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Type AMNESTY HEARING
Starting Date 04 June 1998
Names PETRUS LODEWYKUS DU TOIT
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, an application for amnesty by the Applicant for any illegal or unlawful act or omission by him in regard to the death and the later disposal and cover up of the death of Mr Stanza Bopape. Mr Chairman, just a few matters of householding importance, if I may before we commence. The Application of Mr Du Toit, of General Du Toit, you will find at Page 138 of Volume 1 and I have some amendments which I wish to move Mr Chairman.
MR VISSER: It is in fact a "k" Mr Chairman. Thank you Mr Chairman. It must be a "k", as on the Application form. The Application form is correct. Mr Chairman, the second amendment is again the one in Paragraph 7(a) which should read, Nationale Party and (b) which should read "supporter", those are the only amendments which I wish to move. Thank you Mr Chairman. And I would ask you to grant those amendments.
CHAIRPERSON: I take it there is no objection to those? Thank you Mr Visser then Paragraph 4 of the Application form is amended by deleting the second "0" as it appears in the identity number and substituting that with a "6" and deleting the "nie van toepassing" in both paragraphs 7(a) and (b) of the Application form and in 7(a) substituting it with the words "Nationale Party" and in 7(b) the word "supporter".
MR VISSER: May it please you Mr Chairman. Mr Chairman then lastly, in order to attempt further to assist in saving time, bearing in mind that weíre only here until Wednesday next week and bearing in mind the number of witnesses which it is envisaged will still be called to give evidence, we have made available to you what is basically our consultation notes Mr Chairman.
General Du Toit has signed your copies and he will confirm the contents under oath. Perhaps Mr Chairman this being thus the case we could go over the general background very briefly in his case if you will allow me to do so because obviously thereís a great measure of similarity about this. They all came basically from the same situation.
MR VISSER: In your Application on Page 143 of Volume 1 you asked the Committee to incorporate some of the documentation which is already in the possession of the Committee and refer to the same documents as those referred to by Erasmus and Van Der Merwe and then also the submission of Van Der Merwe of the 21st October in the amnesty application of Brigadier Jack Cronje and four others is not true?
MR VISSER: You listened to the evidence of General Van Der Merwe or which handled or dealt with the time span when the struggle was reigning in our countryís past and specifically 1988 and I want to ask you are there aspects concerning that evidence with which you differ or are you satisfied to comply with that evidence of General Van Der Merwe both in his evidence in chief as well in the cross questioning?
MR VISSER: General Du Toit, on Page 1 of "Exhibit R" you set out your career in the South African Police and to summarise, on the 22nd December 1955 you joined the South African Police and on the 28th February 1994 you retired from the police with pension, is that correct?
MR VISSER: The time span which is now important, 1988 would that be 2.12 on Page 1, you became a Colonel. In 1987 and you were promoted to second in command, that means the deputy divisional commander of the Witwatersrand, that happened in 1987?
MR VISSER: And is it correct that I understand from you that you, the same as General Van Der Merwe and Erasmus, you grew up in a very similar milieu and similar circumstances. That is to say in a conservative Afrikaans household. You were members of the Dutch Reformed Church and supporters of the National Party?
MR VISSER: You also said in the notes, this is now from "Exhibit R" in paragraph 3.6, you said that your parents were supporters of the National Party and of course they were supporters of the apartheid regime and you didnít see anything wrong with that and thatís the way you were brought up?
MR VISSER: And the same as General Van Der Merwe and Erasmus you had the experience that there werenít really any important people in your life. Now in the circumstances you were growing up who criticised the policy?
MR DU TOIT: Iíll do that. I grew up in the aftermath of the second world war where the political emotions between the Nats and the SAPS was very high. I did not grow up with the perception that there was a black nationalistic political problem. A person adapts to what you experience since birth. In later years when black nationalism came to the front I started becoming aware of that.
It was still not in my experience that there was a one-sided and a complete condemnation of the governmentís apartheidís policy. There were different opinions about that. Important people reverends, teachers, politicians defended this policy in public and they justified it as well. Most of the people I came into contact with believed in this policy and also supported it. I experienced the apartheid policy as that of separate development and not a situation of suppression. For me the colour of a personís skin did not play any important role.
MR VISSER: General, you joined the police and now I would like to ask you, your working circumstances did it create an impression with you and certain experiences you had, certain incidences you came face to face with and now you were supporting the government at that time and did these experiences enforce your belief in the government and apartheid?
MR VISSER: And concerning these personal experiences youíve given us examples in Paragraph 4. You said that, in 4.1 you were involved with certain sensational trials. For example, Mombares and the ...[inaudible] trial. In which capacity were you involved in these trials?
MR DU TOIT: I read, very few acts of terror in the Witwatersrand to which I was not exposed, the Ellis Park car bomb, the Wits commandment car bomb. I was in the building myself when the bomb exploded and I believed it was aimed at the commandment and who was in the building and also the magistrateís court bomb and that was also in 1987 and thatís just to mention a few. In the Witwatersrand we had as many as four acts of terror in one week.
Chairperson, as far as the magistrateís court bomb, was one of the acts of terror which touched one the most deepest. I observed and I saw policemen who were killed, who were seriously injured. One specific incident that will always stay with me was one policeman who was seriously injured. He was shot full of holes and the weak, after he left he received 97 pints of blood.
MR DU TOIT: No, the one in Johannesburg. And that was in 1987. I continue, in these incidents people were injured. For example in the Ellis Park bomb the man was still alive when I got to him. He was very seriously burnt and he later died and a lot of people were seriously injured there.
MR DU TOIT: In most of those cases it was limpet mine explosions. During the struggle of the past where a lot of people were dead or died and were injured and a lot of damage was done to property because of the behaviour of radicals who attacked the apartheid policy this caused the general policemen to motivate to support the system even more.
Even if it was only indirectly in the execution of his duties in order to maintain law and order and to maintain internal security. We as policemen felt that we were the last line of defence against total anarchy and chaos. Later in my career I had access to publications of radical organisations, for example, the ANC, PAC and other organisations.
The aggressiveness and the encitation towards violence once again enforced our idea that we had to fight the revolutionary onslaught with everything within our power. Since 1993 the revolutionary struggle got more intense and since 1985 the unrest also increased. I want to place it in perspective that me, as a policeman, did not see the execution of my duties as colour selection.
I also believed that was the opinion of most of my colleagues. We saw our duty as the maintenance of law and order and the protection of all races and groups of the communities against violence and intimidation.
MR VISSER: If I can just stop you there General. Now we have the idea that you as a policeman is supposed to and also forced by law and should be seen as acting legally and in order to maintain peace within the country and at the same time you were placed in the dilemma, as we know in the case of Bopape where you were forced to act illegally. How do you feel about this dilemma you found yourself in?
MR VISSER: Yes maybe thatís not quite correct. Letís say when you actually did act illegally. This contradiction, why would you say that happened? If you look at the circumstances in which you were working.
MR DU TOIT: The circumstances Chairperson under which we worked and also the revolutionary onslaught against us which knew no limits, and which did not follow any rules or regulations necessitated us to act the way we did in certain extraordinary circumstances.
MR DU TOIT: Certainly. The members of the South African Police in execution of their duties as policemen and women had no reason to criticise the State and Government which they were forced to serve and to protect.
MR VISSER: The rest of the paragraphs are very much the same as the previous witnesses, you conclude that paragraph by saying that your practical experiences and all the other aspects youíve mentioned touched you very deeply to such an extent that you did everything within your power to fight against the revolutionary onslaught. Is that not correct?
MR VISSER: As far as the pressure on you to solve problems were concerned, the Human Rights Committee as well as the Amnesty Committee theyíve heard evidence pertaining to that quite often and today there canít be any doubt that you guys who were in management positions received a lot of pressure from above within your own divisions and also from politicians, is that not correct?
MR VISSER: And I would like to get to the facts concerning the death of Stanza Bopape and your specific role regarding this. Can you just tell us exactly how you became involved in it and what your role was? Maybe Iíll just give you a bit of guidance. Were you the person who spoke to Stanza Bopape and who detained him according to Section 29?
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson I can recall it well that I arrested him and detained him. The facts which I had concerning his detention with regard to the notification and which such detainee must sign and the requirement was that the Act of which he was suspected of having committed should be told to the person. I cannot remember the exact wording thereof.
MR VISSER: Just to make it a bit more understandable and to place it in a more comprehensive context, if you will allow me Chairperson. We handed you a document which is a copy of the old Section 29 on the Law of Internal Security, itís got a 36 on the right side of the page and another document which contains Section 54. The documents did not receive exhibit numbers, they were handed in on the basis of authority.
In order to correct the whole question of the applicability of what we have here in terms of 29 and 54 of Law 74 of 1982. I understand that in 1988 certain amendments were made to this Act or am I wrong?
MR VISSER: I am wrong Chairperson. The documents you have in front of you now were exactly the same way they were in 1988. I was under the wrong impression so this is exactly the way they were in 1988. Chairperson I realised that Sub Section 2 of Section 54 in these copies we have is amended.
MR VISSER: Clearly you are correct Mr Chairman. My second statement was also incorrect and that is that the Section 54 was apparently not the way it read in 1988. That must be the position. General can you just tell us, according to your memory. Mr Chairman may I first of all point out that we have not been able to obtain that old Section 54 anywhere. The police certainly canít help us with it and I have not been able to find it in our law library either.
Itís one of those things but Mr Du Toit can perhaps tell us in what sense, according to his recollection it varied from what you have in front of you today. Can you just do that for us General? If you look at Section 54.
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, Sub Section 1, except for (d), I cannot remember the amendment there. Sub Section 2, I cannot recall what it entailed, detention according to Section 29 for offences refers to Section 1, 2 and 4 were the only offences according to which a person could be kept under Section 29 but really Chairperson I cannot remember Sub Section 2 and what exactly it entailed.
MR VISSER: One of the important amendments concerned the period of detention and the visits by the magistrate. Itís a question of legal arguments but there was an amendment concerning the capacity of the ...[inaudible] with which you could have kept arrested and kept in detention. This is whatís in front of us in Section 29(1), is that not correct?
"For interrogation, while notwithstanding anything to the contrary and any Law or a Common Law contained but subject to the provisions of Sub Section 3, any commissioned officer as defined in Section 1 of the Police Act 1958 of or above the rank of lieutenant colonel may, if he has reason to believe that any person who happens to be at any place in the Republic, (a) has committed or intends, or intended to commit an offence referred to in Section 54(1), (2) and (4) excluding in the case of an offence referred to in Section 54(4), such an offence which the suspect committed or intends or intended to commit in connection with a person subjected of having intended to commit or having committed the offence of sabotage or (b) is withholding from the South African Police any information relating to the commission of an offence referred to in paragraph (a) or relating to an intended commission of such offence or relating to any person who has committed or who intends to commit such an offence, without warrant, arrest such person or cause him to be arrested and detained such person or cause him to be detained for interrogation in accordance with such directions as the Commissioner may subject to the discretion of the Minister from time to time issue until (1) the Commissioner orders his release when satisfied that the person has satisfactorily replied to all questions at the interrogation or that no useful purpose will be served by a further detention in terms of the provisions of the section."
And then thereís a proviso how this was regulated. In other words we have the situation here that you had reasonable suspicion or you had to have reasonable suspicion that he would be a person who did commit an offence or had intention to commit an offence or that he had information pertaining to what the law addresses here and that he does not want to give that information then you could arrest such a person and detain him until he has given satisfactory answers to all questions. Am I right there?
MR VISSER: If I could just say to the satisfaction of the Commissioner and Sub Section 3 of Section 29 made provision for the fact that he could be detained for thirty days from the day of his arrest or the exception of when the Minister gets written permission that he can be detained longer and that is for reasons that you had to give?
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, the impression that I had was that we had to follow the strict regulations of the Law and in many cases the indications of the judges from the higher courts had to be noticed and had to act in strict accordance to that with the detention of persons ...[inaudible] Section 29.
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, there were discussions with Colonel Van Niekerk and possibly with the other interrogators, deputy officer Mostert, Engelbrecht, possibly looked at their notes but it is normal practise that you had to take notice of all the facts that you had available at that stage in terms of such a person that you wanted to detain.
MR VISSER: You are not on trial here because you detained Mr Bopape but can you just conclude that you have listened to the testimony of Colonel At Van Niekerk and others who testified what Mr Bopape was suspected of in June 1988. Would this agree with the type of facts that you had to be aware of to when I believe to detain him in terms of Section 29?
MR VISSER: Before he was detained in terms of Section 29 there was also an allegation in these pieces that he was detained before that in terms of Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Act, do you recall that?
MR DU TOIT: On the 10th June 1988 Chairperson during the late afternoon while during interrogation by deputy Mostert I, the facts came to me in terms of Bopape and I spoke to Bopape. I informed him that his detention in terms of Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
MR VISSER: Excuse me if I could just interrupt you. Mr Chairman I see that thereís a paragraph with a wrong number. We are now at page 13, if you were confused as to where we were, Iím sorry I didnít realise that I said 6 but itís 7. It should read 7, page 13. Excuse me General, please continue. You have to please repeat, the afternoon of the 10th June you said during the late afternoon while Mostert and Engelbrecht were interrogating Bopape at some stage the facts came to you in terms of Bopape and you addressed him, that is what you just said now?
MR DU TOIT: I informed him that his detention in terms of Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Act was to be ended and he was arrested in terms of Section 29 of the Act of Internal Security. Just to clarify in this case this person would not be addressed by myself if only the interrogators would be present and a person would be asked if he wanted an interpreter. I cannot remember if we used an interpreter in this matter. I can also not remember who the other members were who were present.
MR DU TOIT: The reason for the acts was the following in terms of his detention I had reason to believe firstly that Bopape was a trained terrorist, secondly that Bopape was a member of Mapongo Group that were responsible for explosions in Pretoria and also that Bopape was probably, had a part in terrorist attacks in the Vaal triangle and Pretoria.
MR VISSER: Annexure B appears just after Page 6. Oh well I see there are more than one Page 6, I have a problem with the sixes today. Itís close to the end of the document, about five or six pages from the end of the document. And you then to keep it as brief as possible, you completed the necessary forms and you spoke to him and asked him certain personal information and you completed the document and afterwards he was detained in terms of Section 29?
MR DU TOIT: That is correct. I would just like to point out also that with Annexure B as far as I can remember it was not in the same form and during judgment in a high court there was an amendment made and if I can recall correctly it was after sub paragraph B there was a space left and the instruction was that we had to give briefly the reasons for detention in this form, in written form.
MR VISSER: So what you are saying that Annexure B as it was in 1988 is not the same as the one that we have before us now. It had a space where you had to give reasons on the basis that you gave notice that you have reasonable suspicion that he was a person who was described in Section 29 1(a). In Mr Bopapeís case he was a person in terms of (a) or (b) of Section 29 or both?
MR VISSER: I know you cannot recall in this particular case but could you tell the Committee in your experience, or let me ask you this, was Mr Bopape the only person that you detained in terms of Section 29 or were there others? In your experience as a police officer?
MR VISSER: Can you just give us an idea? How long this process took from when the person sits before you speak to him, on average, how long did it take? And I do not want to speak of exceptions but the normal average case?
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, on Sunday 12 June 1988 in the evening General Gerrit Erasmus who was then Brigadier contacted me telephonically and requested to come to his office at John Vorster where our offices were and I attended a meeting in Brigadier Erasmusí office where the following were present. Myself, Brigadier Erasmus, Major At Van Niekerk and Captain Zeelie.
MR VISSER: Excuse me General, I would just like to come back. These are consultation notes. I know that the language you people use, please just explain to us in discussion with head office people who do not know your language would probably mean something else. What do you mean with headquarters?
MR DU TOIT: I was informed that it was arranged with Brigadier Visser of Middelburg to accept the body and to dispose of it and it was also arranged that I would be informed after the mock escape was completed so that I can visit the scene to report on this escape.
MR VISSER: Weíve heard from General Van Der Merwe and Erasmus that it was a bad time in this particular case because it was so close to Soweto Day and there was already, made many arrangements for mass actions and marches during the year of 1988?
MR DU TOIT: The body was if I could recall correctly on the main floor. The corpse was on the ground. It was covered and as far as I can remember with a blanket. He was lying on his side, on his back, as far as I can recall he was on his back, stretched out. He was dressed.
MR VISSER: If you for example now found that the body did have marks or bruises indicating, for example a broken arm or leg indicating torture. Would that have influenced you to act against these members?
MR DU TOIT: With regards to the further developments in this case, yes. It was agreed that a mock escape would be arranged by Major Van Niekerk and that they would notify me as soon as it was completed. As in all circumstances I would go out and visit the scene.
MR DU TOIT: That is correct Chairperson. Detainees according to Section 29 were to us a very serious issue and maybe because of that if anything abnormal happened then a senior officer would go to that scene to learn the facts because he had certain responsibilities and duties to perform. For example to set up a report firstly. To orally and by telephone to report the service officer in head office and then he would notify for example the commissioner, it would depend on circumstances and then also the local divisional commissioner and everybody else who had to know.
MR DU TOIT: It was practise that we would also write a report if there was an escape and the escape docket would be done by the detective branch but we would also give our head office the particulars of the escape.
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, if the person escaped from the detention of members in the Witwatersrand we would write a separate report or it would happen in co-operation with the Eastern Transvaal and then I wouldnít visit the scene but it would be another senior officer from that specific department.
MR VISSER: Was it also part of your duties to make sure that a dossier was opened and that the local branch of the police where this escape took place be notified or was that someone elseís responsibility?
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, no it was not my responsibility to open a dossier. It would ours to notify the detective branch and then it would be the responsibility of the relevant personnel to open a docket.
MR DU TOIT: Thatís correct Chairperson. The scene and the vehicle from which the escape would have taken place was still in the same position when I visited it and the members did the necessary pointing out to me.
MR VISSER: In Paragraph 6.9, you said that you contacted the service officer and that you gave him all the information concerning the escape? All I want to ask of you was this, after you went to the scene of the crime or before?
MR VISSER: Afterwards you participated in making it seem real that the escape took place. Letís conclude this now. Were you present when the discussions took place to which General Erasmus referred when the father of Stanza Bopape visited John Vorster Square?
MR VISSER: What I want to ask you is, according to your memory, can you remember that whole issue concerning the escape was discussed with these people. Now was this discussion between you and Erasmus on the one side and the father of Stanza Bopape and his attorneys on the other side?
MR DU TOIT: Yes. If I remember correctly. Itís now early hours of the morning after we concluded everything there. I asked Major Van Niekerk to write a memorandum regarding this incident in order to inform head office about what happened.
MR VISSER: You set out in Paragraph 8 why you decided to participate in this and we spoke about it a little bit and you confirmed that in your case it was also the motivation why you thought it would be the correct thing to do at that stage.
MR VISSER: Now letís go to Paragraph 9. Maybe if I can do this, Chairperson itís a bit out of context. Thereís a statement, an affidavit of Volume 3 of a certain Mr Beke Nkosi or Simon Nkosi as he was also known and itís on Page 652 and may we just sketch the background of the pages that go beforehand.
In his affidavit he said how he was arrested together with Stanza Bopape on the 9th June and how he was detained in Roodepoort Police cells together with Stanza Bopape and how he after Stanza Bopape was removed he was also transported to Johannesburg and then we get to Page 652 on Monday the 13th June and we know Chairperson, if we look at Page 56 at the top, he said that he went to Court and then it was decided not to take him to Court, he was not taken to Court, he was taken back by Syverts and Joe.
And then Paragraph 60 of that document he says that he was questioned regarding a list of names and between 1.45 and 2.15 he was informed that he was going to be detained in terms of Section 29 and then from Paragraph 61 onwards he refers to a police colonel then entered and explained the rights of a Section 29 detainee to me.
MR VISSER: Okay. If we can then return to Paragraph 9 of your notes which is "Exhibit R". In Volume 3, on Page 756, an affidavit of a certain Mr John Motomele Mokoleng and he told a long story which Iím not going to repeat, Iím sure it will be handled later. What I would like to know of you is what did you personally have to do with of the allegations concerning this Mokoleng? Could you just tell us about that?
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, yes. I was involved with that together with Krappies Engelbrecht. It brief, it was concerned with the person who made allegations about graves and if I remember correctly that one of these graves in the Rustenberg vicinity was marked with the name Stanza Bopape.
MR DU TOIT: Chairperson, the people pointed out certain places where these graves would then be and after quite an effort and we went here and there and eventually he pointed out a specific place and we arranged for mechanical spades, the ones you dig holes with and we got hold of that in the afternoon and we started digging in the evening at this place where the graves then would have been and it was pointed out. But we didnít find anything.
MR DU TOIT: There was this one place and there was another one at a police station in the Western Transvaal. I think it was Fochville but Iím not 100% sure, it was one of the smaller police stations where he also pointed out and specifically the grounds around the police station and said that people were also buried there.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, the reference to that is at Page 759, Paragraph 6.17 and 6.18 of Volume 3. Before you step away from this, I just want to know one more thing. Can you just give us an image. You go now with mechanical machinery and you start to dig. Would that mean that Mokoleng would say here exactly is a grave and that you only had to dig exactly the size of a grave, you would only dig there and then you would go away or what exactly happened? Did you dig up more than you were pointed out?
MR VISSER: General Du Toit, Iím going to conclude this evidence in chief. The Chairperson gave us permission yesterday that if we can later think of anything else we could go back to that but I think that the arrangement was now that we present your evidence in chief as well as that of Mr Erasmus and to give Mr Rautenbach the best of opportunities to prepare himself for the cross questioning. To conclude that of General Van Der Merwe and then also to cross question yourself if you wanted to do that.
Then to conclude with regards to the notes youíve handed in in order to assist the Committee so that everything would not be repeated again. As far as you did not repeat it word for word you can do it now and you confirm the correctness of "Exhibit R"?
CHAIRPERSON: No I realise that Mr Steenkamp, itís not your fault at all. Mr Rautenbach youíll obviously have to have time to peruse those documents to prepare yourself for the cross examination of all three generals who have given evidence and also Mr Prinsloo and Ms Van Der Walt will need time to peruse them to decide whether they have any further questions to put to the generals who have testified.
Iím told that the volumes are fairly voluminous, the papers that are to come, that have been referred to in each of these applications. It would seem that perhaps the way to go at this stage would then be to adjourn for the day now. Iím told by Mr Steenkamp that the documents only arrived from Cape Town late last night at half past ten or something and then copies had to be made and that they should be here at 11.
Hopefully they will be and Iíd ask you please if you could wait to get them or make arrangements to get them as soon as possible and then would you be in a position to, itís difficult for you to say but do you think you may be in a position to commence tomorrow with the cross examination of General Van Der Merwe?
MR RAUTENBACH: Judge I think I will be in a position to start with the cross examination. I can actually take it one step further and say that even if the documents arrive later, Iím still going to do my best to be able to proceed tomorrow morning. So I think at this stage one can accept that the plan will be that I will start tomorrow morning with the cross examination.
CHAIRPERSON: Well, whether youíve got any further cross examination of General Van Der Merwe but if, I think what we will try to do tomorrow is, well what we will do tomorrow, Mr Prinsloo and Ms Van Der Walt, do you think youíd be in a position to be ready tomorrow? Is that weíd commence the cross examination, the further cross examination of General Van Der Merwe, if indeed there is any arising out of these documents and then after that, with the cross examination of General Erasmus and then General Du Toit.
I donít know if weíll complete that tomorrow because tomorrow I have already informed the legal representatives who will be adjourning at lunch time because we have to catch aeroplanes. So unfortunately then at this stage, because of these circumstances we have no option but to adjourn this matter until tomorrow at half past nine. So we adjourn until tomorrow in this hall at half past nine. Thank you.
FURTHER CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR RAUTENBACH: Mr Van der Merwe, I've gone through these documents that forms part of your application and there was a limited time in the light thereof, I would sometimes ask questions that were actually in some instances just to clarify some things and in other instances I would just like to refer you to parts of your testimony, and could you confirm that. And I would like to concentrate on certain items which could be relevant to these specific procedures concerning the Stanza Bopape incident.
The first annexure to your testimony or statement was the application of Gerrit Erasmus and following on was the establishment before the law and that it would come out of the book, the other side of the story.
MR RAUTENBACH: Am I correct furthermore to say that during the years 80 the general, and the early 90's he was called occasionally in criminal procedures of political activists where he told the Court from the police's side what the ANC was and what they stood for?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, it was following up on the request that we received from the legal representatives from Brig Jack Cronjť and other members who applied for amnesty at that stage in terms of certain misdeeds that they were guilty of, and I volunteered to give testimony at their hearings in terms of aspects that played a part in the influence of the situation that moved them to do these acts.
MR RAUTENBACH: And this particular submission that you made - and I would just like an explanation, I would just like to ask you, your reference to yourself, to the hand grenades that was tampered with, to have them explode, that's what you referred to and then you referred to Khotso House where the instruction came from Min Vlok who said he received it from PW Botha to destroy Khotso House. Is that correct?
MR RAUTENBACH: And then General I would just like to take you to the testimony that you submitted. The page number that I have before me in the bundle that I have is pg 81. That would be it seems to be the first part of your testimony. This was during the Cronjť amnesty application. On pg 81 the following you said, and why I ask it of you: it's once again a translation. What you said in Afrikaans was translated into English and at this stage I would just like to read sections of it to you.
MR RAUTENBACH: The paragraph that I would like to refer to you is the following: I would just like to read it to you and I'd like to hear if you want to confirm this. We speak of persons when we refer to divisional commanders, among others Gen Erasmus.
"(Indistinct) areas, and within those areas he was quite independent, subject to the Police Act and regulations and standing orders. Because we were all part of the South African Police, and rules and regulations issued by headquarters from time to time, and also the security branch headquarters. Apart from these it was also the divisional commanding officer's responsibility that all security aspects within their areas were dealt with. They also had to co-ordinate all the activities under their command according to the rules and regulations issue. But because security activities were of such a nature that you could hardly issue regulations to deal with each and every incident and situation, a lot of discretion was left to these divisional commanders."
"I'll refer to the fact that instructions were received or given. Now from whom were these instructions received? Who did you receive your instructions from?"
"Apart from the (indistinct) in terms of the Police Act and regulations, our instructions normally came from the State Security Council. What I would like to emphasise that in respect of all instructions coming from the State Security Council, all these instructions fell within the ambit of the Law. Instructions from the State Security Council as far as I am aware were never extra-legal by nature. But if you go and look at the system this is a bit difficult to explain."
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson. There is also testimony that was given that the general policy was as far as it is action against terrorists outside the country, we were bound to what happened in the country. But in terms of what happened in the country yes, I confirm it.
"You did not say that there were such specific instructions to act beyond the boundaries of the Law. But you also gave testimony in the case of the hand grenade events or incidents. This was the case, that there were actions beyond the boundaries of the Law. And you also gave testimony that outside the borders of South Africa there were actions beyond the scope of the Law. Don't you consider it possible that there might have been instructions of which you might not have been aware, but that there might have been instructions that came from the State Security Council or from institutions immediately beneath the State Security Council through the joint management system, that police officers under those circumstances might have been instructed to act in ways beyond the normal legal system in a pro-active manner?"
"Mr Chair, I don't think it's possible, or at least it is highly unlikely. South Africa would have been much worse off than it is now if it had happened that the ordinary police officer would have been under the impression that he could simply act as he pleased to counteract the offensive. Then things would have been far worse than these cases now at hand."
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, that is correct. But once again we have to read it with what I had explained, that there was confusion amongst the people, that there was a grey area. There were certain perceptions, and there I deal with the factual situation. I do not deal with the subjective situation.
MR RAUTENBACH: If we could just stop a moment here, it seems to me if you can agree with me what you are actually saying, you say without there being instructions forthcoming from the government and without instructions coming from the Commissioner of Police, the perception was there by your divisional commanders - I'm speaking of persons in the position of Gen Erasmus - divisional commanders, that these divisional commanders as with members at grass roots level there was a perception that caused them to act as they did?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson yes, let's just distinguish here. There was of course several instances that were irregular. And during that trial I put it, that's why I referred to examples of the hand grenades where the Minister was involved himself; he gave his approval of such an irregular incident. I explained the Khotso House where it was told to me the State President gave his approval for that. And in certain instances from the government side it was expected from members to act irregular, that was clear. And at that opportunity I explained you had to look at the common person who was exposed to gruesome incidents where in those circumstances he had to try to fight against a majority and he had to act super-humanly to protect people. There was no doubt there, what did the government expect of him and in those circumstances what is expected of him to do his duty and to protect people's lives. So surrounding this there were perceptions that if the government in the one instance expect me to act in this manner then we would think that there were other circumstances that would be expected of him, to use my own initiative where I am confronted with a certain situation and how I have to deal with it.
MR RAUTENBACH: Then many of these actions which were irregular were done that there was no permission, if it was expressive or published, but because of the fact that certain instructions were given by the government to act unlawfully, that you say that people had the perception that they could act accordingly?
MR RAUTENBACH: On pg 110 - I'm not going to read the whole answer to you, just at the bottom you were asked over a specific incident and then you give a general answer at the bottom of the page. In general you say
"In any case where an impression had been given from the side of the government, and I'm talking in terms of gross human rights violations - not other incidents, but with regard to gross human rights violations where people died and so on - I gained the impression that government would not simply have let such incident go without investigation."
MR RAUTENBACH: Then there was testimony - that's on pg 309 it seems to me - yes, this was a continuation of those procedures that took place there on the 27th of February, can I just ask you the following. This is pg 309. I'll just place it in context for you. I would like to put the question to you as well; it was a question put to you by Brian Caledon and the question was
"What I am trying to now understand - and maybe you can help me general - is in a way you are saying that one has to take into consideration the subjective mind of the policemen at the time. The perpetrator, the circumstances that prevailed, what had been said by politicians at round about that time, and weigh up his actions in that context. There are many uncertainties around that as far as I'm concerned. Were there any implied guidelines, any criteria that you can possibly refer to which would help us to understand when a security policeman in that situation is going beyond implied authority that there may have been? Is there anything that you can help us to identify those sorts of guidelines that you think would have been there by implication?"
"Mr Chairman, definitely not. Over and above saying to you that in all circumstances one was to consider what the exceptional approach would be of a certain member, and what made him act like that. Because as I said to you, there was no policy. There was never any form of permission granted. All I was trying to sketch to you was the factors which led members to believe that certain things which they did were in the interest of the structure of which they were serving."
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, except for I have to put it pertinently that as far as there - I spoke in general, meaning that I just sketched the exception for you, where there was permission given from the government in unlawful acts. That's why I mentioned the hand grenade incident. Because one has to deal here with a paradox if you look at all the facts here. Because as you know in the case of the hand grenade incidents people did die, and it was with the permission of the government. What I wanted to illustrate there was not a general policy, and there was no general approval that people could act and kill people as they wished.
MR RAUTENBACH: With reference to - I made a note here, and before I ask any questions here - these attacks that were carried out by the security branches, let's speak about the security branch of the Police. It was done to seem as if it was the attack that was carried out by the ANC. Was this on buildings, aimed at buildings, hand grenades from eastern origin? Can you just briefly tell us before I ask the question. I do not know if I want to continue then, I just want to find out.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I was not involved personally there but there is an amnesty application from members who were involved there, who were connected to the security branch. I know of that. And going on that application, I accept that at high level there was approval for that.
MR RAUTENBACH: In that case, wasn't it in this case according to your evidence where the car bomb was planted by Brig Cronjť and the next day even the ANC denied responsibility for that act. So there was confusion created about who was responsible for the death of people.
MR RAUTENBACH: Yes, that's correct. Then I must just ask you, you refer to within the country and outside the country. And it was outside the country, it was not necessary to receive an instruction from the State Security or the government before you can launch an attack. Is that the way I understood it?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No. They were never really considered as abroad. I'm talking about the neighbouring countries, independent states. And they were also seen as part of South Africa, the homelands, that is.
"(Indistinct) to be saying that with regard to Transkei, Bophuthatswana or for that matter Venda for example, or Ciskei, the approach was that they were treated as much foreign as Swaziland, Lesotho, Uganda, et cetera. I just want to clear that."
"Yes, and to that extent therefore, the policy with regards to identification of targets, elimination et cetera inside Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Venda and the like?"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I just contradicted myself because it was actually the case. They were seen as part of South Africa from the point of view from the Police in so much as the governments treated them as independently and they were treated according to the normal diplomatic handling and treated as independent states and seen in that manner.
MR RAUTENBACH: Then I'd just like to ask you, and it's on pg 26, the so-called - let me just have a look - during those proceedings, pg 26 thereof. The following was mentioned. There was a discussion of what would by meant with elimination. Maybe I'll put the whole question in context, that might make it easier
"I put it to you General that in the context it would be reasonable, given what was being said at the time and given the use of those words, that it would be reasonable for people to interpret, then to "elimineer" means kill. But you've also indicated that operatives, security police members, lower order security police members, members of the South African defence force when joined in fact to take harsh action, that by utilising those words the State Security Council members were creating for themselves a situation in which they could deny that they had instructed the elimination, meaning kill of any particular person."
"Mr Chairman no, I was never involved in such a way in these discussions. I have no facts on which I can base a viewpoint to say that it had been deliberately done to create such a perception so that a message could be conveyed subtly that people, the lower order operatives, could kill people. These are aspects which can be determined if the people were involved in these discussions. And the State Security Council could be asked. I have no facts. I have no grounds on which I can base such a statement or point of view that those words were used to create a perception under lower operatives that they would accept that people had to be killed."
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, can I just interrupt you? Before he concludes his questioning; yesterday according to a question of Rautenbach I found a letter written to the Department of Foreign Affairs where it was concerned with the proceedings followed before 1990 and I said I didn't know what it was about. At that stage I just forgot.
I would just like to mention this because he might want to ask questions about it with your permission. Can I just refer you, Volume 5, pg 29 - sorry, pg 30 Chairperson. The last paragraph where it's written as far as it concerns the facts around the investigation of Amnesty International it could not be handled in the same manner as before February 1990. So before February 1990 Chairperson - I only realised this later - we did not answer any inquiries from Amnesty International. We got thousands of inquiries because it was their policy to send names of lists of all the countries of people and lists of detainees and then they sent us letters in order to inquire and it was the general policy before February 1990 that we would not react to that. So that was the difference that came into play. But after February 1990 we did start to answer inquiries.
FURTHER CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR PRINSLOO: General, I received an instruction from Mr Zeelie and his firm Rooth & Wessels, Meyer & Rossouw and it's with regards to Mr Zeelie's application and specifically referring to the Khotso House issue.
And I would just put it to you as follows that according to Mr Zeelie he and Gen Erasmus and a certain Nonnie Beyers who was also a member of the South African Police came to your office here in Pretoria because of one instruction by Gen Erasmus and Gen Erasmus spoke to you in your office whilst Zeelie and Nonnie waited outside. Do you know of such an incident?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I cannot remember this incident. In my amnesty application I would have made mention members confronted me because of the fact that over a period of time I had several thousands of these kinds of interviews and I cannot remember the specific incident.
MR PRINSLOO: Afterwards Gen Erasmus - and I put it to you that Gen Erasmus, Nonnie Beyers as well as Mr Zeelie went to Explosives Head Office and there discussions were held with Col Hattingh and also Maj Hammond and Hennie Kotze who was involved with Explosives Head Office.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, if it's the intent that it's relevant to the blowing up of Khotso House which happened, then honestly I can tell you that it did not happen in such a fashion. My instruction on the specific incident - maybe this is another incident we're talking about here - but in that specific incident which I mentioned here I received the instruction from Mr Vlok. I gave the instruction to Brig Schoon and I told Gen Erasmus that we want him to help us to gain access and Brig Schoon and his team took further steps. Except if you're talking about a completely different incident now. But as far as this incident and the one I mentioned, it did not happen in this fashion.
MR PRINSLOO: There was also a gathering at a certain security house in Honeydew, Johannesburg where Maj Hammond, Kotze, Gen Erasmus and also Zeelie were present. Do you know anything about that? Do you know something about that General?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, may I just ask: what's the purpose of this question? Do you mean it's relevant to the incident where Khotso House was blown up as we mention it in our evidence before this Committee and other Committees? Do you mean this was leading to that incident?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No. I have no knowledge like that and it doesn't work, because Brig Schoon and me gave evidence that as far as that incident was concerned I gave my instruction to Brig Schoon and afterwards I told Gen Erasmus that Brig Schoon would contact him and the necessary tapes would be taken by head office.
CHAIRPERSON: This Committee won't be making any findings in regard to the Khotso House incident. I mean we're not going to delve into that, so I don't know what the relevance is of this detail as to what happened prior to the blowing up of Khotso House is in this matter.
MR PRINSLOO: Mr Chairman, this evidence was introduced by the general, and in view of the fact that Mr Zeelie is an applicant in that matter, and he disputes the facts as it's put across by the general, and for that reason I'm just putting that in fairness to the general in view of the fact that Mr Zeelie will testify to this in a later application. Otherwise we accept that he agrees to it, and that's not the case Mr Chairman. That's the only reason.
MR PRINSLOO: I'll do that Mr Chairman. Further general, shortly, it is so that Eugene de Kock was not responsible for the explosion. Adjutants Hennie Kotze, Hammond and Zeelie took the explosive into Khotso House and it was placed in the lift and Kotze as well as Hammond was responsible to trigger the explosion.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, no. As far as the execution of that is concerned I do not know. I gave an instruction to Brig Schoon and afterwards he made all the necessary arrangements in accordance with Gen Erasmus, but I cannot say what happened. I cannot give evidence.
Gen Van der Merwe, this morning you said you contradicted yourself because you firstly answered that the neighbouring states, the independent states, TBVC states was not seen as other international states, if I can call it that. As far as purposes concerning foreign behaviours from other countries. Then my Learned Friend pointed out your evidence where in answer to Judge Ngoepe you answered the questions. I just want to ask you this: and this now concerns the point of view you are holding. But the whole question of foreign actions, how were they seen and how were they handled by the State Security Council? Was it an affair whereby the police was involved or was it the army, South African Defence?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, where it included a military action it was the responsibility of the armed forces. And they only used the information that the security branch obtained. As far as investigations are concerned and movements within the neighbouring states, there the security police was present.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes. There was certain of the legislation or much of the legislation that applied in South Africa before 1976 applied in the TBVC states after that, but it was considered to be those states' own legislation and the amendment of such legislation didn't go in tandem between the RSA and the TBVC states. So... [intervention]
JUDGE NGCOBO: Sorry, let me just ask: General Van der Merwe, isn't the position this, that in so far as the security branch was concerned and the police in general, they did not regard these states, Venda, Bophuthatswana, Transkei and Ciskei as independent? As separate from South Africa; they could just go in and out of those countries. Is that right?
MR VISSER: Well Mr Chairman, I'll have to share my fees with Justice Ngcobo because he managed to take care of that point far more efficiently than I was able to do. Thank you. Then there's another aspect. And this was apparent from your previous cross-questioning when it was put to you that there was a strong possibility that the reason why the members of the security police at John Vorster Square, it was decided by them to dispose of Bopape's body was because it was in such a state that it would have caused embarrassment for the government.
The first question I would like to ask you is when you and Gen Erasmus - this is a Sunday afternoon, when you were in your house in Pretoria, when you made the decision, were you aware of such a state of affairs, that the body could have been in such a state or situation that it could have caused embarrassment if it was known?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson, that was the decisive factor. That electric shocks were applied and that if an inquest were to follow, it could have been the spark that would lead to the explosion of the whole situation within the country. But as I've already emphasised I had no reason at all to think at that stage that the body could have been in such a state that that would have been the reason why there would have been an embarrassment. So that per se, the possibility of a maimed body did not play a role when you made your decision, definitely not.
MR VISSER: And to refer again to this last aspect, you were asked why you did not try to determine what the exact facts were with regards specifically to the state of the body before you made the decision on that Sunday afternoon. You then said that you believed what Erasmus told you. But what I would like to ask you is would it have made any difference to your decision or the position you found yourself in on that Sunday afternoon whatever the situation was concerning the body?
MR VISSER: General, in Exhibit N for Nellie, para 1.5.2 where you referred to the 9th of February 1997 - that's your evidence - I believe it should read Chairperson, it should be the 27th of February, not the 9th. That's Exhibit N. I have no further questions, thank you Chairperson.
MR MOLOI: Thank you Mr Chairman, just one or two points I would just like to clear with the general. General, (indistinct) is that it was of utmost importance that the disposal of the body of Bopape be done as effectively as possible and that it should be ensured that it would not be discovered afterwards. Am I correct?
MR MOLOI: Neither you as the head of the security department nor any other officer involved in this cover-up, bothered at any stage to verify the fact that the body was effectively disposed of. Am I correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I've already testified that I was convinced that Gen Erasmus and members of the security branch who every day were confronted with very difficult situations, could deal with this necessarily using their own initiative, that they had dealt very well with delicate situations and had the necessary initiative. And from experience I know that the most dangerous thing one can do after one has dealt with such a delicate situation was to afterwards inquire about it, because firstly that in itself creates a larger risk. And the fact of the matter was that afterwards you could not do anything to the matter to change anything. One could not, if afterwards you were not happy with what was done, take any steps to put it right because that would indeed worsen the situation and would not make it any better. So therefore, after I gave Gen Erasmus the instruction to continue with the decision that we had taken, I handled it normally and my instruction to him and all the other persons that this incident had to be dealt with along the normal way to maintain the smokescreen; or my instruction was to him that I did not contact with anyone else.
MR MOLOI: Which situation would be aggravated by inquiries? Because I would like to believe that any inquiries would relate to the people already involved in the cover-up. From Gen Erasmus, up to the person who actually disposed of the body, they were already involved anyway. How would that really create a further problem? That's if you followed up and wanted to ensure that the body has been effectively disposed of?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I did not know who Gen Erasmus, except for Brig Visser would involve. And secondly it would not make any sense to find out afterwards if this whole issue was dealt with effectively because I would not be able to correct it. And along with that, the moment one inquires about it, you had to liaise with other people and there was always the risk that during those liaison processes, information that you could cover up, during that process could be found out and if one could go back to look at the normal procedures in so far as the normal crimes, the biggest fault that most criminals do was to go back and to find out if everything was secure.
And most cases that was one of the largest factors that led to that how we found the person, because he went back to the incident, or in some or other manner wanted to inquire about the incident and therefore it was a dangerous thing to do.
MR MOLOI: Correct me if I'm wrong. I understood your evidence to be that you and Gen Erasmus decided that the body be disposed of at a point near a border with the RSA as one of the means towards ensuring that it would not be discovered. Am I correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson. We considered it as a possibility but I put it to Gen Erasmus for practical reasons they had to decide, that is indeed so; that was just as dangerous to sit in an office and decide. And the people who had to execute these decisions had to comply with the decision instead of giving them the opportunity where they knew the circumstances on grass roots level better than we did; to use their own initiative.
CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, I think what Mr Moloi is referring to was during your testimony it was said that it was decided to involve Mr Visser because Gauteng was a highly populated area and the body should be disposed of far away. And when that was being said, it was mentioned somewhere towards the borders or near a place which had a border with another country.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct Chairperson, but the idea was - it was just a possibility. At that stage the intention was not that it was an absolute decision that we had to execute, but we thought it would be better. But obviously the practical execution was left to them, and it was just a possibility mentioned by us.
MR MOLOI: Does that mean then that the fact that Van Loggerenberg, who was not involved in that discussion of where the body should be disposed of, who had no instructions whatsoever from whosoever as to where to dispose of the body, was it then a sheer coincidence that he eventually thought of a border between the Republic and Mozambique?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson, as far as I'm concerned, yes. There was no instruction in that sense given to use this determined method that Capt Van Loggerenberg used. This possibility that indeed happened, we did not consider this. The idea was just that the only consideration that we gave was to take it from a highly populated area but how, and in which manner and other considerations we left to those persons who were involved with this and had to execute it.
JUDGE NGCOBO: I just want to make a follow-up on the suspect Gen Van der Merwe. As I understand the position the possibility of disposing of the body near the border was merely discussed as one of the options.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I suggested that they consider that they escape to (indistinct). We did not go into the finer details, but just as a possibility that had to be considered. But I pertinently put to Gen Erasmus I did not want to give the members who had to deal with this incident; I did not want to prescribe to them. I left it to them. I knew from experience that were one sits in an office to arrange something like that and you did not know all the circumstances at grass roots level, things could go wrong.
ADV GCABASHE: On a slightly different aspect general, it's correct that there are very many - there were then and today there are very many honest policemen, ordinary policemen who didn't flout the rules that were set by the SAP.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I would like to put it in this manner in all reasonability if you would grant me: I would not say for one moment that the people who were involved here were not honest police persons. As we have repeatedly said, they were in a position that was far worse than a war situation and they were put into a situation where they from their side had to comply with super-human demands. And there were other police officers who were fortunate not to find themselves in the same circumstances and were not guilty of the same acts.
ADV GCABASHE: But when one looks at those policemen who were not guilty of the same types of acts, would you say those were in the majority or the minority, in the time that you were the Commissioner?
ADV GCABASHE: And yet you are saying from what I understand you to say, these policemen cannot be regarded as role policemen who were not promoting the interest of their employer; the policemen who acted in this manner, such as the ones before us.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, definitely not Chairperson. In this whole incident if they had a choice, then everybody would have chosen not to have dealt with such a situation. But unfortunately they were put in that situation and we expected of them to comply with certain demands and we expected of them - exactly this other person who was in this fortunate position that he did - to protect this person from these deeds we expected from them to do the impossible. So definitely not. And therefore I can also say myself and the three Commissioners who preceded me, we accepted moral accountability in respect of all those deeds that were committed in the conflict of the past and where the members bona fide believed that they did it to oppose the struggle.
ADV GCABASHE: (Indistinct) of being from a fairly conservative background as many of the policemen who testified before us, have said they have been, from conservative, NP backgrounds and having very many of you join the force at a fairly young age; to what extent, considering the social influences that you assimilated, what you had become because of what you learnt from childhood. To what extent might those have superseded the task that you were supposed to execute, that of promoting law and order and acting within the rules and regulations and acting in the interests of your employer, the State? To what extent would you say that might have possibly superseded these other imperatives?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I think in this sense it played a role. It was from the beginning the objectives of the National Party who was the government of the day at that time, to reconcile ourselves with it. And I would like to mention it, as I've already testified, for all practical purposes, we were loyal to the party and the party's interests in many instances was the motivation. In that sense it did play an important role.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson. Our relationship with Black people - or let me put it in this manner: members of other races was excellent. And even today from several Black persons I receive letters and wherever I move I can give you the reassurance in my career it did not matter to me if my colleagues were Black or white. Indeed Black colleagues were in very difficult situations and they assisted us in the struggle. And reason why, in the one instance I was involved with the hand grenade incident was to protect Black members and their families. It was not for personal gain and it did not concern the interests of a certain population group. And I think all the members, all the Black members who served with me would confirm this.
ADV GCABASHE: One final aspect. The decision you took to withhold this information from the then Min Vlok; now I'm looking at that in the context of a fairly close relationship you had with him. I read that in one of the submissions that you made. How often did you do this type of thing? Withhold information from him, concerning a fairly major decision that he ought to know about?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, it was always the realisation or the understanding that any instance we would give this to Mr Vlok where he was not involved himself; that it could heighten his vulnerability as a Minister. We have to realise that our approach was throughout to protect him and his interest and the interest of the National Party. And in every instance the consideration would have been what was in his best interest when a certain situation arose, to inform him of it; does this help with his situation or would this place his interest at a disadvantage?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I cannot now mention incidents, but that was the principle that we dealt along. At this stage there were probably other incidents that we did not inform Mr Vlok of, but at this time I cannot give you a specific incident.
ADV GCABASHE: (Indistinct) essentially amount to an abrogation of the State's power to yourselves. I'm looking at your particular unit; the security branch of the Police. So that you in fact are the ones who are making major decisions, rather than informing the people who the electorate at the time had elected, on particular aspects that were important to the State, and allowing them to guide you. Aren't you then saying essentially that you became the people who took over; and this kept the politicians in the dark on very material issues?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson no, not at all. I think each case would be judged according to its own merits and there was no question of that, that we were authority on our own. All the time we acted in such a fashion that in each case we looked at what was to the interest of the government and the public order and our specific duties. And I'm not aware in this regard the situation ever existed that what we did could not be reconciled with the guidance we received from the Minister and the government.
JUDGE NGCOBO: The matters affecting the workings of the security branch, you've repeatedly mentioned that the members of the security branch could not have been under any illusion that the State would condone their illegal behaviour in their dealings with the detainees.
JUDGE NGCOBO: We've had evidence from some of those members, notable Mr Van Niekerk and Mr Mostert I think it is whose evidence suggest that there appears to have been a practice within the security branch to use torture to get information which was considered crucial by the security branch. Do you accept that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I must concede that our people worked in abnormal situations, very difficult situations and as far as I was concerned I told you that there was a definite policy. But immediately I want to concede that at this stage I cannot tell you that in the minds of these members there might not have been a specific perception which was born out of all these circumstances.
The policy was very clear. And me personally never doubted that each member who attacked a person knew that the was doing wrong. It was against the policy. But on the other hand, if you ask me now even despite all of that it's expected of him, if necessary, and things went wrong to pay the price which was attached to his kind of behaviour and he was unwilling to do so, then I must say yes, definitely. Or he was willing to do so. In other words these members would have known that they were doing wrong; that they're taking a risk.
But the possibility that despite of that a perception was in their minds that it was still expected of me to do this. And there'll be silent comprehension of this, and maybe even approval. But the people cannot protect me, because this is the price I've got to pay in this struggle to maintain the smokescreen. And then yes, it could be the case.
JUDGE NGCOBO: Take for example the case of Mr Zeelie for example who was called to head office and was involved what I gather from you and from what Mr Prinsloo has put to you, in the bombing of or putting explosives in the lifts, was it in the Khotso House I think it was? This is a planning of what appears to be on your own terms an act of terrorism which has been planned at high government level with a junior officer. I mean what would that create in the mind of that officer? I mean surely it must create the impression that one could overstep the limit. There will be protection. Because after all from what you have told us, you were fighting an onslaught. I mean isn't it fair to these other members to accept that they may well have believed that you condoned those matters?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, in the case of Mr Zeelie it might not be a good example, but there are many other examples. But there are several other examples where it necessarily caused this perception with certain members. Yes, I concede to that.
CHAIRPERSON: Are with the use of this shocking device on the deceased, we're not dealing with constables here; I mean there were commissioned officers involved in the use of that and they knew well, we haven't got a device here at John Vorster Square but there is one at Sandton. Fairly common knowledge, and then it's used in the passage. So it didn't appear to be confined to just the lower ranks; it was fairly general practice.
JUDGE NGCOBO: You know, despite your assertion that you didn't condone their conduct, nevertheless you did nothing to convey your displeasures to those members, that I am doing this not because I'm condoning your conduct, but simply because I want to save the government the embarrassment. You never said anything of this sort, so as to warn them that this is not going to be tolerated.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I must say according to Gen Erasmus it was quite clear that these members were very upset. I've already mentioned that in my mind I had no doubt that they learnt a very previous lesson, but at that stage I didn't think there would be any point to, in any circumstances when these members were really aware of the fact that that created a great embarrassment, there would be no point for me in going further and telling them not to do it again. So yes, on the one hand. But on the other hand I believed that these members realised that they acted incorrectly.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Khotso House, it was during August 1988. It was after this incident Chairperson. This incident happened on the 12th of June 1988 and the blowing up of Khotso House was in August, after that. Also during 1988.
JUDGE NGCOBO: If you look at, I mean shortly after Zeelie had been involved in this incident, he is now being called upon to get involved in an illegal act which is now planned by the government. I mean surely if it is true that it followed the Bopape killing, I mean surely in his mind it must have created the impression what we did with Mr Bopape must have been in accordance with the government policy. No-one is reprimanding me. But far from that I'm being asked to carry out yet another (indistinct).
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I explained and again I concede, I know it's a paradox and it's a contradiction. It's a very difficult situation but there were very clear instructions, and those instructions during inspections and other circumstances which prevailed then was applied in such a fashion that members realised that the actions are not condoned; that they could have deduced that there was silent approval if you look at the circumstances like Mr Ngcobo mentioned; that's true. But on the other hand any member - and this was always the approach - any member would have known that he could not expect to be protected if he made himself guilty of these unlawful acts.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, as I've already explained: firstly I was confronted with the situation. You must remember I was head of the security branch and the head security adviser and Gen Erasmus was head of the most important - and I think the burning point in South Africa - and we would have placed him in an impossible situation. They would not have had any other choice to comply with what we did. It would have been disadvantageous to them and it would have made them vulnerable and we would have used them as a rubber stamp and it would have been unethical. And because of that reason I took the decision on my own. And in all honesty I believed that it was in the best interest of the Minister and the government and the whole situation.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson; the moment the Minister became involved he would have necessarily - let's just look at what would have happened in the practice if I decided to approach the Minister. Would he have been able to handle this on his own? Wouldn't it have been put to him that he should advise the President and the President would have approached the State security council.
Where would all of this have ended? The Minister had no more capacity in order to decide about this issue than me. I was responsible for the maintaining of law and order. The Minister was purely the political head. So his capacities were more restricted. Even if we looked at his capacities, it was much more restricted than mine. So the Minister by knowing about this, could not have attributed to improve the situation as far as I'm concerned. But if I asked him to help with this, in order to maintain the smokescreen he would have had to answer questions to Parliament and he would have made himself guilty of telling untruths. And right through the whole issue he would have followed the same behaviour we did, and for him and the government it could have been very dangerous. You must remember that we were willing to do this in the interest of that which we tried to achieve, which was public order. Something we considered very heavily at that stage. And also to protect the interest of the government. And if the Minister himself would have become involved it would have meant that those interests we wanted to protect, we would have jeopardised them.
"Was there any personal malice or ill will which may have come from your social influences of your background; whether that could have been a major factor in doing what you did."
Now I'm not sure I understand the question, but I think we've got to clarify this question. In the first place, looking at your backgrounds and your conservative milieu in which you were brought up as you explained, was there any malice or ill feeling because of that which you can make relevant to Mr Bopape's death?
CHAIRPERSON: (Indistinct) the question by Adv Gcabashe. Her question put to the general was: your conservative background that was explained together with other witnesses here; did that play a role? Yes, and the answer was by the general it did play an important role. And then she followed that up and said so it wasn't maliciousness. I don't think she suggested or put it directly that there was personal maliciousness involved. So indirectly - you can ask the question.
MR PRINSLOO: And these members, specifically where you were settled in the Witwatersrand, was the place where there were the most acts of terror and the most incidents and it was a difficult task that they had to perform.
GEN ERASMUS: Mr Zeelie was more involved with the explosions and that type of thing, and the was a - he knew what to do there. And as far as Col Van Niekerk was concerned there were many instances where it was required that there had to be a solution.
MR PRINSLOO: Insofar it concerned detainees in terms of section 29 where information was an important factor, it was expected of the members to apply pressure to get this information from this person.
MR PRINSLOO: And as in the case of Stanza Bopape, he was also an important participant; he was an important person in the civics, in Mamelodi. He liaised with many important terrorist groups who was a big problem for the community and the country. Do you agree with this?
MR PRINSLOO: And afterwards, after the death of Bopape you acted in the interests of the country and of the members to act in the manner you did, to speak to the Commissioner and to put your case forward. Excuse me, I say the Commissioner; I mean Gen Van der Merwe.
MR PRINSLOO: And then general, another aspect that was already put to your colleague, Gen Van der Merwe, you heard what I said with reference to what Capt Zeelie said about the Khotso House incident? I heard... [intervention]
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, it seems to me with respect that we're embarking here on a trial within a trial. And frankly, it does not appear that there's any reason for doing so. I can inform the committee that the Khotso House incident is going to be investigated to be placed early in August this year, where that incident is going to be fully discussed and investigated by that committee presumably. We will be there. Gen Van der Merwe will be there; Gen Erasmus will be there; Mr Vlok will be there; everybody will be there; where Mr Zeelie could have the fullest opportunity of placing whatever evidence he wishes before that committee. It has really nothing to do with the case at hand. And I'm going to object to these questions Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Prinsloo, Gen Erasmus didn't say anything about Khotso House. So it was allowed when you were - for the reasons put up by yourself when Gen Van der Merwe was giving evidence, because Gen Van der Merwe actually made mention of it. But Gen Erasmus hasn't, and I don't think it's relevant to this matter. Certainly we're not going to take into account the evidence relating to Khotso House and the dispute that may exist between the evidence of Mr Zeelie and any other applicant in this matter with regard to Khotso House.
JUDGE NGCOBO: Let's just - you see Mr Prinsloo, I think we understand your concern, your fears are that when the application for amnesty in respect of Mr Zeelie comes up again, you know he may well be taxed as to why certain evidence wasn't challenged. But I think it would cover Mr Zeelie sufficient enough if you simply indicate where his version would differ from what had been said here. Also reserve the right to give your version at the subsequent inquiry. But we don't have to traverse the whole issue as if it is before us.
MR PRINSLOO: General, a further aspect concerning Col Van Niekerk. This incident of Bopape's death and you'd realised that there was a problem for the country and so forth, Col Van Niekerk never received a slap on the wrist for this in terms of police regulations. Is that correct?
GEN ERASMUS: That is correct Chairperson. As I understood it at that stage where the escape or the mock escape as such was investigated by another branch. Then they would find negligence in terms of this so-called escape. Then they would make a recommendation as to as to what departmental steps would be taken. I did not slap Van Niekerk on the wrist except to say that he put us in a difficult situation.
General, in your answers that you've just given you said that you expected of the members to put pressure on these detainees in terms of section 29 in order to get information from them. Can you tell us what type of pressure did you expect did they have to apply to get this information?
MR RAUTENBACH: I want to ask you to be more specific. Pressure, pressure that was applied to get this information. What type of pressure? Can you tell us what type of pressure do you have in mind here?
MR RAUTENBACH: I want to put part of the testimony that was given during these proceedings and ask you briefly what is your comment on it. It appears on pg 472 of the record and that is - 472 of the record - as you know general, the testimony was initially in Afrikaans. It was of course translated into English. If I can read it to you, and you were present when this testimony was given. If you think it was inaccurately translated you must tell me, but I want you to comment on the contents thereof. On pg 472, the question is asked by Mr Visser to Zeelie and the question that is asked is - it's in the middle of the page.
"(Indistinct) command I interrogated many people. And people were assaulted. I was never taken to task about it. And if I could expand on this, I on instruction of Erasmus, I committed many acts that I have to ask for amnesty."
At this stage I do not want to ask you let's look at other applications for amnesty. All that I want to ask you is what is the comment of what Zeelie said your attitude was in terms of illegal methods and assaults during interrogation.
As we have testified - and I would like to join with Gen Van der Merwe - if these assaults happened, there would have been investigations by the detectives and it would have been taken further to the Attorney General. Personally I cannot recall that I was present where Zeelie assaulted anybody.
GEN ERASMUS: I don't think he says that he was not investigated, that he was not charged, that there was no case. But I would like to tell the panel this was standing practice of every detainee throughout to lay a charge of some or other.
GEN ERASMUS: This was a speciality that he had to deal with. It was a speciality area that he did. What bomb clearing did was to make bombs harmless, visit their scenes and get information as to the fact of what type of explosion was used, and so forth.
MR RAUTENBACH: This seems strange to me. You've answered this partly, but you can comment more on this, that you have a person here who has a speciality area, namely - it was a technical area - he had to be an expert concerning bomb clearing, that it was expected of him to be actively involved with detainees in terms of section 29. Can you explain this to us?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, if he was part of the investigation unit at that stage, there was not a bomb every day. Bomb clearance was not at the order of the day every day, and he does not teach every day. And then he had to use within the South African Police, as I can explain it to you.
MR RAUTENBACH: Tell me general, do you deny - if I can just get a clear answer here - what Zeelie said that this was a manner that was used amongst others, the electrical shocks, that this was something that was present and this was a general occurrence?
GEN ERASMUS: I would never deny that electrical shocks were administered in investigations, but I would just like to say while I was at John Vorster Square, I never saw such an apparatus and it never came to my attention that was used there. Given the testimony that is given here that there was no such things there, it had to be fetched from somewhere, and I would assume that there was not one Mr Chairperson.
MR RAUTENBACH: General, we've also heard and evidence was given that other forms of torture and assaults were used. Is it your evidence that you as divisional commander did not know about this and that it did not happen within the department?
MR RAUTENBACH: Are you aware of occurrences took place where no investigation was led? You knew that it happened but you just left it because you thought it was in the interest of gaining information?
MR RAUTENBACH: And already when he gave the report he said to you that he expected there would be problems because it was close to the 16th of June and he also told you as I understand your evidence that they did not want to handle this affair in the normal way. In other words a plan had to be made in order to conceal this. Is that round about what he said to you?
MR RAUTENBACH: So would I be correct, when you went to Gen Van der Merwe you basically - well, it wasn't a decision made on your and Van der Merwe's initiative. It was really the initiative of junior officers, and what they wanted was that they made a suggestion that an illegal procedure should be taken and all they wanted was your guidance?
CHAIRPERSON: Just to get a viewpoint - sorry to interrupt Mr - just with hindsight now, if you look back, wouldn't it have been better if they had made the decision of the escape and the cover-up without involving yourself or Gen Van der Merwe?
JUDGE NGCOBO: Can I just make one follow-up here? I wanted to raise it earlier on, but I think let me raise it here. It was put to you that Zeelie suggested in his testimony that you approved of the illegal method. That was put to you. And you say you didn't approve of that.
JUDGE NGCOBO: (Indistinct) the written approval we all know that if there were rules and regulations, you couldn't in writing issue an instruction that he could torture. What Zeelie said here was that it was with your tacit approval. He didn't specifically say you gave him written instructions. He simply said it was a tacit approval. Do you accept that?
MR RAUTENBACH: Can I ask you in the light of that answer, if they accepted that it was tacit approval that you've given or tacit approval, would that then be the reason why you didn't take any steps after this incident to reprimand these members?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, here we had a situation where a detainee died because of electrical shocks. The decision was taken and the body was disposed of. I cannot think which steps I would have taken afterwards against these members. Which members I should have taken against them.
MR RAUTENBACH: Just to return to the question, and that is if it is the case that you gave approval, tacit approval that is, to the behaviour of these people - that is to torture Bopape - if it is the case that you gave tacit approval of this, would you agree with me that if that was the case there wouldn't have been any reason to take any steps concerning these members afterwards and you did not then have to reprimand them?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I'll explain it like this: this tacit approval or perceptions which existed in the minds of these people, it wasn't a thing that I could determine in a concrete fashion. After this incident I cannot think which other steps I could have taken, except for the fact that I should have said that I didn't approve of it.
MR RAUTENBACH: General, can we just return: are you saying now - I do not understand correctly what you've said concerning a question from the panel - are you saying now that you yourself did not give tacit approval as far as the behaviour of these members were concerned regarding the treatment of Bopape?
GEN ERASMUS: Mr Rautenbach, I think there's a bit of confusion here. I think what was meant with tacit approval or condoning, it was generally deduced this approval, but it was not relevant to what happened that specific afternoon. And that they acted in terms of the general approval and you put it as if he was aware of what happened that specific afternoon and that he gave his tacit approval. And I think that's why there's a bit of confusion.
MR RAUTENBACH: Okay, I'll formulate the question a bit differently so we can get to the point of dispute. General, please tell me: when you heard what happened, namely that your members were busy obtaining important information from a detainee under section 29 and that he died in this process because of the fact, presumably because he received electrical shocks, did you yourself give approval to this process or not?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I said in my evidence I as shocked to learn that the man - the fact that the man had to be questioned, that is so. But this person Bopape, I never saw him; I never knew him. So why I would have given approval that he should be tortured, I cannot understand that. I wouldn't have done that.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I sat here with a real fact. I was confronted with a dead body. If I was thinking of all those things at that stage after all this time that's passed, I really cannot tell you.
MR RAUTENBACH: General, the question is simply if you want to put it very briefly: you hear what they were busy with, and a man died. At that stage, according to your own decision now, did you say well I must accept this and I'll have to help these people? Or did you not approve of it?
GEN ERASMUS: As far as my behaviour is concerned it's obvious that I accepted what Van Niekerk told me. And that's why I went to Gen Van der Merwe to discuss this with him to see what he can do about it.
MR RAUTENBACH: In the light of that answer I'd like to say to you that if it was wrong, couldn't you think of any way to bring it under the attention of these members that what they did was wrong, and that that what they did should not happen again?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, it's logical for me that each and every one of them as we already said, we are not dealing here with junior officers or children. Most of these people were officers. They knew exactly what they were doing and they knew that it was wrong. So what point would it have had if I told them - or if I did anything else, what would have been the point?
MR RAUTENBACH: The reason why I'm asking you this is - what I've got in mind is at least I would have thought that, even if you followed the path you did by disposing of the body, and I want to put this to you - this is the type of thing I would have expected. If you were not totally part of this, you would have said afterwards, and you would have called them in and said these things happened; you've placed me in a very bad situation and I want to put it clearly to you if it's going to happen again; there's going to be trouble. It's not acceptable. Do you understand that? That's what I would have expected.
GEN ERASMUS: I understand that's how you see it, but like I said I already said to Van Niekerk what you've done caused us to be in a very unbearable situation, me as well as the government. Meaning it's not accepted. But I made myself a part of the situation, and that's why I'm asking for amnesty in this case. And further, any other act on my part, and in all honesty I'd say to you I cannot see whereto it would have led.
MR RAUTENBACH: Then I would like to ask you, can you just tell us - and I know you're going to say that you have already said it in your head evidence, but I just want it just to be put on record - this report that Mr Van Niekerk gave you, as closely as possible what exactly did he tell you what had happened?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, he told me that Mostert and Engelbrecht questioned Mr Bopape. Electrical shocks were applied and if I remember correctly, shortly after they started using the shocks - he did not describe this in detail, his evidence was given - this man died. That is round about what he said to me. And then I asked him, was this man assaulted by you, and he denied that. He said there was no assault at all. And I asked him whether there were marks on this person's body, and then he talked about marks on the wrists. And I made the conclusion that it was because of the cuffs. And now I've heard of another kind of elastic that they used.
GEN ERASMUS: If we're talking that this man was seriously assaulted, I definitely would have driven to John Vorster Square and I would have had a look. In the light thereof I said to him that I undertake to discuss this with Gen Van der Merwe, but I don't know what his reaction is going to be. And then I would have gone and see for myself how serious the situation was.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, then if I went further with this thing and I let the thing lead the normal course of events and I involved Gen Van der Merwe in this, I do not know but I possibly could have made a different judgment.
MR RAUTENBACH: So general, what you are trying to say to us is there was a strong possibility that if the body was seriously tortured and there were marks and signs of torture, then in that case it would have been a better possibility and you would have followed the normal procedures, as in this case where there were no marks.
GEN ERASMUS: That is so Chairperson, because I said that this situation - and I explained this to Van Niekerk - caused us to be in a very difficult situation. And so this thing appeared to me as a very extraordinary case and I made the conclusion that the man died from a heart attack.
MR RAUTENBACH: General you see, I want to put it to you I think that any person who was in such a situation would rather - it would make more sense if the body was in a very bad state of torture, to dispose of that body as when it was a healthy body with no signs on it.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I don't think that would be the criteria, because the fact of the matter remains the man is dead. He's dead in detention and here where he was shocked, it would show at an inquest.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I remember there was an occurrence many years ago where there was such an incident and where evidence was given by someone who's got about a page and a half of degrees where it was quite evident that when electrical shocks were applied to a person the metal concentration - I'm not an expert - is much higher than in any other part of the body.
MR RAUTENBACH: Please tell me general, if we just look at this stage when you were informed by Van Niekerk and he said to you that we'd barely started and it was really light shocks and this person died. Is that correct?
MR RAUTENBACH: Now if you were astonished yourself that this man died in these circumstances, did it not occur to you to go and have a look and see what was going on? To drive there to go and have a look at the body and to see for yourself, to confirm that what they said is true; just have a look at the body?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, in my evidence in chief I tried to explain to you that the timespan which already passed - the amount of time which already passed since this person died up until Van Niekerk came to me, must have been more than an hour and a half or more. I'm not sure. So you must understand that time played a factor, it was a definite factor here.
MR RAUTENBACH: And if you had to make another decision, that is when normal procedures would be followed; when you returned to John Vorster Square - now this is after you spoke to Gen Van der Merwe, you went back and there was a meeting in your office. Is that correct?
MR RAUTENBACH: After the discussions were finished - and this is how I understand the record, specifically Van Niekerk's evidence - these members then took the body to the car. Did you then go home from the office?
MR RAUTENBACH: Can I just get clarification there? There was a meeting; it was held in your office. After the meeting was finished Col Van Niekerk and I suppose the officers present was Zeelie and Van Niekerk?
MR RAUTENBACH: After you spoke to the officers you and Du Toit and the two officers between you four, the officers left the office and they went to the other members in order to remove the body. Is that correct?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, at one stage Gen Du Toit left the office, I think together with Zeelie, and he went to have a look at the body. And me and Van Niekerk stayed behind and then Du Toit came back. And only after that did we leave.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, as I've already said I accepted what Van Niekerk told me and I think it was sufficient that a senior member - as is the case with Gen Du Toit - that he go and have a look at the body and that he came back, and he said he cannot see any marks on this body.
ADV GCABASHE: (Indistinct) interference actually on the headphones. I don't know if it's all of them. It's terribly uncomfortable. But anyway Gen Erasmus, the question really is at that point, didn't you think it important to go down to the more junior officers and reprimand them as suggested? You know, that was an opportunity to actually directly say to them this is totally unacceptable. And you as somebody who they respected, who they looked up to; they might have taken you quite seriously.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I already said that if I look at this in retrospect, I cannot think what purpose that would have served. Those people at that stage were under intense pressure and strain and they also suffered from shock, and what other purpose it would have served then to go and reprimand them, I do not know.
GEN ERASMUS: Mr Rautenbach, Chairperson, you've never been in such a situation and you can think for yourself how these people must have felt where they were questioning a person and they did not mean to kill him, but with the information to get and he died immediately.
MR RAUTENBACH: Why I ask what shock are you talking of here, we know the testimony is clear - this is the testimony according to all the applicants; this was a war situation where people as it was put were maimed and killed; innocent people. And here was the perception this was an ANC terrorist; he died while being interrogated. I cannot understand why they were shocked.
MR VISSER: (Indistinct) suggested Mr Chairman as the basis for the question that these people were unfeeling towards anybody who they considered to be an ANC terrorist Mr Chairman? Because that's the only basis, and it is not a valid basis for putting the question like that to this witness.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, my comment on that statement is I do not accept it, because these men who worked there were all normal persons who had to deal with an impossible situation, but they were not abnormal barbarians who had no feeling.
MR RAUTENBACH: In that context I wish to ask the following question: if you could give us an explanation concerning Bopape's incident. We've heard even from Gen Van der Merwe that more or less to use as few people in this incident. There was the objective not to involve many policemen in this incident.
MR RAUTENBACH: Reason being general, why in those circumstances would outsiders like Visser and one of his juniors being used, also be involved in this incident? Why would it just have been the persons who were aware of what had happened there?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I think we've already explained the area in Johannesburg, you know yourself what happened in that area. And the idea to have this perception or this mock disappearance, to do it properly was to do it from - as far as possible from where it happened to get the body away, and that's why I thought I do not know the Eastern Transvaal, but I know it's a remote area, it's bushy, it borders on two neighbouring countries and that's why I thought of Mr Visser.
MR RAUTENBACH: You see, let me ask you this question: maybe I did not understand your answer totally. But you say it is far away, to get the body far away. But we know that the end purpose was to dispose of the body so what does it matter how far the body was removed?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, Mr Rautenbach does not understand me properly. To get the body away from where the incident happened, yes the body is being disposed of but you know yourself that your investigation would be where the incident happened. And they would investigate this escape in the area where it happened, and therefore that body - let's take an example: in a mine shaft or in a hole, it was not buried there anywhere close.
MR RAUTENBACH: Just to take it one step further: what was the importance to you to the fact that it had to be close to the border of the country? Because in your evidence in chief you referred to that there would be a border close by.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, when I refer to a border, this is where a discussion was between myself and Gen Van der Merwe concerning the escape, would be from a police station or a place close to the border. That is where I refer to the border. I did not otherwise refer to a border.
GEN ERASMUS: That is so Chairperson. But I also told you that the investigation surrounding Bopape, in other words these allegations which he was involved in, did not lead in that direction, that it would not be logical.
GEN ERASMUS: I did Chairperson, but I think Col Van Niekerk and some of the other members told me and indicated to me that such an act would not be logical because the allegations surrounding Mr Bopape, Pretoria and the West Rand and the Vaal Triangle.
MR RAUTENBACH: You say you cannot remember the detailed discussion. I'm not going to ask you in detail, but you do remember that what was said there came down to a fact that the escape scene would have to be local rather than the Eastern Transvaal.
MR RAUTENBACH: I'd just like to put it to you that testimony of yours, although it does make sense, it seems to me this discussion, of your testimony with reference to a discussion that took place with Brig Visser, it's unsensible. I will tell you why. It seems from the testimony that Brig Visser was indeed asked to arrange a mock escape. What do you say of that?
GEN ERASMUS: I think where this confusion came in, and as I've just explained to you, I mentioned to Zeelie and Van Niekerk that we, myself and Gen Van der Merwe spoke of a place close to the border where the escape would take place, and that's where I think the confusion came in. I never at any stage mentioned anything to Brig Visser.
MR RAUTENBACH: I find it very strange that a discussion is there and people come to the conclusion that the Eastern Transvaal is not a good place for the escape because Bopape's possible activities was not in that area, and while you discuss this and come to the conclusion that a local escape would be better, that he approaches Visser for an escape.
GEN ERASMUS: If I recall correctly I told him in a cryptic manner I have a problem, if he could be of assistance. And I furthermore told him that Capt Van Niekerk would contact him later, after he acceded. And the precise words that I told him at this stage I cannot recall, but I asked him to help me with a problem that I have.
MR RAUTENBACH: Can I just find out; I can understand that you told him I've got a problem, help me please. And you've told us that you told him it is in connection with a detainee or it had to do with a package or somebody who is dead, or something to that effect? Or did you just say I have a problem?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I must have told him it concerns a detainee, in other words a package, something along that vein. But I cannot recall the precise words. This problem, immediately it gives the message that it is a sensitive situation that could cause problems for me.
MR RAUTENBACH: I would just like to ask you a question also; it has been asked but just give us your answer. In the sense that you clarified this matter with the Chief of the Security Branch, that's Gen Van der Merwe, except for the mock escape you had to dispose of the body and it was important that this was done thoroughly. Correct general?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I said that Brig Visser and Gen Du Toit, more or less at the same time I contacted them from my house when I was coming back from Pretoria to my office, and from my house I contacted them.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I would like to explain it in the following manner: Gen Du Toit was my second in command and I informed him as in many other cases, that he had knowledge of what had happened here. Because if I was not present there, that he knew what had happened there.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, if I can recall correctly - I cannot recall the precise words of this discussion - but what I know that he requested of me to help them with the questioning of this person and it was common knowledge that yourselves at John Vorster Square, after all the problems that was there, it was exclusively fitted for the detention of people and they had a shortage of manpower at that point, to continue with the interrogation. Because it was important that these people had to be interrogated and he requested my assistance.
MR MOLOI: Thank you Mr Chairman. Could I just get clear on one point, perhaps just to clear up one point. Gen Erasmus, in the questioning of Mr Rautenbach you seemed to suggest that any conduct or accesses by the security officers would not have been tolerated, because it would be against policy. Did I understand you correctly?
MR MOLOI: In your evidence in chief you also said that the politicians would know, necessarily know about accesses that would take place, because they made such utterances even on television and also went further to say they also advocated elimination of what you then called the terrorists.
MR MOLOI: Now in view of that, how then do you say neither you, who also testified that you went all out to resist this total onslaught, how then do you say that accesses by the security officers would not be tolerated?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I speak specifically of the instructions which were submitted to each member and who then signed it and who was aware of that, and aware of the fact that if he acted in such a way that the detainee would end up in such a situation, state or where he complained about the fact, that he would bear the consequences of his own deeds.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I think I said in my evidence in chief that the politicians wanted or they expected this, that we should fight this resistance with everything within our power, but as long as it doesn't get back to them.
MR MOLOI: Finally is it your evidence now that when you've made contact with Gen Visser in the Eastern Transvaal as it then was, the idea was actually to stage this fake escape, and not to dispose of the body?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I said I cryptically told Brig Visser that I had a problem, and that he would be contacted by Col Van Niekerk at a later stage. I did not discuss detail with him regarding a mock escape or anything other.
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I expected - I told him look, I have a problem. And maybe I used the word "detainee". So he would have made the conclusion that there was something drastically wrong and that he would have had to help me with that.
GEN ERASMUS: Me and Gen Van der Merwe did not discuss the issue that Brig Visser would help us in the mock escape. And I think you got the thought that he would be of assistance was because it was said that this mock escape had to take place close to the border. I think that's where the thought comes from.
CHAIRPERSON: The point that Mr Moloi is getting at is what you said was when you discussed it with Gen Van der Merwe, you discussed the possibility of having a fake escape in the Eastern Transvaal, somewhere near a border. And then after you spoke to Gen Van der Merwe you drove home and you phoned Brig Visser and Du Toit. And it was only after that discussion with Brig Visser that you went back to the office and spoke to Van Niekerk and they said to you no, to have a fake escape near the border wouldn't be too good, because Mr Bopape's activities had nothing to do with that area; it would be better to have a local escape, because the investigations would be local. So at the time on that evidence when you were speaking to Brig Visser, that factor about it being not a good plan to have the escape in the Eastern Transvaal hadn't been made known to you by Van Niekerk. So I think that's what Mr Moloi is asking.
When you spoke to Brig Visser, what did you expect of him? And now you said to get rid of the body. And now he's asking well, what about the escape? Did you not also expect him to at that stage assist in the fake escape?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, to answer it in this manner: I would have expected him to help me in a total fashion. In other words if the mock escape had to take place; and I don't know if it would have been necessary, if the mock escape would have taken place there to call on their assistance. But I'm not sure it would have been necessary, because there could have been someone else from a police station who had to become involved. And then you would have stressed this chain. I would have expected him to help me; I did not ask him with regards to something specific.
ADV DE JAGER: General, you say that members of the police force who made themselves guilty of assaults knew that it was wrong, and if it became known, they had to bear the consequences themselves. Is that correct?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, I do not know if they would have been able to help me. I expected that because of the utterances they made and that which they said that they should assist us; but if they would have done it, I was not sure.
ADV DE JAGER: Then just one other aspect. You testified that the members were shocked because they did not mean to kill the person. I wouldn't say that he died by accident, but almost by accident according to them.
ADV DE JAGER: Were other incidents, the ones that you were involved in, deliberate? For example the case of Kondile and other people, Mtimkhulu. There was a decision taken to kill these people. The intent was to kill them. It did not happen by accident.
JUDGE NGCOBO: Just one aspect to clear your evidence Gen Erasmus. You testified that if Mr Bopape had been tortured severely, and if there had been evidence of serious assault having taken place prior to his death, that would have influenced your decision. Probably you would not have - you would have made another decision. Is that right?
GEN ERASMUS: Chairperson, what I meant was if it was the case, I would have given the full details to Gen Van der Merwe and it's quite possible that we could have made another judgment then. But Gen Van der Merwe would then have decided that, although he was confronted with a factual situation, that we should proceed in the normal fashion and to follow the investigation and have an inquest. Because I also made sure these people understood that I undertake to have discussions with Gen Van der Merwe, but I do now know what his reaction would be.
JUDGE NGCOBO: Would you have recommended that in those circumstances, the normal procedure - that is the inquest and the prosecution if necessary - should follow, is that what you would have recommended personally?
JUDGE NGCOBO: I don't want to know what other persons would have said. I want to know what you would......you were the head of the Security Branch at John Vorster Square. What I want to know, why would the fact that a person had been tortured and assaulted before death have made a difference to you.
GEN ERASMUS: The only reason why I made that judgment Chairperson was because here we had a case where it's reported to me that this man unfortunately after the application of electrical shocks in a short span of time, died. If this man was attacked deliberately and because of that died, then I would have made a different judgment.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes. We will then have to as I've indicated earlier in the week that we'd be adjourning at lunch-time today. We in our discussion with legal representatives earlier in the week also mentioned that we'll be trying to start earlier next week. What would be a convenient time on Monday? Because Monday might be different - I don't know, from a technical point of view is it all right? It makes no difference. What time would be convenient for Monday? Nine o'clock?
MR VISSER: I would rather go later than start earlier. The problem which you can well imagine is that one has a lot of administration and other issues which one has to take care of in the mornings. Frankly I will fall in with whatever suits the majority. I would certainly prefer to go a half and hour later in the afternoon rather than start a half an hour earlier but that's only my own ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: I think at this stage - we can perhaps discuss it but I think at this stage let us adjourn until half past nine on Monday morning. If necessary we can sit for half an hour longer on Monday, if the people don't like it we can change it to nine o'clock for Tuesday.
MR RAUTENBACH: Mr Chairman, Mr Visser just mentioned -from my side I just want to put the following on record. As far as I am concerned, we would like to, if we can start earlier the better, if we can finish later, we'll even go for that. I know there are personal interests involved and that is because of my situation that I explained to you in your rooms the other day, especially with regard to the 10th and that is why as far as we are concerned, we will sit longer hours whenever you want us to sit even if it's, if we start earlier and finish later, that will also be in order.
ADV DE JAGER: Could I just mention something? I don't know - I know the next witness to be cross-examined, but we're not sure who would be the witness thereafter. It may be that you may be calling other witnesses. If they decide not to do so, I wouldn't like Mr Rautenbach to be surprised, or Mr Prinsloo, and no witness would be available later in the week. So could you kindly sort out that witnesses will be available to continue on Monday and appear for the whole day?
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I think we don't want a situation where somebody is caught by surprise and haven't got a witness because of that, and then we'll just lose time. So I'd appreciate it as Mr De Jager says if the legal representatives could liaise amongst themselves and with regard to the calling of future witnesses, so we don't land up with a wasted period of time because of that reason.
CHAIRPERSON: I think you see Mr Rautenbach should and Mr Prinsloo and Ms Van der Walt should know, and you should know whether, after Gen Du Toit has been cross-examined who's going to call the next witness so that that witness can be available, et cetera. Because we don't know exactly who's going to be called and when and in which order, who's going to call next.
MR VISSER: May I attempt to be of assistance in that regard? As presently advised Mr Chairman, we don't know whether we will call further witnesses and I would want to suggest through the chair to Mr Rautenbach that he be ready to proceed after General du Toit and maybe he must set his sails to that wind ...[intervention]
MR PRINSLOO: Mr Chairman, we were told by Mr Rautenbach, there's a likelihood of a particular policeman or police officers they intend calling, but should those people be called then we will also be calling a witness. It depends on that ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: What I was going to say, I would prefer it if the cases of the applicants could be concluded before we commence with the case of the victims but obviously if you will only call a witness in response to a witness that my be called but you don't intend at this stage calling that witness, then that can also be done. It would seem then that Mr Rautenbach, you well be advised to have any witnesses you wish to call ready to call in case nobody is called after General du Toit, thank you.