As a young child, Ndondo’s maternal grandmother raised himwhile his mother, Lulama Sidumo (nee Ndondo),worked. Following the death of his grandmother, his mother took him to her elder sister’s family, the Ntsebeza’s, in Cala, Transkei (now Eastern Cape) to raise him. He completed his Primary education at Cala Village and obtained his Matriculation in 1980. Ndondo then registered at the University of Transkei (UNITRA) in Umtata, Transkei in January 1981. At UNITRA, he was elected to the Student Representative Council (SRC). A year later, he was suspended from UNITRA for political activities. After he was suspended, he returned to Cala, where he was employed at the Health Trust. During 1984, the security police detained Bathandwa Ndondo many times for his political activism.
Transkei security police regularly raided the home of the Ntsebeza brothers and the bookshop in Cala was a target for squads of security police.
On 24 September 1985, Ndondo was picked up at his home in Cala by a unit involving South African Police member Mbuso Enoch Shabalala, Transkei police Sergeant Gciniso Lamont Dandala and askaris Silulami Gladstone Mose and Xolelwa Virginia Shosha. He was shot dead. Within weeks, theTranskei President Chief Kaiser Matanzima had announced publicly that Ndondo had been killed because he had been involved in the Umtata (Transkei) fuel depot bombings.
On that morning, Lungisile Ntsebeza, his cousin, had left his home to drive to the regional centre of Elliot, Transkei. Just outside Cala a kombi (a white minibus)approached him. It was almost identical to a vehicle he owned and it carried an XS registration number denoting Cala. Automatically, Lungisile waved as the vehicle passed. He thought no more of it, apart from noting the coincidence of the registration number: XS 1889. His own kombi bore the number XS 1885.
As Lungisile Ntsebeza’s car wound down the pass towards Elliot, the kombi with the tinted windows pulled up outside the house in Cala that Lungisile shared with his cousin Bathandwa Ndondo and a friend, Victor Ngaleka. Ndondo was working as the local coordinator of the Cape Town-based Health Care Trust after being refused readmission earlier in the year to the University of the Transkei in Umtata. A former member of the Catholic Student Association, he had played a leading role in the UNITRA’s first democratically elected (SRC). This SRC had incurred the wrath of the authorities by organising a commemoration of the Sharpeville massacre. He was suspended, because, according to the University authorities, Ndondo incited “the students to be involved in political activities.”
Once he set foot inside the police station to enquire about Ndondo’s killing, Lungisile knew that he could disappear. The sight of Ndondo’s body and the recent murder of Matthew Goniwe and his friends (the Cradock Four) made him nervous. He wentto Godfrey Silinga, a friend, to tell him where he was going, why and when. Silinga told others, and they ensured that he emerged safely from the police station.
Lungisile Ntsebeza strode into the police charge office. He wanted to submit a charge of murder for the death of Bathandwa Ndondo. The policeman behind the desk askedLungisile if he witnessed the murder. If not, he could not lay a charge because only eyewitnesses were allowed. He wanted only to register the fact of a murder having been committed. He decided to speak to another police officer, but again, he was unsuccessful. He then sent a message to the station commander, but he was informed that Lieutenant Jilili was too busy to see anyone.
Lungisile Ntsebeza realised that since he was being left unharmed inside the police station, the rule of law must still operated. He decided to gather what evidence he could as fast as possible before the police stepped in to cover their trail. As casually as he could, he strolled from the police station to his house, where he collected his camera and made his way to where he had been told his cousin had died.
It was in a side street near the centre of town, outside the home of Nontobeko Thunzi and her elderly mother, where Ndondo was killed in Cala. Both women gave graphic accounts of what had happened and Lungisile took pictures of the scene. The women told him a young man appeared to hurl himself out of the window of a kombi driving past their house. As he scrambled to his feet, shouting for help, the vehicle slid to a halt and the doors burst open. Three men and a woman, all carrying guns, sprinted after him. The young man ran around the house and, as he headed towards the front door, shots rang out. He seemed to trip and fall on the doorstep as his pursuers caught up. There were more shots.
Thunzi’s mother was horrified. When she demanded who were they shooting at, the police replied, “He is a terrorist.” Ndondo’s body was twitching, his mouth trying to form words. The old woman leaned down and in a croaking whisper, she heard the words, “I am from the Ntsebeza family.” Then the woman in the death squad snapped, “This dog must not pretend to be dead before he has given us the information we want.”
After conferring among themselves, the killers dragged the still body roughly back to the vehicle. Ndondo was thrown in and the killer squad sped off.
Armed with this evidence and his photographs, Lungisile returned to the police station. As he got to the front door, he paused. Standing with his back to him was Lieutenant Jilili, his voice raised, and speaking on the telephone. He seemed to be speaking to a major in Umtata. He described the shooting of Ndondo and mentioned two names involved in the murder.
Later, Sergeant Silulami Gladstone Mose’s name emerged as one of the names mentioned on the telephone. He was an askari drafted in from Vlakplaas (a farm in Pretoria where former ANC guerrillas were recruited to join the Security Police as part of a hit squad) whose work earned him promotion to captain before he died of a heart attack in 1990.
That was as much as Lungisile heard. Just as Jilili finished speaking another policeman spotted the young man hovering in the doorway. He was clearly taken aback when he spun around and invited “Mr Ntsebeza” to join him in his office. Trying hard to conceal his nervousness, Lungisile followed. Jilili sat down behind his desk. In a matter-of-fact tone, Jilili admitted that he knew of the death of Bathandwa.
The killers had reported to him that they had shot someone, he said. He knew who they were and he had opened a murder docket. He had not detained the killers and was not at liberty to divulge their names.
Jilili was becoming increasingly agitated and Lungisile started to feel vulnerable. “Come back this afternoon,” Jilili said, “At four o’clock.” He was told more information would be available at that time. Only when out of sight of the police station did Lungisile relax, having already decided he would be as far away as possible by four o’clock that afternoon.
Friends and family agreed that Lungisile should leave town to get help. He should drive to Queenstown, where his lawyer brother Dumisa Ntsebeza was based, and together they should let the world know what had happened. As Lungisile drove out on one road, he was unaware that vanloads of heavily armed police were pouring into Cala. Shortly before four o’clock, they drew up outside the Ntsebeza home.
The building was searched, books and papers rifled through, and several cassette tapes of music bearing the name of Bathandwa Ndondo were removed. The local family doctor, Khaya Mfenyana, observed the scene from a distance. He had heard what had happened and was horrified. Although he was in no sense a political activist, he decided he could not stand by and see Lungisile Ntsebeza arrested or worse. As a doctor, and with an apolitical reputation, he would not be stopped if he left town. He shut up his practice, got into his car and drove to Queenstown to warn Lungisile not to return because a police trap awaited him. Hours later in Cala, with Lungisile nowhere to be found, the squads of police left town while others, local police, kept watch.
While the search was going on in Cala, Lungisile was briefing his brother, Dumisa. After he was warned by Dr. Mfenyana, he stayed in Queenstown. He and Dumisa spent the rest of day ensuring that as many people as possible, including the local and international media, were made aware of what had happened.
Within a week, they had established the names of the killers. It had not been very difficult - the death squad had felt so safe from official censure and prosecution that they had eaten lunch at an Umtata restaurant only hours after the murder. The four had sat around their table, still wearing blood-spattered clothes, laughing and talking.
The publicity surrounding the incident probably saved the lives of the Ntsebeza brothers and their friends. However, it infuriated the authorities. Less than a week after the death of Ndondo, police again raided the Ntsebeza home in Cala. They dragged out and detained Victor Ngaleka. Dumisa and Lungisile Ntsebeza soon followed thwm in detention. As did other friends such as Godfrey Silinga, the late Monde Mvimbi, and Zingisa Mkhabile, who became the Eastern Cape Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader. They were held incommunicado, but were neither interrogated nor charged. Nor were they allowed out for the funeral of Bathandwa, where mourners were harassed by police. The detentions triggered more adverse publicity and criticism. It had become impossible for the Transkei and its police to deny involvement in the killing due to the actions of the Ntsebeza brothers and their friends.
Gcinisiko Lamont Dandala was a local Umtata security policeman. However, the other three killers were from Vlakplaas, former ANC fighters “turned” to become askaris. Dandala and the others made intimidatory forays into Cala to ask openly where Lungisile Ntsebeza or other witnesses to the murder of Ndondo could be found. Then suddenly the intimidation stopped. Two of the askaris, Mose and the former African National Congress (ANC) women’s unit commissar turned apartheid killer, Xolelwa Sosha, disappeared.
Mose and Sosha were posted to other areas of South Africa to ply their deadly trade while Mbuso Enoch Shabalala stayed on in Umtata. Only he ceased, officially, to exist. On the instructions of Brigadier Willem Schoon, the Vlakplaas boss Eugene de Kock destroyed all reference to Shabalala; it was as if he had never been alive. In his place, there was Johannes Mavuso, complete with a new, authentic identity number. This made it possible for Mbuso Enoch Shabalala to be charged, along with Gcininkosi Lamont Dandala, with the murder of Bathandwa Ndondo and for the case to collapse when Shabalala disappeared and was found never to have existed in the first place.
Delaying legal action for nearly a year meant that the media and general public interest subsided. It also helped that a good friend of the security establishment, Francois van Zyl, was attorney general of Transkei. It was Zyl who decided, contrary to eyewitness evidence, that only two people were involved in the killing of Bathandwa Ndondo and that the former student leader had been shot while trying to escape from legitimate arrest. He also decided, against vociferous protests, that Dandala and Shabalala should be released on their own recognisance after being charged.
Addressing a public meeting in Idutywa, southern Transkei in early October 1985, Kaiser Matanzima lied brazenly,
I want the whole world to know that here in Transkei we know the people who are causing trouble. Recently a young man called Ndondo was killed in Cala. Many people are asking why Ndondo was killed. He is the one who came from Lesotho with others and exploded a bomb in Umtata. The petrol depot that exploded and should have killed the whole of the Umtata population was destroyed by this young fellow, Ndondo. You will see the communists will be asking what has Ndondo done. Must you all be killed because of these people? Your president, your prime minister, will not allow such atrocities to take place in Transkei.
It was obvious why this attempt to deflect popular anger failed. There was widespread sympathy for anyone who might have bombed anything associated with the Transkei President K.D. Matanzima and his Prime Minister brother George Matanzima,and the Ntsebeza brothers refused to take the crude bait. They announced that the issue was not what Ndondo had or had not done, but whether Matanzima was condoning state-sponsored murder without trial. Matanzima promptly authorised a second period of banishment for the brothers.
Shortly before sunrise on 8 October 1985 in a quiet back street of Umtata, a squad of security police pulled up outside the home of Dumisa Ntsebeza. The lawyer was half expecting the loud knocking on the door. For weeks, he had heard rumours of his impending arrest and detention.
Five days before Dumisa’s arrest, his brother Lungisile had been detained, as one of the organisers of the funeral arrangements for Bathandwa Ndondo. Both brothers had been outspoken about his death, openly blaming the Transkei Security Branch. They and Victor Ngaleka, Godfrey Silinga and two other friends, Zingisa Mkabile and Monde Mvimbi, were central to planning the funeral. All were arrested without charge, yet nothing they had done was illegal. The law firm Sangoni Partners, of which Dumisa had become a partner, was instructed to institute legal action for his and his brother’s release should they be detained. This action would be a precedent for any other detainees.
With Dumisa’s arrest, the application to release Lungisile became one for the release of the Ntsebeza brothers. It was set to be heard on 1 November in the Transkei Supreme Court.
The Transkei police then clamped down hard on the funeral for Bathandwa Ndondo. They harassed and terrorised anyone even vaguely associated with the arrangements. The Roman Catholic Church, which the family had counted on to provide a priest to officiate, even refused to help. Ministers of other denominations were also reluctant to involve themselves. Some churches feared their priests would face deportation and others gave no reasons. A minority said they would be prepared to officiate, but only if there was no alternative. An Anglican, the Reverend Edgar Ruddock, conducted the funeral service where the mourners were supervised by heavily armed police and armoured personnel carriers. White mourners were barred and police and troops turned back all the buses and cars that headed to the funeral from outside Cala. Mourners wearing specially printed T-shirts, which bore the slogan “Rest in Peace Bathandwa Ndondo”, were also arrested. By the end of October, fifty-one people had been detained.
On 30 October, two days before the application came to court. Lungisile was released from prison. Next day Dumisa and the others walked free. At once,
the six friends were handed orders, signed by Kaiser Daliwonga Matanzima as the head of the Transkei “state”, banishing them to various remote rural areas. The Ntsebeza brothers were ordered to be banished to the “Mhlahlane administrative area in the Tsomo district.” Their presence “in Umtata or any other place in the district of Umtata” was not considered “in the general public interest”. However, they were given a choice of dates by which they should “withdraw from the said district of Umtata”. The latest was 26 November, which meant that they could still be in Umtata for the Supreme Court action on 1 November regarding their detention. The upshot of that hearing was that the Minister of Police agreed to pay the costs of the action. It was another minor victory for the brothers, and cause for still greater annoyance within the security establishment.
The Ntsebeza brothers immediately instituted legal proceedings against their banishment. Armed with a camera, they travelled out to the rural area beyond Tsomo, some 100km south of Umtata, to see and record at first hand the conditions to which they had been banished. Although they had expected rural squalor, the reality of the living conditions they were to inhabit came as a shock.
Meanwhile Dumisa learned that he was a target for assassination and would be dead in a matter of weeks. After he told his wife Nontobeko about this she confronted General Hamlet Manci, a member of the Transkei security establishment, about the assassination. A day later, the Ntsebeza’s learned that the murder plot had suddenly been shelved.
The state then wanted to negotiate with the six people over their banishment. The Transkei government offered to withdraw the banishment orders if all six of the banished agreed to pay R10, 000 toward the state’s costs. The agreement was struck on 15 October 1986 and duly announced, although no money changed hands.
In January 1987, Dumisa was once more warned that he and the others were about to be served again with banishment orders. Although Kaiser Matanzima had already retired as president, he was still pulling the strings. The banishment issue had come up at a meeting of the whole Transkei cabinet. Again, this was withdrawn after Dumisa wrote to the Transkei authorities.
Again, in March 1987, Dumisa was served with banishment orders to the Mhlahlane district of Tsomo, Transkei. The Sangoni Partnership and Dumisa’s wife Nontobeko made applications to the courts to have the banishment order overturned, which eventually did happen and Dumisa was able to return to his Umtata home.
The granted amnesty, in April 2000, to the former Vlakplaas head Eugene De Kock and Mabuso Shabalala for their role in the killing of Bathandwa Ndondo. The third applicant Nqcininkosi Dandala, a former Transkei security policeman, was refused amnesty for shooting and killing Ndondo. De Kock sought amnesty for his part in defeating ends of justice.
De Kock changed the identity of Shabalala in order to assist him to evade criminal proceedings arising out of the death of Ndondo that were pending against Shabalala. Shabalala took part in the shooting and killing of Ndondo after he was arrested from his shop in Cala.
The Committee found that De Kock and Shabalala complied with the requirements of the TRC Act in that the two applicants made full disclosure of the relevant facts and offences which they committed, were politically motivated. Dandala was refused amnesty because he did not satisfy the requirements of the TRC Act in that his testimony was full of contradictions.
The Truth and Reconciliation Amnesty Committee (TRC) had previously issued a subpoena ordering Matanzima to appear before it to answer questions relating to his alleged statement. However, citing ill health, he failed to appear before the Committee. He later applied for a court order to set aside the Committee's decision to force him to testify. After considering the matter, the Committee, in consultation with the victim's family, decided to withdraw the subpoena. The TRC Amnesty Committee announced on 15 October 1998 that it had withdrawn a subpoena requiring former Transkei president Kaizer Matanzima to testify before it in connection with the 1985 death of Ndondo.
In 1998, the Matanzima Secondary School on the outskirts of Cala, set up by the Methodist Church, was renamed the Bathandwa Ndondo Senior Secondary School.
Bell T. & Ntsebeza D. B. (2001).Unfinished Business: South Africa, Apartheid & Truth. (RedWorks).pp142 - 195|
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (2000). Truth and Reconciliation Commission Amnesty Decision from the TRC, 12 April [online]. Available at www.info.gov.za . Accessed on 18 April 2013|
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (1996). Truth And Reconciliation Commission Human Rights Violations - Princess Lulama Sidumo from the TRC, 18 June [online]. Available at www.info.gov.za . Accessed on 18 April 2013|
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (1998 ). Truth And Reconciliation Commission Amnesty Hearing - Gcinisiko Lamont Dandala from the TRC, 17 June [online]. Available at www.info.gov.za . Accessed on 18 April 2013