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Type AMNESTY HEARING
Starting Date 06 October 2000
Location CAPE TOWN
Names THEMBINKOSI HENGE
Matter BUS ATTACK - BEAUFORT WEST
CHAIRPERSON: Good morning everybody. Today we'll be hearing the matter, the amnesty application of Mr Thembinkosi Henge. Before we start, I'd like to introduce the Panel. On my left is Mr Jonas Sibanyoni, he's a member of the Amnesty Committee, he's an attorney and practices in Pretoria. On my right is Mr Ilan Lax, also a member of the Amnesty Committee, also an attorney from Pietermaritzburg. I'm Selwyn Miller, I'm a Judge, attached to the Transkei division of the High Court.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Thank you, Chairperson and Honourable Members of the Committee. My names is Lungelo Mbandazayo, I'm from the Eastern Cape, East London, and I'm representing the applicant in this matter. Thank you.
MS COLERIDGE: Thank you, Chairperson. Lynn Coleridge, acting on behalf of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Chairperson, I'd like to inform the Committee that the Commission has advertised in newspapers, Chairperson, requesting all victims involved in the incident to make contact with the Commission, Chairperson. Fortunately we had people contacting the Commission and lots of the victims, Chairperson, did not come forward. We also made press statements on radio broadcast and the same in that instance as well, Chairperson, we've just had not very much success in tracing all the victims, Chairperson.
MS COLERIDGE: Charl Pienaar, Alfred Johnson who is the family relative of Diena Tonkie. Diena Tonkie is deceased, Chairperson. You will note there's Coleridge, Liesel Coleridge, but she's married, she's Braaf now Chairperson. Liesel Coleridge, Renata Shenk, M L Simon, Elizabeth Toya, Edwin Williamson. And then, Chairperson, in terms of implicated persons, Mr Nkanyezi, Chairperson, he was the other person that was charged with Mr Henge as well, who is now deceased, Chairperson, and Mr Dawn Faku. That's the other person. We could not trace those persons, Chairperson. And then the person, the Commander who gave the orders, you will note that he's also deceased, he's Mr Nonxuba. Thank you, Chairperson.
MS COLERIDGE: Yes thank you, Chairperson. The Commission would just like to extent to Mr Henge, we had some problems in terms of the translations, Chairperson, and our interpreters and Mr Henge have agreed that he would speak in English, Chairperson. We know that his first language is Xhosa, and we'd like to thank him.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Ms Coleridge. Mr Mbandazayo, is that correct with regard to the translation? I know it's not the most satisfactory situation, but I'm sure you can also assist your client if there's any difficulties. And Mr Henge, we apologise for the lack of a Xhosa translator today, we could, if necessary wait if there are any difficulties, but we appreciate your proceeding on the basis as stated by Ms Coleridge.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Yes, I'll be calling Mr Henge, but I want also to put that the only witness I have is only the applicant. The person I was going to call from the APLA High Command, unfortunately he was found dead on Tuesday, Col Leo Nana, in Pretoria. Unfortunately, all members of the APLA High Command, all of them now are in Pretoria, investigating and arranging a funeral for him. We couldn't get somebody higher up to come now and back up the claims, because of that unfortunate incident. All of them are in the lower ranks, who are available, they were not in the higher structure.
Also, Chairperson, we want for the purposes of this hearing, we'll be using the affidavit, the typed one, the hand-written one starts at page 13, the typed one starts at page 8, Chairperson. And also, Chairperson, there will be - I would like to, as we go on, especially at paragraph 10, Chairperson, the way it is put there, Chairperson, is the only correction we would like to do with regard to paragraph 10, Chairperson, in the affidavit, the question to select a target, Chairperson.
"Thembinkosi Henge states under oath: I reside at number 603, Jacobs Avenue, kwaMandlenkosi, Beaufort West. I joined the Pan Africanist Congress during 1992. Ms Nana Bokwe, also a member of PAC, recruited me to join APLA, the military wing of the PAC. Early in 1993, I joined the ranks of APLA. I'm the card-carrying member of the PAC.
While I was at home I was phoned by Lester, late Sichumiso Nonxuba who was in Umtata, to select a target that is specifically Translux Bus, to attack it. There were two Translux buses that were passing through Beaufort West en route to and from Cape Town. One of them was travelling at about 12 midnight and another at 5 in the morning and I was to choose which of the buses would be a best target in my operation.
"I went to Umtata and was given two R4 rifles and five loaded magazines. I took them back to Beaufort West.
It must be mentioned that I did not question the order from the late Sichumiso Nonxuba, as to why I was to attack the Translux bus, because as a loyal soldier, I had to obey orders given to me. I knew that the Translux bus, particularly the midnight one, was patronised by whites. I discovered that after I made two weeks reconnaissance."
"The whites, as they were referred to then, were people who benefited from the apartheid regime. Such an attack to such class of people would speed up the change, especially the negotiations that were on at that time. It was also to weaken the apartheid government, because Translux as a parastatal body would lose money as people, the whites would feel insecure.
On his arrival, I showed him the operation area and plan. The following day, the 27th August 1993 at 12 midnight, we attacked the Translux bus at Ghamka River bridge near Fort Beaufort town. The Translux bus was from Cape Town en route to Johannesburg. We both retreated after firing some shots. We heard later by late Sichumiso Nonxuba, when we phoned, that he heard the news that eight people have been injured in our operation.
On the 28th, Friday, of August 1993, Mandla went back to Umtata with both firearms and ammunition. We were never arrested and it was on the 9th of May 1996 that I was questioned by police with regard to the 27th August 1993 incident. I denied any knowledge of that matter.
The operation was successful because the State President, then Mr de Klerk, was out of the country in Chile, he stated that there were parties that were going to withdraw from the negotiations and he also cancelled his official trip and came back to South Africa.
MR HENGE: Actually Comrade Sichumiso phoned me and he told me they have already selected a target actually, I was to attack the target. So I have to choose between the two that were going through Beaufort West, the one that was going through at 5a.m. in the morning and afterwards the other one was going through at 12 midnight. So we chose the target.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Thank you, Chairperson. Chairperson, I wanted just to make sure about that paragraph, because I'm aware that - I'm indebted to the Member of the Committee, that there was in other paragraphs explained that he had to choose.
MR HENGE: When I went to Transkei for my basic training I met him and it was said that he would be - I'm under his control, he is the Commander that I have to obey orders from. So I knew him from Transkei. So that is why he phoned me.
MR HENGE: The person who gave me the basic training was a comrade known as Jomo, he was the one who trained me. Sichumiso, I think he was a member of the High Command, so he asked an instructor, who was Jomo, to give me instructions.
MR LAX: I can confirm we've heard many, many incidents and lots of evidence dealing with him. Just for those of the members of the public present, he was a Commander based in Umtata and he was unfortunately killed, I can't remember the year, but it was after these operations.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Yes, Chairperson, he died in 1996 in a car accident. He was, for the benefit of the members of the public, he's the man who was involved with the St James incident, he was commanding in St James. He was also involved in the golf club incident. He was from court in King William's Town when he was involved in the accident and he died.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Now you indicated that the arms, you were given arms, you took the arms from Ngangelizwe location in Umtata, can you - and these arms you were given by Sipho Polite, you knew him as Polite.
MR HENGE: Yes, Polite went to - I phoned and I told them that I'm coming and he went to the bus terminus, took me from there, we went to Ngangelizwe and at Ngangelizwe we took the two R4 rifles, we put them in a suitcase, then he took me back to the public transport, then I went back to Beaufort West.
CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, Mr Henge, if I could just ask you a question. You say you got two R4 rifles, if you take a look at page 116 of the documents, it talks about the R5 rifle, magazines and finding R5 ammunition.
MR LAX: Just from this point of view, what I assumed, reading it, was that possibly the R4 mentioned in paragraph 12 was one of the R4s that may have found its way to that arms cache in Lesotho. But I've seen this affidavit before in other matters and I'm not quite sure why it was put in this bundle, but it may just be for background information.
MS COLERIDGE: Can I just explain the relevance of this, Chairperson. It was just that this was found in a raid, so to speak, Chairperson, and it related to PAC activities and therefore they just included it into the bundle, Chairperson. That's how I see it.
MR LAX: Ms Coleridge, what happened to the annexures to this affidavit which would have been the list of PAC activities for that area? I saw there was one from the police, but that was a separate police document. As I understand it, these people when they raided Lesotho, confiscated numerous PAC and APLA reports of their various operations, of which this may have been one of them, and that's why I thought this affidavit was there, but unfortunately the annexure wasn't available.
MS COLERIDGE: That's right, the annexure is not included and I can clarify and see whether we have a copy of the annexures, but it was not included in this documentation. I don't know if the Analyst didn't receive a copy. It is also part of the docket that was in this incident.
MR LAX: I can tell you that in other matters we've asked for that annexure as well, I doubt that you'll find it. I understand it's sitting somewhere in the Senior Director of Public Prosecutions office.
MR MBANDAZAYO: In fact, I can confirm what has been said by the Member of the Committee, Mr Lax, that it's difficult to get those documents from Pretoria, they are totally refusing, totally. We don't know the reason. We have asked them many a time, I've had meetings and I was promised personally, because we want it to assist us in these applications, but they are totally refusing to hand over even copies of those documents.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Now Chairperson, just for the benefit of the victims, we mentioned Nonxuba and we explained, then the name of Polite Sipho Xuma. Sipho Xuma, for the benefit of the victims, was a Deputy Director of Operations in APLA, so he was a senior member and he was also a Director of Special Operations. He is the person who was Head of Logistics, he was distributing arms and he had mentioned in many operations, even St James, the arms which were brought there were brought by him and also in Heidelberg Tavern he was mentioned, almost in all. He is the man who ordered the Eikenhof incident, who gave the order, the Eikenhof incident. So he has been mentioned in many operations. So he is the man. And he was the man who was distributing arms all over the country. So he was known by many as Polite. There are many names which he was called, but his real names are Sipho Bulelani Xuma, from eNgcobo, Transkei, originally. He integrated in the South African Defence Force and later resigned. He's presently studying at the University of Fort Hare. He's a student now at the University of Fort Hare.
Now can you then, Mr Henge, take us through, for the benefit of people, all of us were not there, your preparations up to the stage when you attacked this bus. But just before that, in your application you mentioned a person by the name of Mandla, can you tell the Committee about Mandla.
MR HENGE: Actually, Sichumiso told me that he will send someone to come and assist me in this operation, then he sent Mandla. When Mandla arrived, I showed him the operational area, then we attacked the bus, then the following day he returned to Transkei. So the thing about Mandla is that in reality I don't know his name, his real name, because for security reasons he used his Chimorenga names. Like my name was Chuluka actually.
MR MBANDAZAYO: Chairperson, unfortunately I don't know which of these Mandlas - as Mr Lax would know, there's one who subsequently died and I could not, when I was trying to investigate which one was his real name, whether it was the same one. But Mr Xuma, when I contacted him he said he was not sure whether it was the Mandla who was the Administrator, but he doubted if it was him who was sent him to come and assist. But he's not sure about that, because unfortunately these records we wanted from Pretoria are these which - everything was documented there. They know who was involved in which operation, who was sent there and their real names. So it's difficult now after some years for them to be able to say really it was so and so who went there, except some of them they can remember.
MR MBANDAZAYO: I was coming to ask him exactly, but I was going to try and ask first - you know there's ...(indistinct) who are mentioned here, can you tell the Committee about Valtengua? Who is Valtengua?
MR HENGE: Valtengua Nkanyezi was one of the PAC members at our local branch. So his involvement with the Translux bus incident, I don't know, because he was never involved, so I don't know why, if it's him that said that he was involved, because I first heard about that in 1996 when I was questioned by the police, that Valtengua is saying that me and him and Dawn, we attacked the Translux bus. And to put the matter straight, I don't see any reason why he himself claimed to be involved in that operation while he was not involved.
MR HENGE: Yes, I know Dawn. Dawn was staying with Chi Chi and he was working at a local contractor there in Beaufort West, then he left. Only later I found out that he is with the National Defence Force.
MR MBANDAZAYO: I understand Chairperson, he's presently in Bloemfontein, in the South African National Defence Force. I contacted him and I asked him why he did not apply, he said look he has never been involved in this incident, he would gladly have applied if he was involved, but unfortunately he does not know how his name came into the picture in this matter. Otherwise he was never involved, according to him.
Now Mr Henge, I don't want to take time, you're still going to be questioned by the Members. I would like just - you know I asked you can you take us through when you attacked the bus, let me take it from there. When you attacked the bus what was your intention, when you were shooting at that bus? What were you aiming at, were you aiming at the people inside the bus? Were you aiming at the tyres? Were you aiming at the driver? What was your intention exactly? Can you take us through and tell us exactly what it was and why the spot you chose where you decided to ambush the bus.
MR HENGE: First let me talk about the spot where we ambushed the bus. When you enter Beaufort West you approach the town itself, there's a bend there and at that bend there are lights and there is a bridge, so there's a river running under the bridge. So one, we are two in this operation, we need to see our target from a distance, so the lights will help us to see the target from a distance, so that we can advance, because we are hiding at the soup kitchen, at the ...(indistinct) there, at the soup kitchen. So when we saw the bus coming, then we ran and approached that, I think in a 15 metre distance, then we started to attack it.
We wanted to attack the driver first, the driver was the real target, because by attacking the driver we knew that the bus would lose it's way and went down to the river, so that many people could get injured or killed or whatever at that time. So when we attacked the bus, right, that didn't happen, the bus went through after we attacked and it stopped on the bridge. After it stopped, I think for a second or so, then it went on.
Then we ran back to our hide-out, then we lay down. I went home, I left Mandla at the hide-out. I went home and slept. Then early morning Sichumiso phoned me. But let me explain it this way. Sorry. When Sichumiso phoned me and gave me the order to attack that bus, one, I knew that I don't have to question orders first, but in my subconscious mind after I did my whole reconnaissance and saw that no, this bus was boarded by whites, as they called them. Right. There's one thing that I want, I'm in a struggle to liberate Azanian masses, the masses that had no vote, no right to vote. The whites have a right to vote. If he don't vote that is his own or her own will, why he didn't vote, but he had the right. The South African government gave them that right and they didn't use them if they did or they didn't. So the people who are in the bus, I had nothing personal against them, there's not that I would have gained money or whatever and they should not take it as if that was a criminal incident or what.
So it was unfortunate that there might be people who were not, who were innocent and who were travelling from Cape Town to a holiday or whatever, but due to the cause of the struggle, it was unfortunate that their journey was cut short. So I think I've answered the question so far, so if there's anything.
MR HENGE: For the victims there is one thing that I'd like to say. I am sorry that they were involved, or they were victims that day, but they should not take it personally. We were in the war with the government, we were struggling so that we can all sit free as we have our rights to vote today. So I don't want them to have a personal grudge or personal vendetta against me, but I wish them to take it in good spirit of reconciliation, that right, what happened happened because of the political situation of the day. So today let's shake hands and move forward and build this country.
MR RILEY: So is it fair to say then that at the time when the incident took place, that was in 1993, and the period leading up to that, you were heavily politicised and obviously following the political events in the country?
MR RILEY: And is it also true that in fact after you heard or became aware of the fact that Mr Nelson Mandela had engaged in peaceful discussions with the then government of the day, that you in fact decided you didn't like the ANC anymore, you were joining the PAC? Do you have a response?
MR HENGE: So actually the issue is not that ANC was busy with the peaceful negotiations, that is why I joined the ANC - the PAC. The thing that made me to join the PAC is the policies and principles of the PAC, that made me join the PAC. It's not the peaceful negotiations of the ...
MR HENGE: No, I don't think the songs and the slogans were the things that made me join PAC, I joined the organisation because of the political principles that the PAC was following, while their songs and their slogans were just a way of boosting the moral, that's all.
Mr Henge, in fact, if you look at page 120 of the bundle, you will see there that you in fact in your biography, which I must accept you prepared for the Truth Commission, you in fact said that when you heard the call for talks by Mr Mandela, "I started to hate the ANC, I followed the PAC." So is that not correct? It's on page 120.
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, I'll admit to that because one, what was happening at the time, President or the then President Nelson Mandela is engaged in peaceful talks while millions and thousand of South Africans were dying. Let's look at the Boipatong massacre, let's look at the massacre in Ciskei, let's look at the massacres that happened in Katlehong. So those were all violence that were perpetrated by the government, but still ...(intervention)
MR RILEY: Thank you. Now the reason why I ask you that is, I'm trying to determine what your motivation was for getting involved in this whole thing. Now you've already told us that you were heavily politicised at the time, is that correct?
MR RILEY: I must assume that you were involved in discussions with your comrades in arms and committee members in the PAC and APLA, about the developed and the route that the country was taking at the time.
MR RILEY: Now in fact as far back as August of 1990, that is when you still seemed to not be a member of the ANC, but a supporter, at that time already the ANC and the government had signed what is known now as the Pretoria Minutes and the ANC agreed to suspend the armed struggle. Do you recall that?
MR RILEY: Now is it also not correct, Sir, that in fact on the 3rd of June 1993, at the multi-party forum, a date had already been set for the country's first non-racial, one person one vote elections which was supposed to take place on the 27th of April 1994, as it did in fact take place?
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, at that time, in June 1993, it was when I was still busy with my training, so I didn't have newspapers or news to listen to, I was totally busy with my training at the time. And the comrades who were in the negotiations, Bennie Alexander, the now called Khoisan X, I don't think they briefed us about that.
MR RILEY: Are we not sort of, Mr Henge, dealing here with a situation that maybe APLA, the PAC at the time, were not really interested in what was going on and you wanted to proceed with the armed struggle and the killing of innocent people?
MR MBANDAZAYO: Chairperson, I don't think it would be a fair question for him, because he was not in the leadership in the decision making, whether that was the intention of the PAC or APLA. Then I think, Chairperson, it's only the leaders who did not suspend the armed struggle, but at the time PAC was still engaged in the armed struggle.
MR HENGE: My personal view, Sir, on the negotiations was that they have to be faster, we have to see change immediately because we've been waiting for a very long time. So that was my attitude towards the negotiations.
MR RILEY: Thank you. Mr Henge, just on the aspect of your having been away on training, I regrettably and with the greatest of respect, want to put it to you that at the time when it became known when the elections would take place, all the people were talking about it and everyone knew about it. What is your comment on that?
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, on the time I don't recall everybody talking about the elections and at the time I only find that the youth has to be engaged in the armed struggle to put more pressure on the government, so that we can really see, because we've seen talks failing, the Codesa, the Groote Schuur talks and whatsoever talks, so we needed to see that this process is sailing faster.
MR RILEY: Mr Henge, I want to put it to you with the greatest of respect, that at the time when you launched this attack you knew very well that the elections were taking place and that the country was moving in the direction of, shall I use the term normalisation, things were normal. The present government of the day, the previous government, all the parties were engaged in talks. I want to put it to you, you knew that there was going to be elections and that things were moving forward. Your shooting up a bus would have no effect on that.
MR RILEY: Now in regard to the attack I just want to know from you, did I understand correctly that you, as you testified and was read to the Committee, you in fact were given an instruction to, in fact an order to shoot a Translux bus?
MR HENGE: One, would we be safe first, would we be identified, because going on foot, because we never used a car, we went on foot to the spot because the location is not far from that. So now after attacking the bus, when we retreat, would there be possibilities we'd be identified? 5 o'clock in the morning people are going to work, so people would see us on the way. So the one that would be more appropriate is to go at least at 12 o'clock when most of the people are sleeping and that area is very quiet at that time. So that is the criteria that I used to select that bus.
MR HENGE: Actually I did my reconnaissance, Sir. I went for, I think a week, looking at that bus, the people who are boarded it and as it was - as I mentioned, that was an order that was given to me, so I didn't make any comments or whatever of myself to tell about my feeling about the bus, but it was just an order that I was carrying out.
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, the bus - there might have been two or three or four, but the majority of the people who are boarding that bus were white. So actually, when you are even in any situation of war there are casualties. There might have been blacks in that bus, two or three or Coloured in the bus, that would have been an unfortunate situation for them, but the target was basically based on the white settlers.
MR HENGE: Sir, I've mentioned it earlier that I had nothing personal against the people who were in the bus, I didn't them, I don't know their background, I don't know their families or whatever, I don't know whether they have children or what, but as a loyal soldier I was just carrying out the orders that were given to me by Sichumiso. I think maybe I have answered your question, Sir.
MR LAX: Well he's not trying to make you a criminal, with the greatest of respect. I think you must accept as you've said, that your intention was to great maximal harm, to create as big an incident as possible. Now the consequences of that are that many people would be killed, including innocent people, that's something you have to live with.
MR HENGE: Yes Sir, at that time, as I stated, it didn't matter to me the fact that I pointed the gun and shoot at the bus, so it didn't matter that who or whatever would ...(indistinct) but the political motive would have been achieved. That was what I was trying to do.
MR RILEY: Mr Henge, I want to say to you that in fact you had no reason, you didn't have a reasonable belief at that time that there would only be white people in that bus. As we all know now there were several Coloured people, old people, children and poor innocent victims on that bus. So your argument that that bus was supposedly going to contain white people or it's frequented by them, I'm afraid to say I put it to you that it doesn't hold water.
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, as I've said, there might have been casualties or blacks and whatever, but the majority of the people who were in the bus were people who were benefiting from the State, whites. So to the African people who were in the bus, PAC members who were in the bus, Coloured people who were in the bus, ANC members who were in the bus, the attack was not directed on them, but that was an unfortunate situation, the majority of the people were whites.
MR RILEY: You see Mr Henge, some of the victims have asked me why choose a bus with elderly people, children in it, why choose that bus, why not go and shoot up the police station there in the Beaufort West dorpie?
MR HENGE: I didn't select the bus, I was given an order, Sir, so that question would be answered by Sichumiso or Polite or whoever who was in the High Command, not me. They gave me an order, so I carried out the order to shoot the bus, that's all.
MR HENGE: My opinion Sir, is that one, you go to any institution, the post office or whatever, white lady is standing there or whites is standing there, she or he is benefiting the government who is in power, the police who are there, they are protecting these white people. And APLA shot so many police but there was no, the country didn't feel that, but when APLA chose to shoot at the people who put that government into power, that is when I think they heard the call of APLA.
CHAIRPERSON: But I mean he's talking about soft and hard targets, are you saying that shooting a bus at midnight is a hard target? From the military point of view, or would you regard it as a soft target? Do you know the difference between a hard target and a soft target?
MR MBANDAZAYO: Chairperson, I think there's a problem because of course he was given just a crash course, it would be a bit difficult for him to differentiate in terms of military, the hard and soft targets.
MR LAX: Well let's explain it to you, and I'm going to explain this to you in the context of the armed struggle. The ANC, for example, adopted a position up until approximately 1986/'87, the Kabwe Conference, where they decided that only hard targets - hard target was defined as a military or police target, a Security Force target, in other words, people who would be armed, innocent civilians would be avoided at all costs. Now soft targets are innocent or civilian targets, people who you would shoot who wouldn't necessarily be armed, who wouldn't necessarily be able to fight back. So that is, in broad terms, the distinction. Were you aware of any such distinction in your training or in APLA's modus operandi? In other words, the way they carried out their struggle.
Mr Henge, I want to put it to you with the greatest of respect, that you don't have to be militarily trained to know the difference between a soft and a hard target. And I want to put it to you with respect, that you knew at that time, irrespective of your length of training at that time, that that was in fact an easy sitting duck target. They're coming by there, you're laying there in the ravine or wherever the case may be, and you then proceed to attack them. How can't you know that it's an easy target?
MR RILEY: Now the reason why I ask you that, must the victims accept and must everyone accept that you did that as a soldier, you had direct orders to do it and can we also accept that because you had done your deed in the passion that you did, that you felt proud of it?
MR HENGE: I never felt proud of it, Sir, if I felt proud of it, I would have never come to this Commission to come and tell the people what happened and - that don't make me someone good or someone big, to injure or kill, but the fact that orders were given to me and at that time I believed that was correct, but now things have normalised, I have to come to terms that we are in a new dispensation, we have to take this country and put it forward as a united front, or as a united nation, despite the colour, white or black. We have to put our past behind. So that didn't make me proud. And if that was the case, I could have been arrested long before that time, because I could have sat wherever I'm sitting and boasted about it. I never did that.
MR RILEY: Yes, that's exactly why I'm asking you. You see, because you were approached by the police after the incident occurred and that was in 1996, after the elections and the ANC was in power, is that not correct?
MR LAX: Sorry, just a matter for the record, I think that the various investigations the police launched, were the result of the attachment of these documents as per this statement from the Lesotho policeman. The police then began a process of investigating all the APLA activities and because they had all the lists and all the names, they knew who the people involved were and that's why they followed them up. You'll notice there's a hiatus from 1993 till 1996, and that was the result of that. It's a fact that's known to us.
MR HENGE: When the police approached me, Sir, they approached me that I've shot and killed - or shot and injured people and they are putting a charge against me. Then I personally found it that this, it's not an appropriate platform to put this, because they'll put the charge against me and I have to go to court and the court would take its proceedings. But then Comrade Letklapa, after I have explained this to him, he said no, there's a platform where you can go and state your case, then the Commission would decide whether no, you were wrong or you were right or whatever the victims saw. That is when I felt that no. But with the police I had to deny it, Sir.
MR RILEY: Yes, I must say Mr Henge, that I got the impression from what you testified earlier on, that you were proud to in fact be involved with what you were doing and just thought you know, that in view of the fact that there was a new government now and things had changed and there was talk about reconciliation and moving in that direction, that you would now own up and say: "Yes, I was the man or part of the persons responsible for that attack", without having to think about the TRC, to decide to do that.
MR LAX: Mr Riley, with the greatest of respect, who is going to go and own up to murder and possibly go to jail in a situation like that? I mean, do you expect the average citizen simply to own up to murder or to attempted murder and take the consequences?
MR RILEY: Well Chair, I think it's a question of convictions here, political beliefs, the man, Mr Henge did indicate to us that was a certain belief and mind-set at the time, but I take the point that you're making.
One of the victims, Mr Williamson, is present here today, he's indicated that he was very concerned that you committed this deed whilst you were very young and he wanted you to comment on the possibility that you might in fact in the future engage in this kind of conduct again. Do you want to answer him on that?
MR HENGE: Actually let me give a - in 1996, I went to Cape College and studied Marketing Management, here in Cape Town. That is where the police found me. So now I'm on a contract basis working for Markhams at the moment.
MR RILEY: Mr Henge, I wonder if you would want to say something to Mr Alfred Johnson, he is present here today, he's the son of Diena Tonkie, an elderly lady who was on the bus, from Bonteheuwel, and he has a note here from his family, and the note reads, if I can quote from it, that
"It's sad that the applicant until his application now, has not seen it fit to apologise, not even without identifying himself to our mother, the victim, and the family. Also not to the other victims for what he has put everyone through. He has not considered the pain and suffering and the anguish he has subjected us to."
MR HENGE: Actually Sir, to all the victims, I'll sum them up, I am very sorry for their part because I would have felt the very same way if I was in their shoes. I'm sorry for them, but for the deed or for the purpose that PAC ordered me to do that, I'm not sorry for that. But to the victims and how that changed their lives, I want them to take it with the spirit of reconciliation and put the past behind us and take it forward and build South Africa, South Africa needs us. Thank you, Sir.
MR RILEY: It's very easy to say that now, after everything is done it's very easy to say that now. You would agree with me? They were the ones who went through the suffering, two of the mothers of the people who are present here now had very happy normal lives and as a result of this attack their health deteriorated. I'm not saying that they died as a result of the attack, but they died shortly after that.
MR HENGE: Sir, it is not easy, it is not easy to say I'm sorry but I felt it's very necessary to say I'm sorry for that. Actually as I've said, I felt what that operation did to them, that is why I say with my greatest - I don't know how to put it, I feel it in my heart to come forward and say I'm really sorry. And if I didn't feel that I would never have come to this Commission and say I feel that we have to reconcile and go forward.
MR RILEY: I know at least two of the families of the victims have suffered financial losses as a result of the attack there, now would you in your personal capacity, would you consider approaching them and offering to compensate them now since you are now in employ and working?
CHAIRPERSON: There is the question of, and I know that it's been in the public eye of late, but there is the question of reparation and one of the consequences of the granting of amnesty, I'm sure people know, is if it is granted there is in fact an immunity against criminal litigation or proceedings as well as civil litigation. But if amnesty is granted, the names of the victims of the operation incident will definitely be forwarded by the Panel to the Committee on Reparations and Rehabilitation, for their consideration in terms of the Act. That we do as a matter of course.
MR HENGE: My crash course firstly, was doing military discipline. We were taught about the 15 points of attention. It went to handling of firearms. There was a basic course on camouflage and concealment based on the ambush, how to carry out an ambush. It was very intensive. And how to employ intelligence and counter-intelligence, but it was a very short and brief course. Thank you.
MS COLERIDGE: Why I'm asking you this is because Valtengua mentions that he was involved in this operation and then he writes to your branch, the PAC branch in Beaufort West, saying that Dawn, yourself and himself, that you were all three involved in this operation. Can you just explain that to us, why would he do something like that?
MR HENGE: As I've said, I don't know the reason why Valtengua might have written that. If he did personally write that, I don't see any reason why I should hide a deceased person, because I really knew for the fact that, for the sake of the truth, he was not involved and Dawn was not involved too.
MR HENGE: Chi Chi Zamugzingesa. It was Vos Bokwe, Sipho Simxu and Mandla Njokewle, but Mandla is deceased now. He's originally from De Aar. So they were the persons who were questioned by the police concerning this incident.
MR HENGE: Actually as I've said, Sir, when we planned this operation it had to be quick and fast so that we can get out of the spot, so the thing was to hit the driver so that the bus could go into the river. So it was not the matter of staying and shooting and shooting, then changing the magazine, but it has to be something that is quick so that we can withdraw faster.
MS COLERIDGE: And then just one last question. There's a statement by Janine Stander at page 139, she states that certain telephone calls were made to their branch, I assume it's probably in Durban, regarding the arrival of the Translux bus in Beaufort West. Do you know of anyone that made telephone calls, maybe yourself or Mandla, or do you know anything regarding that? It was just a day before this incident.
and when this was read, instead of saying "he", Mr Mbandazayo, you used the word "we", and I just wanted to clarify that. Was that just a slip of the tongue? You've read it as "we" and I want to know from the witness whether in that regard you - because you then confirmed it and didn't correct it, did you people phone or did you phone Nonxuba or did he phone you?
MR HENGE: No, I reported it to him, Sir, but he phoned just to confirm, because he heard, so he wanted to find out whether we did that or what. So he phoned as he heard from the news that the bus was shot, then he phoned that right, we did carry out the order, what? So then I reported to him.
MR HENGE: Actually what happened here, Sir, if you can look at page, the original, the first application, this was the application form that was filled in by Happy Mpahlele. We were here in Cape Town. He advised me to, as I've stated it. So this was a form of ...(indistinct), I think that he didn't have another application form with him, so he just cancelled it, then after filling in, he sent it to the Commission. Then I think a person by the name Lorraine Manie then did the follow-up from the Commission. So this year, it was then that a gentleman from East London came to me and he took me to the police station so that I can confirm the whole ...
MS COLERIDGE: Chairperson, I just wanted to clarify that as well from the Commission's side. We did receive Mr Henge's application in '97, but because of the requirements of the Act, that it has to be attested to, we then sent it and it was faxed and that is why ...
CHAIRPERSON: It's a fairly common occurrence, it's not the first time we've come across it, but one of the requirements is that it complies with the requirements of the Act, and I just wanted to get that on record. Thank you. Any questions arising out of questions that have been put by the Panel?
CHAIRPERSON: Yes Mr Riley, the victims, it's entirely up to them, they may give evidence under oath, in which event they may be asked questions, they may make a statement without taking the oath, in which case there won't be any cross-examination, or of course if they want to then they needn't accept any of those options.
MR RILEY: Thank you, Chairperson. I have had the opportunity of speaking to the victims who are present here, we have decided that no-one wishes to testify at this stage and that any further submissions will be made by myself. Thank you.
Chairperson, I'm preaching to the already converted people who know about these things, but for the purposes of the victims, they don't understand these things because they have not been involved in this process.
We know, Chairperson, that at the time of the incident there were negotiations in Kempton Park and all the parties were involved in the negotiations, including PAC. But Chairperson, we also know that it was only PAC in the negotiations in Kempton Park, which was negotiating with the gun, holding the gun. They did not suspend the armed struggle. Whilst they were negotiating, at the same time they were busy operating. And Chairperson, the Committee knows that as a result of that, whilst they were in negotiations, in the same May, PAC offices all over the country were raided and leaders were arrested. It nearly destroyed the whole negotiating process, as a result of that.
And as a result of that, PAC, it's also documented that they decided APLA was to intensify the struggle. And some of the incidents one would know, one of the Members, Mr Lax knows that the Diepkloof incident was also a sequel of that, that you must hit hard to the enemy after those raidings of the PAC offices and the arresting of their leaders. So they intensified and at the same time they were in the negotiations.
And Chairperson, we also know that it was the year in which the late Commander of APLA, Sabelo Pama, declared it as the Year of the Great Storm, and we know what does that mean. And at that year it was - in fact if I may put it in a more crude manner, it was almost a year, they wanted it to be a year of anarchy, you know. So all those things, Chairperson, it's known by the Committee, but the victims don't know about those things.
And also, Chairperson, we know that in as much as the PAC was at pains to explain its policies, but these things happened that they - in fact the last document which was submitted by Ngelan Moendane, when the Chairman of the TRC process asked that the PAC must spell out is policy towards whites and they explained it and how they interpreted it. And many a times, I'm not intending to bore you, that I've said that that submission was based on this book on Sobukwe ...(intervention)
MR MBANDAZAYO: Okay, Chairperson. Chairperson and the victims, that PAC believes that - in fact how he puts it, the founding President of the PAC, to say that it's a plain dishonesty to say you hate the sjambok, not the person who is wielding it. So their policy was based on that. So saying, look you can fight and say you are fighting apartheid, the laws, but as long as the people who are passing those laws, you are not shaking them, you will never - they will just change the laws. The best thing is to hit the person and that's how they ... And they went further to say even if you can say, argument, and say look, the person who were passing the laws were members of parliament, why don't you attack them?
But you say look, the argument is that who was saying in the post office, you are in the wrong queue, were the members of parliament. Or were they the citizens or the innocent civilians? They were the innocent civilians who will tell you that you are in the wrong queue. It was not the member of parliament. So in a way they were implementing the policies of the government. So that's - their whole policy surrounds that and hence you find that most of the time they will always talk about the whites, saying because the whites were in power and it so happened, the people who were in power were white and they will say even if it was the black people, irrespective of what. That's why they would say that is the reason some time in the early '60s they were also attacking chiefs, because they were collaborating. That is why they were killing black policemen, because they were part of the system. So in a way that's how they were explaining that. Though it may seem racist because of the colour of the skin of the people who were in the ruling class, but it was not specifically the targeted class, but they were targeted because they were the ruling class.
Now those are known by the Committee, it has many a times - unfortunately this time I could not call somebody in the higher hierarchy of APLA, because of the death of one of the members of the High Command during this week, they are busy preparing for that. I normally call somebody in the High Command to explain, for even the victims to understand, to explain how they were coming up with all those policies and the attacks. Because at the end of the day, the applicants were just carrying out orders and they have to. They were not the policy makers, the were people who were making those policies and who were identifying targets, though at times they were asked to select targets.
Now Chairperson, having said that, we know that some of them, we talk about the hard and soft targets, I know Mr Lax you had the privilege of meeting the delegation of APLA during the Human Rights Violations, and some of them, especially Mr Fihla, who is a General now, he was almost one of the influential people in APLA and articulate and eloquent people and in most of the hearings I've been using him to explain some of these things, and he had explained some of these things of hard and soft targets, which is the reason in some instances we'd say look, we did not make any differentiation between hard and soft targets. As far as they are concerned it's that white people, even at school who were trained how to handle a firearm, and it's not necessary to say because he's not in the Army, necessarily means that he's not military aware, he has been trained for that. So there was a strong debate about those things. But in any event, that was their policy.
Now Chairperson, having said that, it's my submission without wasting your time, that the applicant has met all the requirements of the Act, and he has made full disclosure before this Committee, of his involvement in this incident. Chairperson, it's clear that even the police did not have evidence against him, except what was allegedly written by Valtengua Nkanyezi, and they could not pin anything on him. Hence, when he denied it there is nothing they can do about it, but he decided, despite that, to come forward and tell the Committee of what actually happened.
Chairperson, also the question of Valtengua, where he comes up and saying he was involved, Chairperson it's my submission that the version of the applicant must be accepted, because at the time when he was making his application, Valtengua was already dead, there was no reason for him to hide somebody who is dead, not to say he was involved in this operation, because he was not in any event going to answer for that. So in a way, Chairperson, I'm trying to say that there might be something with this report which is here, though I don't have facts, but I don't see any reason because at the time the applicant was making an application, Valtengua was already dead, there was no reason for him not to say: "I was involved with Valtengua, who is now deceased". And as I indicated, I tried to trace this Dawn Faku who is in Bloemfontein and I asked him about why he did not apply and he said: "I was not involved, I don't know and I was shocked when I was told that I was involved in this incident, I had nothing to do with it. I would have curtly have applied if I was involved in this incident."
So Chairperson, it's therefore my submission that at the time the applicant, inasmuch as everybody was involved in negotiations, as we all know, PAC was still involved in the armed struggle and it had not yet suspended the armed struggle. As we know that some of these incidents continued up until 1994. It's therefore my submission that the applicant has made full disclosure and also that when he acted he did not act for personal gain. He did not know any of the victims which were in the bus and as he put it, there may have been members of PAC in the bus or ANC in the bus and they would have died as a result of his actions. So Chairperson, it's therefore my submission that the applicant, in terms of the Act, has discharged the onus which is put on him on a balance of probabilities that he indeed acted on behalf of a known political organisation in the furthering of its aims and objectives, and that he made full and proper disclosure of his involvement in the incident. And therefore, Chairperson, it's my submission that he should be granted amnesty as applied for.
I think what comes to the fore very clearly from the feelings of the victims is the fact that they regard the applicant's conduct, no matter what his motives were supposed to be at the time, they regard his conduct as cowardly and cruel and that they regard the deed as heinous in the circumstances.
There's no doubt that they've suffered greatly as a result of the deed and the conduct of the applicant and whoever was with him, whether psychologically or physically, it's quite clear that several people were injured quite seriously in the course of the attack, other people will have to live with this act, with what happened to them for the rest of their lives and the psychological affect of what has happened obviously cannot be measured at all.
It has become quite clear to me that the victims have a difficulty in understanding why they were subjected as being the victims of this attack, and they particularly have difficulty in accepting that because of the fact that at that particular point in time, a date had been set for the elections and as far as they were concerned there was therefore absolutely no reason at the time for the attack to take place.
They also expressed the view, as appeared during my questioning, that the deed becomes even more cowardly because of the fact that there were innocent people, innocent children, elderly people, civilians involved and they have great difficulty in accepting what political motive or gain would be achieved by in fact attacking them.
I must say, Chair, that the victims, some of them, have expressed doubt as to the sincerity of the applicant when he has in fact indicated that he asked for forgiveness for his conduct. In fact, one of the victims indicated that they got the impression that he in fact had adopted an almost arrogant boasting attitude about his deeds and that he didn't show sufficient appreciation for in fact, the way they feel about what had happened. And the attitude basically is that unless the applicant in some or other way shows to them during the course of these hearing, or after the hearings, unless he shows to them on a more personal level that he in fact does really have, he is really sorry and that he really seeks forgiveness and that he really is someone who is looking ahead to build up a better life towards reconciliation, as he professes, if he shows them on a personal level, then they certainly on a personal level, would be prepared to forgive him for his conduct that in fact led to this dastardly deed.
They're not prepared to in fact, condone what had happened on the particular day, from a bigger picture, but on a personal level they are prepared to in fact consider approaches on his part for forgiveness.
Chairperson, Committee, whether or not he has made full disclosure or not, whether or not he in fact complies with the requirements of the Act for amnesty, I'm not going to address you on that. I've already indicated that there must be some doubt as to precisely what the motive was for the attack, bearing in mind the fact that the elections were going to take place, and unless we're dealing here with a situation as has been indicated by Mr Mbandazayo, that in fact, irrespective of what the other parties or the other people of this country were thinking at that particular time, APLA certainly had their own agenda when they decided to launch these attacks and particularly where soft targets were involved.
MR MBANDAZAYO IN REPLY: Chairperson, I would only respond on the question that the victims would like to, if the applicant would come to them. I would like to tell the victims that the applicant is prepared and in fact that's what he told me when we came here, that he would like - at that time we did not know, we normally after the hearing request whoever is representing the victims, to see the victims if they are willing, to talk to them at a personal level, to understand and whatever. So in that respect, Chairperson, the applicant is willing to meet the victims.
Well Chairperson, the other aspects I wouldn't like to dwell on, I think I've addressed sufficiently with regard to the question of the negotiations and it is known that at that time, and the Act is couched in such that it accommodates that what the political parties, recognised political parties at that time, was their position with regard to their operations. So I wouldn't like to dwell on that aspect, except to say that the applicant is, it's his wish to meet the victims, those who are present. Thank you, Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr Mbandazayo. I must just say on behalf of the Panel that, as intimated earlier to you and Mr Riley, that although reconciliation and the expression of remorse or forgiveness is not in any way a criteria to be taken into account by the Panel in deciding whether to grant or refuse amnesty, we consider the whole of reconciliation as a very important element of this whole amnesty process and if at the numerous hearings that we attend, any measure of reconciliation can be achieved, it's a good thing. So the fact that the victims have expressed a will to speak to the applicant and the fact that the applicant has expressed a will to speak to the victims in regard to building bridges or arriving at some form of conciliation, we as Committee appreciate that and we would like to thank you all for that.
We will reserve our decision in this matter. It's our policy to hand out written decisions and as you know we're very near the end of the process, so the decision will not be long in coming out, it should be out in the very near future.
And before we adjourn, we have been here for the last couple of weeks, I would just very much like to thank everybody who made these hearings possible. I'd like to thank the people of the synagogue for making this very convenient and nice venue available to us. The Sound Engineers, the Interpreters who have been working particularly hard the last couple of weeks, the TV, the media people, the caterers who have been feeding us, the caretaker here who has been looking after us so well, my Secretary, Ms Coleridge, everybody. If I've left out anybody's name, I have not done so with any personal spite or malice, and I thank you very much. We shall now adjourn.