Christmas Day Massacre

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Monday, 25 December 1995

On the Christmas in 1995, 19 African National Congress (ANC) members were murdered by a group of about 600 Inkatha Freedom Party members at Shobashobane in the south east of KwaZulu Natal. The date was selected to have maximum impact and was one of the most horrific events in the violent history of KwaZulu Natal.

Attackers used the traditional Zulu battle formation in the shape of the horns of a bull, which was pioneered by Shaka Zulu, and indiscriminately mowed down women and children. There was speculation that some of the mutilations had been for muti purposes as well as that the main target for the attack was Mr Kipha Nyawose, an active campaigner for peace in the area and an ANC leader. Some of the survivors said that the police had been warned about the imminent attack and had done little to prevent it.

Police participation in the attack and destabilization of the area came under investigation, which resulted in violence being curbed for a period. An investigation was launched, and local warlords were arrested while the conduct of the police was scrutinized, and violence in the area came to a virtual standstill for a time. The investigation and trials brought to light some evidence regarding a 'third force' that had been causing and perpetuating violence in KwaZulu Natal.

• The Natal Story: 16 years of conflict; Anthea Jeffrey, The South African Institute for Race Relations, 2001.
• IOL, (2011), What happened at the Shobashobane Christmas Day massacre, from The Independent Online, 27 December, [online], Available at: [Accessed on 3 December 2013]

Last updated : 02-Dec-2013

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

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