Who are these whites behind the rooidoeke?

United Nations secretary general Perez de Cuellar has expressed serious concern about the role of security force members in the Reef violence as reports of collaboration between white men and Inkatha rooidoeke mounted this week. Residents of Phola Park squatter camp, ransacked by migrant workers, insisted that a white man, who was among a group that took part in the attack on Wednesday night, had been killed and his body removed by police early yesterday morning. The claim that a white man was killed at Phola Park is the latest in a series that implicate white men, as well as members of the security forces, in fighting on the side of Inkatha supporters on the East Rand this week. 

Weekly Mail reporters, who were at the Catholic church near the camp when the fighting raged on Wednesday night, were told by residents that Casspirs provided back-up for the invading migrants and that policemen hurled incendiary grenades from the vehicles into shacks. Similar reports were received from Vosloorus township, where residents said police troop carriers had dropped off rooidoeke in the township when it was attacked on Tuesday night. 

A member of the Civil Co-operation Bureau the military’s disbanded counter insurgency unit, told The Weekly Mail that Defence Force personnel trained an elite unit of Inkatha fighters at a military base in the Capri Strip in the use of AK-47s and guerilla warfare. There have been reports of Inkatha members using Russian-made assault rifles during the recent strife. Themba Khoza, Inkatha Youth Brigade leader in the Transvaal, was arrested this month after handing out AK-47s to groups involved in an attack at a Sebokeng hostel. 

The CCB members’ report is backed up by accounts, published in Natal newspapers, that a special unit, including Inkatha Youth Brigade members, was trained m urban and rural guerrilla warfare at a base outside South Africa and then sent back to kwaZulu. Perez de Cuellar, addressing the UN general assembly on the question of apartheid, said on Wednesday: ”It would be remiss of me not to express concern about the growing allegations of the culpability of elements of the security forces in these incidents.” 

Other reports of white involvement in the violence include: 

  • on September 6 a group of men in a minibus killed six residents on the street and their houses eUnknown gunmen opened fire on a crowd of commuters at Jeppe station on September 6  
  • A group of men drove through Tembisa and Thokoza townships in a mini¬bus on September 2, shooting and hacking at least 12 bystanders to death. 
  • White men with blackened faces was allegedly involved in an attack at a Sebokeng hostel this month.

Father Kevin Bugler, a Catholic priest who works in the squatter camp, said’ residents had seen the body of a white man before it was removed yesterday. ”The accounts are all consistent with each other and there is strong evidence to suggest that policemen were involved in these attacks,” he said. Officers at police headquarters in Pretoria deny the claims. They say police are investigating reports that a ”third force” is active in the unrest.

Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has denied all knowledge of the ”secret Zulu army”. And a SADF spokesman said he was not aware of such a base. However, fears are mounting that clandestine units or rogue elements of the security forces are involving themselves in the fighting to scupper peace talks between the government and the African National Congress. 

The CCB member said the Inkatha men were trained at a place called “Hippo” in the Caprivi Strip. They were flown into the base and told they were going to Zaire. He named some of the officers allegedly involved in the training as JP Opperman, ”Jakes” Jacobs and Andre Nieuwoudt. His information is corroborated by former Inkatha members who said they were taken for military training in the bush where there were wild animals. 

UmAfrika newspaper reported that about 200 people, divided into two groups, were sent out of the country from Ulundi for training in the use of Eastern bloc weaponry. The second group flew from Ulundi and travelled for about hours before landing. There¬ recruits were allegedly met by white soldiers. This group then allegedly returned to kwaZulu where they instructed people in guerrilla warfare, the report says.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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Eddie Koch
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