In October 1985, in an operation to arrest stone throwers, the Joint Operation Command consisting of the South African Police, South African Railway Police and South African Defence Force, disguised as railway workers, hid in crates on the back of a railway truck and ambushed the communities of Athlone and Crossroads. Five youths were killed and men, women and children were wounded in the operations known as the Trojan Horse Massacres.

CBS archival footage of the Athlone shooting by Chris Everson, 15 October 1985

The Trojan Horse History Project grew out of a collaborative initiative which saw the HRMC and ACG Architects and Development Planners being commissioned by the City of Cape Town to install a memorial for the Trojan Horse victims in Athlone. The HRMC held 9 consultative meetings with the mothers of the three slain Athlone boys amongst many other community stakeholder meetings. The memorial was unveiled on Heritage day, 24 September 2005. In the same year, the HRMC raised funds to erect tombstones for the victims of the Athlone shootings. Thanks to the generous support from lawyers representing the families and lawyers representing the security forces, from learners in the 9 highs schools in the Athlone region, local shopkeepers and Douw Vermeulen the man in charge of the fatal operation, the tombstones were unveiled at a private ceremony in the Maitland Cemetary on 15 October, 2005, twenty years after their death.

The Trojan Horse Memorial, Athlone, Cape Town.

An extension of the Trojan Horse History project is the book, If trees could speak: the Trojan Horse Story which incorporates the double ambush history of the Trojan Horse operation. A set of six posters were developed to overcome language and literacy barriers. The book and posters were launched in November 2007 thanks to funding received from the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.

Trojan Horse story posters by Chip Snaddon ...see larger image

Subsequent work in 2008 and 2009 includes: fundraising and erecting tombstones for Crossroads victims unveiled on 16 June 2008, the construction of the Crossroads Trojan Horse Memorial unveiled on Human Rights Day 2009, and ongoing educational work including an oral history project involving Grade 11 learners from Alexander Sinton High (Athlone) and New Eisleben High (Crossroads). Arranged excursions to these sites are conducted on request.

Remember mural by Faith47, Crossroads, 2009

Book: If Trees Could Speak: The Trojan Horse Story

If trees could speak: The Trojan Horse Story highlights that the Trojan Horse shootings in 1985 was a double-pronged ambush in Athlone on 15 October and in Crossroads on 16 October. In total, five youths were killed: Michael Miranda (11), Shaun Magmoed (15) and Jonathan Claasen (21) in Athlone and Goodman Mali (19) and Mabhuti Fatman (20) in Crossroads and many others were injured, including small children, youths and women. The book is divided into three parts. Part One has four headings: Introduction; the political climate in the Western Cape in the mid 1980s; the Trojan Horse Shootings; and, Justice Matters. Part Two consists of the three life stories of relatives of the youths killed in the Crossroads Trojan Horse shootings. Part Three sums up the book with a conclusion and raises some critical questions.

If trees could speak: The Trojan Horse Story is intended as a resource for communities, particularly the youth, so that they may better understand the role played by many brave mothers and fathers, men and women, youths and children who suffered as a result of this double-ambush which signalled a turning point in our struggle for freedom. Its intention is also to spur youth on to play their rightful role in breaking down barriers built by apartheid through active engagement in heritage, history and nation building. The funding partner of this project is the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

Article published in the Cape Times on 17 June 2008

The book aims to record and archive interviews and life stories of people who were involved in that history from both the Athlone and Crossroads communities; create an archive of the Trojan Horse story at the offices of the HRMC and a website; educate society, in particular the communities of Athlone and Crossroads and their schools, about anti-apartheid history and its deep and deepening legacy; honour and give recognition to the families of the slain youths, the injured and witnesses of these ambushes; and, raise funds for the tombstones of Goodman Mali and Mabhuti Fatman and engage the Crossroads community in the process of memorialising the Trojan Horse Crossroads shootings.