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A bloody new year in Moutse

A long time ago, Chief Mapoch of the Ndebele went to Moutse. He wanted to see Chief Mathebe of the Pedi. Chief Mapoch asked Chief Mathebe to let the Ndebele move to Moutse. Chief Mathebe said yes. So the Ndebele moved. And everyone lived in peace.

But today there is no peace in Moutse. As one man said, “I was born right here in Moutse. I grew up with the Ndebele. But now the Ndebele think we are their enemies.

In all my fifty years, I have never seen fighting like I have just seen here in Moutse.


The South African government wants Moutse to be part of KwaNde­bele, the ‘homeland’ for the Ndebeles. Moutse is a present for KwaNdebele. The South African government likes KwaNdebele because KwaNdebele is taking “in­dependence”. Moutse will help KwaNdebele because Moutse is rich and KwaNdebele is poor.

The South African government spoke to the people in Moutse. They said if people do not want to be in KwaNdebele, then they can move to Immerpan 80 kilometres away. One young man said, “I won’t go to Immerpan. I do not even know where it is. My father was born here. I was born here and I will stay here.” And that is what most people in Moutse think.

The people of Moutse don’t want to be part of KwaNdebele. Nor do they want to move. They told Dr Piet Koornhof long ago. But Koornhof said, “If you are going to make trouble about KwaNdebele, you are very foolish.


The people of Moutse did not make trouble. But they did have meetings.People spoke out at the meetings. Young people said, “If Moutse is part of KwaNdebele, then we must get KwaNdebele passes. Then we will be visitors in South Africa. But now we have South African passes. So it is much easier to get work.”

And the old people said,’ ‘We do not belong to KwaNdebele. Our customs are not the same as the Ndebele”. One old man said, “I do not like these homelands. But if I must belong to a homeland, then it must be Lebowa,not KwaNdebele”

But no one listened to the people of Moutse. The South African govern­ment did not listen, nor did the KwaNdebele government listen. And on the 1st January this year, Moutse became part of KwaNdebele.


People in Moutse were worried. No-one planned parties for the New Year. Everyone waited — what was going to happen now that Moutse was part of KwaNdebele. But the people of Moutse were still surprised.

Chief Minister of KwaNdebele, Chief Skosana, was ready for Moutse. He was angry because Moutse did not want to be under him, or be part of his “country”. So he sent his “Imboloto” to welcome Moutse to KwaNdebele.The Imboloto went to Moutse early.

One man tells us about his New Year in his new country. “I woke up at about four o’clock in the morning. People were shouting in the village. I got out of bed to go and look. Just then someone started to bang on my door.

“I was scared. So I picked up my kierie. Then I opened the door. A man was standing outside with a kierie in his hand. There were other men behind him. I hit the man on the head and then I ran as fast as I knew how. I didn’t know those men but now we call them Skosana’s Imboloto, or thugs.


Another man from Moutse told us this.’ ‘We tried to fight these Imboloto. But there were too many of them. I tried to run but they caught me. They beat me with a sjambok. Then they put me on a lorry with lots of other men. The lorry took us to Siyabuswa in KwaNdebele.

“At Siyabuswa, the Imboloto took us off the truck. They told us to go into a hall. But we first had to walk between two lines of men. They beat us with sjamboks as we passed. When we got into the hall, they told us to take off our clothes and swim.

There was water on the floor of the hall. The floor was very slippery because there was soap in the water. The Imboloto beat us nearly the whole night—they beat us until there was blood in the water.’

The Chief Minister of KwaNdebele, Skosana, was there, with another government minister, Mr Ntuli. They helped the Imboloto to beat us. They both had sjamboks in their hands.

“During the night, in between beat­ings, the Imboloto said we could go — if we burnt the shops in Moutse and if we brought our leaders to KwaNdebele. But we will never do that.


The Imboloto took the Moutse men on New Years morning. By the after­noon, the people of Moutse had hit back. Two policemen were killed. The South African army arrived. They helped the police to search. They went to each and every house in the Moteti area of Moutse.

Some people in Moteti were so fright­ened that they left their homes. They just ran into the bush around Moutse. They left the old people and children behind. The police sjambokked everyone they found. Now even the old people and the children are hid­ing in the bush.

The people in Moutse are living in fear all the time. They are scared the police will beat them or arrest them.

And they are scared that the Imboloto will come back again and again. They are scared that the Imboloto will beat them or kill them.


Everyone in Moutse is fighting in their own way. One man told us, “If they want to stamp my pass, it is good. Then I won’t have a pass. I won’t have a pass with a KwaNdebele stamp in it. I will starve before they give me their stamp.” Even the teachers of Moutse are fighting.

The teachers will not sign KwaNdebele forms. They do not know if they will be paid. Many teachers have left teaching because they do not want to work for KwaNdebele.

We also spoke to a shop owner in Moutse. This is what he said.” Let me tell you, right now, if Moutse goes to KwaNdebele, my shop licence must have a KwaNdebele stamp. But if they put their KwaNdebele stamp on my licence, I think I am going to leave that licence.


Chief Mathebe, grandson of the chief who let the Ndebele come to Moutse,says, “I am very sad. We would not have all this trouble if my grandfather was not kind to the Ndebele. I think he made a big mistake.”

But it was not Chief Mathebe who made the mistake. The governments of South Africa and KwaNdebele are making the mistake. They must leave the people of Moutse in peace.


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