa-Madala Hostel and the danger it constitutes for the communities of Boipatong, Sharpeville and Sebokeng.
  5. The South African Police have been negligent in failing to conduct effective investigations, after countless reports to them by the Vaal Council of Churches of ongoing abductions, kidnappings, rape, assaults, intimidation and murders connected - to the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  6. The Vaal Council of Churches, as recipients of complaints from victims of violence perpetrated by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel have consistently approached the local police to investigate the individual complaints about violence committed by Kwa- Madala residents. The police's consistent response to the approaches for assistance and action by the Vaal Council of Churches was that there was not sufficient evidence for them to respond. It is submitted that the police are equipped with investigative machinery and it is their responsibility to gather evidence on receipt of complaints. The Vaal Council of Churches as a result of their fieldwork, had concluded that a pattern of random incidents of violence linked to the Kwa-Madala Hostel had emerged in the Vaal. This was a matter of great concern to them. They believed that the police would share their concern and would accordingly launch and conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of the Kwa-Madala residents.
  7. The Vaal Council of Churches have consistently, since early 1991, attempted to elicit the assistance of the police. The police have consistently failed to respond to the complaints and have neither conducted effective investigations nor ensured that the perpetrators of the violence are arrested and charged. The police also failed to act timeously to prevent attacks by Kwa-Madala residents. It is submitted, and it will be shown in this memorandum that a failure to respond to the multitude of complaints about violence and intimidation perpetrated from the Kwa-Madala Hostel constituted acts of extreme negligence on the part of the South African Police.
  8. In addition numerous representations were made to the ISCOR Management to ask them to act decisively to ensure that they were not housing perpetrators of violence in the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Again the Vaal Council of Churches repeatedly approached the Kwa-Madala residents. While the ISCOR Management initially appeared to accept the representations that the Kwa-Madala Hostel constituted a threat to the safety of residents of the Boipatong, Sharpeville and Sebokeng Communities, they subsequently denied and rejected the submissions of the Vaal Council of Churches that acts of violence were planned and executed from the Kwa-Madala Hostel. It is perplexing that the ISCOR Management, despite reports of numerous incidents of violence perpetrated by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel, adopted this attitude. It is submitted that the Boipatong Massacre could have been prevented if the ISCOR Management had shown due concern to the ongoing requests for the Kwa-Madala to be closed, for the ISCOR workers living there to be integrated into the other ISCOR Hostel, the Kwa-Masiza, and for the remaining residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel, believed to be the perpetrators of the violence, to be arrested and charged.
  9. In the face of the negligence the South African Police and the reluctance of the ISCOR Management, an approach was made to the Commission for the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (The Goldstone Commission) to inquire into the violence emanating from the Kwa-Madala Hostel and to take steps to prevent further violence.
  10. In submissions made to the Commission, the Vaal Council of Churches asked that the Commission investigate the closure of the Kwa-Madala Hostel and oversee the issues arising from this process. After the initial submissions, the violence in the Vaal escalated and the Commission was asked on two occasions to act urgently to prevent further deaths.
  11. However, after a preliminary hearing, the Commission decided that it would not appoint a Committee inquire into the violence emanating from the Kwa-Madala. It is submitted that the decision to ignore this request is regrettable. Moreover, it is believed that if the Goldstone Commission had been in a position to convene a procedure to deal with the suggestion for the closure of the Kwa-Madala Hostel, the recent massacre could have been pre-empted. This process could have been speedily implemented and facilitated. It is submitted that if the legislation framing the Commission and the mechanisms provided therein could not accommodate such a process, then recommendations for amendments to the legislation should be made.
  12. Following hereto are details of the efforts which have been made to prevent the violence emanating from the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Initials have been used at the request of the individuals concerned, who desire that their identities be withheld.

HISTORY

  1. Field workers for the South African Council of Churches (SACC) (Vaal Region), Rev. Peter Moerane and the late Saul Tsotsetsi, since early 1991 have repeatedly made attempts to bring to the attention of the South African Police and the ISCOR management that the Kwa-Madala Hostel has been a base from which attacks against residents of Boipatong, Bopelong, Sebokeng and Sharpeville have been perpetrated.
  2. In the first half of 1991, the Field workers, pursuant to numerous reports that residents of the Kwa-Mazisa Hostel had been abducted by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel, met with the District Commander of Police and with Col. Steyn of the Security Branch in order to bring to their attention that the activities of the residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel constituted a threat and danger for the communities surrounding the hostel.
  3. The meeting was requested by the Field workers, in order to explain to the police that consequent to their fieldwork, they had perceived that people residing at Kwa-Madala Hostel had been responsible for numerous acts of public violence and intimidation in the Vaal Triangle in the preceding months.

    At the meeting they outlined the incidents of violence and requested that the police undertake an immediate investigation into the unlawful activities of the residents of Kwa-Madala Hostel and take action to prevent further violence.

  4. The Field workers were of the view that they had not been able to convince the police of the dangers for the community relating to the activities of the residents of the Kwa- Madala Hostel and they held a joint press conference with COSATU. They felt that the holding of a press conference exposing the activities of the residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel would exert pressure on the police to investigate and to take action to protect the workers of the Kwa-Mazisa Hostel, as well as the residents of the surrounding townships.
  5. After the meeting with the police in June 1991, attacks in the area continued to take place. The incidents of violence linked to the Kwa-Madala Hostel included:
    1. During the last week of June and the first week of July 1991, a group of men went a number of times to the house of Ernest Sotsu, an executive member of the Boipatong Branch of the African National Congress (ANC). They informed Mr. Sotsu's family that he should report to them at the Kwa-Madala Hostel and threatened that should he fail to do so, they would take drastic action.
    2. On the 3rd July 1991, an attack was carried out on his house and his wife, daughter and grandson were killed and two grandchildren were injured.
    3. On or about the 7th July 1991, an attack took place at the Erica Tavern in Zone 7, Sebokeng. Two residents of the Kwa-Madala hostel were arrested for this attack.
  6. The Field workers of the SACC continued to receive reports from the residents of Boipatong, Sharpeville and Sebokeng of violence and intimidation perpetrated by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. In addition to approaching the police to intervene to protect the residents of the townships, they decided to approach the Iscor Management.
  7. On the 15th August 1991, Rev. Moerane accompanied a delegation of women from the Boipatong township to Mr. Viljoen, a manager of ISCOR. The delegation handed to him a letter wherein they stated that they believed that the perpetrators of numerous incidents o in the Vaal were residing in the Kwa-Madala Hostel. They further stated as follows:
  8. "We want to know why are you insensitive to the use of the Kwa-Madala as a base for dangerous weapons and attacks on human life?"

    They requested that ISCOR stop housing "enemies of peace and life".

  9. ISCOR responded in a letter wherein they denied that violence is executed from the Kwa-Madala Hostel. They stated that "all allegations had been thoroughly investigated by ISCOR and no evidence could be found to convince management that the KwaMadala Hostel should be managed differently to that of ISCOR's other hostel, KwaMazisa" .
  10. They, however, proposed a meeting to "exchange further information and clarify our respective positions".

  11. On or about the 24th September 1991 the Field workers met with the ISCOR Management and attempted to establish a monitoring committee with them. However, this process subsequently broke down.
  12. On or about the 25th September 1991, the SADF attempted to enter the Kwa-Madala Hostel in response to various complaints about the activities of the residents. The SADF members were shot at with AK 47 weapons by the residents of Kwa-Madala. The SADF thereafter shot and killed 5 residents of Kwa-Madala.
  13. The Field workers of the Vaal Council of Churches continued to receive reports of public violence and intimidation perpetrated by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel,
    1. The abduction of J.M. and Sipho Mthimkulu on the 17th October 1991 by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. They were taken to the hostel and held there against their will for two weeks;
    2. On the 29th November 1991, P H and Sipho Mazibuko were abducted and taken to the Kwa-Madala Hostel. P H was severely assaulted before he was released. He identified Sipho's body at the mortuary the following day;
    3. On or about the 8th December 1991 a number of young girls were abducted by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. They were held at the Hostel against their will and raped repeatedly.
  14. During the period July to December 1991 and in response to the ongoing reports of violence received, the Field workers met with the Divisional Commissioner of Police in Vereeniging on at least four occasions.
  15. They repeatedly raised their concerns that public violence and intimidation against residents of Boipatong, Sharpeville and Sebokeng emanate from the Kwa-Madala Hostel. The Field workers reported that the response of the police at these meetings was that there was insufficient evidence for them to take action.

  16. On the 8th January 1992, and pursuant to reports of further abductions of residents of the townships to the Kwa-Madala Hostel, the Field workers and the General-Secretary of the Vaal Council of Churches met with Capt. de Klerk and Col. Steyn of the former Security Branch in Vereeniging. They requested the assistance of the police in securing the release of people being held against their will at the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  17. In the week subsequent to this meeting, the police stated to the Field workers and to the attorneys acting for the Vaal Council of Churches that there were legal constraints preventing them from raiding the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Col. Steyn informed attorneys Nicholls, Cambanis, Koopasammy and Pillay that the evidence provided by the Vaal Council of Churches was not concrete enough for them to take action against the KwaMadala Hostel.
  18. The request was made repeatedly between the 9th January and the 15th January 1992 to the police to investigate the allegations of abductions. On the 16th January 1992 Saul Tsotsetsi was informed by the police that they had raided the Kwa-Madala Hostel, but had not discovered anyone being held against their will at the Kwa-Madala Hostel.

  19. 14. The Field workers continued to receive reports of incidents of violence during January and February 1992:
  20. On the 12th February 1992 a young boy reported to the Field workers that he had forcibly been taken from the Mark Park Shopping Centre in Vereeniging by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. He, however, escaped.
  21. On the 21st February 1992 an attack took place at the Ha-hlo-ho-ya-peye Tavern in Sharpeville. Five people were killed by the gunshots and several others injured. The survivors informed the Field workers that one of the perpetrators was recognised as a resident of the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  22. On the 15th March 1992, an attack took place at Chief's Place Tavern in Sharpeville. Two women were killed and several injured. One of the perpetrators of the attack was injured by one of his colleagues by accident. He has stated on affidavit as follows:
  23. I am able to live at the Kwa-Madala Hostel without charge. I am unemployed, as are several of the other residents of the hostel. We are supported by those residents who are employed. In addition, we receive food parcels from the International Red Cross every two weeks. We also robbed people in town. We, as a group, approached individuals and threatened them so that they gave us money."

    Although the Kwa-Madala Hostel is owned by Iscor, only some of the residents work at Iscor. Some work at other factories and, as mentioned above, the rest are unemployed. All the residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel are members of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Amongst the residents there are individuals whom are leaders of the Inkatha Freedom Party. Amongst them is one, Buthelezi.

    A system exists at the Kwa-Madala Hostel whereby each resident becomes part of a 'unit'. I was placed in a unit consisting of four members.

    I was trained in the use of weapons by Buthelezi.

    Every resident is trained in the use of weapons.

    I am aware that other members of other units were also trained in the use of weapons.

    I have seen many arms and ammunition stored at the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Meetings were held every Tuesday and Thursday. At these meetings, we were informed when new weapons had arrived.

    The arms are brought by members of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who arrive at the hostel from Natal. I have seen them arrive with AK 47s and spears with poisoned tips.

    Some of those who arrive come to the area to work. However, others come to carry out missions and attacks in the local township. Others come to bring arms and then leave.

    During the four months that I have lived at the Kwa-Madala Hostel, I have seen units being sent out on missions. However, l have not known exactly where they have been sent to or what missions they have carried out".

    On the 15th March 1992, my unit was instructed by Buthelezi to go to Sharpeville Township for the following purpose:

  24. to attack comrades who had been responsible for the killing of an Inkatha member, one Tlhola;
  25. ii. to attack two taverns, namely, Chief's Place and the Philadelphia Tavern. We were instructed to kill people there because it is known that comrades drink there.
  26. We were also informed that a secondary purpose to our mission was to assist in the attack of comrades for the purpose of Inkatha regaining entry to the townships.

    We were given arms by Buthelezi. We were given two rifles amongst the four of us. I was not myself carrying a rifle.

    I moved with N. He was carrying a rifle.

    Between 8 and 9p.m and at or near Phomolong Section in Sharpeville, we saw a group of comrades. Amongst them was one comrade known to me as Ntopia. My partner opened fire and Ntopia was struck.

    We formed two groups. Two stayed on the ground and myself and my partner went forward to shoot. Thereafter, we moved to Chief's Tavern. K was shooting at people in the tavern and the gun jerked and that was when I was hit. I was carrying a rifle at Chief's Tavern. N gave me the rifle.

    As far as I am aware our second mission at the Philadelphia Tavern was not carried out after I was struck and injured.

  27. In light of the evidence from Mr. X of a military style operation being conducted from the Kwa-Madala Hostel, the Field workers became all the more anxious for action to be taken. Their requests to the police and the ISCOR Management had been unsuccessful. Thus in March 1992, the Field workers instructed attorneys Nicholls, Cambanis, Koopasammy and Pillay to approach the Commission for the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation (The Goldstone Commission) to request that the Commission inquire into the causes of violence and intimidation in the Vaal and recommend steps for the prevention thereof. Affidavits and Documents were submitted to the Commission on their behalf, which documents included a request to the Commission to take urgent steps to prevent further violence from the Kwa-Madala
  28. On the 3rd April 1992, Adv. J J du Toit and a Colonel from the Commission met with Mr. X, to hear his evidence of the activities at the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Lawyers acting for the Vaal Council of Churches requested that the Commission urgently convene a meeting of representatives of ISCOR, the SAP, the residents of Kwa-Madala Hostel and residents of the townships to discuss the closure of the Hostel and the reintegration of residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel into the Kwa-Masiza Hostel and the surrounding townships.
  29. On the 17th April 1992, two young men were kidnapped in Zone 7, Sebokeng by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. Their corpses were identified by their families at the Vereeniging Mortuary on the 19th April 1992.
  30. In the early hours of the 19th April 1992, eight members of the Lefeidi family were killed at their home at Vergenoeg in Sharpeville. In the affidavit of a survivor of the attack, it is averred that the perpetrators of the attack indicated that they were from the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  31. Attorneys acting for the Vaal Council of Churches forwarded the affidavits detailing the above events to the Commission with a request for urgent assistance in resolving and ending the violence surrounding and connected with the Kwa-Madala Hostel. The request stated that the Field workers believed that any further delay would lead to an escalation of the violence and to further deaths.
  32. The police were also approached and the affidavits were forwarded to them.
  33. On the 24th April 1992, attorneys acting for the Vaal Council of Churches were approached telephonically by an Advocate from the Commission with a proposal that the Commission combine an inquiry in respect of the Vaal, Alexander and Soweto. The attorneys agreed with the proposal but referred the Commission to the discussion on the 3rd April 1992 with the Advocate where it had been stated that steps to prevent violence in the Vaal could be taken almost immediately. It was further communicated that the Vaal Council of Churches was concerned that the implementation of steps to prevent further violence in the Vaal be done as soon as possible.
  34. On the 5th May 1992, a preliminary inquiry into violence in the Vaal, Alexander and Soweto was convened by the Commission.
  35. The Vaal Council of Churches submitted an overview of the Violence in the Vaal to the Commission. The following submissions were made in respect of the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  36. "We are of the view that the Kwa-Madala Hostel is central to the reign of violence in the Vaal area. We request that the Commission inquire into the assertion made by Mr. X that the Hostel is organised and run as a military style camp from where violent "missions" are launched.

    Myself and my colleagues at the SACC. believe that the steps to be taken to prevent further violence is the closure of the Kwa-Madala Hostel. We request that the Commission inquire into the process and mechanism for such a closure. We understand that the process will require extensive discussions with the respective parties.

    We also request the Commission to assist in ensuring that the perpetrators of the violence be charged and brought to trial. This is particularly urgent in relation to perpetrators who have been identified as having been involved repeatedly in attacks.

    We also request the Commission to inquire into whether the police are empowered to conduct raids of the hostel on receipt of information regarding unlawful activities of residents of the hostel and to advise the police in relation thereto. Should the Commission find that in terms of current Legislation the police are not so empowered, we request that the Commission recommend to the State President that Legislation be passed empowering the police to conduct such raids of the hostels".

    I believe that residents of Sharpeville, Sebokeng and Boipatong have been looking to the Commission for a remedy for the end of the violence, since our initial request to the Commission in March 1992. I am fearful that any further delay will result in the loss of more lives".

  37. On the 13th May 1992, the Commission issued a press release wherein they stated that a Commission of Inquiry would be established with the following terms of reference:
    1. To establish the circumstances in which people may have been forced by violence or intimidation to vacate homes or hostels in Alexandra Township, the Greater Soweto Area and the Vaal Triangle;
    2. To establish the names and present whereabouts of such persons;
    3. To establish whether persons have acquired occupation of homes or places in hostels in those areas in consequence of violence or intimidation and, if so, the circumstances in which they have come to do so;
    4. To consider practical and effective ways and means of placing the persons referred to in (a) and (b) back into possession of their homes or places in hostels;
    5. To consider whether the persons referred to in (a) and (b) are legally or morally entitled to compensation for damages suffered by them by reason of the foregoing circumstances and, if so:
      1. the amounts thereof; and
      2. appropriate sources of funding such compensation;
    6. To consider steps which should be taken to ensure the safety of persons in the position of these referred to in (a) and (b) and of their property.
  1. On perusal of the terms of reference, the Vaal Council of Churches were concerned that the terms of Reference of the Commission which had been established would not necessarily include an inquiry into the danger for the Community emanating from the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  2. They therefore submitted to the Commission that in their view, the problem of displacement is a secondary issue in the Vaal and that the central issue is the violence carried out from the Kwa-Madala Hostel. They urged the Commission to take account of the safety of persons who are victims of violence, but are not displaced persons.

  1. At a further meeting of the Commission on the 27th May 1992, the Vaal Council of Churches again placed on record that they were concerned that the terms of inquiry would not include the question of the safety of victims of violence perpetrated by residents of the Kwa-Madala Hostel.
  2. The Vaal Council of Churches are of the assistance of the police, ISCOR Management and the Goldstone Commission. They, on numerous occasions, expressed the need for an urgent response to their ongoing representations to the abovementioned parties. They believe an urgent response would have prevented the massacre which occurred in Boipatong on the 17th and 18th June 1992.
  3. The Vaal Council of Churches noted that the interim Report of the Goldstone Commission recommended that all hostels should immediately be adequately and securely fenced and that a strong and efficient police presence should ensure that no arms are taken in or out of the hostels. The Vaal Council of Churches are aware that this recommendation was submitted to the State President a considerable time ago. Once again, if there had been an urgent response to this recommendation, the massacre at Boipatong would have been prevented.

    The closure of the Hostel however remains a priority.

    The State President should act immediately and effectively in taking steps to achieve this.

    The arrest and charging of the perpetrators of the massacre and of the other incidents of violence is also a priority and the State President must ensure that all efforts are concentrated thereon.

Dated at Johannesburg on this the 23rd day of June 1992.