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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 272
Paragraph Numbers 444 to 456
Glen Mgoduka, Amos Faku, Desmond Mapipa and Charles Jack
444 Three black security police and an informer died when a bomb placed in their vehicle was detonated by radio control outside Port Elizabeth on 14 December 1989. They were were Mr Glen Mgoduka [EC2631/97PLZ], Mr Amos Faku, Mr Daliwonga Desmond Mapipa and an informer, Xolile Shepherd Sakati (aka Charles Jack). It was initially thought that MK, who claimed credit for the operation, were responsible. However, investigations led to a trial of five Security Branch members, at which De Kock testified that he had been told that the killings had been necessary to cover up the assassinations of the Cradock Four. The accused denied this and held that they had killed their colleagues because of a case of fraud involving the Council of Churches. A third version emerged at the amnesty hearing. It was alleged that the four had begun to make overtures to the ANC. Attempts to establish from the ANC whether there was any substance to this were unsuccessful.
445 Those convicted were Lieutenant-Colonel Gideon Nieuwoudt [AM3920/96] of the Port Elizabeth Security Branch, Brigadier WAL du Toit [AM5184/97] of the Security Branch’s technical division and Major Marthinus Ras, a Vlakplaas operative. Gerhardus Lotz [AM3921/96] and Jacobus Kok [AM3811/96] were acquitted. Others named as being involved in the operation were Nick Janse van Rensburg [AM3919/96] officer commanding the Security Branch, who planned the killing with Nieuwoudt and De Kock in Pretoria; Brigadier J Gilbert, head of the Security Branch in Port Elizabeth at the time of the killings, and state witnesses Daniel Lionel Snyman, Warrant Officer ‘Snor’ Vermeulen and Eugene de Kock.
446 In reviewing the evidence before the Commission, and based on the cases detailed above, it appears that the following divisions and units were involved in extra-judicial killings: Vlakplaas, Port Natal, Northern Transvaal, Eastern Cape, Witwatersrand (Soweto), Eastern Transvaal, Western Cape and Orange Free State Security Branches, SADF Special Forces and possibly BOSS. In relation to internal eliminations, in almost every case the Vlakplaas unit operated under the relevant divisional or local Security Branch.
447 While many of the eliminations occurred in border areas that provided access routes for combatants to re-enter South Africa, and thus many of those targeted could be classified as combatants, indications are that a number of those so killed were not in a combat situation at the time. A number of security force personnel acknowledged that the distinction between combatant and non-combatant became blurred. They justified this in terms of the ANC’s strategic direction towards a ‘people’s war’, and the enormous pressure placed by politicians on security force members to stabilise the situations at all costs. Members of the security forces whose loyalty was questioned also became victims of extra-judicial killings.
448 What is also evident is that a number of operatives were involved in more than one case, supporting the claim put forward by some amnesty applicants that specific Security Branch members operated as ‘hit squads.’ That these were not just a few low-ranking Security Branch members who had misinterpreted their instructions is evident by the extent to which authorisation or knowledge of such killings frequently involved leadership echelons such as divisional heads of the Security Branch, staff at Security Branch headquarters as well as the commanding officers of the Security Branch, Special Forces, the chief of the SADF and, in at least two cases, the Minister of Law and Order. What is also evident is that many operatives involved in extra-judicial killings, or in authorising them, had previously spent time in then Rhodesia and/or South West Africa.
449 The marked increase in eliminations after 1985 coincides with the shift in strategy to counter-revolutionary warfare. In the face of increasing militancy and unrest throughout the country, the threat to South Africa was no longer seen principally as external (in the form of armed MK insurgents infiltrating from neighbouring states), but increasingly as an internal threat. State Security Council (SSC) documentation at the time reflects an increasing anxiety regarding the seeming inability of the security forces to bring an end to internal unrest.
450 The shift to a military solution is evident in the increasingly strident language and rhetoric of politicians and security force personnel both in private and on public platforms. State documents and speeches began routinely to speak of ‘wiping out’, ‘eliminating’ and ‘hunting down’ members of the ANC and those who gave them support. In the words of Defence Minister Magnus Malan:
I have often said … that South Africa would take out terrorists wherever they found them. (Magnus Malan, Parliamentary speech, 15 Sept 1987, Hansard, Column 5912.)
The SADF will not hesitate to root out terrorists wherever they may be – whether it is in South West Africa, the Northern Transvaal or our residential areas and cities … Events in our residential areas and even city streets demonstrate that we are dealing with textbook examples of communist inspired terrorism … (Magnus Malan, Cape Times, 10 December 1985.)
451 An August 1986 meeting of the SSC adopted a document entitled “Strategie ter bekamping van die ANC” (Strategy for the combating of the ANC), which included the the following recommendations: “Om die ANC leierskap te neutraliseer (To neutralise the ANC leadership); Om die magte en invloed van sleutelpersone van die ANC en hulle meelopers te neutraliseer (To neutralise the power and influence of key persons in the ANC, and their fellow-travellers).”
452 On 1 December 1986, the SSC adopted a document entitled ‘Konsep Nasionale Strategie Teen Die Rewolusionêre Oorlog teen die RSA: NR 44’ which can probably be regarded as the definitive strategy document for the late 1980s phase of internal counter-revolutionary warfare. Earlier goals are again stressed, and a new dimension is introduced where it is stated that ”Intimiteerders moet dmv formele en informele polisiëring geneutraliseer word (Intimidators must be neutralised by way of formal and informal policing)”. As a follow-up to Konsep NR 44, a strategy document dated 24 January 1987 suggested that the strategy should be to “identifiseer en elimineer die rewolusionêre leiers en veral dié met charisma (identify and eliminate the revolutionary leaders, especially those with charisma)”.
453 The rhetoric did not always readily distinguish between persons engaged in military operations or acts of terrorism and those who opposed apartheid by lawful or peaceful means; nor did it provide a definition of ‘terrorists’. Nowhere in any of the SSC documents is a clear and unambiguous definition provided for any of the terms elimineer (eliminate), neutraliseer (neutralise), fisiese vernietiging (physical destruction), uithaal (take out) or ander metodes as aanhouding (methods other than detention).
454 This led to a blurred distinction in the minds of the security forces. As Pik Botha explained to the Commission:
[M]embers of the security forces would have interpreted a phrase like ‘wipe out the terrorists’ to include killing them, and unless the senior command structures of the security forces made sure that all ranks understood the distinction between a person who is directly engaged in the planning and execution of acts of violence threatening the lives of civilians on the one hand, and political opponents belonging to the same organisations as the terrorists on the other hand, lower ranks would probably not have made that distinction on their own.
455 Given both documentary evidence and that given by amnesty applicants, it seems reasonable to believe that there was a growing acceptance in government that the revolutionary onslaught could not be combated by lawful methods alone. Members of the SSC knew that the overwhelming majority of security policemen were committed supporters of the NP who were implacably opposed to the liberation movements and what they represented. They also knew that conventional methods of combating unrest and terrorism, such as arrest, prosecution and conviction, were becoming less and less effective.
456 Further compelling evidence that extra-judicial killing represented deliberate intent is to be found in the development of structures whose function was, among others, to identify and develop targets.