‘Witdoek’ leaders on NP lists

The names of two notorious “Witdoeke” whose followers were involved in attacks on United Democratic Front members in Crossroads in the 1980s appear as candidates on the National Party’s election list, released this week.

Twenty-five people were killed and ten of thousands left homeless during the bloody confrontations. Four squatter camps were laid to waste.

Johnson Ngxobongwana, a previous mayor of Old Crossroads, and Mali Hoza, who ruled Khayelitsha with a rod of iron, are 15th and 21st respectively on the NP’s list for the Western Cape provincial candidates for the April election. Their high positions on the list make their election to the Western Cape legislature a formality.

The men had close links with security forces — and more specifically the riot squad — during 1986. Alleged collusion between the police and the Witdoeke in fighting ANC-aligned” comrade” led to the complete demolition of huge living areas m the Cape Flats. Four squatter camps – Nyanga Bush, Portland Cement, Nyanga Extension and KTC — were destroyed in the fighting, and an estimated 30 000 people, most of them politically neutral, were left homeless.

A total of 3 300 civil cases were instituted against the police by individuals who lost their homes. An amount of R2-million was later paid in an out-of-court settlement after a lawsuit was instituted against the South African Police by the Legal Resources Centre in Cape Town. Although Ngxobongwana and Hoza’s direct involvement in the planning of the attacks could not be proved, there is no doubt that their followers — the Witdoeke — were responsible for the “untold suffering” in laying to waste the four squatter
communities.

The fighting was a result of the Witdoeke wanting to rid squatter areas of threats to their power by young comrades. It is understood that both men recently approached the ANC to be included as candidates, but were turned down. They have little credibility in the black community.

NP leader FW de Klerk earlier this week complained that his party would have had more blacks on its bats of candidates if it were not for “ANC intimidation”. The inclusion of the twoWitdoeke is regarded as a last-ditch effort to get some black support in the Western Cape.

Ngxobongwana and Hoza now both lead small groups of squatters on the Cape Flats. They quickly lost their support after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990. According to Stellenbosch political analyst Jannie Gagiono the NP apparently hopes that the two men will deliver “black votes” to the party by ordering their followers to vote NP.

The suggestion was laughed away yesterday by ANC regional executive member Willie Hofmeyr, who said the men had little influence in the black community. Ngxobongwana and Hoza earned notoriety in the wars that raged in the KTC area in the mid- 1980s. After the comrades were driven out of Crossroads in 1986, Ngxobongwana in turn chased out by one of his lieutenants, Nongwe in 1987.

He now leads a squatter community at Driftsand, across the N2 from Khayelitsha. Hoza also fled from Crossroads in 1985. He was later elected mayor of Khayelitsha in an election with a 43 percent turn-out, the highest of all local authorities. Opinion polls show that the ANC enjoys 85 percent support in Cape Town’s black townships. Even his officials have abandoned Hoza.

Hofmeyr, a previous UDF activist, said police actively instigated violence in the black townships as part of their “total strategies campaigns. “In situations of violence they would fight as allies with certain groups, including the Witdoeke, who would then form a substantial block who regarded the police as friends in these war-like situations.”

Hofmeyr said the police tried to get “puppets” to serve in the community council system. “They were fairly successful in the UDF days. In 1990, however, the ANC swept Khayelitsha and Crossroads. The two leaders are now regarded as even more unpopular than the NP in the townships.

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