LUSIKISIKI, Eastern Cape March 24 1997 Sapa


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Monday heard witness accounts of how heavily armed police surrounded a group of unarmed Pondo tribesmen in June 1960 and then opened fire without warning, killing 11.

The shootings, at Ngquza Hill near Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, occurred during a revolt by the Mpondos against government interference in their affairs, the commission was told.

Clement Xabu, a survivor of what became known as the Ngquza Hill massacre, said the Mpondos rebelled against Bantu education, the government's use of chiefs to enforce apartheid policies, and the introduction of cattle tax.

He said on June 6, 1960 a group of tribesmen were meeting peacefully at Ngquza Hill when helicopters swooped down and offloaded heavily-armed policemen.

Although the tribesmen held up a white flag to indicate they were unarmed and posed no threat, police immediately shot dead rebel leader Wanna Johnson.

"Some of us were able to run into the forest. There were people around the whole mountain shooting at us. People were injured. We carried 58 people to... a house. Eleven were killed instantly," Xabu said.

Another survivor, Simon Silangwe, said he and three others were delegated to take the news of the massacre to African National Congress president Chief Albert Luthuli, who was then under house arrest in Durban.

Silangwe said one of the group was forced to crawl through a pipe to conceal his entry into Luthuli's house.

"Luthuli was advising us to elect our own people to go to Umtata and to fight from within the parliament there."

ANC veteran Govan Mbeki, father of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, was on Monday also due to testify on his involvement in the Pondoland revolt, but was unable to attend due to ill health.

In his written submission, he described how he disguised himself as a chauffeur for a Uitenhage factory to pass through security check points in Pondoland.

"I sat at the wheel of the manager's big American car dressed in a white dust coast and a cap. The manager sat in the back seat smoking a long cigar. The soldier saluted and allowed us through."

He said the ANC later held a meeting Durban where it was decided that the Natal region of the organisation would finance the revolt while the Cape branch would provide the necessary political leadership.

"Committees were set up throughout all the districts in eastern Pondoland and within a short period of time the entire population of the area was drawn into the struggle."

South African Press Association, 1997
This text is for information only and may not be published or reprinted without the permission of the South African Press Association