By Norm Dixon The spectre of the "third force" is again haunting South African politics after national police commissioner George Fivaz revealed that 33 police have been identified as suspects in the horrific Christmas Day massacre at Shobashobane in Kwazulu/Natal. The "third force" — covert teams of the apartheid police and security forces working closely with members of the Inkatha Freedom Party — was responsible for many deaths and acts of violence prior to the 1994 elections. The Christmas Day attack by 600-armed men left 19 people dead in the ANC-aligned KwaZulu/Natal village. Village residents soon after the attack pointed to police inaction before and after the attack. An Internal Stability Unit patrol, which was supposed to be on duty in the area, was not present at the time of the attack. Just a day before that same unit had searched the village for weapons, confiscating many, leaving the village defenceless. ANC leaders and independent monitors had informed senior police officers that an attack on Shobashobane could be expected in the Christmas period. Survivors also complained that the first police team sent by the IFP provincial government, a full 24 hours after the rampage, was led by an officer involved in a controversy over the mysterious deaths of suspects in police custody. The provincial government attempted to block investigations of the massacre by the national government, claiming policing is a provincial matter. Survivors have told reporters that Sipho Ngcobo, an Inkatha leader and warlord in the Port Shepstone area, led the attack.
Police involved in Christmas Day massacre