The Bisho Massacre occurs

Photographer: Greg Marinovich Image source

Monday, 7 September 1992

As many as 80,000 protesters gathered outside of Bisho, the capital city of Ciskei, and demanded an end to the military government of Brigadier Joshua Gqozo and the re-absorption of the so-called black homeland into South Africa.  The protest was led by several senior African National Congress (ANC) leaders, including South African Communist Party Secretary General Chris HaniCyril RamaphosaSteve Tshwete and Ronnie Kasrils.

The event, now known as the Bisho Massacre, occurred when the demonstrators tried to cross the Ciskei Defence Force lines and enter into Bisho. Soldiers then opened fire and continued firing indiscriminately into the crowd for about five minutes using machine guns and rifle grenades.  Reportedly, several young men were shot in the back as they fled.  According to ANC officials, no warning was issued, and no attempts were made to use non-lethal means to disperse demonstrators.

The South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, said that the ANC knew the march would end in violence.

"They knew people would be shot - they wanted people to be shot," he said in a TV interview.

Under South Africa's policy of apartheid, Ciskei was designated as one of two homeland or "Bantustan" for Xhosa-speaking people. Xhosa speakers were resettled there and to Transkei, the other Xhosa homeland.

Ciskei and all of the other homelands were reincorporated into South Africa on 27 April 1994, after the first post-apartheid elections. Along with Transkei, it became part of the new Eastern Cape Province. Its capital became the capital of the Eastern Cape Province.

References:
• Buffalo City Metro,‘The Bhisho Massacre: the day 29 people died’, from Buffalo City, [online], Available at www.buffalocity.gov.za [Accessed: 22 August 2013]
• SAHO,‘Mass funeral for the victims of Bisho massacre’, from South African History Online, [online], Available at www.sahistory.org.za [Accessed: 22 August 2013]
• Mandela, Nelson, ‘ANC President Nelson Mandela`s press statement on the Bisho Massacre’, from African National Congress, [online], Available at www.anc.org.za [Accessed: 22 August 2013]
• BBC News, ‘1992: Troops kill 24 at ANC rally’, from British Broadcasting, 07 September [online], Available at www.bbc.co.uk [Accessed: 22 August 2013]

Last updated : 07-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011