'Cradock Four' ... 28 years later


Matthew Goniwe one of the Cradock Four who was killed on 27 June 1985. Today marks 28 years since their abduction and subsequent murder. Picture: www.cradockfour.co.za.

Today marks exactly 28 years since the killing of the Eastern Cape anti-Apartheid activists known as the “Cradock Four”.

On 27 June 1985, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli left for Port Elizabeth at about 10am.

Mhlauli was an old childhood friend of Goniwe&39;s. He was a school principal in Oudtshoorn, and was in Cradock for the holidays.

He decided to go with Matthew “to catch up on old times.” The car was spotted at Cookhouse by police at around lunchtime.

In the afternoon, Matthew attended meetings with his comrades. Later that day, the group’s car was intercepted at a roadblock near Port Elizabeth. 

Goniwe,  Mkhonto, Calata and Mhlauli were taken to Olifantshoek Pass and later to Port Elizabeth, where they were assaulted and killed on 27 June 1985.

Their bodies and the vehicle in which they were travelling were burnt later. 

The bodies of Mkonto and Mhlauli were found first, while Goniwe&39;s and Calata&39;s bodies were found days later.

Goniwe and Calata had been targeted for assassination.

Three Security Branch policemen who participated in the murder of the activists were later killed in a car bomb blast at Motherwell in 1989.

“The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of our Struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the struggle,” said former president Nelson Mandela during his visit to their gravesite in 1995.

At the time, the South African government denied any involvement in the killing.

Koevoet unit member Johan Martin van Zyl was among seven policemen involved in the killing who applied for amnesty.

In 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard an admission from Van Zyl to planning and carrying out the “Cradock Four” operation.