Cradock is a small farmingtown north of Port Elizabeth, and is well known throughout the country forresistance activities against Apartheid.
This town was of course where thefamous Cradock 4 came from. The Cradock 4, a group of UDF activists consistedof Matthew Goniwe (chairperson) Mr Fort Catala , Mr Sparrow Mkonto and MrSicelo Mhlauli. The Cradock 4 were indeed victims of the Aparteid era as theyall suffered a brutal death under the Apartheid government. Matthew Goniwe, chairperson ofthe Cradock 4, was a well-known principal of the Lingelihle Secondary School. Heand his nephew were approached by an ANC underground activist who asked them toestablish resistance organisations in Cradock and other towns in the Karoo.Matthew Goniwe played a vital role in the Cradock Residents’ Association and inthe fight against rent increases for people of colour. Goniwe was so well-supportedthat when he was asked to transfer to another city, over 7000 studentsboycotted school for over fifteen months. This became the longest schoolboycott in the South Africa.
Goniwe had great leadership and organisational methodsthat did not go unnoticed by the state.This made the government anxious aboutwhat could become of these resistance movements. The security forces targetedGoniwe and tried in many ways to break the influence that he had over thepeople of Cradock.It was clearly evident thatGoniwe and his counterparts had extreme influence over many people. Thisresulted in the magistrate banning all meetings made by any Cradock 4association.
Violence and conflict broke out as a result of these decisions.Because of their on-going resistance movements, Matthew Goniwe and othermembers of the Cradock 4 were listed for contravening the Internal SecurityAct. Boycotts and resistance continued until the rash decision of Fort Catalabeing dismissed from his job was agreed upon by the government.
In addition tothat, Goniwe and his counterparts were arrested and put in jail for 6 months, alsoas a result of their growing influence over the people living in the EasternCape.On the 27th of June1985, the Cradock 4 travelled to Port Elizabeth to attend a UDF meeting.Unfortunately they did not return home, and their burnt and badly mutilatedbodies were discovered outside Port Elizabeth a week later. Matthew Goniwe’scar had been put to flames, which limited the evidence that could have beenused to identify the perpetrators.
Thousands of people attended their funeraland those who came showed the Apartheid government that they did not fear themanymore. They even challenged the police to shoot them while singing at thefuneral. The Cradock 4 were buried under the ANC and Communist Party flag. It was only in 1987 that it was stated thatthe four had been killed by unknown people.
After about five years, it wasestablished that the security forces were the ones responsible for their brutaldeath; however, no individual names were mentioned. The families then filed aclaim for damages caused by the South African Defence Force and the SouthAfrican Police and also requested for further investigation regarding whospecifically was responsible for their deaths. Many, including Nelson Mandela,believed that the murder of the Cradock 4 marked a turning point in SouthAfrican history. The people of South Africa were no longer afraid of thegovernment, which made the control over the country that much harder tomaintain.It was requested by thefamilies of the Cradock 4 that the suspected perpetrators be brought to courtso that justice could be served. The wives of the four also requested forassistance with their children’s schooling, as they were not able to afford it ontheir own. Ms Mhlauli asked for her husband’s hand, which was believed to bekept in a jar by the police.
In January 1997, the TRCreceived applications for amnesty from the members of the security police forkilling the Cradock 4. The names of those who applied for amnesty were EricAlexander Taylor, Hermanus Du Plessis, Nicholaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg,Harold Snyman, Gerhardus Johannes Lotz and Johan Martin van Zyl. These suspectswere believed to have stabbed the four victims 64 times, shot them each twice,further mutilated their bodies and then dumped them. After much deliberation,the perpetrators were denied amnesty. However, former Vlakplaas commander,Eugene de Kock, received full amnesty for any offences committed relating tothis particular murder. De Kock was believed to have instructed the killings.
Although amnesty was denied for the securitypolice suspects, no perpetrator has been prosecuted to this day. The families of the victimsreceived reconciliation by means of financial assistance with regards toeducation for their children and assistance towards everyday running of theirhomes. In this particular case, theTRC did bring about truth and reconciliation to the families of the victims toan extent. They succeeded in terms of assisting the families of the victimswith their requests by financing their children’s education and assisting inthe running of their homes.
They were further successful in that they deniedamnesty for the perpetrators: Eric Alexander Taylor, Hermanus Du Plessis,Nicholaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, Harold Snyman, Gerhardus Johannes Lotzand Johan Martin van Zyl. However, the TRC failed tobring about reconciliation with regard to Eugene de Kock’s involvement with theCradock 4. He was believed to have ordered the killings, yet was absolved fromany responsibility thereof.
Furthermore,even though amnesty for the perpetrators was granted, there were noprosecutions made. The families of the victims were hereby denied restorative justiceand in this instance the TRC failed them.