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Servamus Magazine - Phola Park
(Supplied by Nick Howarth Unit 6)
Article on display South African museum
Published August 1992

click to enlarge photos...

A cautious Const Herbert Merrick in front of the Casspir, Lokval. Despite the danger these policemen face daily, their willingness to quell the unrest in the squatter settlement is admirable.

Pholo Park is a small squatter settlement on the East Rand. It is also home to vicious criminal elements who are responsible for numerous police deaths and injuries this year


If the scenario, which took place on a recent tour of Phola Park, sounds unreal, then think again! Phola Park, a squatter settlement near Alberton on the East Rand, has become a haven for thugs who target policemen. On 30 March, Uniform Branch member WO MG Nxumalo was lured into the camp under false pretences, and brutally murdered. His bullet- ridden body was later found in an open field near the camp.

Less than a month later, a num­ber of AK-47-wielding gunmen in the camp opened fire on Con­stables J C Stander and H J Ma­latjle (Unit 19), and on 3 May L/Sgt Raymond Maritz from the Narcot­ics Bereau was shot with his own pistol (after his eye had been gauged out) by squatters in Soweto.

Two days later, the violence switched back to Phola Park where squatters opened fire on a special investigation SAP team who were looking into the causes of violence on the Witwatersrand. Said police spokesman, Colonel Frans Eras­mus, 'They (the team) were shot at and threatened by the very people they were trying to protect."
On 14 May a massive police/

SADF search was conducted through the volatile camp. Cap­tain Eugene Opperman said that the camp was targeted because residents had been involved in 121 severe armed-attacks on police­men since 1 January. On the same day Internal Stability Division (ISD) member, Const Carl Minnie (19), was shot by squatters in the camp. He was hit in both thighs, and taken to the Union Hospital in Al­berton.

According to a reporter at the hospital, Carl was in a 'state of shock, and in a great deal of pain." At the time of writing, over a month after the shooting, he could only barely walk.
On 18 May policemen came under attack when snipers fired shots at SAP vehicles. An ANC spokesman blamed the police for "harassing Phola Park residents, and for destabilising the camp." Capt Opperman denied this alle­gation and said the ANC had been training theirself-defence units (SDU) in the camp. "The area has be­come heavily politicised,' he added.
And so the attacks on police­men continue, with more and more of our men being killed or injured by the squatters. Since 1 January, five policemen have been killed in Phola Park alone, three badly in­jured, and 26 policemen involved in armed attacks.

On a trip through Phola Park, escourted by Unit 6 ISD-members Constables Sampie van Heerden, Herbert Merrick, A M Hlatswayo, Andre Wiegand and Michael Min­nie (twin-brother of the above- mentioned Carl), it was evident from the hostile glares and pro­vocative gestures, that the squat­ters will not be considering...

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Editors Notes : (Mark Janse van Rensburg)

Phola Park was one of the hotspots that Unit 19 had to work. In general even the surrounding areas like Thokoza was dangerous, but Phola Park was regarded as a death angel even by the veterans. The area was mostly supervised by Unit 6 Dunotter, as Nick Howarth describes the area in his book "War in Peace".

Many of our unit members where killed, or seriously injured in this small stronghold.

Servamus Magazine

SERVAMUS is a subscription-based, monthly community-based safety and security magazine, which aims to involve the community in policing and security-related matters.

  Phola Park Map


  Once infamous 'squatter camp' during the 1990s before South Africa's transitional election in 1994, now transformed from a shack settlement to an extension of Thokoza with houses, schools, clinic, etc.


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