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Human Rights Violation Hearings
Type STATEMENT, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS, ANTHONY WEAVER
Starting Date 27 November 1996
Location GUGULETU 7 POLLSMOOR
Thank you Chair and thank you Denzil. Tony, to the extent that you need any assistance, I will be doing that. But - well most seriously I think you were here and you heard Chris testifying and actually contextualizing??? the role of what you played in this whole saga.
And I think the Commission now needs to receive your testimony. Especially how you also became a victim as a consequence of doing your job in relation to this and without further ado I will - I will allow you then to give your story in the manner in which you would like to present it.
Thank you very much. At the time of the shooting I was a senior reporter on the Cape Times and my main field of coverage as a reporter was covering the insurrection or what the police called unrest in the townships on the Cape Flats.
The - to try and put the events of that day into context - I would like to state here that there was a wide perception among those of us who was covering events on the ground - but that there was a general lawless - air of lawlessness about the police. They were effectively out of control. They were a law onto themselves. They did not seem to feel that they had any responsibility towards the normal functions of policing.
And in that context, the killing - the killing of the Guguletu 7 was a particularly shocking event. But it simply fitted into the pattern of police behaviour at the time. This pattern reached itís most cynical and itís most brutal, not long after the killing of the Guguletu 7 in destruction of Crossroads and KTC later in 1986.
And here, as we all know there was clear evidence of police collusion with the witdoek vigilante so called witdoek vigilanteís. I myself on numerous occasions saw the police among them, many of those police who were involved in the cleanse of the Guguletu 7 - leading the witdoeke into battle. There was evidence of them supplying weapons to the witdoeke and it seems at the time that the police collectedly and individually - were determined to crush all resistance and to crush the United Democratic Front and opposition organizations at the times.
From 1983 to 1985 I was the Namibian correspondent for the Saan/Sun Morning group of Newspapers. That is the Rand Daily Mail, the Cape Times, Eastern Province Herald, Daily Dispatch, Natal Mercury and the Sunday Times. I was based out at Windhoek and from the start of my time in Namibia I began hearing horrific stories about the operations of the police unit called the Special Operations - K- Unit, Koevoet - which means crowbar.
The - I began investigating their activities and those of the SADF and despite the very large South African Defence Force presence in Namibia, Koevoet were responsible for killing more than 80% of Guerrillas and alleged Guerrillas who died in the bush war in the period that they were operational.
Point to stress here is that there were absolutely now rules governing their activities. They operated with impunity. They used torture, beating and rape as methods of interrogation. And the way that new Koevoet recruits were blooded -as it were and this was confirmed to me subsequent to my time in Namibia by X-Koevoet operators, was that they either had to kill a Guerrilla in combat or they had to execute a prisoner by shooting them with a handgun, once that person had been interrogated.
And these interrogations always took place in front of their piers or commanding officers. The white officers serving in Koevoet were almost all South Africans - South African policemen. Most of them from the security police and from the riot squad. Serving a tour of duty before returning to South Africa.
When I returned to South Africa, in 1985, and events began to unfolding in Cape Town, it became clear to me that the methods Koevoet had used in Namibia were being implemented in the townships of South Africa. The killing of the Guguletu 7 and the execution and I use the word execution, quite advisedly here, because that emerged in my trial of at least 3 and possibly 4 of the 7 had all the hallmarks and Koevoet type operation.
The other three charges were related to evidence which we have heard here today from Ms Miya and other witnesses, who told me about the police interfering with funeral arrangements. Trying to stop the funeral going ahead. Trying to bury the bodies early. Also by the proprietors of Mashlube Funeral Parlour who made similar allegations of police interference with the burials.
The - I believe that the police made a serious error in putting me on trial - if it hadnít been for the superb legal and forensic evidence that came out in my trial, which I had nothing to do with - it was the experts who did that. The - it is quite possible that the findings of the inquest which were a white wash at the actions of the police would have been buried and not much more would have happened - that the evidence that came out - would never have actually emerged.
Part of the reasons, I think, for my being put on trial were that - there was a - was that there was a concerted effort by the police to restrict media coverage of their activities and of any coverage which is critical at the Government at the time.
And this pressure was not only coming from the police and the authorities, but also from elements within the media. The Cape Times, where I was working at the time - was owned by Times Media Limited. I resigned from the Times at the end of 1987. I since had been informed that the Managing Director at the Times [Pty] Limited, Steven Mulholland, had tried to get me fired from the newspaper because he perceived me as being too radical.
When I was put on trial, the Cape Times, Tony Heard, immediately briefed lawyers and instructed the local management [indistinct] to pay the bills. Just before, literally a few days before I went on trial - three of the charges were related to Cape Times report - one, two - a Cape Times report, but as reported by the BBC.
A few days before I went on trial the police withdrew all charges related to the Cape Times and within hours Steven Mulholland, the Managing Director, had given orders that no further funding would be given for my trial and that TML would not actually support me in the trial financially.
With the help of Tony Heard, Alister Sparks, Gerald Shaw and others - in the media, funding was secured from the BBC and then also through the late Moira Henderson of Dependence conference - funding was secured - I suspect through the International defence and Aid Fund.
The point I wish to make here - is that elements of the media are as guilty of collusion with the apartheid regime, and as certain elements, certain perpetrators of injustice - by either remaining silent or actively suppressing the truth.
It is perhaps relevant to mention here that when I was a Namibian correspondent for the SAAN group, the Daily Dispatch for instance refused to run my copy, because I used the word Guerrillas and not terrorists in my dispatches. And the Editor accused me of being pro-SWAPO. The Editor of the Sunday Times, the Late Tertius Myburg, refused to run my stories for similar reasons. And because of reports I wrote which he perceived to be anti-UNITA.
When I came back to South Africa, working again on the Cape Times, I and I think most of my colleagues, lost count of the number of times we were arrested on the streets of Guguletu while trying to do our job. During one of these arrests, shortly after the killing of the Guguletu 7, in May of 1996, police liaison officer - Lieutenant Attie Loubser - came and I was being held in the Casspir, and he asked the other policemen to leave the Casspir and then he said - listen, and then he warned me - he said police had been drafted in from Pretoria and from Krugersdorp. He said some of them know you from Namibia. He said that my description and photograph had been circulated and there were orders to get me. Which I took - I took to be in effect a death threat.
Loubser then said to me - please be careful. I donít want to have to explain away a dead journalist. Not long after that my colleague, George De Arth was killed by witdoek vigilanteís in Crossroads. A day after I was warned by a contact that the police had ordered the vigilante leaders to get rid of the media.
Two weeks later one of the policeman involved in the killing of the Guguletu 7, the late Warrant officer Barry Barnard, fired a cartridge of buckshot directly at me during a confrontation in Nyanga. I was standing to one side of events on my own and was not part of the crowd which were being fired on at the same time. I escaped injury of death by diving behind a tree.
One last absurd event that I would like to mention in the context of police harassment of media and attempts to suppress the truth. The funeral of the so called Guguletu 7 was one of the biggest funerals seen in the townships of Cape Town. In my coverage of the funeral I estimated the crowd and so did other journalists - at between 30 and 40 thousand and my introduction on the story was - that Guguletu had been turned into an ANC strong hold.
The police - when the report appeared, threatened to prosecute me under - for furthering the aims of the African National Congress. And they issued a statement saying that according to their aerial photographs of the crowd, there were only 5 thousand people there and I was deliberately distorting the size of the crowd in order to bulster the image of the dead men.
I was charged under Section 27[b] of the Police Act. The exact wording - I have it here, but it is roughly - no person may say or make any statement about the police or police actions without taking reasonable steps to ascertain harrasity of those statements.
I can hand in, if you would like, the full text of interview that I did with the BBC. Briefly, on the first - the BBC phoned me on the first day. They phoned in to try and talk to somebody. Chris Bateman was not available and I agreed to take the call. It was a question and answer interview.
And on the first day I said to them - that we had independent information which went beyond the police statement, but because, we had at that stage still hadnít had clarity from the police about their response to Chris Batemanís telex of the allegations, and also because I wasnít going to scoop my own newspaper, the Cape Times, by giving the BBC the story first, I merely gave them the essence of the police version of events.
I said - I related what the police have said. They then phoned me back the next day. And the introduction on the BBC piece was there is controversy in South Africa over how 7 young blacks were killed by police yesterday in the township of Guguletu.
And then they interviewed me and I spoke - I said that - by then I interviewed two of the families and I said that the families have said that young men were not involved in politics, had not received Guerrilla training. I quote - Ms Miya saying - I said that she was very upset and very traumatized at the time, but she felt that the weapons had been possibly planted on her sonís body. I quoted her saying - he was just an ordinary person, he was not a freedom fighter. And then related the accounts of the eye-witnesses to the ambush - General Sibaca, Bowers Mazonke and Cecil Msutu.
Thank you Chairperson. Tony, perhaps you could, with reference to the sketched plan that we have - also just perhaps confirm the layout of that particular area where this thing happened. Would you care doing that?
The way I understand the sketch plan is - the way I understand the sketch plan is that the N2 Highway runs along here, Cape Town is in that direction and Somerset West in that direction. NY1 is running here in a southerly direction to the traffic lights where you have got the Guguletu police station here and this is the road to Manenberg and the Manenberg police station.
The - most of the shootings took place over here. This is the Dairy Belle Hostel and this is the Murray and Roberts Hostel. As I understand it - Chrisís witnesses were all in Dairy Belle Hostel at different places. Looking - one witness looking this way where somebody was killed. Other witnesses looking this way. The shooting took place this way and some of the victims ran into these bushes here, where subsequently - in my trial forensic evidence proved that at least one of them had been shot at point blank range - in the bushes, out of sight of the witnesses.
And you also mentioned the way the white policemen among the Koevoet were South Africans. Did you ever know any of those policemen in this country? Do you ever know whether they came back to this country?
Oh! yes - no they - the routinely Koevoet was an extension of the training of the South African security police and to the best of my knowledge other units as well, but it was essentially - all though it fell under the ambit of the Security Police - under General Hans Dreyer - who is their commanding officer - it was a general police unit where - the police performed a straight military role - they did - they had note - for instance Koevoet was 90% - 85% I think black members. So-called turned SWAPO Guerrillas. Former UNITA and FNLA competence who had been recruited into Koevoet. Local the members of what was called the Ovambo Home Guard. And they were under the command of white officers who routinely so far as I know, would go for one to two years - operational training in Namibia and then return to South Africa.
And I can remember - I had a very - I had quite a tricky time in Namibia - both the police and the military refused to talk to me. I was refused to creditation. I wasnít allowed to get any briefings. That I had two sources in the military, they were military intelligence officers who were sickened by what they were seeing with Koevoet and who were feeding me information about Koevoet massacres. About incidents involving Koevoet.
And one of those sources - towards the middle of 1985 contacted me and said that there was going to be a down scaling of Koevoet in Namibia - all though they are going to bring new recruits in, because the experienced officers were needed in South Africa.
Not without their - my informants or the people who came back here? I can only speculate. I have subsequently met Koevoet operators who have left the Police Force, but I can only speculate as to whether people who were involved in Guguletu 7 shoot out for instance, had served in Koevoet. Ö END OF TAPE 3 - SIDE A ...
And that he brought his experience in Koevoet to bare on his operations - the Vlakplaas Section C-operations in South Africa. And that many of the Vlakplaas operatives had - and also CCB - Civil Corporation Bureau operatives - had received their blooding - let us put it that way, in Koevoet and I am convinced to same applied to the police who were operating in Cape Town.
Who is also the - when Lieutenant Loubser said to me, that police had been brought from Pretoria and Krugersdorp. And it was common knowledge at that time that there was also a group of so-called Askariís who were Zulu speaking. Who people in Guguletu and KTC, Crossroads referred to as INKATHA, who were operating in the area as well.
Thank you Chairperson. Tony, you have referred to the funeral which was held in March for 6 of the 7 young people who died. There was also the funeral in Paarl of Zandisile Mjobo - which was delayed - I think until May. I wonder if you - I donít know if you were at the Mbekweni - the Paarl funeral?
I am - a little bit hazy on it I mean - you know, it was literally a matter that time - that every weekend we would be at funerals, because there would be a funeral - the police would attack - somebody else would be killed and the following weekend there would be another funeral. And it really became a blur of funerals and we - some of the things I can remember about the funeral at the Guguletu 7 was that - we had been tipped off and we knew from experience that the police would seal off the township in advance and they wouldnít allow the press in - they tried to stop the press from getting in.
And I went in I think a night or two nights before - with a sleeping bag and I spent the night with a colleague Obet [indistinct] house. And Obet was also taking pictures at the funeral itself. I remember the numbers being absolutely enormous and towards the end it got very confused, because the distance of the funeral route was so big. We could hear the sound of shots, we could hear tear gas being fired.
I subsequently got tear gassed and the police were closing in. And I got smuggled out, through sort of the township safe rout and treated with Vaseline and lemon juice - so on, the usual treatment for tear gas. And by then the police were looking for us and I had to get my film out - Obetís film out. And we had a little smuggling route - that went through Nyanga and then out to Klipfontein - not Klipfontein Road to Lansdowne Road. And we had a car parked there and we managed to get out.
Thank you very much Tony. We are hoping that there will be, perhaps a submission, from the media as to their role in the whole business of the conflicts of the past about which we are being expected to give as full, as complete a picture as possible.
But may I again, just express, on behalf of very many - our admiration and appreciation for the kinds of things that people like yourselves did. I mean because it was literally the case that people were putting their lives on the line in order to be able to tell the truth. And often our people look to you as being able to provide them with some measure of protection - that although the Security Forces were often very blatant - they still, I think, had a measure of - they had perhaps a kind of decency that they didnít always act as they otherwise might have done if you were not there.
And I think it is a compliment to yourselves that we had this [indistinct] of laws which thought to inhibit you. Yes, it seems in some ways like you are talking about life on Mars - to speak about what was taking place then. But none of us had a normal existence really. You were jumping, you would sit in an office and be told that the police are shooting school children over there - they are doing this and we had to keep running around. And we are enormously thankful that that has come to an end.
I really want to make a call to all of our people just to keep bearing in mind the very heavy price that was paid for what we have today. We should not devalue it. We should price it as something utterly precious, because it came in the way that it came. That many people died in order for us to be where we are.