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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Dec 1990: SACC Visit to Phola Park

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X      perpetually fight as the people were leaving.

POM     It was quiet before it was attacked.

X      is going on which was perpetuated that the Xhosas in this area should be killed.

POM     He says the Xhosas in the area should be killed.

X     I requested the people in this area not to fight one another because we regard ourselves as one nation.  We don't divide ourselves upon it.

POM     She asked the people not to fight among themselves.

X     Inkatha in this area and in that score we felt that we should also defend ourselves. We were attacked by Inkatha, with the police, by the time they were shooting us. And I as the chairperson, one of my arms is paralysed, I can't actually use it any more as a result because I was shot by the police. What is dreadful is that you have been attacked  by all sorts of weapons and we don't have ammunition in this area but we do our level best to defend ourselves in this area.

     The aim of this attack is to phase out this squatter camp and we are saying as the residents of this squatter camp, this squatter camp will not be phased out by the violence. Whatever they do they squatter camp will remain.

     Also what is great about you, the churches who actually organised this session. We are saying to you as the churches, please pray with us to fight this thing  because we are not actually a tribal faction. We are requesting you to pray with us so that this squatter camp can last long.

     About yesterday, what happened yesterday is that we were actually the police came in and disarmed the people. After disarming the people they actually attacked the whole squatter camp and later on Inkatha had the police sent in, both the blacks and whites, and attacked the squatter camp at random. Those who were running out of the squatter camp during the attack they were actually returned by the comrades who were actually patrolling outside the area for those comrades who were shooting people who have been in this area and many people have died in this area.

     Both you and the church people and all the people who are here to actually help us in this area and there is one lie which has been talked by the press and others, they are afraid that Phola Park has actually attacked the Thokoza residents. That is not true. The truth of the matter is that we, the survivor residents of Phola Park are one, they cannot be separated, they are one thing. It is not true that they have attacked Thokoza, the people who are here.

     Three kombis were attacked during this violence.  The three kombis actually were taking people to Transkei and they were travelling from Phola Park to Transkei as it is festive season and in those kombis there were people who have been attacked by the whites. They are saying they are whites because they've actually masked themselves with something like a black polish, I don't know what is that,  but you can see that they are whites because their hands were white.

     Much has been said by the chairperson in this area so you will be detectives on your own because you have seen the whole situation. I will not say much because you have seen the shacks have been burnt and the cars have been burnt.

     You all coming here but we are requesting you that what you have done today we think it is not enough, you should try your level best to do everything in your power to actually end this thing.

Next speaker (I think it's Frank Chikane)

     Thank you very much. Unfortunately, we cannot listen to the four others because of time constraints. We are going to say a prayer in the form of the National Anthem and then once we have finished I am asking that those in leadership and marshals will then open the way so that our guests can be able to go back to their cars. Our land is being opened and so we will be able to go back to the car so that we can move as fast as possible and will explain in the buses what will be happening here after the experience that we have had. Can you just allow me to say that we are going to walk down this route that has been opened.

POM     The route has been opened by the marshals to allow the whole delegation out. Only two of the six people who were to have shared their experiences with us from yesterday were able to speak because of time constraints. So far we have missed the first one and the second one was curtailed.

     Mandela certainly lives up to the description of regal. He's so inscrutable. Winnie is a very beautiful woman. She is dressed to kill. Poor choice of words but

     The story from Phola Park is that the police and Inkatha followers operated together, that the police came in beforehand and disarmed the people, fired some teargas and that opened the way for Inkatha people to come in and start shooting at random and burning the shacks. They also said that in the kombis not only were there police, black policemen, there were also whites painted as though they were black among the attackers. The attackers opened fire at random.  The police could have stopped the Inkatha members because the Inkatha members had to cross the main street before they could enter the camp. It took the police two hours to arrive.

     The residents say that they weren't only burnt out of their squatter camp, it was really quite touching to hear people vehemently declare that they would defend their camp against all attacks. For them, of course, it is home and no matter how meagre and desolate, how wretched, it is still home, a place which has significance in the lives of the people here.

     At this point it is 1.20, we were scheduled to leave five minutes ago and we only visited one of the three locations which were to be visited so far and only talked with four of the ten people we should have talked with. The buses are moving.

     I wonder what all this means for the residents of Phola Park.  God knows where they work. God knows what they do. In this Park there was the smell, the stench, of rotting. The roads were muddy and full of water after yesterday's rains. I think many of the delegation are spending their time in ensuring that they don't step in the mess rather than looking at the shacks around them and getting a feel for the living conditions.

     Police in plain clothes in the area, one is aware of them since they're all using telephones.

     We pass the remains of what would appear to be the hostel which has been burnt, dismantled brick by brick and another part which is just frames of structures left. We pass the remainder of the hostel and it was the residents of the hostels and the other people of Phola Park who initially began to fight, and the non-Zulu residents of the hostels left the hostels and joined the people in Phola Park. However, half the people that lived in hostels were overpowered and the hostels were destroyed. There appeared to be a huge hostel.

     The soldiers speak Portuguese. Soldiers are lining each side of the street. Casspirs on the right side of the road. The people prefer soldiers to police, it sounds familiar. The people are definitely Mandela followers.

     We have come through an area called Thokoza Extension 2. Again, these houses are rather nice houses, built on their own plots.

     We're going to the two streets where the violence is concentrated. In one street fifteen people were killed and in another ten were killed. Every house has been burned down, at least one person has been killed. In these two streets in which the houses are not too bad some some other ways and they are Xhosa speaking people.

     Lots of people line the streets. However, because of what they call 'Mandela mania' we're not going to get out of the buses. There are quite a number of houses burnt down on this street.

     Outside the hostels are a large number of Casspirs and armed police. The windows in the hostels many of the windows of the hostels are absolutely shattered.  This hostel is S.SOJI(?) Hostel. These hostels look to be in awful condition.

     I see my first white policeman outside soldier on one side of the street. There appear to be hundreds of dwellings for people to stay in hostels. The other side of the street has

     The hostels appear to be ransacked. The irony is that we have seen far more hostels in dilapidated, wrecked condition than I think we saw homes and shacks in the squatter camp.

     The Zulus from the hostel wave away the cameras. It has all the makings of an ugly scene.

X     The police are just not co-operating here. They are refusing to assist in any way possible and they are not even prepared to link me up with the Commanding Officer. I felt if that's the case then we shouldn't force ourselves into the situation and we should go to the hospital.

     What should happen is this, those taxis are being forced inside the hostel.  As you can see the   is just next to the hostel and every time when there is fighting taxis are just being forced into the hostels with the passengers and many people have died right inside these hostels.

POM     He was talking about the hostels being a very dangerous place.

X     Every time when there is fighting it goes into the hostels.  People are getting killed there inside the hostels.

POM     They're killed

X     The other thing is that the people who are residing next to the hostels are getting intimidated and as a result are joining Inkatha for protection. But now you find a situation whereby those residents who stay next to the hostel have joined Inkatha but on the other hand have actually joined the ANC as well. We're having a meeting as a member of Inkatha but this is not our job, our job is the ANC.  One to two hours after the meeting there will be fighting.

POM     When they have the meetings where do they usually have the meetings? Do they have them in the hostels?

X     In the hostels.

POM     If they go across the street, will they be targeted?

X     I think something should be done.

POM     The hospital is spelt Natalspruit. The hospital ground is absolutely choc-a-bloc full of people. Once again these would be refugees from the ANC. These are very definitely ANC supporters. The ambulance in which these are attendants or policemen sitting on the top. Our driver appears to have lost his way in the hospital grounds. The schools we have noticed are ringed by barbed wire. It's almost as if the schools were fenced in. Affected schools are fenced in.

     Fifty percent of the residents of Thokoza may have flooded the area. This is a very extensive looking hospital lined with 200 boxes, 15 in a row. This place too is also surrounded by barbed wire.

X     All come around. The families who are squatting here because they had to run away from where they come from. I think if we can just listen to them. We are trying to keep everybody else away as much as possible because we cannot consult. Just listen to their story and what they say to us and then we will make arrangements in the meantime. If we can't go into the wards in an orderly way I would rather, for the sake of the patients, not go there because if we go and create chaos for patients it's not going to be helpful. I think we should listen to those who are here.

     Perhaps - it's a bit orderly to ask questions if you want to ask questions to understand what happened.

X     They came in my shack, they asked me to produce the Inkatha card. They said I should produce and I told them I don't have that Inkatha card. Then they begin to hit on me.

     (We are asking her to show us where did they hit her.)

X     Here are the wounds. Those are the wounds because she couldn't produce her Inkatha card.  The one here is Agnes. They just came to my shack. They took me and all my belongings. They took everything, the whole things I've got, the chairs, the stove, whatever I had they took it along with them. They took me into a and one of them pleaded that they should not hit me, that I had to rather

     He had to explain the full statement because at one stage they thought she was already dead when they left her. They threw me into a pit, they thought I was dead. They had when they hit me and she was in a pit. At twelve o'clock pm she woke up and run but she couldn't run well because she was now really hurt.

X     How long ago did this happen?

X     It happened on 21st of last month.

POM     She's Xhosa speaking?

X     She said she was alone and there were no others in the pit. She said there were many corpses there, dead people, people were dead.

POM     Many corpses, dead people.

X     The people who I ran away from, I ran away with, there were cards and they were in pieces and they were dead. I had to run alone from that place.

X     How many people were there?

X     She couldn't identify the number, how many were there.

MZ     I am Meki Zondo, I'm a resident in Thokoza. I am a Zulu. At my place there came a group of Xhosas, they started to beat people and they kill my two girls and a man disappeared at my place. The same group, they even hit one woman who was pregnant with a panga and when she ran to next door she couldn't make it, she fell there so they could attack again.  That's the only story she can tell.

X     Approximately how many families are here?

X     The one is Mr Africa.  I am a person who stays in a shack in Thokoza and a group of people came. Those two arrived there and they started killing. They killed three people and one woman they thought she was dead. He's around here.

POM     He produces four cartridges.

X     During that attack I had quite a few little things that I can use as evidence during the time of investigation. I am afraid to go to the police because entry into a police station was not that much good. They just allow us to go through but I am a Xhosa I couldn't go to a police station.

POM     He's a Xhosa attacked by a Zulu.

X     Can I just say that we will stop at this stage. Just follow me, we're going to walk around the corner and I will explain once we are there because if we go the other way we're going to have difficulties. I would like us to just say a prayer with these people before we leave.

POM     The latrines were put in for the refugees. We won't go through the wards and see any people because the parade of people could create just confusion and pandemonium in the wards.

     All over the grounds people are sitting with their few possessions. Rather I should say with their blankets that have been supplied by the hospital. At night they're allowed to go inside. It seems the Xhosa police forces have a problem, they align themselves with Inkatha. Even Park police are neutral.

X      who are Zulus like ourselves, because these are Zulus.

X     What they are trying to say is that they are killed because they are forced to join Inkatha. If you don't join Inkatha then you become a victim.

POM     Did they burn down her house? Was her house burnt down?

X     They are making some arrangements to go there and go and stand while they burn the house. They have not burnt it yet.

POM     People at the bottom, at the hospital, it's one big department. Almost all mothers, women with children, small children, very, very young children. One of the Zulu women said that she was intimidated out of her house because she wouldn't join Inkatha so the line is that if you are a Zulu you will be killed or your house burned unless you join Inkatha. This has become a real media circus the Eisenberg Principle, the act of observation changes the nature of the thing being observed. There is no way that Buthelezi could have gone to Phola Park this morning. They would have strangled him to death.

     Part of the Zulu reaction in the hostels is, of course, that they perceive the SACC to be an agent of the ANC.

     We are now at the point of this pilgrimage, circus, whatever you want to call it, where the media are spending more time talking to the media.

     One woman that's lost two children, one daughter aged 21 leaves three children and she must now care for the three. The clergymen lay their hands on her and pray for her. The TV cameras whiz, it's a photo opportunity.

     Joe Slovo travels back on the bus with more of the dignitaries. He travelled on that bus on a previous occasion.

     There's an absolute preoccupation with physical safety.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.