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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 144

Paragraph Numbers 419 to 441

Volume 2

Chapter 2

Subsection 40


419 Several cross-border operations undertaken by the SADF were publicly acknowledged at the time by the South African government.

420 In its first submission to the Commission, the SANDF provided information on external operations targeted at what it described as “ANC and PAC bases and facilities”. This list is by no means comprehensive in that it does not include operations undertaken in Angola or against SWAPO facilities in Zambia. The SANDF does not explain these omissions. Those it lists are the following:

a Operation Beanbag: an attack on the Matola area of Maputo, Mozambique on 30 January 1981;

b an attack on “ANC facilities” in Maseru, Lesotho on 9 December 1982;

c Operation Skerwe (fragments, shrapnel): an attack on “ANC facilities” in the Matola suburb of Mozambique on 23 May 1983;

d an attack on an “ANC planning facility” in Maputo, Mozambique, on 17 October 1983;

e Operation Plecksy: an attack on alleged ANC residences and offices in Gaborone, Botswana on 14 June 1985;

f Operation Leo: co-ordinated SAAF and Special Forces attacks on alleged ANC facilities in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia on 19 May 1986;

g an attack on an “ANC transit facility” in Phiring, near Gaborone, Botswana on 28 March 1988.

421 Also listed is an attack on a ‘PAC transit facility’ in Umtata, Transkei on 17 October 1993. This operation is discussed elsewhere in this volume.

422 Guidelines for cross-border operations were adopted by the SSC in 1979, and amended in 1985. Most of the raids listed above fell into a category of planned (oorwoë) operations which, between 1979 and 1985, required the assent of the SSC. In this regard, the explanation presented in the SANDF submission is misleading. It suggests that the matter rested in the hands of “the Chairman of the SSC for his decision, in consultation with those members of the SSC he decided to involve”. This situation applied only from 1985, when the 1979 guidelines were amended.

423 The first Matola raid of January 1981 was planned by section A of the security police, headed by Colonel (later General) Jac Buchner and assisted by Major (later Brigadier) Callie Steijn of MI. Much of their intelligence was derived from interrogated detainees. One of these was Mr Steven Mashamba, who became an askari.

424 Twenty lives were lost in this raid, in which three houses were attacked and largely destroyed. They included Mr José Ramos, a Portuguese citizen killed at a roadblock, three of the attackers – Sergeants Robert Hutchinson and Ian Suttil and Lieutenant Corporal JK Park, all Rhodesians – and sixteen South Africans. Among these were a number of senior MK operatives and members of the elite Special Operations unit, including the commander of the first attack on Sasol, Mr Motso Mokgabundi. The others who died (all males) were Thabang Bookalane, Mandla Daka, Themba Dimba, Mduduzi Gama, William Khanyile, Vikeliswe Khumalo, Mankazana Levinson, Bhekumuzi Magubane, Solomon Mahutso, Daniel Molikisi, Steven Ngcobo, Vusumuzi Nwenya, Krishna Rabilall, Mfanafuthi Radebe, and Sinzino Skweyiya. In addition, as noted earlier, two South Africans and one Mozambican were abducted in the raid.

425 The SSC minutes contain no prior authorisation for this raid. In the minutes of the first meeting after the raid, on 2 February 1981, the chair congratulated the defence force on the success of the operation.

426 The same planning team of Buchner and Steijn and Special Forces commandos was responsible for the raid on Maseru on 9 December 1982. The midnight attack targeted a number of houses and a block of flats in Maseru and resulted in the deaths of forty-two people . Of these, thirty were South African and twelve Basotho citizens. Four of the SADF attackers were wounded in the operation. Amongst the South African casualties were the ANC’s chief representative in Lesotho, Mr Zola Nqini, and three members of the Marwanquana family – Alfred (imprisoned on Robben Island in the 1960s for fifteen years) and two of his teenage children, Mzukisi and Thandiswa. Another ex-Robben Islander, Mr Phakamile Mpongoshe, was killed in the same household. Two Basotho families also lost three family members. They were Ms Anna Hlalele and Mr Motlasi Hlalele and Motlasi’s seventeen-year old brother, Pondo, and Mr Sefata and Ms Mateboho Jafeta and their four-year old son, Teboho.

427 Another South African victim was Mr Jobo Titus who had been in Lesotho for only one day after serving an eighteen-year sentence on Robben Island. Another ex-Robben Island prisoner to die was Mr Jackson Trom. After serving a six-year sentence for membership of a banned organisation, Trom had been banished to a remote area of the Transkei. After ten years, he and his family fled to Lesotho. Another of those killed was an active SACP member, Mr Gene Gugushe (aka Stephen Seroto), a refugee from the Soweto uprising.

428 According to General Viljoen, chief of the SADF, five women and two children were killed in the raid. In fact, seven women died. Six of those killed were school-going teenagers. In his statement, General Viljoen described the operation as a “successful raid” on twelve ANC targets which he said were “planning and control headquarters for ANC action against South Africa, Transkei and Ciskei and were used as a springboard for terrorist action”. Expressing regret for the fact that “the innocent also had to suffer because they were housed by terrorists to discourage action against them”, he claimed that the ANC deliberately located their offices “in civilian houses to complicate action against them”. This statement was either an attempt to explain or justify the fact of civilian casualties or reflected an ignorance of the ways in which modern guerrilla wars were fought.

429 In addition to those named above, the following died in this raid (males unless otherwise stated): Toto Biza, Ngipe Bantwini, Lizethile Dyani, Mzwandile Fazzie, Zwelindaba Gova, Samson Kana, Sibusiso Khuzwayo, Ms Mapuleng Mafisa, Ngubekhaya Maqhekeza, Lepota Marayi, Ms Florence Mateseliso, Themba Mazibuko, Bongani Mbuso, Sipho Mchunu, Liqwa Mdlankomo, Michael Mlenze, Dumisani Mthandela, Mark Mvala, Cecil Ngxito, Sipho Notana, Faku Ntoyi, Ms Matumo Rabelitso, Ms Mapoloko Sehlabaka, Matikwane Seroto, Peter T’senoli, Naphtali Tsimile, Mzwanele Vasi and Vuyani Ziba.

430 There is no reference to the Maseru raid in the SSC minutes, either before or after it took place.

431 The SADF’s second raid on Maputo – Operation Skerwe – on 23 May 1983 was launched in retaliation for the ANC’s Church Street bombing in Pretoria three days earlier. The report below is derived from material in MI files (DMI MI/309/2 and MI/204/2/2/9).

432 According to the files, the targets comprised a missile site, command post, training centre, logistical base, urban and logistical headquarters. If they were such, they were located in houses described in the files as Gebuza’s (Siphiwe Nyanda) house, September’s (Glory Sebide) house, Zola’s house and Mlangeni’s house. Another target appears to have been a state-owned oil refinery.

433 Despite the public pronouncements about the success of the raid, a reading of the file shows that it was a disaster. Though the Minister of Defence, General Malan, announced that six ANC bases and a missile battery had been destroyed and forty-one ANC “terrorists” killed, this was a complete fiction. None of the intended targets were hit. Instead, the homes of Mozambican citizens were attacked, as was the crèche of a jam and fruit juice factory. In these hits, five Mozambican civilians – one a child – were killed, along with one South African refugee, Mr Vuyo Ntete (aka Fred Naledi).

434 In the initial damage report in the files it is stated that target identification was erroneous and that civilians were killed and private property damaged. A longer communication dated 14 June 1983 from the chief of the SADF (Lieutenant General Viljoen) to the chief of the army (Lieutenant General Geldenhuys) describes the final result of the attack as:

not merely a disappointment but a shock … our image and credibility with government and abroad has been seriously damaged. This operation is precisely what I referred to after my visits to 32 Battalion near Cuvelai (Angola). We accept poor results far too easily without analysing why they are poor and taking steps to remedy the situation. If we were to analyse our operational effectiveness and to make the results public we would be ashamed.

435 The SSC minutes reveal that this raid was discussed at its meeting on the day of the raid and was, according to the Minister of Defence and chief of the SADF, undertaken after consultations with the chairperson. The chairperson explained that it had not been possible to call the whole council together for consultation.

436 There was a further raid on Maputo on 17 October 1983. Few details are available on this raid, other than that it was undertaken by SADF Special Forces and that the target was the ANC office located in a block of flats in central Maputo. The office was damaged in a bomb blast and five people were injured.

437 While again there is no prior authorisation for this raid in the SSC minutes, General Malan provided the SSC meeting of 17 October 1983 with a report on what he described as a successful raid on the ANC’s headquarters in Maputo.

438 In a raid not listed in the SANDF submission, a group of SADF commandos from 5 Recce attacked four homes in the Polana area of Maputo in May 1988. This was a combined forces operation. The attackers entered the city in vehicles which they blew up on the beach before being evacuated by sea. Like the raid in May five years earlier, this raid seems also to have suffered from faulty intelligence. Three Mozambicans – all wrong targets – were killed.

439 Two ANC houses were attacked, but both were unoccupied at the time, with the result that the only fatality was a Mozambican security guard, Mr Joao Chavane. The raiders also entered a block of flats looking for the apartment used by a cooperant (expatriate) who worked closely with the ANC. Finding that flat empty, the raiders entered the one opposite, which was occupied by Ms Suzana de Souza, sister-in-law of Mozambique’s Minister of Culture, and her husband, Mr Antonio Pateguana, brother-in-law of Mozambique’s military chief of staff, and their two young children, aged three and five. The two adults were taken out onto the balcony where the raiders checked with other members of the party below in a courtyard as to whether they were the correct targets. The party below gave a positive signal and the two were then shot in front of the two children, who were left with the corpses. Other members of the raiding party attacked a suspected ANC house which turned out to be occupied by a Tanzanian. He returned fire on the attackers and avoided injury.

440 On 14 June 1985, twelve people were killed in Operation Plecksy, an attack on houses and offices in Gaborone, Botswana. Eight of the dead were South Africans. The others were a Somali citizen, a Basotho child and two citizens of Botswana. This is the only raid for which the Commission received amnesty applications and for which there is clear evidence of state authorisation, albeit not in the form of an SSC resolution.

441 General Albertus Steyn (a colonel at the time of the attack) applied for amnesty for his planning and intelligence-collection role in regard to the operation. At the time he was co-ordinator of the Western Transvaal Security Branch based at Zeerust. He states that along with Brigadier Wickus Loots and Special Forces Commandant Charl Naudé, he briefed Generals Johan Coetzee (SAP commissioner), AJ ‘Kat’ Liebenberg (head of Special Forces) and Constand Viljoen (SADF chief) on the raid “on more than one occasion”. Brigadier Loots and Colonel Philip Rudolph Crause of the Zeerust Security Branch also applied for amnesty for their intelligence role.

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