Gqozo hides behind inquiry: Ciskei's leader faced the press in Bisho yesterday. Some questions he would not answer and for others he lacked the information. Chris McGreal reports

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a neat trick. Ciskei's highest authority, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, knew that in the end he would have to answer serious questions about Monday's slaughter just a few hundred yards from his office. So he gathered the journalists who had occupied his tiny capital and announced that to get to the bottom of the shooting he had appointed a judicial commission. But unfortunately that meant the whole matter was sub judice and so he could not discuss it. Any other questions?

There were some other questions the brigadier was allowed to answer but could not. For instance: who was the Ciskei soldier supposedly killed by the ANC, sparking the five-minute barrage of fire against the demonstrators? The brigadier said he had not asked. And the funeral? The brigadier supposed there would have to be one.

Brig Gqozo was unhappy with the tone of the questions. He decided the wider world should sip from a cup of Xhosa wisdom. 'You can kill people every day and get away with it. People say the devil gives you all the luck. But in our culture we know that your ancestors some day will turn their back on you. And on that very day the devil will also forsake you,' he said. It was not immediately clear if this was to be the brigadier's defence before his commission of inquiry.

Occasionally he looked for affirmation from a couple of the many white South Africans he keeps close to hand. On this occasion it was the appropriate combination of the head of the Ciskei army and the Health Minister. Unfortunately it brought to mind the doubts about who really runs the tiny black 'homeland'.

The brigadier was philosophical: 'They say that everybody's a puppet at one time or another. I feel that anybody who's a true South African - not a nave, ignorant person who has been out of the country like Rip Van Winkle for a long time - can know that the South African government in so far as homelands are concerned is the mother body and everybody looks up to it at one time or another for any assistance.

'We are babies, whether we like it or not, of the South African government and everybody in this country is at some time or another a puppet of the South African government,' he concluded.

One of the brigadier's problems is that he is firm but inconsistent. A few minutes later he denounced anyone who viewed Ciskei as anything but a country completely independent of any other.

(Photograph and map omitted)