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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 224
Paragraph Numbers 234 to 239
234 Mr Griffiths Mxenge, a prominent Durban lawyer, was stabbed to death on 19 November 1981. The Commission received amnesty applications from Captain Dirk Coetzee [AM0063/96], commander of C1, the Vlakplaas unit; Vlakplaas members Constable Butana Almond Nofemela [AM0064/96] and Constable Ntshavheni David Tshikilange [AM0065/96]; and Brigadier WAL du Toit [AM5184/97], a member of the Security Branch’s technical division. In addition, Brigadier Willem Schoon [AM4396/96], head of the C section of Security Branch headquarters, said he had knowledge of the killing.
235 Coetzee’s version was that the Vlakplaas unit was operating under the command of the Durban Security Branch at the time, specifically Brigadier van der Hoven and Andy Taylor. Coetzee had previously been involved in various cross-border actions while stationed at Oshoek (at which time Brigadier van der Hoven had been divisional commander of the Eastern Transvaal Security Branch). Before the amnesty application was heard, the above applicants, together with Taylor and Van der Hoven, were charged with Mxenge’s murder. Taylor and Van der Hoven were acquitted by the court, but the Commission’s Amnesty Committee noted that, although it could not ascertain exactly who had given the order, it believed that the operation had been authorised by “one or more senior members of the Security Branch”. Amnesty was granted to the above applicants. (See also Volume Four.)
Siphiwe Mthimkulu and Topsy Madaka
236 On 14 April 1982, Mr Siphiwe Mthimkulu [EC0034/96PLZ], a COSAS activist with links to the ANC in Lesotho, disappeared with fellow activist Mr Tobekile ‘Topsy’ Madaka [EC0766/96PLZ]. The Commission received amnesty applications for their killing from Captain Gideon Nieuwoudt [AM3920/96], Major General Nick Janse van Rensburg [AM3919/96], Major Hermanus Barend du Plessis [AM4384/96] and Major General Gerrit Erasmus [AM4134/96]. Colonel Eugene de Kock [AM0066/96] said he had knowledge of the operation.
237 Mthimkulu was detained in 1981 and subjected to severe torture. After his release, he instituted a claim against the Minister of Police for torture. He later became seriously ill and was diagnosed as having been poisoned with thallium. Thallium is not widely available in South Africa, but had been researched by the security forces and had been in the possession of the security police counter-insurgency unit Koevoet since 1979. On 2 April 1982, Mtimkulu instituted a second claim against the Minister of Police, this time for poisoning. On 14 April, Mthimkulu and Madaka disappeared.
238 About a week after their disappearance, Madaka’s car was found at Sterkspruit in the Transkei, near the TeleBridge border post with Lesotho. Ms Mthimkulu searched relentlessly for her son; the Security Branch maintained the fiction that the two had left the country by getting someone to phone Ms Madaka to say they were safe. Police also conducted a search of the Madaka house and, as late as 1986, searched the Mtimkulu house, alleging that Siphiwe had been trained as a guerrilla and was back in Veeplaas. Minister of Police Louis le Grange said in Parliament that the police had no knowledge of Siphiwe’s whereabouts.
239 The Amnesty Committee heard that Mthimkulu and Madaka had been abducted and taken to Post Chalmers, an abandoned police station near Cradock, where they were interrogated, drugged and finally shot in the head. Their bodies were burnt on a wooden pyre and their remains thrown in the Fish River. The applicants denied any knowledge of Mthimkulu’s earlier poisoning.
THE COMMISSION IS SATISFIED THAT ALL EVIDENCE POINTS TO THE FACT THAT MTHIMKULU WAS DELIBERATELY POISONED BY THE SECURITY BRANCH, AND HOLDS ACCOUNTABLE THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DETENTION. IN ADDITION, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE SECURITY BRANCH ACTIVELY PARTICIPATED IN AN ELABORATE AND SUSTAINED COVER-UP OF THE KILLING OF MTIMKULU AND MADAKA AND THAT THIS COVER-UP WENT AS FAR AS PARLIAMENT.