Cradock of course where the famous Cradock 4 came

Cradock is a small farming
town north of Port Elizabeth, and is well known throughout the country for
resistance activities against Apartheid. This town was of course where the
famous Cradock 4 came from. The Cradock 4, a group of UDF activists consisted
of Matthew Goniwe (chairperson) Mr Fort Catala , Mr Sparrow Mkonto and Mr
Sicelo Mhlauli. The Cradock 4 were indeed victims of the Aparteid era as they
all suffered a brutal death under the Apartheid government.

Matthew Goniwe, chairperson of
the Cradock 4, was a well-known principal of the Lingelihle Secondary School. He
and his nephew were approached by an ANC underground activist who asked them to
establish resistance organisations in Cradock and other towns in the Karoo.
Matthew Goniwe played a vital role in the Cradock Residents’ Association and in
the fight against rent increases for people of colour. Goniwe was so well-supported
that when he was asked to transfer to another city, over 7000 students
boycotted school for over fifteen months. This became the longest school
boycott in the South Africa. Goniwe had great leadership and organisational methods
that did not go unnoticed by the state.This made the government anxious about
what could become of these resistance movements. The security forces targeted
Goniwe and tried in many ways to break the influence that he had over the
people of Cradock.

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It was clearly evident that
Goniwe and his counterparts had extreme influence over many people. This
resulted in the magistrate banning all meetings made by any Cradock 4
association. Violence and conflict broke out as a result of these decisions.
Because of their on-going resistance movements, Matthew Goniwe and other
members of the Cradock 4 were listed for contravening the Internal Security
Act. Boycotts and resistance continued until the rash decision of Fort Catala
being dismissed from his job was agreed upon by the government. In addition to
that, Goniwe and his counterparts were arrested and put in jail for 6 months, also
as a result of their growing influence over the people living in the Eastern

On the 27th of June
1985, the Cradock 4 travelled to Port Elizabeth to attend a UDF meeting.
Unfortunately they did not return home, and their burnt and badly mutilated
bodies were discovered outside Port Elizabeth a week later. Matthew Goniwe’s
car had been put to flames, which limited the evidence that could have been
used to identify the perpetrators. Thousands of people attended their funeral
and those who came showed the Apartheid government that they did not fear them
anymore. They even challenged the police to shoot them while singing at the
funeral. The Cradock 4 were buried under the ANC and Communist Party flag.

 It was only in 1987 that it was stated that
the four had been killed by unknown people. After about five years, it was
established that the security forces were the ones responsible for their brutal
death; however, no individual names were mentioned. The families then filed a
claim for damages caused by the South African Defence Force and the South
African Police and also requested for further investigation regarding who
specifically was responsible for their deaths. Many, including Nelson Mandela,
believed that the murder of the Cradock 4 marked a turning point in South
African history. The people of South Africa were no longer afraid of the
government, which made the control over the country that much harder to

It was requested by the
families of the Cradock 4 that the suspected perpetrators be brought to court
so that justice could be served. The wives of the four also requested for
assistance with their children’s schooling, as they were not able to afford it on
their own. Ms Mhlauli asked for her husband’s hand, which was believed to be
kept in a jar by the police.

In January 1997, the TRC
received applications for amnesty from the members of the security police for
killing the Cradock 4. The names of those who applied for amnesty were Eric
Alexander Taylor, Hermanus Du Plessis, Nicholaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg,
Harold Snyman, Gerhardus Johannes Lotz and Johan Martin van Zyl. These suspects
were 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 to
this particular murder. De Kock was believed to have instructed the killings.  Although amnesty was denied for the security
police suspects, no perpetrator has been prosecuted to this day.

The families of the victims
received reconciliation by means of financial assistance with regards to
education for their children and assistance towards everyday running of their

In this particular case, the
TRC did bring about truth and reconciliation to the families of the victims to
an extent. They succeeded in terms of assisting the families of the victims
with their requests by financing their children’s education and assisting in
the running of their homes. They were further successful in that they denied
amnesty for the perpetrators: Eric Alexander Taylor, Hermanus Du Plessis,
Nicholaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, Harold Snyman, Gerhardus Johannes Lotz
and Johan Martin van Zyl.

However, the TRC failed to
bring about reconciliation with regard to Eugene de Kock’s involvement with the
Cradock 4. He was believed to have ordered the killings, yet was absolved from
any responsibility thereof.  Furthermore,
even though amnesty for the perpetrators was granted, there were no
prosecutions made. The families of the victims were hereby denied restorative justice
and in this instance the TRC failed them.