The Era of Secret Slaughter & The Murder of Batandwa Ndondo

Categories Cala History and Community
Batandwa Ndondo Activist

The viciousness and racism of apartheid grew to a crescendo just before its collapse was imminent. Activists disappeared and freedom fighters died suspiciously while others in the resistance were incarcerated, banished or banned. Brutality rose, torture was more widespread and ‘the era of secret slaughter’* began in earnest in South Africa in the mid-80’s.

In the Eastern Cape, the Transkei security police harassed activists like the Ntsebeza brothers, Godfrey Silinga and Matthew Goniwe. When the activists circulated political literature, provided legal assistance to other activists or tried to gather, boxes of books would be carried off, telephone lines were tapped and death-threats were made by the police:

‘It is no use arresting communists like you, you just come out and do the same things. There is only one solution’* – Captain Venter of the Queenstown security branch drew his finger across his throat, warning Matthew Goniwe and Lungisile Ntsebeza.

1985 saw tensions, uprisings and protests reach a fever pitch in the ‘homelands’ of the Transkei and Ciskei. The State Security Council gave the instruction that stability should be restored at any cost after a visit to the Eastern Cape by P.W. Botha, Magnus Malan (defence minister) and Adriaan Vlok (law and order minister). This set the tone for the death squads and counter-revolutionary targeting centres: ‘Terror was the chosen tactic’*.

Members of the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Association (PEBCO) simply disappeared. Activists were abducted, some mutilated. Bodies were burned on makeshift pyres and the ashes were thrown into the Fish River. Some were left on open stretches of ground on the outskirts of cities in the Eastern Cape as a warning to activists.

‘The death squads were becoming even more brazen’* Mass funerals were held. When a widow spoke out, saying: ‘We are prepared to die for Africa’*, she was later shot and stabbed to death in front of her two children.

Ndondo House Day
What’s left of the Ndondo House in Cala

Batandwa Ndondo was a student activist leader expelled from the University of Transkei where he played a leading role in the SRC, organising a commemoration of the Sharpeville massacre. The reason given for his expulsion was that he ‘incited students to be involved in political activities’*. On 24 September 1985 in Cala, a white kombi with tinted windows pulled up at a residence shared by Lungisile Ntsebeza and Batandwa Ndondo who worked at the Health Care Trust at this time. There was ‘a short, sharp knock at the door’*.

The man at the door would later be revealed as detective constable Dandala, accompanied by three other members of the death squad. They were looking for Batandwa, they wanted information and they asked him to accompany them. Horrors usually happen at night in the dark. So, on what was a sunny September morning, Batandwa Ndondo joined the group in the kombi while his friend, Thobile Bam, followed at a safe distance in case he got detained. ‘Thobile lost the kombi’*.

When the kombi was spotted again outside the hospital, Batandwa’s friend Victor Ngaleka asked the driver where Batandwa was. He saw blood spots on the driver’s shirt and the dashboard of the van. They then revealed themselves to be police.

Ndondo was gunned down in broad daylight. He had launched himself out of the window of the kombi and tried to escape before the vehicle slid to a halt. Three men and a woman, all carrying guns, went after him. He was shot eight times, once while he was standing and seven times while he was lying on his back. He was dragged back into the vehicle, before the death squad sped off.

There was more than one eyewitness. In what the state called a damage limitation exercise, all reference to one of the killers was destroyed, his name officially ceased to exist. He was issued a new, authentic identity number. While charges were laid, the case collapsed when the name disappeared and was found never to have existed in the first place. It was a farce. This was, of course, not the first murder to be covered up by an establishment led ‘by the solid discipline of the Broederbond’*.

An atmosphere of fear spread throughout Cala. Those associated with Batandwa Ndondo disappeared into detention and the mourners at his funeral were harassed. Van loads of heavily armed police poured into town. In collaboration with the apartheid government, Kaizer Matanzima endorsed the ‘state-sponsored murder without trial’* and ordered the detention of those associated with the campaign to arrest Batandwa’s murderers.

Batandwa Ndondo’s death awakened the political consciousness of the community. His legacy lives on in Cala and in South Africa. His commitment to student activism, political consciousness and solidarity in resistance against injustice will not be forgotten. His memory is an immortal signifier of the severity of our history and the resilience of our people.

We continue to honour those who died in our struggle for freedom.

Ndondo House Night

* Unfinished Business:

South Africa Apartheid & Truth

By Terry Bell in collaboration with Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza

16 thoughts on “The Era of Secret Slaughter & The Murder of Batandwa Ndondo

  1. I am also of the view that the TRC in many cases that were brought before it did not yield the optimal outcomes as envisaged, because there is still a number of unanswered questions by the perpetrators of the atrocities during those times for the families and loved ones of our heroes/heroines to find closure and live a progressive life.Secondly,the quest for identifying those involved in the brutal murders of our people for them to face prosecution is dealt with kids gloves as I find it difficult to accept that such things as the “damage limitation exercise” cannot be uncovered with today’s advanced investigative methods.I support such initiatives to honour those who died for our freedom as the beloved Bathandwa Ndondo , Phumezo Nxiweni and many more.May their undying spirits live forever more.

  2. I m Bonisile Vinjwa I still remember u buti Bathandwa he like wearing shorts noba sekubanda I was still young at the time. He was some one who respected abantu abadala ebabulisa molo mama, Molo tata.

    The last time I saw him was few day before he was murdered kwivenkile ethengisa iparafini eCala kwaKuksie. Kwakubanda kodwa uBura still wearing shots with his big natural hair. A true big brother to all you boys in Cala and close friend to his little brother uViwe Sdumo.

    uBura ebeyithanda imfundo and ekhuthaza ulutsha uba malufunde

    Long live the spirit of Bathandwa Ndondo long live

  3. Thus we still are nit free .
    The ANC led government has formed I believe a secret intellegencia party called the EFF so as to persue these past historic events.

    Let us also remember at the Funeral Welile Shasha orderd that people take off their clothes as the apartheid regime police arrived and where about to kill all the attendees of the funeral this act was to send message to the outside world that they were killed unarmed. An act of bravery by Welile Shasha and we honour him.

    Today his son a graduate from Cuba Kholekile Shasha is in Queenstown and also an activist for human rights and a just world for all that live in it.

  4. This is the History that we really need to embrace and ensure that it cascades to our future generations. I really worry so much about our present generation and their understanding of the birth of democracy. Do they really understand how it was attained. Sometimes I think about Alan Paton book “Cry the Beloved Country” was it not a prophecy of what is happening with our current society.

  5. Batakes, you will always be in our hearts.
    The struggle still continues. Our comrades have disappointed us, but we won’t give up.
    Your blood cannot spill in vain!
    AMANDLA!!

  6. I am inspired by the gallant actions that stood tall against the apartheid regime govern

    We should never be tired of standing against current injustices by taking a leaf out of Bathandwa’s legacy.

  7. Long live the fighting spirit of comrade Bathandwa Ndondo. When I arrived at the University of Transkei, the activities of comrade Bathandwa Ndondo were well known, he was a true and trusted comrade

  8. Kodwa loan igazi labor lisalila emhlabeni kanti thina ziphelelwd yinganisk shka kwakhula ubuxoki0 STRIES SUCH AS THESE ZOBATHANDWA NOOPUMEZO SHOULD BETOLD THANKS THUSE FOR DOCUMENTING THESE STORIES ONE IS FILLED WITH NOSTGIA WHEN ONE THINKS OF THE MANY LIVES THAT WERE CUT SHORT NGAMABHULU

  9. This has brought memories and funny that one was young aged about 07 years then….The Bura I know is the one who looked after us whilst swimming “emtyibilizini” maybe we were too young for him to share the challenges then….not a very slim chap yet very active…..we shall foerever be indebted to you for your sacrifices….Sadly the little freedom (occupying offices without the economy” is what has propelled the Black nation astray….Living 50 meters away from the Ntsebezas(ehuisini)was one of the things that inspired some of us….Proud to see very educated fellows that were either visiting or staying over at the house….KwaTitshala

  10. It was 1989 when I first heard of him during my high school year eMoshesh in Matatiel, but I immediately connected with Bathandwa Ndondo.

    The information was so limited, but I knew he was fighting for our rights, I knew he wanted a better South Afica for us.

    My you forever rest in peace bhuti.

    #womandla

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