The Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Wednesday heard how a strike by factory workers in Mpophomeni township in Howick continued longer than expected because Inkatha members and police allegedly attacked striking workers.

The commission is sitting in Pietermaritzburg for its KwaZulu-Natal hearings on crimes against humanity committed during the apartheid era.

The strike in 1985 at the BTR Sarmcol factory was sparked by a dispute over recognition of the Metal and Allied Workers' Union.

One of the strikers, Moses "Mxhegu" Ndlela, told the commission Inkatha and local chiefs were opposed to the strike. Inkatha allegedly encouraged its supporters to replace the strikers at the factory.

Ndlela said the strike continued longer than expected and the area was continually attacked by police and Inkatha members.

He recalled an incident between 1990 and 1991 when a battle broke out between Inkatha members and workers. He said workers were also ambushed by police.

Ndlela said he and another man hid behind a church. Two white policemen found them and as the other man ran away, he was shot dead.

"I was terrified," Ndlela told the commission. "I told them not to shoot me, but when I ran they did shoot and I was hit on my back and my legs. I still have bullets all over me, they have not been taken out."

Ndlela said his wife became mentally unstable after he lost his job. He asked the commission to try to establish why Sarmcol had treated workers cruelly.

"We are parents with children to support and yet most of us are still unemployed," he said. "I would also like to know why the police assisted in killing people in Mpophomeni."

Micca Sibiya told the commission about an attack in which his brother and two others were shot dead and their bodies burnt. Sibiya was shot, but survived the attack.

Sibiya said he, his brother Phenias, Florence Mnikathi and Simon Ngubane were approached by eight men on December 5, 1986. They were ordered out of their car and told to go to the local community hall, where an Inkatha meeting was in progress.

"We were put in a room, although the woman (Mnikathi) was put in another room, and they kicked and hit us while asking us why we were not members of Inkatha.

"They continually asked us about Sarmcol and the strike. Eventually, they told us they were taking us to a doctor and told us to get into a car. Florence was put in front and Ngubane was put into the boot."

Sibiya said they were driven in the direction of Lion's River and he escaped when the car stopped. A shot lightly wounded him, but he kept running and hid in the river.

Sibia said he heard gunshots, but stayed in the water until morning.

Commissioner Ilan Lax asked him if he knew there had been an inquest into the incident and that several people had been found responsible, but had not been prosecuted. They are Morris Thusi, Joseph Mabaso, Nhlanhla Shabalala, Thulani Mchunu, Bhekisizwa Majozi, Bhekukuwenza Mtshali, Mzikayifani Cele, Vele Mchunu and Dumisani Mkhize.

Lax told Sibiya the others he had been with had all been shot, their bodies stabbed and the car set alight.

Sibiya replied that he had never been formally informed of what had happened to the others.

Two wives of slain chief Mhlabunzima Maphumulo told the commission the death of their husband had affected their families' health.

Thobekile Maphumulo described her late husband as a popular chief, but one who had always been in danger.

Maphumulo's second wife, Nombulelo, said she felt strange people seen at her home after Maphumulo's death were in some way connected to the crime.

The women asked for further investigaitons into the case and Thobekile said she wished to undergo counselling.

Hawukile and Nombulelo Mzolo testified of an attack on their Mpumuza house in 1987, allegedly by an Inkatha mob. They wanted the commission to find out what had happened to a four-year-old child who was kidnapped during the attack.

Themba Mchunu of Sobantu described how he had been tortured by security branch police at the Loop Street police station in 1976 after he and six others tried to flee the country.

He asked the commission to help him find a job.

Joseph Mandla Xaba of Mpumalanga said his wife had been gunned down in 1988 by people he believed wanted to shoot him.

Lawrence Fanizini Dladla of Mpumalanga described how four of his sons were killed in political attacks. Molo Dladla, 18, and Fox Dladla, 15, were allegedly murdered by Inkatha members. Zakhele Dladla, 29, was believed to have been killed by a KwaZulu policeman, while 22-year-old Fiko was allegedly killed by "tsotsis", Dladla said.

Dladla wanted to know why no one has been arrested in connection with the killings.

Nelson Boy Maseko of Mpophomeni described the killing of his son Mlungisi Jerome Maseko when he was 15 years old. He also told the commission about the death of his brother, Bheki Maseko, and two others, Bhunu Hlela and Jabulani Mnikathi, in the townhip on April 14 1993.He asked the commission to help build a monument in memory of the 11 people who died in violence in the township on that day and wanted to know why no one had been convicted for the deaths.

Hlela's mother, Philisile Hlela, told of how her son's death had affected her and asked for help with her children.

Dumisane Dube said his friend Bongani Cele was shot, allegedly by policemen, near Mpophomeni High School in 1990. He asked for support for Cele's dependents, including a child now aged four.

Alfred Bangizwe Mnikathi described how he was tortured by a policeman at a stadium in Mpophomeni in 1989. The assault left him deaf.

Sibekapi Bangizwe Shelembe said his friend, only named as Mthethelwa, was shot in Mpophomeni during 1990. He wanted the perpetrators to be named and asked for medical aid.

Alvina Gcinefikile Ngcobo told the commission of the burning to death of her husband, Mpande Ngcobo, in 1991 in Sweetwaters. She asked the commission for financial help and said she needed a proper house.

South African Press Association, 1996
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