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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 291
Paragraph Numbers 521 to 529
Khotso House, Johannesburg
521 Khotso House, the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), was destroyed by explosives on 1 September 1988. Khotso House was also the national headquarters of the UDF. Vlok alleged that incidents of violence had followed meetings held by the UDF and/or its affiliates in the building and that individuals in Khotso House were using it to further ‘terrorist’ activities.
522 In June 1988, President PW Botha requested Vlok to stay behind at the end of a regular SSC meeting, where once again the role of the Council of Churches and other organisations had been discussed:
Mr Botha … told me … “I have tried everything to get them to other insights, nothing helped. We cannot act against the people, you must make that building unusable.” … He furthermore also said: “Whatever you do, you must make sure that no people are killed.” He didn’t say how it had to be done, he just said what had to be done.
523 Again the matter was passed on to the C1 unit in co-operation with the Witwatersrand Security Branch.
524 Colonel Eugene de Kock foresaw the loss of life, notwithstanding the injunction to prevent it. Khotso House was located near a block of flats in a part of the city which experienced the “permanent flow of human traffic”. The Commission heard that, when De Kock asked what should be done if the team was confronted by other SAP members who would naturally regard them as armed ‘terrorists’, Brigadier Erasmus responded, “Shoot them”.
525 During the operation, a black uniformed policeman peered through a window into the basement. This led De Kock to expedite the operation by placing the rucksacks of explosives in front of the two lifts. The operational teams withdrew in the direction of Hillbrow and waited for the devices, activated by electronic time devices, to detonate.
526 While no fatalities were incurred, at least twenty-three people were treated for injuries and shock after the explosion. Mr Adriaan Vlok publicly expressed his condolences to those who had been injured. SAP spokesman Brigadier Leon Mellet stated that it was believed that the explosion could have originated in the basement of Khotso House where explosives were thought to be stored. General Jaap Joubert (now deceased) was assigned to the investigation into the blast and a disinformation campaign by the STRATCOM section of the Security Branch swung into action.
527 Joubert later informed Vlok that a witness had testified to the fact that he had given a lift to a white male, a white female and a coloured male and had, at their request, dropped them close to Khotso House on the day of the explosion. After dropping them, he had seen them make contact with a black male in a red car. The woman was identified as Ms Shirley Gunn and was suspected of involvement in underground military activities. Having been assured by Joubert that Gunn was in any event being sought by the Security Branch, Vlok regarded this information as a ‘godsend’ and it was decided that her name would be publicly released as a prime suspect. Gunn was later detained.
528 Vlok said that PW Botha congratulated him, at an SSC meeting, on work well done. Evidence by both Vlok and Van der Merwe at the amnesty hearing further indicated that, at the time of the NP’s second submission to the Commission, former President de Klerk had been aware of their involvement in both the Cosatu and Khotso House bombings.
529 A number of amnesty applicants said that the security forces’ involvement in high-profile attacks such as on the London ANC offices, Khotso and Cosatu House was widely suspected by their members and that, given the high-profile nature of such cases, this could only have happened with authorisation at the highest level.