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Massacre Survivor Hid in Cupboard; Buthelezi Says Conscience Clear

March 13, 1996

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) _ Survivors of a 1987 massacre that has brought some of white-ruled South Africa’s most powerful men to trial described on Tuesday how they cowered in fear as gunmen slaughtered people in the next room.

Meanwhile, Zulu nationalist leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, named in court documents as squarely behind the training of fighters who carried out the killings, said he had ``a very clear conscience about it.″

Chilling testimony from the survivors came a day after former Defense Minister Magnus Malan and 19 others, including top former generals, denied charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Their trial is the biggest of top apartheid officials since Nelson Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994. It is intended in part to prove that the former white regime fueled black-on-black violence to preserve power.

The trial stems from the massacre of 13 people by military-trained gunmen belonging to Inkatha. The squad had targeted Victor Ntuli, an activist allied to the rival African National Congress.

Ntuli wasn’t at his home near Durban, but the squad killed 13 of his relatives and friends who were. They included eight children and teen-agers.

One survivor, Siwela Tusini, 29, described Tuesday how she and her husband lay on the floor while gunmen killed five of their children in an adjoining section of their partitioned bedroom.

Another, Anna Khumalo, 34, said that she and her four-year-old child hid in a cupboard as people were shot in another room. Khumalo cowered in the cupboard until dawn, too terrified to answer the cries of a child whose mother had been killed. She later found the child asleep on top of a corpse.

According to prosecutors, the hit squad came from 200 Inkatha fighters secretly trained by South Africa’s military at Buthelezi’s request. They formed a strike force in a decade of low-level civil war between the ANC and Inkatha for control of KwaZulu-Natal province that has left thousands dead.

Buthelezi, now home affairs minister in Mandela’s national-unity government, has not been charged in the massacre and told reporters in Cape Town on Tuesday that suggestions he should be were ``the biggest poppycock I have ever heard.″

Noting that he was chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland and its police at the time, Buthelezi said he was obliged to protect himself and selected the 200 fighters for training.

``But where they were trained and how they were trained, I was not involved,″ Buthelezi said.

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