June 1999 to September 1999

Well-established patterns of violence have continued since the June elections. These patterns include armed robberies and attacks on farmers(two died in the Weenen area), the terrorisation of township residents by well-armed thugs, and taxi conflict. At least two young children, aged five and six, were raped and murdered (in Groutville and Klaarwater). Children were conspicuous amongst the victims of violence, and that some lost their lives playing with grenades they had found raises serious questions about the source of such weapons of war.Many of the incidents, including the deaths of party political representatives, have clear political overtones. However, in a number of instances there is no evident motive, not even robbery, and attacks and murders appear acts of wanton terror, especially when the killings are execution style. What is of grave concern – and should receive immediate and urgent attention from the government – is the constant threat to the safety and security of residents in many rural areas.

Whilst there has been much media speculation about the possibility of South Africa sending soldiers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, protection for large numbers of rural folk appears minimal or non-existent. They may be subject to raids of their homes, or may even be shot dead, by people claiming to be members of the security forces – but the security forces deny involvement. Amongst areas in which people have had to sleep in the bushes at night during this past four month period are kwaMaci(Harding), parts of Msinga, and Manzamnyama/Matholonjeni (inland from Mtunzini). In many other areas, including the Dunn clan area of Mangete (near Mandeni) residents face constant harassment and threat of attack. Despite the reported presence of a SAPS field unit in the area, large groups of men armed with guns such as R1s, R4s, R5s and AK47s roam the Dalton area, shooting people dead in broad daylight. Some of the attacks on white farmers, such as that carried out on 60 year old Mrs Norris-Jones in Colenso, take place in areas where it is known that well armed bands are terrorising black residents. In some violence wracked areas, the alleged actions of farmers themselves and/or traditional leaders are exacerbating tensions and open hostilities, as illustrated by events in Vryheid and Msinga, discussed below.

Tremendous problems are experienced in trying to quantify the violence because of the reluctance of the police to provide detailed breakdowns of killings in their areas of operations, and the insistence that only official police sources – some with questionable backgrounds – release statistics. The Natal Monitor has recorded a figure of at least 205 deaths in ‘political’ violence over this period, but this figure is so minimal as to be misleading, for it does not include full totals for areas where killings are known to continue(as in KwaMashu hostels or a number of rural areas). A brief overview of the main trends in the different regions follows:

North Coast/Northern KZN

In the post-election period, incidents involving deaths and/or threats and harassment with party political overtones were recorded in a number of areas, including Pongola (where ANC/IFP tensions overlap with struggles around traditional leadership), Nongoma (where ANC supporters have been attacked and killed), and Melmoth (an ANC party worker was killed shortly after the elections). In areas around Ngoya, Mtunzini, Gingindlovu and Isithebe deaths may have political links. Residents of the Mangete area near Mandeni continued to suffer harassment (burning of sugar cane) and threats, with sporadic attacks, especially on elderly folk, taking place, in an apparent effort to dislodge them from their ancestral land. In KwaDukuza the murder of an IFP councillor, seemingly unrelated to politics, assumed political overtones, and a number of other murders followed.

Durban Functional area

Immediately after the elections, reports were received that a witch-hunt was underway to identify residents of the KwaMashu hostels, and a number of deaths (20 at the very least), some of whom had been shot execution-style, followed. Criminal-cum-political gangs continued their reign of terror in L Section of the same township. A spate of killings in nearby Richmond Farm also appear linked to gang activities – which must also be interpreted within the context of political-cum-policing dynamics in the area. After a period of relative peace, killings – reportedly related to ANC/IFP tensions – resumed once again in S J Smith hostels (near Umlazi). Taxi-related deaths were recorded in a number of parts of Durban, including in Inanda, Umlazi and Mpumalanga. Members of the SANDF were arrested following an execution-style massacre in KwaMakhuta.

South Coast

Although relatively quiet, there have been sporadic incidents in a number of areas, including in the Lower South Coast areas of Malangeni (Umzinto), Mthwalume, KwaMadlala and Harding. Tensions are rising in the Umthwalume area between supporters of the Fynn family, who claim historical rights to traditional leadership, and the incumbent inkosi.

Midland/Inland

This period saw a spate of attacks on ANC councillors, in which two died (Thulani Tetani in Georgedale and Albert Ndlovu in kwaNyavu), and another, Titus Ngubane, the mayor of Greytown, narrowly escaped death when a military-type explosive device placed under his car failed to explode. In the Vulindlela area (Pietermaritzburg), the IFP blamed the shooting dead of two supporters in June on the ANC.

Political-cum-faction fighting continued unabated in a number of areas, including around Dalton, eMatimatolo, Nquthu and Colenso. The dynamics of the conflict in Msinga show clearly the links between clan rivalry, politics and traditional leadership.

In Msinga leaders of the six traditional leadership authorities form the Mzinyathi Regional Council and are alleged to play a visible political role, in terms of promoting party politics, including in preventing freedom of political activity and voting during the June elections. Development initiatives are also politicised – and the problem of violence is compounded by the exceedingly poor infrastructure (lack of roads and telephones). Residents claim that the application of the label ‘faction fighting’ to the regular killings in the area obscures the political nature of the conflict, which also overlaps with taxi-linked violence. There are also extremely serious allegations of political partisanship on the part of the local police.

In the Newcastle/Utrecht/Vryheid areas there are simmering racial tensions linked to the position of labour tenants on farms, whose situation has, if anything worsened, rather than improved since 1994. It is alleged, amongst other things, that tenants’ cattle are unjustly impounded and can only be recovered if fines are paid the family life of the tenants is severely disrupted subsistence farming is prohibited the burial of loved ones on the farms on which the families live is prevented there are problems in accessing water supplies Particularly serious are allegations of gross intimidation and assault of tenants, which may also involve security force members, and of the removal of tenants as land is taken over for private game reserve purposes. This process of tenant eviction to make way for game farms is being interpreted – perhaps quite incorrectly – as a way of creating a ‘volkstaat’. In this regard, areas around Othame, Gluckstadt, Magudu and Vryheid are mentioned.

Comment

Towards securing rural safety
Serious as the problems in urban areas such as KwaMashu are, they could be dealt with relatively easily were there a commitment to a true restructuring of policing on the part of the powers-that-be. Whilst the same is true, to some extent, with regard to rural violence, the nature of the terrain, and the lack of infrastructure, presents far more serious challenges – and the longer the situation is allowed to fester, the more intractable the problem may become.

The safety of millions of rural residents, including white farmers, is being jeopardised by an apparent lack of a coherent strategy to deal with the violence, starting with a shake up of policing. To cite but one example, it is totally unacceptable that after five years of destabilisation in Mangete, in which a neighbouring traditional leader is allegedly implicated, the situation is worsening rather than improving – despite numerous appeals to police, army and the Department of Land Affairs. Increasingly, too, the violence is impacting on all-important income-generating tourist attractions such as nature reserves.

The following steps should be considered as a matter of urgency:
Firstly, there is a need for far more transparency about the numbers of people dying in different areas. This is public information, and should be immediately available to any interested party, including monitors and the media, from police stations themselves. The paucity of the information currently available is obscuring the seriousness of the situation. Attacks on white farmers at least receive mention in the media – unlike the deaths of the majority of black rural residents. Why the secrecy? Details of deaths and attacks leading to injury and arson should be available at each and every police station.

Secondly, immediate attention must be paid to the pitiful plight of large numbers of farm tenants, and the role that certain farmers are playing in human rights abuses – which would include an evaluation of the effects of current land legislation. The situation in which tenants find themselves is exacerbated by the lack of funding for human rights lawyers who could act on their behalf. Consideration should be given to establishing a fact finding body, or utilise an existing body such as the Human Rights Commission, to investigate and report on what is happening, including circumstances surrounding the proliferation of private game farms.

Thirdly, ways must be found – through e.g. discussions at party leadership level, and proposed new local government legislation – of depoliticising traditional leadership. The increasing politicisation of the role of these leaders is retarding democracy (for there is no freedom of political activity in most rural areas) and sorely-needed development. A number of amakhosi are subject to threats and attacks, and political interference is making a mockery of an African norm that ‘a chief is a chief by his people’: Leaders with hereditary rights to their positions, who enjoy popular support, are being challenged because they refuse to take a politically partisan position.

Lastly, the role of the security forces and paramilitary formations such as private security companies are central to problems and solutions in rural security. The problems inherent in rural policing are part of the dismal lack of progress in transforming the SAPS into a nonracial, nonpartisan force. There are tremendous problems in rural areas, which should be addressed through, at the very least, transfers of personnel, and more effective monitoring of police activities. Given the nature of the violence – the presence of huge quantities of weaponry, and large formations of armed men, the presence of army patrols is vital in many areas here in KZN, and not in the Congo. At the same time, as the tragedy at the Tempe base during September showed, the army, too, has its problems – including insofar as discipline is concerned. On a number of occasions, soldiers have allegedly been involved in violence in this probince (recent arrests in connection with KwaMakhuta killings being a recent example). Whilst the presence of soldiers can play a very important role in reducing violence, their operations, too, must be closely monitored.

Finally, the need for far tighter control over the operations of private security companies is long overdue, and should be introduced with immediate effect. Such controls should include mandatory registration, with full particulars about directors and linked companies, an audit of weapons in the possession of these companies, full details about staff employed and areas of operation, and an effective monitoring body. Until stringent controls are introduced over such operations requests to grant additional powers to this sector should not even be considered. In a fragile democracy such as ours, the presence of a huge, poorly regulated privatised security sector can pose a serious challenge to the authority of the State.