SA officers 'set up massacre'

Click to follow
A CABAL of South African army officers working with the Ciskei military, and either answerable to Pretoria or having close ties with it, ran the operation in which soldiers killed 28 unarmed demonstrators and injured about 200 as they marched on the black homeland a week ago. Among them is the officer who gave the order to open fire, Colonel Horst Schubesberger, the Ciskei Defence Force (CDF) operations chief of staff, according to sources in Bisho and witnesses.

There is mounting evidence that the massacre, far from being a tragedy born in the heat of the moment, was a trap laid by the Ciskei military to lure the protesters to their deaths. President F W de Klerk ordered the Goldstone Commission into violence to investigate and report on the attack.

As accusations about the incident continued, chief negotiators for the South African government and the African National Congress agreed in a television debate yesterday to meet today to set the stage for a summit between Nelson Mandela and Mr de Klerk.

Pretoria has denied responsibility for the massacre on the grounds that it occurred on 'foreign' soil. An 18-strong group of United Nations observers arrived yesterday. Suspicions that the protesters fell victim to an ambush centre on one question. The ANC's plan to break out of the stadium in which it had permission to rally was known to both the Ciskei and South African security forces. So why was a gap left in the stadium fence, and soldiers hidden in the long grass beyond it, when other routes were closed by razor wire and troops posted visibly to deter demonstrators from crossing?

Ciskei says the protesters broke through the fence, but witnesses say it was already down. Had the military wished to keep the ANC inside the stadium it could have sealed it with razor wire as it had done the road. Instead, the positioning of the wire appeared designed to funnel protesters into the line of fire of the soldiers hiding in the grass. As the demonstrators charged from the stadium, the only troops they could see were lined up some distance away. Suddenly the soldiers in the grass rose up and started firing. A preplanned attack would explain why South African police pulled away beforehand when they might have been expected to remain on an 'international' frontier where trouble was imminent.

Throughout the shooting, Colonel Schubesberger was in overall command, and in radio contact with Ciskei's military ruler, Oupa Gqozo, and with white South African officers who hold senior positions in the Ciskei forces.