RSA police for RSA
AWB for the Boer nation
Date: 9 August 1991
Location: Ventersdorp, southern Africa
Many parts of the text that follows are taken from chapter 17 of the book “Victory or Violence: The Story of the AWB of South Africa”, by Arthur Kemp. Additions and changes are by Volkstaat.org.
One of the most publicly violent clashes between the RSA state (Republic of South Africa) and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB, the “Afrikaner Resistance Movement”) for the Boer nation, was without doubt the shootout in the streets of Ventersdorp on 9 August 1991. This battle, which left three AWB members dead and a large number of RSA policemen and AWB men injured, was even commemorated in a special medal struck by the AWB and given to all AWB members who had been present in the small western Transvaal town that night.
The Battle of Ventersdorp actually had its origin in an earlier clash on a farm situated outside Ventersdorp. This clash, which saw RSA police use live ammunition on white farmers for the first time since the Rand Revolt of 1922. The message was clear: those who had opposed to the change, white or black, would be annihilated.
The earlier clash occurred on the farm Goedgevonden on 11 May 1991. The farm, which is RSA state property, had been the scene some years earlier of a forced removal of a local black community. With the repeal of the Land Acts (which gave whites exclusive right to purchase property on the lands of RSA, while every black nation was granted independence on their land of origin) that black community were encouraged to move back by local church groups. Thus a substantial shanty town squatter camp was erected virtually overnight on the Goedgevonden farm.
These black settlements on Boers’ lands had a clear political function, very clear to Boer independentists: they served to transform the demographics of their lands, to make harder their independence, and to transform southern Africa into one great capitalist-communist empire.
Local Boer farmers soon began complaining of crime and stock thefts and after several unsuccessful appeals to RSA government to do something about the black squatter problem, they decided to act themselves.
The AWB, having its headquarters in Ventersdorp, was also heavily involved in the complaints against the squatters’ presence, and three weeks before the battle of Goedgevonden, Terre’Blanche warned from a public platform in that town’s hall that action would be taken if the RSA state refused to do anything.
The RSA police, presumably with the aid of an informer, knew that action was being planned against the squatters, and on Friday 10 May 1991 warned Piet Rudolph (at that time publicity secretary for the AWB) that the squatters were going to be protected. When the RSA police noticed an exceptionally heavy buildup of vehicles in the Ventersdorp area the same day, they reissued their warning to the AWB.
The RSA police could however not be everywhere all at once and at 01h45 the next morning the first attack against the black squatters went in. This first attack was led by Terre’Blanche personally and consisted of at least 25 horsemen charging through the squatter camp destroying the shacks with clubs.
A Johannesburg daily newspaper then alleged that Piet Rudolph had dropped one of his AWB calling cards in the Black township during the raid, but Rudolph himself denied this, saying that he had never even been into the township and had no idea where the newspaper had obtained his calling card.
A heavily armed RSA police contingent then moved onto Goedgevonden to protect the black squatters against the growing band of Boer farmers, whose numbers had swelled to over 2000 by the time the first attack went in. A standoff situation then occurred between the RSA police and the Boer farmers, with the latter group staging mock attacks all along the perimeter of the farm the whole night long, keeping armoured RSA police vehicles rushing from point to point trying to stop them.
At about 03h30 the Boer farmers suddenly launched another heavy attack on the RSA police lines, bringing up extra heavy commercial vehicles to punch a hole through the police regime cordon. This attempt was successful and the Boer farmers once again set about destroying what little remained of the black squatter camp before being driven off by RSA police reinforcements.
The RSA police then received the order to open fire on the Boer farmers, an order which was duly carried out. Many Boer farmers’ vehicles were hit by gunfire and four Boer farmers were injured, two of them seriously.
Once the second attack had gone in - and had been met by RSA police fire, the Boer farmers regrouped to plot a further attack. The black squatters had however by this time been well and truly scattered, so the Boer farmers headed off into the neighbouring black township of Tshing and at 04h30 houses in that residential area were attacked at random.
The situation at Goedgevonden was eventually calmed down by the arrival of Law and Order Minister for RSA regime Vlok, and Konserwatiewe Party (KP) deputy leader Ferdi Hartzenberg. By late afternoon of the 11 May 1991, most of the Boer farmers had dispersed.
The Boer farmers were angry and astounded that the police (of RSA-regime) had fired on them (many Boers - wrongly - for many years had believed that regime was also their) and swore to waiting journalists that the “next time” they would fire back. Little did people realise how true those words would be.
Against this backdrop, RSA state President FW de Klerk announced soon afterwards that he was coming to hold a public meeting in Ventersdorp on 9 August 1991. Immediately the southern Africa was ablaze with speculation that the Ventersdorp meeting was going to be a replay of the Pietersburg battle of the 22nd May 1986, when 5,000 AWB’s men, after violent clashes with police and members of the Nasionale Party (NP), interrupted a meeting of the party regime, and won the stage. But given the events at Goedgevonden, few realised that the mood had changed - for the worse.
The first hint of trouble came when the Ventersdorp town council (controlled by the KP) issued a formal request to De Klerk to call off the meeting as he “was not welcome in Ventersdorp.” The council also refused permission to the Nasionale Party (NP) to hold the meeting in the town hall, forcing that party to use the local RSA army hall instead.
Terre’Blanche then announced that he was going to hold a public meeting in Ventersdorp the same night and that the AWB would march to the NP meeting to present a petition to De Klerk. KP deputy leader Hartzenberg then also announced that he would be addressing a meeting in Ventersdorp as well, quickly obtaining use of the town hall earlier denied to the NP.
Sensing an impending confrontation, the RSA police then announced that they would be there “in sufficient numbers to prevent trouble”. What they meant by this only became apparent later - six rolls of razor fence and about 2,000 RSA policemen were called in to surround the hall (one block in every direction) where De Klerk’s meeting was to take place and armoured personnel carriers, originally designed to control riots, were stationed at strategic positions around the hall.
An entire squadron of RSA Defence Force armoured cars, called Ratels, each armed with a 12,7mm calibre rapid fire gun, were placed on standby some 7 kilometres out of town. Roadblocks were set up on all the incoming roads but these proved to be fairly ineffective. The entire afternoon of 9 August 1991 the roads leading to Ventersdorp were thick with traffic from all parts of the southern Africa - including a batch of farmers from Namibia who were angry with the RSA government for handing that country over to comunist SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) rule.
The RSA police stopped vehicles on the way in but did not confiscate any weapons, something which was later to be the cause of much criticism. (The only weapons which the police did confiscate were some pointed arms shields, visible in a picture at the end of the article).
In the town itself the contrast between the NP offices and the AWB offices was marked. Outside the NP offices sandbags had been put into place and a heavy RSA police presence stopped any unauthorized persons from entering those offices.
The AWB office, with its cast iron eagle outside its door, was open and no-one was searched on entering. People in the uniforms of the Wenkommando (AWB’s paramilitary force) came and went as they pleased and the atmosphere was noticeably much lighter. In one of the rooms the AWB had set up its own emergency clinic with qualified doctors and nurses (AWB supporters of course) standing by to treat any injuries.
Eventually an estimated eight to ten thousand people – RSA police included - congregated in the little town that night (usual population 2,500). The public meeting addressed by Hartzenberg went off without incident with the capacity crowd cheering him on. Darkness had fallen by the time this relatively short meeting had ended. Outside in the streets the mood was actually quite festive. Open air barbecues abounded and everyone strolled around waiting for something to happen.
At the NP hall, the atmosphere was thick with tension. It was for many an unusual experience to have to be subjected to body searches, to produce invitation cards and to pass through metal detectors and a massive security encampment just to hear a meeting. An attempt to get the crowd that failed miserably.
As was learnt afterwards, De Klerk had planned to arrive at the hall by helicopter, but RSA police intelligence had established that the possibility existed (extremely vague though it was) that someone had possession of a surface to air missile and was going to shoot De Klerk’s helicopter down. In the end De Klerk landed some distance away and travelled the remainder of the way by car, arriving a half hour late for the meeting.
When he did arrive at the hall he was informed by a senior RSA police officer that he should not proceed with the meeting as the possibility of violence was great. The advice was turned down.
Outside, things began to hot up. Terre’Blanche announced to the crowd that he was going to the NP hall to try and get into the meeting and present a petition to De Klerk. Heeding a call up, a large crowd of about 2,000 AWB men formed outside the Ventersdorp hotel, to be met by a contingent of RSA policemen and dogs, which had been deployed there to try and prevent the crowd from moving in the direction of the hall.
Tensions rose visibly as the crowd moved off. Clubs and baseball bats appeared amongst the crowd as makeshift weapons, while most were armed with rubber batons and side firearms. Some men even brought their own dogs with which they taunted the line of police dogs standing along the street.
The AWB men began screaming insults at De Klerk, and then suddenly one of the RSA policemen sprayed teargas into the face of one of the AWB men right at the front of the AWB line.
The marchers had by this stage split into two groups and were approaching the NP hall from two directions, one group being led by Terre’Blanche and the other by Piet Rudolph. The AWB crowds surged forward. At first the RSA police line faltered under the unexpected assault and baton blows, but soon regrouped a little way back and stood firm.
Vicious hand to hand fighting took place with RSA police spraying teargas at the AWB men (some of whom wore teargas masks, while others wore wet clothes to protect them from the gas). The AWB men then produced their own, far more vicious version of teargas - insect spray, which they proceeded to spray at the RSA policemen and at their dogs.
As the Boer marchers approached the hall a series of events occurred in quick succession. A taxi, driven by a Black, (in southern Africa, Blacks most commonly use mini-busses as taxis) suddenly appeared out of nowhere and went wildly careering down the street towards the crowd. The AWB crowd began rocking the van to and fro, and the driver tried to turn his vehicle around to get away.
A person in the crowd broke one of the vehicle’s windows and then the driver managed to drive off in the direction of a nearby RSA police unit. Someone in the AWB crowd then fired at the taxi, and others started following his example. The taxi sped up, only to crash into a RSA police vehicle.
Then all of a sudden the entire town’s lights went off. (It was later alleged that the town engineer had deliberately cut the power in an attempt to sabotage the NP meeting. He of course was unaware of what was happening in the streets.)
When the gunshots directed at the pickup rang out, the RSA police brigadier in charge of operations, Adrian de la Rosa, gave the order to his men to also open fire against Boers with live ammunition. While the town was thus still in darkness, the two sides (RSA police vs. AWB’s Boers) then began exchanging live fire at each other. At the same time a pick up with a canopy driven by Blacks (we don’t know who gave them these orders) appeared from nowhere and tried to drive through the crowd, hitting several Whites and eventually slamming into an electrical power box.
Incensed by the fact that the pickup had knocked over so many Whites (two of these Whites died that night did so as a result of their injuries caused by that vehicle), some AWB men began shooting at the pickup as well. While this was happening, another taxi and a bus then also appeared on the main street, providing yet more targets for the incensed AWB men to shoot at. The second taxi careered down the main street, knocking down the gates of a church. Hard to believe that all these attacks carried by black drivers against AWB were not planned. On one side there was the AWB, for the Boervolk, and on the other a vast array of enemies, from the old regime (RSA) and from the new one, that was about to take power (the empire that, since 1994, rules over all southern Africa).
All the while the small town echoed to the sound of gunfire, transforming the usually peaceful streets into a literal war zone.
Terre’Blanche had personally been at the thick of the cross fire outside the Ventersdorp hotel. Standing in the middle of the barbed wire emplacements, he asked the RSA police to stop shooting, at the same time ordering the AWB men to stop shooting as well. This appeal for calm seemed to work for a little while, until a RSA police helicopter appeared overhead and some of the AWB men began shooting at it with hunting rifles. It flew away without being damaged.
As a shocked silence then descended on the town. As the lights came back on, 3 AWB’s men lay dead and another 43 whites were injured. 15 Blacks (who had been inside the taxis and the pickup) had also been injured. Two of the dead Boers had been run over by the pickup while the third Boer had been hit in the torso by a full burst of RSA police shotgun fire. At least seven RSA policemen were admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds.
Inside the hall where De Klerk had proceeded with his speech, dull thumps had been heard and the smell of teargas wafted in. The hall lights and sound system had its own electricity supply (specially laid in case of a power cut) and proceedings were thus not disrupted by the general power cut. Amongst the audience rumours began to spread that there had been fighting, but even so the shock was profound when meeting chairman Barend du Plessis asked the crowd to stand in “sympathy with the dead.”
Senior Policemen advised De Klerk that it would not be safe for him to leave the area in an ordinary vehicle and he then left the area in a Casspir of RSA police (a huge armoured vehicle used in South Africa for transport of troops), which had been adorned by a Boer nationalist with a spray painted hammer and sickle logo entwined with a NP logo.
Many RSA police vehicles had been defaced in this way and when it became known that the RSA police had killed one AWB man, Boer Christian nationalists set about smashing the windows of other RSA police vehicles and deflating their tires with specially designed spikes made of bent and welded nails. One AWB group went downtown to where the Black taxis were parked and attacked them as well.
Terre’Blanche went down to the local RSA police station where at least six AWB men (including Piet Rudolph - visible in a photo below, in the front line during the battle) were being held. After some negotiations the men were released on condition that they appear in RSA court the following Monday and that Terre’Blanche from his side dissuade his men from attacking the RSA police vehicles any further. This happened and the Battle of Ventersdorp ended at 10h30 that night.
As a final cap to the events, a homemade bomb exploded on the following Sunday under a vehicle belonging to the chairman of the NP in Klerksdorp, causing considerable damage.
On 21 August the Nasionale Party (NP) offices in Vereeniging (southern Transvaal) were attacked. A smoke grenade was fired through the office’s front window, striking a portrait of De Klerk. Three AWB members, aged 36, 22 and 16, were arrested for the attack some two days later and investigations also linked them to an earlier unexplained smoke grenade attack on the house of a prominent local NP supporter. The RSA police also confiscated 25 kilograms of explosives when they arrested the three Boer nationalists.
The Battle of Ventersdorp demonstrated the great divide between the RSA police and the AWB. Finally, after so many lies and illusions, the RSA was proving for what it really was. The RSA wasn’t a Boer state. It was the state that put an end to freedom of the Boer nation, and now was helping the capitalist-communists to create a single empire in southern Africa. At that point, people was with the RSA (and thus with the ANC and the international powers) or with the Boer nation.
The Battle of Ventersdorp also showed that the plans, of the empire that was trying to birth, had a real enemy: the AWB. A force that was better don’t understimate, destined soon to become the biggest among his people. A force whose male members had served, often in conditions of war, the army or the police (for the whites military service was compulsory, and lasted two years followed by camps at intervals). A force of trained men, ready to fight to free the Boer nation. And so many of them will, during the years that follow.
The three AWB members killed during the Battle of Ventersdorp: A.F. Badenhorst, G.J Koen, and J.D. Conradie are remembered at the AWB Memorial in Ventersdorp.
Below are published some photos about the Battle of Ventersdorp.
The Battle of Ventersdorp (1991) - video