The 1988 Trust Feed massacre in KwaZulu-Natal, in which 11 people were shot dead, was significant in that it was one of the first cases of violence in which the involvement of senior police officers was proved.

This was said on Thursday by Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Richard Lyster after he heard the evidence of two people affected by the attack. The commission is hearing witness' testimony in Pietermaritzburg.

Lyster said it was clear the massacre was not a random incident but was orchestrated by the police to ensure the dominance of Inkatha in the area.

Similar incidents had been described at several other commission sittings, he said.

Former Trust Feed resident Emmanuel Mbongwe told the commission how police and Inkatha leaders Jerome Gabela, Psychology Ndlovu and V V Mvelase had collaborated to force United Democratic Front members out of Trust Feed in the late eighties.

Mbongwe said owners of title deeds for Trust Feed land had opposed a plan to incorporate the area into KwaZulu, causing a rift.

There were many attacks in the area and Mbongwe believed he was specifically targeted as local police station commander Brian Mitchell had thought him responsible for forming a UDF base in Trust Feed.

He was arrested with seven others on November 23, 1988 and a state of emergency was declared in Trust Feed.

His shop was burnt down and, on December 2, 1988, 11 people were killed while attending a virgil at a house. Mbongwa believed his house had been the intended target.

Mitchell is serving a life sentence for the murders.

Mbongwe said he believed Mitchell had been involved in a conspiracy with Inkatha to break the UDF-aligned Trust Feed Crisis Committee.

Since 1988, Mbongwe said he has been shot at several times, harassed and arrested for allegedly stealing a firearm. He was charged but acquitted.

This had impacted on his teaching career as the Department of Education and Training had charged him with misconduct.

Mbongwe said many families from Trust Feed had won civil cases, but his was still pending. His land had been expropriated and he could not afford to pay the R8000 he owed in rates.

He had lived in fear of his life and said he still did not consider it safe to return to Trust Feed, but would like to develop his land.

"Most of all, up until today I have never had any apology for what happened," he said.

Dumisani Kenneth Nyoka told commission of his detention on the day of the Trust Feed massacre.

He and other UDF supporters were rounded up by the police, among them Brian Mitchell. On December 6, 1988 he was taken by police to identify the houses of the men arrested with him.

He said he found his livestock had been stolen and the dogs killed.

Nyoka was taken to court in February 1989, where charges related to illegal weapons were withdrawn. He was charged with murdering Tom Konya, whom he described as a "respectable citizen" of Trust Feed.

He was arrested again and charges later withdrawn. Upon his release, his family had disintegrated and they were constantly harassed.

Nyoka asked the commission to compensate him for all he had lost.

The commission also heard how gunmen ambushed the car in which late African National Congress midlands leader, Reggie Hadebe, and two others were returning from a peace meeting with the Inkatha Freedom Party in Ixopo.

ANC MP John Jeffreys said his car was ambushed by gunmen near Umkomazi River as he, Hadebe and ANC leader Shakes Cele returned to Pietermaritzburg.

"As we were driving past the river I heard a very loud bang and the shattering of windows. I continued driving whilst shots were being fired at the car," Jeffreys said.

"I then noticed that Reggie was lying on my leg, but assumed that he was taking cover as the car was still being shot at."

He said he only discovered that Hadebe had been shot when his head remained down after the shooting stopped.

They sought medical help at Richmond but only found a TB clinic where the nurses, who were at first reluctant to help, told him Hadeba was dead.

He then organised an ambulance to take a wounded Cele to Grey's Hospital.

Jeffreys said he was convinced Hadebe was the prime target of the attack. He did not know who carried out the attack but he believed investigations should focus on those who had attended the peace meeting.

He said the meeting with the IFP and police had been delayed when a Chief Shabalala arrived with three young men who claimed to be his bodyguards.

"We refused to proceed with the meeting until Chief Dlamini agreed to send the men away as no other person had a bodyguard present in the meeting.

"Later on Reggie told me and Shakes that Chief Xhawulengweni Mkhize had told him before the meeting that he did not like the peace meeting, but that he was happy that he now knew what Hadebe looked like."

Jeffreys believed the killers were shown who Hadebe was when Chief Mkhize greeted him.

Hadebe's wife, Sibongile Hadebe, earlier told the commision how her husband's death had affected the lives of her children.

"I have seven children and it is hard to raise them without their father," she said.

One of the children had to be sent to a special school after failing to perform well at school. The other children, she said, had a lack of compassion.

Commissioner Virginia Gcabashe said Mrs Hadebe represented many women whose husbands were heroes of the struggle and who were left with the heavy burden of raising their children.

She said the commission would send proposals to the government on how the state could help such women.

Commissioner Rev Khoza Mgojo said he was disappointment at the lack of media coverage of the proceedings in Pietermaritzburg.

Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday afternoon, he accused the media of undermining the Natal midlands region even though many apartheid-era human rights abuses had been committed there.

"At one point this region was referred to as Beirut because of the killings that were taking place here, but Thursday there is hardly any publicity about the proceedings," the reverend said.

He said the media seemed to only regard the Soweto hearings as important, despite the Soweto hall being mostly empty.

Commissioner Ilan Lax expressed concern about the "total lack of IFP cases" presented before the commission, even though the IFP leadership had promised their co-operation.

He said he hoped the IFP would not accuse the commission of being one-sided in future.

Commissioner Richard Lyster announced that the commission will return to the city for event hearings at the end of September, which would focus on events like the "Seven Day War" of 1990.

The commissioners expressed their shame at the fact that so many alleged perpetrators were still free and working in the public service.

"It does not make sense to have a murderer as a senior policemen," said Mgojo.

He added that he was encouraged by the presence of whites at the commmission's sitting. "Perhaps this is because many whites in Pietermaritzburg also participated in the struggle for liberation," he said.

South African Press Association, 1996
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