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Type AMNESTY HEARINGS
Starting Date 07 October 1999
Mr McBride I need to, just for the sake of completeness, refer to the book "Till Babylon Falls". Possibly at the end of the day nothing much may turn on it, but there is information I think which requires possibly a comment from you or an explanation from you. You indicated yesterday that you had the book. You had consulted with the author on many occasions. Did you ever at any stage bring to his attention, or to anyone's attention that some of the material in the book was erroneous, factually incorrect, or just purely fiction?
ADV PRIOR: Obviously, feel free to refer to any other pages in the extract that you would want to bring to the Panel's attention. At page 225, about half-way through the page - I do apologise, there were only four copies made - there's a portion in quotation marks, it is after the paragraph that says
"Robert could not shake off this feeling of horror. I was in a state of shock. Before I was just carrying out an operation. The effects only hit me later when I was not hyped up, then the emotions came in and I felt bad. I felt terrible, I felt disgusted with myself and ashamed. I felt I would never be forgiven."
"Before I was doing it for the army, for the freedom of the people. The very planning and the act of placing the bomb distanced me. It was mechanical. It was like the bomb did it and I only pulled the pin. At the time it was quite practical, something to carry out. Afterwards I realised the enormity of the whole thing. The humanness of the suffering came to me. If they had been soldiers, it would have been a legitimate target. Civilians were not a legitimate target. Because they were women, I felt it all the more. I felt I was stooping to the same level as the enemy. I was worried all the time. I was irritable and upset."
"Discussing potential targets, Robert had suggested the Casspir, a squat armed patrol vehicle which passed down Oval Road at 10.30 every night. Instead Matthew and Antonio decided to attack the home of Mr Klein, a local headmaster, whom they regarded as an apartheid stooge."
ADV PRIOR: Would you agree with this proposition that Mr Klein could have been attacked at any stage when he was alone? There were probably numerous situations on which Mr Klein would have been alone, not with his wife and he could have been safely attacked in that situation.
MR McBRIDE: Yes, the difficulty I have with answering that is I could envisage a situation where someone shoots at him, where the people carrying out the attack would be known to the general community in which Mr Klein moves and operates. They will therefore not be able to retreat successfully after completing the operation. They were issued with hand grenades, that's what they were given.
ADV PRIOR: There's just two last aspects I need to get clarity on. I understand fully the evidence you gave yesterday that there were cogent reasons why certain statements and certain evidence was tendered during your criminal trial. If I may just get clarity on the following aspect. Was it your own decision to indicate to the court that the initial target was the Hyperama House and Home building and at that very late stage, you had been persuaded to bomb the Why Not bar on the suggestion of Matthew Lecordier?
MR McBRIDE: What I had known was that, in order for us to stand a chance of winning on extenuating circumstances, firstly I had to discredit Matthew and whatever he was saying and I knew he was under pressure, I knew he wanted to get the thing over with, so I instructed the lawyers to ask him certain questions and asked him in a particular way, so that he would agree, because I noticed he never looked at me in court at all, he was almost like an automaton. At one stage we even discovered that one of the counsels for the State was visiting the day before and gave him a statement again, even though he was under cross-examination, so I realised that Matthew was telling the story as had been suggested to him, so he wouldn't apply his mind carefully to questions given by my counsel.
MR McBRIDE: From the time I came out of solitary confinement in November, I had requested a number of books from my lawyer, dealing with legal precedents, what is involved in such a case. I'd never faced such a case before and the legal principles behind that. During November I started issuing instructions.
ADV PRIOR: I just need to understand. Was it your belief that, if you could attempt to persuade the court to accept that it was Lecordier who had ultimately chosen or persuaded you as the Commander of the unit, to choose the Why Not as a target, then you stood a better chance of escaping the death sentence, is that what...?
MR McBRIDE: In terms of the test then for extenuating circumstances, with the premeditation involved in any instructions given, there was no chance I would get it and so I had to use resources available to me and one of them was Matthew, was a witness under stress.
ADV PRIOR: Mr Chairman, with your leave, just one other aspect. I know I indicated that I was not going to ask on any other aspect, but there is an interest from the Commission's point of view in special regard to the East Rand events. Mr McBride, there's just a few matters surrounding that particular aspect of your amnesty application. You said arms, weapons, ammunitions were supplied to SDU by yourself. Where did you draw these from? In other words, who supplied them to you?
CHAIRPERSON: And Mr McBride you said that you were also later involved during the amnesty relating to the possession of firearms in collecting back firearms. What sort of success rate, bearing in mind these numbers you've given now? Obviously you couldn't collect back an exploded grenade, but in regard to the AK47s, the Makarovs and perhaps any grenades that weren't actually used, how many?
MR McBRIDE: Yes, if I remember correctly, it wasn't as successful as we had wished it to be, but a significant amount of the stuff that was handed out by us, was handed in to the police. On one occasion, I went and collected stuff myself from people and took it to the police station in Katlehong.
ADV PRIOR: Thank you. What you recovered, was it in any way near what had been handed out? In other words, what I'm asking is, does there remain a substantial amount of weaponry in the hands of former SDU members?
MR McBRIDE: Well, just to explain it to you so that you understand how the amnesty went on. The amnesty was that everybody had to report to the nearest police station and hand over the weapons and they could send somebody else to hand it over, so I didn't keep records of serial numbers, so I don't know at which stage the guys I worked with handed over or if they gave it to somebody else and handed stuff over to them.
MR McBRIDE: Yes, that is one of the apartheid spies who influenced one of my SDUs to - well at that stage I was in prison still, but I'd got to know the guy who was part of the SDU command and I met him in prison, he influenced him to carry out an attack. Ceba was never found or charged by the apartheid government.
MR McBRIDE: Yes, to counter that because you see there's a trial going on today where Temba Khosa was one of the people issuing weapons to people at that stage, or at least that's the reports we received from Eugene de Kock and yes, that's why I supplied the weapons.
MR RICHARD: Now, if you read that, you will note that her particular interest is, why was she a target? In Exhibit D, I understand what you have said. You say that you supplied the weapons but did not know of the target that was to be attacked. Is that correct?
MR RICHARD: Now, my question was, you didn't know the target, or did you know the target? Your answer is: "No, I didn't know the target." Now my next question is: Was there any discussion of the type of target that your co-applicants for amnesty might have attacked that time when you gave them the weapons?
MR McBRIDE: In that regard, I don't recall having said that. I may have said it, I can't remember now. The only equivocation for me where children were involved, came at a very later stage in my operations.
MR RICHARD: So that means, if you had known, what you say you didn't, that the grenade or grenades was going to be thrown through somebody's bedroom window, it wouldn't have mattered whether it was his wife or his children that were in that room with him?
CHAIRPERSON: No, but I think what Mr Richard is getting at is Mrs Klein was involved, who wasn't a target. I think he's generally talking about care taken in cross-fire, whether they knew children were there or not.
MR RICHARD: Thank you, Chair, I did not say that children were involved, I said "if". So the impression I gain and I ask you this question: What guidelines of target selection did you give your subordinates in your unit?
MR McBRIDE: I don't recall that. If I remember correctly, the targets they mentioned that they would attack would all be armed people, including Mr Klein and that they should be careful that they can retreat without injury to themselves. I remember also saying "Don't throw it on the wall because it will bounce back at you and you'll get hurt". Those are the most important things that stick out in my mind now.
MR McBRIDE: Well, with regard to the people we called the military wing of the Labour Party, I would have expected they would have gone for Clyde Pearce first, because he was the most aggressive of the lot.
MR RICHARD: Other specific victims. One victim of the Parade Hotel event was Rajess Dalcurren. He was a young man then, walking in the street at the time and was not in either of the hotels or restaurants but crossing the road and he was injured. His question is, did you take people like him into account when you set the bomb to go off outside the Parade Hotel?
MR RICHARD: We go to another group who were in the Magoo's as opposed to the Why Not portion of the establishment known as the Parade Hotel. There, one Paula Harvey, was sitting at a table together with other classmates of hers who had recently completed an exam. They were still in matric at the time. Did you foresee that someone like this particular person, who was one of the most seriously injured of all the injured, in fact nearly died, might be inside the Magoo's part of the complex when you set the bomb?
MR RICHARD: Now, there's another document where I have a G turned to an H, it's a letter from the African National Congress to the Chairman of the Indemnity Committee dated 25 April 1991 and it's signed pp Alfred Nzo, the then General Secretary. It was distributed a few days ago by your legal representative.
MR RICHARD: Now, that letter says: "This is to confirm that Robert John McBride is a member of Special Ops, Umkhonto weSizwe". Then it goes on in the second paragraph to say: "At all material times hereto Mr McBride acted under the command and instructions of his superiors in Umkhonto weSizwe." So now that means, I am correct in saying that even as early as 1991 it was on record that your version, as put up in the trial, that you acted on your own was not so and that, in fact, you were acting under instructions. Am I correct in making that statement in relation to this?
MR McBRIDE: I think there's a bit of a jump in logic there. If you would say to me that they were aware that the operation was an MK operation, I'd say yes. If you say as a result of it, that my trial version was not correct, they knew, then it's a different question.
CHAIRPERSON: This letter is a little bit confusing standing alone, because it's just two paragraphs and it says that "all times material hereto" and you don't know what times those are referring to, because normally when that phrase is used, it means the times or the occasions referred to in the same document, which don't exist.
MR McBRIDE: Yes, it was prepared at my request for my indemnity application. I think if I remember correctly I'd just come off death row and there was the Indemnity Act and I'm not sure if the Further Indemnity Act was out already.
MR McBRIDE: Yes, so we were still applying for amnesty and in the whole agreement, what had happened was they did not take into account people on death row in the agreement that was signed and therefore there were problems at a later stage.
MR McBRIDE: It referred to all what I applied for, I can't remember now. I just want to remind you, this is 1991, I don't think even Rashid was back in the country then, people were still scattered all over the world as a result of apartheid. People hadn't come back yet, so if you're going to look at this letter by itself to give you any indication of whatever you want, it's ... (indistinct) really old water.
MR McBRIDE: I think I listed them count for count for the indictment. There was still at this stage, there was still an arms struggle. There was still, it had only have been suspended, in fact there was still a war. We had only had just a truce with the government. Please bear in mind all those things when you ask questions about this.
MR RICHARD: Yesterday in his evidence, Mr McBride made the comment in relation to page 76 and page 77 of bundle, or volume A1, that the affidavit filed by Mr Ismail was the first time, the fact that he was acting under direct orders, been acknowledged, if I recall correctly.
MR McBRIDE: Let me just remind you about something which might help you. In 1987 or 88 the ANC was negotiating with the Zimbabwean government for exchange of prisoners. Myself, including Sharpeville 6 were on the list and three other comrades who were on death row with me, to be changed for the apartheid spies who were sent over to do sabotage in the neighbouring states, so that is an indication the ANC was already embracing me at that early stage, when I was on death row, as one of their own.
MR RICHARD: When it comes to argument as to the value and relevance of the various reports, including the evidence referred to by Mr Dehal yesterday at the Armed Forces hearing, to have the chronology is correct is of importance in the argument, but I have the information that I need. So, my next point related to the Edendale Hospital escape. I don't think we understood each other clearly yesterday. The situation that we find ourselves in there can be summed up this way: There's a conflict between the factual versions put up by you and by Mr Visagie. Now I outlined Mr Visagie's version yesterday. Now, Mr Visagie's attitude is simple. He wanted me to make sure that his version was put into the record of these proceedings, this Hearing and to see whether we could resolve the conflict between your version and his version. My question there is: If Mr Visagie's attitude to amnesty is as outlined, would your opinions of his version of the facts change?
MR DEHAL: Mr Chairperson, I did not want to object earlier. My difficulty is whenever I do, Mr Richard says I should have rather waited until he finished his question. I've heard his question now fully. This morning when Mr Richard and I talked, he explained to me that he had approached the Panel in chambers and sought permission to have a second bite at the cherry. He led me to believe that this would be confined to the Klein issue. I see that he's traversed on the Why Not aspect and now on the Edendale aspect. A level of latitude I concede is necessary, but I think this is now getting a little too far. The Edendale aspect, pertinently to this question, was raised yesterday, answered yesterday. I in fact objected at some level even yesterday to this aspect and I think this is now the third, perhaps the fourth bite to the cherry.
RE-EXAMINATION BY MR DEHAL: Mr McBride, yesterday you talked about your politicisation within Wentworth, you refer to Allan Taylor and you refer to Setchabas that you received, you listened to Radio Freedom, etc. Would you explain what Radio Freedom is and how these aspects, all three put together, politicised you?
MR DEHAL: Thank you. Yesterday you were questioned in regard to the Chamberlain Road incident, about the photograph of the person, the injured person, who arrived here, with whom you've reconciled and whose photo features on a newspaper cutting.
CHAIRPERSON: I think he said that already, he said that journalists sometimes had illegal access to the police radios and they often followed police when they were on the go, but if there's anything you wish to add.
MR DEHAL: Your question at length by Mr Richard about various categorisation and groupings of the incidents, you mentioned in your testimony that you would regard them all as MK operations. Apart from that general categorisation, would you be able to categorise them any differently, or venture to categorise them as Mr Richard suggested?
MR DEHAL: Thank you. In so far as the Why Not operation is concerned, is it correct that when you got to Botswana to obtain all the bomb material for this operation, you knew and had settled in your mind that the intended target was Why Not bar?
MR McBRIDE: It was not finalised until the stage where Rashid gave formal instructions after I discussed with him, so if Rashid had said "No, don't go ahead with it because of the problems you'll raise", I would not have gone ahead with this.
MR DEHAL: Thank you, Judge. And at the time you collected all the stock for the car bomb, the command, the persons in command in Botswana knew that it was a car bomb that it was intended to be used for, that it was intended for a bar, that it was intended to go off on the 14th of June, but did not know of Why Not as the target?
MR DEHAL: Thank you. To some extent you were question by Mr Richard about, again on the Why Not Operation, the occasion when you caused the blue Ford Cortina to be parked outside Why Not and whether you had looked up to see who was walking about, the people on the street, etc. You said you were too busy, you did not. Now even if you did look and let's presume you saw plain clothed people, would you have known whether they were police persons in plain clothes?
MR McBRIDE: Well, in the bigger picture, I don't know if it makes much difference, I placed it on the left side so the centre of the explosion would be as close as possible, the closest possible position to the Why Not.
MR McBRIDE: Really, I don't even want to speculate on that. From what I recall is at a stage, it's normal in any country after a certain time people go home and it's not busy on the streets. The bar was usually busiest at that time with police from Intelligence Gathering, between quarter past, half past Nine, that's when the recces were held, between Nine, sorry and half past Nine.
MR DEHAL: And finally in regard to the 69 alleged injured persons, they had not testified in your trial, or 90 % or 99% of them had not testified in your trial, so you had not had the opportunity to test whether any of them are in fact Security Police personnel or civilians, is that correct?
MR DEHAL: Is it not correct that during your trial endeavours were made to look at the docket, to establish by looking at the statements of the injured, who they were, what the record was, but you failed?
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. The Panel will now ask some questions. Yesterday I received a letter from the father of a victim who has asked me to put some questions, which I think I'll do. He says in the letter that, amongst other things, that he's attended here, but he's stopped attending the hearings and whatever we decide as to whether Mr McBride gets amnesty or not, he'll accept the decision, but the questions posed are, he's just summarised them and he says the emphasis has been placed on the fact that the bomb at the Why Not was detonated on the 14th of June 1986 because of the significance of the date, it being the anniversary of the raid carried out by the South African Defence Force in Botswana, which resulted in the death of a number of people who weren't combatants and also because of its proximity to June the 16th, now he asks: Does this not indicate that the bomb was a reprisal attack in the first instance and that the killing of Security Force Personnel would be nothing more than the cherry on the top, a bonus?
CHAIRPERSON: And then he asks: Was it ever considered to ambush Security Force personnel when they were returning from the pub back to their barracks at CR Swart, perhaps when their guard is down, when they're not alert, they're coming back? Was that ever considered, to ambush them?
CHAIRPERSON: Yes. No, no, but this question was, the fact that it was a national state of emergency, if your reconnaissance relating to the attendance of policemen going to the Why Not was done prior to that, would one not expect that because there was a national state of emergency, that Security Force personnel would be on duty, rather than in a bar? In other words, they would have been required to have been on duty, more of them would have been required to be on duty, merely because it was a state of emergency and so the prospects of there being fewer policemen in the bar at that time, because of the state of emergency, was that a factor taken into account?
JUDGE PILLAY: One of the applications for amnesty you make is in respect of possession of firearms that you produced and supplied to members of the self-defence Units in Gauteng. Do you know where these arms came from?
MR McBRIDE: The arms, as I understand now, it's information received over the years, the ANC had brought in a few tons of weapons which would be kept in caches under Operation Vula. The armaments that were used, they were from Operation Vula.
ADV SIGODI: Is it correct? What concerns me is, did you know how far the bomb would affect the building? When you made the bomb, did you know if it would go up and affect the hotel itself, or did you do it in such a way that it would only affect up to the first floor, or up to the Why Not bar?
MR McBRIDE: My understanding was that the way it was constructed with the limpet mine placed on top of the charges, most of the force would be blown downwards and to the left because it was packed on the side. A clear indication of this is the fact that there is a hole in the road, indicating the blast went down and towards the left and not up and any damage that occurred on top, would probably have been from shock waves or any shrapnel going up.
MR McBRIDE: Yes. That's why the limpet mine was placed on top of the rest of the charges, so in other words the blast, the explosion started on the top, the only other way it can go is downwards, where the rest of the explosives are.
JUDGE PILLAY: When this application first started last week, you were quoted in newspapers and some alleged victims were quoted in newspapers. The impression I got there was that there was so much tension, specially in this area, as a result of the past history of this country. It's gone even to the extent of radio surveys being held as to whether you should be granted amnesty or not. Let us not debate the wisdom of newspaper articles and radio surveys, but in an attempt to stop this madness or hatred in this country, are you able, do you see yourself clear, to try to make peace with the victims?
CHAIRPERSON: What we're going to do is we're going to hear all the applicants first, before we hear submissions, but I'm just asking whether there's any questions arising out of questions that have been put by myself, Judge Pillay and Adv Sigodi.
MR RICHARD: Chairperson, with the leave of the Committee and yourself, at this juncture I must make a formal application for the recall of Mr Aboobaker Ismail. When I attempted to cross-examine him on references made to discussions between him and Mr McBride, contained in the Section 29 Hearing transcript, such questioning was ruled out. However, the basis of those, the objection to that questioning can no longer stand. Mr McBride has now given viva voce evidence before us on all those matters. That is all now in the public domain. Whatever the status of the Section 29 transcript or information might or might not be, that certainly cannot play any role in a decision as to whether Mr Ismail should be cross-examined on what Mr McBride has now said.
Mr McBride's evidence is very pertinent and simple. He says to sum up, he was instructed as late as a few days before the bomb to go ahead with, what I say very specifically a car bomb, at a hotel, as described, the name might not have been mentioned. It was a specific instruction from him as the High Command of the ANC to carry out that attack and I believe that it is more than appropriate that he, at his level, should now be cross-examined on that aspect and be asked to give us evidence that might have been obtained, had we been able to cross-examine him on matters emanating from the Section 29 information. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: I see your client is here. We'll take short adjournment. We did start late, that's why we've gone through tea, but maybe we can have a late tea and just if you can let us know when you're ready. Thank you. We'll take a short adjournment now.
MR BERGER: Thank you Chairperson. Chairperson in principle, I would submit that Mr Richard has not laid any basis for the recall of Mr Ismail. Firstly the Section 29 proceedings, the order of this Committee still stands that it would not be competent for Mr Richard to cross-examine Mr Ismail on the contents of the Section 29. Secondly, any differences that there may be between the evidence of Mr Ismail and Mr McBride are (a) quite possibly attributable to the passage of time and (b) are, in our submission, more apparent than real.
JUDGE PILLAY: Is it correct that he wants to cross-examine Mr Ismail on the contents of the Section 29 statement, because I thought he submitted that at the time of the ruling he was unable to refer to passages in that document, but since then Mr McBride has testified and he elucidated on certain aspects. He now wants to cross-examine Mr Ismail on those aspects as a result of the information gained from Mr McBride, nothing to do with Section 29 statement. That's how I understand it.
MR BERGER: Chairperson, that's like getting the Section 29 statement in through the side door, but because of what I have to say next, it's really going to be academic. We do not want there to be any suggestion from any quarter that we are holding back any information and whilst I submit that Mr Richard has not laid a proper basis for the recall of Mr Ismail, Mr Ismail is here and prepared to answer further questions.