Maki Skosana

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Maki Skosana (died July 20, 1985) was a South African woman. She was killed by anti-apartheid activists who suspected her of being an informant. Her death by "necklacing" was filmed by South African media, and became emblematic of the violence of the apartheid struggle. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has identified Skosana as the first known victim of necklacing,[1] although it is more likely that she was not the first such death, only the first filmed.


On July 20, 1985, Skosana was the first of a series of victims in South Africa to be filmed being killed by necklacing. Necklacing was a brutal practice that occurred in townships.[2]

Skosana's death occurred in the township of Duduza, west of Nigel on the East Rand, Gauteng. Suspected of being a police informer, Skosana was held responsible for her perceived involvement in the deaths of three youth activists. Their deaths were reportedly planned by the Third Force: a group of covert government operatives tasked with managing township resistance.

It was because of her presumed role as a police informer that she was killed whilst attending the funeral of a friend.[2] She had decided to attend the ceremony, even though it was the funeral of one of the people she had allegedly been implicated in killing. While it was Joe Mamasela, under command of his superiors (including Jack Cronje, Johan van der Merwe, Johann Coetzee and even the then president P. W. Botha[2], who had planned their deaths, it was because of an assumed connection to him that Skosana was believed to have been associated to the explosion that led to their deaths. When she arrived at the funeral the vigilantes necklaced her as a public display of their disapproval of the hand grenade bombings.

Moloko said her sister was burned to death with a tire around her neck while attending the funeral of one of the youths. Her body had been scorched by fire and some broken pieces of glass had been inserted into her vagina, Moloko told the committee. Moloko added that a big rock had been thrown on her face after she had been killed.[3]

Film footage of necklacing[edit]

Skosana's death was the first time that a necklacing had been caught on camera; The graphic images of her death depict her having a tire (doused in petrol) put around her neck and then set alight, burning her to death. These images of her death, filmed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), were used by the apartheid state media in anti-resistance propaganda.[4]


Although it was originally believed that she had an affiliation to the deaths of the activists,[5] it was not until her story was dealt with in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that it was discovered that she had simply been "at the wrong place at the wrong time."[2] Her sister, Evelina Puleng Moloko, testified on Skosana's behalf at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, at which time Maki Skosana was found innocent of the accusations brought against her. The commission found that Skosana "was wrongly accused of being an informer and responsible for the death of the 'comrades' in the booby-trapped hand grenade incidents."[6]

In light of this new evidence, Skosana and her family can now be seen "as heroes",[7] instead of traitors. A moment of silence was dedicated to them during the hearing. The commission considered her a pawn of an even bigger struggle - "the scapegoat for growing rage".[2]


  1. ^ International Association of Forensic Sciences Meeting (1995). Forensic Odontology & Anthropology. Verlag Dr. Köster. p. 154. ISBN 3895741078.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cole, C (2009). "Eyes and ears of the nation: television and the implicated witness". Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of transition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  3. ^ "Truth Commission Looks at First "Necklace" Murder". SAPA. 4 February 1997. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  4. ^ "Necklacing of Maki Skosana". Crime in South Africa. 2008.
  5. ^ "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", "Human Rights Violations", Date of hearing: 04.02.1997, Case: JB0289/013ERKWA-DUDUZA
  6. ^ "Necklacing of Maki Skosana", "Crime in South Africa", 2008
  7. ^ "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", "Human Rights Violations", Date of hearing: 04.02.1997, Case: JB0289/013ERKWA-DUDUZA