Upsurge in attacks on IFP after election date set in July 1993

Anthea Jeffery | Jun 12, 2019
‘In the ten days following the Tembisa massacre the death toll on the east Rand alone rose to more than 200.’

The ruthless drive for power behind the people’s war waged by the ANC from 1984 to 1994 is thrown into sharp relief by the organisation’s sustained assault on its key black rival, the IFP, writes Anthea Jeffery in this extract from the new abridged edition of her book, People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa.

[Violence flared further after the Multiparty Negotiating Process, at a meeting on 2nd July 1993, had adopted 27 April 1994 as the election date.] Within a week, some 70 people were killed in KwaZulu/Natal. Among the dead were eight IFP supporters killed in Patheni, the only settlement in the Richmond area in which Inkatha still retained a presence.

IFP supporters had already been driven out of neighbouring Ndaleni and Gengeshe, and those living in Patheni were afraid of further attack. The IFP tried to protect the women and children of the settlement by getting them to sleep together and posting a line of sentries to stand guard around the perimeter. But the IFP made the mistake of spreading the sentries too thin, as the International Herald Tribune reported.

A raiding party stole into the valley under cover of darkness and found a homestead where women and children lay sleeping on the floor. Gunmen emptied automatic weapons into the dwelling, killing eight and wounding five. The oldest victim was 70, the youngest six months old. The IFP blamed the ANC for the killings and retaliated the next day, killing nine youths in a raid on what was now the ANC stronghold of Ndaleni.

On the east Rand, attacks on the IFP intensified still further. On 3 July, the day after the setting of the election date, gunmen burst into the Tembisa house of IFP branch chairman Petrus Masenya and shot him dead. Another IFP branch chairman, Patrick Khanyile, was gunned down at his Tembisa home. Three IFP supporters were shot and injured near Tokoza, while another IFP member was hacked to death in nearby Katlehong.

The following day the smell of roasting human flesh hung heavy in the air in Katlehong, where a reporter for The Citizen came across a crowd of ANC supporters who were burning alive three people they accused of being IFP members. ‘Sizitholile Izinja. Siyazitshisa,’ they chanted. ‘We found the dogs and we are burning them. Viva, Viva ANC, Long Live the African National Congress,’ they shouted over and over again. ‘I have lived in the township of Katlehong for all my 36 years, but I have never seen such savagery as I witnessed then,’ the journalist wrote.

The death toll on the east Rand rose to 90 within six days, to 120 within another four. The ANC blamed the violence on Inkatha hostel dwellers and accused the security forces of being unwilling to end the conflict. An ANC statement read, ‘This violence is clearly orchestrated to coincide with the recent announcement of a date for the first non-racial elections. It is an attempt to blackmail the country into delaying democracy through free elections.’...

The police countered that the ANC’s SDUs were responsible for most of the killings. So too were the many Umkhonto operatives who had been deployed to the east Rand in recent weeks. The IFP was more blunt, saying, ‘This is systematic, orchestrated violence by the ANC against the IFP on the east Rand.’

The violence spread to Wadeville, near Germiston (also on the east Rand), where a taxi returning from the IFP’s Ulundi congress was stopped by a man wearing a camouflage uniform and carrying a torch. ‘We thought he was a member of the SADF,’ one of the passengers later explained. Ten gunmen dressed in brown army uniforms and carrying AK-47 rifles then stepped forward and surrounded the taxi. Seven Zulus were identified and separated from the rest of the passengers. They were taken to a field near the premises of Scaw Metals, a steel-manufacturing firm. Here, they were ordered to lie face down on the ground and shot in the back of the head...

[Soon afterwards, on Sunday 25 July, came] the killing of Absalom Shozi, an elderly IFP constituency chairman in Katlehong and one of Inkatha’s most influential leaders in the township. The attack began with the burning down of Shozi’s home, from which his wife and children fled. When Shozi went to look for his family, he was attacked by youths who dragged him into the veld and stabbed, shot and burnt him to death.... Shozi’s death brought the number of people killed on the east Rand since 2 July to 255 and the overall death toll in political violence in less than a month to over 500.

The next upsurge came a few days later in Tembisa on the east Rand. Here, fear and anger had been building for six weeks, fuelled by the killing of 16 township residents and persistent ANC accusations that IFP supporters at the Vuzimusi Hostel were to blame for these deaths. The simmering tension exploded on Saturday 31 July, when a resident of the Vusimuzi Hostel was burnt alive – and hundreds of hostel dwellers poured out on to the streets to wreak revenge. Some set up a roadblock where they stopped and assailed all cars travelling to and from the township. Others went to the Mthambeka section of Tembisa, where they attacked township residents at random. Twenty-one people were killed outright.

Another ten died in hospital, bringing the death toll to 31.

Fierce fighting broke out in Tokoza the following day, when township residents attacked a hostel and the hostel dwellers again took violent revenge. Police battling to keep the factions apart found themselves under continuous gunfire. A policeman was killed in the mêlée, bringing the total number of police deaths in the first seven months of the year to 130...

By the end of the weekend, close on a hundred people had been burned, shot or hacked to death on the east Rand. Hundreds of residents fled their blazing homes, while the streets were criss-crossed with barricades and ambush trenches and littered with the remains of charred corpses and burnt-out vehicles. The nearby Germiston mortuary could no longer accommodate the dead and bodies had to be taken further afield. In various areas, boulders were rolled on to railway lines and gunmen clambered up the sides of cuttings to strafe passing trains in sustained crossfire. Huge tank traps were dug in township streets to ambush patrolling Casspirs. Militant youths manned the barricades, chanting ‘one settler, one bullet’ and stoning passers-by. One youth told a journalist, ‘We are looking for the Zulus.’

In the ten days following the Tembisa massacre the death toll on the east Rand alone rose to more than 200. Again, many of the victims were burnt to death while others were hacked or shot. One woman was decapitated. In Tokoza IFP chairman Simon Mazibuko was abducted from his home and shot dead,...[bringing] the total number of IFP leaders slain since 1985 to 306.

By August the few remaining IFP hostels on the east Rand were under siege, armed groups blockading them and cutting off their access to the outside world. So great was the plight of the hostel residents that even the ANC-oriented Weekly Mail & Guardian was moved to report on it with some degree of sympathy. Wrote Amy Waldman in mid-August:

Toilet paper, mealie meal, soap, cigarettes and chocolate may seem harmless items – but last week it took three Nyala armoured police vehicles to get them into Katlehong’s Mazibuko and Buyafuthi hostels … The two hostels are completely cut off from the outside world. Many inmates have not left the hostels for days or weeks.

‘Tell them they must let the trains run,’ says one Mazibuko inmate. ‘If not, we have to take taxis to get to work and then they attack us easily.’ … All the surrounding shops are closed – but even if they were open the hostel dwellers would not hazard the walk. ‘We would be shot’, they say matter-of-factly.

The police stand guard as a food convoy is quickly unloaded. The men say they will share the food among all the hostel inmates, many of whom are unemployed. ‘We circulate it because we can’t get transport to get food, and we have lost work because of the violence,’ said one … ‘If a worker is away from work for a month, he is going to be fired.’


The updated and abridged edition of People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa by Dr Anthea Jeffery, Head of Policy Research at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is published by Jonathan Ball Publishers and is available in all good bookstores.


Note: Former Azapo president Ishmael Mkhabela will be joining Dr Jeffery at the Cape Town launch of People’s War at Exclusive Books at the V&A Waterfront tomorrow evening (13 June) at 6pm. IRR CEO Frans Cronje will host the proceedings. RSVP: 011 798 0180



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