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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type 1 C NEL, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, SUBMISSIONS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Starting Date 19 November 1996
Names COLONEL CHRIS NEL
Case Number EAST LONDON MASSACRE II
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair unfortunately I don't know on which information the Commission acted, I was not the Chief of Military Intelligence at that stage in Ciskei. The Chief of Military Intelligence at that stage was a Mr Ockert Swanepoel and I was involved in intelligence collection as part of that section, but he was the chief.
MR POTGIETER: The erstwhile military leader of Ciskei, Brigadier Gqozo testified this morning and in his testimony he also refers to you as the former head of Ciskei Military Intelligence, Colonel Chris Nel, so I am a bit puzzled, you are saying that he's wrong?
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair yes, I think the dates involved he might have confused it. According to one of the documents that he handed in to the Commission you will see that a planning meeting that was held prior to the Bisho incident a Mr Swanepoel's name appears on that as a representative. I was not the senior of Intelligence, Mr Swanepoel was. Mr Swanepoel left the Ciskei in December 1992 and I became the head of Intelligence in 1993.
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair I was not seconded from the South African Defence Force, I was a former member of the South African Defence Force, I was requested from the Bophuthatswana Defence Force to come and work for the Ciskei.
MR POTGIETER: Thank you. I just wanted to clarify the position by way of introduction, but what I want to ask you to do, you have been approached to assist the Commission in regard to the incident on the 7th of September 1992 and what led up to that incident and that's really what I want you to focus on, so I will leave you to take us through whatever submission you want to make in that regard. Thank you.
COLONEL NEL: Thank you Mr Chair and Honourable Commissioners. I have prepared myself to give whatever contribution I can make to the Commission by means of notes, and I thank you for the opportunity to be here, and I hope that what I say and in answering your questions can shed further light on the events of the day and can help people to understand and to process this event better as part of the healing process.
I would like to start off by saying there's a number of things that I feel sorry about and I want to apologise and ask forgiveness and I would like the people to tolerate me although the terms Military intelligence is not always something that is very popular.
I want to say sorry because with hindsight and looking back at the incident from a distance and from the whole period in the Ciskei I can say yes, I understand and I agree that I was part of an illegitimate regime. I feel that the knowledge that we gained in the integration process in the Defence Force and since the elections a lot of our perceptions and our perspectives about life and about other human beings changed.
I can never know exactly how those people who lost loved ones in the process and who are sitting here who were injured in the process of that 7th of September incident, how they feel, but I want to say to them I am sorry if I contributed in any way to that incident. I am a parent myself and I can imagine how it must feel to lose a child. It must be an emotional situation and it's easy to hate and therefore I ask if we want to reach reconciliation, forgive me.
Although I don't regard myself as a role player directly involved on the day of the events I cannot distance myself from it. I was a member of the Ciskei Defence Force at that stage. I felt part of that specific grouping and therefore I can understand the horrible pain and suffering that was the direct cause of the Ciskei Defence Force action on those days, on that day specifically.
I visited the scene a few times afterwards and that picture comes back to mind and it will take a long time for myself to process it, but even longer for those people who suffered on the receiving end. And I believe that this incident can only be put behind us if effective measures are taken to look at the plight of the victims, because if the victims are reminded every day of their suffering and of that incident by their suffering they will never process this incident. In one way or another, be it financial, emotional or other help the people must be assisted, the victims on that day must be assisted to process that incident.
I would like to elaborate a little bit more on my own role as a member of the Ciskei Military Intelligence on that day, prior events to that, I was present on the 4th of August during the first march at the roadblock where the security forces were pushed back and I spoke to people like Chris Hani personally, he spoke to us. I spoke to his bodyguard and there was a lot of interaction between the crowd and the people. It was an interesting incident. I personally felt that the crowd wasn't going to stop on the 4th of August. If they wanted to continue to Bisho they could have. But through shuttle diplomacy and negotiations from the National Peace Committee members and the people involved on the ground that situation was resolved.
When the march of 7th of September was announced I had that picture in my mind as a frame of reference to judge according to that what can be expected on the 7th of September. There were a lot of other rumours, information coming from all quarters that on the 7th of September the people will not accept to go to the stadium only, they wanted to go to Bisho. That was the aim of the march and that's how it was passed on from the Intelligence community by my head, Mr Swanepoel, to the State Security Council and whatever forums he attended during the planning sessions. I am aware of a number of planning sessions that did take place and I can say no real information came to light, and the framework of the 4th of August was more-or-less used as a frame of reference for what can be expected on the 7th of September.
On the day of the incident we have deployed our intelligence personnel all over Ciskei because of other information that incidents might occur at other places and not specifically concentrated at the march. The march situation was under the control of so many security forces that we deployed our intelligence personnel in Mdantsane and up to the (...indistinct) district, all over Ciskei to give feedback of the situation out there. Learning from the experience of the 4th of March when Brigadier Gqozo took over, in the event of an announcement that Bisho was taken over there could have been a possible spill over and people becoming so jubilant that they in fact break the law.
On the day of the march I accompanied Mr Swanepoel. We visited various places around the deployment of the forces. I was present at the roadblock where the razor wire was erected at that stage. It was on the recommendations that they should erect razor wire because of the 4th of August march there were no effective measures taken by the police to be able to tell this crowd you can come up to here and no further. They couldn't exercise control.
When the crowd approached, when they came into the distance where we could see and hear them myself and Mr Swanepoel went to the Parliament buildings where we were earlier that day as well, where the operational room was situated, and there was a clear - from the roof of the Parliament buildings you could oversee the whole event. I went up onto the roof of the Parliament buildings where Admiral Bekker and Brigadier "Mees" Muller and a number of other people were there, and we observed the situation as the march proceeded up to the place where it was stopped by the police and diverted into the stadium. We could clearly see the extent of the crowd. It was quite a large group. It's the largest group of people, I wonder if one can fit them into Ellis Park or one of those big stadiums. People have come up with figures of 18,000 and 25,000, I calculated much more, in the vicinity of 50,000 plus.
It was quite, from a soldier's point of view, an intimidating sight. My impressions were the forces on the ground were totally inadequate, specifically the police who were deployed on the road and if that crowd became out of control and the crowd broke up into smaller groups there was no way that anybody was going to control that situation with the levels of forces available.
A group was clearly breaking away, we could see that from the top of the Parliament buildings, going through what is generally referred to now as the gap in the fence. We could see that from the Parliament buildings. Shortly after that chaos broke out in the control room downstairs, it was one level down from us, but we could hear people shouting. I personally went down and people were shouting that they are shooting at us and a command to fire was given. I was rushing up the stairs when the shooting started to see what's happening and when I got to the roof it was a terrible sight. People were lying all over the place. My immediate estimation was thousands of people dead. It was shocking to say the least. Then there was a lull in fire and then it started again. I couldn't understand why, but the operational people were in charge of the situation and I had trust in them that they would take the right decisions.
Shortly afterwards, I don't know how long the shooting lasted, it was bursts of fire, my impression was it was one burst of fire and as if people changed magazines or received another command and they started firing again. But it was like a domino effect. It came from the side where the group broke away and then all around where troops were deployed the shooting started like a chain effect, and then it died down and the same thing started again, single shots and then a total volley of fire I think by everybody deployed.
Afterwards I was relieved to see many of those lying down were in fact standing up and that the terrain shielded them from direct fire. But many people were lying in various places, I presume injured or dead. We went down and we got into the vehicle with Mr Swanepoel and we were shocked, we were surprised, we couldn't believe that this happened. I can remember saying to him, this is history that our children will learn about one day.
Then we went down to where the roadblock was to see exactly what happened, how people were killed, there were rumours about shooting at own forces, were that in fact true, the police from the South African Police side, and the Ciskei Police side there was quite a high level delegation at that stage. There were people with high ranks. There was a general from the South African Police, General Viktor was there, General Ulshig and others and they immediately started with the investigation.
I want to say a few things about my impressions of the incident. There were a number of mistakes made, with hindsight one can always criticise and say a lot of things, but I know that the inputs from the Intelligence community and from the Allied Intelligence Centre, the Allied Operational Centre that was in place at that stage to the politicians, to the Ciskei authorities was to find a political solution. There is no way that we are going to be able to solve this problem with military means. And then Ciskei Police take up your responsibility, this is internal situation, crowd control is a police responsibility, the defence force should not be employed in this role, it is not a defence task to use minimum force.
The fact that a political settlement could not be reached and the fact that the defence force and the police had to wait until that morning to get clarification of what was agreed upon to finalise their planning asked for crisis management. I was personally disappointed in the role played by the Ciskei Police in this whole affair, and not to divert any blame in that direction. If I can remember correctly the only police people present were about, estimated, 50, 60, 70 policemen deployed on the road. Now if anybody thought that 60 or 80, how many there were I don't know, policemen can control a crowd of that magnitude has surely underestimated the movement of the crowd on that day.
The use of minimum force weapons are normally there with the police and the riot unit, so even the gap in the fence, if protection of the perimeter of the gathering that was supposed to take place in the stadium was supposed to take place that should have been the police responsibility. The military should always be far away to handle only extreme crisis situation where you need to take it one step further.
There was a situation of panic amongst the soldiers. Until this day I cannot say whether there were in facts shots fired at the soldiers, or at a soldier, but I think panic created that situation from their side even if they were shot at or not shot at, to get themselves out of a situation where either they had to run away or maybe had to be disarmed and overrun by the crowd.
What I believe is the spark of these events with the crowd breaking out did create that panic from the soldiers. We believed that the crowd would either push through on the main road, but according to the information that I had at that stage is that they would not divert through the stadium, and then definitely what went wrong on that day is orders that were given through either no in detail or were not correctly received on the bottom to fire, and when to stop fire. The domino effect that I - the chain effect that I spoke about earlier I cannot say that that resulted directly from a command, but whether there was justification for everybody to shoot is a very serious question of doubt in my mind.
Looking at the road ahead I feel there can be no reconciliation before the plight of the victims is not properly addressed. Their suffering will always remind them of the day and if anything can be done to relieve the suffering then I can't expect anybody to forget but the forgiveness can be better.
I ask for tolerance even if there are political differences and let us build a true democracy. It's nice to be part of the National Defence Force where you feel legitimate and professional. I think things happening at
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Chairman. Mr Nel seeing that we don't really have much time on our side I would request that you try and answer the questions which we'll be putting to you as briefly as possible. Now can I start off by asking you when you say,
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair through you I know one of the victims personally. Meeting him afterwards, Mr Petros Vantyu and I personally believe if somebody suffered pain and suffering due to a mistake by somebody else which was part of the government surely he's entitled to compensation. But also for the purposes of reconciliation if people, if children are suffering today, and due to their suffering, they ask themselves why am I suffering, because my dad is not here. Why is he not here - because of the Bisho
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair the International Research was a bank account name. The Ciskei Intelligence Service was an organisation that existed from early 1990 to October 1991 when it was officially closed down by Deputy Minister Wynand Breytenbach and the then South African Chief of Defence Force General Kat Liebenberg when they came to Ciskei, discussed the whole issue around the existence of Ciskei Intelligence Services and it was jointly decided to close that organisation down. The members of the Ciskei Intelligence Services, of which I was one, then left the Ciskei and two of us remained, myself and Colonel Swanepoel who were then employed by the Ciskei Defence Force, October 1991.
Cape, that included the Army Intelligence in East London, the Military Intelligence also in East London, the Security Police in King Williamstown and East London, and the National Intelligence to a lesser extent. But there was an official body called the Allied Intelligence Centre which came together from time-to-time to discuss matters of mutual interest, cross-border effects and there were constant liaison between the two bodies, between the different bodies.
COLONEL NEL: Normally in events like this specifically the 7th of September, where an activity or a build-up for an activity takes place in the RSA and then moves into the Ciskei there are different parties involved here. The Ciskei Police and the South African Police would liaise on their equal level, but from Intelligence levels we will also liaise and then from time to time come together as a total group, and discuss the total situation as such.
MR SANDI: Generally speaking what would you say, putting it in a nutshell, what would you say is the function of a Military Intelligence Service? Would I be correct to believe that that is the kind of an arm of the State to protect it against what the State perceives as its enemies?
COLONEL NEL: No, Mr Chair the Intelligence Community has no operational capacity. It cannot protect the government other than by giving knowledge. The function of the Intelligence Service is to collect information on such an individual, grouping, person, who are, according to the definition of somebody endangering State security, that is the function of the Intelligence organisation. To identify
COLONEL NEL: Yes I have been involved all my life, since I left school. I was in the Infantry for one year and then after that I joined Army Intelligence and I am till today in Army Intelligence, that's what I did all my career.
COLONEL NEL: The main challenges facing ...(tape ends) ...task that was laid upon the Intelligence community is to let the State Security Council know in time about any body, any organisation that poses a threat or plans to do anything that poses a threat to State security, as I said to you earlier. Within this definition surely the Ciskei Intelligence Services and later the Ciskei Defence Force Military Intelligence they concentrated to a large extent on the activities of what was perceived to be a military threat, Umkhonto weSizwe, Apla, dissident elements maybe from those groupings. We concentrated on the ANC. We concentrated on Sanco. There were numerous incidents, more than 300 incidents directed against the Headmen System. We had to investigate and see who were behind it and what the causes were. All the violence that was defined as political violence, we had to find answers for these things. We had to know where they came from and who were behind them. That is the function of the Intelligence.
COLONEL NEL: To be honest the situation Mr Chair at that stage was almost at a level of, I don't want to call it civil war, but in rural areas the fights between headmen and the Residents Association was in some places almost turning into war. I can remember incidents where people were decapitated and people were shot at, houses were burnt down, there are long, long lists of these incidents, and that kept us busy for most of our time, to investigate where there were shooting incidents get closer to the bone but we had no executive powers, we could not arrest anybody. Whenever we found information that leads us closer to evidence we handed over to the Ciskei Police who will then carry it out in terms of arrests, charge people and bring them in front of the court of law.
MR SANDI: Thank you Mr Nel so far. Mr Chairman I don't want to appear as if I am putting the witness under cross-examination. We are not cross-examining people who appear before this Commission, we ask questions simply to get clarity and I hope Mr Nel will give us more information as members of the panel pose questions to him. I may have to come back to Mr Nel to ask a few other questions. I am handing over to you.
MR POTGIETER: Thank you Mr Sandi. Can I just clarify something Colonel Nel. You said that you were a member of the Ciskeian Intelligence Service until that was disbanded, and then you stayed behind in Ciskei, you and Mr Swanepoel.
COLONEL NEL: When I was recruited by Anton Nieuwoudt in May 1991 I was recruited to work for the National Intelligence Service of the Ciskei. From Bophuthatswana I came to the Ciskei and I was appointed them in Ciskei Intelligence Service. That organisation existed before I arrived there. At the same time I arrived there in May, end of May, there was a Ciskei Military Intelligence Service which was under Colonel Gerry Hugo. That was part of the Ciskei Defence Force. Because I had no National Intelligence background at that stage we were detached from Ciskei Intelligence Service to the Military Intelligence, myself and Mr Swanepoel. We worked with Colonel Hugo to help him put up a system. There is a long tragic incident that happened there, that resulted in Colonel Hugo leaving the Ciskei for Transkei, later being charged for the theft of money, and he left the Ciskei and the Military Intelligence of the CDF was without a head.
At the same time Colonel Hugo exposed a number of things about the Ciskei Intelligence Service in the press which I learnt about in the press, it was in July/August 1991. This was in fact a month and a half after I arrived there. At that stage it became a controversial organisation, a lot of it was written in the Press about it and people from Pretoria came down to close this unit down. It dragged on from August until the end of October when this organisation, after it almost ended in a legal debate and a
court case, it was closed down. So Ciskei Defence Force Intelligence was without a head and Ciskei Intelligence Services was closed down. So General Ulshig who was then a Brigadier in charge of the Ciskei Defence Force went to the Head of State, asked him whether he could keep myself and Mr Swanepoel behind because we are not part of any problem that will implicate, or implications about the Ciskei Intelligence Service, whether we could stay behind and get the Ciskei Intelligence in the Military, Military Intelligence off the ground. This was agreed upon. We were appointed in the Ciskei Defence Force as contractual members, at a much reduced salary and we continued to get the Ciskei Defence Force off the ground that year.
COLONEL NEL: Ja the name International Research was in fact the name of the - if you run covert operations you sometimes register a company but it is just a dormant company to be able to do transactions with if you don't want to let your intelligence connotations be known, and the name International Research was in fact the name of the company that was registered to handle their financial transactions, but they were officially, I think in terms of the decree for their formation called the Ciskei Intelligence Service, the CIS.
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair the operations of Ciskei Intelligence Service or International Research was unknown to me, but I would like to answer that, I wouldn't like to hold any information back, I learnt everything about this basically in the press, and what I detected in conversations with other people. How any National Intelligence Organisation, NIA or SAS that's operating today as part of the legitimate government, I am sure if you do investigation there you will find the same practice, that in the collection of intelligence or information we work on a more-or-less a percentage that 80% of all information is overtly available, that you can get without using agents and sources. But there is about a 10 to 20% percentage of information that you need to obtain, that information is only known to a small number of people, and for you to obtain that information you have to get somebody from that group to provide you with that information, or you have to get somebody into that group to provide you with that information. Now you cannot take somebody with a defence force ID card in his pocket and that is known in a defence force to do that kind of work. What is generally referred to is to "afdekking"(?), I don't know what the English word is, "bedek".
COLONEL NEL: I presume in this case it was like that. The operations that I knew in the past, yes, that is how you perform covert operations. If you want to register your vehicles you can't do it in a way that if somebody goes to the Traffic Department and does a traffic check on you and finds it's a Defence Force vehicle.
COLONEL NEL: Okay. What I learnt about the operations from discussions and what I read is that their operations were in fact relating to the state security of the Ciskei, on the four legs of the military threat, the political threat, the socio-economic threat, so that if that threat originated from outside the Ciskei I presume they had the
COLONEL NEL: This is specifically - I know many people will find it difficult to believe Mr Chair, the South African Defence Force went through a process of cleaning up its act. You know about the CCB that was closed down and a number of other so-called front companies of the past that was closed down, and they were preparing themselves for changes, and from 1990 onwards a lot of defence force people who belonged to these elements that were closed down were in fact jobless and they came to places like Ciskei. Some of them recently joined in large numbers Executive Outcomes just as an example. When the news broke from Colonel Hugo that this organisation was involved in so-called dirty tricks and illegal activities and that former South African Defence Force members were involved there was an allegation that this was in fact a re-grouping of former people from these closed down organisations. And to protect South African interest that is why it was closed down. That is how it was explained to me.
COLONEL NEL: For four months I received my government salary via that account. The system how it worked was that Mr Mogadji, who was the DG of the Council of State would on a monthly basis pay the funds for the Ciskei Intelligence Service out to them by means of a cheque made out to International Researchers, our salaries were then deposited into the bank account and I was paid with a cheque from International Researchers for from May, end of May until end of September I was paid by the International Researchers, yes.
REV FINCA: And are you aware of a statement made in the SADF document which was used in the Pretoria Supreme Court which alleges that yourself and Ockert Swanepoel actually remained in Ciskei at the instruction of Anton Nieuwoudt to actually continue the activities of this organisation which was allegedly being closed down?
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair to be honest there are so many reports about me in the newspapers that I can't keep track. That is a new one to me. But I, from what you have stated there I can detect the origin of that, it is most probably an allegation by Colonel Hugo, and there is no truth in it. I was asked by General Ulshig, and he can come and testify to that effect to remain because there was in fact no intelligence service left in the Ciskei. They had to go and look for new people. What was left in the Ciskei after the so-called aborted Jamingele Coup was corporals and I think one lieutenant. No there wasn't even a lieutenant, it was only non-commissioned officers. So that was what was left in the Ciskei Defence force, or Intelligence force. So I remained because there was a job for me. The fact of the
matter Mr Chair is that the South African Defence Force treated me very badly, when they asked me to leave their services and I ended up jobless and I had a thing in me not to work for them again. Today I work for the South African National Defence Force, it's a different thing, and people do not understand how CCB members felt when they were told you are useless idiots, you have served us and now you are no longer good, go, here's your package, don't say anything, don't speak to the press, sign this paper, go. People don't understand how the people feel. That is why people can go and work for the MPLA government today fighting against Unita who used to be former allies of the South African Defence Force, because they feel nothing for the former South African Defence Force. So anybody accusing me of working for the South African Defence Force, after they treated me the way they did, must come with me and we will have to sit down and I will have to explain to him a few things.
COLONEL NEL: No. The time when I was deployed in South West Africa, Namibia today, I was there for 7 years, and I was a members of Army Intelligence, wearing uniform, I was working in the Intelligence office in Oshakati. I later on became the officer commanding of the POW camp in Oshakati. I specialised in interrogation.
COLONEL NEL: I had four caspers with the name, with my initials, that's my call sign if you talk on the radio, you say Charlie November and the next guy with the initials of Yankee Victor, he will use that initial as his call sign on the radio for formal defence communication.
COLONEL NEL: In 1988 we were told to resign from the Defence Force because it was a covert operation and we had to detach from the Defence Force officially. We were given our final pay on the 31st of March 1991.
COLONEL NEL: Joe Verster was in charge of region 4, and Hyner Muller to - that was a relief situation because we were not really concentrating on Angola. We collected information for the Defence Force for special forces in case of them planning operations in that area because of the freedom of movement that we had in that area, but it was a low intensity region.
MR POTGIETER: Now just to round it off and pick up on the point that you've made in response to a question by Reverend Finca, the head of Ciskei Brigadier Gqozo stated in his testimony earlier today that he's got reason to believe that, to quote him, "you were playing cat and mouse with him", in other words you were feeding misinformation to him in order to create a situation or create the impression that there was a major threat, a major threatening invasion by
the ANC and the alliance to take over the Ciskei by force and in that fashion creating a resistance, a military resistance to the rolling mass action situation that prevailed at that stage, what would your comments be on that?
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair thank you for the question. I heard that accusation made by Mr Gqozo. Nobody had to convince Mr Gqozo of a threat by the ANC. He was convinced way beyond any information that we had to our availability because he had high level sources, a company called Multi Media Services which he contracted for a lot of money because he wasn't happy with the information that we provided him, it was too low level. He was convinced about the threat against him, and I never had to convince him about that. He wanted me to get better information about that. He wasn't satisfied with our production, that's why he chased Mr Swanepoel away and it was only integration that saved me. The thing that made Mr Gqozo unhappy, and I am not ashamed to say it today, I did undermine him in 1993. I leaked a lot of information to the press and there's a lot of journalists who can testify to that. Whenever I felt that there were pressures exerted on the Defence Force to do things that were not correct, which were not in step with the democratisation process, you can go and ask Andrew Trench, Patrick Goodenough, even - I can't remember her surname now, Louise Flanagan, I told them about the formation of self-defence units for the ADM. I gave them evidence. The agreement between us was that they would publish my name in the articles so that I would be protected from being a suspect. I was then tasked by Brigadier Gqozo to investigate the origin of this leak fortunately. I later EAST LONDON HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE
admitted this and there was a newspaper article about this, and I am sure Brigadier Gqozo must hate me for that because I wasn't willing in 1993 to do anything that is not in line with the democratisation process.
And he wanted us to establish, the Defence Force to establish something like an Inkatha, or something similar to it. They wanted to train young boys to protect the headmen because the headmen were being attacked. Myself and General van der Bank strategised for a long time how to go around this because we know once we train people like that, once we issue them with weapons it's going to become an uncontrollable situation and the fingers are going to be pointing back at us. Then we agreed to go back to him with a recommendation that we establish Ciskei Defence Force Auxiliary Services, "Hulpdiens", that is a legal system in terms of the Defence Act, you can have such a system, but I was still not happy with the (...indistinct), so before the first people finished their training I called (...indistinct) Patrick Goodenough and Andrew Trench and I told them and they made a big write-up about it. It's available if you want to do a bit of research.
MR POTGIETER: I just want to finish before I allow Reverend Finca to carry on. Did you ever allege to anybody that you were working, whilst you were in the Ciskei you were working for the South African authorities and you were manipulating, one of your tasks was to manipulate Brigadier Gqozo?
COLONEL NEL: Ja. I know Mr Chair, I know exactly what you are referring to, it is a test that Jean Ragool failed. She came to me many times as a peace worker or somebody belonging to Nim collecting information about violence, and
I assisted her without the knowledge of Brigadier Gqozo because if you mentioned a few names of Brigadier Gqozo he would turn red. One of them was Andrew Trench, Louise Flanagan, Jean Ragool(?). We had a very informal chat and what I mentioned to her is that I never broke my old friendships to specific people and what was eventually published in the newspapers were a story, which I believe made her a few rand, it was sensational that I was still connected to the South African Defence Force. I invite anybody to go and trace any record anywhere and in future this Truth Commission will sit for months, years maybe and the truth will come out. I was not connected in any way. I never received a cent of money from the South African Defence Force after I left in 1991.
REV FINCA: Chairperson I just will raise one question, but before I do so I would like to just find out Mr Nel whether you would be prepared to sit down with the Commission for a longer period of discussions? We are amazed, not that we were not aware of it, at the amount of wealth of information that you have which is essential for us, which needs to underget this process of reconciliation. Without that information statements of apologies, no matter how well meaning they may be, as I said to Brigadier Gqozo remain hollow. We need to go to the roots of this thing, expose it for the world to know so that the victims can have some peace of mind. I would like to find out if you would be able to afford us a period for an in-depth inquiry with the Commissioners on this matter?
COLONEL NEL: I was called Mr Chair to testify in that Commission. If I can remember correctly it was in 1993 because I was Intelligence Officer and documents that were available to the Webster investigating team indicated a name, David Webster on that, and I admitted that that was a document that I had in my possession while I was a member of the CCB and I went and testified there what the origin of that document was, but unfortunately I have testified in camera because I was also conveying some other information to them, assisting them. I feel quite proud about my participation.
REV FINCA: Last question Chairperson. I am moved by your concern for victims and that their welfare must be attended to in order for peace to take root in their own hearts. I am sorry for this rather personal question, but in your operations as ....(tape ends)
COLONEL NEL: I was paid my pension, I cannot call it a severance package. Other people who litigated were paid severance packages. The people who wanted out and wanted out silently and carried on with their lives they were paid another amount, a reduced amount, not even enough to buy a house.
COLONEL NEL: You find two levels of intelligence, three actually. Strategic intelligence, tactical intelligence and then current intelligence, basic intelligence. If you collect strategic intelligence, strategic intelligence is normally built up over a period of time to form a strategic picture. Tactical intelligence is something that is for a short period of time valid and then after a while it lapses. Yes Intelligence communities collect information not to file it and put it somewhere away. It is to be used by strategic planners.
DR RAMASHALA: Okay then is it correct for me to assume that the magnitude of tactical planning is in direct relationship to the magnitude of the information received? In other words the less serious the information, the less serious the tactical plan the more serious the information the more profound the tactical plan?
COLONEL NEL: Yes if you have serious information you expect your operational commanders to take it seriously and then to make a plan accordingly. A serious piece of information can be one short line. It doesn't mean pages and pages of information, but normally no operational planning is conducted unless information is turned into intelligence. You need intelligence to do operational planning.
DR RAMASHALA: Okay. Then we can assume that since the CDF was carrying live ammunition that the kind of information that was received from you, and when I say from you I mean the Royal 'You', Royal "You - Unit", that the kind of information that was received warranted the carrying of live information?
COLONEL NEL: Mr Chair I am sure if you study the document that was handed in by Brigadier Gqozo if it's the same document that I paged through during my preparations you will see that there's three different scenarios anticipated from Intelligence point of view, to say that this might happen and this will be the impact and, and, and..... So what was planned by the operational staff would have been based on the possible scenarios. The most obvious scenario, the most dangerous scenario, different angles of
possibilities. In that document you will find information, and if people go back on the record you will find that the night before the march the Ciskei Police came with an urgent application that this march be cancelled because they had information of weapons, large numbers of weapons, and I think it's the Brigadier, maybe Brigadier Ngcobo or somebody who came forward with the information said he had that information under oath, that there was going to be weapons in the crowd, amongst the people on the day of the march. Remembering that most of the Intelligence agencies in the Eastern Cape concentrated on collecting information on that event and what was building up towards and planning to that effect there were a number of, let's call it rumours, that there will be an armed element, and there was information about a two-pronged approach. There was information about insurrection, a lot of things going around.
COLONEL NEL: No Mr Chair, how I classify rumours as pieces of information without any substance that we can link to something. If a troop comes to me and he says to me and he says to me I am from Izala Village and I have heard in the shebeen last night that the marchers are going to come armed and they are not going to repeat the mistake of the 4th of August, if they are met with resistance they are going to fight their way through, I regard that as a rumour. And if the next troop comes to me from completely different quarters and he comes to me with evidence that an arms cache is situated there for this specific planning and we go and
COLONEL NEL: Our information had to reflect what we have received. It will be a crime from my side to omit the forwarding of information carried over to me. If there was an incident where people were killed or shot at and I knew about it prior to that, surely I would be guilty of murder if I kept that information to myself. So everything that comes in I have to process, I have to make something of it before I send it further. I cannot send raw information, I have to put it in context to say 50 rumours were received about the possibility of arms being present on that day. So can we ignore it or can we not. We have to take it into consideration when we do the planning for the eventualities. Military planning is normally done on scenarios, what if, what if, what if, be ready for every possible eventuality.
COLONEL NEL: The possibility Mr Chair of disinformation in the definition of disinformation coming from a lower level saying false information, just forward false information, lies, fabricated by sources and from all my years of experience with handling of sources you get a lot of fabricated information because that guy is normally after money, that's why he's giving you this information.
COLONEL NEL: And troops who have to stand in the line wants to make sure that you look after his safety. He, in his mind, has this possible scenario of being shot at. He'll come to you, he'll come openly to you and say he's got this information that he's going to be shot at, the arms are there, the people came in the previous night already to bury the arms there, that was one of the rumours, and the marchers are not going to come in without arms, but the arms will already be there, but we do not know where.
COLONEL NEL: I believe, yes. I was part of a system that suppressed people. Brigadier Gqozo became blunt to the feedback from the people, he wanted that way and the people wanted that way. And there were two groupings, you were either there or you were there. I was part of the government. I was part of the system. I was part of whatever names it's called about that government I was part of it, yes.
DR RAMASHALA: Colonel Nel I am a psychologist and I am going to ask you this question, particularly in the context of your contribution. When you went to the stadium to view the aftermath and you saw those bodies, what seemed like thousands to you, what was your gut feeling at that time? Please don't give me this, give me that, what were you feeling at that time in the context of the role that you played?
this person, why that person, why not this person or that person, why not the policemen who was also in the firing line of fire, it was why, why, why, how. Those questions, still today, I don't know. I don't have all those answers. There were handgrenades or 40mm grenades launched, what was the reason why that person was sitting on that seat on the pavilion and he had to die, why? That was one of the troubling questions, when is your time?
DR RAMASHALA: In real life our children tend to emulate us, we are role models for our children, I suspect that if you are anything like me one of your children may want to be in the intelligence service, I am taking probabilities, do you have any discussions with your children about Bisho and the role that you might have played?
COLONEL NEL: Fortunately they, maybe my eldest son is old enough now to understand, but at the time when all this happened he was too small to understand. I have an approach in the upbringing of my children to let them understand, they have a lot of fears when you go away, to be open with them, but I don't think they are old enough yet to understand, to grasp the complexity of the situation. They become politically aware by asking questions. Why is Mr de Klerk no longer President? Then I explain to them. And in that context yes, we are busy with an education process, a transformation, also with our children, we have the
DR RAMASHALA: At the beginning, Chairperson this is the last question, at the beginning of your testimony you started by asking for forgiveness, but you were facing the Commissioners, I am going to put faces to your forgiveness, to your request for forgiveness, I am going to ask you to scan the faces to your left on the second, third and fourth row because those are the faces of the Bisho Massacre aftermath. Those are the victims and survivors and their families. Those are the people who cannot walk away from it. Those are the people who will continue to have damnation pain. Those are the people who will wonder as you ask for forgiveness what role you played. And so I want to put the faces to your request for forgiveness and ask you to address them rather than the Commissioners. You ask for forgiveness and we are not in a position to do that, I am saying those are the people who were directly affected by it, could you very briefly address them.
COLONEL NEL: Thank you Mr Chair. Thank you for the opportunity. I wasn't aware of the procedures of this Commission, but I am glad to face the people and thanks for pointing the people out to me. I wish I could do this in Xhosa for the people to understand exactly, to convey the feeling, but I ask everybody here who was a victim of any suppression in the Ciskei which could have resulted from directly or indirectly my action, forgive me. I was part of that system, and with hindsight I shouldn't have been. Thank you.
MR POTGIETER: Thank you Dr Ramashala. Colonel Nel it just remains for me to thank you for having come and thank you for having wetted our appetites. We appreciate your willingness to sit down with us and perhaps in a different atmospheres and with a lot more time at our disposal to look at some issues that might be able to assist us in the work that we've got to do. We are grateful for you having indicated your willingness to assist in that regard, but thank you in general for your testimony. Thank you for the information that you have shared with us, and thank you for having come today. We are indebted to you.