Ex-policeman who helped prove 'third force' dies

2011-08-25 18:15

Johannesburg - A former policeman who helped solve the "Trust Feeds Massacre" of 1988 and went on to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's special investigations unit, Wilson Magadla, has died. He was 78.

"He passed away at the Heart Centre in eThekwini on Monday," his daughter Zimbili said on Thursday.

Retired, after a life which began in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape, Magadla became ill in June and died of complications related to diabetes after a week in hospital.

In his early years Magadla left Matatiele for Durban to join his mother who worked in kitchens, his daughter recalled.

There, he attended school but left in high school and joined the South African Police.

When he was a warrant officer, Magadla, with fellow policeman Captain Frank Dutton, found evidence covered up by senior police officers that New Hanover station commander Brian Mitchell had organised the December 3 massacre, which left dead 11 people attending a night vigil.


An ANC statement issued in 1992, said that in spite of intimidation of the investigators, and cover ups, the case became the first proof that there was a "third force".

This was a term used to describe police collusion with the Inkatha Freedom Party as the apartheid government attempted to quash the then banned African National Congress as it resisted the government through the activities of the United Democratic Front.

Mitchell was later granted amnesty at the TRC and went on to become involved in development efforts for the Trust Feeds area.

The constables who carried out the actual killings were also granted amnesty.

In his role at the TRC, Magadla worked on cases such as the Helderberg air crash of November 1987 and the 1988 assassination of ANC leader in France, Dulcie September.

He also conducted his own private investigation of allegations by a witness that advocate and commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza had been seen in a car used by gunmen who stormed the Heidelberg Tavern in Cape Town in 1993. Ntsebeza was cleared of that when the witness changed his story and said he had lied.

Zimbili described her father as "loving, kind and always encouraging".


She said that while working with the TRC, and later with the national intelligence agency, he would tell of having "people with doctorates" reporting to him.

"He was very good at giving advice, even though he didn't have an education."

People were constantly asking for his advice, including President Jacob Zuma, national police commissioner Bheki Cele and his old colleague, Dutton, she said.

An intelligent, thorough man, he believed in humility and "getting the job done".

"He wouldn't just give up on things."

He would stay up through the night and into the early hours of the morning waiting for inspiration for just the right phrasing for a book Colour of the Skunk, which tells of the different periods in his life, that was in its final stages.

The family plan to finish this for him, as his legacy.

  • k1dbl4ck - 2011-08-25 18:35

    RIP old man.

  • ANCYL4PRES - 2011-08-25 18:36

    How Tragic, talk of a true Stalwart, let us keep Mr. Magadla's legacy alive, Lala ngoxolo Baba.

      GTA_Lad - 2011-08-25 19:46

      Damn right that was a true stalwart, Not like the filth in your beloved ANCYL

  • Ross - 2011-08-25 18:41


  • nazeem - 2011-08-25 19:47

    rest in peace. god bless

  • Andrew - 2011-08-25 20:24

    Thanks for the courage you showed, RIP.

  • Winsome - 2011-08-25 20:39

    Why do people give the thumbs down for RIP? Rest in Peace.

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