SEBOKENG July 13 1998 - SAPA
BOIPATONG HORROR RECALLED AT TRC AMNESTY HEARING
The horror of the 1992 Boipatong massacre, in which 46 people including young children and old people were butchered, was recalled at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty hearing in Sebokeng on Monday.
Victor Mthandeni Mthembu, 29, is one of 16 Inkatha Freedom Party members applying for amnesty for the attack on the township near Vanderbijlpark on June 16, 1992. The applicants were part of an impi of about 300 who launched the attack from the nearby KwaMadala hostel. Apart from the deaths scores more were injured and dozens of houses were ransacked.
Mthembu has claimed the raid was in retaliation for a spate of attacks on IFP members by African ational Congress members who necklaced or burnt hostel residents. During cross-examination by Daniel Berger, for victims and their families, it was pointed out to Mthembu that many of the people killed were children.
Mthembu replied that the object had been to attack residents of Boipatong, irrespective of their ages, because they supported the ANC.
The audience, many of whom are survivors or relatives of victims, were shocked and distressed with Mthembu's reply when Berger asked him how the killing of a nine-month-old Aaron Mathope could be seen as an attack on the ANC.
"A snake gives birth to a snake," he said.
There were gasps of shock and anger from the audience, who were clearly upset by what they regarded as a callous remark.
Later Mthembu attempted to explain that his use of the term about snakes was an idiomatic expression, but Berger put it to Mthembu that he should not try to run away from his own words.
"It was your intention to kill anyone who was present in Boipatong that night," Berger said.
At that stage amnesty committee chairman Judge Sandile Ncgobo intervened and said it had already been established that people were killed regardless of age. But he said there was no evidence to suggest that Mthembu himself killed any children.
Mthembu earlier testified that on the night of the attack he saved the lives of two children. He said he hid them under a bed so they would not be harmed. Berger suggested this had not happened, and that the children were in fact attacked.
Berger said the families of the victims he represented had stated that they would not consider forgiving him until he revealed all the details of the attack, including all the names of the people who had been in the raiding party.
The lawyer pointed out that two other children killed that night were Agnes Malindi, 4, and Poppie Mbatha, 5. One of the survivors of the massacre, Mita Moleti who was three at the time, was injured on the night and is now confined to a wheelchair. She has been attending the hearings every day and listens to the proceedings.
"She still wants to know why her skull was hacked with a panga," Berger said to Mthembu, who replied that he could not offer an explanation.
Many of the victims were repeatedly hacked and stabbed and one old woman received so many wounds it was impossible to count them. Mthembu was asked why had been necessary to inflict mulitiple stab wounds on people, some of whom were asleep at the time.
"They were not just sleeping, they were sleeping in Boipatong," he replied.
He also justified the theft of property from residents on the night of the attack on the grounds that Shaka had confiscated cattle from the people he had defeated in war. He said he had learnt from history that the victor had the right to take the property of the losers.
He said the attackers had taken blankets, televsion sets and two-plate stoves which they would have used in the hostel. But after the attack former IFP Transvaal leader Themba Khoza ordered them to dispose of the booty and to burn all evidence.
Mthembu was convicted of murder in 1994 and is serving a lengthy prison sentence. One of the original applicants, Thomas Lukhozi, last week withdrew his application for amnesty.