THE BOIPATONG MASSACRE
On 17 June 2020 the EFF issued a statement to mark the 28th anniversary of the Boipatong massacre. It stated that the massacre had been orchestrated by “an Apartheid government led by FW de Klerk” who had “funded and supported the massacre in order to undermine negotiations…”
On 17 June 1992 45 residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Boipatong were brutally murdered. The Boipatong massacre was egregious – even by the violent standards of the times. Women and babies were among the victims who were mercilessly hacked and stabbed to death.
President De Klerk decided to visit the community to express his condolences to bereaved families the following Saturday – 20 June – but was forced to retreat from the township by angry ANC protesters.
The ANC used the Boipatong massacre to ramp up its propaganda campaign against the De Klerk government to fever pitch. On 21 June Nelson Mandela visited the township and declared that “We are not dealing with human beings… we are dealing with animals. I will not forget what Mr De Klerk, the National Party and the IFP have done to our people…”
Two days later the ANC’s NEC used the massacre as a pretext to suspend constitutional negotiations at CODESA. It gave the left wing of the Alliance the green light to launch rolling mass action and their “Leipzig option” on the mistaken premise that if they could get enough people into the streets for long enough, the NP government would collapse – just as the East German government had collapsed two years earlier.
Responsibility for the Boipatong massacre once again became a core issue during the deliberations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After De Klerk’s testimony to the TRC on 14 May 1997 Archbishop Tutu said he was “close to tears” over De Klerk’s failure to acknowledge responsibility for the massacre. He himself had told De Klerk about allegations of security force involvement in the Boipatong massacre, after visiting survivors and hearing their stories. The TRC went on to find that “KwaMadala (hostel) residents, with the police, planned and carried out the killings.” It claimed that security forces had ferried the IFP attackers to Boipatong in SAP vehicles and that white men with blackened faces were among the attackers.
However, the TRC’s finding contradicted the explicit judgement of its own amnesty committee that considered the amnesty applications of 16 residents of the KwaMadala Hostel. It found that IFP supporters from the hostel had perpetrated the killings on their own, without police help, and in revenge for repeated ANC attacks on hostel dwellers. The amnesty committee’s findings were in line with the findings of the Goldstone Commission and the investigation of Dr PAJ Waddington, an independent British expert. The 1993 trial of the hostel dwellers who were charged for their part in the massacre came to the same conclusion. Not one of the 120 Boipatong residents who testified at the trial saw police vehicles assisting the attackers or claimed that whites were present.
According to an article by Rian Malan the TRC “simply accepted phantasmagoric accusations made by ANC-aligned sources in the massacre’s confused and emotion-charged aftermath.”