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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Bisho and the anti-Communist campaign

SACP Central Committee statement - Johannesburg, September 13, 1992

The SACP Central Committee, meeting in Johannesburg on September 12-13, discussed the present political situation and the intense anti-Communist propaganda campaign currently being waged by the De Klerk regime and its surrogates in the media.

The anti-Communist hysteria is in direct proportion to, and a consequence of, the growing mass popularity and effectiveness of our Party. The De Klerk regime expected the SACP to wither away into insignificance after the crisis in Eastern Europe. This hope has been utterly confounded. Everywhere in mass action throughout the length and breadth of our country these past three months, the red flag of our party has been in evidence. The hostility of the present anti-Communist attack is a measure of De Klerk's fury.

In assessing the past three months, the Central Committee noted the very significant shift in the balance of forces in favour of the broad liberation movement. This shift is due notably to the three months of rolling mass action for peace and democracy throughout our country. The very pressure of mass struggle is forcing out into the light of day growing evidence of the government's direct complicity in unleashing strategically co-ordinated violence against the people. The apartheid regime is daily running out of political options and the personal credibility of FW De Klerk is now interminal decline.

The Central Committee salutes the millions of South Africans who have taken part in the mass action campaigns. We call upon them to intensify the struggle for a Constituent Assembly, an Interim Government of national unity and for the extension of free political activity to every corner of our country.

The Central Committee assessed the Bisho massacre. Each day brings fresh evidence that the massacre was a deliberately planned ambush, not a panicky reaction.

     The CDF troops were carefully concealed and deployed in ambush formation behind a break in the fence;

     These troops were armed for an ambush and not for crowd control;

     The ambush was rehearsed two days before. What is more, there is strong reason to believe that, while the triggers were pulled in Bisho, the plot was hatched in Pretoria:

     The heavy SAP escort of the marchers mysteriously faded away, and its commanding officer was whisked off by helicopter just minutes before the massacre, only to return soon after the firing.

     The CDF is commanded by numerous seconded SADF officers on Pretoria's payroll;

     According to an international intelligence monitoring publication there was an SADF Department of Military Initlligence signal from Pretoria ordering the massacre.

On top of all this, there is at least one more element pointing to a major conspiracy: the present, highly orchestrated anti-SACP media campaign around the massacre began, not on Monday 7 September (the day of the massacre) but exactly 24 hours earlier in the regime supporting Sunday newspaper, Rapport.

The SACP Central Committee extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those murdered by Gqozo's SADF-commanded forces. We also express our deepest sympathy with the hundreds of wounded, including at least three of our comrades who are now paralysed for life.

The Central Committee salutes the numerous unsung heroes of Bisho - the marshals (at least two of whom died), who risked their lives under fire to rescue wounded; the young comrade who protected the ANC secretary general, shielding comrade Ramaphosa with his own body; those who remained to the last in the stadium to ensure safe evacuation; the journalists who had the courage to witness the event and bring back the truth; and many, many more.

The SACP Central Committee also salutes the leadership of the tripartite alliance who led the march to Bisho. Among them were Communists and non-Communists, black and white. They included comrades Chris Hani, Cyril Ramaphosa, John Gomomo, Ronnie Kasrils, Harry Gwala, Wilton Mkwayi, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Steve Tshwete, Moses Mayekiso, Getrude Shope, Jeff Radebe, Raymond Suttner, Skenjana Roji, Silumka Sokupa, Lucille Meyer, Tony Yengeni, David Ndawonde, Linda Mti, Tokyo Sexwale, and others.

We reject with contempt suggestions that the leadership of the tripartite alliance used people as cannon fodder. Unlike FW De Klerk, who hides his deeds behind proxy and shadowy covert forces, our leadership courageously ledfrom the front and in broad daylight. It was they who found themselves directly in the firing line. We also reject with contempt the attempt to attribute to Communists, and in particular to white Communists, decisions that were at all times collective and tri-partite in character. Those making these insinuations reveal their own innate bigotry and racism.

The loss of a single life, the maiming of a single body is a terrible blow. Each death means yet another family deprived of a breadwinner, a parent's hug, or a child's laughter. We must, and shall never forget these basic human facts.

But those who, from the comfort of white suburbs and newspaper editorial offices, urge patience and passivity on our people choose to forget. They choose to forget that each day, before and after the Bisho massacre, our people are killed in their beds, fields, in taxis and trains by war-lords, petty tyrants and covert forces. If you are patient you might be killed. If you are active you might be killed. The people of Ciskei and everywhere in our country have come to understand one simple truth - if you want peace, you have to struggle for justice.

The SACP reaffirms its commitment to a negotiated settlement. We strongly endorse the ANC National Working Committee decision not to proceed with a bilateral summit until FW De Klerk has provided a satisfactory response to the 14 demands, and also until he takes concrete steps to reduce violence emanating from notorious hostels, to ban the public display of weapons, to rein in his proxy forces and to release political prisoners.

Despite the latest tragedy, the SACP views the future with confidence. We have no doubt that the organised power of our people in numerous democratic formations, under the overall leadership of the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance, will take decisive steps towards freedom in the period that lies ahead.

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.