Survivors, victims' families to commemorate Maseru Massacres

Lesotho Defense Force patrols the town of Maseru. Picture: Molise MOLISE / AFP)

Lesotho Defense Force patrols the town of Maseru. Picture: Molise MOLISE / AFP)

Published Dec 9, 2022


Johannesburg - Survivors and the families of the 51 victims of the two Maseru Massacres have been urged to gather in the Lesotho capital on Friday for the first time in decades.

The first Maseru Massacre occurred on December 9, 1982, when Apartheid forces stormed the Lesotho capital and killed 42 ANC members and locals during a raid by the then SA Defence Force (SADF). Among those killed were five women and two children. On December 19, 1985, the SADF launched another raid during which six underground ANC operatives and three Lesotho nationals were shot dead.

According to Nomzamo Nkatshu, a group of survivors of the 1982 and 1985 massacres will be joined by the victims’ children and families to travel to Maseru, Lesotho, to commemorate and pay tribute to all the South Africans and Basotho nationals, who died during these two cross-border raids.

"This year’s event will be the first-ever joint commemoration since the mass funeral in 1982, which will see both the South Africans and Basotho nationals (directly affected by the massacre) converge in Maseru to honour and venerate their kith and kin and comrades,” Nkatshu said this week.

She said although efforts have been made in previous years by the South African government and the ANC officials to commemorate the massacre by visiting the graves in Maseru, a common outcry expressed by most survivors and families has been their deliberate exclusion from these events.

Nkatshu added that most times this has resulted in the distortion of facts and history about this painful liberation heritage.

"It is against this backdrop that this year’s commemoration is primarily led and spearheaded by the survivors and children of the victims; so as to ensure proper inclusivity and adequate participation,” she explained.

Nkatshu said while the organisers of the commemorative event have managed to contact some of the families of the victims here in South Africa, they were still struggling to reach out to others due to a lack of an updated database with contactable numbers. More than 10 000 people attended the funeral service of the victims of the 1982 massacre and were addressed by late ANC president Oliver Tambo, Lesotho’s King Moshoeshoe and prime minister Dr Leabua Jonathan.

In 2000, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) amnesty committee hearing, the late Johan van der Merwe, the last commissioner of the Apartheid police, claimed personal responsibility for the December 1985 raid. At another TRC amnesty committee hearing in the same year, Eugene de Kock, the notorious former Vlakplaas death squad commander also known as ‘Prime Evil’, revealed that then Apartheid president PW Botha must have known about the 1985 raid.