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Type AMNESTY HEARINGS
Starting Date 06 December 2000
Names J D POTGIETER
Matter MURDER OF MR MABOTHA (cont)
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MR BOOYENS: ... has been implicated, and rather seriously implicated. We received no notification beforehand that he was going to be implicated. I have had a quick look at the documentation and the only mention Mr Klopper made of him in his documentation is a very oblique one as having been present without saying, but now we understand, and that part of the record unfortunately hasn't been taped, that Mr Klopper in fact stated that Mr Bellingan was responsible for inserting ice into the anus of the victim at that stage. He wasn't killed during an assault.
Now Mr Chairman we are under instructions to place on record that Mr Bellingan specifically denies that he, at any stage, assaulted the victim, either as alleged by Klopper or at all. He does admit that he was present there in the presence of Mr de Kock, but he himself had nothing - he had no background on the matter. He was simply there because he accompanied Mr de Kock. He had nothing to do with the interrogation because that was Johannesburg Security Branch, Soweto Security Branch.
Mr Chairman as I understand the law in this regard this Committee can in any case not make a negative finding against Mr Bellingan because he's not before you and the fact that he may be mentioned is not - but it's just to protect his interests that we are there, however, it does seem to us, and that's up to those appearing for Mr Klopper to decide what they want to do about it, that what we state here may affect his veracity about the assault. But we leave it in the hands of the Commission. I do not bring an application that Chappies Klopper be recalled, or - we are satisfied to leave it at that level at this stage.
So I just place it on record and for the sake of safety I think we will stay in here because it seems to happen that things crawl out of the woodwork every now and again that one didn't get notice of beforehand.
MR LAMEY: Mr Chairman, no, the evidence of Klopper is before you and I think it's open to the Committee or to my learned friend to decide whether they want to place the evidence of Bellingan before the Committee, and I've got no further submissions in this regard.
Mr Chairman with your permission may I just, at the outset, express my thanks to the Committee in providing the transcribed records of the hearing in these proceedings, as well as the Section 29 hearing of Mrs Mandela to me on a very urgent basis and we were able to prepare for this hearing today. So we are ready to proceed Mr Chairman.
Mr Potgieter could we begin by submitting to the Committee what your position was in the police force and your period of service during 1989, could you tell the Committee what your rank was at that stage?
MR POTGIETER: My task was to deal with all court oriented investigations. Those were investigations that had to do with the transgression of the Internal Security Act as well as investigations into common law crimes where the offenders had made use of what was known as terrorism weapons such as AK47 guns, Makarov pistols, Tokarev pistols, handgrenades and so forth.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well are you then saying that even though there had been a murder, and this would normally in such a case have been investigated by Murder and Robbery, if a terrorist weapon had been involved it would not have been investigated by the Murder and Robbery Unit but by the Security Branch's investigating unit?
MR POTGIETER: Well in that case if after the preliminary investigation it appeared to be a purely common law crime or offence such as robbery or murder without any political connotations, even though a strange weapon was used, the investigation would be handed over to Murder & Robbery again.
MR POTGIETER: That is correct. I think that he achieved an officer rank in 1976 and I achieved officer status in 1978. I am not entirely certain of the year in which he became an officer but I think it may have been '76.
MR ROSSOUW: Now if we can go to the arrest and detention of Mr Mabotha before 4 April 1989 you are aware that there is evidence that he was arrested on the 22nd of February 1989 at Marble Hall, were you informed about his arrest?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson at a stage I was informed and I must accept that the date of 22nd February 1989 was correct. I am also aware that the arrest followed certain telephonic discussions, however, I cannot recall whether I was informed before the arrest or after the arrest.
MR POTGIETER: No Chairperson, I cannot give a clear explanation. This discrepancy came to my attention during the Section 29 investigation last year, 1998, while one, Mr du Toit, gave evidence. While he was giving evidence I correlated his evidence with the documentation in my possession and I saw that there was a question of two months for which there was no record of Mr Mabotha's detention. Thus I cannot give a solid explanation for that lapse of time from February to April.
MR ROSSOUW: We will return to this aspect again later. But we do know that Mr Klopper gave evidence that Mr Mabotha was taken from Marble Hall to Soweto Protea Station and that he was further assaulted there by askaris. Do you know about such assaults?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson we had succeeded in the meantime by possibly obtaining an affidavit for this absence of Mr Mabotha I would like to refer you to a document which was submitted during the section 29 investigation. It is marked DDP12. Chairperson this is the investigation journal of the Stompie Sepei case dossier. Now on page 39 of that specific document ...(intervention)
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Potgieter will you please repeat or give an explanation of the following questions. This extract from the journal comes from the investigating journal of the Stompie Sepei murder investigation?
"Lt du Toit from Soweto Security Branch calls, has arrested Temba. Informs us that Temba is busy giving evidence at Pietersburg. As soon as he is finished there he will be despatched to Johannesburg and will then be spoken to about this case".
"Statement of Lt du Toit as per 48. Notes which were found in possession of Temba as per 49. Statement of Johannes Kagalodi(?) Mabotha, alias Temba as per A50."
Then two lines have been crossed out, and the entry has been undersigned by Captain Dempsey it appears. It would appear Mr Chairperson that if we look at the document Mabotha D, this is a statement which appears to have been taken from Mr Mabotha that he gave evidence at Pietersburg and at Bloemfontein and Tzaneen. I may be speculating but the inference which I have drawn from these entries is that Mr Mabotha, after his arrest, apparently was taken to Pietersburg in order to give further evidence there.
MR ROSSOUW: So the possible explanation that you could provide is that Mr Mabotha, since his arrest on the 22nd of February and before his detention on the 4th of April in terms of section 29, possibly may have given evidence in a criminal case in Pietersburg?
MR POTGIETER: Mr Chairperson regarding these two persons - regarding Mr Willy and Mr Lucky, those would be the two persons involved in that Tzaneen trial, that is in Mabotha B, the prosecutor was Advocate Louise van der Walt, apparently. The Security Branch members of Pietersburg could not assist me in this regard. I also made enquiries with the former investigating head and they have not contacted me.
Regarding Bloemfontein, and this still has to do with page 3 of Mabotha D, that is the S v MACGREGOR, Macgregor was the accused's MK name. I will give you the real name in a moment. There was such a case and the investigating officer was W/O Nico Swanepoel who is currently serving at Ficksburg.
MR POTGIETER: Unfortunately the memory of these persons has failed them. In the Kimberley aspect it is Mr Rawston Matua and with regard to him I spoke to Pierre van der Colf, I spoke to his commander, du Plessis, who has left the service, and they came back to me and told me that Pierre van der Colf went to Vlakplaas at a certain stage and took a statement from Mr Mabotha with regard to his knowledge surrounding Mr Matua. However they could not tell me what the result of the trial had been because van der Colf had not been the chief investigating officer, he had simply visited the area and taken the statement and there the records are also rather incomplete.
MR POTGIETER: Mr Chairperson the enquiries that I made have shown that the records have been destroyed and that only the Appeal Court records were available. If there had been appeals we would be able to trace those records. Regarding Willy and Lucky I went to the Director of Prosecutions offices here in Pretoria because all criminal prosecutions with regard to security legislation went through the Attorney General's office here in Pretoria and that is where I found this person's name. But we do not know if these records were filed. I can have no explanation of this matter.
MR POTGIETER: That's correct Chairperson. The Tracing Unit, as it was known, was a component under the command of former Colonel Grobbelaar, and the investigative component and the tracing component I was the commander of the investigative unit worked together closely the one in support of the other. Investigators accompanied the Tracing Unit to scenes to gain evidence where the Tracing Unit were more involved in the finding and securing of premises.
MR ROSSOUW: One possibility that was also mentioned as to where Mr Mabotha might have been before his section 29 detention is that you had a safe house and the impression was left that you had kept Mr Mabotha there so that he could recuperate from his injuries after his assault, what is your reaction to that?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson the first time when I had dealings with a safe house was at the end of 1989/beginning 1990 when I was transferred from the Investigative Unit as Intelligence Chief of the Security Branch, Soweto. At that stage of my transfer we had a safe house with the name "Guys". It was a three-bedroomed house on a farm in the Westonaria district just outside Soweto. And my staff who made up of 30 men and the facility was "heeltemal ontereuken". Members had to use their own private houses as offices which was unacceptable to me. By mediating of Department of Public Works we bought a house in the south of Johannesburg. It was on a smallholding in the Eikenhof area and we moved into those premises approximately at the end of 1990. And if I have regard for Mr de Kock's evidence this would be the premises to which he refers which was not in our possession at the time of this tragic event.
MR ROSSOUW: And a statement was handed up as Exhibit Mabotha D, but because the statement was not finalised, and it seems it's not the complete statement and we cannot see when it was signed and what the date is thereof, can you possible indicate when this statement was finalised?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson I would just like to take you to a section 29 statement. This is a document which sets out the complete political history of a person and sometimes takes a long time to be completed. A detainee also has to be convinced to give his full co-operation. Interrogation notes which are taken over a time and will be analysed forms the basis of such an investigation. It was not a requirement that such a statement had to be completed formally and be signed because of legal coercion that it was taken ...(intervention)
MR POTGIETER: Section 29 of the Act determined that a person has to answer all questions put to him and this includes incriminating questions as well. Such a statement, such a section 29 statement is more useful for research purposes and satisfaction of intelligence needs which may arise from time-to-time.
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Potgieter please elaborate for the Committee, if you say that such a statement would be used for research purposes what would be the part taken by a statement after you as the investigating officer had taken the statement and where would it be applied for these research purposes?
MR POTGIETER: There was instruction that two copies of the statement be sent to Security head office. I am not aware of a further distribution of the statements, so I don't know to whom it is all distributed.
If I can just continue. Because section 29 statements were quite hefty documents court statements were also taken and these statements were aimed at whatever was relevant in a specific trial and the statements would also be concluded and signed as soon as the person has been removed under the section 29 (1) of the Internal Security Act ...(intervention)
MR ROSSOUW: Very well. Now during - or can you please tell the Committee as to what would the manner be in which when the statement is taken from such a detainee and would you build up a personal relationship with a detainee from whom you are taking the statement?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson because it is a long process which takes several weeks or months and you are the life-giving vein of this detainee and you look after him and you see to his needs a definite relationship of trust builds up between the person who takes their statement and whether this person will be prosecuted or not at the end of the day. This relationship still builds up.
MR ROSSOUW: And the words you have used or the words that were used to describe in which manner you would win the trust of such a detainee is that you would cultivate him as a witness, is that correct?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson when a person is detained in terms of section 29 for the first time his whole political career and contacts and so forth will be exposed. In Mr Mabotha's instance I did not do this because he had already previously gone through the whole process and head office might have been in possession of a section 29 statement from him.
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Potgieter just to explain this, after his initial arrest, before Marble Hall in August 1987 the section 29 statement says there when he was arrested, and in paragraph 12 of that statement it is said that he was detained and interrogated for a period of nine months.
MR ROSSOUW: And then in the statement, in paragraph 14 it is mentioned that after his release he was employed in a unit which was tasked with the identification and arrest of ANC terrorists within South Africa, was that the Vlakplaas Unit?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson we applied the philosophy of Professor West, namely the DDD Syndrome, which stands Dread - Dependability - Dependancy. Briefly in layman's terms, known as "limited brainwashing".
MR POTGIETER: A detainee, all contact with family and friends is taken away from the detainee. He is locked up in isolation. You serve as his vein of life. He becomes dependant on you. Later as he satisfies you, he wants to satisfy you, he wants to win your favour, trust is built between yourself and the detainee and the secret of the process is that this type of control is maintained over him until he has given evidence. Why I use the term "limited brainwashing" was when like the Vietnamese brainwashed the American fighter pilots, they also used this method, but he's totally isolated.
With regard to section 29 there were control mechanisms to prevent this whole process, namely, the visits to doctors; the visits to or by magistrates; the visit by the inspector of detainees; and visits by families when it is allowed.
When the section 29 process is completed and one places him over to section 31, this is the warrant by the Attorney General to use him as a witness and then he's allowed more freedom. He receives newspapers and more visitors and the investigative official can then offer this person more freedom. Whereas a section 29 detainee does not receive these privileges.
MR ROSSOUW: According to the detention register we know that Mr Mabotha was taken from Soweto to the Johan Coetzee police station, can you please tell the Committee what would the reason be for this, why was he transferred?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson at Soweto we had our own detention facilities. The cells there were manned by members of the uniform branch and at some stage those cells were under construction and it so happened that we ran out of space, out of detention facilities and in such cases the person would be transferred to other places of detention, they did not require intensive handling.
MR POTGIETER: Yes I agree with this, it was not strange, but I want to add to that that we were not capable of just moving a detainee from one place to another place as we wanted to. Every transferral followed after an application which was directed at head office where reasons had to be mentioned as to why a person was to be transferred and head office would then issue a warrant which would indicate or authorise the new place of detention to take this person and in this manner head office also followed the movements of detainees.
MR ROSSOUW: And then we can look at the problem which you experienced after the expiry of the six-month detention period and when the time came to release Mr Mabotha. Am I correct that you would have had to release him after the six-month detention period had expired?
MR POTGIETER: The first option was to apply to the Revision Committee to extend the detention in terms of section 29(1). The extension of such a detention was not for a further six months, it was normally the period which the Revision Committee determined. In order to get such an extension a sworn affidavit had to be submitted where it would be stated that the interrogation was not yet completed and reasons as to why it was not completed during the six months period.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson I cannot recall the structure but it is an independent committee which was appointed in terms of legislature. These were independent legal persons. I don't know whether it was parliamentary or ministerial body.
MR ROSSOUW: And in this instance, with regard to the prosecution of Mrs Mandela the Attorney General had the Attorney General already made a decision so you would not be able to receive such a warrant?
MR POTGIETER: No. The Attorney General, Mr von Lieres at that stage, was not a man who would have himself placed under pressure. We had tried it previously when persons, these are the detainees, would go on hunger strikes and land up in psychiatric hospitals and then we approached Mr von Lieres so that he make a quick decision but without any success.
Mr Potgieter because you could not convince the Revision Committee and the Attorney General had not yet taken a decision and would not issue a further warrant in terms of section 31, did you have any other choice then to release Mr Mabotha?
MR ROSSOUW: And then in your statement in the bundle you mention that you had contacted him and had arranged with him that he took Mr Mabotha and keep him at Vlakplaas. Can you please tell the Committee what the reasons were why you wanted to send Mr Mabotha back to Vlakplaas.
MR POTGIETER: That is correct. It was on the 19th of February 1989. I participated in that search and found a number of documents which were in Mrs Mandela's study and had a discussion with her at that point in time.
MR POTGIETER: I heard here that after his arrest, and with the identification of premises, he would have said to Grobbelaar that he wished to return to Vlakplaas, and I was not aware of that. But independently thereof I discussed the option with Mabotha.
MR ROSSOUW: And in your affidavit you have also referred to a circular from the Security Branch which indicated that members had to be recruited for Vlakplaas, did you regard his replacement as part of the order to send as many members as possible to Vlakplaas who could perform service there?
CHAIRPERSON: As I understood it you were worried about this man's safety. You thought he might be in danger from the ANC or Mrs Mandela's cohorts. Now you say you thought he could perform duties at Vlakplaas which involved going out to identify people, didn't it?
MR ROSSOUW: According to your perception were all askaris who were detained at Vlakplaas operationally prepared to go out into the field and identify persons, or were other methods of identification also used?
MR ROSSOUW: Now with reference to the DDD Syndrome to which you have referred, to indoctrinate or brainwash a person so to speak, to be co-operative you would still have to be able to exercise control over the person and this replacement to Vlakplaas would have been a method of controlling him?
MR ROSSOUW: You mention in your statement that you discussed the possibility with him regarding what he would do should the circumstances or conditions at Vlakplaas not agree with him, what led to that?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson that was part of the preparation. During this discussion we discussed the perception that he had deserted and he denied this emphatically. His version was that he had been abducted.
There was also a perception that he had given out information regarding Vlakplaas. He also denied this. And we were in agreement that there was a great measure of suspicion towards him, but that he would have to measure the climate.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson with his arrest he was interrogated and the perception was that he had deserted Vlakplaas. Secondly, that he had given out information regarding Vlakplaas to Mrs Mandela and therefore that he would possibly be treated with suspicion by his Vlakplaas colleagues.
MR ROSSOUW: And on page 141 of the bundle, paragraph 22.19 of your statement you mention that you discussed the possibility with Mabotha that should the circumstances at Vlakplaas become unbearable for him he should go to his family in the Northern Transvaal. Could you explain to the Committee against which background you discussed that option or possibility with him.
MR POTGIETER: The term 'unbearable' is probably not the correct term but as it appears in my statement it was that should the conditions be unacceptable for him he should then travel to Pietersburg and then contact me from there so that alternative arrangements could be made.
ADV SANDI: Sorry Mr Rossouw, yes but if he goes to - I mean you say that you were very concerned about the security of this man, now you go on to discuss with him that if he finds things 'unbearable' as you have put it, he finds things unbearable at Vlakplaas he can go to Northern Province to join his family, but whilst he's up there in the Northern Province who looks after his security?
MR POTGIETER: Mr Mabotha during the interrogation mentioned that after he had given evidence in criminal cases he was informed that persons from the ANC had been enquiring about him at his residence, so to house him there permanently would not only have been dangerous for him but also for his immediate family. That is why he had to contact me to make alternative arrangements.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well. Then can we go to the aspect of consensus which you allegedly had with Mr de Kock regarding the facts that Mr Mabotha was to be killed. You have heard the evidence of Mr de Kock regarding the telephonic discussion which you held?
MR ROSSOUW: I would like for us to concentrate on the evidence of Mr de Kock and the words which were used during that telephone discussion according to him. On page 4 of the bundle he mentions in his affidavit that there had to be a plan for Mr Mabotha. Can you recall any such words?
MR ROSSOUW: The fact of the matter is that you had a dilemma in which you could no longer detain him and he wanted to remain within the system, you wanted to secure him and keep him safe and you had to find a solution?
MR ROSSOUW: Right. Now on page 152 of the bundle, in the extract from the criminal case of Mr de Kock you mentioned that Mr Mabotha was to be released and that you could not allow him to be at large because he would return to Mrs Mandela and then further policemen would be killed. Can you just look at the words "not allow him to be at large". Can you recall that such words were used during your discussion?
MR POTGIETER: It would have meant that if we released him and had no further control over him firstly the effect of the preparation could have been reduced and secondly, he would have found himself in a situation of jeopardy.
MR ROSSOUW: So your understanding was, in your mind, that he couldn't simply be released because it would have been dangerous to him and you would no longer have this control over him by means of indoctrination?
MR ROSSOUW: You are aware that Mr de Kock states that there was consensus between you, that there was a clear agreement in your minds that Mr Mabotha had to be killed and that the request which you directed at Mr de Kock was in fact a death sentence for Mr Mabotha, was it your intention for Mr Mabotha to be killed?
Can I firstly ask you whether you at any stage received an order or a request from Mr de Kock or issued an order or request to him during the period 1980 to 1984 while you were in Koevoet to kill somebody?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson at that stage, in 1984 until the end of 1986, I was the branch commander of the Security Branch at Potchefstroom and I cannot recall that I had any contact with Mr de Kock. It may be that we met but I have no recollection of that.
MR POTGIETER: This was during the investigation of the Oupa Siheri case, the case of a trained ANC member who had murdered two persons in Soweto and we consulted Vlakplaas for assistance in the identification and training of Mr Siheri.
MR ROSSOUW: Now between the two of your would you say that your working relationship was as such that you yourself at least would have had an understanding with him regarding the use of innuendo or code language?
MR ROSSOUW: And he included the investigating unit that you worked with, in that group of operatives, this small group who would have known what this code language meant, not the greater group. What is your reaction to that?
MR POTGIETER: My task was to interrogate persons and to obtain and process information. Secondly, I was not involved in or responsible for the rehabilitation of Swapo terrorists. Thirdly, I was not operationally deployed and thus I did not work with these persons. Fourthly, I participated in certain decisions with regard to the transfer of persons who had been arrested to SADF components or for further detention in the south of Namibia at a facility by the name of Osiri which was in the Otjiwaronga environment.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well. Now on page 88 of the transcribed record with regard to these proceedings and Mr de Kock's evidence he has used certain examples of this cover language, this innuendo which was used and I would like your comments regarding every one of those examples which he used. The first one being a person, let us say a Swapo terrorist has to be "taken out", what would that mean?
MR ROSSOUW: Now in this case the words which were used, according to Mr de Kock, were that there had to be a "plan". That is in his statement. Would you regard that as a request or an order to murder somebody?
MR ROSSOUW: Then Mr de Kock used in his evidence the words that Mr Mabotha "could not be allowed to be at large", and he qualified this by adding that he would run back to Winnie Mandela and once again shoot policemen. Would those following two aspects, that he would return to Mrs Mandela and once again shoot policemen would such an addition indicate very strongly, in the first section of the words that "he could not be allowed to be at large", would that indicate that he had to be killed?
MR ROSSOUW: Now in your capacity as the head of the investigating unit at Soweto would you say that should such, or if such information had been received that Mr Mabotha had been involved in shooting incidents of policemen you would have known about it?
MR POTGIETER: Yes. Mr Chairperson there was a series of attacks on police officers, if my memory serves me correctly there were approximately 15 cases during which a reasonable number of police officers had been killed and injured. The person Sizwe Sithole, who later committed suicide in detention, his AK47 was connected to a number of these incidents. Mr Sithole was a confidante of Mrs Winnie Mandela.
The second person, who was also a confidante of Mrs Mandela was one, Zondwabu, if we could just refer to the document Mabotha D, paragraph 17 on page 4. There he refers to this person, Zondwabu, and Zondwabu was also involved in his abduction from Pretoria. So when Zondwabu died in a skirmish his AK47 was connected to a number of these incidents which would indicate that he and Sizwe Sithole had launched operations against the Police together.
Then there was a third man who was known among us as "Vee". He was also a trained MK man who had on occasions shot policemen and done observation in the vicinity of Mrs Mandela's residence. He had also shot Eskom members who had tried to cut off the power in that area.
MR ROSSOUW: You were also referred to Col Grobbelaar's statement which has been submitted as Exhibit Mabotha D, and in that he maintains that Mabotha was not connected to any specific act of terror but that he was regarded as a suspect with regard to the Internal Security Act. Do you agree with that?
MR ROSSOUW: Very well, to return to the question of consensus, if we look at the words which were used, according to Mr de Kock, that he could not be allowed to be at large, you heard in the evidence which was given here upon a question put by the Chairperson of the Committee, that Mr de Kock said that those words are open to two interpretations, that he conceded to this and agreed with this, what is your attitude regarding the possible interpretation of these words?
MR ROSSOUW: Now if we look at the words which were used, ex post facto, according to Mr de Kock, would you say that by using those words it could mean that he could not be at large because there was a danger to him in the form of Mrs Mandela and the circle which surrounded her?
MR POTGIETER: Not only ex post facto but it was a consistent problem to us surrounding Mr Mabotha. You must remember that at that stage the Police did not have a witness protection programme, and even the current attempt by the State to establish an effective witness protection programme is experiencing growing pains, and the police are experiencing tremendous problems in protecting witnesses who are involved in criminal cases.
MR ROSSOUW: That was your perspective, but if we look at Mr de Kock and we have heard his evidence here and his framework of reference regarding Vlakplaas and the manner in which members who served below him regarded their positions, the manner in which he acted towards askaris, would you say that in that light it is possible that he, should such words have been used, may have inferred that Mr Mabotha posed a danger to Vlakplaas and the Security Police?
MR ROSSOUW: You have heard that Mr de Kock had said that after Mr Mabotha was arrested at Marble Hall and was questioned that he had no value as an askari for him and he could not be trusted anymore, did you know what Mr de Kock's attitude was towards such a person like Mr Mabotha?
MR ROSSOUW: And a possible explanation, according to you, for the difference in interpretation was that your framework of reference had drastically differed from that of Mr de Kock who was in an operational unit?
MR POTGIETER: I just want to comment, Chairperson, on singular aspects. My members and I every investigation which we undertook, we undertook with necessary determination and we were bound by rules which were laid down by rules and regulations on the one side, and legal prescriptions on the other side. There were no shortcuts and quick-fixes which one could take with these investigations, and if one was not a committed investigator there would be no successes.
Investigators seldom or never experienced the sharper points of operations. The scenes were secured by the operational people and the investigator would afterwards enter such a scene and gather the information from there. In the unstable times in Soweto we, as the investigative component, were protected by the South African Police Counter-Insurgency units which operated there, army patrols, and then as well as the tracing component.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well Mr Potgieter, can we then proceed to the transferral of Mr Mabotha at the De Deur police station. Can you please tell the Committee, in your own words, according to your recollection, how it took place.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, as we had agreed on the day of his release I had lifted the stipulations of the section 29 detainee and this would be the documents signed by a lieutenant colonel or higher and with the authorisation of the detention centre and the documents were handed in there.
I took him to my vehicle and I sat and spoke to him inside the vehicle outside the gates of the De Deur Police premises. A landrover approached and passed us, which I knew was Mr de Kock's vehicle and some distance ahead it pulled off the road. Mr Louw van Niekerk was the driver. My attention was drawn to Mr van Niekerk because during 1983 we had seen each other in Ovamboland.
Mr Mabotha and I left my vehicle and walked to the other vehicle. My attention was primarily focused on Louw van Niekerk and in my mind's eye I believe that Mr de Kock was the passenger and I handed Mr Mabotha to him.
MR POTGIETER: I have no recollection whatsoever of any such a meeting and go as far as to dispute it. This was a simple release as many in the past and did not entail detailed planning. I don't know of the other vehicle as was mentioned here except for my Mazda 626 and the Landcruiser of Mr de Kock.
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Britz has also given evidence that three vehicles, at this point, approximately two kilometres from the police station had rendezvoused before Mr Mabotha was released, can you recall this?
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Potgieter in my opinion in this evidence the possibility was created that something sinister was to be connected to this handing-over, is it correct that this handing-over took place in clear daylight?
MR POTGIETER: The police station at De Deur, like all police stations during that time were surrounded with security fencing and directly next to the police station there's an open area which was not overgrown and I parked there. It's difficult to say but it's definitely not more than 50 paces from the entrance of the police station.
ADV SANDI: Sorry Mr Rossouw, just one little detail here. Mr Potgieter you say you parked your car outside the police station, about 50 paces or so, now the people or whoever was in the police station would they have been able to see you where you were parked?
ADV SANDI: Yes but I am not sure if you understand my question. If the people who were inside the police station looked outside there, they look at you where you were parked with your vehicle, would there have been any physical obstacle preventing them from seeing you?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, yes, although Vlakplaas was not a secret component of the police many askaris gave evidence as to where they worked and for who they worked. It is also so that one would act protective in terms of your structures and it is only logical that one would not want Vlakplaas people to walk in and they say that I am from Vlakplaas and I came to collect this such-and-such. And one has to remember that many men were placed in police stations especially where people were detained who could convey information to the enemy of the State.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well. Mr Potgieter you have initially or in your statement on page 140 you mention that the handing, or at the handing-over Mr de Kock and Mr van Niekerk handed over and you said that this is how you recall it, but you have given me instructions to put it to Mr de Kock that with regard to that aspect you will concede that you might be mistaken, seen in the light of the other statements and evidence that was given here before this Committee. Can you please explain to the Committee why you have such doubts?
MR POTGIETER: As I have already mentioned, I know Louw van Niekerk and I was surprised to see him again after such a long time. In my mind I see Mr de Kock moving around the vehicle. I have no recollection and in the absence of Law's version of what had happened there, I am prepared to make the concession that it may have been another person and not Mr de Kock. The arrangement was definitely that Mr de Kock, not necessarily himself, attend the handing-over. With regard to the vehicle, I am sure that it was Mr de Kock's vehicle. That was the only vehicle which I knew that was used by him, which I envied because it was a Landcruiser 4 x 4 and one reconciles the vehicle with the individual. That is the reason and in the light of the statements why I realised in terms of that fact I might be mistaken.
MR ROSSOUW: Mr Potgieter, on page 152 of the bundle, the extract from the criminal case of Mr de Kock, he says that he arranged with you to release Mr Mabotha. You would grant Mr Mabotha the opportunity to go to the nearest taxi stand place and then in transit there would be a car with Vlakplaas members who would intercept him. Do you have a recollection of such an arrangement?
MR POTGIETER: As I have already mentioned, Chairperson, I am not sure whether the place where I had parked, whether it was a bus stop or a taxi rank, but it would be ideal for that and one has to remember also that around public buildings there are always taxi ranks for persons who come from police stations or magistrates courts, so I would assume that in that vicinity there must have been something like that.
MR POTGIETER: That is correct, Chairperson. It was not a transferral in the sense that one moves from a base, this was a departmental shift. I had to say goodbye to the investigative component and had to take command of the intelligence component. This is the component which we had discussed earlier which operated from safehouses in the vicinity of Soweto.
MR POTGIETER: No, with my departure the then Lieut Kritzinger, presently a superintendent in the police service, this Lieut Kritzinger became the commander of the investigative component and he would have dealt further with this.
MR POTGIETER: I cannot recall in detail when this was but with my transferral to the intelligence unit I visited head office in Pretoria more often and it was either down one of the corridors in head office or at the entrance of police arcade that I met him and asked him about Mr Mabotha and then he reacted by saying that the man is gone.
MR POTGIETER: Definitely not. I would like to refer the Commission to other persons whom I had handed over to Mr de Kock. A man by the name of Ndlomo who had also given evidence in one of my cases, the PAC Kiebla matter, and was handed over to Vlakplaas. At a stage I asked about him and it was told to me that the man is gone and recently I heard that he is somewhere in the West Rand, he is not dead. So, the word "away" does not mean that he is dead.
MR POTGIETER: Because I had changed offices and worked from a secret location and Mr Mabotha would definitely not have those telephone numbers to contact me, I did make some telephonic enquiries and I followed it up with a telex to the security branch at Pietersburg with the request that they must ask some question to find out whether Mr Mabotha was at his parents' house. I received the answer that he apparently never arrived there. Recently I visited Pietersburg and spoke to Director Charles van Wyk. At that stage he was attached to the investigative component of the security branch at Pietersburg. He could not however recall that 10,12 years back such a telex was handed over to him.
MR ROSSOUW: Very well. If it was put to you that you had this tremendous relationship with Mr Mabotha, one would expect that you might visit him the next day, or contact him at Vlakplaas. What would your reaction be to that?
MR POTGIETER: No, the planning with Mr Mabotha was not that I would visit him the next day. He would be allowed to read the climate and I would have visited him at a later instance and we could have addressed the problems, if he had experienced any, and we could discuss these problems. I left it to Mr de Kock to look after the man for me.
MR POTGIETER: With regard to this case I decided that I did not want or request Mr Mabotha's death. I did not give the instruction for it and in my eyes I have committed no offence, that is why I had not applied for amnesty.
MR HATTINGH: Somewhere in the past I say on behalf of you, and when I say on behalf of you in your capacity as a police officer, I have acted in one of the police investigations before the Goldstone Commission.
MR HATTINGH: Mr Potgieter, I do not want to break any client privileges which might exist between yourself and me. I want to stay away from information which you gave to me there and if you feel that I am using any information which I might have gained from you during those times, I want you to draw my attention to it.
Secondly, Mr Potgieter, before we go into any details with regard to this incident which is being dealt with here, let's just forget about language usage, possible innuendos that might have existed. There can be no possibility or there exists no possibility that you and Mr de Kock might have misunderstood each other during the telephone conversation which you had with him. Will you agree with that?
MR HATTINGH: But Mr Potgieter, notwithstanding the words that were used during the discussion with regard to Mr Mabotha, one thing is quite clear here, that your evidence, that you firstly informed him that Mr Mabotha was a very important witness to you in a criminal case against Mrs Mandela. Is that correct?
MR HATTINGH: So there can be no misunderstanding about that? There is no way that Mr de Kock could have been under the impression that you might have suggested to him that Mr Mabotha might be killed if you had informed him about this? Is that not so?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, I can now not recall the precise words that were used in 1989 but I cannot see that words would have been used that might have conveyed a message that Mr Mabotha had to be killed. I would not have benefited from this. I can just not explain it.
MR HATTINGH: But whatever the words were that were used by you it could not have created the impression with you, because you are expressly telling him that this man will be a witness in the Winnie Mandela case, please keep him safe at Vlakplaas. That addition that you made must have stated it clearly to him that you did not want Mr Mabotha killed. Isn't that so?
MR POTGIETER: That was the message which I tried to convey to him and one has to remember that this was an extraordinary request because Vlakplaas was definitely not, did not have detention facilities there. In my attempt to move Mr de Kock to comply with my request I explained to him what it was all about.
MR HATTINGH: Let us just begin a bit earlier. I would like to examine you briefly about the Protea police station. In the Statement which you made for the purposes of the Section 29 investigation into the activities of Mrs Mandela, you gave a summary of the broad structure and components of the security branch in Soweto. Is that correct?
MR HATTINGH: It's on page 2, paragraph 6. I don't think that this statement has been handed in. I referred to it in I think it was in re-examination, yes, I referred to it in re-examination and informed you that I did not think it would be necessary to make copies of it because it is a rather lengthy statement and it also contains a lot of annexures. I only refer to two paragraphs thereof. But perhaps, I would have no objection if it is handed in, Mr Chairman. It was a statement which he made for purposes of giving evidence in terms of Section 29 in the Mandela enquiry.
MR ROSSOUW: Sorry Mr Chairman, Rossouw on record. May I just indicate to the Committee that this is not an affidavit. This was a statement compiled by us in preparation for the testimony that was given at the Section 29 hearing. It's not an affidavit.
MR POTGIETER: Yes, I believe so. There were a number of errors and the Chairperson of that investigation requested that these be amended. We were restricted with regard to time and I will not tell you that this document is completely free from errors.
MR HATTINGH: Mr Potgieter, I don't want to waste any time. I'm not really interested in what appears in the statement, I merely referred to it in order to expedite the matter. Therein you say that the broad structure and components of the security branch of Soweto was as follows: 1. Administrative, 2. Technical, 3. Intelligence, 4. Advanced Intelligence Collection, 5. Terrorist tracing, 6. Court oriented action. Would that be a correct summary of the activities of the Protea police station?
MR POTGIETER: Yes. The intelligence component operated outside Soweto and was accommodated outside Soweto. Col de Jager, the head of the intelligence unit, had an office in the building although his staff operated outside. When I took over from Pretorius, I had my office outside Soweto.
MR HATTINGH: I assume that you would agree that it was the policy within the security police to distribute information which was gathered by the security branch as widely as possible in case it could be of assistance to other security branches.
MR HATTINGH: And there were also regular discussions and meetings during which information, which had been collected by various members of the various components of the security branch, was exchanged.
MR HATTINGH: During the time that you were investigating the treason case against Mrs Mandela, the other members of the components of the security branch were aware of the fact that you were busy with such an investigation?
MR HATTINGH: To the extent that the Attorney-General hesitated with the decision to charge her and when this happened you nonetheless received an order from head office to continue with the investigation and to complete the investigation?
MR HATTINGH: Now I would also assume that any members of the security branch in Soweto who obtained information about certain illegal activities in which Mrs Mandela may have been involved, would undoubtedly have conveyed that information to you.
MR POTGIETER: That would be what one would have expected under the circumstances. However, I cannot say that this actually happened. I don't wish to say that information was purposefully withheld from me, I could visit Louis Watermeyer at any time and ask him for the Winnie Mandela memorandum and so forth.
MR POTGIETER: Let me tell you. The persons who managed the tapping made transcriptions of discussions and when something was said which appeared suspicious, which was for attention, possible further investigation, those transcriptions would go to Watermeyer and to me and I think also to the intelligence component, so this was what was accomplished by means of telephone tapping.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, I cannot recall at which stage this aspect was brought to my attention. You know at a stage I spent a great deal of time away from Soweto and I cannot tell you that I was there at that time. I can also not tell you that I wasn't there. So, if this information was picked up from telephone tapping it would naturally have come to me and it would also have been brought to the attention of Col Grobbelaar, who was with the tracing unit. So what I am trying to tell you is that it's very difficult for me to recall right now at which stage I became aware of it, whether it was before or after the arrest. I cannot tell you with certainty.
MR HATTINGH: And just accept now for a moment that he was arrested there as a result of the information which was obtained by means of tapping, would that information not have been brought to your attention as quickly as possible, seeing as you were the person who was investigating the case of high treason against Mrs Mandela?
MR POTGIETER: Not necessarily to me. Let me tell you what I think happened here, which had happened in the past. When such information was received, the telephones would be listened to hotly and what I mean by that is that Bosman took the tapes every morning and transcribed them and when something like this emanated that there was something happening, he would appoint somebody who would listen to those tapes at the time of the discussion so that there wouldn't be any unnecessary lapse of time. I am assuming that that is what happened and it is upon that that Grobbelaar and Klopper and the other men reacted in arresting Mr Mabotha.
MR POTGIETER: No, I don't believe that that is fair because du Toit from my staff, from the investigating component, accompanied the arresting officers and he would have informed me at a suitable time. It's not a question of me only hearing about it when Mr Mabotha was delivered to me. After the arrest it would have come to my attention.
MR HATTINGH: You went to a great deal of trouble in order to determine what Mr Mabotha's activities may have been after his arrest, up to the point when you detained him in terms of section 29. Would you then accept that Mr Mabotha on the 22nd of February 1989 was arrested?
MR POTGIETER: I cannot say right now that I knew it but I'm assuming this, that he as a member of the investigating component, which formed a part of the team, would have had this as his task or his duty. However, I must say that Mr du Toit's statement is that he spent a brief time at the security branch at that point and he was not completely versed in the way that they went about their work, so he may have played a more minor role.
MR POTGIETER: My discussion with Director van Wyk was about the telegram which I had sent. The evidence which Mr Mabotha was to have given at Tzaneen and Pietersburg was not discussed. I did not have those documents at that point and this page 39 has only come to my attention on the weekend, that is why I have not undertaken any further enquiries.
MR HATTINGH: So you have no information in any form of an official register or document regarding the movements of Mr Mabotha, apart from the entries in the investigation journal which you have in your possession?
MR HATTINGH: No, I am referring to the investigation journal, which you referred to this morning, to indicate that Mr Mabotha had been giving evidence with regard to other matters in other places. Is that a detention journal?
MR HATTINGH: Mr Potgieter, you would agreed that if Mr Mabotha had been arrested through Soweto, he would certainly not have been out of town for such a long period of time for the purposes of giving evidence, he would have had to return to Soweto at some point. Isn't that correct?
MR POTGIETER: No. I think that in this case the allegation was that he had deserted and that he had joined Mrs Winnie Mandela. Regardless of whether he had given evidence in other matters and so forth, this would not have influenced the detention of the man.
MR HATTINGH: Now how could that be possible? Isn't this a factor which would have to be considered in the decision which you had to take, for him to be detained in terms of section 29? Here is a man who apparently was once again giving full co-operation with the police against the ANC, isn't this a factor of consideration in the decision as to whether or not it was necessary to detain him in terms of section 29?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, I cannot say at this point in time whether it was really necessary. Of course he still had to be interrogated further, according to my opinion, in order to determine the scope of his activities and so forth. I don't believe that this was the sort of thing which one could manage in 48 hours worth of Section 50 detention.
MR HATTINGH: It would then be obvious that if one arrested a person and he said "okay, I'll answer any question that you put to me, I'm prepared to give my full co-operation, please just don't detain me in terms of Section 29", wouldn't it then be unnecessary to detain him in terms of Section 29?
CHAIRMAN: ...was that in this case, this man had already been questioned for some 9 months. A complete statement had apparently been taken from him. Shouldn't you have got hold of that to see whether there's anything more you need to find out?
MR POTGIETER: At that stage I did not know how long he had been in detention, where he had been detained and what he had been involved in and so forth, so it was necessary to detain him in order to have the time to examine those aspects.
Thank you, Mr Chairman, still Hattingh on record. Mr Potgieter, the statement that Mr du Toit took from Mr Mabotha dated 24th February, was this before you decided to detain Mr Mabotha in terms of Section 29, and was this ever brought to your attention?
MR HATTINGH: And you have made mention of the fact that you were not aware that Mr Mabotha had, from a very early stage, indicated his willingness to give his full co-operation and also not mentioned the wish to return back to Vlakplaas. Did you not know of that information?
MR POTGIETER: No, Chairperson, or, I don't know, I don't know. The purpose of the detention was to determine what he knew of the activities, his own involvement and then the possible application of him as a witness at a later stage. I don't think the other aspects played a part in the decision to detain him.
MR HATTINGH: Let me see if I can assist you. In the original statement for the Mandela investigation you gave a broad explanation there and I do not want to refer to it to make it as part of the record, but just to answer the question, this appears on page 11, paragraph 24.
"Persons can only be detained in terms of the abovementioned section if they are suspected by a colonel or higher officer, if they had acted in a way which the Act determined and whether he wanted to undermine the political dispensation"
You will remember that Col Grobbelaar gave evidence with regard to the activities of Mrs Mandela. I cannot recall the evidence verbatim, but there was a strong suspicion that he had been involved in actions.
MR POTGIETER: I cannot recall the actions right now, but the persons who executed the arrest, there's a vague recollection that it was said that the man had shot police officers or had been involved with incidents where policemen had been shot.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, it is not a long document, it is very brief. I would like to read it to you. When application is made for Section 29, the motivation has to be that the person had to be involved with terrorism or have information to that effect and I want to say that the pure fact that he did not find himself there, it would not be a necessary motivation, but seen in the light of the statement that was made at his arrest, it could have been mentioned in his Section 29 application, namely information about murders of police/weapons. It is also possible that this information would have gone via the head office, via the postal system to Mr de Kock's attention.
MR POTGIETER: I did not use any other information, but Chairperson, I think here we are in an exercise to determine what had happened and in the absence of documentation which was lost or destroyed, one probably has to reconstruct what happened. Something went terribly wrong.
MR HATTINGH: So you cannot assist the Committee with facts which you have an independent recollection of, that would entail the actions of Mr Mabotha and which led to the fact that he was detained in terms of Section 29?
MR HATTINGH: You will excuse me when I say Colonel that according to your recollection you cannot think of any reason why you wanted to detain him, is that the correct impression that I have? Can you recall now what you wanted to detain him for exactly?
MR POTGIETER: No Chairperson, I think the facts speak for themselves. This man was involved with Winnie. He was a trained MK member and he did have contact with other MK members. It was an unstable time in Soweto. I think I would not have executed my task if I did not act in the manner I did.
MR POTGIETER: Yes, that's administrative process. I understood that you said that the maximum time, this 28 days is when a Lieutenant Col or higher up authorises the detention. Afterwards this motivation for the Section 29 detention has to be discussed with head office, or no, no, that's wrong. The Lieut Col authorises the detention there and then, as soon as possible, a telex is sent to head office with the motivation and then they authorise the detention. On the 28th day a further motivation has to be sent, which will be served before the minister for ministerial authorisation.
MR POTGIETER: It depends on the person himself. Many persons undertake to give evidence and then one gets to court and they refuse to give evidence. So there are many influences which one has to consider.
MR POTGIETER: Yes, it depends what the objective is with the person. In Mr Mabotha's instance, the plan was to use him as a witness otherwise, although the questioning was completed, it has to be decided will he be prosecuted or not. If he is not to be prosecuted, he will be released. If he will be prosecuted, then he goes over in terms of Section 31. At this stage I cannot tell you that the contents of that document, what the documentation was.
MR HATTINGH: If he gave his willingness right from the initial stage that he will co-operate and answer questions and give evidence, then you could really not in all honesty have recommended his further detention with the minister, could you?
MR POTGIETER: When a person is arrested as in this case and he offers his full co-operation, one cannot say that this was the total spectrum of his activities. We had cases where persons apparently gave their co-operation, said things within the 48 hour period before he is detained in terms of Section 29 and only later when he is questioned more in-depth it comes to the fore that this initial willingness to co-operate was just a story. So, this Section 29 created some space for us and it probably could be abused, but it also gave us the space to make a more thorough investigation.
MR POTGIETER: I don't know what happened to it. It would not be a much more broader statement than the one that we have here, given the time period that he was in Soweto, possibly 6 weeks. If he was involved with other activities, there would not be a much bigger difference in the statement.
MR POTGIETER: No, that is not correct. That's a mistake. The dossier was only handed over later but I cannot recall the date. The initial report to the Attorney-General was handed over on that date, that reference in the document is mistaken.
MR HATTINGH: Did you not say somewhere, I'm a little bit confused with all these statements, did you not say somewhere that you checked it with the Attorney-General's office and you obtained the reference for the date which you handed it over?
MR POTGIETER: That is not my register, that is the Attorney-General's register. I did not make those entries there. That is the Attorney-General's register. I did not have any record as to when I handed over the report, but I received it there.
MR HATTINGH: But if there is a record in the Attorney-General's documentation that the report was handed over on the 3rd of April, then one would have expected that there would be an entry for the date when the dossier was handed over.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, I believe that a copy of the statement or part of the statement would surely be in that dossier because for the prosecuting official it would give some background to him about Mr Mabotha's activities and Mrs Mandela's other activities.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, if one looks at the high treason cases which we handled, every witness is important there. Whatever the person's stature might be, it might have been one sentence in the whole statement which might be important. So, he was a witness, he was an important witness and the others were also important witnesses.
This is 22.8, you mention the Section 29 statement. You say that Mabotha, before his involvement with this Mrs Mandela, had been a member of Vlakplaas. This does not help the high treason case per se, but it is important to know where the man comes from.
Secondly you say that it says he was abducted by Mrs Mandela's people and detained in Soweto and by them, Winnie Mandela and others, had been questioned. This is also not evidence in the high treason case.
Do you say that in your more thorough statement, which you cannot recall submitting or not, you had information about the fact that Mr Mabotha had agreed to join Winnie Mandela's revolutionary struggle? Do you have something like that in your more complete statement?
MR HATTINGH: You cannot recall. But didn't you somewhere else during your evidence that no evidence was found that Mr Mabotha had joined any acts of terrorism or terrorist actions? Do you have no information about that?
MR HATTINGH: Didn't you say somewhere during your evidence or in a statement, that you did not have evidence which indicated that Mr Mabotha himself had been guilty of any offences in terms of the security legislation, to put it that broadly? I'm not saying that those were your words, but that was the gist of what you said.
MR POTGIETER: I think that I was thinking about the attacks on policemen there because that was what many of these aspects of evidence were about. I don't think that I thought much further than the attacks on police.
MR HATTINGH: In time I will refer you to the section which I have in mind. At the moment I am not entirely certain where I read those words. However, let me proceed with you through that which you can recall from your statement, page 418, 22.9.4.
"He had personal knowledge of the abduction of youths from Paul Veryn and the murder of Stompie Sepei"
MR POTGIETER: That would have been something which enjoyed attention during the interrogation. During the Section 29 investigation the suicide of Sizwe Sithole was a topic which was investigated and during Judge Goldstone's Commission of Inquiry into that suicide it was said that the activities of Mr Sithole took place under the orders of Mrs Mandela. Now we know that Sithole's activities were aimed at killing and murdering policemen and it's easy to say now that the man could have spoken about this, but during interrogation one would peak his recollection and remind him of certain aspects and then he may have been able to provide more information and elaborate on the other activities which may have been of significance.
"....as a result of the fact that at that stage during the first quarter of 1989, I was involved in the high treason investigation against Winnie Mandela. As the chief suspect I was very interested in the interrogation of Mabotha."
And this creates the impression in my mind that the statement that you are speaking of in this statement of yours, is this Section 29 statement which Mabotha gave because, apart from the attitude towards Winnie Mandela, all the other aspects which you mention on these pages appear in that statement. I would like to refer you to paragraph 22.c and that is that Mrs Winnie Mandela was the chief suspect. That also indicates that there were other suspects in this case and if we study Mabotha's statements, we have spoken at length of Mr Zondwaba, if he has been arrested, he would have been charged whether it was part of this case or another case, for his actions with regard to the murders of policemen.
MR POTGIETER: I agree with you. It would appear that this is only with regard to Mrs Mandela. It would appear that this is only about Mrs Mandela and at face value I must agree with you but in actual fact, when one looks at the bigger picture, this would not be the case.
MR HATTINGH: But that is not what I'm driving at. What I am trying to get to is the fact that when one reads the statement, you are made aware of a Section 29 statement, you do not say that you later took a more thorough statement and what appeared in that statement, the impression that I gain from these words is that you are speaking of a Section 29 statement and this Section 29 statement that you are speaking of is Mabotha D and no other more elaborate statement.
MR HATTINGH: Mr Potgieter, I must put it to you that my impression of the information that you had and the manner in which you decided to detain Mr Mabotha is, and I will argue this, that is why I am putting it to you, my impression is that he did not really give as much assistance or co-operation as what you had hoped to obtain from him.
MR HATTINGH: And that you indeed had the suspicion, or the information, that he, such as some of the other persons who were involved with Mrs Mandela, may also have been involved in attacks on police.
MR POTGIETER: During the Section 29 investigation I read his in camera evidence and his evidence was to the effect, I did not read it myself, but it was to the effect as per my inference from other documents, that Mr Mabotha was not called as a witness in the Stompie Sepei matter, because he, van Vuuren, had consulted with him and he thought that he was a rather unimpressive witness, or something to that effect. Are you aware of such evidence?
MR POTGIETER: I cannot recall that I was aware of the consultation, but I did discuss the matter with the investigating officer, Dempsey, and requested that, if possible, they not use Mabotha because I wanted to use him later against Winnie. I wasn't even aware of the fact that they had consulted with him and ultimately the Stompie Sepei matter was finished off, Jerry Richardson was found guilty and this, without the evidence of Mabotha. I was continuously under the impression that my request had been complied with, namely not to use Mabotha. It was only last year that I heard, or read the evidence of Mr van Vuuren and saw that he had consulted with Mabotha and that he was of the opinion that Mr Mabotha would not have made a very good witness. What he based that statement upon I don't know because I never discussed this aspect with Mr van Vuuren, so I don't know, I am simply accepting what appears there.
MR POTGIETER: No it worked somewhat differently. I requested that if possible, they not use him. But now you must also remember that in Mabotha D the statement comes from the Stompie Sepei matter. In other words, the statement was at the disposal of the prosecutor and it is policy that when an investigating officer files statements in a dossier it cannot be said that this person not be used in a court case, so they would have to decide whether or not they were going to use the person as a witness, and I had no say in the matter.
MR POTGIETER: It was about the prognosis of Mr Mandela's possible release and then of course also - I don't know exactly what the case was, he flew to Cape Town, or he didn't fly to Cape Town, that he travelled to Cape Town in the aeroplane and he held a discussion with the former Minister, Kobie Coetzee surrounding this aspect because he saw what we had at our disposal, that it was a prima facie case and that it would lead us to a catch 22 situation. He went to Cape Town, he wanted me to accompany him. Security Head Office refused, they said that I had nothing to do in the Cape and that was the attitude.
MR POTGIETER: At that stage, yes. But now you must also understand that at a stage this country was on the knife's edge and the future of the country, could fall either way and one couldn't only just say "stop the bus", everything has to stop. We had to continue to give politics a chance to develop as it had to.
MR POTGIETER: I could have done that and I possibly did do that, I cannot recall. But as I have testified earlier, Von Lieres was not the kind of man that would be pressured by anybody. Your problems were your problems, he didn't want you to come to him with your problems.
MR HATTINGH: But I am not talking about placing pressure on him, I am simply asking whether or not you tried to find out whether or not there was still a chance for the prosecution to go ahead or what the situation was in view of the political circumstances and so forth.
MR HATTINGH: Because the political situation had changed drastically, there was more and more talk of the release of Mr Mandela and a greater degree of closeness between the former government and liberation organisations?
MR POTGIETER: The prosecution would have, or the chances for prosecution would have been greatly decreased, but if you knew Mr Von Lieres the way I knew him and if you gave him a dossier containing statements and he told you, "come, here is your Advocate", have an interview with the witnesses and you saw that you no longer had any witnesses, then you would have problems.
MR POTGIETER: I think it was shortly thereafter, I wouldn't say a week or two weeks. There are no incidents which I can link my thoughts to which would indicate that it was at such and such a time. I know that the Rivonia 7 were released during November, that would be Mbeki and the others, but I cannot recall whether at that stage, I was already in Intelligence or whether I was still with Investigations, I can't recall, but I think that it was at roundabout that time.
MR POTGIETER: The Intelligence component was part of the Security Branch at Soweto. Then Intelligence component was shifted over to Head Office and we served under Head Office, that would be the Intelligence component of Soweto and Johannesburg. Then from Head Office, it was moved back to the Johannesburg office, so there was a reasonable degree of frustration regarding under whose command you were serving and so forth.
MR POTGIETER: They knew I was with the Intelligence Unit, but the situation of the safe houses, perhaps they knew the safe houses were forbidden territory for any Policemen, even the Security Branch, it was only the Intelligence people who were allowed there. So, yes, they could have gotten hold of me.
MR HATTINGH: Now you decided that Mr Mabotha will be a witness and you cannot detain him any longer, and you contacted Mr De Kock? Did you give him a complete motivation as to why Mr Mabotha had to go to Vlakplaas?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, it is difficult to say. If I gave him a complete motivation, I don't know. I told him about the dilemma which I experienced with regards to the release and the fact that he has to be available, or that he is my responsibility and I have to keep his availability.
MR POTGIETER: I cannot tell you now exactly what he had said, it was probably because I convinced him so well, but I did get the impression that, or I did not get the impression that he did not want to help me.
MR HATTINGH: Is it possible that you had some discussion about Mrs Mandela and her activities during that discussion and the activities of the people who she had dealings with, specifically with regards to the attacks on Police Officers?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, colleagues always complained to each other and it might be possible that mention was made of the activities of Mrs Mandela and also the situation in Soweto. It is possible, I don't have any recollection thereof, but it is possible.
MR HATTINGH: You have heard Mr De Kock's evidence with regard to the procedure that had to be followed when a so-called terrorist is arrested and indicates his willingness to cooperate and eventually becomes an askari? Have you heard that evidence or were you not present on that day?
MR HATTINGH: It boils down to the fact that the Security Branch who had arrested the so-called terrorist, had to see if they could convince him to give his co-operation and once he had agreed to do so, he would be referred to Head Office where Mr Martin Naude's people would take over and have interviews with the person to determine whether he could really be of use and take the decision whether he can become an askari. Can you dispute that that was the procedure?
MR POTGIETER: That might be the established procedure, but my experience was a little bit different, namely a man is arrested, he goes through the first phase of questioning to a point where he seemingly gives his full co-operation and then Martin Naude's team comes in, this is now C2, with the terrorist photo album that has thousands of photo's or charts and they spend some time there with the detainee, discuss profiles of people. When they are done there, they will leave and you continue with your investigation. That exercise is done whether the person is to be released or prosecuted or to be used as a witness. Later if one wants to use this person as a witness, we arranged with Vlakplaas. I did not arrange with C2 and those other components, I arranged with Vlakplaas and those people will have an interview with this person and tell him "this is what you will do, these are your benefits, this is what we expect from you, this is -", to get a person to act as a witness, and turn on his previous organisation. I am not saying that it was so in every case, according to me, there was no set guidelines, you played the ball as it came to you. I do not dispute that Mr De Kock says that this is how the system worked, all that I am saying is that I experienced the system differently from what the other people say.
MR HATTINGH: Did you think that Mr De Kock would be able to give his own approval that a person could come to Vlakplaas as an askari and he will receive a salary then? Did you think that he could do it?
"... when investigations are completed with regard to terrorists, Unit C2 Research and Terrorism has to be informed so that the photo identification could be done as well as further attention be given to the recruitment process."
MR POTGIETER: That is where there function is stated, not exclusively their function, I have no problem with what is written there, but in the practice, it is not always possible as it is laid down on paper.
MR HATTINGH: Are you saying Mr Potgieter, that after Mr Mabotha was questioned at Marble Hall amongst others, by Mr De Kock and according to your evidence, Mr Klopper as well as Mr Bellingan, had been severely assaulted, you have no knowledge thereof?
MR POTGIETER: I cannot even recall that I saw him at that stage. I have to go on my registers which indicated that he only arrived at me in April, where he was in the meantime, is something that I cannot explain.
MR POTGIETER: As I have said earlier, there was the perception that the man had deserted, there was the perception that he had given information with regards to Vlakplaas and the third point, that he will be regarded with major suspicion. Those are the main issues, there might be some other aspects and these are the aspects around which we discussed this that if it was unacceptable for him, that he had deserted.
MR POTGIETER: No, this was during the investigation. It is general if a man is caught, he is with Winnie. The logical inference is that he might have given some information there, that he might have deserted, so it is not that I had evidence to that, this is the perception that reigned there, which one would have in terms of anybody.
MR POTGIETER: Not with me, because with me he denied that he had deserted. He maintained that he had been abducted, he denied that he had given any information with regard to Vlakplaas and that he was a traitor. The perception was not with me, but I prepared him that these might be aspects which might place his accommodation there at a disadvantage.
MR POTGIETER: No, we discussed those aspects. You have to recall that when this man was arrested, Mr De Kock and his people were informed about it. They were never informed about other people who were arrested, they were informed that this was his man, did we know was this man part of a Security Branch operation and infiltration action with Winnie or what, I believe that is why Mr De Kock was contacted, to get information regarding that aspect.
MR POTGIETER: No, I cannot recall that. It was probably the general discussion or talks in the corridors, but I cannot recall that anybody had told me that this man had deserted. One accepted that that might be a possibility.
MR POTGIETER: No, there is nobody that I can recall who made such a statement, but you have to remember that Vlakplaas was part of the system and one wants to be protective about it, and one wants to look at the interests of that component. The same as I would look at the interest of my own component.
MR POTGIETER: The askaris, some of the askaris are known on their real names or on their MK names, but I would have said the man from Marble Hall, who was abducted. It might have been possible, but to come back to the situation, to the individual, I would have referred to the Marble Hall case. But you have to remember as it would seem now, this was eight months after the initial arrest.
MR POTGIETER: I did not have any reason not to believe that. In the time which we lived then, and if we look at the other statements from MK members, persons were abducted and some were sent out of the country. If we look at the person that Mr Richardson had killed, we were under the impression that those persons were abducted and sent out of the country, so it is difficult to return in that situation. Anything was possible in that situation and when he referred to Zondwaba and those people, I don't know at which stage he mentioned Zondwaba, but it was a threat to Vlakplaas members to be abducted and not only for Vlakplaas members, but for anybody who worked within the system of that time.
MR HATTINGH: Very well, let me tell you why I say so. In the first instance, he was according to the Section 29 statement which you took from him, he was abducted, let us just get the date, he was abducted in December 1988 and this we find in paragraph 16 of Mabotha D, do you see that?
MR HATTINGH: And in February, the 22nd of February he is arrested and he tells you in this statement that Mrs Mandela had amongst others given him the instruction to go to Botswana and to contact the media and to give false information with regard to Stompie Sipei, is that correct?
MR HATTINGH: And that then if he was abducted and had to be with the ANC and Mrs Mandela in Soweto against his will, that it was very easy for him to go to Vlakplaas to say "listen, I am here now, I am sorry for not being here, but I was abducted", do you agree?
MR POTGIETER: I did not doubt that he was abducted, but later he made his political home with the ANC for a short period, that I would also accept that. When we caught him again, he was back on our side.
MR HATTINGH: But what about the other askaris at Vlakplaas? Here is somebody who initially had fought against the government and then with them went over to the Police's side and now this man is back. He must be of some, he must be some danger to them, would you agree?
MR POTGIETER: Seen from their perspective, probably yes but the discussions which I had with some of the former Vlakplaas members or askaris, they were under the impression that this person was on a mission. This was on a mission to Mrs Mandela. There are different approaches to the whole story and that is also why I had this discussion, not only one discussion, but several discussions with Mabotha to say "this is what we might experience at Vlakplaas, this is the attitude", you have to read the climate in order to decide if the situation would be acceptable for him or not.
MR POTGIETER: I read that evidence and I question that evidence in the sense that we did not have permanent Vlakplaas representation in Soweto. Vlakplaas' actions in Soweto was limited until later in 1990 when they had full-time teams there, so I cannot see, really, I don't have any knowledge that at that stage there were any Vlakplaas members. I don't believe really for Vlakplaas members to go and assault somebody in another division at their office, I doubt that. It might have happened, but I don't know thereof.
MR HATTINGH: Why is it so unacceptable for you if Mr De Kock's evidence is correct that the same members from Soweto were involved with the serious assault on Mr Mabotha and the askaris also assaulted him?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, this information I have only received recently, this is not information that I had then. CHAIRPERSON: It was fairly obvious then that he had committed wrong doings and he was now being investigated, wasn't it?
CHAIRPERSON: And amongst the askaris, they would have believed that he had been with the ANC and Winnie Mandela for some weeks or months and had been in a position to disclose their identities, wouldn't they?
MR HATTINGH: Thank you Mr Chairman. Mr Potgieter, now we have the situation, you have this discussion with Mr De Kock, he is willing to receive Mr Mabotha and to keep him there, Mr Mabotha is more than willing to go there, because he is afraid to be released outside and so forth, so it is not a problem, the problem that you had, has been solved? Mabotha is willing to go and Mr De Kock is willing to take him, is that correct?
MR POTGIETER: Yes. Now while Mr De Kock was aware of the fact that he was coming, why didn't you tell Mr Mabotha "listen, here is money for you for a taxi, go, Mr De Kock said it is in order, just tell him, here I am, I have come back?"
MR POTGIETER: I don't know. It just wasn't done that way. MR HATTINGH: Because now we have this whole long process of yours where you ask him whether or not he will accommodate him there and after he has agreed to do this, you will once again contact him to tell him, "I am going to be releasing him on this day" and you make arrangements for him to be picked up, is that correct?
MR POTGIETER: I suppose I could have taken him myself, it wouldn't have been a problem, but I just cannot recall the circumstances of whether Mr De Kock's people were in the vicinity or not, I didn't ask Mr De Kock to come and fetch him myself, that was not our arrangements. Anybody could have come to fetch him. I don't know whether there were people in the vicinity that day or what the most convenient arrangement would have been. If it had been necessary for me to take him to Vlakplaas, it wouldn't have been a problem.
MR HATTINGH: But this Mr Potgieter, is what I find so strange, because at that stage you say that Mabotha was afraid, he was aware of the fact that the ANC was looking for him and that the ANC had made enquiries at this parental house that you had advised him to go to. How does that operate?
MR HATTINGH: Why didn't you tell him "listen, if you cannot bear it at Vlakplaas, contact me from there or contact me from Erasmia or from Pretoria and tell me, listen, I can't take it here any more, please arrange something else for me and I will remain here until you have arranged something else for me"?
MR POTGIETER: I think my action was aimed at physically indicating to him that here is another option, it is not just a question of going to a telephone and making a call and not being able to find your man. I wanted him to physically see that there were people who were catering for his needs and interested in his safety.
MR POTGIETER: Yes, it was unsafe for quite some time, but where else would I send him? I have an address according to the statements, I know where to contact him. One would be able to undertake further planning, this was merely the first step.
MR HATTINGH: Mr Potgieter, what would have been so unbearable for him at Vlakplaas that he would have been prepared to jeopardise his own safety by going to the place where the ANC had already been looking for him?
MR POTGIETER: I think I have covered that aspect regarding the possible perceptions and the climate which he had to test. He was far better familiar with the circumstances at Vlakplaas than what I was, because I only visited Vlakplaas as a visitor during working hours, I didn't know what the circumstances were, what the accommodation was like, and so forth.
"... De Kock greeted us and he also greeted Mabotha, because they knew each other and it wasn't necessary for me to give any further commentary regarding Mabotha's accommodation, because it had been arranged with De Kock. After a few minutes, we greeted one another and we all departed."
"... later De Kock and one Louw van Niekerk arrived there, upon which I once again discussed the situation with De Kock and handed George over to him physically."
MR POTGIETER: No, I cannot dispute that because I have already said that there is a possibility that I may be incorrect because one would identify a person with a car and vice versa. My primary attention was focused on Louw van Niekerk and I believed that it was Mr De Kock that received the man from me. I still maintain, I cannot help you then.
MR HATTINGH: The problem with your statement is that if Mr De Kock and Mr Mentz were together, then they would have been in Mr De Kock's vehicle and Mr Van Niekerk would not have received Mr Mabotha from you after he had climbed out of Mr De Kock's vehicle?
MR HATTINGH: Because the evidence regarding how they drove, Mr De Kock and Mr Mentz in Mr De Kock's vehicle and Mr Flores and Mr Britz in another vehicle, not in Mr De Kock's vehicle, you cannot dispute that?
MR HATTINGH: But you could have made it very clear to him, you could have told him that this man is coming there and that he might not be able to handle it there, "not because I think it would be due to any misconduct of yours and that is why I have told him that if he can't handle it there, he should go to his family in Pietersburg and for that reason I have bought him a train ticket"?
MR HATTINGH: Instead of that, you foresee the possibility that this man who has been favourably received by Mr De Kock who will safeguard him for you, would run away and that Mr De Kock would be the one with all the problems?
MR HATTINGH: Only after he had arrived at Pietersburg? Are you honestly saying, Mr Potgieter, that Mr De Kock agreed without any murmur that you are aware of, to receive Mr Mabotha but that in the back of his mind, he had already decided to tell you that he would receive and safeguard him, but in actual fact, he was going to be abducted and kill him and that this is something that he decided completely on his own?
MR POTGIETER: I don't know. I cannot give evidence about how Mr De Kock thought and what influenced his decisions or under which stress he had to work, what he had been exposed to at that stage, I don't know.
MR POTGIETER: I did talk to Mr De Kock, as I have said, I can't recall whether this was in Head Office or at the entrance to Head Office, but I asked him then and he told me that the man was gone and it is as a result of that, that I began to make telephonic enquiries and followed it up with a telex report.
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, I cannot tell you, or give you an indication of how long but it wasn't very long afterwards. Previously I tried to connect this to a specific time, but I cannot recall exactly whether it was before the Rivonia releases or after, but it was during November, I am almost certain of that.
MR POTGIETER: I did receive a reply and they said that the man had never arrived there. Now I don't know whether they made direct or covert enquiries, I requested covert enquiries and the answer was that he never arrived there.
"... I also assumed that he had possibly attempted to contact me, but due to my transfer to another office outside Soweto, he could not contact me."
MR POTGIETER: No, I assumed that. I assumed that he would have phoned but as a result of the fact that I was at another premises, he could not get hold of me, so it was not a question of someone telling me that he had phoned.
MR POTGIETER: You see when I was transferred, it was to a covert premises and the telephone numbers for that office, were kept away from the rest of the Security Branch, so the Security Branch didn't know the telephone numbers and if anybody was looking for me, they would just say "well, this man is gone, he has been transferred." That is why I began to make these enquiries upon my own initiative.
MR HATTINGH: Just one aspect and then I would request you to take the adjournment, Mr Chairman. When you followed up the matter, it was with your successor when you left the Investigating component, who was he?
MR POTGIETER: Chairperson, every detainee had a file in which there was an investigation journal and all the correspondence, medical reports, magistrates' reports, the whole gamut reflecting the history of the person, his addresses, all his reports, all the interrogation notes, everything would be kept in that file.
CHAIRPERSON: And if you had been run over by a bus the next morning, nobody would have known what happened to your important witness? Kritzinger wouldn't have known where to find him, the Attorney General would not know?
MR POTGIETER: What I am trying to illustrate is that if something were to have happened to me, Mr De Kock would surely have asked "now that Potgieter is gone, who is going to handle the matter further?"