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Type AMNESTY HEARINGS
Starting Date 04 May 2000
Location WHITE RIVER
Names DANIEL BENJAMIN SNYDERS
Case Number AM0074/96
Matter BOMB ATTACKS ON NELSPRUIT HIGH SCHOOL AND DEATH OF MR SITHOLE, BOMB ATTACK ON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE
CHAIRPERSON: We want to continue with the applications of Daniel Benjamin Snyders, amnesty reference 0074/96, Jan Petrus Kruger, amnesty reference 2734/96 and Martinus Chritoffel Ras, amnesty reference 2736/96.
The Panel is constituted as would be constituted from the record. The Leader of Evidence is Ms Mtanga. And I'm going to ask the rest of the representatives to put themselves on record, starting with the representative on behalf of the applicants.
MR VAN WYK: I am P A van Wyk, I'm also counsel from the Pretoria Bar and I'm appearing on behalf of one of the alleged implicated people, being Louis Snyders, the applicant's brother. I'm appearing on behalf of the firm of Herman Grobler at Groblersdal. Thank you.
MR SMIT: Mr Snyders, in order to assist the learned Committee with regard to these applications, will you firstly please state these actions for which you apply for amnesty, and I wish to refer you to page 117 of the documents. This is a supplementary affidavit by yourself. Right at the top of this page you mention that you apply for the criminal procedures taken against you with regard to numbers 1 to 17, B1 to B10, as well as arson of the attorney's offices where attorneys by the name of Claasens offices were burnt down, and you request that amnesty be granted to you as it is stated in paragraph 19.2 on page 5.
Now if I may refer you initially to Annexures A1 to 17, these appear from pages 14 to 30 of the documents. On page 15 of the documents, Annexure A2, it would appear that there are several charges against you in the High Court of South Africa in a Circuit Division, is that correct?
MR SMIT: I shall momentarily return to the specific incidents with regard to these charges, but if I may refer you to page 31 of the bundle. These are charges where you are charged with your fellow applicants, Messrs Ras and Kruger, with regard to sabotage and malicious damage to property, as well as possession of explosives, is that correct?
MR SNYDERS: Toekomsgesprek was a secret organisation which flowed out after the inception of the Conservative Party. It was chosen members of the Conservative Party, who met secretly and operated secretly.
MR SMIT: And to emphasise this, you said this was in secrecy, this was an absolute secret organisation and not - may I draw the inference that not everyone in the Conservative Party knew of this organisation?
MR SNYDERS: It was to place the conservative-thinking member in a position of power and to support such persons and if the Conservative Party would come into power, then certain strong leaders would already be in place. For example, in Agriculture and Police, in Education and all the other functional departments which would function within a normal government.
MR SMIT: If we may return to the various acts for which you apply for amnesty. Firstly, if I may refer you back to page 13, Annexure A1 to 17, specifically A2, the charge against you there was that on or about the 16th of March at the Nelspruit High School, you had killed a Mr Sithole. In your supplementary affidavit you mention that a bomb was planted at the Nelspruit High School and it would appear that Mr Sithole had died in this bomb explosion, is that correct?
MR SNYDERS: The aim was that a certain Mr Kon Booyens was a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond and they expelled Mr Douw Steyn's son because they protested against a mixed high school, and it was my instruction to liven them up a bit.
MR SNYDERS: It was never aimed at any lives, that was one of our instructions, to ensure that no-one was injured or killed and the times when the bombs had to explode had to be late at night and Mr Kon Booyens was not at his house that time. We just wanted to scare him.
MR SNYDERS: Yes, Mr Kon Booyens was an outspoken person in the Education and it was ordered to prevent them from expelling any other scholars who were rightist in their attitude, and we thought that they would be afraid of taking any further steps against these scholars.
MR SMIT: And in scaring Mr Kon Booyens you mentioned that the National Party had to be threatened by these bombs, if I may put it as such, would that have had any impact on the National Party, who was the government of the day?
MR SNYDERS: Definitely, because the schools at that stage were targets in the political arena and Mr Kon Booyens was a highly recognised member of the National Party, and as I've said, he represented the Education in the Afrikaner Broederbond and one could see that he was a prominent member.
MR SMIT: If we move over to page 31, these are the charges of sabotage and malicious damage to property. On page 31 the charge against you was that the Magistrate's Court at Sabie was damaged, was this done by a bomb?
MR SNYDERS: Lowveld High would have been the first school to offer mixed activities and the confrontation was with regard to this and that is why Mr Douw Steyn and his sons were expelled from Nelspruit High, and we then had to damage the pavilions and the main buildings, so that the mixed inter-high could not take place because the persons would be too afraid to come to such a place.
MR SMIT: If I may refer you to page 7 of the documents, paragraph 21, you say Commandant Douw Steyn placed you under great pressure to blow up Lowveld High, because at that stage there were many bombs "geloop" in the Western Transvaal.
MR SNYDERS: We went through a time period where bombs had to go off at certain identified colleges and schools right throughout the country and he was the Commander of the whole Defence Group at that stage, and the bombs had already exploded in the Western Transvaal, where Nelspruit was seen as the leader organisation, and then Mr Steyn visited me in order to find out why we had not done the job which was given to us and that the school caused them great problems because it was an English inspired school, but we did not want to let anyone know the dates because we were afraid of any insurgencies or infiltrations. "So ek het die opdrag van hom af gekry, en ons het self ons datum tyd beplan, wanneer ons sou in beweeg het."
MNR SNYDERS: Die prokureur Claasen het teen sakemanne in vrede opgetree namens swartes wat by daai stadium by stakings betrokke was, en toe is my opdrag gewees om sy kantore af te brand, om hom tot niet te maak.
MR SMIT: May I return to the explosion at Nelspruit High. There were charges laid against you, will you please tell me, the bomb at the high school, at what time was it supposed to detonate? Why did someone die there?
MR SNYDERS: The situation at Nelspruit High School was - I wish to put it clearly to the Committee, was that we are very sorry and I am terribly sorry for what had happened there, but the two bombs that had exploded at the Agriculture College and at Nelspruit High, were electrically installed and I personally developed the mechanisms so that they should explode at three in the morning when there was no-one around. I was five kilometres away from there and the echo from the Agriculture College which was at the foot of the mountains, it seemed to me as if all the bombs went off simultaneously and then we departed.
I did not realise that the bomb at the high school did not explode, because if I did know that it did not explode, I would have gone back to disable it, because apparently I tripped when we planted the bombs and some dirt came into the mechanism and unfortunate the gardener who arrived there on Monday, found these things and picked it up and the mechanism went off.
MR SNYDERS: The bomb that had the timing mechanism was in a gas bottle, the explosives were in a gas bottle and the others were connected to it with cortex in a truck's slave cylinder which was closed up, and it was connected to that and it placed next to the house of Kon Booyens, next to his garages, and it was placed as such so that persons would not be injured if anyone was close-by, but I did not realise that they did not detonate.
"It was in order to disrupt the then regime, in order to force a general election before the implementation of the transitional government."
MR SNYDERS: Firstly, it was to draw the attention of the government that the greater part of the Afrikaners in South Africa were not happy with their policy at that stage, and secondly, it was in order to scare people from the National Party and its policies and then also to draw the attention of the leadership figures, to tell them that it was not acceptable, this transitional period that we were going through.
MR SMIT: When you say you wanted to force a general election before the implementation, would you please explain how the planting of bombs and the actions that you had launched, cause a general election.
MR SNYDERS: If there were many bombs going off all over the place where we planned them to go off, it would create the impression that the country was ungovernable and then Mr de Klerk would call a State of Emergency, or call an election, but we did not want a referendum at that stage, we wanted a general election which would have been more representative at that stage.
MR SNYDERS: It was basically the CP's strategy in order to force the government to listen to them, because as you know they were ignoring the media and television and all those places, and these actions would have placed the attention on them and also of the people, because you know what coverage the media and television gave to them at that stage.
MR SNYDERS: The management of the CP was the Toekomsgesprek because it had to take place in secrecy, but Commandant Douw Steyn was connected to them directly and he had to clear all actions with Dr Treurnicht and with Mr Andries Beyers, who was the Chief Secretary at that stage.
MR SNYDERS: No, it is only about the fact that at Nelspruit High there was dissatisfaction, and once again I would request the Commission and the relatives of Mr Sithole and so forth, I would like to apologise to them for what had happened there. These actions were never aimed against any black person or persons who were in the National Party at that stage, it was aimed at the National Party leaders and to draw the attention to that. I would just like to offer my apologies to all the families who had suffered and I would like to tell them that it was not aimed at any one of them.
MR VAN WYK: Would you agree - I would not like to go in-depth here, but at some stage you accused your brother of theft, do you recall that? And you withheld his bonus with regard to work done at Escom.
MR VAN WYK: With regard to this point, I would just like to conclude that my client, your brother, says that he heard from your sister that because of these differences between you, you at a stage would have said to your sister that your brother would crawl before you, can you recall that?
MR SNYDERS: If you look at my first statement you will see that a supplementary statement would follow, and if there were any omissions, these would be highlighted during the hearing. At that stage thereafter the attorney who handled our case was deceased and that is why our supplementary affidavits followed so long afterwards, but I warned Mr Louis Snyders and I told him that we had to apply for amnesty and he refused to do it.
MR VAN WYK: But that is indeed what I want to know from you, when you warned him and told him to apply for amnesty and you handed up an application, why did you not mention him in your first application? I want to make the point that your brother denies his involvement here, and secondly, my instructions are that you involve him because there is a family feud. Would you like to comment on this?
MR SNYDERS: I think that is his version and your version of it, but the fact of the matter remains that the Truth Commission came back to us on various occasions and they wanted certain detail with regard to these incidents and I elaborated thereupon and they wanted names of other persons who were involved and that is why I elaborated on it. So that is his version and I will stick to mine.
MR VAN WYK: A following aspect which I would like to take up with you, has regard to the secret organisation, Toekomsgesprek. You would agree with me that your brother, my client, was not a member of Toekomsgesprek.
MR VAN WYK: I would just like to make a statement to you, my instructions from your brother are that he denies that he went to Maputo to fetch arms. That is your brother's version, would you wish to comment?
MR SNYDERS: Let us accept that that is his version, what I had said here in this thing, and that is the whole purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it does not help that I am trying to suck lies from my thumb here. This is not about Toekomsgesprek, this mentions whoever was involved in the Lowveld. It's because the whole organisation was about Toekomsgesprek, so if Mr Snyders alleges that he was not there, then we shall say that is his statement. I know where he was and I know what he did and that is that.
MR VAN WYK: The reason why I ask you this is because in the initial application where reference is made to the arms in Maputo, no reference is made to your brother. Do you have any problem with that statement of mine? I shall assist you here. If you study page 7 of your previous application, clause K, and in your initial application you did not mention your brother, but later you do involve him.
MR VAN WYK: Thank you. The following aspect to which I wish to refer you to is, if you would go over to page 85 of the bundle, this is in regard to the explosions at the high school and the Nelspruit Agricultural College. I shall deal with these simultaneously. You will note that on page 85, paragraph 23, in that paragraph you twice refer to your brother, you say
"Because Louis and I were involved in the manufacturing of the bombs that had been planted at the college and at the high school ..."
MR SNYDERS: I do not wish to elaborate too much on this, the point is that he accompanied me on many occasions. One has to accept that where I wanted to protect one - at that stage in my first statement it was only myself, Jan and Tienie who were arrested, so the whole thing revolved around myself, there were no other arrests, but after some communication between ourselves and the TRC, they told us to elaborate on everything that had happened and that is why I elaborated more in detail as to who was involved and when.
MR VAN WYK: And then you say that you and your brother planted it there. For the sake of completion for the Committee, my instruction is that your brother denies any involvement in the manufacturing of these bombs or the planting of these bombs. Your comment to that?
MR VAN WYK: And on the same page paragraph 25.2, reference is made to the R1 rifles and ammunition which was fetched by Johan Broekman, Johan Segers and Louis Snyders in the Komatiepoort vicinity. So this is the third time you refer to your brother here, but which does not appear in your initial application, would you agree?
MR VAN WYK: I see from the charge sheet and the list of witnesses, that two Magistrate's names appear on this list - if I could just find the page for you, page 28, are these statements which you had deposed to before the Magistrate?
MR VAN WYK: Mr Chairman, I've no further questions in respect of this applicant, I can just point out that an additional affidavit has been prepared by my client, I think copies have been supplied to yourselves - ja, I see some of your Committee Members do have copies, and I will merely ask that this affidavit be accepted on behalf of my client. I do not intend tendering any evidence, I'm just handing in the affidavit for that purpose. Thank you very much, Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr van Wyk. I just want to arrange for these things to be marked, so that we have a proper reference to all these documents. There are further supplementary affidavits from all of the applicants, they are attested to - I'll just make sure if they were attested to on the same date ...(intervention)
MR SNYDERS: I personally did the reconnaissance work in the area, as well as watched Mr Kon Booyens' movements for approximately there weeks. I determined the distances and drew up a timing schedule as to how we would arrive there and how we would leave. And as I have said previously, the planning was for 3 o'clock that night when he would not be at home and no workers or any other staff would be in the vicinity. I think it was a Saturday night, if I recall correctly.
So the misunderstanding came about with the two bombs which were supposed to be detonated at 3 o'clock that night at the Agricultural College and the Agricultural College's explosion sent out an echo over Nelspruit and it appeared that all the bombs had been detonated at the same time, and then we departed.
MR SNYDERS: We only realised that it did not detonate the following morning when we heard it on the news, because the police had a tremendous task force which had surrounded the school. That was after a certain Mr Sithole, who was the gardener there, had picked up the explosive device and the one exploded in his hand, which had the timing mechanism on it and by picking up the bomb he pulled out the detonators of the other two and the police defused these. That is the first that we heard of this.
MR SNYDERS: We carried out various tests with various materials and various metal structures and the purpose of this was to get a container which would be shredded apart, and the amfax is a slow explosive but it has much power, and we built these things and we went and tested them in the plantations until we had the correct size. One has certain explosives where charges are used, where fast charges are used, and others where slow charges are used and others that are used for demolitions.
MR VAN DER BANK: Sir, I wish to commence with your objectives when you planted these bombs. Would you please tell the Committee whether the principals of these schools were members of the NP, or Broederbond?
MR SNYDERS: This was not determined by me, I was under the command of one, Commandant Douw Steyn, who served on the Management Committee of Nelspruit High at that stage. They determined the targets and determined who belonged to what, so I was actually only an operation on the ground. I served in the higher structures at TG, but they were in command and they identified the persons. And as you know, persons in the Broederbond were prominent persons in the National Party. That is how we determined it.
MR VAN DER BANK: Is it correct when I put it to you that the Afrikaner Broederbond just like Toekomsgesprek, were both a secret organisations of which the members or the membership were unknown to the general public?
MR VAN DER BANK: Therefore Sir, when you accepted these instructions from Commandant Steyn, you accepted in good faith that they were members of the Broederbond or the National Party, who you had taken action against at that stage?
MR SNYDERS: That's correct. I would just like to tell the Committee that Commandant Douw Steyn and some of the other members were also earlier in the Broederbond, and that is how they knew. Commandant Douw Steyn was a Commander in the Army, which was automatically part of the Broederbond and he and Mr Booyens served in the same organisation before the breakaway of the CP, and after this breakaway, the Rapportryers also broke away.
MR VAN DER BANK: At a stage after these explosions had taken place at the Agricultural College, as well as Nelspruit High School, did the organisation Toekomsgesprek succeed in any political objective as you have stated earlier, to cause this reign of terror?
MR SNYDERS: I would say it was more to cause a disruption. The damage was not that great, but the impact of a bomb explosion, if you look at the damage of R6 000, that is not a great damage, one could have damaged the whole building. This was just a reign of terror that we wanted to create and the fact that it received media coverage and persons would react tremendously to this. We know what happened in the past.
MR SNYDERS: I am not able to say that he was completely aware, but the fact is that I was under the command and all that I knew was that I was a member of the Defence Group that had to train many other cells, and all that I know is that it had to be cleared with the politicians first, with the leaders. The leaders, meaning Andries Beyers and Andries Treurnicht. Douw Steyn had direct liaison with them and that is what he conveyed to me and that is my version.
MR VAN DER BANK: Yes. Sir, if I may refer you to page 70 of the bundle, this is a document from the Conservative Party to the Amnesty Committee itself. As you will see from this letter, the Conservative Party denies any actions outside the political framework of political activity and by implication, that they were never involved in any unlawful planting of bombs and so forth. What is your comment to this?
MR SNYDERS: I think the Commission is aware of political parties and their versions of everything. The fact of the matter is that we were at grassroots level, we were on the ground and we had to do these things on their instructions. My version here is the truth, I cannot comment as to what he denies and what he does not deny. These people making these allegations must come and stand here in the box and say under oath that they knew or they did not know. In any case I see this is a Mr Wouter Hoffman who signed it, who at that stage was not the Head Secretary of the political party, but Mr Andries Beyers. Mr Andries Beyers personally came from Pretoria. Where we tested bombs, he came to see what the effect of these bombs were. So I reject this document in its entirety.
MS MTANGA: I'm trying to understand the political objective that would be achieved by the bombing of Sabie Magistrate's Court, in respect of your organisation, the Conservative Party and the Toekomsgesprek that you were a member of.
MR SNYDERS: The purpose of explosions like for example, at the Magistrate's Court in Sabie, that was to cause panic with the voters, the voters who had to vote for the National Party, and the fact that certain State targets were identified was merely because the attacks were aimed at this. As you know schools and courts, these are all State property, and it was to draw attention, the attention of the National Party, of the Afrikaner's resistance and these unacceptable policies that they wanted to execute. This was just pre-emptive, to show the world that the country was ungovernable at that stage. I cannot tell you exactly, I acted under instructions myself, I received an order and I was just told to do this.
ADV SANDI: Thank you, Chair. Mr Snyders, can you say at what stage exactly the Toekomsgesprek Group was established? I know the Conservative Party was formed in 1982, when was this Toekomsgesprek formed?
MR SNYDERS: I was not present at the founding of Toekomsgesprek, the only thing I can tell is that after the break of the National Party, when the CP was founded and many months after that there was great confrontation in the Afrikaner Broederbond, because you will know that Andries Treurnicht was a member of the Broederbond. So the confrontation within the secret structures at that stage, caused the break in the Broederbond and that is why the CP's secret organisation was founded. At a later stage I was involved by Commandant Douw Steyn, but I was not involved in the founding of it. I was at that stage a member of the Rapportryers corpse.
ADV SANDI: From what you have said it would appear that you gentlemen had a problem with the idea of integration, do I understand your evidence correctly? Integration in schools, you had a problem with that.
MR SNYDERS: That is correct, it was not my personal problem, that was the whole CP policy as you would know yourself, that the entire Conservative Party was against any government of national unity, or whatever had been tabled at that stage and they wanted to advocate separate development.
ADV SANDI: How would you - I'm not for a moment suggesting that this is the position, if one is suggesting to you that that operation you carried at that school and agricultural college, you were motivated by racism, how would you defend yourself against such a charge? If such a charge were to be put against you, what would you say, how would you respond?
MR SNYDERS: I would not attach to racism solely, this was about two white groups who confronted each other with regard to the direction of certain policies. It was about what the Conservative Party advocated at that stage, but I was not an MP or a cabinet member of the Conservative Party, I was just a common person on the ground, and you know how people are incited in politics with regard to certain issues. So at that stage mixed schools were blown up as if it was the end of South Africa. So it was only politics. And if we look at the countries around ourselves today and how people are incited through politics, that is a daily occurrence.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Snyders, it would appear that you had contact with Mr Douw Steyn and he served as a type of channel as you comprehended the situation, with the Toekomsgesprek group, would that be correct?
MR SNYDERS: Commandant Douw Steyn was the Commander of the Toekomsgesprek group. As you would see in my application, Toekomsgesprek was divided into various interest groups, amongst others, Education interest group, Defence Interest Group, and Mr Douw Steyn was the leader of the Toekomsgesprek Defence Group. And the leader of each group had a direct channel with the leader of the party.
MR SNYDERS: That is correct, Mr Douw Steyn was the Chairperson of the Management Board of the high school and they were in confrontation with Mr Kon Booyens who was the principal of that school, because of mixed sport there, and then his own son wrote graffiti on the walls of the school and some other members son's, and then Mr Kon Booyens expelled them from the school.
MR SNYDERS: I don't know whether one could attach it to the personal differences there, I think it is something that happened there. If it was anyone else's children, the same thing would have happened. Nelspruit High School is a leadership school, any action that is launched from there. And Mr Kon Booyens was a prominent figure in the National Party and in Education circles.
CHAIRPERSON: And was this after his son was expelled that Mr Steyn approached your group to ask you why are you not doing anything, why is nothing happening in Nelspruit, but in Western Transvaal all the bombs are exploding?
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I think your attention was drawn to this letter of the Conservative Party, and he put it to you that it would appear that the Conservative Party distances itself from any unlawful activities. That's on page 70 of the documents.
CHAIRPERSON: But that is the point that Mr van der Bank wanted to make to you, that is why he drew your attention to it. This invitation in 1990, this was written in 1997, where the Conservative Party specifically reacted to this application which serves before us, and they say that they did not undertake any planning outside the framework of the law. That is the important part of the letter which Mr van der Bank has put to you for your comment. But if I understand you correctly, Mr Douw Steyn is the channel who liaised with you on ground level and this overhead body which you understood to be the Conservative Party.
MR SNYDERS: That is correct. I would just like to tell you that Mr Douw Steyn is a prominent member in the Conservative Party, he himself was a policy-maker in the Conservative Party. So you have to accept that chiefly he knew what he was doing. He at a stage would have been chosen as the MP was for Nelspruit, but he was a highly recognised leadership figure and he formulated the Defence policy of the Conservative Party.
CHAIRPERSON: We had indicated that because we are sitting longer than we would normally sit today we will take a very, very short adjournment after the first applicant. We'll take a 10 minute adjournment just to allow people to stretch their legs before we continue with the second applicant. So we'll stand down for 10 minutes.