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Type AMNESTY COMMITTEE
Starting Date 23 November 1999
Names SAMUEL MAFOLANE HLOPHE
Case Number AM5878/97
CHAIRPERSON: Good morning. Firstly I should apologise for not having started yesterday, but we were prevented by circumstances beyond our control, one of our Committee Members fell ill and we had to get a replacement for that Committee Member. Judge Khampepe fell ill. I am Motata, Chairing these proceedings. On my right I have Judge de Jager and on my left, I've got Mr Malan. We would hear the following applicants Phahlane, Mnyakeni, Hlophe, Tinyane and Chidi. I would request the legal representatives to place their names on record.
MR PADI: The reason those incidents are placed on record, is that by the attack, there is a possibility that some other people might have been injured or killed. It does not relate to any other specific incidents, different from the one that is in question here. Thank you. I am told that Buyafuti was also the hostel that was attacked.
MR PADI: Thank you Mr Hlophe. Mr Hlophe, you are applying for amnesty for the incident that took place on the 23rd of April 1994 and the incident that took place on the 24th of April 1994, that is the hostel attacks of Mshyazafe and Buyafuti, is that correct?
MR HLOPHE: Actually on the 21st of April 1994, at that time, I was not residing at home, but I had fled to Vosloorus. There was a fight between hostel residents at Tokoza, the Mshyazafe hostel and the township residents. I had deployed my comrades at Zone 1, Mavimbela and other areas.
On my way to check on the comrades, I found all of them present, but they were complaining about the situation in Tokoza. We then had a discussion with the comrades wanting to enquire if we should go attack the hostel and I declined saying "no", we should follow certain procedures before we launch an attack and they listened to me.
On the 22nd, when I checked upon them again, they still insisted that we try and assist the people of Tokoza, and still I refused. On the 23rd, I agreed that we could go attack, but that we should check and conduct a surveillance of the situation, so we went there and we did, we found that there was a war going on. There were shots that were fired from the direction of the hostel and there were others that were fired from the township, towards the hostel, the Mshyazafe hostel.
I spoke to the ANC Chairperson in Tokoza and identified myself and we discussed that the situation was becoming unbearable because the people of Tokoza were armed with only knopkieries, because the war had been going on since the 21st. I then informed them that I had a certain machine that we could use to assist the people, and it was agreed that we should go to my home, or to my place.
MR HLOPHE: That is correct. I then went, took that rocket launcher and two rockets and then proceeded to Tokoza. The fighting was still going on. As we approached Tokoza, it became apparent that we could not reach our destination. We then turned back towards the garage.
MR HLOPHE: After speaking to the Chairperson there, I spoke to Mr Mqobese, who was a commander, he then gave me a car and he gave us a driver and I and other three comrades went to fetch the weapons, and when we returned we were using the same car and there were four of us.
MR HLOPHE: There were many commanders because there were different battalions. Tokoza had its own squad as well as Vosloorus had their own. Mr Mqobese was a commander at Tokoza, but he was not the only person who was in command.
MR HLOPHE: He then issued us with a vehicle and we fetched that rocket launcher and two rockets and on our way back, we discovered that the way to the hostel via the hospital, was blocked by soldiers. We then went towards the garage and that is how we proceeded to carry out the attack.
CHAIRPERSON: Where was this garage, you say on your way back you found soldiers having blocked a way, where was this way blocked because now I know you are from Vosloorus, where are you, where do you find this roadblock?
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Hlophe, you speak as if we know the area. When you tell us about the bridge, tell us where this bridge is situated, because I said to you we know you are from Vosloorus. Firstly where was the roadblock, because there must be a location where the roadblock was?
MR HLOPHE: It was not a roadblock, but there was a base where they were stationed, that was near the hospital. So we felt that if we go via there, we would be exposed to them, so we decided to use another road, which was far from their base.
CHAIRPERSON: You are still losing us, Mr Hlophe, because you are from Vosloorus, you tell us of the hospital, there must be locations for all this. I mean we cannot just say there was a hospital, where was this hospital and where was this bridge? We are lost?
MR HLOPHE: After we had launched the attack, many of the comrades were now approaching the hostel directly. The soldiers also then approached, firing at us. At that time, we tried to flee, we then took the launcher and proceeded to get into the car to flee.
MR HLOPHE: I only took two of my own battalion when we fled, because the car was already in motion and two were left behind. At that time the soldiers were firing heavily, and it was clear that we would either be arrested, or be killed.
MR HLOPHE: We did not pay him even a cent, we had just promised to raise the money to pay him. We were going to collect it from the community, but he was asking for too high a price. He wanted to take them from us, so we refused because if we had given them to him, he would have sold them to Inkatha, so we decided not to return them to him.
MR HLOPHE: No, I did not know him before. I only got to know him when he brought the weapons. When he approached us the first time, he did not have the weapons with him, but he was just looking for a buyer, that was the first time I got to know him.
MR PADI: Mr Hlophe, so far you have only told us about the incident that related to the 23rd of April and the attack of Mshyazafe hostel. Can you tell us about the incident that related to Buyafuthi hostel, which happened on the 24th?
MR HLOPHE: We did not get to hear of who was injured, but we did see damage to property because the rocket went straight into the hostel building itself from the side where the shots were coming from, but we didn't get to know what exactly happened after it had been launched.
MR PADI: Thank you. To follow up on that, Mr Hlophe, at the time you were preparing your rockets, at the time you prepared it, were you hiding behind something, were you shielding yourself against the bullets that were coming from the hostel, can you clarify that to the Committee? My question was did you shield yourself, how did you protect yourself, because you said that there were bullets, there were shootings that were coming from the hostel, so at the time when you were preparing your rocket, where did you hide yourself or how did you shield yourself from the bullets that were coming from the hostel?
MR HLOPHE: In fact, we did not approach directly in front of them, we approached from another angle. They were shooting towards an area called Penduga, but we approached from the side of the garage and I was being covered by my own soldiers as we went to the hostel.
JUDGE DE JAGER: A few moments ago you told us that you went in between the township where the comrades were shot at, the hostel owners were shooting at the comrades in the township, and you and your people went in between them, wasn't that so?
MR HLOPHE: Yes, the hostel is next to the township, it is very close to the township, they are just separated by Khumalo Street. When we approached from the Penduga side, we realised that we could not get in through that route, so we went around behind the garage, and we approached them from behind, where they were not looking. At that time, they were shooting directly towards Penduga. The comrades that they were fighting with, were straight ahead of them, but we crossed the street and went behind the garage, so that we could approach from another angle.
MR HLOPHE: I was with a comrade Mancani who is now late, and we went to Mozambique. He is the person who taught me there how to use a Bazooka. Thereafter we returned to Katlehong with comrade Mancani.
CHAIRPERSON: Not yet, you say you were with Mancani when you went to Mozambique. Did you find other people in Mozambique, because you said Mancani trained you, was he already trained when you left South Africa together?
CHAIRPERSON: I would appreciate if you were to listen Mr Hlophe, because we are trying to get clarification from you. At one stage I heard you to say that you were not a member of the ANC, you were a supporter, and subsequently when I asked you questions, you said "no, I was a member of the ANC", and now I am confused.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, a member would be a card carrying member, a person who has declared himself "I am a member of the ANC and I would go there", a supporter would be somebody probably like me and say "I like the ANC and I am happy for what they are doing, I support them and not participate in their activities", that would be a supporter.
MR HLOPHE: No. I have no certainty in that regard, because we did not go to Khotso House personally, and we would be getting those cards from the people who went to Khotso House and they would guide us as to how we conduct ourselves.
CHAIRPERSON: We would appreciate it if you would speak directly to us because the impression you gave us, is that you joined the ANC at Khotso House, which makes it a difference that people came into the township and said "we are from Khotso House and we want you to join the ANC", there is a big difference there, would you not agree with me?
MR HLOPHE: Yes, I must have made a mistake. I was just trying to explain how we obtained these cards. They would not have allowed me to go there directly, to approach them, because there was a lot of mistrust at that time, but those comrades were known to be members of the ANC, so they were trusted. At that time, this was done covertly.
MR HLOPHE: There were soldiers who were standing, or who used to stand up top a water tank at that hostel, when we approached at that time, we did not see them on that day. We assumed that they had gone inside to the hostel, so we went to Extension 2 in Tokoza and met other comrades there, and discussed a plan of getting to the hostel to attack that hostel. So the comrades agreed that they would cover us if we went to pick there up the weapon to attack, so our intention was to attack the SADF who were inside the hostel.
MR HLOPHE: Yes, there was a lot of fighting between those two groups. Some of the hostel residents would attack Ngadi Section, some would attack Tokoza itself. We felt that we could not approach from the Ngadi Section because there was heavy fighting going on there, so we approached from the Tokoza side.
JUDGE DE JAGER: But you approached it, you didn't see the soldiers, they were standing on the tank stand, and on that day there were no soldiers standing there, you didn't tell us that there were gunshots fired on that day?
MR HLOPHE: Well, I had not been questioned on that one. The reason that they were not on that water tank is because there was fighting going on and they had gone to lend their assistance to the hostel residents.
MR HLOPHE: It was one of my soldiers. I was around, taking cover. We had two rockets in that instance. On that instance, it was one of my soldiers who launched the rocket. I had a Macarov pistol and the rocket to take cover, and when he launched the rocket, he fell, he was injured, and therefore we had to take care of him, and could not launch the second rocket, and at that time, after the first rocket had been launched, there were people who were approaching from Section 2, so we had to flee.
CHAIRPERSON: I would love that you tell us directly what you did. Don't speak as if we know that you would put the vehicle that side, tell us this day, this is what happened. We got the rockets from where, how many were you, how you were armed, that is what we want to know. How you got to attack this hostel because as you speak, it is garbled, we don't follow what you are saying. Tell us from the beginning, how did it begin on this particular day, that is the 24th of April 1994?
MR HLOPHE: We were at Radebe Section, facing the onslaught from the hostel, and we realised that we could not approach nearer, so I took four of my soldiers, went in to a vehicle, a Sprinter, and we went around Phola Park to Extension 2. That is where we met comrades who had been protecting that area, those were SDU members, we met them and they said we should launch the attack from that side, because the other side was heavy.
We went to fetch the rocket launcher and two rockets, and firearms. We would use these firearms to take cover and to guard as we were preparing to launch the rocket. There were many of us, but just four of my own soldiers when we went to launch the attack. We were on Schoeman Road and we launched the attack from around there.
One of my comrades then launched the attack and after launching the first rocket, he fell. I realised that he was injured, I then dragged him from the scene and took him away from the scene for cover, and then we attempted to assemble everything and went into the vehicle to flee. We could not launch the second rocket, because at that time, the people from the hostel had already started firing back towards us. We just got into the vehicle and drove off.
MR HLOPHE: Yes, there were such calls, but the attempts that were made, were to no avail, because peace only came about after the elections, because even then, there was no trust between the parties, it took a while for that trust to develop.
MR MALAN: Mr Hlophe, the evidence that we have and it is also included in the report from the Truth Commission, is that the Peace Committee was very, very active on the East Rand, inclusive of Katlehong, Vosloorus monitoring the situation, moving in the streets, talking between the parties taking place, you see, our difficulty is, we have no record that what you are telling us, indeed even happened, we could not trace any reference to that anywhere. You are telling us, you are giving us a story, which to me says "this is all-out war, people are shooting at each other, day in, day out, in the middle of the day, defending yourselves, using rocket launchers and rockets." You know nothing about even a call for peace, let alone the activity of the Peace Committee at that stage. Did you know anything about the Peace Committee? Did you know that there was a peace initiative, Peace Committing, operating on the East Rand?
MR HLOPHE: Yes, I knew that there was a Peace Committee, that was based near the hospital, that was making attempts for peace at the township, but they were just as good as not being there, because people were killed day in and day out in their presence. Yes, there was a Peace Committee.
MR HLOPHE: We would tell them that there should be attempts made to stop the war going on. At some instance, some members of the Peace Committee were shot at because there was a lot of mistrust, they seemed to be siding with the ANC. The situation in Katlehong was very bad, because even if you went to try and intervene, you might be killed. There was no trust between these two parties, the IFP and the ANC, even within the Peace Committee.
MR HLOPHE: I spoke to Robert McBride at the office, informed him that I had weapons that I wanted removed. He told me I should take them to the police, I asked him how and he informed me that he will send people who will fetch them from me, if I am uncomfortable taking them to the police because I feared that I would be arrested along the way to the police if I took them myself.
MR HLOPHE: That was after I had that discussion with him as to what to do with that material and he suggested that I take them to the police. I asked him how, I told him that I could not take them myself to the police and he said he was going to send people to fetch them, and indeed the people arrived. There were two of them.
MR MALAN: Did they tell you that McBride sent them? Sorry, I didn't hear that you were continuing and I didn't get an interpretation. What was the last statement that you made, I didn't want to interrupt you, I am sorry Mr Hlophe.
MR HLOPHE: They were in private clothing and I questioned them, "how do I know you are the police" and that is when they produced their cards. Then I realised that indeed they were the police, so I fetched the weapons and I handed them over to them. They could not have been able to enter that Section in their uniform.
MR MALAN: Why not, this was after the election, there was a new government in power, it was three months after the election at least, that was your evidence, why could they not have entered in uniform?
MR HLOPHE: There was still mistrust at the time, it took a while for a relationship to develop between the police and the residents. He would have been disturbed or attacked even when he sat his foot on the township, if he was in uniform.
MR PADI IN ARGUMENT: Thank you Mr Chair. We have heard from the evidence of Mr Hlophe, that he is a card carrying member of the ANC, and that he was a member of the ANC at the time of the incident for which he is applying for amnesty.
MR PADI: Thank you. From his evidence we also learn that he was a member of the Self Defence Unit, which was set up by the African National Congress and he was even a commander, he was a commander of the SDU. During the time of the incidents in question, that was the time when there was conflict in the areas of the East Rand, mainly between the IFP and the ANC. Mr Hlophe committed the incidents in question acting as a commander of the SDU and in pursuance of the ideals of the African National Congress and of the SDU's which were set up, which had the main function of among others, protecting the people and ensuring that the African National Congress gets as much support as possible, especially since it was the time of approaching the elections.
MR PADI: I am indebted to you, Mr Chair. I wish to state that there were some irregularities in the evidence of Mr Hlophe, but I submit that the irregularities which came up, were not, did not relate particularly to the incident, were relating to other issues which were not material to the application of Mr Hlophe. I further submit that Mr Hlophe complied with all the requirements of the Act for the granting of amnesty, in that his acts were associated with a political objective, he was doing his acts as a commander of the SDU. I further submit that Mr Hlophe made a full disclosure relating to the incidents for which he is applying for amnesty.
MR PADI: No, that was not the policy of the ANC, but in establishing the SDU's, it was the policy of the ANC that people should defend themselves. So at the time of the committing of the incidents, these were done in protecting the people which was well in accordance with the policy of the ANC at the time.
I further submit that these acts were committed in the time period which is stipulated by the Act. I therefore request the Honourable Committee to grant amnesty to Mr Hlophe for the incident of launching rockets at Mshyazafe hostel on the 23rd of April 1994 and for the incident of commanding that a rocket be launched at Buyafuthi hostel on the 24th of April 1994. That is all, thank you.
MR PADI: That did not come out clear in his evidence, Your Worship, but what was clear was that whatever it is that was done at the time, was done in the view of seeing to it that the people are protected and that - sorry, the shooting between the hostel and the resident people, is brought to a stop.
JUDGE DE JAGER: Yes, but he is applying for amnesty for attempted murder, I am just thinking about it. He didn't give any evidence that he indeed attempted to kill somebody, by the nature of the attack, shouldn't one foresee that people could have been injured and should we grant amnesty, that is really the question, should we grant amnesty for attempted murder or the planning of a murder or murders, conspiracy to murder?
MR PADI: It is true that one could have foreseen that in launching a rocket at a place where there are people, people may die as a result of that, and people may be injured as a result of that. Now the application for amnesty arises from that incident of launching rockets and all other crimes which may emanate from the launching of the rocket, so I request the Honourable Committee to grant him amnesty for any other crime which may come as a result of him launching the rockets at the hostels.
MR PADI: Yes, that is correct. What creates the problem is that the victims here, are not known, so it is difficult for one to say that we are applying for the murder of so and so, or for the injury or attempted murder of so and so, but however, we say that should it happen because it has been foreseen that people could have been injured or killed in the process, should at any stage, they come up, we find that we will have cured that by applying for amnesty for that, at this stage.
CHAIRPERSON: But if I listen to the evidence, it is that Mr Hlophe wanted just abatement of the attacks that emanated from the hostel, not that he had foreseen that people could be injured in the process of the rocket launchers?
MR PADI: That was his evidence Honourable Chair. Emanating from his evidence, when one launches a rocket at a place where there are people, it goes without saying that people will be injured or will be hurt, it is not unforeseeable that things like those may happen. Hence in the submission, I request the Honourable Committee to take into account things like those and grant him amnesty for other crimes which may have emanated from his conduct.
CHAIRPERSON: With the evidence before us, I can see that we might, if we do, grant amnesty for any delictual action that may flow from that, but we've got a slight problem in that we don't have evidence before us because we cannot assume that he would have foreseen without evidence, that people might have been injured in the process, because we've got to have evidence before us for that.
MR PADI: That is correct Mr Chair, but from the evidence which is before the Committee, the evidence which is before the Committee is that Mr Hlophe launched rockets at the hostel, he knew very well that there were people living there and he knew for a fact at the time of the incident, that there were people there. In doing that, it is not unforeseeable that people might get injured or killed in the process, hence we include the amnesty application to extend to crimes which may have happened as a result of him launching the rockets at the hostel.
CHAIRPERSON: Are you rather not saying that because there was fighting between two groups of people and a rocket was launched in the direction of the other group, that is probably foreseen? Are you not probably saying that because it would appeal to me probably if you would put it that way?
MS THABETHE: Mr Chair, I have no submissions, except maybe to say that the Committee has evidence before it, not opposing in any way and I would have no objections if amnesty were to be granted to the applicant.