We Remember The Nangalembe “Sebokeng” Night Vigil Murders – 12 January 1991


Relatives of the victims of the Nangalembe Night Vigil

On the night of 12 January 1991, 45 people were killed by members of the Khetisi Kheswa gang at a night vigil for ANCYL member Christopher Nangalembe. Gang members had been responsible for killing Nangalembe on 5 January in political conflict that stemmed from the appearance of gang leader Khetisi Kheswa before a ‘people’s court’, which included Nangalembe, at which Kheswa was called to account for the death of a young woman and other crimes.

Nangalembe’s body was found on a dumping site in Boipatong. He was tied, his throat was tied with a wire and this wire was twisted with a pair of pliers. People who found him said they could only identify him with his ANC card that he used to carry with.

In the attack on the night vigil, gang members opened fire and lobbed hand grenades at the gathered mourners. Eleven gang members, including Khetisi Kheswa, were acquitted of charges relating to the attack, due to lack of evidence. The attack precipitated the formation of ANC self-defence units (SDUs) in the Vaal area.

It later emerged through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission that security forces in cooperation with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) organised many such massacres in an effort to destabilise the fragile pre-democracy negotiations.

Black On Black Violence Brain Child of Roelf Meyer and F W De Klerk

Giving testimony at the Ahmed Timol inquest last year, Apartheid’s operative Paul Erasmus said “Black on Black violence was the brain child of Roelf Meyer.” He was a member of the security branch for 17 years. He said security officers attended courses on black-on-black violence and Colonel Eugene De Kock was responsible for gun-running in Kwa-Zulu Natal as part of the campaign. The perception created, he claimed, was that the NATs could do business with the Zulus and no one else.

The last president of apartheid South Africa, FW De Klerk has constantly denied knowledge of atrocities against political activists but as has often been shown in testimonies by other apartheid operatives in their applications for amnesty, he knew. Adriaan Vlok implicated him in the death of five boys who were killed by a hit-squad while sleeping. Eugene De Kock claimed he had evidence of De Klerk’s knowledge of military hit squads and called him the “unconvicted murderer”.

Like the Boipatong massacre, the Swanieville massacre occurred two days after De Klerk had visited IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Ulundi. These had been De Klerk ‘s only visits to the IFP headquarters, according to a 1992 Human Rights Commission on massacres at the time.

Human Rights Commission’s Report on Massacres

A 1992 special report on massacres at the time said there had been “no fewer than 49 massacres that had occurred in the Reef and southern Transvaal in the past two years, costing the lives of 1250 people – an average of 25 per atrocity”.

The report said Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members were the assailants in 34 cases while supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) were implicated in six massacres. Security forces were also implicated in some of the mass killings, while unidentified whites also mentioned in the report. Some of the killings bore a remarkable similarity to the carnage in Boipatong where over 50 people were slaughtered by balaclava-clad men in a pre-dawn attack.

The report also painted a remarkable coincidence. As in the case of Boipatong, the Swanieville massacre occurred two days after President FW de Klerk visited IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Ulundi. These have been De Klerk ‘s only visits to the IFP headquarters.

Truth & Reconciliation Commission Submission by Christopher Nangalembe’s brother

The first thing I am going to talk about is my brother, that was the youngest, he was the last born, Christopher Mpigelele Nangalembe. I am talking about his as a member of the ANC’s League at zone 7, they used to call it Chief Luthuli. It is quite true, according to what has been said that Christopher Nangalembe was one of the members of the Crime Prevention Unit within the ANC and it is quite correct that Christopher Nangalembe used to stay at Zone 7. They were friends with Ketisi. He was commonly known as “The Vaal Monster”.

I will just give you a brief outline as to Christopher Nangalembe’s life before all these things took place. The name ‘Mpigelele’, I don’t know how my mother gave Mpigelele this name. He used to be very persevering whenever he wanted to do something he would insist persevere and push forward. Maybe if we did not – he wanted to be a policeman and he wanted peace amongst the community. But even besides that, I personally I was against the manner in which the police dealt with the community. That was before the unbanning of the political organisations. He tried to persist because his friends were policemen and they are still policemen. Immediately thereafter the political organisations were banned, namely PAC and ANC and he was happy when this happened. He was one of the people who were happy to see Mandela being released from Robben Island. He started taking part in helping the community.

On the 5th of a Saturday morning my mother received a phone call. This phone call arrived at Maria’s Hair Salon who is now deceased. This call was telling my mother that they wanted to get Chris, if they couldn’t get Chris they were going to kill us all and they were going to burn down the house. My mother sent my sister, who comes after me, I was staying in Zone 10 at that particular time, just behind the mountain at Small Farm, they came to tell me that they have received this message. At that time, that particular Saturday, just the Tuesday before that Saturday after New Year there was an altercation amongst the comrades and Ketisi. At that time they were trying to solve that problem that is besides having to shed blood, they wanted to negotiate. Chris was witness in a case of an abduction. He was taken by Ketisi and Ketisi made him to drink acid. Fortunately Chris went straight to Ketisi and told him straight that since he had done this deed he was not going to leave him alone, he was going to tell people that he had done this. Probably that was the first incident that make Ketisi to be notorious. And the second was all those things that Ketisi’s mother has already related about.

On that particular Saturday when the negotiations were supposed to take place I discovered that Chris was not at home, he had gone to Zone 12 where he had gone to install a ceiling in a certain house. At Ketisi’s place there was a Granada, it’s the big model. As Chris was proceeding towards his customer’s place these people approached him driving this Granada from Ketisi’s place. I think one of them was a member of the IFP. His surname is Gubeka, but I’ve forgotten what his name is. Just as he was approaching the gate this Granada accosted him. There was Hunter inside. There was Zanzi. There was Temba. I don’t remember the last one. Zanzi is the one who grabbed Chris and threw him into the car. Somebody saw this happening, an eye witness. It was at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon and during summer it’s still very bright. They took Chris into a certain yard, that is Ketisi’s yard, that’s where they parked the car. As the car was still parked there somebody was sent to me to come and tell me that Chris was taken, as we had got the message before that they wanted to take Chris. I went back home. I also had a Colt Chrysler. I drove – this Cold Chrysler was always spotted by the police but I will not explain as to why they wanted this car because the real matter here is about Chris. When I arrived at home I told my mother that I wanted to go and see as to what was happening with Chris. Just as I got to Ketisi’s place it was the next street I came across Lucky Mboyana, he warned me not to go there because these people were fully armed. I wanted to go and negotiate and find out as to why they had taken my brother. I had not thought of them as being armed and they would want to kill me. I just wanted to know the reason behind the abduction of my brother. I am really sorry that I had to mention Lucky Mboyana’s name. He prevented me from going there. He said I should go to Vietnam to fetch some comrades that I knew. According to my recollection Adrian Vlok at that time was the Minister of Justice, he asked that if there’s anybody who is having arms should be reported to the police station. I had decided that I should go to the police station and be a law-abiding citizen. I went to the Houtkop Police station, when I got there to report that my brother had been abducted and he was at Ketisi’s place the police told me that they were afraid to go there. They told me that if I was talking about Ketisi, Ketisi was armed to the teeth and they did not want to tamper with him. These were the policemen who were telling me this. These policemen were on duty on a Saturday and if they could be identified I could be happy because they made me a laughing stock at the time when I went to report this to them. I decided to go to the comrades at Vietnam but somehow I was confused because I knew that there was going to be violence. Now I asked them as to what I was supposed to do because they were supposed to be the ones who were protecting the citizens. They told me that Ketisi and his friends were fully armed.

The second thing they told me that they didn’t know the number of the house. They knew that it’s just a house but I must bring the number to them. Now I told them that if I go to seek the number I had to come back to the police station to furnish them with the number. Now I went to look. I saw the Granada at Ketisi’s place. You know your brother, even if it can be at night, I looked inside the Granada my brother was sitting inside and he was in the middle. My intention was to look at the number of the house at Ketisi’s place. I was not able, because at that time when I was passing this Granada went out of the yard and tried to follow me. I took a turn at Xindi’s Street, that is proceeding towards my own street. Zanzi was also staying at my street. I saw the Granada following me. I thought maybe they were taking Zanzi to his place. They followed me and I went inside to tell my mother. The Granada passed slowly as I went in. At my place there’s a big light and it’s very bright. As they turned in the Granada I saw my brother with my own eyes. Maybe they had told him that he must come and bid us goodbye. I was looking at my brother as he was inside the car. I shall excuse myself because I’ve already mentioned the name of the person who was also involved who was in the car when my brother was being taken away. When this car took the turn towards the taxi rank I tried to rush out to go to my uncle and report. My uncle is David Ncube. I wanted him to phone the police and tell them that something had happened. As I was going out the Granada chased me from Zone 7. I was busy going around flicking to the police that they should help me because I was being chased by this Granada. They never bothered to help me until I got to the police station, and when I got to the police station this car was following me and I didn’t stop at the stop signs because I was scared for my life. I thought that as the police had realised that there was a car chasing another one they should have made a follow-up. But because it was known that it was a car that was sent to do its job that is why the police did not follow the car. I got to the police station and at that time I was coming for the second time, I stopped and jumped into the police station and I said to the police I’m being chased. They just looked at me as if I was mad. And at that time a third car came, that is the second car that was chasing me. There were three men inside that car, they were armed with guns. They did not leave their guns where they were supposed to leave them at the reception. They came with their guns and they stood beside me whilst I was complaining to the police only to find it was the same group that was travelling with Ketisi and they wanted to know what I was saying to the police at that time. The person I was with at the time warned me not to continue talking because these people had come to hear what I was going to say. I don’t know whether the police called a riot squad or if the police of Vanderbijl they called them to come and take me to Vanderbijl. I told them that the car had just passed, it’s heading to Boipatong with my brother. They were insisting that they wanted to go back to Ketisi’s place and they told me that I must keep quiet and I must listen to them. I was not going to give them a directive as to what they should do as the policemen. The riot squad came. They were travelling in two vans. They said I should escort them to Ketisi’s place. We went to Ketisi’s place. I was just going there because I had no alternative. I thought maybe it’s the procedure. When we got there I stopped my car at the corner so that they might go alone. They surrounded the house and it was pointless for them to have done that because Ketisi and my brother were not there as well as his group. They got in there and they tried to investigate as to where Ketisi was. They said they don’t know where Ketisi had gone to and they told me to go and sleep because these people were not there and they said I should come back the following day at the police station. I reported this to my mother and I told my mother that the police refused to help me. I went to sleep. At the time I was the Chairman of the Child Welfare Tusonang(?) in Sebokeng, there was a meeting the following day that I had to attend. When I was still in that meeting there’s another gentleman with whom I was staying at Zone 10. When he got in I could see it in his face that he was going to report to me that my brother had died but that did not surprise me because I was expecting it at any time. When he got to me he said he had come to fetch me I should go home.

When I got home I got my mother as well as my aunt. They had already got a message that Ketisi, that Chris was found at a dumping site in Boipatong. Well that did not really surprise me because that is the direction they headed for when they had taken Chris. I decided not to follow them in this because I felt that probably my mother could lose me also. We got Chris at the dumping site. He was tied, his throat was tied with a wire and this wire was twisted with a pair of pliers. People saw him in the morning they could only identify him with his ANC card that he used to carry with.

The full TRC submission is here http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/hrvtrans%5Csebokeng/seb312.htm


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