By Norm Dixon
"These Men Both Won the Nobel Peace Prize. Only One Deserves It." This was the bitter response of Sunday Nation, South Africa's leading weekly black newspaper, to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to both Nelson Mandela and South African President F. W. de Klerk. The announcement came only days after de Klerk ordered the assassination of five young people by a South African Defence Force hit squad.
Early in the morning of October 8, 12 South African soldiers fired more than 300 rounds as they massacred five teenagers, aged between 12 and 19, in their beds. The hit squad crossed the border into the nominally independent Transkei bantustan, ruled by pro-ANC General Bantu Holomisa, to raid the home where the youths slept. The house is owned by a member of the Pan Africanist Congress.
Each of the boys was shot at least 18 times, at close enough range to leave burn marks. Those killed were the three sons of the home's owner and two of their cousins. All were school pupils. PAC official Zingiso Mkabile said each body had a bullet hole behind the ear, indicating execution.
The chief of the South African army, General Georg Meiring, admitted the victims had not fired any shots at the troops. SADF General Kat Liebenberg said it would have been preferable to have taken the boys prisoner but was unable to explain why 12 heavily armed commandos could not subdue five sleeping youths.
Defence minister Kobie Coetsee said the house had been under "ongoing surveillance" before the attack. ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus said this admission meant the SADF was "fully aware that children were resident in the house, and the wanton killing was not a mistake".
An investigation by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) found that of the hundreds of spent cartridges at the scene, only four struck the walls, suggesting that almost all the shots were fired downward into the children while they were lying down.
The raid and murders were authorised by de Klerk and high-level ministers. LHR has called for the dismissal of Coetsee and has threatened to pursue a murder case against the SADF.
Niehaus said the murders emphasised that the Transitional Executive Council must be installed urgently and the operations of the security forces brought under its control.
Both Nelson Mandela and Transkei leader Holomisa expressed outrage at the killings. Mandela described the attack as an act of "thuggery and pure terrorism". Holomisa announced at the boys' funeral, attended by 25,000 mourners, that the South African ambassador to Transkei would be sent home.
Inkatha leader Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi on radio and TV urged the SADF to mount similar raids on the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe.