Police colluded with Witdoek vigilantes when they embarked on a reign of terror in Cape Peninsula squatter camps in the mid-1980s, by escorting them on raids and transporting their prisoners to kangaroo courts for trial.

This was the evidence presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at its hearing in Nyanga on Monday into the conflict between African National Congress "comrades" and anti-ANC vigilantes, which culminated in the almost complete destruction of KTC squatter camp in June 1986.

The commission also heard how comrades targeted community councillors and labelled as informers those residents willing to move to Khayelitsha, a sandy wasteland far from Cape Town.

In one incident, a pregnant pre-school teacher who was the lover of Jerry Tutu, one of squatter leader Melford Yamile's lieutenants, was hacked to death and her body set alight.

The commission heard that Tutu supported the idea of residents moving to Khayelitsha. When he fled to live with his sister in Guguletu, the comrades turned their anger on his lover Nonzuzo Ngwevushe.

The spotlight of the day's proceedings, however, was on the activities of the Witdoeke, who between December 1985 and June 1986 were allegedly responsible for leaving 60,000 people homeless and 60 others dead in a concerted wave of violence.

Former KTC resident Lennox Sigwela testified that he witnessed police transporting the vigilantes into the camp in an armoured vehicle at the start of a three-day wave of violence in June 1986 which left 30,000 homeless and 20 dead.

Sigwela said minutes after witnessing Witdoeke disembarking from the Hippo armoured vehicle he was shot by a policeman and then repeatedly hacked by vigilantes as he lay wounded on the ground. Sigwela survived but is confined to a wheelchair.

Ruth Gibisela told how she and five friends were abducted by the Witdoeke at a roadblock in May 1986 and transported to the vigilante's "prison" in Crossroads by police.

Gibisela, then 18, said she and her friends, two girls and three boys, had been driving to a party in Khayelitsha when they found the road blocked by a pile of tyres.

"Stones were thrown at the car. There were some old gentlemen hiding behind the tyres. They told us to stop the car."

She said the Witdoeke took two of the boys into a nearby forest and killed them. The third boy briefly escaped before being recaptured while the girls were led off to a dam.

The Witdoeke accused them of being prostitutes because of their permed hair and pointed to objects floating in the damwater. They noticed that the objects were a headless corpse and a severed head.

"They said we were going to go through that experience."

Gibisela said the Witdoeke could not agree on what should be done with hem.

After placing tyres around the girl's necks and preparing to pour paraffin over them, the vigilantes decided instead to take them to a zinc shack which was partitioned into cells and a kangaroo court.

At that moment, Gibisela said, a police armoured vehicle rescuing them, however, the police transported the Witdoeke and their prisoners to the shack.

She and her friends were then briefmprisoned before standing trial in front of a "magistrate" and "prosecutor".

"I was made to stand on this platform. They asked whether I had been sent by the Guguletu comrades."

They were eventually released and allowed to returned home.

The evidence heard on Monday of the gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the Witdoeke is to be followed on Tuesday by the testimony of squatter leaders who have been subpoenaed by the TRC.

Among them are former Witdoek leader Sam Ndima, Yamile and John Ngxobongwana, a former community leader and now National Party member of the Western Cape provincial legislature.

South African Press Association, 1997
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