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Bophuthatswana Coup of 1994.


Start Date End Date
1994-03-03 1994-03-12
The ousting of President Mangope of Bophuthatswana.
Bophuthatswana Coup of 1994.
The coup occurred in the former homeland between the days of 3 and 12 March 1994. The then President Lucas Mangope (see also Lucas Mangope), had refused to join negotiations for the new democratic dispensation being forged in South Africa, choosing to enter into alliances with right wing Afrikaner political bodies, such as the Conservative Party, and other homeland leaders in Kwazulu and the Ciskei.
His intransigence, and the general desire of the people of Bophuthatswana to become re-incorporated into South Africa, eventually triggered the coup. By February 1994, almost the entire civil service had gone on strike, including nurses and teachers. The Army and Police, which previously had been used as instruments of coercion by Mangope, felt the brunt of popular opposition and turned against the state, or what was left of it. Many of even Mangope's closest advisors, and cabinet ministers also deserted his cause. 
Alarmed by the situation, Mangope, on March 8, called on the assistance of General Constand Viljoen, former head of South African Defence Force.  At this time, he was leader of the Afrikaner Volksfront, (AVF) an ultra-Conservative political grouping. Viljoen agreed to defend Bophuthatswana's  state buildings and certain individuals should they come under attack by members of the African National Congress (ANC), or any other parties or individuals supporting the re-incorporation. By March 10, the situation had worsened to the point that Mangope was advised to flee the capital Mmabatho, for his life. In effect a coup had taken place and there was nobody in control of the territory. Representatives of the Police Force delivered a memorandum to the South African Ambassador to Bophuthatswana demanding re-incorporation.
At this sensitive juncture however, the Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging (AWB), a militant right-wing movement under the leadership of Eugene Terre'Blanche (see also Ventersdorp), took it upon themselves to mount a "counter-coup". They spuriously claimed that Mangope had asked for their assistance, (which he had not), and joined the AVF's militia, refusing to obey the commands of its leaders, or to remove AWB insignia from their uniforms as agreed. They then proceeded to occupy key localities in Mmabatho, randomly shooting at civilians, with no strategic purpose in mind. While the AVF departed Mmabatho in an orderly fashion on March 11, the AWB remained.  During these incidents close to 40 people were killed. What captured the imagination of the world's media and was seen by millions of people however, was the shooting of three wounded and defenceless AWB members, Alwyn Wolfaard, Nicolaas Fourie and Jacobus Uys, by a Bophuthatswana Police constable, Ontlametse Menyatsoe.
The South African Defence Force at this point stepped in to restore order, but not Mangope to power as it had done so six years previously. (See Bophuthatswana Coup of 1988). The running of affairs in the troubled homeland was taken over by a Joint Commission, and Bophuthatswana was no more.  Menyatsoe was granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in August 1999. A commemorative plaque was erected to those who died in the violence (numbering over a hundred) in Mmabatho in 2000.            


South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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