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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Boipatong massacre revisited

SAIRR Website Comment 30 November 2000

The credibility of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been dealt another blow - this time by its own amnesty committee.

In a recent ruling, the amnesty committee contradicted the TRC's October 1998 report on a vital issue -police culpability for the massacre of 45 people at Boipatong in the Vaal Triangle in June 1992.

The committee found that Inkatha Freedom Party IFP) supporters from the KwaMadala Hostel perpetrated the killings on their own, without police help, and in revenge for repeated attacks by African National Congress (ANC) supporters. The TRC report, however, found that 'KwaMadala residents, with the police, planned and carried out' the killings. The TRC's finding that the police were guilty of multiple murder at Boipatong has thus been overturned by the amnesty committee.

The massacre was widely portrayed as proving the ANC's claim that the then government was using the police and army to wage a covert war against it. The National Party government lost all remaining legitimacy, and the ANC was increasingly able to dictate the terms of the transition.

What proof was there of police involvement? Investigations by the Goldstone commission found none. In 1993 a criminal court, on the tested evidence of 120 Boipatong residents, convicted IFP supporters and ruled that the police had played no part. The TRC ignored these rulings. It based its finding of police guilt primarily on untested accounts put forward by a monitoring organisation with ANC links.

Now the amnesty committee, like the Goldstone commission and the trial court, has found 'eyewitness' testimony of police involvement appallingly 'untruthful', or mistaken.

In 1992, alleged police involvement made headlines around the world. In 1998, the TRC's Boipatong finding was widely broadcast. Now the press has fallen strangely silent. * For more information, click on 'Truth Commission repudiated by its own Amnesty Committee' in News Releases on this website.

- Anthea Jeffery

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