|News | Sport | TV | Radio | Education | TV Licenses | Contact Us|
Type AMNESTY HEARING
Starting Date 07 September 1998
Names ERNEST PHUMUZI SIGASA
Matter WIMPY BAR BOMBING AND OTHERS
MR KOOPEDI: As it pleases the Committee. There is something which one wishes to raise in limine, and I will ask the indulgence of the Committee. Two of our application forms were not attested to. If the Committee will allow me, I would wish to address that with each applicant as he starts.
MR KOOPEDI: We do not have any problem with signing that now, but because it was not done timeously, one thought it would be proper to raise it in this forum and do it correctly. We have discussed this and do not have a problem with signing them now.
MR KOOPEDI: We had thought that as usual we would find the photocopying facilities here. We worked until very late last night and unfortunately we have not yet been able to make copies but as soon as we have made copies, our intention is to submit that but for the moment, if the Committee Members will bear with us, we do not have enough copies to give to the Honourable Committee Members and my learned friend on the other side.
"I, Ernest Phumuzi Sigasa, born on the 4th of June 1965 joined the African National Congress and its armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe in 1984. I became the commander of the Regional Command Structure, Johannes Nkosi Unit, between 1987 to 1990. I received my military training and combat training in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the former Soviet Union. Johannes Nkosi Unit was constituted by the following combatants: myself, Ernest Sigasa, overall commander of the unit, combat name Happy. My responsibilities were overall command, clearance of the DLB's, the guidance to military activities, to communicate with the front command of Botswana and the military headquarters, Lusaka and Zambia and also to execute armed attacks. The other fellow applicant, Tebogo Kebotlhale, the Commissar of the Regional Command Structure, combat name, Bernard. His responsibilities were to do political work within the unit to train and distribute arms in our various sub-units, clearance of the DLB's, executing attacks and sustain the moral of the unit members. Alfas Ndlovu, fellow applicant, a member of the Command Structure, combat name Ambros. Responsibilities was to train armed units in the various areas, execute attacks and he was also a principal tactician, a military tactician in the unit. Molwedi Mokoena, fellow applicant, combat name, Bensaramos. He was responsible for the overall welfare of the unit. He served as the principal fund-raiser for the unit. He trained armed units, he executed attacks and his also responsibility was a politico military analyst in the unit. Gift(?) Sephras Mkomezulu, though late, member as well, combat name, Press. His responsibilities were to train arm units, execute attacks and he was also the military tactician in the unit.
Johannes Nkosi, the person, was born in 1905 and joined the Communist Party at the age of 19. He was assassinated on Dingaan's Day, 1930, during the burning campaign, past burning campaign. He was shot at point blank, stabbed and beaten to death by a chief police constable. No policeman was ever punished for his assassination. He was a true veteran Trade Unionist, a seasoned communist from the countryside.
Our unit was impressed with his selfless devotion to the liberation struggle, hence the unit was named after him, Johannes Nkosi. The composition of Johannes Nkosi Unit was characterised by the proven record of involvement of members traced from the Congress of South African Students, COSAS, the youth organisation during the '80's.
Johannes Nkosi Unit members involvement in the mass democratic movement, championed by the United Democratic Front was in various capacities as members and activists and leaders. This informed their political readiness to serve in MK. Proven leadership and political consciousness was the fundamental criterion characterising membership to Johannes Nkosi Unit"
"The political situation then, the mid-80's was characterised by the heightened activity by liberation movements against illegitimate regime. The apartheid regime had launched a brutal campaign of repression and suppression against all the people, both the black and white, urban and rural, rich and poor, unionised and non-unionised, who were bent on bringing down apartheid machinery through participation in the ranks of the people's organisations, civics, Trade Unions, youths, students and many more other progressive organisations.
The occupation of the townships by the then SADF meant that the apartheid regime was clearly gearing itself for unleashing its might on an unarmed and defenceless people. The occupation of the African townships such as Sebokeng, Katlehong, Duduza and others necessitated an urgent need from the side of the African National Congress, ANC, through Umkhonto weSizwe to defend the people against this occupation.
The occupation by the then SADF of our schools, churches and sports fields was a calculated attempt by the apartheid regime to capitulate the masses of the people and cause a hole to the struggle for liberation. The occupation was a desperate response by the regime in order to save face in the light of the successes made by Umkhonto weSizwe, MK.
'Render the country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable'. That was the January 8th statement of 1985, had been met with positive revolutionary responses by the majority of people in South Africa. To mention but a few, in 1984 school boycotts in the East Rand, the local government elections in August '84, the national strike by the National Union of Mine Workers, the rent boycotts in Sebokeng, Duduza, Sakane and other townships. At that time the front-lying states as well were under constant cross-border raids conducted by the racists commandos as a result of the intensification of the armed struggle in the country. The country was in a general state of war.
The Johannes Nkosi Unit was born out of the circumstantial realities of the time. The Johannes Nkosi Unit was established henceforth to lead our combat groups against apartheid tyranny. We believed that the seeds of people's war were now charred by tribulations of mass struggles waged by the people of South Africa. And believing that, the armed struggle was integral component part of a broad political process towards liberation of South Africa.
The Johannes Nkosi Unit emerged to reinforce those struggles through increased armed activities and the revolutionary propaganda, to marshal revolutionary forces into war for freedom, peace and democracy in our country.
The strategic importance of Johannes Nkosi. The East Rand region as an economic powerhouse in the province and the country was an ideal and strategic place to launch an accelerated armed struggle. The East Rand region through its multitudes of industries occupied and served as the nerve centre of the apartheid economy. As an industrial and economic giant through levies, taxes, rates, wealth created, subsidised and maintained apartheid regime.
The East Rand region, due to its economic progress as part of the broader campaign to weaken an cut the resource base of apartheid regime was eventually targeted as an ideal place for armed struggle, championed by the ANC's armed military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe.
Political turmoil in the East Rand. During the second half of the '80's and countrywide informed the origin of the Johannes Nkosi Unit. Furthermore, the whole country was in fire. Umkhonto weSizwe and the masses of the people, organised by the mass democratic movement, were engaged in fierce battles with apartheid regime. It is during this period when killings, detentions, torture and displacement of ...[indistinct] was experienced across the line of fire.
The emergence of Johannes Nkosi Unit in the East Rand was due to political conditions existing countrywide and particularly in the region. A need to build popular armed forces, a need to consolidate armed activities in terms of quality and number in order to salvage the people's war and finally to galvanise the support of the people and the international community through armed propaganda activities expressed in the operations executed by our forces to ensure that total isolation and the defeat of apartheid is realised.
Our sub-units. Johannes Nkosi Unit trained, armed and led people to battle, the combat units in various locations in the region. These sub-units were ordered to deliver a heavy blow to the bogus municipal elections in 1988 and the security personnel. The following operations illustrate the extent of the blow unleashed by one of our combat units under our command, Baizel February based in Duduza. There was a blowing of a police van in Duduza with a limpet mine. There was a blowing of the administration block in kwaThema with a limpet mine. The sabotage of electrical sub-station in De Notre with a limpet mine. The blowing of a post office in Nigel with a limpet mine. Despite the difficulty to locate other units under our command and keeping their records of operations, we however salute those sub-units.
The brief or the mandate to Johannes Nkosi Unit. Our brief was to train, arm and lead the people into battle. It was also to defend out people, to severe the enemy lines of communications and power. To disperse and immobilise the enemy forces. To destroy the enemy's economic resources. To attack the enemy on all fronts and ...[indistinct] its forces. To make a people's war flourish in its dimensions in every part of our country.
Our modus operandi. Our modus operandi was planning, execution and control and the support services. On planning. We met every Wednesday in a plannery to analyse, review and take decisions on our actions.
On execution. We retrieved the dead letter boxes, we trained various sub-units, we conducted reconnaissance, we distributed arms in various sub-units in the East Rand, we issued out combat orders, we executed armed actions.
On control. We received reports from units, we visited units to ascertain welfare and needs, we monitored arms in their possession. On the support services. We had links with the mass democratic movement leadership, we owned two vehicles, we also had underground houses.
Operations. The context of the operations. The nature of the operations carried out by Johannes Nkosi Unit ranged from the point of qualifying the elaborate position of number one, to attack the enemy security personnel, to accelerate armed propaganda, hitting the economic infrastructure of the system.
We now classify our operations as follows: The electrical sub-station in Katlehong - The bombing of the electrical sub-station in Katlehong which powers the railway services between Germiston and Katlehong areas was to signify the vulnerability of apartheid economic system. The electrical sub-station serves as a reliable means to effect transportation at the benefit of apartheid rules, as part of the broader transportation network. The bombing of electrical sub-station came on the eve of the stay-away campaign called by the Mass Democratic Movement. For us to support struggling masses of the people, the progressive organisations and undermining the apartheid economy, the electrical sub-station became the target. For us to disrupt and support the stay-away, we had to render trade services of use. In summary, the electrical sub-station blast in Katlehong signified the passion the Johannes Nkosi Unit had in supporting the progressive forces which engaged the enemy despite limited means.
The Johannes Nkosi Unit attacked the electrical sub-station to support the stay-away planned by the progressive organisations in the townships. The Johannes Nkosi Unit attacked the electrical sub-station in order to engrave in the minds of the people in South Africa, that MK is with them and MK is everywhere. That action served as an armed propaganda tactic as well.
Wimpy Bar. Wimpy Bar was not the target at first, the actual target was the notorious Security Branch headquarters in Benoni next to Benoni Railway Station. The extensive and constant information sought through reconnaissance led to Wimpy Bar attack. Our reports and information as a result indicated that most of the Special Branch personnel frequented the place before and after their notorious crusade of activities in the townships and elsewhere.
Wimpy Bar which is several metres from this Special Branch headquarters became the target. To us Wimpy Bar was an ideal place to attack the security personnel where they least expected. Furthermore, it was to mark the 67th anniversary of the South African Communist Party which was on the 30th of July.
In summary. Wimpy Bar in Benoni was bombed in line with the principles of attacking the enemy security personnel as legitimate targets and the revolutionary armed propaganda intended to cultivate the spirit of rebellion and the frame of mind which puts the politics of the revolutionary change to the fore. That was also a statement by comrade President, the late President Tambo on the January 8th statement, 73rd anniversary of the ANC.
The bus terminus blast in Germiston. The bombing of the bus terminus in Germiston was carried with the sole purpose of furthering the revolutionary armed propaganda. The bus terminus was practically for white persons use in Germiston. The bus terminus was observed and reconnoitred over a period of time. The outcome of the reconnaissance revealed that it is only busy during peak hours of the morning, roughly between from 7 up to 10 in the morning. The bombing was time for 12 o'clock and during that time the place is deserted. Hence it was placed consciously at a time when there are no people around. They were done in order to cause confusion. Despite the fact that it was an all white bus terminus we did not aim to attack those white civilians.
The bus terminus bombing in Germiston was not an attack on the whites but an armed propaganda tactic. In its planning and execution of the operation, Johannes Nkosi embraced the message on the white civilians' life as elaborated by the late President, comrade OR Tambo, I quote:
'We have not been avoiding hitting whites as whites, there was no policy of hitting buildings instead of whites, no whites instead of buildings. This is not a distinction that we have been making. If we have made any distinction it has been to avoid hitting people'
The ambush on policemen. The Kitts Constable, the Municipal Police known as the "Kitskonstabels", came to ...[indistinct] at a time of the state of emergency declared on the 21st July 1985 by the ex-Law and Order Minister, Louis le Grange. The Municipal Police in various townships in the East Rand engaged in most brutal attacks on the community. They enforced curfew with much more abhorable arrogance ever shown by the racist Security Forces in the country.
They collaborated an action with the riot police, the then SADF and the councillors, to extinguish the flames of war and to abort the cause of liberation struggle. The Municipal Police, due to their geographic deployment in townships, were always the first of the enemy security machinery to be in touch with the popular activities of struggling, waged by the communities. In all cases they crushed these activities with a brute force ever unleashed by other enemy Security Forces, that is the then SAP, the then SADF.
For us, Municipal Police represented part of the security machinery of the apartheid regime. The defeat of the enemy plans to abort the struggle for liberation in our country depended on the cleansing and the elimination of all those cohorts in the apartheid regime's payroll.
The Municipal Police as the security apparatus of the apartheid regime equally as the other agencies became the legitimate target for our unit. It was about time that the armed offensive was directed against the Municipal Police. In our minds they constituted the last blow of the security agency that was created to suppress the ...[indistinct] wave of mass resistance against apartheid colonial ...[indistinct] forces.
It was also important for us, in order to deter and discourage the people from joining the enemy ranks which was heavily infiltrated, which has heavily infiltrated our communities through some 007 types, spies, informers, collaborators, at the point in questions.
The Municipal Police never hesitated to unleash systematic violence against the fighters for the people's cause. They fanned fratricidal conflict amongst the people in order to ensure the perpetration of apartheid system, from which they benefited.
'The offensive against apartheid system must be extended to reach Bantustan and other apartheid institutions in all corners of the country, among all population groups'. That also is the 73rd anniversary of the ANC, 1985.
The contribution. We saw our struggle as part and parcel of a contribution by other MK cadres. The time has come therefore when we should dip the revolutionary banner in honouring the memories of our fellow martyrs, like comrade Izak Mokoena, Gift Mtaung, Aubrey Nkosi and many others. The unsung heroes and heroines of our struggle.
We want to say that today the heroic work of our people's army goes on. The new dispensation, democracy, nation building and the healing process testimonised the noble ideas of instituting a new South Africa, united democratic in nature. The time has come when we should extend gratitude and appreciation to all those MK forces who made the spear more sharper and precise in line with the slogan: "Every combatant a patriot and every patriot a combatant". It is through their blood and sweat that South Africa is a free united democratic in nature.
Our address to yourselves, the Commissioners. The Johannes Nkosi Unit takes this opportunity to appreciate work done by the TRC and the role it has played in bringing about reconciliation and healing our ghastly past. We feel very much gratified for been afforded an opportunity by the TRC to tell the truth. It is our firm belief that through our actions we have in one way or the other contributed to the establishment of a democratic dispensation. And it is those actions which in a way contributed to the establishment of the TRC as an important vehicle excavating the true history of South Africa.
It is also our firm belief that even the Commissioners and the supporting staff have at one point or the other in their lives cherished an ideal South African society in which democracy reigns supreme and that the rule of ordinary law of the land applied. It is that kind of society for which we ourselves risked our lives for the preservation of life itself.
Address to victims if they are present in this hall. It has never been our intention to deliberately kill and injure ordinary people. It was not our intention to be sitting with you in the hearing like this. Our actions were not specially directed to you and your families. It has however happened within the context of escalating armed activities that we sit here today and that you happened to be caught in that cross-fire. We do not pretend that pain and all sorts of inconveniences have not been suffered by yourselves as a result of our actions, but it is within the context of the intensification and escalating armed struggle that some of you fell victims.
We also wish to bring to your attention, the Commission and the sundry, that you are not the only victims. In a way we are also victims of circumstances which prevailed then. Those activities have affected us tremendously to an extent that we need some kind of help of sort specialised counselling.
It is also with the aforegoing reasons and circumstances that we appeal to victims to understand our actions within that context. We also make a humble request to all victims to accept our application for amnesty. We acknowledge without any hesitation the trauma you have suffered and undergone as a result of our actions. We know there has been pain and suffering and we hereby extend our hand of reconciliation.
We are convinced and hold a firm belief that all of these activities were carried out in pursuit of the political objectives of the ANC and its armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe. These actions were intended to bolster the moral of South Africans, to mobilise them and enhance their revolutionary zeal and participation in the liberation struggle.
The other objective as mentioned elsewhere in this application was also to create conditions for a general revolutionary climate and demoralise and confuse enemy forces, police and army personnel. Having said that, I present myself and my co-applicants, comrades, members of our unit, before yourselves to be considered for amnesty. I thank you".
MR SIGASA: Yes, I was an overall commander. The question of any identification, reconnaissance and execution I viewed myself as part. We might also delegate a responsibility to an individual person within the command structure in the East Rand, but yes, I did not personally, but I am responsible because I was part of that collective.
CHAIRPERSON: You see, Mr Sigasa, what my colleague is getting at, we stuck with this lacuna of taking responsibility for actions of the underlings, even if you didn't know that they're going to do it or did it. In that context, were you party to the decision to plant that bomb in, let's say, the Wimpy Bar?
MR SIGASA: I think it confuses a bit. As I elaborated in the submission, the target as we indicated, because we have realised that it has created some kind of hullabaloo, particular situation, we knew that people were going to be affected in our military attack in that blast but I also clarified that Wimpy at first was not the target but it happened to become a target then. As I elaborated, that through the reconnaissance and the information gathered, security personnel as well in fact were frequenting the place, particularly from the Special Branch stationed here in Benoni, that is next to the railway station.
CHAIRPERSON: Well let me put it clearer then. You see people can't get amnesty for something that occurred that they didn't know about, they have to be guilty of something in order to obtain amnesty, not so?
MR SIGASA: A bit dicey question. I must start by saying I'm an ordinary man. The question of selection of the targets, we delegate responsibilities like in terms of the orders given to us or the brief, was that we identify wherever they are the enemy personnel. The target of interest, economic and so on and the identification of that resulted into Wimpy. The identification of the security personnel resulted into Wimpy.
Sir, the view of the victims of the Wimpy Bomb Blast is that first of all they are opposing the application on the bases that the attack of the Wimpy Bar was a callous attack because it was not a military target and can't be seen at all to benefit your political motive at the stage. Can you comment on that first?
MR SIGASA: I think also, Commissioners, we indicated in our application or submission where we quoted also our late President OR Tambo in relation to or in regard to the issue of civilians or soft targets or hard targets, whatever one wants to call it.
As the struggle intensified it was difficult to separate or to have a distinction of the soft or the hard. When we talk of callousness we also knew at the back of our minds that innocent civilians will be caught in that kind of, in the crossfire.
ADV STEENKAMP: I can tell you as a matter of fact, that not a single Security Police officer or military personnel or anybody related to any military structure was involved in this incident or on the day of the incident. All the people that were injured were only civilians, people working at the Wimpy, other people eating there but no military people at all.
MR SIGASA: During also the other operations of MK in the country where clearly the target was a military one in nature, but all reports that we received through press of course at that time, we did not have the control of the press, even to date, the reports that would come forth would say so much civilians have died and no security personnel died. So we cannot deny or confirm that but our targets were directed against the security personnel as I've said before.
MR SIGASA: I think I must also clarify also again or repeat or reiterate what I said. Firstly, the order given, we were dealing with the front command in Botswana and the military headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia.
At no stage was Wimpy a target, at not stage. And as a result I also said that in executing that action, military action, at no stage have we felt that Wimpy is a target, it has never been a target before.
ADV STEENKAMP: I mean implied orders, sorry. Did you receive any orders from anybody? I'll tell you why I'm asking this question, because on page 25 of the amnesty application - do you have your application in front of you Sir?
MR SIGASA: Mr Chairman, Chris Hani never said: "Go and blast Wimpy". I would want, if I may, to recall what Chris Hani said, and in fact it was captured in the press. After the people in South Africa in the townships were saying: "Through these struggles only innocent African people are dying, therefore there is a need to step up the armed struggle and extend it to the white areas", he said and I quote
"Even those who are going to make the world sit up and take note and for those who benefit from apartheid will feel the brunt"
So therefore when we were targeting Benoni Police Station we realised in our minds that Benoni was also in town and in line with that call we said we were going to take that struggle to the white areas.
ADV STEENKAMP: You see, maybe just for your comment, it's also the view of the victims, specifically the Wimpy bomb attack, that is attack was planned basically against white civilians who frequented this place, not against any military target whatsoever.
ADV STEENKAMP: Mr Chairman, the view of the victims who visited this place and were injured is that according to them this place was mainly visited and frequented by white civilians and not ordinary military personnel as stated by the applicant, Mr Chairman.
MR SIGASA: Mr Chairman, I think what I said, of course I hear what the advocate is saying, like I said all operations carried out, like I said that in all operations where activities, armed activities were carried out, where security personnel were affected but you would find that the reports that come forth every time would say: "No military personnel were in fact affected".
ADV STEENKAMP: Did your information also indicate that a large majority of the people visiting this place were actually children? If you look at the list of the victims you will see, and if necessary we will put evidence to the Committee, that there was a lot of information that people visiting this specific Wimpy Bar were actually children coming from school or wherever and visiting this place. Have you any information on that or can you deny that?
MR SIGASA: Well I wouldn't deny or accept that. The questions that the report as it came, is that military or security personnel, not military, but security personnel were in fact frequenting the place. That is the information came, that came forth.
MR SIGASA: Commissioner, I would refer to my application when I, or the submission as we, as I read it, that the overall brief we must also understand that the front command, at that time the ANC was a banned organisation and as a result in terms of communication it was very difficult to frequent in and out of the country, but the brief in our origin was that we train, arm the people and so on, in terms of the brief.
So identification of the brief has to be within these parameters as I indicated. Parameters to say, you train the people, you attack the security personnel wherever they are to sever the lines of communication and so forth.
ADV STEENKAMP: Can I ask you, why was this attack planned on a Saturday afternoon at 12 o'clock, why wasn't it planned during the day when Security Police were actually in the building or probably in the building or next door? Operational, why on a Saturday at 12 o'clock?
MR SIGASA: Like I said before, the question of actions, in all our actions we did not wake in the morning and decide on an attack. Based on any information at the disposal of one we would prepare plannings based on the information and we would act accordingly.
If for instance one would make an example, was it Nandos, although Nandos is a current thing or is a recent thing, if there were a Nandos and our information told us or informed that they were in Nandos we would have hit them in Nandos or we would have hit them in whatever restaurant. So it so happened to be Wimpy but Wimpy as Wimpy was not a target.
MR SIGASA: We would all remember, at that time, during that time, the state of emergency and so on, that many of the political activists were in fact arrested, tortured in Benoni Police Station and some of the information that we got from those was that the security personnel themselves, Special Branch in particular, in terms of their movements and the place where they dine happened to be Wimpy.
So that is the kind of information, but of course in military situations or in armed situations what you do is that you would have to verify and that is why based on that, the question of following that information for verification purposes was in fact conducted and hence the reconnaissance conducted and so on. That led to Wimpy.
MR SIGASA: I'm not sure when one says "first-hand" information but in terms of the reconnaissance data, yes he would report, as I indicated in terms of our modus operandi, that we met every Wednesday to review, to take stock of the situation and come up with new plans. And of course he would come and report in that plannery session where decisions would be taken.
ADV STEENKAMP: Wouldn't you agree with me Sir, that probably to attack a real military target like a police office or a military target like a military installation, would probably have been a real military target?
ADV STEENKAMP: Sorry, I'll repeat that for you. Would you agree with me that to attack a police station or a military installation would probably have been a real military target opposed to the Wimpy Bar on a Saturday?
MR SIGASA: I think I also indicated that - although the question comes in a different form, but the question of attacking, we have been attacking, we have hit, in the list of our attacks we have indicated we hit the barrack, we've ambushed the security personnel, we have done that in terms of the information.
MR SIGASA: Our attack, firstly we indicated that we were a liberation movement, we did not have the regular army. Part of our strategy or our tactic was to engage in armed propaganda to prove to the people that MK is there but also to annihilate the enemy forces was also part of our responsibility, where we believed that they were vulnerable, where they least expected attacks. So I believe that we were in fact hitting a target, they happened to be in Wimpy.
MR SIGASA: The limpet mine was part of our arms that we cleared or collected from the dead letter boxes, supplied of course by the unit of the ordinance which of course we don't know but they would simply give us a sketch that in such and such a place there such armament, quantity of armaments and that would include of course limpet mines, AK's and so on, grenades and so on and so forth.
ADV STEENKAMP: Do you know if the ANC officially acknowledged this act as part and parcel of their political struggle? Do you if they acknowledged this attack as part and parcel of their political struggle, the attack on the Wimpy Bar?
MR SIGASA: I remember at that time when we met the leadership, they indicated that there was an outcry, not only about our unit but the manner or the trend that was beginning to assume in terms of targets and so on. Oliver Tambo said, interviewed, I remember it was in January '86 when he was asked about the soft targets, he said there is no policy of hitting civilians in the ANC policy.
MS KHAMPEPE: Mr Sigasa, I'm just going to put a few questions on issues of clarity. You have given us an elaborate detail of the reconnaissance which was conducted on the Wimpy Bar. Can you just explain to us further on who constituted the reconnaissance group?
MR SIGASA: The reconnaissance was conducted by Alfas Ndlovu, it was after - I think I must also clarify, I also said in my submission that for us to get to know about the intended target, there were a number activists in Daveyton, Tematsakan(?) and so on who were detained in Benoni Police Station. That's how we got to know about that.
Further, what one forgets as well was that the police used to, Special Branch, used to meet, particularly senior people, to review ...[indistinct] reports on Saturdays as well, so that formed part of the data that came to us.
MS KHAMPEPE: No, but my question was quite simple, who constituted the reconnaissance group that conducted the various reconnaissance on the Wimpy Bar, the names of people who formed part of that group?
MR SIGASA: Well I can't strike a total recall in regard to the duration of the reconnaissance conducted but I know for a fact that we used to conduct for a period of some time, depending on the nature of the target and so on.
We would take some time basically, and also for verification purposes as to whatever the information that is at our disposal is in fact the correct one. But in regard to the period and so on I can't strike a total recall.
CHAIRPERSON: No, that's not what is being asked. Were you in a meeting or a gathering where the decision was made that in Benoni a particular target, because it is frequented by members of the Security Police, that a bomb would be planted in the Wimpy Bar?
MS KHAMPEPE: Was this decision decided after you had received the various reports on the reconnaissance which had been conducted or was the decision to target Wimpy as a target, to target Wimpy, decided before the reconnaissance was conducted?
MR SIGASA: No, no, no. In fact Wimpy is not an exception, all our targets we would identify, reconnoitre, collect data, verify and it's a period of time before you reached the decision. For an instance you did not go or decide to go to Wimpy Bar without planning, or any other target, without planning the route of entrance, the route of retreat, the surrounding area, the enemy, the hostile forces around the area and so on. You take that all in account and weight it before you decide to ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: But the question is, the decision to target Wimpy in Benoni, the one that was ultimately blasted, was that decision in which you were in a meeting to decide that, was that decision taken before or after reconnaissance had taken place?
MR SIGASA: It was after the reconnaissance had taken place. Clarity for that, Wimpy was not - in fact it came to picture some time after we had identified the actual target and then it led us to Wimpy. So Wimpy was an aftermath basically.
MR SIGASA: The report - well firstly, the security personnel works every day, seven days a week, and particularly Saturdays. Head of departments on the Security Branch would in fact meet and give reports, so we knew that they were meeting frequently, almost every week.
To add probably is that some of the detainees themselves, they used to order, if my memory serves me well, they used to order for detainees from Wimpy, if my memory serves me well. But you would understand as I'm saying if my memory serves me well, because this thing happened more or less 9/10 years ago but I'm trying to strike a total recall and so that I would have a total picture.
MR SIGASA: I can't remember, but yes, there was an information to the effect that blacks are in fact you know, some you know, eating in Wimpy but I can't clearly remember but yes, I think I do recall a bit where an information came to say they have seen blacks in Wimpy.
MS KHAMPEPE: As an overall commander, was it not something that was of particular importance to you, to ascertain if the relevant people that you were targeting would actually be the main targets of the attack and that innocent would not actually form part of this attack?
MR SIGASA: Well there are two statements that one has to probably try his utmost to address. One, we were and are not a racist organisation, if fact we championed the course of non-racialism over the years despite the fact that there have been numerous cases where there have been only blacks were dying. To that effect if you look at the Botswana raid, Botswana nationalists died innocent and so on, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and so on. So in many cases in a state of war ...[intervention]
MS KHAMPEPE: All that I want to know is whether you did as the overall commander, take any precautions to ensure that the targets were the ones who would suffer mostly in this attack and that innocent people would not be the ones to suffer mostly in this attack?
MR SIGASA: Well, I - may I be allowed to say that in terms of planning and executing any military or armed action, you look at the degree of the impact or effect that you would deliver, and it was clear in terms of the report that we would deliver a devastating, to a devastating degree in terms of our action. So it is on that basis that we took the decision.
I would say in this case we viewed that and we regret where innocent lives, life for that matter because it's very valuable and previous, where innocents were caught in that kind of action, so we dearly regret. However, we do not regret of delivering or carrying out armed actions that would annihilate the enemy personnel.
MR SIGASA: Botswana Front Command was a - in fact we reported to the MHQ, Military Headquarters. But the question, in fact we relied largely on press on radio and TV at that time. So it was on the basis of what we read that we would know as to the degree of the effect and so on about the operations and so on.
MR SIGASA: Yes, that would - there's a distinction or there is a difference between the front command and the military headquarters. Like in our case, Johannes Nkosi Unit, we interfaced with Botswana Front Command as a service centre so to speak. We would go to get some resources, information, update and so on. But in terms of orders, activities and so on, we would deal with the military headquarters in Zambia.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes. And when you reported the outcome of this particular operation, did any personnel in the Military HQ say anything about the other operations that had been conducted on other Wimpy outlets in the country?
MR SIGASA: Not at all. Like I said, it was only recently when one in fact read about that and I tried to verify and so forth and seemingly not even our people or MK members and so on were involved, but it was a recent thing. But at that time, no, absolutely not.
MR SIGASA: It becomes very difficult. At that time -I think I also indicated in the submission that what we relied on, we were a liberation movement, we did not have the resources, the machinery and so on to be able to gather that kind of information. We would rely on the public, the mass media and so on. But we didn't. As a result we cannot deny or accept whether ...[intervention]
MR SIGASA: Measuring successes, we measured successes through, as I said we relied on media but there would be a time when one would have to verify and so forth but largely that's how we do. For an action taken or executed, that in itself counts.
MS KHAMPEPE: Mr Sigasa, you must have, immediately after this operation had been conducted, seen either on TV or in the printed media that the severity of casualties suffered in this incident were those of civilians? And you have stated that the policy of the ANC was to attack the military or the security forces. Indeed that was the report you received from Mr Ndlovu, that this outlet was frequented by the members of the Security Branch. What do you think you have achieved, taking into account the fact that you are unable to identity a single member of the security force, who fell casualty to this operation?
MR SIGASA: It's a bit difficult one as I was saying before. It is true firstly, that we were interested in papers and reports and so on about what happened on the day in question, the 30th of July, which by the way was the anniversary of the South African Communist Party, we were interested indeed.
However, the question of the security personnel, it has in fact been - I think we all know as South Africans, we are not coming from outside, that always where enemy has been attacked they would always sensor or they would always conceal or hide that kind of fact, such that they would always portray the ANC as a terrorist organisation. No organisation for that matter has championed the course of freedom, democracy and nation building like the African National Congress.
MR SIGASA: I can only be able to say it's more than 200 metres away but several metres away, but in terms of the actual distance, in terms of figures I'm unable to say that but it is within the proximity as I'm saying because the Benoni Station is here, railway station and also the police station is here and Wimpy down in town.
MR SIGASA: Indeed, indeed, the report says as you are saying Chairperson, except the only thing also that we want to add is that the enemy personnel was not moving in isolation or its own country in its own boundaries, it was in fact actively interacting with ordinary people and so on. So yes, we know that, it came to our attention.
MR SIGASA: The impact I do not remember whether we used a mini limpet or a limpet mine, a super limpet mine. I think we used a limpet mine, not a mini one, not a small one but a super limpet mine. That is what we used.
ADV MOTATA: Let's just return to what my sister was asking you about constantly, that is the reconnaissance of Wimpy and the security personnel who frequented Wimpy, according to the information or reports received from Ndlovu. Firstly you said you were meeting on Wednesdays, do you recall that?
ADV MOTATA: Now we know it's a long time ago, 10 years to date, could you give us an approximation, every Wednesday is fine but an approximation of the time taken? Obviously it couldn't have been years, but if we could probably have an idea about months that you took.
MR SIGASA: There was no specific time limit basically in regard to our meetings. Depending firstly on the place, Sarati(?) does not draw the unnecessary attention, or secondly, the agenda item that is to be discussed, so sometime we would take or sometimes we would even adjourn and meet the following week or sometimes it would take probably three hours or so, so there was no exact time spent.
ADV MOTATA: For instance let's say you had the initial target, being the Security Police and their station and you had to change because you realised there is a much more way of achieving your objective by saying: "Now we have recognised that the frequent Wimpy". In relation to that, when was this somersault of the actual target to the Wimpy Bar?
MR SIGASA: Well I wouldn't call it somersault. I remember on that, because our plan was to celebrate or commemorate the anniversary, we planned something like more than five operations and in those operations we were discussing about those, and of course we might decide on one but depending on any information that comes up during the course of discussion, we would always move to and from and so on. But I wouldn't say that we spent so much time on this particular matter.
ADV MOTATA: Let's make it easier, in the sense that you received information from your fellow comrade, Ndlovu, that the Security Police frequent he Wimpy Bar, did you have information of how many members of the Security Branch go to Wimpy?
MR SIGASA: Well we didn't have the number but we know that there were many. It stems from the fact that they were meeting, as I said before, that they were meeting every Saturday to give in reports and so on and they would also then go after their reports or meetings and so on, they would then go for lunch or dining. So it is based on that, but the exact number I am unable to you know, say.
MR SIGASA: Well the information, depending of course on how long they take, but they would come in in the morning and so on and before lunch, lunch I would imagine that what I'm talking about I'm referring to 1 o'clock, before lunch they would in fact go out. Sometimes they would knock earlier than that, sometimes they would come in at around about 11, 12, 1 and so on.
ADV MOTATA: So in relation to the number of the security people after submitting their reports and going to Wimpy, did you take into consideration the volume of people, whether the number of the Security Police would outnumber the civilians who would visit Wimpy?
MR SIGASA: Firstly it's important to draw the attention to the fact that in the second world war, the people who suffered, the majority of the people who suffered was not nazism or nazists but ordinary civilians, true.
ADV MOTATA: Your submission was to the effect that some of the attacks was to strengthen the propaganda that would make people aware of the existence of the MK's, the ANC people within the country by attacking military forces, did I hear you correctly there?
MR SIGASA: The legitimate targets, yes. The nature of the ANC as I was saying, liberation movement with limited means and resources, South Africa was experiencing an armed propaganda period at that time. I would term it personally an armed propaganda period because it was not a full scale war where fronts or armies would meet and so on in a battlefront. You are talking about a guerrilla tactic, an urban guerrilla tactic to hit visibly so that that operation is intended also as well to mobilise and conscientise masses of the people about their presence.
ADV MOTATA: I'm asking you this because I just need explanations. You said civilians were not your target, hence my question that by looking at Wimpy, taking into account that in things as you have explained of this nature, civilians would be touched in the process, but it would have been of paramount importance for instance in your unit that you weigh up if you go to Wimpy, who are the most, because in fairness to you before you give your explanation, we all know that this was a Saturday and this particular Wimpy was placed in a shopping complex. Now in terms of civilians vis-ŕ-vis the security forces, we wanted to make our propaganda most felt with the security people. Would I be right in that context?
MR SIGASA: No, not at all. I think all of us at that time I would imagine, we were in the country. At that time when in Mamelodi a six year/eight year old run down with a Hippo, then in return the reports would be that no, he was stoning the, she will be run down to death by a Hippo armed vehicle, then the reports would be no, she was stoning the armed vehicle. You talk of situation where people in schools, children in schools would in fact be sjamboked, teargassed and be shot with live ammunition. We are talking at that situation at that time when the mood of the people was very high.
ADV MOTATA: That I do understand, that what you are answering is that people, and in this instance blacks, would be attacked at random and reasons would be found by the Security Police, that I understand completely, that such information would not. But I'm saying in relation to say civilians were not uppermost in your minds, you wanted to avoid by all means attacking civilians because the ANC preaches non-racialism. And I want to say - my question is, this is a Saturday, this is a shopping complex, you have answered that the security people after delivering their reports or deliberating on their reports, would then go for lunch there.
My question is, did you in the reconnaissance get data for instance, that: "Look, despite the civilians going there we can't avoid that, but the majority would be the security forces", that's the crux of my question.
MR SIGASA: I think that is what I said. Because I think it's important also to note that we had the capacity at that time as a regional command structure. If we were targeting civilians we had all the capacity, the armoury at our disposal to effect that kind of terror, we didn't. With all, whatever push that the enemy forces were in fact exercising, we didn't. But in this case we are saying in our submission that the issue of Wimpy came as a result of the frequency of some of the people of the Security Branch of the Benoni. It's as a resulted of that, well the least expected our attack. That's how we carried out the operation. It's true that we took into account the issue of civilians, yes we did.
MR SIGASA: We had, I think I answered that we had data. We had data that restaurant, as a restaurant is in fact attended by people of both colour. We had that information, but the target of interest was of upper most importance to us, particularly the blow that we were to unleash, that was important.
But we are not here today to discuss that, we are here to discuss your application. I can understand the anger of the people. But tell me, you say that the super limpet was used at the Wimpy Bar as you recall?
MR SIGASA: I think Judge, one question since we started, came in many forms. In my submission, explanation or deliberation before, I said that it so happened, unfortunately happened, to be Wimpy. But if they were going to be it another restaurant or cafe or wherever, where we would define them as vulnerable to our advantage, we would have used that opportunity.
CHAIRPERSON: Purely as a military strategy, but let's assume that you did not have, or your Unit did not have this information, or that these members of the Security Forces did not frequent a restaurant, and therefore the option of planting a bomb at a restaurant was not an option, how would you attack these personnel?
MR SIGASA: That was going in fact to be informed by reconnaissance activities and so on. I am saying that because the actual objective at that time, because we wanted to show or demonstrate to political activists who were detained and tortured in Benoni Police station, we would have found another way.
MR SIGASA: The first thing we identified Benoni Police station, and initially if I recall well, was that we would use ourselves when we go in as people who would be visiting detainees and so on, with a pretext of visiting detainees and so on. But we understand as well that the vigilance, because that is the enemy terrain, the vigilance of that, but that was, but as a result we were saying particularly the people who were inflicting terror in particular to our activists, should in fact be the first targets.
CHAIRPERSON: I can understand that the opportunity presented itself at the Wimpy. My question is if the personnel was the target, why wasn't the bomb planted at the Police station then? It is as simple as that?
MR SIGASA: I think we indicated there were opportunities, the possible ways where we can in fact hit. In terms of the situation as it stood then, we decided upon the question of hitting where they were going to frequent. We changed from planting, wanting to plant or make it a target, the Police station, because if you are to plant it outside, the degree of impact as well was going to be very minimal.
CHAIRPERSON: You see when one, I need you to clarify this, by planting this bomb, there was a point to be made that the military and the Security Forces were the targets and they were the targets because the propped up the Apartheid regime as I understand it, is that so?
MR SIGASA: It is important also to say that to register the presence in the minds of people away from them, it becomes easier. It becomes easier for the enemy to conceal, however, it becomes important for the registration of the presence of Units of Umkhonto to be known to people.
MR SIGASA: We didn't in Katlehong where there were hit in particular in an isolated area. The enemy concealed and it spoke about some terrorists who have shot and the report was very flimsy basically in regard to that. They always found a way of explaining the failure on the part of the ANC or its military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe.
MS KHAMPEPE: Okay. What you are basically saying is that you selected Wimpy as a target, simply because it would facilitate your objectives of making your presence felt by the regime because it was seemed to be a sitting duck, it was vulnerable as opposed to the Police station. Is that what you are saying?
ADV STEENKAMP: Mr Chairman, sorry Mr Chairman, I would like the Committee's indulgence, I have a few questions for the applicant, purely because I received new information this incident, which I think is highly relevant that must be put before the Committee. If you would bear with me Mr Chairman, I would like to ask a few questions, and maybe make a few comments.
ADV STEENKAMP: Mr Chairman, the information was not available to us when this matter was investigated. After speaking to more of the victims appearing here, and attending the hearing, it came out that actually as far as the victims are concerned, that certain information must be put to the applicant.
ADV STEENKAMP: Yes, thank you Mr Chairman. Mr Chairman, to start off, I would like to read from a newspaper clipping and then just a comment of the applicant, if needs be further information will be at hand, and if needs be, people will be called to testify to this.
According to a newspaper article Mr Chairman, I might add this is an article that is written apparently as article on a statement that was made by the ANC earlier this year about this specific incident and with your indulgence Mr Chairman, I am just going to read a specific paragraph. It is dated Friday, 6th of February 1998, and it deals with this specific incident, the Wimpy bomb blast in 1988 and just for the comment of the applicant, I am going to read the specific paragraph.
It explained that the operations were launched after the ANC decided to take the armed struggle into white areas, but that the party had not intended this to include purely civilian targets. Mr Chairman, with your permission I will hand this document in, preliminary as Exhibit A. If you would allow me Mr Chairman. I will make copies available for everyone.
MR KOOPEDI: Mr Chairman, if you would allow me to come in here, I have not had my learned friend give us the author of that statement and who in the ANC may have made those utterances and we would appreciate getting that for him to be able to respond properly.
MR KOOPEDI: I will say with respect, that I got an indication from him that he does not seem to be able to understand what that is about, but he wanted to know he we know who the author is, so that he could make an appropriate comment. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Listen carefully then. Here is a report in the Benoni City Times, dated the 6th of February 1998. The relevant paragraph which Mr Steenkamp wants you to listen to and perhaps comment on, I am going to repeat.
MR SIGASA: I am able to comment. First and foremost, I indicated or I said in my submission or our submission, that it has never been a policy of the African National Congress and Umkhonto weSizwe, to target civilians.
In fact the people who were meeting in Wimpy Bar were not just ordinary Policemen. Benoni Police station, the Special Branch Headquarters of the Special Branch in the East Rand. In fact in terms of the reports that we received, they would meet as the top brass even other counterparts from other Police stations as well.
MS KHAMPEPE: Mr Sigasa, are you saying in short, you have given us a very lengthy answer to what is being put to you. You are saying in short that the Wimpy attack was in line with the ANC policy? That seems to be the crux of the problem?
ADV STEENKAMP: Thank you Mr Chairman. You see my information is and if needs be, a sworn statement to the effect will be handed in to the Committee, that just across the Wimpy Bar, there was what at that stage was known as a Police kiosk, it was a small shop that was hired by the Police as a kiosk, just across the Wimpy Bar.
ADV STEENKAMP: But sir, then I don't understand your evidence in chief, you said on numerous occasions and on questions, at least two questions of the Chairperson himself, that your information was verified.
MS KHAMPEPE: Mr Steenkamp, before you answer, isn't that an unfair question to put to Mr Sigasa? His evidence in chief has been that the information that was verified was the information that was received from Mr Ndlovu through his reconnaissance and that information did not purport to say anything about the presence of the kiosk?
I also has come to my information, my information is and it is not verified as of yet, we are in the process, but the Police station was not very close to the Wimpy Bar, as you said, plus minus 200 metres. It was more or less a kilometre from the Wimpy Bar? Would you agree with that?
MR SIGASA: I said I think the Advocate is twisting my words, I am not sure whether deliberately or not, what I said was that it was more than 200 kilometres, and in fact several metres away. That is what I said.
ADV STEENKAMP: At the day of the incident, you had planned this incident, you have made reconnaissance, you had numerous meetings, so I take it at the day of this incident, at twelve o'clock, you had verified information that there were going to be Security Police at the Wimpy Bar, am I right?
MR SIGASA: Absolutely. Not also to add, not ordinary Policemen. I think that should be clear. As we said, that we termed it the notorious Special Branch. The Headquarters of the Special Branch, Springs, Boksburg and so on, in fact it is its Headquarters, the Special Branch.
As a result of that, the impact or the degree of the action and its impact or the results, they were important for us to identify that target and hit them where they were vulnerable. For your own information, the information that you received, not only were they meeting, that top brass that we were referring to, even the informers were met in that Wimpy Bar.
ADV STEENKAMP: I am sorry Mr Chairman. Maybe I must rephrase the question. Why did you specifically decide to attack the Wimpy Bar at that specific Saturday at twelve o'clock, why specifically that day and that time?
MR SIGASA: Well firstly, firstly the Security personnel as we indicated, they work seven days a week, every day, and on Saturdays they meet to hand in reports and so on and so forth, their daily duties and so forth, and after that of course, they would go for the dining and so on, for lunches and so on. We had that information.
As to who and how many, we didn't know that, but we knew that there were Policemen, particularly the senior people, meeting in that. Secondly, on that day, we also indicated in our main submission that it was in fact a commemoration of the anniversary of the South African Communist Party on the 30th of July.
ADV STEENKAMP: My information is also that the Benoni Wimpy Bar was actually the last Wimpy Bar to be attacked in this type of fashion? This specific Wimpy Bar attack was the last Wimpy Bar attacked, that was attacked in the spade of Wimpy Bar attacks?
ADV STEENKAMP: Am I right in saying that you were well aware that there is a real possibility that a large number of people would have been killed in that Wimpy Bar, would be black people because I can tell you as a matter of fact, that more than 20 people, more than 20 people in that Wimpy Bar were black people who were injured?
ADV STEENKAMP: The fact is Mr Chairman, if you look at some of the other applications, they are referring to a white only attack. My question to this applicant mainly is this, they were aware that other civilians, normal civilians would also be killed?