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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 293
Paragraph Numbers 530 to 550
Other sabotage attacks
530 Aside from the above two highly publicised cases, the Commission received numerous amnesty applications from former members of the security forces detailing other attacks on offices, on individuals’ homes and on vehicles belonging to opponents of the government.
531 In the Cry Freedom incident, bomb threats originating from the Security Branch had the effect of preventing the screening of David Attenborough’s film on the life and death of Steve Biko. The Minister of Internal Affairs had failed to persuade the Appeal Board of the government-appointed Publications Committee to reverse its decision permitting the screening. Adriaan Vlok told the Commission:
[W]e had walked the legal way, we had tried everything possible. If you take everything into consideration, I judged the risk that this film would have and it was so enciteful [sic] that this risk was too big.
532 At a meeting in Minister Vlok’s office, attended by Security Branch head Johan van der Merwe, General Jaap Joubert and STRATCOM expert Brigadier McIntyre, it was decided that bomb threats would create ‘an atmosphere of fear’, thus forcing the distributors to withdraw the film from the circuit. Interventions included the placing of a small explosive device outside the Highgate shopping centre in Roodepoort and outside the Metro Cinema in West Street, Durban, as well as bomb threats made to several cinemas by Security Branch members posing as rightwingers. Following these incidents, the commissioner of police, General de Witt, issued an order on 30 July in terms of the state of emergency media regulations, in which further screening of the film was prohibited owing to the danger it presented to public order and security.
533 Those who applied for amnesty for these incidents are AJ Vlok [AM4399/96], General JV van der Merwe [AM4157/96], Major General JH le Roux [AM4148/96], Major General JA Steyn [AM4513/97], CS Heyneke [AM4144/96] and JCWK Louw [AM4150/96].
534 An attack on the home of Labour Party MP Allan Hendrickse originated from the Security Branch headquarters in the eastern Cape. According to amnesty applicant Abraham Christoffel Kendall [AM3757/96], a named general at Security Branch headquarters instructed him, in September or October 1998, to consult with the branch commanders of Port Elizabeth and Oudtshoorn to plan hand grenade attacks on the homes of Hendrickse and another Labour Party leader, a Mr April. Kendall said that the reason offered for the attacks was that Hendrickse and April were unwilling to vote on certain legislative changes. Kendall conveyed this instruction to the Port Elizabeth and Oudtshoorn Security Branches. On his return to Johannesburg from the eastern Cape, Kendall heard on the news that Hendrickse’s house had been attacked with a hand grenade.
535 The Security Branch in the Eastern Transvaal was responsible for several arson attacks on houses in the Kanyamazane area belonging to ANC members in 1986 and 1987. According to amnesty applicant Izak Daniel Bosch [AM3765/96], these attacks were aimed at protecting the lives of Nelspruit Security Branch police informants. Members of Vlakplaas petrol-bombed houses belonging to ‘comrades’, targets being provided by the Nelspruit Security Branch. In another attack, the house of a black trade unionist was petrol-bombed by Mr Christopher Mosiane [AM3768/96] and another named askari.
536 Mosiane also applied for amnesty for an arson attack on a church in Witbank, Eastern Transvaal, allegedly on instructions from the Witbank security police. According to Mosiane, the reason was that the church was being used by activists.
537 Amnesty applications were received from Josephus DL Coetser [AM3758/96] and Jacques Hechter [AM2776/96] in respect of bombing/s of the house of activist/s in Ekalanga in the Northern Transvaal in 1986 or 1987 (according to Hechter) and February or March 1986 (according to Coetser). It is unclear whether the two applications refer to the same incident.
538 On 28 May 1986, an arson attack orchestrated and executed by the Security Branch at Oukasie destroyed the home of David and Joyce Modimeng and resulted in the death of Ms Modimeng. The situation in Oukasie at the time was tense as residents were opposing a government decision for their removal to Lethabile near Brits. Mr MAS Pretorius [AM5467/97] applied for amnesty for the attack. The homes of Mr Sello Ramakobye and ANC member Leonard Brown, both opposed to the removals, were petrol-bombed on 17 May 1988 in attacks perpetrated by security police. Nobody was killed or injured in the incidents.
539 Mr Oupa Masuku’s home in Atteridgeville was bombed in early 1986 in an attack conducted by Josephus DL Coetser [AM3758/96], Hechter and a black policeman. A day after the explosion, Coetser was informed that Masuku’s mother, Ms Esther Masuku, had been killed. Upon hearing that an innocent person had been killed, Coetser decided that he could no longer be involved in these operations and was excused from his duties by Brigadier Cronjé.
540 Houses were bombed at Mamelodi and Soshanguve in February 1986 in attacks perpetrated by Coetser, Hechter, JJ Viktor, jnr [AM4371/96] and others. The targets were houses of prominent black political activists. Coetser said that Hechter informed him that one person was killed in one of the Mamelodi explosions.
541 In about 1989, Colonel Eugene de Kock received orders to burn down a church building in Pretoria, which was allegedly being used by the ANC to print Communist literature and anti-government propaganda. Members of the Vlakplaas unit planned and executed a petrol-bomb attack on the church. The press reported that several people were in the church at the time of the attack and were rescued by the fire brigade.
542 Mr David Jacobus Brits [AM3745/96] applied for amnesty for landmine explosions at Daveyton and Benoni. Others involved were De Kock, Vermeulen, Nortjé, Mentz, Snyman, de Swardt, with De Kock who authorised the operations. The aim was to intimidate ANC members and supporters. Nobody was injured or killed in the explosions.
543 Mr JH le Roux [AM4148/96] and other Security Branch members engineered a controlled explosion near an unused railway line at Factoria, Krugersdorp in 1987/8. The operation was set up for an police informer who had successfully infiltrated MK structures in Botswana and who had received orders to commit an act of terrorism in South Africa, to show that he was ready to work as an MK operative. They made sure that the media reported on the explosion so that the informer could report back positively to MK.
544 A controlled bombing of a house in Klipspruit, Soweto, was planned and executed by members of the Security Branch in the Witwatersrand in 1985/6 in order to maintain the credibility of an agent by the name of Sebatiaan Reed in the wake of the arrest of an ANC courier who was staying with Reed. The explosion was planned by Reed’s handler, Colonel W Coetzee, and Mr L de Jager [AM4216/96].
545 Other ‘credibility operations’ were planned by the SIU, which had recruited MK members allegedly part of the underground based in Soweto and Swaziland. Two of the infiltrated deep-cover agents underwent military training in Swaziland and were assigned by MK to reconnoitre Wits Command and to launch an attack on the morning parade with hand grenades. After their return to South Africa, they were debriefed by the Security Branch. The attack was not carried out. Later, two ‘credibility operations’ took place, in the form of attacks on a power station and a railway line in Johannesburg. The actions were authorised by Brigadier W Schoon and Brigadier H Muller. These attacks – and further attacks on the railways – were successfully conducted and MK slogans were painted at the scene. This credibility operation helped undercover agents to penetrate more deeply and ultimately facilitated the arrest of various MK leaders in Soweto.
546 An operation to damage the Ipelgeng Centre, used for meetings by the Soweto Youth Congress (SOYCO) between 1985 and 1988, was authorised by Lieutenant General I Coetzee. Anton Pretorius was informed by De Jager that named Special Forces operatives would be involved. An inflammatory device using a mixture of petrol and diesel was used, but did not cause much damage.
547 The ‘Why Not’ nightclub in Hillbrow was bombed on 22 September 1988 in reaction to the two limpet mine explosions at the Vanderbijl bus terminus. The club was targeted as it was opposite the Café Zurich Club where a hand grenade had been planted by ANC member Peter Dlamini earlier in the year. On the night of the operation, Mr Charles Zeelie, an explosives expert, fetched Warrant Officer AJ van Heerden [AM4134/96] from his home. Warrant Officer Van Heerden, assisted by Zeelie, was personally responsible for planting two mini limpet mines under a seat in the nightclub. While nobody was killed, some people sustained injuries and the building was damaged. Other amnesty applicants include Mr PL du Toit [AM4131/96] and Mr GN Erasmus [AM4134/96], then divisional commander of the Witwatersrand.
548 An internal sabotage operation by the CCB was the blowing up of the Early Learning Centre (ELC) in Athlone, Cape Town on 31 August 1989. This was a region 6 project for which all its core members have applied for amnesty. The ELC was targeted because it was frequently used by community organisations for meetings. While the amnesty applicants claimed that great care was taken to ensure that there were no casualties, the explosion happened on a night when the building was routinely used by executive members of the Cape Youth Congress.
549 In 1989 a bomb was detonated by the security police at the whites-only public toilets in the Strand, Cape Town during the UDF ‘Open the Beaches’ campaign. The explosives originated from Vlakplaas. De Kock ordered Wouter Mentz to deliver a minibus loaded with explosives to the Cape Town security police. Mentz, Colonel Dave Baker and Colonel L de Jager accompanied members of the Cape Town security police in this operation. No one was injured in the explosion.
550 In Durban, Mr Griffiths Mxenge’s house was petrol-bombed by members of the Security Branch linked to Andy Taylor’s unit. Taylor provided the material to make the petrol bombs, which were then used on Mxenge’s house and one other house in Umlazi.