Delivering his policy speech as minister of police in the Umtata parliament this week, Transkei Prime Minister Chief George Matanzima gave a glimpse of the extent and nature of guerrilla activity when he described 12 incidents which occurred during 1986/87.
“We are all aware that nowadays terrorist cells and huge amounts of arms caches are very common in Transkei and as a result, police raids and other similar operations have had to be intensified,” he said. Correlating the sketchy details given by the prime minister with statistics kept by the Institute for Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria and other homeland sources, it appears there were at least 17 incidents in Transkei during 1986 and the first few months of this year. This could lend strength to a recent claim by the African National Congress that it has scored more successes than acknowledged by Pretoria.
According to Wits University’s Tom Lodge, an acknowledged expert on the ANC, the Transkei is one of the few areas “in which there is anything approaching a state of rural insurrection”. The proximity of the mountainous border with Lesotho, a strong tradition of resistance, the ineffectiveness and unpopularity of rule by the Transkei authorities and the inaccessibility of many areas were among factors he listed as reasons for a high incidence of guerrilla activity. However, it was difficult to be sure who was responsible for individual incidents.
The Pan-Africanist Congress had more of a presence here than in other parts of the country, and bandits benefiting from the general level of lawlessness were using weaponry previously associated purely with guerrilla groups. The prime minister sketched out incidents ranging from limpet mine explosions to a clash between guerrillas and police at a road block an attack on the Umtata police station and two incidents involving trading stores: a confrontation at Lurwayizo store in Willowdale and an “underground terrorist cell at Ngqakayi Store in the district of Elliotdale”, where allegedly stolen medical supplies were recovered.
He warned traders to “shrink from harbouring such elements and to report their presence to the chiefs and police without delay” – an intriguing hint of support by the local population for the guerillas. Professor Mike Hough, the director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the University of Pretoria, said his statistics showed a dramatic increase in guerrilla activity in the homeland. The Institute had recorded nine incidents during 1986; for the previous year, there had been only five. These figures cannot be equated with the number of incidents mentioned by the prime minister, because criteria used do not correlate.
Chief George also hinted at recruitment of school students for military training by the ANC, in much the way guerrillas recruited youths in then-Rhodesia and in Namibia. He said parents of high school students should make their children aware of the “ongoing socio-political chicanery of attempting to influence the rank and file students to commit such vicious acts as would deliberately incriminate them, that a need to run away to foreign countries would be a foregone conclusion”.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail newspaper