Twentieth Anniversary of the Bisho Massacre

The recent killings at the Lonmin platinum mine, where 44 striking miners were shot by the police, brought to remembrance other "massacres ", provoked by aggressive demonstrators, notably the Bisho Massacre. This took place on 7 September 1992, at which 28 members of the African National Congress (ANC) and one Ciskei soldier was shot. At that time the Ciskei was an independent state ruled by Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, a moderate Christian ruler who tried to promote a federal government system in South Africa. In his Council of State Report of 1992 he said: "We reaffirm that the Ciskei government subscribes to Christian principles, based on Scripture. We also maintain that a regional government is the essential component of future peace. " Its laws, he said, should ideally be in line with the Ten Commandments.

"The Law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. " Psalm 19:7  

The ANC and the Homelands

But the international powers backed the humanistic forces in South Africa which strove for a unitary state. They gave their full support to the ANC which wanted to abolish the homelands and carry this out by first removing the leader of the Ciskei. Four days before its march on Ciskei, it sent a memorandum to the then State President FW de Klerk, demanding that he replace Oupa Gqozo, Ciskei 's military ruler, but de Klerk could not oblige as Ciskei was an independent state. Gqozo himself sought an urgent court interdict to prevent the threatened ANC "mass action " march, but permission was granted, albeit unarmed, as far as the Ciskei Independence Stadium, not to Bisho itself.

In a speech to his security forces Oupa Gqozo explained: "We have seen senseless, cowardly terrorist attacks… We have experienced attacks on our own security forces and their families… We have seen callous killings of pillars of society by criminals who hide behind cloaks of politics and church… We have been the targets of assassination attempts … " The ANC, he said, was using its massive international funding for an "enormous propaganda machine promoting communism, to pay hit men to kill opposition, to provide for travel and endless meetings… to pay for legal defence for ongoing criminal activities, to purchase arms and ammunition, AK47s, to create a crowd when the ideology demands a demonstration, to buy transport… etc. "

"They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. "2 Peter 2:19

"The purpose of these attacks, " he continued, "was and still is, to create chaos and to overthrow the government of the Ciskei, and to replace it with a communist dictatorship, where very quickly your rights will disappear and very few will be kings and you will all be slaves. No local, or international newspaper will carry your plight… no human rights, or church bishop will write obituaries… "  

Such destructive action, he pointed out, is the result of a worldview which is hostile to Christianity. "In plain English, "he said later, "we were heavily driven by totally different religions, i.e. communism and Christianity. Each one of us was preaching peace from quite conflicting gods and teachers. "

"Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? … Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? "2 Corinthians 6:14

The Bisho Massacre

The African National Congress, then, decided to march on Bisho. Before this march several policemen had been killed and arms had been stolen from some police stations. On 7 September 1992, the ANC rallied 80,000 protesters led by Cyril Ramaphosa, Steve Tshwete and Ronnie Kasrils. But the man who actually organised the march was Chris Hani, the general secretary of the SA Communist Party. Of the ten march leaders, eight were known communists. Its aim was not only to remove Oupa Gqozo, the military ruler of Ciskei, but also to establish "free political activity in all (other) parts of the country, including KwaZulu, Bophuthatswana, QwaQwa and right-wing controlled towns. "

When the marchers arrived at the stadium, Ronnie Kasrils broke away and led a group of several hundred demonstrators running through a gap in the fence to outflank the Ciskei troops and to occupy Bisho. But the troops caught up with him and opened fire. 29 people were killed and 188 wounded. Violence broke out all over Ciskei, causing great loss, and 12 members of the police and army were burned in 40 attacks.

The ANC march was "planned and deliberately designed to spark confrontation, " the IFP said on 8 September. The discovery of maps detailing where members were to break rank from the march, the possession of arms and ammunition by marchers, the shooting of a Ciskei soldier and the destruction of barrier fences, all indicated that the SACP/ANC had planned the whole incident, including its news releases, well in advance.

The peace efforts of the South African National Party government were badly affected by this, and the United Nations interventions in the RSA increased. Looking back at the disaster, Brigadier Gqozo said: "Since FW de Klerk 's watershed speech, we have watched our expectations of prosperity for our beloved country dwindle. Who can this be attributed to? Is it FW whose extraordinary courage to undo the errors of apartheid and try to work through peace and negotiations, or Mandela, the icon of peace and hope, whose release has been followed by more deaths, despair, strikes, boycotts, unemployment, poverty and emigration? We had our hopes that the ANC would seize our peace offering, forgive and forget, and step by step rebuild our beautiful land. "

Though South Africa has been liberated since 1994, though it is now under ANC rule, it has not yet found peace. The events at the Lonmin Mine (and many other places) show that mass action is still part of South African life. We are still driven by different religions, preaching peace from conflicting gods and teachers. May the good Lord help us to turn to Him who is the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ.

D. Scarborough
Gospel Defence League
P. O. Box 587 Sea Point 8060
Cape Town South Africa
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Roca Report No. 45, September 1992
Various speeches of Oupa Gqozo.

Brigadier Gqozo is completing a book on the Conflict with the Communists over Ciskei.

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