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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 149
Paragraph Numbers 442 to 463
442 In an amnesty application, a member of the Soweto Security Branch, Colonel Lodewyk de Jager, said that his unit was invited to an information-sharing and planning meeting for the raid at Special Forces headquarters. He stated that his unit had in the past attended similar sessions on Mozambique and Lesotho, the site of other cross-border raids staged up to this time.
443 Represented at this meeting were head office and the Johannesburg and Western Transvaal sections of the Security Branch, National and Military Intelligence and Special Forces. The raid itself was launched from Nietverdiend and led by the most senior officers of 5 Recce. Others present at the administrative command centre at Nietverdiend included Craig Williamson and members of the Soweto Security Branch. Other members of the Soweto security police who applied for amnesty for their involvement in the planning process are Anton Pretorius, Johannes Meyer and Willem ‘Timol’ Coetzee.
444 In his amnesty application, General Johan Coetzee of the SAP stated that the “trigger for the raid was the attack on the house in Cape Town of a Deputy Minister of the House of Representatives”. He also states that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Pik Botha, was absent from the SSC meeting at which the raid was discussed. General Coetzee was instructed to contact Mr Botha to inform him of the pending raid and to get his reaction. President Botha had signed the authorisation order but had done so subject to the Foreign Minister’s approval. The task of finding Pik Botha was given to Craig Williamson and General Stadtler of the SAP. In evidence to the Commission, Coetzee stated that Mr Botha read the order and approved it by signing it.
445 The raid was not a success either in military or public relations terms. According to the amnesty application of Anton Pretorius, so-called ‘deep cover’ agents of the Soweto Intelligence Unit had identified four primary targets as those “responsible for planning and execution of terror onslaught”. They were Mr Tim Williams, Mr Riaz Saloojee (aka Calvin Khan), Mr Patrick Ricketts and Mr Christian Pepani (aka Jeff). None were hit. After the raid, according to Pretorius, three of these deep-cover agents – identified only as R103, RS 276 and RS 283 – were recalled to Lusaka where one was said to have been shot almost on arrival while the other two (including at least one woman) were tortured and killed at Quatro camp.
446 Few, if any, of the ANC casualties seem to have been senior military figures, although in the amnesty application of Jan Anton Nieuwoudt he states that he targeted Mr George Pahle. He was killed along with his wife, Ms Lindiwe Pahle. The other South Africans killed were a prominent artist, Mr Thami Mnyele, from whose home the attackers stole a number of paintings; Mr Mike Hamlyn, a draft resister who had just graduated from the University of Botswana with a first-class degree in mathematics; a schoolteacher, Mr Duke Machobane, who was killed along with his six-year-old old nephew Peter Mofoka, a Basotho citizen visiting him at the time; Mr Basil Zondi , a seventy-one-year-old refugee and neighbour of one of the missed targets, Mr Tim Williams; Mr Joseph Malaza and Mr Dick Mtsweni. Among the non-nationals killed were a Somalian, Mr Ahmed Geer, whose Dutch wife, pregnant at the time, was seriously injured, and two young Batswana women, Ms Gladys Kesupile and Ms Euginia Kobole. Two other Batswana were wounded at a roadblock.
447 So negative was the general reaction to the raid that an elaborate propaganda exercise had to be mounted to justify the operation. This was orchestrated by Craig Williamson and included the planting of stories in newspapers like The Citizen and Sunday Times under such headlines as “The Guns of Gaborone”. In a discussion with the Commission, Eugene de Kock stated that some of the weapons displayed as captured in the raid were in fact borrowed from him by Williamson.
448 On 19 May 1986, as part of Operation Leo, simultaneous attacks were launched on three Commonwealth capitals, Harare, Lusaka and Gaborone. While the SADF claimed the attacks were in retaliation for recent MK attacks (launched from Mozambique and Swaziland) on the Sasol II facility at Secunda, it was much more likely to have been connected to the mission of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Eminent Person’s Group. According to the SANDF submission, the targets were an ANC operational and transit facility in Gaborone, an office and house in Harare and unspecified ANC targets fifteen kilometres south-west of Lusaka, which were bombed by the Air Force. In these strikes, no South Africans were killed; a Batswana, a South West African and a Zambian citizen were killed and approximately twenty people injured.
449 In the Botswana leg of the raid, Special Forces commandos under Commandant Corrie Meerholtz launched a helicopter-borne attack on a house in Gaborone located close to the Botswana Defence Force’s (BDF) barracks, where a prominent local footballer, Mr Jabulani Masila, was killed. Three members of the BDF were injured. Masila was another case of mistaken identity. The intended target was Mr Ernest Pule, a member of the ANC’s Special Operations unit.
450 The Harare attacks, on the ANC office in Angwa Street and a house in the suburb of Ashdown Park, were the work of a group of Special Forces commandos aided by Zimbabwean agents. Their role was to provide support for the commandos who were flown in and out of the country by helicopter. The house attacked was the same one occupied by Mr Joe Gqabi when he was killed five years earlier.
451 A feature of this raid is that Zimbabwean security forces appear to have had advance warning of it and the three occupants of the house (a South African couple and a Zimbabwean) were fetched from the house by security force members. It was therefore empty at the time of the attack. However, no attempt was made to stop or apprehend the attackers.
452 The cabinet and SSC minutes reveal no references to these raids. After weeks of shuttle diplomacy between the government in Pretoria and the ANC in Lusaka, the mission had reached a delicate stage when the attacks occurred. They had the immediate effect of terminating the diplomatic effort.
453 Addressing the Commission in October 1997, former Foreign Minister Pik Botha stated that “the EPG [Eminent Person’s Group] came closer to success than most people realise”, which raises the possibility that it was deliberately sabotaged. Pik Botha also confirmed that the raids “were not discussed at any meeting where I was present”. At his appearance before the Commission in December 1997, former Defence Minister Magnus Malan said much the same thing when he confirmed that the issue had not been discussed at either SSC or cabinet level. According to Malan, the SADF had wished to mount the attacks on the capitals in late April. “They approached me. I approached the State President. I explained and he gave his approval … The State President told me to keep quiet about this, this is very sensitive.”27
454 For unspecified reasons, however, according to Malan, the raids were postponed until mid-May when he again approached Mr P W Botha and obtained his approval. This time the raids were effected. According to Malan, the Eminent Persons’ Group issue was not a factor in his considerations. “I was not aware of their programme. I was not aware of what they were doing here. I never met them and I was only concerned with the onslaught against South Africa.”28
455 The perspective of the SADF was presented in a statement released by its chief, General ‘Kat’ Liebenberg, who argued that the targets were limited to known “terrorist” ones and that “the South African forces had acted with utmost caution to prevent citizens of our neighbouring states being injured or suffering damage”. He also stated that ”neighbouring countries cannot plead ignorance regarding the presence of terrorists in their countries”. There was no reference in the statement to its timing or the Eminent Persons’ Group mission.
456 The case of the Eminent Persons’ Group would seem to represent an example of the centralised (‘die hoogste vlak’) mode of decision making that characterised the PW Botha era. Even the international outcry after the raid and the termination of the mission did not result in the issue being discussed by the cabinet. “After that operation no colleague or anybody else came to me and complained about this operation or even mentioned the operation”, General Malan told the Commission. Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha was not consulted on the effect of the raids, indicating both the extent to which state policy-making in South Africa had become centralised in the President’s office by the mid-1980s, and a telling endorsement of the view expressed to the Commission by former Deputy Minister of Law and Order, Mr Leon Wessels, when he spoke of the lack of a spirit of enquiry in the National Party at that time.
457 On 28 March 1988, SADF Special Forces attacked a house at Phiring, near Gaborone, Botswana. Four people were killed in the raid. The primary target of the operation was Mr Patrick Sandile Vundla (aka Godfrey Mokoena and Charles Naledi), whom the security police had identified in a document written by Brigadier Loots as the overall MK commander for Botswana. All those killed in the raid were shot and then doused with petrol and burnt. The other three victims were Batswana women whose names are not known to the Commission.
458 Amnesty applications in connection with this operation were submitted by Willem Schoon and then Major (later Colonel) Jan Coetzee of the West Rand Security Branch. In his application, Schoon states that he was summoned to Cape Town prior to the raid to meet with the then police commissioner and chief of the SADF, and requested to arrange for an arms cache which was to be hidden and then discovered. The ‘discovery’ was to be given significant media coverage in order to provide the SADF with a motivation for a large-scale armed attack on Botswana. Schoon undertook the task with the assistance of Eugene de Kock and C2 head Martin Naudé. They put together a cache comprised of weapons of Eastern bloc origin which Major Coetzee arranged to be hidden in an abandoned mine in the Krugersdorp area. In testimony in mitigation at his trial, De Kock confirmed his participation in what was, in effect, a state-directed ‘false-flag’ propaganda operation
459 The Commission has evidence of other cross-border raids not included in the SADF’s list. One occurred on 17 March 1981 when an SADF patrol crossed from northern Natal into the Mozambican resort of Ponto do Ouro in what one source described as a test of Mozambique’s border defences. A clash ensued in which one SADF member, Corporal PJ Viljoen, was killed.
460 Another raid also allegedly involved Mozambique and may have occurred in January 1992 when FRELIMO troops, conducting a military operation against RENAMO south of Maputo and close to the South African border, were exposed to what may have been a chemical attack. The allegation is based on apparent eye-witness accounts of explosions above the ground and reports that soon thereafter some of the FRELIMO troops began to suffer from nausea and heat exhaustion. Some soldiers required hospitalisation and there are unconfirmed reports that some died.
461 The reports of the attack were extensively investigated by scientific teams from five countries – Mozambique, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Only the latter expressed a view that a chemical agent had been used. The others were all inconclusive.
462 The SADF denied the allegations, and inquiries by the Commission have not uncovered corroborative evidence pertaining to this incident, other than that South Africa had developed a chemical warfare capacity in the 1980s. The Steyn report suggested that the incident may have been caused by a test in the Komatipoort area.
463 In the raids discussed in this section on cross-border operations, eighty-two people were killed, of whom four were members of the SADF and twenty-three (more than one-third) non-South Africans and presumably therefore wrong targets. Three others were abducted, of whom one was killed. A total of thirty – all but two non-South Africans – were hurt.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT ALL OF THE ABOVE OPERATIONS CONSTITUTED VIOLATIONS OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE COUNTRIES INVOLVED AND AN INFRINGEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW. THEY ALSO INVOLVED GROSS VIOLATIONS OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL THOSE KILLED AND INJURED IN THESE ATTACKS, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR STATUS AS TRAINED COMBATANTS IF SUCH COMBATANTS WERE ATTACKED IN A NON-COMBAT SITUATION. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE OPERATIONS CONSTITUTED A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF ABUSE WHICH ENTAILED DELIBERATE PLANNING ON THE PART OF THE FORMER CABINET, THE STATE SECURITY COUNCIL AND THE LEADERSHIP OF THE SADF AND THE SAP. THE COMMISSION FINDS THESE INSTITUTIONS AND THEIR MEMBERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE AFORESAID GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.27 Transcript of SSC hearings, Cape Town, December 1997, p. 246. 28 Ibid., p. 247.