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The Trojan Horse Massacre

Michael Miranda, Shaun Magmoed, Jonathan Claasen
This article was written by Margaux Bergman

It happened during the times when, those ugly yellow caspirs and buffels were on patrol, burning tyres blocked the roads and people were running from security police to escape water cannons, tear gas and other punishment that would come their way... these were all common.

RememberOctober 15th 1985 - a day that will never be forgotten.

It was the day that three young people met their fate, and thirteen adults along with two children were injured in an ambush at the corner of St. Simon's and Thornton Roads, Athlone. The three young people were: Jonathan Claasen, aged 21; Shaun Magmoed, aged 15; and Michael Miranda, aged 11.

The drivers knew that sooner or later, the vehicle would be stoned.

On this day, a railway delivery truck driven by security force members and South African Transport Services employees drove down Thornton Road. Hidden in wooden crates at the back of the vehicle were Security Force Members, South African Railway Police, South African Police and members of the South African Defence Force. A group of onlookers and protestors who were angry at the Laws of Apartheid prevalent at the time, had gathered at the corner of St. Simon's Road. As anticipated, someone in the crowd threw a stone towards the truck as it passed.

Remember the Trojan Horse Massacre. Shaun, Michael, Jonathan, 1985.

The Trojan Horse MemorialThe next moment the security force men arose from their hiding place and, without any warning, used automatic shotguns to fire shots into the crowd. People scattered. Michael Miranda, Shaun Magmoed and Jonathan Claasen were gunned down, and died as a result. A further thirteen adults and two children were also injured in the shooting. The ambush was caught on camera and broadcasted in South Africa and throughout the rest of the world. The broadcast resulted in a definite increase of international support for the end of Apartheid Violence.

Sometime thereafter the message "Remember the Trojan Horse Massacre" was spraypainted on the vibracrete wall close to where the incident happened.

There was an inquest into the incident in March 1988, at which the magistrate ruled that the actions of the police were unreasonable, and the 13 men were found responsible for the deaths. The case was then referred to the Attorney General of the Cape who refused to prosecute. The family of the deceased made South African legal history by launching their own private prosecution. They were however unsuccessful and the thirteen men in question were acquitted in December 1989.

It was only on the 20th and 21st May 1997 that former Security Force Members and eye-witnesses presented testimonies which led to four Security Task Force members being subpoenaed to give evidence. They stuck to their original statements, and a possible apology or a look of remorse proved dismal.

"Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another" - Nelson Mandela

Trojan Horse MassacreThe Trojan Horse Memorial, which was unveiled on the 24 September 2005, is the second memorial dedicated to this incident. A previous memorial commissioned in 2000 by Tyrone Appolis was removed when the latter was constructed.

This memorial was commissioned by ACG architects in collaboration with the Human Rights Centre, after they successfully participated in an open competition for its construction. It is unfortunate that Tyrone Apollis did not partake in the competition. The new memorial cost around R380 000 and the project included landscaping, design, manufacturing and construction.

"With these memorials the City wishes to recognise the commitment and sacrifice of these young people" - Nomaindia Mfeketo

The memorial is located at the site of the ambush, adjacent to what is now the Athlone Technical College, and was previously Hewat College. It incorporates the portion of the wall on which messages honouring the victims, as well as protesting against state violence, were spraypainted. It also incorporates a steel structure portraying armed police in a truck.

It is one of three memorials constructed by Cape Town City Council and it's Memory Project, others include the Gugulethu Seven and Robert Waterwich, Coline Williams memorials.

Recently, vandals have defaced the memorial by spraypainting a website address on part of the steel board. The website address is illegible, and it is not clear if the message is a protest against the memorial or done through a lack of understanding or respect at what the memorial signifies.


Comments about this Article:

The article touched me. I was 23 years old at the time. I now have an 11 year old son.... - Tyrone Josias

As we reflect upon this and the similar massacres of Gugulethu Seven, Langa, Sharpeville and the deaths of Robert Waterwich and Coline Williams, we honour the memory of the many youths who have made great sacrifices for the freedom of this country. We must continue to tell their stories. - Margaux Bergman, Athlone


Did you Know

Athlone High School, established in 1947, was the first school on the Cape Flats that offered secondary education to non-whites.

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