Apla men tell of church massacre


AZANIAN People’s Liberation Army cadre Gcinikhaya Makoma, who was jailed for 23 years for his part in the 1993 St James Church massacre, on Thursday told for the first time how he opened fire indiscriminately on congregants as they attended a Sunday evening service, leaving 11 dead and 58 injured.

Makoma pleaded not guilty in his 1994 Cape Supreme Court trial, claiming he had been visiting his girlfriend at the time of the attack. “I admit that I was not truthful when I gave evidence during my trial,” Makoma told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s amnesty committee chaired by Judge Hassen Mall. Makoma has applied for amnesty for the attack along with three other Apla cadres, Bassie Mkhumbuzi, Thobela Mlambisa and Letlapa Mphahlele.

Makoma, who was 17 when he took part in the attack, told the hearing that unit leader Sichumiso Nonxuba had told him he would take part in the attack, but not that the target was a church. He described how he and Nonxuba had entered the church, each armed with a hand grenade and an automatic rifle. “Nonxuba threw his hand grenade and then I threw mine. As the hand grenades exploded we took cover behind the doors, re-entered and, while the people inside were screaming, we started to shoot. We shot indiscriminately and I finished my full R4 magazine, some 31 rounds of ammunition.”

Makoma said he had been ordered to take the war to the white areas so that whites “could also bury their dead”.

“I now deeply regret the loss of life and injury caused by me and the other applicants ... and all I can ask for is that the family, relatives, friends of the deceased and the other victims forgive me.”

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