JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South African security agents murdered four anti-apartheid activists in 1985, a judge said Saturday. But the judge said he could not identify the killers and left it to the attorney general to determine whether anyone should be tried.
The case will test the ability of South Africa's new black government to balance cries for retribution and calls for forgiveness.
"In my opinion, there is . . . proof that it was members of the security forces that in fact carried out the murders" of Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, Judge Neville Zietsman said in an 84-page opinion read out in his Port Elizabeth courtroom.
But Zietsman, a provincial judge who has investigated the case for the past year, was unable to identify who killed the four.
Relatives of the victims called on the guilty to identify themselves.
"I can't forgive and forget, or go on with my life, until I know the actual killers," Goniwe's widow, Nyameka, said after hearing Zietsman's findings. "We cannot close this chapter yet. I am appealing to people to come forward."
Goniwe, Calata, Mkonto and Mhlauli were stabbed, then doused with gasoline and set alight. Their bodies were found scattered in bushes on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, 600 miles south of Johannesburg.
A 1988 inquest was inconclusive. But former President Frederik W. de Klerk ordered the case reopened last March after a South African newspaper leaked a secret military document that had called for the "permanent removal from society" of Goniwe and Calata.