JOHANNESBURG October 29 1996 Sapa


The 1986 six-day war in Alexandra was sparked by the tear-gassing of mourners after a funeral, Gauteng ANC deputy secretary-general Obed Bapela on Tuesday told a Truth and Reconciliation Commission sitting in Alexandra.

The funeral was for a youth allegedly killed by a security guard at a shop in London Street, Alexandra. Bapela said Alexandra was peaceful until police provoked mourners by tear-gassing them when they returned from the graveyard.

"People gathered at (the dead youth's) home and police tear-gassed. The crowd became angry and Alex was engulfed in flames for about six days," Bapela said.

Bapela, a Gauteng MPL, said during the six-day war about 19 people were killed.

He told the commission people in Alexandra had engaged in a just war to free themselves from the bondages of apartheid. Mass mobilisation was started with a view to getting the people's co-operation in bettering their lives, partly by way of street committees.

People regarded as enemies of the government were terrorised and tortured by the security forces, said Bapela.

Together with other activists including Moses Mayekiso, he was arrested on charges of high treason, sedition and subversion. He told the commission that after being released on bail from Diepkloof prison in Soweto he was ordered not to set foot in Alexandra.

He stayed with a lawyer in Bellevue, Johannesburg. Bapela said the house was bombed and extensively damaged.

"In the early hours of January 6, 1989 I heard screams from people outside. I found the house was on fire. I woke my wife and Aubrey but I did not know where the door key was. Later I found it."

He told the commission he had never been told who the perpetrators of the crime were, except that the house was bombed because a terrorist lived there.

During cross-examination Bapela explained that operations such as "people's courts" were legitimately established to solve the community's problems in Alexandra.

He said crime-related problems had been reduced, people could walk freely in the area, and youths were encouraged to avoid alcohol and drugs.

Bapela said the success was spoilt when the youth got out of control after the police provocation that led to the six-day war.

Bapela asked the commission to request five policemen he named, including two sgts named Mothibe and Alex, to make peace with the Alexandra community. He said they were involved in the suffering and deaths Alexandra had experienced.

Alexandra would celebrate its 80th anniversary next year and it would be fitting to honour the heroes and heroines who fell in the struggle against apartheid.

"Alexandra played a leading role in waging war against apartheid. It will be a fitting honour to remember and thank our fallen comrades. I think erecting tombstones, or one large one for them, will be a great honour," added Bapela.

South African Press Association, 1996
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