Sam Pienaar, the SADF citizen force commander who was present at the planning of the Trojan Horse Massacre and who now earns more than R800 000 a year as a DA councillor and sub-council chairman, will have to live with his conscience along with everyone else who had a hand in her son’s death, says the mother of one of three young people killed on that day.
“The people behind the death of my son have their consciences to live with – it’s been 30 years, and I think it is time I settle down my emotions,” said Georgina Williams, the mother of Michael Miranda, 11, who was killed during the Trojan Horse Massacre on October 15, 1985, in Athlone.
Ms Williams was responding to calls for Mr Pienaar, 73, the Sub-council 6 chairman to be fired after it emerged he was a commander in the former SADF citizen force, and was present at the planning of the Trojan Horse Massacre.
On that day, 30 years ago, security police shot indiscriminately into a group of young people. Along with Michael, Shaun Magmoed, 15, and Jonathan Claassen, 21, were also killed, and scores of others were injured.
The incident, at the corner of St Simon’s and Thornton roads, Athlone, became known as the Trojan Horse Massacre because police were hiding among wooden crates in a railway truck before jumping up and shooting at the young people.
Although Ms Williams misses her son, and sometimes wonders how his life would have turned out had he not been killed, she says she can no longer hold on to hurt and anger.
“I’ve learnt to live with the loss of my son. They (the apartheid security police) have their own conscience to live with. Mr Pienaar might earn a lot of money now, but no amount of money can make you happy,” Ms Williams said.
Charmaine Zulu, Jonathan’s mother, echoed Ms Williams’s desire for peace, even though she feels it is unfair to the families of the three slain youths, that Mr Pienaar is “way better off” than they are.
“This happened years ago, and I understand Mr Pienaar probably has a family he had to provide for. I don’t have an issue with that. But then I think that our sons who died could have provided for their own families, if they still lived. Today I am still struggling financially. Mr Pienaar made his submission at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but he never apologised to the families personally,” Ms Zulu said.
Meanwhile, the DA has served Mr Pienaar a “notice of the party’s intention to suspend him on the grounds that he deliberately withheld information from the DA regarding his activities as commander in the former SADF citizen force, especially relating to the planning of the 1985 Trojan Horse Massacre”.
Mr Pienaar was given the notice on Friday January 22. The DA said it only became aware of the Sub-council 6 chairman’s military past “when it was reported in the media”.
The DA’s provincial spokeswoman, Liza Albrecht, said Mr Pienaar had to say why his DA membership should not be suspended, pending a disciplinary investigation.
Ms Albrecht said the issue was being handled by the party’s Western Cape Disciplinary Committee, which could impose a number of sanctions, “of which termination of membership will be the most severe”.
Asked what process is followed in selecting candidates for positions in the DA, Ms Albrecht said they had to declare which other political parties or organisations they had belonged to, past political activities and whether they had been charged with or convicted of any criminal offences.
“They must indicate if they have ever been investigated by a duly constituted state agency for any alleged civil or criminal misdemeanours,” she said.
In his submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in May 1997, Mr Pienaar insisted that while he had been part of the planning for the operation, the soldiers under his command were not part of the massacre.
He told the TRC that the situation on the Cape Flats in 1985 was akin to a civil war and his duty as a soldier was to protect and maintain the interests of the state.
Because most of the unrest was taking place in urban areas, he told the commission the role of SADF soldiers was to support the police and protect civilians.
While he was never prosecuted, the TRC found that Mr Pienaar and 12 of his colleagues, which included junior members of the SAP, SADF and SA Railways Police – in conjunction with the joint operations centre (based at Manenberg police station) – had planned and executed an action which resulted in several gross violations of human rights.
The ANC’s chief whip in the City of Cape Town, Xolani Sothashe, last week called on DA leader Mmusi Maimane to act.
“He’s sitting there preaching non-racism, yet his party members have blood on their hands. Pienaar does not deserve to be sitting in the council,” he said.
Mr Pienaar became a DA Proportional Representative councillor in 2011 and took over as chairman of Sub-council 6 in June last year, replacing colleague Willie Jafhta, who himself faced controversy when he wrote a letter asking for a “lighter sentence” for a known gangster in Belhar.
On Thursday January 21, Mr Pienaar told Northern News in an SMS that he was in a meeting and would call later. Asked for an interview again on Monday morning, Mr Pienaar replied: “Ek kan ongelukkig nie nou met jou praat nie.”
Mr Pienaar’s military past came to light on social media days before Christmas when SA National Civic Organisation (SANCO) Western Cape posted a message on Facebook asking: “@Our-DA please explain how you allow Apartheid killer ‘Trojan Horse shooting’ Lt Col Pienaar be a councillor.”
This message was shared four times, including twice by former DA councillor Grant Pascoe, who shared the Facebook post on Thursday December 24 and again on Monday January 18. Mr Pascoe, a former Mayco member for tourism, events and marketing defected to the ANC in 2014.
Hours before Mr Pienaar’s past came to light, he addressed the monthly meeting of Sub-council 6 in Bellville on Monday January 18, quoting former president Nelson Mandela, among others, and warning ominously that “difficult times are awaiting us”.
“I will try to lead you in this and please do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, the DA said it would release a statement later in the day, and after this edition of Northern News had gone to print, on Mr Pienaar’s future with the party.