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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 227
Paragraph Numbers 245 to 258
The Cradock Four
245 Some six weeks after the abduction and murder of the PEBCO Three, UDF activists Mr Matthew Goniwe [EC0080/96NWC], Mr Sparrow Mkhonto [EC0029/ 96NWC], Mr Fort Calata [EC0028/96NWC] and Mr Sicelo Mhlawuli [EC0079/96NWC] were abducted and killed outside Port Elizabeth on 27 June 1985.
246 At the time of his death, Goniwe was rural organiser for the UDF. He had previously served time in Transkei for a political offence and while in Cradock had been suspended from his teaching post. An attempt was made to have him transferred to a school outside Cradock, in order to put an end to campaigns protesting against his suspension; this, however, only intensified protest.
247 Mkhonto and Calata were members of the Cradock Residents’ Association and Mhlawuli was active in the Oudtshoorn Youth Organisation and a community newspaper, Saamstaan. Before their deaths, they had all been frequently detained, tortured, threatened and harassed. At the time, great efforts were being made by the security forces to stabilise the security situation in the Eastern Cape, in particular the rising resistance in rural areas. Cradock itself was seen as a model of organisation by the UDF in the eastern Cape and elsewhere in the country.
248 The 1987 inquest into the deaths found that they had been killed by unknown persons. The inquest was re-opened in 1993, after the disclosure of a signal message from the SADF’s Eastern Province Command to the SSC Secretariat calling for Goniwe’s “permanent removal from society”. The inquest judge ruled that:
In my opinion there is prima facie proof that it was members of the security forces that in fact carried out the murders. It was proved further that Mathew Goniwe was a thorn in the flesh of the security forces ... referred to as an enemy of the state whose activities had to be curtailed or terminated.
It has also been proved prima facie in my opinion, that the signal sent by Colonel du Plessis on the instructions of Brigadier van der Westhuizen to Major General van Rensburg was a recommendation that Matthew Goniwe, Mbulelo Goniwe and Fort Calata should be killed, and that this was the meaning Colonel du Plessis and Brigadier van der Westhuizen intended the signal to have.
249 However, the identity of the perpetrators remained unknown until amnesty applications were received from the following members of the Port Elizabeth Security Branch: Major General Nick Janse van Rensburg [AM3919/96], Major GJ Lotz [AM3921/96], Lieutenant Colonel Eric Taylor [AM3917/96], Colonel Harold Snyman [AM3918/96] and Major Hermanus Barend du Plessis [AM4384/96]. Eugene de Kock [AM0066/96] and Captain JM ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl [AM 5637/97] applied for amnesty for knowledge relating to the killings.
250 The amnesty applications reveal that, on the night of 27 June, the ‘Cradock Four’ were returning from a UDF meeting in Port Elizabeth, when they were abducted at the Olifantshoek pass. The four were shot and/or stabbed, and their bodies mutilated in order to turn suspicion away from the security forces. Their burnt bodies were found near Bluewater Bay during the following week.
251 At the time, an attempt was made to suggest that their deaths were as a result of ongoing and violent conflict between the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and the UDF in the Eastern Cape. The Commission found evidence that this strategy was formulated by the Strategic Communications Branch of the SSC Secretariat.
252 One of the amnesty applicants, JM ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl, was known to be a CCB operative. The Commission was unable to establish whether his link with the SADF preceded the killing of the Cradock Four, thus indicating possible military involvement.
THE COMMISSION WAS UNABLE TO MAKE A FINDING ON THE KILLING OF THE CRADOCK FOUR AS, AT THE TIME OF REPORTING, THE AMNESTY COMMITTEE HAD STILL TO MAKE A DECISION. HOWEVER, THE COMMISSION DOES FIND THAT THE ATTEMPT TO LAY THE CRIME AT THE DOOR OF AZAPO IN THE EASTERN CAPE WAS NOT ONLY A CASE OF DISINFORMATION, BUT A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO STOKE CONFLICT THAT HAD ALREADY CLAIMED LIVES IN THE EASTERN CAPE.
253 Civil rights lawyer Ms Victoria Mxenge (43), lawyer for the UDF treason trialists and wife of slain Griffiths Mxenge, was shot and axed to death outside her Umlazi home in Durban on 1 August 1985. The killing, carried out by four men, two of whom were armed, was witnessed by her son Mbasa and the Reverend Xundu, Natal UDF chairperson. At the time, Mxenge was the instructing attorney for the accused in the Pietermaritzburg UDF treason trial and secretary/treasurer for the Release Mandela Committee (RMC).
254 The Commission received various accounts of who was responsible for this assassination. In a statement to the Commission, askari Jimmy Mbane says that askari Thabiso Sphamla confessed to him, while drunk, that he and three other askaris – Eric Maluleke, Peggy Hadebe and ‘Samuel’ – had killed Victoria Mxenge. They were paid for the operation when they returned home from Durban.
255 Mr Pat Hlongwane of the Returned Exiles Committee said that he shared a cell with a Mr Bongani Malinga (aka Marvin Sefako) at Quatro camp during 1988, and that Sefako claimed that he had killed Victoria Mxenge on orders from Captain Dirk Coetzee of Vlakplaas. While this version is challenged by the fact that Coetzee had left Vlakplaas long before 1985, the identity of the perpetrator is corroborated in the ANC’s second submission. The ANC alleges that Martin Sefako was recruited by Sergeant Skekheshe Ntombela of the Security Branch in March 1985 or earlier. He was handled by Ntombela and a Brigadier Pieter Swanepoel and underwent training from March 1985 to September 1985. The training is alleged to have included poisoning food and the use of firearms.
256 Sefako is alleged also to have been involved with other operatives in other unlawful acts conducted on behalf of the Security Branch, including the fatal stabbing of Mr Eugene Nunu Kheswa on 3 June 1986; a vehicle attack on Nelisiwe Lamola, and the killing of Ms Thandi Poswa, an associate of the Reverend Xundu in Clermont. This latter killing was witnessed and reported to the SAP by Ms Nelisiwe Octavia Lamola, a student at Ziphatele High School. Concerning Ms Mxenge, Sefako is alleged to have confessed: “I shot her five times on the chest but she never fell, where I followed her with an axe and chopped her next to her dining room door”.
257 Hlongwane claims that Sefako returned to South Africa after the unbanning of the ANC but was subsequently killed, allegedly by IFP supporters.
258 Aside from Mbane’s statement, the above confessions come from people held in ANC custody and thus an element of duress cannot be excluded. However, the assertion that the killing was a security force operation is common to all three versions. (See also KwaZulu/Natal regional profile.)
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MS VICTORIA MXENGE WAS KILLED BY, OR ON THE ORDERS OF, UNKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY FORCES, AND THAT HER DEATH WAS A GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION WHICH ENTAILED DELIBERATE PLANNING ON THE PART OF THE SAID SECURITY FORCES.