18" x 24" Charcoal Drawing                    (1999)

Face to Face: Perpetrator IV

In late 1988 in the KwaZulu homeland the conflict raged between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of Chief Buthelezi and the United Democratic Front (UDF) which was aligned with the African National Congress (ANC). Hundreds of lives were lost and most of the violence was orchestrated by the 'third force' of the South African Police (SAP) which deliberately fomented violence between the opposing political groups. 


The dirty work of the 'third force' was very often carried out by a cadre of constables known as 'kitskonstabels' (from the Afrikaans 'kits' meaning 'instant' constables because they received only the most rudimentary training, were heavily armed and often undisciplined). They were despised as collaborators, as were most police officers and often subjected to taunts by township youth.

In the Trust Feed Massacre, Brian Mitchell, a police captain gave orders for some of his kitskonstabels to attack UDF supporters. The constables misunderstood their orders and instead of attacking the targeted UDF supporters, they mowed down a group of eleven people, mainly women and children who were at a vigil at the Trust Feed Farm. The event devastated and destroyed what had been an apolitical, rural community.


Brian Mitchell was found guilty and sentenced to thirty years imprisonment. At the hearing for amnesty he asked the community for forgiveness.


"And I can just ask the people that were involved directly or indirectly ... and who have been affected by this case ... to consider forgiving me .... I have, I have lost everything in life."


The community of the Trust Feed Farm said they would try to forgive him if he would be actively involved in rebuilding the community he had destroyed. Brian Mitchell asked the TRC to arrange for him to visit the community which he addressed as follows:


"I just want to express my gratitude towards the community for allowing me to come here today and for the goodwill that ... I've experienced so far. There were people that warned me that I mustn't come here today. But, despite those warnings, I have come here because I know it's the right thing to do...." "I was led to understand that there are still a lot of people that left the area in 1988 that have not been allowed to resettle in this area. I think it's important that we must get these people to be allowed to return to their land and to develop their land. And that there's reconciliation between the political parties that were so divided in this area."


Brian Mitchell's wife divorced him and he has not seen his estranged son.


Adapted from "There Is No Future Without Forgiveness", Desmond Tutu, 1999, Doubleday.