THE SCORPIONS, CONTINUED : IS THERE MORE TO THE PIKOLI SUSPENSION THAN MEETS THE MEDIA EYE?

The suspension by President Mbeki of NPA head Vusi Pikoli on 24 September 2007, on grounds of irretrievable breakdown in his relationship with the Minister of Justice, spawned a frenzy of media speculation about the ‘real’ reasons for this action. Predictions about dire consequences for the country followed and, given the recent issuing of search and arrest warrants for National SAPS Commissioner Selebi – and the withdrawal of the arrest warrant after Pikoli’s suspension – conclusions were drawn that Pikoli was suspended to protect Selebi from prosecution. The suspension was linked by some to other recent events causing media disquiet, such as the alleged tapping of the cellphone of Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya, Various accusations against the Presidency followed, including that it had lied to the public. It was also accused of ‘depravity’ and of bringing the country to its most ‘dangerous and perilous moment’ (there is no mention of the fact that tools to intercept cellphones are available to private persons as well as the State). What is striking in much of the comment is a general lack of critical analysis by significant sectors of the media which takes into account easily accessible facts about the performance of the Scorpions since the unit’s establishment eight years ago, which places the suspension of Pikoli in perspective.

Malicious prosecutions and trial by media
In 2000 this newly formed unit (then known as IDOC) brought a malicious prosecution against two highly respected and competent black police members in kwaZulu-Natal, Director Eric Nkabinde and Captain Sipho Mbele, both of whom had long, unblemished, service records. Selective leaks to the media followed, together with strenuous efforts by the unit to delay the court case. Under cross examination in the court the then KZN head of IDOC, Advocate Chris Macadam, who was responsible for bringing the charges against the men, not only admitted that they were without any substance, but conceded that the laying of charges, and the media publicity surrounding them, were effective in imputing in the minds of the general public the guilt of those so charged, even if they were subsequently found innocent.*

The two police members were totally exonerated by the court, and the presiding senior magistrate queried whether it was not the man responsible for the prosecution who should have been charged for defeating the ends of justice. One of the accused was then the most senior black detective in the province : The strategically-timed prosecution cost him a pending promotion, and dealt a mortal blow to the transformation of policing in kwaZulu-Natal. These two men subsequently sued the State successfully for wrongful prosecution.

Undeterred, another malicious prosecution, that of magistrate Ashin Singh, followed. Singh had initially been a member of IDOC but had incurred the wrath of Macadam by, among other things, pointing out that the unit had arrested the wrong people for the massacre in Richmond which followed the assassination of Sifiso Nkabinde (he was subsequently proved right). At one of the court hearings of Nkabinde and Mbele

*See ‘The Scorpions : Trial by innuendo – and the media’ and report on Richmond Tavern Massacre (both 2003) at www.violencemonitor.com

Singh had produced a tape recording which appeared to confirm that the charges against them had been fabricated. This tape was among the items subsequently seized from Singh’s home after it was surrounded by a heavily armed SWAT team. It was never heard of again!

The prosecution of Singh was led by Advocate Billie Downer, whose star witness, Macadam, proceeded to contradict himself under oath. The case came to an abrupt halt when the presiding magistrate ordered a permanent stay of prosecution because those responsible had acted unlawfully. Singh opened a case of defeating the ends of justice and leading false evidence under oath against those involved in his prosecution, but the office of the DPP refused to prosecute. He then applied for permission to bring a private prosecution but the acting judge presiding in the matter ruled that a private person could not bring a prosecution against State prosecutors. In 2005 Singh announced that he was suing the NPA for R3million, and that case is still pending.

Advocate Macadam is still with the Scorpions, As far as can be ascertained, no action has been taken against him, and he continues to occupy an influential position. He is by no means the only member of Scorpions staff of highly questionable background.

Who runs the Scorpions?
In January 2005 Advocate Pikoli assumed directorship of the NPA, in which position he bears overall responsibility for its constituent units, including the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO/Scorpions), which unit is headed by Advocate Leonard McCarthy. A key question arising from his recent suspension is whether he is actually in control of the unit.

The 2003 Monitor report on the Scorpions detailed the way in which numerous Old Guard elements – including members of the apartheid security branch – were quick to manoeuvre themselves into key positions when the unit was established. Under apartheid members of this elite arm of the SAP, while associated mainly with the worst forms of overt repression, were also deployed in other sectors of policing (SANAB, commercial crime), and were highly skilled in all manner of propaganda and disinformation in general.

Various events since the release of that report have confirmed the continued presence of the Old Guard, and have also highlighted the use of highly problematic private security companies by the Scorpions, and the alleged role of persons who appear to have links with foreign intelligence agencies. For example :

• In its submission to the Khampepe Commission, appointed in 2005 to Inquire into the Mandate and Location of the DSO, NIA claimed that the unit had been infiltrated by foreign intelligence operatives, including through using private security companies with links to such overseas structures;
• Private security companies were used in raids carried out on Jacob Zuma’s offices in the presidency in August 2005. These companies would thus have had access, through Zuma’s computers, to highly confidential government information. In October 2005 the spokesperson for the Scorpions reportedly told the media that these companies employed ‘undesirables’; he could not, however, say whether the contracts had been cancelled, or had expired. The raid on Zuma’s house which took place at the same time was apparently ordered by Advocate Thanda Mngwengwe, who, co-incidentally, was the prosecutor in the Nkabinde and Mbele case, Mngwengwe, who was then in an Acting capacity, has since been promoted to head Scorpions Operations, despite apparently having made a serious mistake in executing a warrant for the search of Zuma’s house, leading to goods seized being returned to him
• The Scorpions allegedly sub-contract work to private security companies with links to apartheid security structures and hand over their work to the Unit, and might be paid a percentage of the value of, e.g. a drug bust. In assisting with investigations they have access to highly confidential information which could impinge upon State security
• According to media reports, the former head of security at ACSA at O R Tambo airport, and ‘self confessed’ British intelligence operative, Paul O’Sullivan, who features prominently in the investigations into Selebi, was claimed by South African intelligence sources to have a ‘grossly inappropriate’ relationship with certain Scorpions investigators, even to the extent of doing work they should have been doing
• In May 2007 the infamous Browser Mole report, linking Jacob Zuma with a network of individuals assisting him to overthrow Mbeki was leaked to the media. It had already been rejected by State intelligence organs as a fraud, but was accepted by the Scorpions. It was subsequently reported to be the work of former apartheid and foreign intelligence operatives. One of the persons linked to this report had also allegedly been involved in another controversial report during the tenure of the former NPA head, Ngcuka, linking Zuma to Mozambiquan druglords.

Pikoli conceded, following on the raids on Zuma home and office, that they ‘might have been a bit over the top’, in their use of men armed with assault rifles (which, judging from a similar raid on the home of Ashin Singh, is not an isolated event). He was also reported not to have known about the use of private security at the government office (this raid was eight months after he assumed office), and promising to investigate this aspect. He subsequently also undertook to investigate whether it was true that O’Sullivan was using Scorpions computers, which would also constitute a serious security breach.

Pikoli seems to have been unable to stop the leakages from his unit to the media despite the criticism by the Kampephe Commission about its making public information about investigations, with the attendant consequences for the rights of those under investigation.

The case against Selebi
On 10 September 2007 the Scorpions obtained a warrant to arrest Selebi and, four days later, another, search warrant. These warrants were reportedly linked to charges of racketeering, corruption, and defeating the ends of justice. The issuing of these warrants followed on more than a year of selective media leaks about investigations into Selebi for his alleged connection to organised crime.

It seems that investigations involving Selebi started after the Scorpions were handed a ‘secret dossier’ linking him and other police members to Mafia-type criminal syndicates, together with a man described by Selebi as a ‘friend’, Glen Agliotti and Clinton Nassif, the former head of security for murdered mining tycoon Brett Kebble.

The dossier in question appears to have been the work of former British intelligence operative Paul O’Sullivan, who may or may not still be linked to foreign spy networks. By his own admission, O’Sullivan has a grudge against Selebi, who he blames for his having lost the ACSA contract (it seems, however, that he did not receive the requisite security clearance). O’Sullivan is said to be the source of the allegation that Selebi received a R50 000, 00 bribe and has an overseas bank account in which to stash his ill-gotten gains.

The case against Selebi is intertwined with investigations into the murder of Brett Kebble in 2005, and is part of the Scorpions ‘Bad Guys’ project. It is alleged (by those accused of the murder!) that Kebble had planned his own death for insurance claim purposes, and that Clinton Nassif had recruited the killers (three bouncers – also said to be police informers) and paid them with money provided by Agliotti, who is said to have controlled JCI slush funds. It is O’Sullivan who took statements from possible witnesses in this matter on behalf of Scorpions investigators. The DSO was unable to respond to media enquiries about a non-staff member taking statements in this matter

Much of the media hype around this case is remarkably thin on facts and thick with speculation, but, from these reports, the case against Selebi appears to rest largely on supposed evidence provided by Agliotti and Nassif. Agliotti is the pivotal figure in the charges involving Selebi (he is also allegedly a police informer). He is named in media reports as implicated in international smuggling and drug dealing in South Africa, and is apparently believed by the Scorpions to have been a conduit for funds from Kebble’s mining company JCI to Selebi. Agliotti has been arrested for the Kebble murder, and has reportedly been offered indemnity in this matter in return for spilling the beans about Selebi. While he is said to have been co-operating with investigators, there are conflicting reports about whether or not he had made a sworn statement about Selebi implicating Selebi in wrong doing, or is prepared to do so.

Agliotti and Nassif are described as friends and fellow drug peddlers, both are implicated, with others, and both have been charged, in a R250million drug case. Nassif has apparently plea bargained, agreeing to give evidence implicating Agliotti in both the drugs case and the Kebble killing in return for a suspended sentence in the drugs case. Nassif, too, is said to be a police drugs informant, who allegedly used that status to move his own drugs, and is linked to a variety of other criminal offences (for which he reportedly wants indemnity), including insurance fraud and attempted murder.

Putting the Selebi case in perspective
Once the trees have been stripped away so that the wood is visible the case against Selebi looks very weak, relying as it appears to do on one man who is described as a crime kingpin (Agliotti) and another who has himself, in his plea bargain, confirmed his involvement in drug dealing (Nassif), and whose knowledge of the alleged criminal relationship between Agliotti and Selebi appears to rest on hearsay.

Experienced police members confirm that it is not difficult to construct a case against an accused, even if innocent, in order to obtain a warrant of arrest. After all, Mbele, Nkabinde, and Singh were charged despite court proceedings showing the lack of substance in the charges The point has been made that the Scorpions have on more than one occasion brought malicious prosecutions. They can also point to their success in obtaining a conviction in the high profile Schabir Shaik case. One swallow, however, does not make a summer and, given their resources, and rampant organised crime and corruption in South Africa, their track record leaves much to be desired. What should be a matter of grave concern to the public is the extent to which their cases appear to rely on plea bargaining and deals around indemnity for people accused of extremely serious cases such as murder and drug dealing. Making a favourable impression in court is no guarantee that the testimony is honest, since psychopaths are known for their ability to lie with aplomb!

Given the national and international repercussions of charging the national police commissioner, who is also the head of Interpol, it is perfectly understandable that the government should take steps to check on the status of the case – especially in the light of the well known antipathy between the accuser and the accused linked to the turf war between the Scorpions and the police.

There seems little doubt that the involvement of the Presidency stems from the breakdown in the relationship between Pikoli and the Minister to whom he is constitutionally bound to report. The strained relationship between them is a long standing one, with the President having had to intervene on previous occasions. It appears occasioned by Pikoli’s having failed to keep the Minister informed about high profile cases with implications for the stability of the country, including the 2005 Zuma raids – despite Pikoli himself having conceded, when questioned by the Kampephe Commission, that the Minister of Justice could call upon him to explain why materials had been seized and the reasons for prosecutions.

The fact that there has been no progress in implementing the proposals of the Kampephe Commission that the Scorpions should remain within the NPA, but that their investigators should fall under the Minister of Selebi suggests that reports of Pikoli’s unwillingness to engage, not only with the Minister of Justice, but also with the Minister of Safety and Security, are correct. It also seems that Pikoli wishes to fly in the face of the Commission’s findings, and pursue an agenda of autonomy for the unit.

Only time will tell how strong the cases against Selebi and Zuma are. However, what is obvious is that the well-established Scorpions tactic of trial by media has succeeded in fuelling deep divisions within the ruling party. That, presumably, is purely a co-incidence.

THE SCORPIONS : A FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER?

THE SCORPIONS : TRIAL BY INNUENDO – AND THE MEDIA?

Like a bolt out of the blue, in June 1999, SAPS Director Eric Nkabinde’s planned trip to the USA, to attend a specialised training course, was cancelled at the eleventh hour, causing great inconvenience. The SAPS had received a letter from Advocate Chris Macadam, then head of the newly-formed Scorpions in KwaZulu-Natal, informing them that Nkabinde, the most senior black detective in the province, was about to be arrested. This letter was the first that Nkabinde had heard that he was under investigation, and for several months his lawyer attempted to obtain details. He was unsuccessful: Although he was told, verbally, that there were no charges, nothing was put in writing. At the same time, in August 1999, defamatory articles appeared in two newspapers alleging that police members, including Nkabinde, were under investigation. On the day these articles appeared, MacAdam issued a signed, joint statement with police PRO officer Bala Naidoo claiming that the reports were ‘blatant’ lies – and contradicting the contents of the June letter to police management. Finally, at the end of November 1999,  as he was about to be appointed to the key position of head of detectives in KZN, charges were brought against Nkabinde, and Captain Mbele, whose team had made stunning breakthroughs in the Richmond violence. These charges related to their alleged handling of the Richmond investigations. Almost immediately counsel for the accused was obliged to place on record apparent attempts to obstruct the cause of justice. The fact that the case against these two police members was heard, and finalised, in June 2000 was due to the efforts and perseverance of legal counsel for the accused, since the Scorpions used various tactics to attempt to delay its finalisation  – which was hardly surprising: Under cross-examination, Macadam conceded that there was no substance in any of the charges. In the Judgment, the two accused were totally exonerated, Mbele was praised for the quality of his Richmond investigations, and the presiding senior magistrate queried whether it was not Macadam who should have been charged for defeating the ends of justice. This trial, which had almost ruined the careers of two distinguished and competent police members, showed the Scorpions to be guilty of improper, unethical and unlawful conduct, at huge State expense.

 

Under cross examination during the trial, Macadam conceded that the laying of charges, and media publicity surrounding them, were effective in imputing in the minds of the general public the guilt of those so charged, even if they were subsequently found innocent. 

 

In other words, the use of trial by media has been integral to the tactics used by the Scorpions since their inception. It is unfortunate that the same tactics, i.e. a selective use of the media rather than normal criminal investigative procedures, as laid down in the Criminal Procedure Act,  are now being used on politicians – not because they should not be investigated (of course they should, if there are grounds for believing they have engaged in criminal activities) but because any attempt now to ask important questions about the composition, modus operandi and achievements of this unit are likely to be interpreted as intending to protect them. Let it be made perfectly clear that

 

  • The Natal Monitor has repeatedly criticised the Scorpions and      has been calling for over three years – both in public statements and      correspondence with Ministers and (ironically) the Presidency – for a      critical re-appraisal of its role in the criminal justice system. In fact,      it seems to have been the only body with the temerity to challenge them.
  • The Natal Monitor holds no brief for Deputy President Jacob      Zuma or any other politician, but believes that persons accused of crimes      are innocent until proven guilty and should be subject to acceptable just and fair  procedures which include being charged,  if there is sufficient evidence, and appearing in court before being      subject to what can be scurrilous media speculations. In other words, the Scorpions’ cavalier approach to the      provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act is completely unacceptable,      regardless of the status of the accused.

 

What is disturbing is the invariable and uncritical use of the term ‘elite’ in references to this unit, without any penetrating questions being asked about whether it actually deserves the accolades heaped upon it. Who are the Scorpions, and what exactly have they achieved that their praises should be sung so loudly? Are the emperors’ clothes really as splendid as the besotted media and general public, seem to think?

 

 

THE SCORPIONS : OLD WINE IN NEW WINESKINS?

The Directorate of Special Operations, known as the Scorpions, operates in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act of 1998 and its 2000 amendment, which make provision for the establishment of Directorates, including one with a ‘limited investigative capacity’ to investigate serious criminal activities conducted in an ‘organised’ manner [defined in Sec 7(1)(b)] and, if warranted, instigate criminal proceedings. The Investigating Directorate operates under the control and directions of the office of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), and is responsible to a ministerial co-ordinating committee (Section 31). The unit possesses awesome powers of search and seizure, and may conduct investigations at which proceedings take place in camera. In terms of Section 28, wide powers are given to individual investigating directors, or persons so designated, including insofar as determining procedures followed at investigations, and recordings thereof, are concerned.

 

Modelled on America’s FBI, recruits began training in America (the first non-Americans allowed to access its training programme) and Scotland Yard in England in 2000. Well before then, however – by the end of 1998 – employees of the Department of Justice, and police members seconded from the SAPS, started work, including in KwaZulu-Natal. The salaries paid to Scorpions investigators, as opposed to the police, have remained a bone of contention : In 2002 posts for senior investigators were advertised at R190 000, 00 plus benefits – a far higher salary than that of police superintendents with many years of experience, in charge of units with extremely heavy work loads in terms of dockets carried.

 

Despite the ‘new’ image the Scorpions project, most of the unit’s 500 members who had been recruited country-wide by October 2000 were reportedly drawn from the ranks of the police. For an ‘elite’, well-resourced unit, there has been a disappointing lack of transparency around the appointment of members, and allegations of nepotism and favouritism surfaced soon after its formation. During January 2000, Pietermaritzburg-based members admitted that relatives had been employed, in some cases without posts even being advertised. Three months later the unit was being accused, by Department of Justice officials, of ‘lawlessness’ in, among other things, appointing people in jobs that had not been approved and provided for in the department’s budget (it was also accused of ignoring procedures for procurement, overstepping the bounds of its authority, and failing to promote affirmative action). Natal Monitor has attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain clarity in regard to appointments to the unit. In responding to a series of relevant questions posed in a letter dated 22 September 2000, addressed to National Director of Public Prosecutions Ngcuka, the curt reply of his then deputy, Advocate Sonn’s  was ‘We would appreciate any information which would assist us in creating a trusted and clean organisation’. A follow up letter pointing out that questions had not been answered, and elaborating on the issues needing to be addressed, received no response whatsoever.  It was hardly surprising, then, to learn, in June 2003,  that whole human resources staff of the National Prosecuting Authority had been suspended pending an investigation into staff appointments. Why this investigation should only cover appointments during the preceding two year period, i.e. since 2001, given that allegations of nepotism had surfaced by the beginning of 2000, is not clear.

 

In terms of the legislation (Section 19B) special investigators have to be screened by the National Intelligence Agency. Evidence was heard, at the Nkabinde and Mbele trial, of NIA involvement in the Richmond violence – and of NIA obstruction of police investigations conducted by Mbele’s team in Richmond. At that time (2000) – the Scorpions were sharing offices with the selfsame National Intelligence Agency. How credible can security ‘clearances’ from such sources be? According to a press report, two members of the Pietermaritzburg-based unit had criminal convictions, one of them for ‘tubing’ a suspect in 1996. What type of ‘clearance’ fails to prevent criminals from joining an ‘elite’ unit?

 

Nor is it evident what competencies were sought in selecting staff. The head of investigations in KZN, for example, was deemed a suitable appointee (and it is not clear whether his post was ever advertised) despite his having been the subject of stinging criticism for his ‘cutting and pasting’ method of statement- taking by the Hon Judge Hugo in the Magnus Malan et al case. Even more puzzling is the fact that Advocate Macadam continues to occupy a pivotal position, despite the opprobrium arising from what appears to have been a malicious prosecution of Nkabinde and Mbele, as well as his disastrous intervention in the Richmond investigations. Calls for an enquiry into his behaviour were ignored by his superiors. It thus seems extraordinary that he now reportedly heads the Scorpions team dealing with TRC ‘unfinished business’ – especially given his questionable judgment in appointing former apartheid state security police members (names known) to manage the Witness Protection programmes run by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Department of Justice.

 

What is particularly disconcerting is that the elites of the most repressive arm of the apartheid state – its security police members – appear well represented in the ranks of the Scorpions. The crucial role played by this elite police unit in fomenting violence, including in collaboration with Vlakplaas operatives, cannot be overemphasised. To make matters worse, few approached the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reports from extremely credible sources alleged, in 1994, that certain security police members were meeting, secretly, and planning destabilisation strategies against a non-racial government they did not support. It is bad enough that so many of these apartheid-era elites are now in crucial positions in the SAPS – but it is totally unacceptable that they should have been recruited into the Scorpions.

 

  • How many apartheid security      police are there in the Scorpions, who are they, and which positions do      they occupy?  Why are they employed      in a unit which projects a ‘new South Africa’ image?

 

The disregard for the rule of law which characterised apartheid security force operations has been a feature of some of the more controversial operations carried out by the Scorpions :

 

  • In October 1999 members of the unit, together with members of      Public Order Policing, raided the home of former Robben Islander Malusi  Qunene, looking for his brother Bongani. Armed with automatic weapons, and without a search warrant, they reportedly kicked open the door of the house of Qunene’s frail 77 year old grandmother. Scorpions spokesperson  Sipho Ngwema reportedly confirmed that the raid had taken place, and apologised to the family, saying that someone had got the address wrong
  • In October 2000 the Scorpions raided the premises of several      news organisations, including Reuters and Associated Press, in search of      video material on, among other things, the August 1996 killing of Pagad  member Rashid Staggie. A newspaper editorial described the raid – which,  ironically, took place on Media Freedom Day – as the ‘Worst attack on press freedom since 1994’
  • In January 2000 Advocate Macadam allegedly called up a large,      heavily armed police SWOT team to enter the Pietermaritzburg home of  magistrate and former Scorpions member Ashwin Singh, without a warrant, to  seize a tape recording of a discussion concerning the charges which were  brought against Nkabinde and Mbele. The recorded conversation apparently showed MacAdam’s disrespect for his superiors, which is being communicated  to their juniors, and the  construction of charges against senior police officers which MacAdam  appears to acknowledge, were lacking in any substance. During this raid, then, evidence which, if proven genuine, could have been used against the Scorpions was seized by them.

 

THE SCORPIONS AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE  IN KWAZULU-NATAL

One of the enduring myths about the Scorpions is that the unit brought peace to violence-wracked KwaZulu-Natal.  That is not true.  In retrospect, the unit’s intervention in KZN, at that particular point in time (late 1998) is extremely puzzling.  Apart from earlier sporadic police successes (e.g. the successful prosecutions of IFP official Samuel Jamile, the Trust Feed killers, and the Esikhawini hit squads) the period 1995 – 1998 saw the beginning of the first real progress towards dealing with the forces behind political violence, in areas such as Mandini, Mtubatuba and Richmond.  Had there not been unwarranted interference, the situation with regard to police investigations in KZN could only have improved with the replacement of Commissioner Fivas with a democratic government appointee, Commissioner Selebi,in 1999.

 

At the time of Scorpion intervention, divisions within the police, between those working to transform the service and ‘Old guard’ reactionaries was painfully obvious. While it was presumably not their intention, the actions of the Scorpions served to neutralise progressive forces and strengthen the hand of the Old Guard.

 

Scorpion interventions in the violence were on two fronts : Firstly, direct engagement with a functionary of the apartheidState, and secondly with manifestations of violence rooted in apartheid state-sponsored violence. It could be argued that, had this intervention been properly handled, those responsible for the violence would have been exposed and neutralised. That opportunity was lost, and, at best, on a few foot soldiers were identified and convicted. The forces behind the violence remain at large, free to continue their nefarious work if they so wish.

 

The roots of the violence : the apartheid state and its functionaries

The work of the Goldstone and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, as well as court cases (Trust feed, KwaZulu Police hitsquads, and the Magnus Malan et al trials), has shown how the apartheid state and its security apparatus (including the bantustan police force) orchestrated and sustained what was misleadingly termed ‘black on black’ violence in KZN, in which thousands of people died.

 

As indicated, the security police and those they handled played a pivotal role in this violence, including through their placement in Bantustan policing structures, and infiltration into political organisations (including liberation movements).  One such security policeman, and erstwhile IFP official, was Phillip Powell, whose name is associated, among other things, with the training of IFP self-protection members at the northern KZN Mlaba camp in 1994.  According to a secret memorandum handed to the TRC, allegedly presented to the KwaZulu cabinet, this training was intended to develop, rapidly and at minimal expense, the military capacity of the Bantustan government. Trainees skilled in counter-insurgency, and of unquestioned loyalty to the KwaZulu government, were to be appointed as ‘assistant constables’. Five operational bases from which these trainees would run their ‘specialised mission’ were mooted – as was the possibility of their using ‘ISU [police Internal Stability Unit] bases and facilities’. It was envisaged that the unit ‘could form the core of a future KwaZulu Defence Force’.

 

The memorandum proposed that, in addition to siphoning weapons and resources from the KwaZulu police and KwaZulu government, a further large quantity of weapons be acquired. By then at least 70 tons of such weapons, in six truck loads, had already found their way to KZN from Vlakplaas, in October 1993. Among these weapons were hand grenades, RPG-7 rockets, mortars, anti-personnel mines and RPG rocket launchers – ‘enough to start a civil war’ as one of the men tasked with overseeing the transport of the weapons put it.  A Goldstone Commission Enquiry revealed that Powell had also tried to obtain a thousand semi-automatic LM4 rifles from Escom, but the consignment had been stopped.

 

Shortly before South Africa’s second democratic elections in 1999 – in a context of widespread violence and allegations of continued paramilitary training – a team of investigators under the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) unearthed a large cache of weapons at a bunker at Nquthu, northern KZN. Reports claimed that Phillip Powell had provided information about the weapons, although Powell himself is quoted as saying the information was supplied by a ‘third party’.

 

A controlled explosion was used to destroy the cache, which accounted for, at most, only two of the Vlakplaas truckloads, with a figure of 64 tons of weapons said to be still outstanding. According to a list provided by a daily newspaper the cache included 8 RPG7s and 39 anti-tank mines; there were reportedly 182 RPG-7 rockets and 700 anti-tank mines in the Vlakplaas consignment alone.

 

There were claims that Phillip Powell had received amnesty for this disclosure, but this claim was refuted by the office of the DPP, and there was talk of his being tried for treason. While warning warlords that their time was up, Ngcuka is also quoted as saying (in May 1999) that his office would not arrest Powell ‘as a scapegoat’, but wanted to find other conspirators behind the acquisition of the weapons’. Four years later, it seems, those conspirators have still not been found. By August 2001 the Scorpions had changed their mind about arresting Powell – who had by then left the country – and a warrant had been issued.

 

Advocate Macadam had reportedly been assigned to investigate the vast quantities of weapons of war – which are presumably, in 2003, still in KwaZulu-Natal. Why have they not been found?

 

The Scorpions foray into violence investigations : 1998-2000

Richmond

Following the expulsion from the ANC of Sifiso Nkabinde in April 1997, amidst allegations that he was a registered security police informer, long simmering tensions erupted into violence in Richmond leaving at least 45 people dead in the space of six months. There was a brief lull following the arrest of Nkabinde on charges of murder but, following his acquittal in May 1998, violence levels again soared leaving another fifty people dead in the space of two months. Police members from different parts of the province were recruited to work in different teams, headed by a credible and experienced detective, Captain Sipho Mbele, who reported to Director Nkabinde. Within weeks suspects, including alleged key hit man Mbongoleni Mtolo, had been arrested in connection with eleven cases, and a period of relative calm returned to the area. Despite – or perhaps because of – these successes, concerted (and unsuccessful) efforts were being made by certain members of police management to wrest control of the investigations from Mbele’s members. Towards the end of 1998 Advocate Chris Macadam was appointed, by the National Director of Public Prosecutions, to oversee investigations into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal. It immediately became evident that, instead of confining himself to his prosecutorial role, Macadam was interfering unduly in policing work, which was to result, by early 1999, in the removal of Captain Mbele and his members. Against a background of well-founded allegations of collusion between Sifiso Nkabinde and members of the SAPS, and the involvement of some police members in cover-ups, Mbele and Co were replaced by other police members, some of whom of extremely dubious repute. One of the first actions taken by Macadam was to traumatise credible witnesses by subjecting them to the unheard of procedure (for witnesses)of lie-detector tests (which cannot prove whether a person is telling the truth or lying) and releasing Mbongoleni Mtolo on bail, Another accused hit man, Themba Mchunu, was also granted bail, despite his having been on the run from police for weeks before his being apprehended. In January 1999 Sifiso Nkabinde was assassinated, eleven people died after a massacre at the Ndabazitha home, and Mtolo was shot dead at the massacre scene. Mchunu subsequently died.  Towards the end of 2000, some time after the main named conspirators in the Tavern Massacre case had died, the Scorpions secured the convictions of three men who, the court found, had made confessions to state witnesses, two of whom were undercover agents (see Natal Monitor ‘Consider your Verdict’).

 

What has been totally obscured in coverage of Richmond investigations by the Scorpions is the important work done by units under the command of Captain Mbele, who had made considerable progress in at least nineteen cases (sixteen of them murder) before their summary expulsion from the area. No response was ever received to two letters (24 November 1999 and 15 November 2000) to the National Director of Public Prosecutions requesting a progress report on these cases.

 

After his acquittal and exoneration, Director Nkabinde was promoted out of the province, to head policing in Mpumalanga province. His departure was a devastating blow to the transformation of the detective service, since he had been the only member of management promoting the cause of competent black police members. As colleague Mbele put it, when approached by a City Press journalist ‘People had confidence in him; his office was always full of people’. The position of head of detectives, denied him by the crucially-timed prosecution by the Scorpions, was taken by a man with a track record of obstructing, and trying to halt, the work of competent black members and their units.

 

Paulpietersburg

Scorpions’ interference in the work being done by credible detectives was not confined to Richmond. A team headed by Supt Mandla Vilakazi had secured a number of high court convictions for political violence in the Mandini and Mtubatuba areas in the 1995-1998 period. They had also arrested a number of alleged murderers for a pre-election massacre at Paulpietersburg in March 1994 – ‘The State versus B Z Khalishwayo and 13 others, Paulpietersburg CAS 110/03/94). Over the years members of the unit had worked closely and successfully with certain members of staff in the office of the DPP in Pietermaritzburg. For some unknown reason the case was transferred to Advocate Macadam, soon after the launch of the Scorpions. Despite progress made in the case, and without any reason being given, charges were ‘provisionally’ withdrawn against the accused. The investigating officer alleged that witnesses had been intimidated. The main accused, B Z Khalishwayo, was subsequently murdered.

 

KwaMbonambi

Political violence in the KwaMbonambi area, between Richards Bay and Mtubatuba, had long been accompanied by allegations of police involvement, especially on the part of certain members of Mtubatuba-based Public Order Policing (formerly Internal Stability Unit; co-incidentally, it was ISU bases which were named in Phillip Powell’s secret memorandum), who were also allegedly linked to violence in other North Coast areas.  By 1999, local Nhlabane politician and strongman Phineas Mthethwa was under investigation by members of Vilakazi’s unit, and was facing charges of murder.

 

In February 1999 ANC MPP Walter Felgate, formerly a highly-placed IFP official, was injured in an assault by IFP supporters in the Nhlabane area. One of the witnesses was Vasi Ntuli. Ntuli was subsequently abducted and assaulted by people believed to be security force members and, shortly thereafter, was abducted in broad daylight by men in a car known to be associated with Mthethwa (who had been released on bail). Around two weeks later his decomposing body was found not far from Mthethwa’s home.  Not long before the body was found members of Vilakazi’s Violence Investigation Unit, who were searching for it, came under heavy fire, in the vicinity of the same house, and were extremely lucky to escape with minor injury. Their vehicles were badly damaged. Certain members of Public Order Policing, who were believed to have a close relationship with Mthethwa, removed evidence and did not hand it in at the local station. As these crimes fell within its ambit of operation, Vialazi’s Violence Investigation Unit took the dockets for investigation – but they were subsequently summarily removed from their possession. It transpired that the removal had been arranged by ‘Old Guard’ police members and handed to the Scorpions.  Attempts to follow up these matters have been unsuccessful.

 

 

ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION BUSTING

Since the Scorpions’ chief claim to fame is their supposed expertise in the fields of organised crime and corruption-busting, the public needs to know exactly what they have they achieved – in terms of court convictions.

 

For an elite, well-resourced unit there have been some embarrassing blunders. Take, for example, the much-vaunted arrest of ‘Mafia boss’ Palazzolo in November 1999. which ended in his acquittal, in March 2003, on fraud and forgery charges, with Cape regional magistrate Vermeulen commenting that the decision to prosecute ‘boggles the mind’.

 

Another controversial case involved their highly-publicised investigations into the affairs of the head of the Wheels for Africa business group, Billy Rautenbach, who was publicly linked, by the NDPP, to the murder of Daewoo South Africa president Yong Koo Kwon. Counsel for the NDPP reportedly conceded in court in December 1999 that ‘press statements made by the NDPP were contrary to the law and defamatory’. In February 2003 Rautenbach – whose assets had been seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and subsequently returned to him by the court – launched defamation lawsuits totally millions of rand against Ngcuka, Justice Minister Maduna and deputy national director of public prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr for ‘allegedly publishing false allegations that injured his reputation and denigrated his integrity.’  Presumably the taxpayer will fund the State’s defence of these actions.

 

While they are credited with the arrest of the head of the SAPS Organised crime unit in KZN, Piet Meyer, who was subsequently convicted (in 2002) on charges of corruption, theft and making a false statement, the senior investigating officer involved in the initial investigations is a member of the SAPS. Furthermore, according to organised crime expert, Advocate Jennifer Wild – who personally handed a file of 1995/6 court proceedings to investigators at the commencement of their investigations – the file contained more than enough material to press far more serious charges against Meyer than those for which he was indicted.

 

Although the media is replete with examples of Scorpions ‘stings’, ‘swoops’ and ‘raids’ there is a relative paucity of  follow up material on the different cases. How many of these operations are successful, in that they result in convictions of criminals and the uncovering and neutralising of the forces behind organised crime activities.

By way of example :

 

The drugs scourge

In May 2001, according to a press report, the Scorpions ‘declared war’, on Durban drug lords, singling out Nigerians for special attention. By using Nigerians as scapegoats, Scorpions (like their counterparts in the police), not only fuel xenophobia, but divert attention from evidence placed before the TRC (Project Coast), and earlier research, about the role of the apartheid state in the manufacture and dissemination of highly addictive drugs.  Just over two years after this declaration of war, a local newspaper report described the drug trade in Durban’s Point area as worth one billion rand per year, and the increase in drug peddling as ‘totally overwhelming’, which is hardly indicative of victory in the ‘war’ against dealers.

 

  • What contribution have Scorpion activities made to stopping this trade by identifying and convicting those who are behind it, including by
  • Following up on evidence about Project Coast and the huge quantities of addictive drugs linked to apartheid’s chemical warfare programme
  • If Scorpions investigators are drawn from the ranks of the police, including security police/SANAB (these two arms of the SAP were interchangeable) are they likely to be any more successful than the police in exposing drug dealers?

 

South Africa’s missing billions

Research shows that for many years before the change of government in 1994 the wealth of the country, including monetary and intellectual property, was  haemorrhaging into overseas havens, indicative of organised criminal activities on a breathtaking scale

 

  • what progress have the Scorpions made in restoring the country’s wealth to its rightful owners, for the benefit of the people of South Africa

 

Corruption-busters par excellence?

Although the media’s long-standing preoccupation with the Arms Deal probe is understandable, it has unfortunately deflected attention from important questions about other corruption probes which appear to be in the hands of the Scorpions; the word appear is used because there is often confusion in the minds of the public as to whether investigators are police or Scorpions – or even from another Directorate reporting to the Director of Public Prosecutions. By way of example, the following two cases involve allegations of gross corruption with significant implications for stability in KwaZulu-Natal :

 

The strange case of “doctor” Isseri

In 1998 Sateesh Isseri (also known as Sateesh Singh) made startling and serious allegations in the press implicating certain senior provincial government officials in a conspiracy to divert millions of rand of provincial funds to the establishment of the ‘Kingdom of kwaZulu’. Isseri, who was in the business of providing medical supplies and ambulance services, claimed he had had meetings with politicians who had promised him that, in return for his assistance, he would be rewarded with state tenders relating to medical and ambulance services. At that stage Isseri, who was in the witness protection programme, was suing the province for two cheques allegedly issued to him and not honoured. However, by the beginning of 1999 Isseri was being sought for defrauding the provincial government, the witness protection programme and medical aid societies. By April 1999 the Directorate of serious economic offences, falling under NDPP Ngcuka was reportedly looking into the money-laundering of provincial funds, and showing an interest in Isseri’s allegations.

Isseri’s appearance in court in April 1999 was accompanied by allegations that the office of the national director of public prosecutions and the directorate for serious economic offences had attempted to exert influence on the prosecutors not to oppose bail for Isseri (the issuing of unauthorised instructions to prosecutors was one of the complaints levied against the Scorpions by Justice department officials in 2000).

 

This matter went quiet and, by the middle of 1999, a man believed to be Isseri was frequenting the Creighton area, posing as a journalist, and asking questions about weapons in the area. His activities endangered the lives of some of the local residents. He was believed by locals to be operating in collusion with people who were either police or Scorpions. They were presumably Scorpions members, since Ngcuka’s serious economic offences directorate had confirmed its investigation of the case.

 

According to an affidavit submitted in a murder trial heard in the Ixopo regional court in September 2001, it was known that a prominent politician had delivered weapons to the Creighton area in which the Isseri-related activities were taking place.  If it was indeed the Scorpions who were investigating, nothing was done about these weapons. In fact, one of them was used to kill a young woman on 25 December 2000.

 

  • Did the Scorpions  take over the Isseri investigation – and, if so, what was the outcome of  their investigation into what were extremely serious allegations involving  money-laundering for purposes of political destabilisation?
  • Why an  uncharacteristic silence about this matter?

 

Ndondakusuka municipality

In 2001, following his dismissal, on grounds of misconduct, from the position of Deputy director-general in the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Professor Musa Xulu was employed as municipal manager for Ndondakusuka municipality, Mandini. Professor Xulu had long been dogged by controversy, having been accused in 1996 by Jeffrey Eric Robinson, a lecturer in the Music Department at the University of Zululand, of corruption in, among other things, adjusting students’ marks. Robinson’s allegations were upheld in a Supreme Court case in which Judgment was given in his favour.

 

Almost immediately after his appointment as municipal manager, extremely serious allegations, including of mismanagement of funds, nepotism and the irregular awarding of tenders, involving millions of rand, surfaced. In April  2003, Xulu was suspended from office, and a case of corruption involving the alleged irregular awarding of tenders was opened against him at the Mandini SAPS.

 

Several months before his suspension a wad of documentation was handed to the Scorpions who confirmed, in April, that they were investigating Xulu.  According to reliable sources, this documentation contained highly incriminating information, allegedly implicating not only Xulu, but others also, in a series of front companies siphoning off huge amounts of government funding. Interestingly, a company whose name appears on letterheads linked to the alleged irregular awarding of tenders appears connected with a security company whose operatives, dressed and armed exactly like members of the SANDF, have been terrorising residents in Mbazwana, northern KZN, and posing a potential threat to the security of the State (see Natal Monitor report ‘Is the government in control?’). Both these companies are alleged to have had close links with the apartheid state.

 

  • Why the  uncharacteristic silence about these investigations?
  • How far have they  progressed?
  • Is anyone going to be arrested and charged and, if not, why not?

 

 

THE SCORPIONS : A REVIEW IS LONG OVERDUE

All that glitters is, unfortunately, not gold, and the emperors’ clothes, it appears, are not nearly as splendid as they may seem :

 

The Scorpions’ disastrous foray into political violence in KZN not only weakened policing but allowed the forces behind the violence to escape unscathed.
A huge arsenal of weapons of war has still not been located, nor have those responsible for its procurement and deployment been arrested and charged.  Despite their love of publicity, there is a singular lack of transparency insofar as investigations into allegations of high level corruption in KwaZulu-Natal is concerned. Nor has any evidence yet been presented of their having fulfilled their ‘organised crime’ mandate through exposing and neutralising drug dealers, and restoring the stolen wealth of the country to its rightful owners.

 

  • Why have the Scorpions not expended the same effort on weapons of mass destruction as they have on Arms Deal corruption?
  • Why is there a selective targeting of some people and not others?
  • Why the flaunting of provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act in favour of trial by media?

 

Natal Monitor calls for

 

  • The Scorpions to charge Deputy Zuma, if they do have a prima facie case against him, since he has already been charged, and found guilty, in the media
  • The Arms Deal investigations to run their course
  • The government to proceed, urgently, with a full, independent, review of the internal structuring, and operations of, the Scorpions  and,
  • unless cogent reasons can be found for their continued existence, to re-integrate investigators  into the South African Police service

 

 

 

Selected References

The Nkabinde and Mbele Case  : Court record and Judgment (Pietermaritzburg R/C1488/99); Natal Monitor documentation on Richmond violence and Justice Under State Transition (J.U.S.T) reports by de Haas and Wild; correspondence between de Haas and the police, the Scorpions and government; newspaper clippings

 

Old Wine in New Wineskins : The National Prosecuting Authority Act 32 of 1998 and the amendment of the Act in 2000; J.U.S.T. reports; press clippings, including ‘Scorpions jobs defended’ Daily News 12/01/00; ‘Scorpions feel the sting of angry Justice officials’ Sunday Times 23/04/00; ‘Scorpions pay scales create row’ Mercury 26/10/00; full page Scorpions job advertisement  City Press 23/06/02; ‘Scorpions swoop on their own staff’ Sunday Times 15/06/03;  ‘Scorpions sting in the foot’ Sunday Tribune 17/10/99; de Haas M 1999 The more things change…..Policing in the ‘New’ South Africa

Political violence: Goldstone and Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) reports, press reports and published articles on Jamile, Trust Feed, KZP hitsquads (Mbambo, Mkhize and Hlongwane) cases and Natal Monitor reports, secret memorandum handed to TRC; sundry press reports re: weapons cache, including ‘Conspiracy theory over arms cache’ The Mercury 12/05/99;  ‘Bring Powell back to SA’ City Press 5/8/01; ‘Warrant still out for IFP’s Powell’ Mercury 25/03/03;  Pauw J 1997 Into the Heart of Darkness ; correspondence and personal communications de Haas and police and de Haas and Scorpions re: Richmond, Paulpietersburg and kwaMbonambi cases; Amnesty International 1999 Urgent Action re: Vasi Ntuli.

Corruption and organised crime : Sundry press reports re: Palazzola, Rautenbach and Meyer including ‘Mafia boss arrested’ 13/11/99; ‘Nguka rejects incompetence claims’ Mercury 18/3/03; ‘Meyer gets ten years’ Mercury 16/12/02; ‘Ngcuka sued for R180m’ City Press 9/02/03

Sundry press reports on drugs, including ‘Scorpions declare war on city drug lords’ Daily News 15/05/01; ‘Point drug trade ‘worth R1bn a year’ Daily News 3/7/03; The matter of Azor S E and D B Azor, Supreme Court Durban and Coastal Local Division Case No 2360/96, various reports and papers on apartheid as an organised crime syndicate by Advocate Jennifer Wild, including Wild J 1993(1998) ‘Apartheid Cyndicate Inc (First Force Diversified Holdings)’; TRC hearings on Project Coast; Burger M and C Gould 2002 Secrets and Lies

Regarding the Isseri case, sundry press reports, including ‘Doctor tells all’ Sunday Tribune 9/08/98; ‘Prosecution team under pressure’ Mercury 16/4/99; interview with Isseri;  The State versus T Zulu, Ixopo regional court, September 2001

Xulu case :  Press reports, including ‘Xulu booted out of office’ City Press 13/4/03; interviews with concerned Mandini residents; J E Robinson versus University of Zululand, Professor C Dlamini, C H Nxumalo and Prof Ndakino Supreme Court Durban and Coastal Local Division 6328/96 Natal Monitor reports on Mbazwana/Mabaso reserve at www.violencemonitor.com .

 

MABASO FORCED REMOVALS : IS THE GOVERNMENT IN CONTROL?

Recent events in Mbazwana, near the Greater St Lucia Heritage site, raise serious questions about whether those mandated to ensure the security of the State, its citizens and potential tourists are in control of private militias who are terrorising rural residents.

On the border of the Mabaso and Mbila Tribal Authority areas Inkosi Nxumalo of Mabaso, together with business associates, has fenced off an area of communal land for the establishment of a game lodge. In the process dozens of residents have been displaced from their family homes and/or had their subsistence activities curtailed or stopped. Since their constitutionally enshrined human rights have been violated a High Court action has been brought on their behalf.

Towards the end of 2002, when people still living inside the fenced off game lodge area received a threatening ultimatum to vacate their homes, and stop engaging in the type of subsistence activities which keep them alive, a High Court Interdict was obtained. Inkosi Nxumalo was restrained from (a)evicting people from their homes (b)preventing their access to traditional sources of sustenance (c)restricting their freedom of movement, and (d) threatening them. When information was disclosed that he had transgressed the Interdict Inkosi Nxumalo was arrested for contempt of court in February 2003 and released on his own recognizances. He denies the charges against him, and there will be a further court appearances in June 2003.

Despite the fact that the Interdict is still in force, people continue to claim that they cannot freely engage in subsistence activities, and that they suffer other forms of harassment which can only emanate form the chief, presumably in order to procure his objective. After a helicopter was seen in the area on Saturday 15 March, it returned on Monday 17 March, bringing people who appeared to be army members to search people and homes for weapons allegedly used to kill game. Although residents are adamant that the helicopter was the same as that used by the army, both police and army deny that any security force operation took place.

On Sunday 30 March two men whose home is inside the fenced off area were engaged in one of their subsistence activities at around 07:30. Two of these men had furnished affidavits which had caused the court to order the chief’s arrest. They had also opened cases at the local police station, in respect of which no action seems to have been taken against chief. They were held up at gunpoint by men wearing army (camouflage) uniforms and bullet proof vests, armed with what appeared automatic, army-issue type guns, and hand grenades. To all intents and purposes they were soldiers – but with one small, hardly noticeable difference – on their caps a small sign bore the name of a private security company (name known). The two men were
– abducted by these men and, in the course of the day (they were allowed to return to their homes during the late afternoon) assaulted and abused
– told that they would be shot if they were found in the area again; when they protested that they lived there they were
– informed that they needed to obtain a permit from the chief (Inkosi) – who is under court Interdict and arrest – or one of his headmen (izinduna)
– photographed so that they would be identified if they were found in the area again.

As ordered, after their release they sought a permit, thinking that would prevent their being shot on sight, as they had been warned, if they returned to their homes. The permit was refused by the official representative of same chief. These men now, understandably, fear being shot if they return home. Appropriate court action is, once again, being instituted. However, even with a court Interdict in place the law continues to be wilfully subverted.

There is credible evidence relating to the incident on Sunday, and that two weeks earlier in which homes were raided, which raises extremely serious questions about the capacity of the relevant organs of State to administer law and order –and which suggests that there are areas which are not under the State’s control. These areas appear to be under the control of a paramilitary force composed of persons impersonating (with one difference only – a small sign on their caps) the SANDF, breaking the law by wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying grenades. The area is one which is communal land, occupied by families for generations, and it is also regrettably close to the St Lucia World Heritage Site to which international tourists are invited. .Both senior police and army officers claim to know nothing about the operations of this militia. Initial investigations suggest that this paramilitary force may have links with apartheid military operatives and their Caprivi trainee surrogates.

In the public interest, answers are urgently needed to the following questions :
– who is deploying this private army in the area? Who is paying them?
– Why do the police and the army know nothing about their activities?
– Why are the local police not preventing illegal activities such as the order that people obtain permits to live in their own homes – especially given the existence of a court Interdict?
– Why are the police not protecting the local residents?
– What is the real truth behind the scramble to control this piece of land – is it because there are valuable minerals on it?

Finally, has the South African government lost control of strategic areas which are of pivotal importance to economic development and tourism?

Are we a province at peace?

There is a tendency on the part of politicians and the media alike to dismiss the continued existence of violence driven by political ends in KZN. Certainly there has been a most welcome thawing of relationships between the major political groupings in the province, the IFP and the ANC, especially at a leadership level, and a marked decline in headline-grabbing events such as massacres. However, too many people are still dying (a minimum estimate of 146 during this period) , or living in fear of attack, especially in those many rural areas where only lip service is paid to Constitutionally-entrenched freedom of political association – without which there can be no true peace. Can we really be described as peaceful if to answer a knock at the door in the middle of the night could result in being shot dead – or when criminal thugs with links to political warlords, who should have been prosecuted years ago, terrorise communities?

Political violence has never been simply IFP/ANC conflict: It was aimed primarily at preventing the advent of a truly nonracial society with all that entails, including the transfer of the economic wealth of the country, which is essential if the notion of an African Renaissance is to be more than an ideal. It does not have to manifest as overt conflict between political parties for it to achieve the aim of preventing the growth of true democracy and much needed development. Portraying the violence as ‘tribal’ (a denigratory label) or criminal obscures the fact that, in some of the worst affected areas (e.g. North Coast) it is not inconceivable that there is an underlying economic agenda to obtain or maintain control of key resources such as titanium.

Patterns of violence during this period

Conflict involving people with political party affiliations is by no means absent. Amongst the areas in which incidents of violence with party political overtones were recorded during this period were Pongola, Nongoma and Macambini (near Gingindlovu and Nyoni) in the North, Mapumulo, Inchanga, Dambuza (Pietermartizburg) and Bergville (Inland/Midlands) and Hibberdene and kwaMadlala (South Coast). There are also reports of farmworkers in the Gingindlovu area being threatened by well armed vigilantes because of their association with Cosatu, an ANC-aligned union.

Taxi-linked violence, too, some with party political links, contributed its fair share to the continued wanton destruction of life all over the province, including in Nongoma, Nkandla & Eshowe (north), Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Wartburg, Kranskop and Keats Drift (Inland) and Hibberdene and Port Shepstone (Lower South Coast).
One of the areas worst affected by taxi violence, kwaNdengezi (Durban), is amongst those in which serious allegations are made about police complicity – and nothing constructive has been done to address it.

There is a long-established pattern of destabilisation through criminal gangs, which was particularly conspicuous in areas around Mtunzini, where groups of thugs, openly armed with AK47s, roam, even during the day.
Attacks on farmers, too, continued, with the majority of incidents occurring in northern inland areas such as Weenen, Muden, Vryheid and Utrecht. During February the press reported that 50 farmers had been murdered in this province during the past twelve months.

The Natal Monitor has repeatedly pointed to the frequent links between ‘political’ as opposed to ‘ordinary criminal’ violence, and the ways in which violence spills over from badly-policed townships and shack areas to formerly ‘white’ suburbs. The brutal murder of prominent Durban social worker Elsa Jackson in February is a further illustration of this trend. Her alleged murderer was traced to the KwaMashu hostels which are not far from her Durban North home. During the past decade this complex, like similar ones elsewhere, has been a centre of political mobilisation accompanied by a high murder rate, including execution-style killings, without any real attempt by the police to protect residents and bring perpetrators to book (even those responsible for the well-publicised attacks on members of King Zwelithini’s family in 1996). A culture of violence is a way of life in such ‘Fortresses of Fear’.

Criminal justice system : Brickbats and bouquets

The SAPS members responsible for the arrest of the alleged killer of Mrs Jackson, after one of their colleagues had reportedly released him from custody, are to be commended, as are members of the police and Justice department who secured convictions in, amongst other cases, the 1999 murder of Muden farmer Hermanus Botha, and an August 1998 armed robbery and rape in Margate.

However, serious problems concerning the protection of vulnerable communities, and the arrest and conviction of perpetrators, continue to dominate the work of the Natal Monitor and its Women Against Crime project. For example, despite the fact that people were dying on an almost daily basis in the Manzamnyama and Sihuzu areas near Mtunzini during February/early March, the police claimed that there were insufficient personnel to deploy a full-time patrol in the area – yet there was no shortage of members to raid, without a search warrant, the home of a family which is under constant threat from a local warlord in a nearby area. Certain North Coast station commissioners have allegedly (a) taken no steps to prevent threats and injuries to ANC-aligned people and (b)declared that the areas are ‘IFP’ ones. If it is true that senior police members behave in this manner, it can only obstruct the efforts of members of these parties to achieve peace.

Despite very obvious leads in the November 1999 murder of Prince Cyril Zulu, no one has as yet been arrested – nor is the family being kept abreast of what the police are doing. Similarly, a case of armed robbery at Amanzimtoti in December 1999, in which one person died and another was shot and paralyzed, one of the perpetrators who was injured was allowed to escape from hospital, and members of the family of the injured woman claim that they are being treated with contempt by the investigators. A KwaMashu man whose wife was shot and badly injured was told by the police to clear the scene himself and take the exhibits to the station.

In granting an application in the Pietermaritzburg regional court for the discharge of five men accused of murdering a petrol pump attendant and assaulting her colleague, the magistrate spoke of ‘possible perjury, police negligence and the generally poor quality of evidence….’

From cases dealt with by the Monitor, people are still regularly, it seems, arrested on charges without any substance whatsoever, only to have the charges withdrawn months later, thus worsening the overcrowding in prisons (especially if the victims cannot afford bail), and clogging up the courts.

However, not all the blame lies with the police. Prosecution may be extremely poor due to, amongst other things, incompetence and/or lack of preparation on the part of prosecutors. Court officials may waste valuable court time by arriving late. Contributing also to a crisis in the administration of justice is the failure of the cash-strapped Legal Aid Board to pay defence lawyers.

Creating accountability in policing : Chatsworth and other stations

There are long-standing complaints that corruption is rife at Chatsworth station in Durban. It did not, therefore, come as a surprise when two members serving at the station at the time were amongst those convicted in February of the R7,4 million SBV heist in 1997. Presiding judge, Ms Justice Vivienne Niles-Duner expressed shock at the obvious ignorance of the Minister of Safety and Security of the extent of corruption at this station. Serious allegations include a failure to perform basic policing tasks (e.g. record keeping), nepotism, abuse of resources (vehicles and telephones for private ends), and illegal fundraising activities. The tragedy of 24 March, in which thirteen youngsters died at the Throb night club/disco (not far from the station) raised questions about police culpability, either through acts of omission (failure to act despite the club’s reportedly not having a licence, and their permissive stance in regard to the availability of drugs at the venue) or commission, especially concerning the supply of the police-issue teargas which has precipitated the stampede which led to the large number of deaths and injuries.

The situation at Chatsworth station is, of course, a serious indictment of both Area and Provincial management. However, after the recent disaster police management acted with commendable swiftness in addressing community outrage, transferring senior members away from the station, and bringing in officers from elsewhere. However, this action in itself does not go nearly far enough, especially if it is true that those transferred have simply moved to another comfortable position of their own choice. If the veracity of the claims about criminal behaviour at Chatsworth station is to be established, and wrongdoers exposed and punished, all the allegations – including against the erstwhile commissioner – will need to be investigated thoroughly, and, if warranted, appropriate punishments imposed.

Insofar as the Throb nighclub matter is concerned, questions regarding the role of the police – in supplying the fateful teargas canister, in allowing – or even participating in – the supply of drugs to the patrons of the club, and in acting as bouncers in such clubs, should be the subject of an independent investigation. If consideration can be given to a judge of the Constitutional court presiding over an enquiry into match-fixing in cricket, why can a similar enquiry not be held when thirteen children have died in so horiffic a manner – in which the possible culpability of the police is of crucial importance.

Another obvious question arising from the swift action taken in Chatsworth relates to the failure of provincial police management to take similar steps to remedy the situation in KwaMashu and Nongoma. In both of these areas, violence which is directly linked to the police has been endemic for several years. Many have died, representations have been made to the police for years – yet still no fundamantal remedial action has been taken.

Do the police need more powers

Statements by the Minister of Safety and Security, castigating human rights activists, and calling for more powers for the police – including the power to detain suspects for more than 48 hours without recourse to a lawyer – are ominous. Amongst South Africans there is insufficient appreciation of the protection they receive from the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, and its Constitutional Court – especially given the darkness of the recent past. There are already far to many abuses by the security forces (e.g. more people seemingly dying in police custody than during apartheid) : Their failure to deal with crime has nothing to do with lack of powers, and everything to do with corruption, cover-up and collusion on the part of some of those in positions of power. Nor is it inconceivable that any extension of the powers of the police might be used against members of the government themselves.

Priorities in the coming months

With new national and provincial Commissioners at the helm of the SAPS it is to be hoped that issues of corruption, cover-up and racism in the Service will be addressed as a matter of extreme urgency – starting with the creation of a culture of accountability in which station commissioners pay a price for lack of service delivery (especially when there are high levels of violence in their areas of jurisdiction and the perpetrators are not caught) and management structures are replaced if they are incompetent. The same principle should be applied to Justice department officials. The continued flow of arms into this province, the operations of paramilitary units, and violence on the scale seen in Richmond in the recent past – should be laid at the door of the State’s Intelligence Agencies, including – and perhaps especially – the National Intelligence Agency. The time is long overdue for a radical restructuring of this particular body. It is also time for a review of the operations of the Scorpions in this province (which operate from NIA offices), by an independent body. After almost eighteen months, despite being generously resourced (especially relative to other policing units), it has achieved nothing of any note apart from arrests in the Sifiso Nkabinde and Ndabazitha massacre cases (both of which are mired in controversy), whilst the murderers of over one hundred Richmond residents are still at large. It has certainly made no impact whatsoever on organised crime in this province, which continues to flourish. There is a strong case for the dismantlement of this unit, and a re-think about the viability of this type of project. Would it not be better to re-deploy the talents of key Scorpions members within the police service coterminous with a drastic shake-up of detective services?

Tensions around the forthcoming municipal elections are likely to rise during the next few months, especially in view of the dissatisfaction in certain quarters over the demarcation issue, and the role of traditional leaders. The situation in the Northern, including coastal, areas is particularly worrying: The failure of the police to deal adquately with current levels of violence, and their alleged continuing political partisanship, bodes ill for a situation of intensified political activity and for free and fair local government elections. A close monitoring of the situation by, amongst others, national police management, is essential.

October 1999 to November 1999

On the surface, KwaZulu-Natal appears to be making increasing progress in the reduction of politically-linked violence, as evidenced by the continuing good relationships between the ANC and IFP leadership, the largely peaceful elections in June 1999, and the climate of relative peace which prevails in Richmond. Appearances, however, are deceptive : Dozens of people continue to die each month in violence which cannot be explained as mere criminality, there is no freedom of political activity in most rural areas, townships are plagued by criminal-cum-political gangsterism with links to police, and people are still being recruited for ‘training’.

The violence remains largely unseen for various reasons, including the difficulties in obtaining accurate information, especially in rural areas – a problem which must be addressed as a matter of urgency, starting with details of murders and attempted murders on public record every month at each and every police station. The Natal Monitor has recorded, as a very minimal figure, approximately 550 deaths in the first eleven months of this year – but the actual number of people dying (let alone being injured or displaced) is considerably higher.

Essentially, patterns of violence during October and November remained unchanged, with deaths resulting from/linked to taxi conflict, struggles around local government and development, criminal-cum-political gangsterism, ‘faction fighting’ and mysterious execution-style killings. Whilst various events during this period, including the assassination of Prince Cyril Zulu, the murder of another member of the royal family, and the arrest of a prominent local official, drew attention to the ‘no go’ political status of Nongoma, this area is by no means the only one in which people were killed, or lived under constant threat of attack, during this period. Other similar areas, in which deaths and attacks were recorded include PONGOLA, GINGINDOVU and MAPHUMULO. In all of these areas – and in many other violence-wracked places – serious allegations are made about police collusion in the violence, whether with political warlords or with criminal gangs.

Appearances, it must be emphasised, are deceptive : In some ways the security situation in this province, especially in rural areas, is worse than it was in 1999 – because of the failure to address policing problems and the threats to stability posed by private security companies. Another matter which should be addressed as a matter of urgency is that of traditional leadership – especially given proposed changes, and the local government elections scheduled for 2000.

Rural safety – and the position of traditional leaders

The situation in rural areas, especially the more remote ones, is unacceptable. Whilst all in South Africa may fall victim to violent crime, rural people, most of whom lack even a telephone to call for help, are the most vulnerable. In some instances people are attacked at night, or may have their houses searched, by people claiming to be police and/or army. It is often not clear, even when roadblocks operate, whether those manning them are indeed members of security forces – or people who have access to army uniforms and weapons. On occasion, members of the security forces are themselves fired upon by large groups of well armed men. The climate of fear in many rural areas is almost palpable.

Continuing attacks on white farmers must be seen, in this province in particular, in the context of what amounts to low intensity civil war, and of rampant crime (including rape) which also affects large numbers of black rural residents. All these forms of violence are a manifestation of ineffectiveness and, in many areas, apparent collusion, on the part of local police. In some instances the situation is complicated by the appalling victimisation of workers by certain farmers – the situation in the Vryheid/Paulpietersburg area is a case in point.

Tensions surrounding traditional leadership – especially the political pressures to which they are subject – also contributes to instability. During this year a number of leaders have been threatened and/or attacked, and some have been murdered. Inkosi Ngwane of the Hluhluwe area, who had been the victim of harassment by police, army members and his political opponents, was murdered despite appeals having been directed to the police to protect him. Similarly, Inkosi Mahlobo, of Pongola, who was seriously injured in an attack at the end of 1998, has survived further attempts to kill him this year. There are extremely serious allegations of harassment of himself and his followers by the local police, and of collusion between the police and his political opponents.

Generally, those traditional leaders who are targetted are those who allow freedom of political activity. Many rule their chiefdoms through a climate of fear and lack of free political activity, which is inimical to both democracy and sorely needed development. We can only reiterate that the situation will not improve until traditional leadership is firmly divorced from party politics.

Policing : State and Private

The Natal Monitor and other researchers and observers have, over the years, pointed to the dangers posed by the growth of, and lack of control by the State over, the private security industry, yet thus far little has been done. Some components of this industry are actively involved in endangering people’s safety. The lack of controls over the industry is extremely worrisome, and – especially given the continuing problems in State policing – could pose a grave danger to the authority of the democratically-elected government.

Urgent steps to regulate the industry must go hand in hand with a clean up of the police, starting with senior management. The past five years has seen corruption and racism flourish, and political partisanship continue. On the point of his departure from the SAPS national commissioner Fivas is attempting to impose another five years of apartheid-style policing on this country, in the form of appointments to senior management positions. For the sake of the safety and security of all, no appointments should take place until the new Commissioner, Mr Selebi, takes over in January 1999, and there is a thorough evaluation of existing structures and the suitability of candidates for all management positions.. A failure to transform the SAPS may well pose the biggest threat to the stability of the country, and the safety and security of its citizens.

What about the Scorpions?

Hopes that violent crime would finally be brought under control were raised with the launch of the new crime fighting unit, The Scorpions, under the command of Frank Dutton, a man of tremendous integrity and competence, However, experience – including with the Investigative Task Unit (ITU) which Dutton formerly headed – has shown that even under the most able of leadership, the effective functioning of large structures of this nature can be jeopardized by individuals and internal factions.

There are already signs that similar problems are developing within the Scorpions. Some of those recruited to its ranks have the types of backgrounds which render them unfit to serve in a unit of this nature. Close working relationships between senior members of police management and members of the National Intelligence Agency (neither of which agencies have been brought under proper control by the democratically elected government) are a cause for great concern, and are likely to seriously jeopardize the work of the unit. There are extremely serious allegations about the unit’s activities in KwaZulu-Natal, which – unless immediate steps are taken to rectify the situation – bode ill for the course of justice, and the reduction of violence, in this province. Unless the government builds more accountability and transparency into the workings of this unit it may find that it has created a Frankenstein Monster.

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.

December 1998 to February 1999

Overview of trends during this period

Never an easy task, it is becoming increasingly difficult – if not well nigh impossible – to quantify ‘political’ violence, due to the apparently changing nature of the tactics used to foster conflict. Although dressed up as ‘black on black’ violence in the 1980s, the protagonists could be clearly identified: Persons associated with political parties and those who represented that apartheid State. In the run-up to the 1994 election, the pattern was largely unchanged, except that state-linked aggressors were, in many instances, becoming less easily identifiable as such (as, for example, with the attacks on trains). During the past five years that trend has become more pronounced, with the perpetrators of many of the killings, and their motives, becoming far less obvious. Such acts – which include execution-style killings, and what amounts to wanton terrorism, especially in rural areas – serve political ends, in that democratisation and development are retarded. Violent crime, too, much of it seemingly well organised and linked to members of the security forces, also appears part of a broad destabilisation strategy. In other words, forces opposing South Africa’s transition to a non-racial democracy, and wishing to weaken the country’s government, appear to be still at work (which is not to say that each and every incident of violence is linked to some sinister strategy)

During the three months under review these trends have continued, as has taxi-related feuding and incidents clearly linked to supporters of specific political parties. For what statistics are worth (not a great deal), at least 165 people have died(40 in December, 60 in January and 65 in February). Again it must be stressed that this figure is a rough minimum estimate, based on information which is available at the time of compilation. It does not include many killings in areas such as KwaDukuza and large parts of Pietermaritzburg, where well-organised criminal gangsters conduct their reigns of terror with seeming impunity: Criminality on this scale is simply not possible without collusion on the part of some members of the police. Nor are known deaths in rural areas marked by endemic conflict, which are included, such as those around Greytown, reflective of the total number of people who are dying. A brief breakdown of regional trends follows.

Regional trends

In the NORTH COAST/NORTHERN KZN region, killings, and incidents of arson, continue in a number of places around NONGOMA, where the lack of freedom of political activity was demonstrated when, on 19 February, persons clad in IFP T-shirts disrupted a development-linked function which was attended by King Zwelithini and ANC Public Works Minister Jeff Radebe in eMona. In BABANANGO several murders, and wanton attacks on cattle, appear linked to power struggles in the area, including around the issue of traditional leadership (the local inkosi passed away recently). Two brothers of ANC MPP Mike Mabuyakhulu were murdered in the INGWAVUMA area towards the end of February, and a number of ANC supporters have been threatened and/or attacked in and around PONGOLA.

On 18 February Inkosi Bhekuyise Ngwane was gunned down at MNGOBOKAZI (Hluhluwe). Ngwane, a CONTRALESA member, had been involved in a dispute over chiefship with one of his brothers who, he alleged before he died, had threatened to kill him. He and his family had also been threatened by local security force members; in July 1998 his wife had been assaulted, and had a knife held to her throat, allegedly by members of the security forces. On at least two occasions appeals were made to the police to try to ensure Mr Ngwane’s safety (to no avail, it transpired).

Sporadic incidents of political and/or taxi violence were recorded in a number of other places, including around KWAMBONAMBI, EMPANGENI, MTUNZINI and MANDENI. In KWADUKUZA (formerly Stanger) attacks on SHAKAVILLE township, allegedly by persons from nearby Lindelani, left one person injured and, in a separate incident, three people shot dead (during February).

In the DURBAN FUNCTIONAL REGION, there were sporadic killings in hostels to the north and south of the city itself but, relative to the preceding months, the situation had improved. Intra-ANC struggles left several people dead in INANDA, and taxi-related conflict continued to spill over into the centre of the city (especially the crime-ridden Warwick Avenue triangle)

Sporadic incidents were recorded in the SOUTH COAST areas around UMZINTO and HIBBERDENE, but most of the known attacks in this region took place in areas around PORT SHEPSTONE/MARGATE, IZINGOLWENI and HARDING. There were two massacres just before Christmas 1998: The first in KWAMACI (Harding), where conflict had been endemic for several months, left six men dead; in NOSITA, (an area which had been fairly peaceful for some time) eight family members were gunned down as they gathered for Christmas. Several incidents of arson and death were reported from other Lower South Coast areas, including the killing of five people, in separate incidents on 13 February, in MEHLOMNYAMA.

After some months of peace, RICHMOND sprang into the national and international headlines once again with the murder of UDM leader S’fiso Nkabinde on 23 February. The assassination of Mr Nkabinde was followed, the same evening, by yet another massacre in which eleven people died (see ‘The Richmond investigations’ under Comment, below).

Politically-linked killings and/or tensions continue in a number of other MIDLANDS/INLAND areas, including ESTCOURT/LOSKOP and BERGVILLE (where a struggle over chiefship, with clear political overtones, continues). Large parts of PIETERMARITZBURG,such as Imbali and Dambuza, are ravaged by apparently well orchestrated criminal violence; some appears to be targetting political activists. There were a number of taxi-related killings in LADYSMITH. Of utmost concern is the low intensity war (which incorporates taxi-related violence) which continues, seemingly unchecked (despite the presence of a police unit) in a number of areas to the south, north and east of GREYTOWN, including Mapumulo, Dalton, eTembisweni (where an IFP-aligned induna was amongst those killed in January) and eMatimatolo Large groups of well-armed men roam around, and may even attack security forces. Is it simply a co-incidence that training in the use of arms is reported to have been taking place in this region for the better part of this decade? It is significant, too, that most of the attacks on farmers during the three month period under review occurred in this region – in areas such as Weenen, Kranskop, Pomeroy and Muden. Whilst there has, quite correctly, been a great deal of attention given to dealing with crises in Richmond, the continuing destabilisation of ‘deep’ rural inland areas to the north and south of the Tugela river is not receiving anything like the attention it should from the national government. Whilst most victims are the poor and powerless, no one – including white farmers and holiday-makers – is safe. The apparent neglect of safety and security in rural areas has potentially dire consequences for this province.

Countdown to the 1999 elections :Can they be ‘free and fair’?

What is at issue here is not whether or not people have bar-coded IDs – for, after all, those complaining on this front have had ample time to procure these documents. Crucial to assessing freedom and fairness is the extent to which large numbers of potential voters are allowed to receive information about different political parties Even more importantly, they need to know that by casting their votes they will not be jeopardising their pensions, their houses, or even their lives.

Sadly, political intolerance – evidenced by attacks on, or threats to, persons of a different political persuasion, or the tearing down of party political posters – is still rife in many areas. Posters advertising voter registration may also be removed, and persons conducting voter registration may be harassed. Amongst the areas for which reports of such intolerance have been received during the past three months are Pongola, Nongoma, KwaMbonambi, Ozwateni, Umtwalume and KwaMavundla(Harding).

A major thrust of the post-1994 violence has been directed towards the control of rural areas falling under traditional leaders/amakhosi/chiefs. In the pre-colonial era political functionaries known in Africa as ‘chiefs’ owed their position to a sufficient degree of support from their subjects, who had various means of removing them should they not fulfill their mandate. Colonial governments and, in South Africa the apartheid regime, removed the vestiges of democracy and incorporated traditional leaders into the bureaucracy of government : They became civil servants, whose jobs (and salaries) depended – not on their constituencies – but on the largesse of those who paid them.

When the colonial/apartheid legislation was being dismantled in the early 1990s, the KwaZulu homeland re-enacted key elements of the 1927 Administration Act in its Amakhosi and Iziphakanyiswa Act. Traditional leaders were placed firmly under the control of the provincial authorities (not their subjects) and the right to appoint/suspend/remove them was legally vested with the Chief Minister of the homeland. Post 1994 this function has been taken over by a provincial Minister of Traditional Affairs. The inherent tension between popular support and (provincial) government control (which may be diametrically opposed) remains, and has become exacerbated in a climate in which control over scarce resources, and over development, is a prime means of winning political support (including by coercion) and winning votes.

In a number of areas the utterances and actions (and track records in fanning the flames of violence) of traditional leaders have stifled freedom of political association. The lives of some Amakhosi who allow such freedom – the South Coast areas of KwaXolo and Dududu are but two of several examples – remain in great danger. Also at risk are the lives of leaders who assert their claims in the face of attempts by politicians (acting in accordance with legislation which has its origins in colonial oppression) to decide on who should be leader on the apparent basis of political expediency. The late Bhekuyise Ngwane asserted that his claim to chiefly office had been validated by the Supreme Court – but that the KwaZulu government refused to recognise him. Similarly, Chief T A Hlongwane of Bergville – removed from his position in 1980 for daring to stand up to apartheid – has recently had his position confirmed by the chiefly family council, but is being ignored by the government; he and his supporters fear for their lives.

This ‘traditional’ institution thus has little to do with pan-African cultural values that ‘a chief is a chief by his people’ – and everything to do with colonial/apartheid-imposed controls which continue to serve vested political interests and objectives. The end result of the increasing politicisation of chiefship, accompanied in some places by endemic violence, is that fear and repression – which is inimical to political freedom – is more pronounced than it was in 1994.

Is a Commission of Enquiry the solution to the problem of violence?

Representatives of different political parties have been calling for a Commission of Enquiry into the violence in this province for some time. Recently the IFP has attempted – unsuccessfully, following Supreme Court intervention – to establish a Commission to investigate allegations by one of its representatives against an ANC provincial minister. At the same time, the national government has indicated that it is giving serious consideration to setting up a Commission to look into the causes of violence in the province.

It should be pointed out that both the Goldstone Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation uncovered a great deal of information which has a direct bearing on the root causes of the violence, and some of the material has a direct bearing on what is still happening. Much of this material has not received the attention it should have – particularly with regard to the deployment of security force personnel, especially police, in this province. There are also a number of important prosecutions which should have taken place by now – including those being handled by Gauteng-based investigators. Cases have reportedly been withdrawn, and a couple of sacrificial lambs in the persons of Eugene de Kock and Ferdie Barnard have served to deflect public attention from other serious matters which have a direct bearing on what continues to happen in this province.

In other words, we have had large, expensive Commissions, which have uncovered a great deal of information which, for a number of reasons (including coverups) has not been fully utilised. What lessons are to be learnt from these exercises – and what could a new Commission hope to achieve?

Obviously, any Commission will stand or fall on the integrity and expertise of the person or persons who head it. Political nonpartisanship (including any connections with apartheid justice structures) is also a prerequisite for the position/s. What should be avoided is the ‘reinvention of the wheel’ option, in which some large, costly body would take months to accumulate evidence and issue a report. The aim should be a fairly small, cost-effective structure which would have wide powers to follow up, immediately, on information which has a bearing on the violence – whether it is reports of paramilitary training, the movement of weapons, or coverups in investigations. In other words, it should be a reputable ‘lean and mean’ judicial body, with at least one Judge or senior advocate who would have the power to access police documentation. Great care would need to be taken with staffing, because experience of various similar bodies suggests that it is at this level that harmful leakage and sophisticated coverups occur. The example of gun controls is one of the areas such a Commission could oversee.

Gun control : The number one priority

Whilst news of proposed amendments to gun control legislation is welcome, it may well be a case of ‘too little, too late’ – for the problem is that even existing legislation is not being properly implemented. For example, people (especially those linked to endemic violence in the communities concerned, walk around openly armed (sometimes with more than one gun, one of more of which may be automatic/semi-automatic) yet no action is taken by the security forces (who may claim that these weapons are ‘legal’) that weapons can be acquired quite easily from nearby territories such as Mozambique is fairly common knowledge – and border controls appear to be very lax successful prosecutions do not necessarily follow when guns are removed by army and police – and these weapons may re-circulate guns ‘disappear’ from supposedly safe storage in police stations Vlakplaas weapons of war – including mines and rocket launchers – are presumably still in this province Judging from the number of cases in which police and army members shoot each other and members of the public, many appear unfit to carry weapons (and off duty members are themselves killed, seemingly for their guns The private security industry has mushroomed, and has access to large quantities of weapons. At the same time the credentials of many of these companies appear extremely suspect, and regulation of their activities is minimal. The magnitude of this problem is such that it simply cannot be left to the police alone to deal with – especially as they have shown themselves unwilling or unable to do so.

Incidents of crimes such as hijackings would decline rapidly if anything like a proper effort were made to deal with weapon proliferation.

If a Judicial commission can do something about cover-ups at the level of policing, and about implementing controls over guns and security companies it will have served a useful purpose.

The Richmond investigations

A recent NIM/HRC report, which synthesises relevant information from the TRC investigations, is a useful compilation on the role of the security forces in Richmond. However, the recommendations it makes are not necessarily realistic, particularly insofar as the establishment of a judicial body to hear evidence of alleged police complicity in Richmond violence is concerned. The model of the Shobashobane Inquiry – which is hearing evidence about policing issues related to the massacre – is used as an exemplar. Whilst the Shobashobane inquiry is indeed yielding valuable insights about what happened at that time, it is not practical, given the extremely limited resources – in terms of competent personpower and finance – for policing and justice -to set up a similar commission for Richmond. For one thing, the problems of Richmond are by no means unique – similar issues are in need of investigation all over the province. Furthermore, the lesson learnt from the Shobashobane Inquiry is that it is extremely costly: Police members have a number of top legal teams at their disposal, at taxpayers’ expense – but money has to be raised independently(and increasingly difficult task) to cover even a small legal team for the victims. Without lawyers acting for the victims little progress is likely to be made in a commission of this nature. Similarly, in principle, there is nothing wrong with recommending that investigations be ‘intelligence driven’; the reality is, however, that the composition of some of the intelligence units operating in this province – in terms of the backgrounds of certain members – is itself hugely problematic.

The NIM/HRC report also recommends that all dockets be channelled through the recently appointed Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions – which appears to be happening. Again, this may seem a reasonable proposal but in practice it appears to have led to potentially serious problems in terms of the impact on the morale of black police members. It should be noted that police members who were investigating in the Richmond area before the arrival of Mr McAdam had made a number of breakthroughs in investigations – and that the latter months of 1998 had been relatively peaceful ones.

There are extremely sensitive issues here in terms of the racial composition of investigating units – for, unfortunately, due to the lack of meaningful transformation, perceptions based on race still hold sway within the SAPS. One of the carry-overs from apartheid has been the racial nature of command structures in specialised units, including detectives : Whites (and sometimes Indians)are in command, and Africans – who do the bulk of the work in African areas – are in subservient positions. The VIU headed by Captain Mandla Vilakazi was, until the latter part of 1998, the exception – an exception which certain members of police management strove hard to remove. During the latter part of 1998 African members were appointed to head other VIUs, including in Richmond. The changes which have been initiated since Mr McAdam took control of the Richmond investigations have – no doubt unintentionally – been extremely hurtful for African members. There is a perception that the long-standing pattern (including in Richmond) of removing dockets from credible African detectives is continuing, and that, in typical baaskap fashion, Africans are only required to play a junior, subservient role, whilst others take credit for their work.

There is yet another disturbing development in investigative work, which relates to the use of lie-detectors (polygraphs). From press reports it seems that witnesses who had come forward were considered unreliable because they had failed lie-detector tests. Subjecting witnesses to such tests raises a number of extremely serious questions, as to whether they – and the community from which they came – were fully informed about the nature of such testing, and their permission was obtained (surely a basic ethical consideration when witnesses come forward voluntarily).

The time is overdue for the mythology of polygraphs to be exposed. These tests rest on the fundamental premise that physiological processes (such as blood pressure and heart beat), which are closely linked to emotional states, may fluctuate in situations of stress – the assumption being that telling lies will cause people stress. The truth of the matter is that the very process of being connected to such machinery may be extremely stressful – especially for relatively unsophisticated people – and that the stress they are experiencing may be erroneously interpreted as due to their lying. Conversely, emotionally shallow people such as psychopaths may sail through such tests! It is generally acknowledged that if polygraphs are to be administered they must be accompanied by extremely skillful questioning – and that even then the results are not conclusive, but merely point in a certain direction. Unless certain ethical and professional guidelines are followed, such tests are nothing better than trial-by-ordeal used to obtain confessions from supposed witches!

FINALLY, SOUTH AFRICANS MUST TAKE EVERY CARE THAT THEY DO NOT LOSE THEIR HARD-WON GAINS IN CONSTITUTIONALLY-ENTRENCHED HUMAN RIGHTS. MOVES BY THE POLICE TO RESTRICT INFORMATION ARE REGRESSIVE AND UNACCEPTABLE – AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE SECURITY FORCES BE GIVEN ANY MORE POWERS THROUGH THE PASSING OF ADDITIONAL ‘ANTI-TERRORIST’ LEGISLATION.

Overview of Violence during 1998

‘And the killing goes on’ was the title of a paper given by Pietermaritzburg-based violence monitor Wendy Leeb towards the end of 1988, at the height of the carnage in and around that city. A decade later the killing still goes on : Since the end of 1988 at least 12 000 people have died in KZN, almost 4 000 of them since the elections in 1994, in violence which has political overtones. Countless thousands have been injured, traumatised and displaced. Over seven hundred of those deaths have occurred in the first eleven months of 1998. Given the entrenched culture of violence in South Africa, the continuing low intensity political conflict in KZN – and the ready availability of guns – violent crime in general remains endemic.

The high visibility of conflict in Richmond in 1998, characterised by massacres, allegations of security force complicity, and political mud-slinging, drew – briefly – national and international attention to the continuing turmoil in this province. Meanwhile, violence continues to rage, largely unseen, in all regions, and – especially in deep rural areas around Nongoma, Empangeni/Eshowe and Greytown – receives scant media attention.

A number of those who have been killed during 1998 – IFP leadership in the South Coast, ANC and UDM supporters in Richmond, and ANC office-bearers in Gingindlovu – have clear connections with political parties. Contrary to the utterances of leaders, tensions and killings involving IFP and ANC (and intra-party struggles) continue in a number of areas. However, links between politics (which is fundamentally about power relationships in society) and violence are not confined to struggles between representatives of political parties. The Natal Monitor has made the point on various occasions that, compared with the pre-election period, the nature of the violence has been changing in recent years; nevertheless, much of it still appears aimed at destabilising large areas of the province, including through criminal and taxi conflict (see, for example, the Monitor for June/July 1998). Some of the destruction, especially that which targets women, children and elderly folk, appears wanton terrorism.

There is an unfortunate tendency, even on the part of monitors and the media, to portray much of the violence (including in areas around Nongoma, Greytown and Harding) as ‘faction fighting’. This interpretation presumably originates from police sources, and from grossly oversimplified – and paternalistic – stereotypes of ‘traditional Africans/Zulus’, which have their roots in the discredited social science research of the colonial era and the divide-and-rule policy of apartheid.

The realities of the conflict are far more complex, and an analysis which fails to take into account the wider context in which the affected communities are situated is flawed. Isolated, ‘traditional’ communities are figments of imagination, wishful thinking and tourist promotions. Poverty-stricken rural areas in which ‘faction fighting’ takes place are heavily dependent on migrant earnings. When in town migrants live in hostels, which are highly politicised. The political linkages are maintained through chiefs who, in KZN, fall under the umbrella body of a deeply politicised House of Traditional Leaders. Taxis – often under political and/or police ownership – provide transport links to all areas of the province (and country). Is it mere co-incidence that persons who were members of, or close to, some of the more notorious apartheid security forces happen to live and/or own farms in some of the volatile areas of this province?

‘Faction fighting’ is frequently linked to contests over land and chiefship. Chiefship is a heavily contested area of struggle, as a number of amakhosi, includingNgwane (Hluhluwe), Xolo (kwaXolo) and T A Hlongwane(Bergville) will attest. These chiefs are amongst those who live in fear of their lives from political opponents. Similarly, conflict which has wracked Dududu (near Scottburgh) during 1998 does not appear unconnected to the apolitical stand of the local chief.

The reality is that human beings continue to die, needlessly, and that not enough people seem to care about halting the carnage. Despite the alarming crime levels, from which no South Africans are safe, the vast majority of the victims in this province are black and poor. During 1998 a number of alleged perpetrators of high profile crimes – involving the murders of a Durban lawyer, an Eshowe nun, an Empangeni doctor, and several farmers, and the rape of Swiss tourists, have been arrested and/or convicted. However, with certain notable exceptions, the rate of conviction in the vast majority of cases of violence, in which victims are black, is still painfully low. Why was it possible for community members to hand over to the police the alleged rapists of the Swiss tourists – yet continuing murders in the same area go undetected. Why is there no equivalent public outrage when local women and children are raped?

At the present time (beginning of December) violence continues in a number of areas of the province, including around Nongoma, Empangeni, Mtunzini, Greytown/Mapumulo, hostels in Durban, Umbumbulu, and Lower South Coast areas around Margate, Izingolweni and Harding. Indiscriminate killings are taking place, once again, in L Section, KwaMashu; those involved are well known – except, it seems, to the police.

From Pongola in the north – where ANC/IFP tensions threaten bloodshed – to Izingolweni and Harding, in the south, and Himeville and Bergville in the west of the province, the season of goodwill may not be a peaceful one for local residents.

It is thus essential that adequate numbers of security force personnel – including SANDF members – be deployed in the province over the festive season. It has been possible for South Africa to deploy hundreds of soldiers in Lesotho. Additional security force personnel were sent to Richmond as part of a strategy to halt the carnage. A similar policy should operate in all the violence-ravaged areas of this province. It is worth repeating that safety and security, like charity, begins at home.

The Year Ahead

It should go without saying that high numbers of security force personnel should remain deployed in the province in the run-up to, and during, the 1999 elections. At the same time, there have been a number of incidents in which members of the SANDF have been involved in killings and other human rights abuses, and their behaviour, like that of the police, needs careful monitoring.

If any meaningful impact is to be made on the high levels of violent crime in general, there are three areas, in particular in need of urgent attention : The criminal justice system generally and policing in particular, controls over guns, and the private security company industry.

The criminal justice system

The new provincial prosecuting authority under the directorship of Chris McAdam is a step in the right direction, but a great deal will depend on the capabilities of legal staff to be appointed, and the competence and credibility of police investigators. The replacement of former Attorney-General McNally(himself a political appointee) was long overdue. The issue has, unfortunately, become politicised, but the fact is that problems with this office go well beyond party politics. With some exceptions there have been difficulties in instituting effective prosecutions against police members, whilst people against whom evidence is tenuous have been pursued with vigour. The matter of human rights advocate Jennifer Wild, who has battled for five and a half years to clear her name, is a case in point : When the case was thrown out of court Mr McNally reinstituted proceedings. Suddenly, after years of huge expense to the taxpayer, and inestimable trauma to the accused, a pretext was found for withdrawing these charges – coincidentally after intervention by the national Director of Prosecutions.

Meaningful transformation of the SAPS remains long overdue. Corruption is rife and morale is poor. Whilst the independent committee looking into allegations of racism is welcome, far more must be done about the state of the service in general – in fact a Judicial Commission of Enquiry into corruption would not be out of place. At the very least the grossly over-stretched Independent Complaints Directorate should be provided with additional, competent, personnel. Having a suitable retired Judge or senior advocate as a police ombudsman is another option which should be considered. The morale of members is poor for a variety of reasons, including the dangerous nature of police work, the corruption of colleagues, and the lack of recognition which good police members receive. From lists of promotions black members are still seriously disadvantaged compared with their white counterparts, and there appears to have been no fast tracking of capable, experienced black members with clean records who – had they been white – would have achieved high ranks under apartheid. Promoting young, relatively inexperienced members who have qualifications on paper (which does not necessarily qualify the person as a capable practitioner) is also not a solution, and can be very damaging to morale, and militate against the type of teamwork which is essential, especially in detective work. If the government is really serious about promoting the interests of those grievously disadvantaged by apartheid – and about dealing effectively with crime – this continuing discrimination against competent black members should be remedied with immediate effect.

Controls over guns

The urgency of implementing tighter controls over dangerous weapons cannot be over-emphasised. This task is far too important to be left solely in the hands of the police. The appointment of a senior legal person, whose task it would be to inspect the work of police units and ensure that confiscated guns are destroyed, and follow up cases of weapons missing from police stations, and other irregularities surrounding guns and the police, should be considered.

Private security companies

Security companies play an important role in protecting people and property, particularly in a society in which police are over-stretched and under-resourced. However, if they are to contribute to a declining crime rate – rather than an escalating one – it is imperative that their personnel and activities be subject to over-arching control from a body enjoying widespread legitimacy. If such controls are lacking there is nothing to prevent fly-by-night companies employing people with criminal records, or illegal aliens, and failing to exercise due control over weapons they acquire in their line of business. Depending on the scale of their operations, private security companies can, in effect, function as armed militias. It is for this reason that they must be controlled, very firmly, by the government of the day. Adequate regulation of this industry is long overdue, and is yet another factor which contributes to a widespread perception that this government has not yet established a strong enough grip on matters relating to the safety and security of its citizens.

Mangete In Crisis: Is Nobody Listening?

Following a recent arson attack in which their community hall was razed, and continuing threats that they will be driven off their ancestral lands, members of the Dunn farming community of the KZN north coast are living in fear of their lives. For the past seven years their appeals to government, including the Ministries of Land Affairs and Safety and Security, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Unless something is done to halt the campaign of terror being waged against them other farmers in this province wil not be safe from similar terror tactics.

Members of the Dunn community, descendants of nineteenth century British settler John Dunn and his Zulu wives, who hold title deeds to their land bordering on the Tugela River, are small scale sugar cane farmers. Since 1993 they have been subject to ‘land invasions’, as squatters have built houses on their farms. Whilst this illegal occupation is justified by claims that the squatters are merely returning to land from which they were forcibly removed under apartheid, relatively few of the several thousand people living in these illegal structures have historic ties to the area. For example, on one of the earliest properties affected, in 1993, the owners of which were forced to vacate in fear of their personal safety, those erecting structures (and dismantling the house of the property owner) were not from the ranks of the original displacees. Part of the Mangete area is the subject of a contested land claim lodged by neighbouring chief Khayalesha Mathaba on behalf of the Macambini Tribal Authority. In the mean time, illegal building activities continue, despite a request to the Land Claims Commission that a moratorium be declared on the erection of any further structures.

During the past eight years, members of the Dunn community have been subject to threat, intimidation – including through threatening, anonymous pamphlets – and acts of violence from some of the squatters and persons associated with them. In one recent incident the Chairperson of Mangete Landowners association, Ms Pat Dunn, was held up at gunpoint and robbed. The farmers’ financial losses, incurred through the regular burning of their sugar cane, and the poisoning of cattle, have been huge.

When the land invasions started it was no secret that the instigator was Inkosi Mathaba, and what is happening in Mangete cannot be divorced from events in the Macambini area over the past decade. In the run up to the 1994 elections, especially, and, to a somewhat lesser extent since then, this area has been wracked by politically-linked violence in which many people, especially ANC supporters, have been chased away or killed, often by known hitmen. At present there is a vigilante-type gang styling itself ‘Pagad’ which is targetting suspected ANC sympathisers. Violence in Macambini has been closely linked to similar activities in other north coast areas, which smack of sinister ‘third force’ networks and tactics. What is of particular concern is the influence which Inkosi Mathaba appears to wield over police in the area; he has reportedly been overheard boasting that they are his ‘eyes and ears’.

The apparently cosy relationship between Mathaba and the police raises questions about the conspicuous failure of the security forces to ensure that members of the Dunn community receive the protection to which they are entitled, despite senior management having been apprised of the dangers to which they were subject since 1994. They were told in 1995, for example, that people were being shot at in broad daylight and that fearful for their safety, women and children were locking themselves away in their homes during the day. In one recent incident on 19 February an illegal blockade of roads leading to Mangete, led by one Sibiya (a self-styled squatter leader who is not from the area) posed a serious threat to the safety of residents and disrupted work and schooling. Members of management of the SAPS and SANDF were advised, over a week before it took place, that this blockade was being planned, and were given specific details, including the time at which it was to start. They arrived only after the illegal activities had commenced and the safety of residents had been unncessarily jeopardised.

The burning of the community hall during the early hours of Sunday 19 April is but one indicator of gross derelection of duty on the part of the security forces and their intelligence arms. It should have been obvious that the recent intensification of hostilities towards the Dunn community poses grave danger to people’s lives and property, especially as numbers of ‘intelligence agents’ have been active in the area (although it should be noted that massacres in Richmond occurred despite the area being awash with ‘intelligence’ agents). To add insult to injury, later in the day on which the hall was burnt Inkosi Mathaba held a meeting near the smouldering ruins. It is alleged that, in the course of this meeting, marked by racist rhetoric, threats were made that:

  • Other community structures such as clinic and schools would be targetted
  • Pat Dunn would end up in the coffin which had been displayed, with her name on it, at a previous meeting
  • There would be a further blockade of roads if the squatters were not victorious in court

Such threats must be taken seriously, especially given the arms circulating in the area. As the date of the court case approaches, and during and after the hearing itself, the extremely volatile situation in Mangete may well give rise to further attacks on life and property. It is absolutely essential that security force patrols remain deployed in the area. Whilst an army patrol would be welcome, under no circumstances should soldiers deployed in the area come from KwaZulu-Natal, since serious allegations are made about continuing partisanship on the part of certain recruits from this province.

The deployment of patrols is a stopgap measure. What is happening in Mangete is symptomatic of what is perceived as ineffectiveness on the part of those charged with implementing land reform. More importantly, however, it is an extremely serious indictment of the failure of those charged with meeting the safety and security needs of South Africa’s citizens to fulfill their mandate. Whilst problems with policing abound, nowhere are these problems more pronounced that in the rural North Coast and Northern regions. Since provincial management has shown itself incapable of addressing these problems, the time for firm action at a national level is long overdue.

A failure by government to ensure that its organs of state take action to right the wrongs of Mangete will be interpreted as carte blanche not only to people wishing to help themselves to land which does not belong to them, but to perpetrators of violent crime conducting their reign of terror in rural areas.