15 October 2011

The 15th of October marks a gloomy past for the community of Athlone in Cape Town.

It was on this day in 1985 that the infamous Trojan Horse Massacre occurred in this suburb located east of South Africa's mother city, Cape Town, in the Western Cape province. It left three young people dead and many injured in what was deemed an ambush, hence the title ‘Trojan Horse'.

The attack happened 11 days after the national party government declared a state of emergency in other parts of the country and the relationship between police/security forces and communities was rather antagonistic. On the said date, police hidden in the back of a railway delivery truck fired directly into a crowd at an intersection of Thornton and St. Simon's roads. It is alleged that someone from the gathered crowd apparently threw a stone towards the truck, forcing police to open fire.

The incident, which was a result of heightened tensions between anti-apartheid demonstrators and police, sparked international outcry as those who perished that day were juveniles - the oldest being 21 and the youngest being only 11. A further thirteen adults were seriously injured, along with two children.

The police apparently defended the ambush saying it was a necessary technique to protect the public from stone-throwers, a stance they maintained even when appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997 - this despite an inquest in 1989 which ruled that the police had been negligent in causing the deaths. Nevertheless, the Attorney General at the time, Niel Roussow declined to prosecute - a decision supported by then Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee.

The families of the deceased took the case to court in South Africa's first private prosecution case but unfortunately failed to win a conviction. The deceased's names were Michael Miranda, 11, Shaun Magmoed, 16, and Jonathan Claasen, 21.

A memorial was erected by the city of Cape Town to commemorate this tragic event at the site where it occurred.

SAHA is in possession of material relating to the Athlone Trojan Horse Massacre in the following collections:

AL3065: Brian Currin CollectionAL2446: The SAHA Poster Collection