MOUTSE December 2 1996 Sapa

MBOKODO LEADER RECALLS HOW HE ESCAPED DEATH BY BURNING

A former leader of the Mbokodo group and a member of the KwaNdebele legislative assembly on Monday told the Truth Commission he was abducted and almost set alight by so-called comrades during the conflict over the homeland's planned independence.

Mbokodo (meaning a grinding stone) was allegedly responsible for a wave of violence against people opposed to KwaNdebele's independence.

Kedu Simon Mahlangu was testifying at the sitting of the commission at Moutse, Mpumalanga.

He said he was doused with petrol by comrades in 1986, but they decided against setting him alight because he was an important figure and they feared the consequences.

Mahlangu said he knew of many people who were burned to death by comrades in KwaNdebele.

He was freed, but when he returned home he discovered his house and the houses of his relatives had been burned to the ground.

Monday's hearing was disrupted when commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu's plastic chair broke apart.

Tutu said the chair broke "because he was a big man".

Mahlangu went on to say Mbokodo still existed and that he was a member.

He also testified about an incident in January 1986 when several hundred people were rounded up by the Mbokodo and detained in the Siyabuswa community hall, where they were assaulted and humiliated.

Mahlangu said he went home and took no part in the beatings. When he intervened on the captive's behalf the next morning, he was threatened with assault by Mbokodo members. A firearm was pointed at him and he decided to leave the matter there.

Questioned by commissioner Tom Manthata, Mahlangu said the Mbokodo shared Ndbele King Mayisha II's sentiments about national unity.

The commission also heard testimony from David Tjiane and Elias Mashego, whose sons died of injuries they suffeered at the Siybuswa hall beatings.


South African Press Association, 1996
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