Zulus and police blamed by survivors of massacre Township overcome by shock, bitterness

June 20, 1992|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Staff Writer The New York Times contributed to this article.

BOIPATONG, South Africa -- A large contingent of white policemen stood by at the KwaMadala hostel yesterday, across the highway from this township of modest houses and little shacks where 39 people were massacred this week.

The survivors of the massacre Wednesday night say that Zulu tribesmen from the hostel committed the massacre. Many residents suspect police of complicity in the attack and say that police vans were used to protect the attackers rather than the residents, who were murdered in their own homes by a gang of 200 men wielding knives, guns, axes and spears.

They suspect the police of helping the Zulu supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party against Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

The scene outside the KwaMadala hostel helped feed that suspicion.

The police said they wanted to search the building for evidence. But the people inside refused. Most of the investigating detectives sat in unmarked cars outside the migrant-worker facility all day as police officials negotiated with Inkatha officials.

While they talked, knots of hostel residents danced inside the compound, shaking Zulu shields and sticks and chanting songs in praise of the president of Inkatha, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The police went in eventually and came out with a few spears they said they were confiscating for forensic analysis.

The large police presence dwindled by nightfall, the time when most township attacks occur. Only about 20 officers remained outside the KwaMadala hostel as the last glow of light left the sky.

Chief Buthelezi issued a statement yesterday saying that he was "unutterably appalled" by the carnage and denying that any "leadership structure" within Inkatha had any knowledge of it.

In the daylight, the people of Boipatong mourned bitterly, with hundreds of residents milling around its unpaved streets.

Workers stayed home from work and students stayed home from school as the traumatized community absorbed the shock of what had happened.

"I think we should be given arms to protect ourselves," said Dinakatso Mereohle, a young woman standing near a church where Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu consoled local residents.

"We can't fight with our hands. We can't fight somebody who has a gun with a stick or stone.

"We ask for protection, but we are not protected," she said. "So we feel the police are not helping us, and so we don't want them in this location any more."

Most of the hostel dwellers are rural members of the Zulu tribe who have come to South Africa's industrial heartland for jobs and who pledge allegiance to the Zulu-based Inkatha political organization.

For over two years, the ANC has charged that Inkatha is using hostels as bases for attacks on ANC strongholds and using hostel dwellers as an army of thugs throughout the industrial region that surrounds Johannesburg.

There have been a number of violent incidents throughout the region in which residents said they witnessed Inkatha and the police working hand in hand against the local communities, many of which are predominantly ANC areas.

Police and government officials consistently deny the charges, although Law and Order Minister Hernus Kriel said this time that he had requested a full report within six days from his police commissioner.

"If any member of the public have any facts which relates to the incident, they are earnestly requested to make them available," he said.

With the high level of mistrust of police among black members of the public, however, the police commissioner is not likely to get a great deal of cooperation.

"We don't trust the police forces of South Africa. We don't want any police here," said the Rev. Elijah Mabaso, minister at the Assemblies of Christ Church in Boipatong.

He also said that the community had asked repeatedly over an 18-month period that the migrant workers' hostel be shut down because "it's like a college for killers." But no action had been taken.

Local activists and a Methodist minister said they had received tips that an attack would take place in the township and appealed to police for protection prior to the massacre.

But a police spokesman said officers were thrown off by a report that the attack would take place in Sebokeng, another township a few miles from Boipatong. He said men were stationed at the other location when the attack occurred.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.