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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 267
Paragraph Numbers 425 to 435
Killing of own forces
425 Killings were also recorded inside the state or the security forces themselves; the victims were those whose loyalties were questioned or who represented a ‘weak link’ in the chain. A large number of the victims were askaris.
Robert and Jean-Cora Smit
426 Mr Robert Smit, a former government representative at the IMF in Washington and National Party parliamentary candidate, and his wife Jean-Cora Smit, were shot and stabbed to death in what has been described as “an extremely professional hit” on 22 November 1977. The letters ‘RAU TEM’ were painted in red at the scene of the murder. Despite apparent intensive investigations the killings have remained unsolved for over twenty years.
427 During this period there have been persistent allegations that the killings were carried out by the South African security forces. A number of possible motives have been put forward: that Dr Smit had uncovered massive corruption and fraud involving extremely high-level government sources; that he was in possession of information relating to South Africa’s nuclear programme; or that the reason for the killings related to South Africa’s sanctions-busting activities, in which Dr Smit had been involved. Several people confirmed at the time that Dr Smit was in possession of information he had described as “explosive”.
428 Particular suspicion was directed at former members of BOSS’s alleged Z-squad and the SAP’s Special Task Team. Three names, Dries ‘Krullebol’ Verwey, Jack Widdowson and Roy Allen have repeatedly been associated with the killings. Verwey subsequently died in uncertain circumstances; both Widdowson and Allen, identified by two independent sources as having been in the area at the time of the killings, were named in the 1992 Steyn report as being connected to ‘third force’ activities. In addition, it is known that Dr Smit was due to meet with a Mr McDougal on the evening of his death. McDougal was the codename of a former Z squad operative, Phil Freeman, who has been named as a possible suspect in the Rick Turner killing.
429 Further allegations were that the investigation into the killings, conducted by members of the East Rand Murder and Robbery Squad, sought to cover up security force involvement. The investigation was conducted by the same SAP officer later responsible for the cover-up around RENAMO secretary general Orlando Christina’s killing. This officer was part of a joint SAP–SADF committee set up to assess the implication of Christina’s death and which recommended the killing of a number of people associated with Christina’s killing in order to conceal the then covert link between the SADF and RENAMO. Thus, while no evidence exists regarding this officer’s role in the Smit killings, his role in activities amounting both to cover-up and further unlawful actions has been established.
430 The Commission received no amnesty applications in respect of the Smits’ killings. Recent attempts by their daughter Liza to investigate her parents’ death, and her subsequent submission to the Commission, have been associated with death threats and possible attempts on her life. This tends to suggest a contemporary interest in ensuring that the facts surrounding the killings remain hidden, and points to a political agenda or at least one in which powerful – possibly financial – interests are vested.
431 While the Commission did not make significant headway in respect of these killings, it should be noted that the Attorney-General’s investigation confirms a politically motivated killing involving the security forces.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT ROBERT AND JEAN-CORA SMIT WERE KILLED BY MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY FORCES AND THAT THEIR DEATHS CONSTITUTE A GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
432 According to amnesty applications received by the Commission, Brigadier Schalk Visser [AM5000/97], Mr GS ‘Gert’ Schoon [AM5006/97], Captain JM ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl [AM5637/97], Warrant Officer Don Gold [AM3686/96] and Warrant Officer Disre ‘Des’ Carr [AM5008/97] were involved in an operation in April 1980 to eliminate an alleged Security Branch source who was suspected of being a double agent.
433 ‘Skorpion’ or ‘Scorpio’ (aka Robin, Rupert, Reuben or Robert) was handled by Martin van Rooyen of the Soweto Security Branch and was suspected of having given information to the ANC which resulted in the death of at least one SAP informant in Swaziland. Brigadier Schalk Visser, then officer in command of the Soweto Security Branch, says that he discussed the issue with Brigadier Piet J Goosen, then head of the A section at Security Branch headquarters, and was instructed to make arrangements for Skorpion to be killed.
434 Visser contacted an ex-Koevoet colleague, Captain ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl, then Security Branch commander of Ladysmith, for assistance. Captain Van Zyl decided to use explosives as he had been told that no trace of Skorpion should be left. He contacted the explosives inspector, Warrant Officer Don Gold of the Pietermaritzburg Security Branch, and told him to bring explosives and detonators and meet him in Pongola. Visser and Captain Van Zyl loaded Skorpion, apparently heavily sedated, into a vehicle, met Gold in Pongola and then met up with Gert Schoon and Warrant Officer Des Carr in Jozini.
435 Des Carr shot at Skorpion with a Walther hand-machine carbine at an isolated farmhouse while he slept under a tree. Skorpion jumped up and stormed van Zyl, who fired a shot at him, hitting him in the head. He died instantly. His body was wrapped in a tarpaulin and Van Zyl, Gold and Carr drove to the edge of Jozini Dam where Schoon and Visser were waiting with a boat. The body was blown up on an island by Gold. After the first explosion, the remains were collected together and again detonated to ensure complete destruction.