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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 278
Paragraph Numbers 466 to 481
466 TREWITS became fully operational on 12 January 1987 when it moved into its new offices on the 7th Floor, Charter House, Bosman St, Pretoria. Documentation describes TREWITS as being:
‘n nuwe, gesamentlike poging deur die betrokke lede van die IG om ‘n hegte inligtingsbasis vir betekenisvolle teenrewolusionêre operasionele optrede tot stand te bring. (a new, joint effort by the relevant members of the IG to bring about a solid information base for meaningful counter-revolutionary operational action [emphasis added]17
467 Its function was:
om alle tersaaklike inligting te konsolideer, te evalueer, te vertolk en te versprei met die oog op operasionele optredes ter verwesenliking van die RSA se teen-rewolusionêre strategiese doel (to consolidate, evaluate, interpret and distribute all relevant information with a view to operational actions to realise the RSA’s counter-revolutionary strategic aim) [emphasis added].
468 While TREWITS had a range of tasks, the documentation reveals that it was, from the outset, more than simply a coordinated intelligence-gathering structure, but had a clear operational intention.
469 TREWITS’ operational imperatives are also confirmed by location and membership. According to General ‘Basie’ Smit, TREWITS was located within the C Section of the Security Branch, ‘Terrorism Investigations’. While the C section had its own intelligence component, it was primarily the operational unit of the Security Branch via C1, more commonly known as Vlakplaas. Thus, while it fell under the direct command of Security Branch headquarters, it was nonetheless a sub-structure of the covert collection subcommittee of KIK. During this period, the sub-committee was chaired by Brigadier J ‘Tolletjie’ Botha, while the CIC was chaired by Dr LD ‘Niel’ Barnard.
470 Of the original three TREWITS members, at least two were deployed operationally in the region. During a section 29 investigative enquiry, General Büchner acknowledged involvement in the Matola raid of 13 January 1981 and the raid into Maseru on 9 December 1982 in which forty-two people were killed. The SADF representative, Commandant (Lieutenant-Colonel) ‘Callie’ Steijn, was involved in target development from as at least as early as 1981 and again in 1985/6. An SADF document, dated 28 March 1986, describes Steijn as being “baie operasioneel ingestel en behoort in daardie verband aangewend te word” (very operationally oriented and ought to be applied in that respect).
471 Thus two of three TREWITS founding members had been involved in the identification of targets – resulting in actions that included abduction, torture and elimination – outside of South Africa prior to their secondment to TREWITS. Read together with KIK documentation, this would seem to confirm that the purpose of TREWITS was not simply to gather intelligence as members of the security and intelligence communities have currently argued, but rather that intelligence was gathered for specific operational purposes and that the location and personnel chosen were selected precisely for their operational capacity.
472 The extent to which TREWITS functioned separately from the SADF-initiated target workgroup(s) is not entirely clear. KIK documentation indicates that a decision was taken on 4 February 1987 that this group should be drawn into TREWITS to avoid duplication. The meeting of 18 February 1987 identified the following as members of the target development group who should be incorporated into TREWITS: Major C Everts (Military Intelligence Division), Major L Nefdt (Army Intelligence), Captain HC Nel (Special Forces), Captain H van der Westhuizen (Military Intelligence Division).
473 While the Commission was unable to establish a direct link, it should be noted that the decision to incorporate the target group happened at about the time when there was allegedly concern over who was responsible for the decision to assassinate the Ribeiros (see above) and when, according to Major-General AJM Joubert, a ‘new procedure’ was being worked out.
474 Regarding the integration of the workgroup(s) with TREWITS, evidence from section 29 enquiries appears to suggest that, while the SADF initiated target workgroup functioned on an ongoing basis, its members were drawn into regional TREWITS meetings where targets and target priorities were discussed. National TREWITS members, target workgroup members and possibly other interested parties would be present at such meetings. In other words, these structures maintained something of a separate identity. This is corroborated by a 1989 Security Branch document which indicates that the “actual development of target studies” was still being performed by a project group of Special Forces:
Die ontwikkeling van teikens, word tans nog, soos in die verlede, deur die projekte-groep van Spes Magte hanteer. Die redes hiervoor is dat die groep nie soos aanvanklik beplan, by die kantore van TREWITS gesetel is nie en die feit dat die groep oor die nodige ervaring, kundigheid en toerusting beskik. (The development of targets is still, as in the past, handled by the project group of Special Forces. The reason for this is that the group was not based at TREWITS offices as originally planned and the fact that the group has the necessary experience, expertise and equipment at its disposal.)18
475 This lends credence to the ongoing and somewhat separate existence of the target workgroup. The target section of Military Intelligence was transferred to Special Forces in 1987 where it continued under the direct command of Colonel ‘Mielie’ Prinsloo, then head of Special Forces intelligence. However, individual members from Military Intelligence continued to serve on the workgroups, but were based at Special Forces. Further links were maintained, particularly with the Directorate of Covert Collection, which appears to have enjoyed a closer relationship with Special Forces than other Military Intelligence components.
476 According to Captain H Van der Westhuizen, the target development process would work in the following way. First a structure would be identified – for example, the ANC Regional Politico-Military Council in Mozambique; then all its components/sub-structures and various positions assigned and names placed next to positions. The next stage would be to develop dossiers around each individual in the structure including personal and political information. This would lead to a set of new names and so the process would continue. When a target was ‘full’ or ‘complete’, it was then ready for action. Targets, according to Van der Westhuizen, included ANC personnel and not just those associated with MK. This is born out by Nel who indicates that the entire NEC was considered a target, for whom specific authorisation for any action was not required.
477 According to the above-mentioned intelligence personnel, targets were discussed at two levels. First, a presentation was made to a group that was possibly the SADF General Staff or, at the least, very senior personnel:
We used to get together once a month to do presentations to very high ranking officials. Then General Liebenberg used to come, General Gleeson used to come and I felt very intimidated as this young captain ... this is more or less a round table sort of thing with big boards, sliding walls with all the maps and all the photos of the so-called most prominent, most active people who pose a threat to the RSA were put on those boards. They were developed. We developed targets on persons; we developed targets on facilities. In other words the Revolutionary Council in Lusaka, the so-called RCL, was developed at that stage as a specific target and the houses of certain officials, certain office buildings in Harare, in Botswana were regarded as targets. And then certain activities that takes place, flights ... logistical re-supply ... were also regarded as opportunity targets.19
478 Following this meeting, said Van der Westhuizen, the Chief of Staff Intelligence would brief the Minister and, if targets were agreed upon, they would be handed over to the tactical planning level which usually involved then Colonel ‘Mielie’ Prinsloo and Chris Serfontein, a high-ranking Special Forces operative. Additionally, there would be a quarterly meeting with the Directorate of Covert Collections (DCC) where priorities would be passed on for further collection and verification. At that stage HW Doncaster was in charge of the Terrorism Section of DCC.
479 The second level at which targets were discussed was at the TREWITS regional meetings. Here input would be received from both the NIS and the Security Branch.
480 Aside from official TREWITS meetings there was ongoing liaison between individuals and institutions. Target workgroup members received regular telex intercepts from the NIS ‘Valkoog capacity,’ whereby all telex communication between ANC offices both internationally and in the Frontline states was continuously intercepted. Thus, for example, information regarding the delivery of meat to ANC camps in Angola was received via ‘Valkoog’ and a major operation to poison the meat was planned but, to Nel’s knowledge, not carried out. Other intercepts of value were those that related to travel arrangements (see Gibson Mondlane case).
481 The project group also liaised extensively with the Security Branch, both at a regional level and with C1 (Vlakplaas) and C2, under Major Martin Naudé. Naudé’s unit monitored the movement of activists leaving South Africa and developed an extensive collection of photographs, which was regularly updated and was given to the askaris to identify possible military trainees. The askaris themselves appear to have been widely used and were seen as extremely valuable sources of information.17 ‘Teenrewolusionêre Inligtingtaakspan’ document attached to CIC agenda for meeting of 4 February 1987. 18 Annexure JJ, Submission General Smit. 19 HC Nel, section 29 hearing, 15 June 1998, Cape Town.