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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Interview with Major Christo Davidson On 7 August 2000 In Johannesburg

Then I was here and there involved in a thing and then in, when was Boipatong, 1992, we were doing some enquiries here, a bit here a bit there, and one morning in June 18th I walked into the office, I was busy writing a report on some investigation and General Gloy(?) was our Commander then, himself was sitting there and Brigadier Langenhoven was sitting there and we were all in one group, and General Smit, actually I came into their office from my office. My office was some distance from their office. I came into their office, General Smit was sitting there and he asked me, he said, 'What do you know about ' OK, let me take you a bit back. After I came to Pretoria the Peace Accord was formulated and according to the Peace Accord the Police had to set up an investigation unit investigating politically related violence. We formed then the head office of that. In each of the Police areas, regions as they were called in those days, we had to appoint a co-ordinator for that region and all incidences of political violence had to be reported to him, he must get particulars, draw up a pro-forma form which we gave to them, they had to fill it in, they had to fax it through to us every morning. At the head office also we had a Joint Information Centre, everything that happened during the previous 24 hours was fed in there and we identified which incidents were politically related, which not, because the reports had to be sent to the Peace Monitors and things like that. It was after the Pretoria Minute and the Groote Schuur Minute. So every morning we were checking on the faxes that came through and if we got a report at head office during our morning meeting of an instance, say for argument's sake in Durban, and it was not reported by our co-ordinator as political violence, we would phone him and say we've picked up this incident last night in, say, Umlazi, I see it's not on your report. Then he would say sorry it's a mistake or he would say,' OK I attended to it but it was of a domestic nature or criminal nature, it was not of political nature.' So we controlled that here at head office. Every day there were a lot of reports of violence right throughout the country and we co-ordinated

POM     All over the country?

CD     All over the country we co-ordinated there and we had a good system at work, very good. When I walked into the office General Smit said to me, 'What do you know about 39 people that were killed in Boipatong last night?' Boipatong, I know it's in the Vaal Triangle area. I said, 'No, I don't know. I didn't see anything this morning in the reports.' He said, 'Don't you know anything about it?' I said, 'I know nothing about it'. He said, 'Well listen, 39 people have been killed there last night. I want yourself, General Gloy and Langenhoven to go and investigate.' I said 'OK but exactly where is Boipatong?' He said, 'It's very near Vanderbijlpark.' Right, let's go. He said to us we must go and see what's going on there because it's a hell of a balls up. The whole country is coming to a standstill because of this Boipatong thing. We had no idea of who were involved, nothing, when we left there. We came there and we went to the Police Station, to the Reaction Unit as it was called in those days. They were the people patrolling the townships and things like that. We asked them what the hell is going on. Going out they caught us in a speed trap, I was doing something like 185 kms an hour. Anyway the Traffic Official let us go, we said we've got no time to play around, we're really serious. Anyway we came there, we couldn't get a clear picture of exactly what happened and we said but where are the bodies? They said in the mortuary in Sebokeng. So we went to Sebokeng and there were the bodies, 42 of them at that stage. I think two died in hospital there. But the mortuary was stacked with bodies, there were hundreds of bodies there. Some were lying on the floor, it was winter, it was very cold, because of the unrest and things. There were our Boipatong bodies lying and we had a look at these people and it was a shocking experience really to see those bodies. It was really shocking. Old people, women, children, even small children, babies. Myself and Langenhoven and General Gloy said this thing is serious, investigate this the three of us not enough, forget it. We went back, we tried to figure out what happened. What we could get was that people came into the

POM     Did you go back to Boipatong?

CD     We went back to the Operational Centre at Vereeniging. We said, 'What happened?' The best we could get was that a lot of people came into the Boipatong area, they killed the people, Police were involved, Casspir vehicles were involved. We asked, 'But who? Which policemen attended to the scenes of crime?' Detectives were supposed to attend and in every area those co-ordinators that I told you about, who had to monitor the violence in their area, they had investigator teams. Whenever there is such an incident of unrest, of violence with political motives, those investigative teams were supposed to investigate that. We said, 'But where are those people who were supposed to investigate it?' Eventually we got hold of the Commander who was a Captain and he said, 'Well I wasn't there, I only heard about it this morning.' We said, right, let's go to Boipatong. He said, 'But you can't go in, the roads are blocked, there are dongas in the roads, there are trees over the roads, stones. You can only go in with a Casspir.' I said, 'OK, the first thing that we must do, we must get photos of the area because if there are blockages in the road I want to see, I want to see whether it is true that the policemen say they couldn't go in and they can't go in because of the blocking'. So we got a helicopter, I got into the helicopter with the pilot and the photographer. I said, 'Take me to Boipatong. Show me where this happened and let's take aerial photos', and we took aerial photos of the whole area. The story was at that stage also that incidents of KwaMadala Hostel were responsible for this with the Police and the army. I said, 'Right. Let's take aerial photos of the hostel', because you have the hostel there, there's a main road, Frikkie Meyer Boulevard, and there's Boipatong and there are some light industries.' Aerial photos, I showed them, here, here, here. I told the photographer to take photos of the whole of Boipatong, the whole area.

     Later on in the evening we went to the hospital, Sebokeng Hospital, myself, General Gloy and Langenhoven because there were people injured who had been taken into hospital. We said we wanted to interview them. The hospital staff was very hostile to us, very, very hostile. They refused us. They said you can't speak to them. We said to them, 'We are policemen, we want to find '

POM     Were the hospital staff black, white?

CD     All black. We said, 'We want to speak to these people, we want to know what happened.' It was about 11 or 12 o'clock that night but they allowed us access to some of the people. I took most of their names and everything and they just said to me, 'People came into our house, they shot out at us, they chopped us with those long pangas, mutilated our houses and they killed us'. I said, 'But who are they?' They said, 'The people from the hostel'. I said, 'But can you identify anybody?' No. We did not take statements from them then because the hospital staff said you're not going to take any statements. We came back about 3 o'clock in the morning we were back in Pretoria.

     Early next morning I went to the office, my office in Pretoria, we reported quickly. Now during that day General Smit and some of the other head office people also arrived there, I think the Commissioner came, I can't remember, but there were a hell of a lot of people. Then there were headlines in the newspaper saying the Police and army were involved. The negotiations came to a standstill, it was chaos. Then de Klerk said that there would be a complete investigation and he will appoint a Commission. Prior to him saying that the Police Generals said we must launch a full-scale comprehensive investigation to see what the hell was going there. They said to General Gloy, 'You're in charge, you'll do this'. Langenhoven was there but at that stage he was in the process of being transferred to Johannesburg, as CID head in Johannesburg. I was a Major and they said to me you must head the investigation. I said OK.

POM     So you were appointed by General van der Merwe?

CD     I can't remember really. General Gloy was my immediate Commander, then instructions came through him. I can't really remember. Anyway I was then appointed to head the investigation. De Klerk said there was going to be a Commission. We realised we had to do a criminal investigation. Some senior criminal detectives were also appointed, Colonel Eager, Colonel Bafont(?) from Vereeniging, Eager was from Johannesburg, he was an outside that came in, I was an outsider. A commission of investigation was new, because the Harms Commission was the previous one, I had nothing to do with the Harms Commission. But I was told a Commission you put everything on the table, there's no What I did then, they drew people, policemen from across the Johannesburg/Pretoria area to assist us. We compiled a Commission of Investigation under my command. General Grové was the head of detectives then, sorry it was le Roux, Grové was his second in charge. Le Roux was head man, Grové was his second in charge. Grové also came up to Boipatong.

     We decided then that we have the criminal investigation team and the commission investigation team but we had to work together because statements that we obtain

POM     Is the Goldstone ?

CD     Yes, it was then announced that Goldstone will hold

POM     Will do his Commission.

CD     Yes, his Commission of Enquiry.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.