Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The official version of the Soweto Uprisings

Nigel Mandy’s version of the morning of June 16 1976 is based on the findings of the Cillie Commission’s report. He provides justification for the police intervention by questioning the legality of the march. According to Mandy, a 1968 regulation provided that no public meeting or march could be held in Soweto without WRAB’s permission. The Cillie Commission report maintains that police were not aware of the intention of the students to march through the streets. Either way it was their duty to prevent an illegal march. A witness suggested that they should have stopped the students at the school and sent them home. Whether the police would have been successful in such an attempt to prevent the march by thousands of pupils and at the same time to keep the peace, cannot be established with certainty; they were unaware of the intentions and preparations, and therefore no such attempt was made to prevent the march and to keep the peace. As the march advanced a long way by the time police realised what was happening, it was their duty to stop the march and disperse the crowds (Cillie: 106).

Mandy’s version of the confrontation describes how the police convoy stopped about 100 paces from the crowd on Vilikazi Street. Col. Kleingeld shouted for the crowd to stand still. His voice was drowned by the uproar and the sound of stones raining down on his men and vehicles. He did not have a loud hailer and therefore no effective order had been given to the crowd to disperse. (Mandy 1982)

Col. Kleingeld then decided to disperse the crowd with tear gas but only one tear gas canister exploded. This action provoked a rain of stones from the students from all sides. The Colonel fired two warning shots into the air and ordered a baton charge. The baton charge was unsuccessful and two police dogs were killed. (Mandy 1982).

Mandy’s version continues by describing how the outnumbered policemen were encircled by angry students. According to Mandy, the policemen feared for their lives and he justifies the shooting which followed as moderate and controlled, reporting only 2 deaths and 11 injuries during the confrontation. (Mandy 1982:198).

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