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Who killed Sicelo Dlomo?

When Sicelo Dlomo died last month, his name was added to a terrible and frightening list – a list of the enemies of apartheid who have been murdered by faceless killers.

Sicelo was killed on Sunday 24 January this year. That day, he visited friends in Soweto. They talked and laughed until about 8 o’clock that evening, when Sicelo left for home. He was never seen alive again.

The next day at about 12.30 two policemen told his family that they had found Sicelo’s body in a field between Jabulani flats and Emndeni Extension. The body had gunshot wounds in the head.

Sicelo was only 18 years old when he died. He was working for the Detain­ees’ Parents Support Committee (DPSC), an organisation that helps the families of people in detention.

In his short life, he gained the respect of the youth of Soweto as a student leader and as a brave young member of Soyco (Soweto Youth Congress).

As a student leader, the eyes of the police were on him. He was detained for the first time from June 1986 until November 1986. He was charged with murder, but the court found him not guilty.


In October last year, Sicelo was detained again when he was on his way to school. He was released on the same day. His mother said that he had been beaten and kicked all over his body that day.

On January 20 this year, police raided the DPSC offices in Johannesburg. They took Sicelo for questioning and let him go four hours later.

That day, the police asked him about what he said in an overseas television film, called “Children of Apartheid”.

In the film he said: “I just saw all my people, the masses suffering under an unjust regime. I am fighting not only for my rights, but for the rights of all the others, for my parents who are not respected as people.”

In the film he was asked if his time in detention did not make him scared to carry on with the struggle against apartheid. He answered: “No. I am not going to retreat. I am going to go for it, to fight for my people and fight for my rights; for a democratic South Africa. I may die to achieve this idea. I am not going to stop or retreat. But forward I shall march.”

Four days after the police questioned him about the television film, Sicelo was dead.

The police have promised to give a reward of R5000 to anybody who could give them information about who killed Sicelo. But Sicelo’s killers have still not been found.


Sicelo’s name is the last one that we can add to a growing list. All those on the list have two things in common. Firstly, they were all part of the struggle against apartheid. Secondly, they have been murdered by faceless killers – or they have gone missing and have never been found. The list starts with the death of Dr Rick Turner…

DR RICK TURNER was shot dead in 1978 when he answered a knock at the door of his home in Durban. He was a banned university teacher. His killers were never found.

SIPHIWE MTIMKULU and TOKSIE MADAKA went missing in 1982 on their way to the Livingstone hospital. Toksie was taking his friend Siphiwe to the hospital for a check-up. Siphiwe was in a wheelchair at the time.

Siphiwe was the national chairman of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS). He was detained in 1981. When he was released, he was suffering from thallium poisoning. Thallium is a rare poison that attacks your nerves. Siphiwe said the police had poisoned him. He was suing the Minister of Police for damages when he went missing.

SIPHO HASHE, CHAMPION GALELA and QAGAWULI GODOLOZI were executive members of the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (PEBCO). One day in 1985, they got an urgent message to go to the airport.

A porter said he saw the three men when they arrived at the airport. He saw seven white men take them away. Nobody knows who these men were. But the airport worker said four of the men were wearing khaki clothes and one wore a police uniform. The three PEBCO men were never seen again.

MATTHEW GONIWE, SPARROW MKHONTO, FORD CALATA and SICELO MHLAWULI were killed on their way home to Cradock from a UDF meeting in Port Elizabeth in June 1985. Mkhonto and Mhlawuli’s burnt bodies were found next to their car. A few days later, Goniwe and Calata’s bodies were found in Blue Water Bay in Port Elizabeth. Their killers have never been found

GRIFFITHS MXENGE, a Durban lawyer was murdered in November 1981. His body was found near the Umlazi sports stadium with more than 40 stab wounds. He had been a member of the ANC and he had served time as a political prisoner.

VICTORIA MXENGE, his wife, was chopped to death outside her home in 1985 while her children watched. Her killers were never found.

DR FABIAN RIBEIRO and his wife FLORENCE were shot outside their home in Mamelodi in December 1986. Their son Chris said that the killers seemed to have dark black faces, but he saw that one of them had white hands. The double murder has not yet been solved.

NKOSINATHI SOLOMON SHABANGU was a Standard 9 pupil at the Senoane Secondary School. He was a member of the SRC and of Soweto Students Congress (Sosco). He was shot by three men in front of his teachers and fellow students in June last year. One of the killers wore a balaclava. Nobody was ever arrested.

AMOS TSHABALALA was a trade union organiser. He was a member of the Tsakane Civic Association and the Tsakane Parents Crisis Committee. He was stabbed and killed in October last year. His killers have not yet been found.

PETRUS MNISI was the regional co-ordinator of the Unemployed Workers Co-ordinating Committee in the Vaal. He was attacked in November last year. He died from his wounds.

ZAKHE MABANGA was a member of the Waterval Youth Congress. He died in hospital where he was being held under police guard. His family said that he was shot by Mbokodo vigilantes while security forces were in the area. His killers were never arrested.

MXOLILE ERIC MNTONGA was the Border region director of Idasa. Since 1981 he had been detained four times. He was found dead with his feet and hands tied in July last year. His killers have not yet been found.

Were all these people killed for their part in the struggle against apartheid? Why have their killers never been brought to book? How much longer will the list grow before apartheid is wiped off this earth?

* At the time the magazine went to the printers, we learned that yet another name has been added to the list. Linda Brakvis was a member of a youth organisation in Bloemfontein. He was detained from 13 December 1987 until 26 January this year. Three days after he was came out of detention, he was stabbed to death. His killers have not yet been found.


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