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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 214
Paragraph Numbers 196 to 213
Applications for amnesty
196 While the Commission received thousands of statements alleging torture, few amnesty applications were received specifically for torture. Amnesty applicant Andries Johannes van Heerden [AM3763/96] was a member of the terrorist detection unit at John Vorster Square between January 1977 and June 1978, during which time he was involved in the interrogation and beating of those involved in Soweto unrest. Detainees were kicked, slapped and suffocated, using a wet tyre tube. In 1988 he participated – by beating and administering electric shocks – in the interrogation of Mr Peter Dlamini and others connected with the Café Zurich explosion in Hillbrow.
197 Amnesty applicant Willem Johannes Momberg [AM4159/96] was a member of the Security Branch in Northern Transvaal (sergeant in 1981, and later lieutenant colonel). Momberg applied for amnesty for the torture of an unidentified MK member, who was killed during interrogation. He also applied for amnesty in connection with the interrogation of a security guard at the United Bank in Pretoria, whose brother was an MK ‘terrorist’.
198 Amnesty applicant Stephanus Adriaan Oosthuizen [AM3760/96] applied for the beating, kicking and suffocation of an unknown activist on a farm near the Pietersberg freeway.
199 Amnesty applicant Colonel PJ Cornelius Loots [AM5462/97] applied for amnesty for his involvement, together with Captain Jacques Hechter [AM2776/96] and Warrant Officer van Vuuren, in kidnapping Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa from police cells and detaining and interrogating him for several days. Mkhatshwa was made to stand for the entire period of his interrogation. He was blindfolded while gunshots were fired and dustbin covers banged together next to his head, and locusts were made to crawl up his legs.
200 Mr Christo Nel [AM6609/97] applied for amnesty in respect of the detention and torture of a detainee in Durban in 1984/5. The victim was made to remove his clothes and to climb onto a table. He was held down by Nel and and an unidentified medical practitioner inserted his finger into the victim’s anus while he was questioned.
201 Lieutenant Colonel Antonie Heystek [AM4145/97] applied for amnesty in respect of the abduction and torture of Mr Peter Moleke Lengene in Soweto during 1982. Lieutenant-Colonel Anton Pretorius [AM4389/96] and Lieutenant-Colonel Willem Helm ‘Timol’ Coetzee [AM4032/96] also applied for amnesty for the abduction and torture of Lengene as well as the abduction and torture of Ms Nokuthula Simelane.
202 Lengene was abducted from Botswana, and, after being rendered unconscious, taken to a garage where he was left naked and handcuffed to a table. He was then taken to what he believed to be a farmhouse belonging to Coetzee’s father-in-law. He was interrogated for six days, during which time he was given electric shocks to his genitals, beaten with a hosepipe and kept naked and without blankets. At some point Coetzee’s father-in-law came in with a pair of pliers and told the Security Branch officers interrogating them that they were wasting their time. “He just took hold of my penis with a plier. He said, ‘Willem, take this and cut the fucking penis with a plier, he will tell you the truth’. They just kept on laughing while I was grieving with pain.”
203 Lengene became an askari, working chiefly with the Soweto Intelligence Unit (SIU), and himself applied for amnesty for a number of operations conducted as part of the SIU.
204 Mr Johannes Jacobus Strijdom [AM5464/97] applied for amnesty for torturing activists on a Hammanskraal farm during 1986/7 when he was a member of Vlakplaas and the security police’s anti-terrorist unit – using forced posture, beating and intimidation. Strijdom and Major Sarel du Plessis ‘Sakkie’ Crafford were part of a team of mostly black security force members who were staying on the farm to assist with the interrogations. After interrogating an activist one Saturday, Strijdom and a named colleague left the activist with the black security members and went to Pretoria. When he returned, the activist was hanging from a tree and was being assaulted. His colleague held a pistol to the activist’s head, with the barrel facing upwards, and pulled the trigger repeatedly. Strijdom got an empty soda water bottle and hit the man on the head several times. When he lost consciousness, they poured buckets of water on him. The interrogation was authorised by his commanding officer, whose name may not be revealed as the amnesty application had not been heard at the time of reporting.
205 Amnesty applicant Warrant Officer Paul van Vuuren [AM6528/97], a member of the Northern Transvaal security police, was involved in several cases of torture in Pretoria and surrounding areas between 1985 and 1989. Torture methods used included beating, electric shocks, placing gas masks over the faces of victims, suffocation using a rubber tube ("tubing”), and strangulation with a piece of electric wiring. Warrant OfficerVan Vuuren also applied for amnesty for the torture, interrogation and killing of Mr Jackson Maake, Mr Andrew Makupe and Mr Harold Sefola (see below).
206 Colonel Roelof Venter [AM2774/96] applied for amnesty for the interrogation of arrested ANC, PAC and SACP members between 1972 and 1985. Torture methods used included beating, electric shocks, prolonged interrogation to tire the person mentally, insults, humiliation and degradation. He specifically mentioned the interrogation of Ms Regan Shope and also that of Ms Barbara Hogan between December 1981 and June 1982, which was authorised by his commanding officer, whose name is being withheld.
207 Mr Eric Goosen [AM4158/96], a member of Northern Transvaal security police, applied for amnesty for beating and severe ill treatment administered to an unknown ANC courier in Mamelodi West between June and December 1987. During the interrogation, he denied any involvement with the ANC. Goosen participated in hitting and kicking him to try to get information, and then put him into the boot of the car.
208 Amnesty applicants Marius Greyling [AM8027/97], Karl Durr [AM8029/97] and Frans Bothma [AM8030/97] were involved in the interrogation and assault of Mr Pravin Gordhan in 1990 in Bethlehem. Greyling also assisted in the suffocation of Mr Raymond Lalla.
209 Durban security police officer Andy Taylor [AM4077/96] applied for amnesty for numerous acts of assault on detainees. Taylor admits to assault leading to severe swelling and the use of electric shock torture on Mr Raymond Suttner. Taylor died in December 1997, before his application to the amnesty committee had been heard.
210 Warrant Officer WCC Smith [AM5469/97] applied for amnesty for the torture of numerous detainees held in Johannesburg in 1981 in connection with underground activities. He said that detainees were subjected to “serious assaults”, the details of which he was unable to remember. However, as far as he was aware, he used “normal Security Branch methods”. The detainees in respect of whom he applied for amnesty include Mr Benjamin Greyling, Mr Gerhardus van der Werf, Mr Prema Naidoo, Mr Suresh Nanabhai, Mr Michael Jenkins and Ms Esther Levetan.
211 Amnesty applicant Jeffrey Benzien [AM5314/97] was a detective at the Bishop Lavis Murder and Robbery Unit until 1986, after which he worked for the security police’s Terrorism Tracking Unit. During his amnesty hearing, he admitted to torturing Mr Peter Jacobs, Mr Ashley Forbes, Mr Anwar Dramat, Mr Tony Yengeni, Mr Gary Krusen, Mr Niclo Pedro and Mr Allan Mamba. The main form of torture was the ‘wet bag’ method. Lieutenant Liebenberg [AM6369/97], Benzien’s superior at the time, applied for amnesty for knowledge of torture. Major General Griebenauw, who gave corroborating evidence in the amnesty hearing, testified as follows:
During my term in office in Cape Town, extreme pressure was placed by the Joint Security Management System on the Security Branch, in particular to stem the tide of murder and violence. And obviously I gave members under my command instructions to do everything in their power to apprehend people who were guilty of these things and to extract as much information as possible from the detainees so that the entire network operative in the country could be disrupted in time to prevent further loss of life. This was the only way in which we could protect lives and properties …
I was … very much aware of the fact that members’ success could be ascribed to the use of unconventional questioning or interrogation methods. It would have been naive of me to believe that they would extract information in any other way from a well trained terrorist and to do so quite quickly.
212 Amnesty applicant Gert Cornelius Hugo [AM3833/96], a former MI operative, said that he was part of an operation called Orpheus whose aim was to “remove” the leadership of local resistance organisations. He worked with Security Branch members, at least one of whom, Lieutenant Gideon Nieuwoudt [AM3920/96], also applied for amnesty for acts of torture. He mentioned several forms of torture, including the use of “truth serum”, submerging in water, electric shocks, forcing people to stand for hours and suffocation with a rubber tube.
213 As can be seen from the above, a number of the applications relate to the torture of people outside of official custody. Abuction or ‘unofficial’ detention was used increasingly during the 1980s. In most instances, those so detained were subjected to extreme torture and were either coerced into becoming askaris or killed (see below).