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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 333
Paragraph Numbers 38 to 45
38 From late 1985 to mid-1987, some MK units were tasked with laying anti-tank mines in the rural areas of the northern and eastern Transvaal, targeting military patrols. A number of civilians – both white farmers, their families, and black farm labourers – were killed when these explosives were detonated. The ANC estimates that thirty landmine explosions took place in this period, resulting in some twenty-three deaths, including those of two MK members killed in the course of laying a mine.
39 According to a submission from the National Party (NP), “Fifty-seven landmine attacks occurred between 26 November 1985 and 21 February 1991 in which twenty-five people were killed and seventy-six injured”.
40 In its second submission, the ANC expressed its “sincere regret” for the civilian deaths and injuries in this campaign. The ANC stressed that it had ordered its operatives to carry out careful surveillance and to use anti-tank rather than antipersonnel mines so that individual labourers on foot would not detonate the explosives. In its first submission it noted that:
It was the apartheid regime itself which took steps towards obliterating the distinction between the civilian and military spheres from the time of its adoption of the ‘total strategy’ programme in 1977, and its later declaration of these areas as military zones.
41 In its second submission, the ANC explained that the high rate of civilian casualties – especially the deaths of black labourers – had led to the MK headquarters halting the laying of anti-tank mines.
42 In a landmine explosion that took place on 15 December 1985 at Chatsworth farm in the district of Messina, five people were killed and five injured. Three of the dead were children aged two, eight and ten. Mr Johannes Frederick van Eck [JB00707/01MPWES] was severely injured and lost four members of his family: Johannes Frederick (jnr), Jacoba, Nelmarie and Michael Ignatius. His one-yearold son survived the blast. Two members of the De Nysschen family (Marie and Carla) who were with the Van Ecks also died, while Grizelle and Thea de Nysschen were injured.
43 Mr van Eck expressed his concern that the perpetrators, who had been convicted and sentenced, had been released under the indemnity agreement of 1992. Mr Jacobus Johannes de Nysschen [JB00695/02NPTZA] told the Commission that he was convinced the perpetrators were members of the ANC.
44 Two people were killed and nearly twenty injured in a landmine explosion on a road close to Messina near the Zimbabwe border on 5 May 1987. Mr Frans Ratshilumela Ramagalela [JB05539/02NPVEN] and twenty others were on the back of the truck which detonated the landmine as it approached the gate of the site where they were to be employed.
45 The Commission received submissions in respect of several other victims of landmine explosions in incidents which occurred between November 1985 and December 1986: Mr Elijah and Ms Meluba Mokgamatha [JB00137/02NPPTB], Mr Deon du Plessis de Beer [JB00684/02NPPTB], Mr Manel Mtshiselwa Sindane [JB06350/01ERKAT], Mr Martin Coetzer [KZN/SMB/001/BL], Ms Marietjie Cornelia and Johannes Jacobus Roos [JB01350/01MPNEL] and Mr Lindela Claud Mavundla [KZN/MR/425/PS].
THE COMMISSION ACKNOWLEDGES THE ANC’S ARGUMENT THAT, BY THE MID-1980S, THE FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT HAD ITSELF BLURRED THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN ‘MILITARY’ AND ‘SOFT’ TARGETS BY DECLARING BORDERS AS AREAS WHERE FARMERS WERE TRAINED AND EQUIPPED TO OPERATE AS AN EXTENSION OF MILITARY STRUCTURES.
THE COMMISSION FINDS, HOWEVER, THAT THE ANC’S LANDMINE CAMPAIGN IN THE RURAL AREAS OF THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN TRANSVAAL IN THE PERIOD 1985-87 CANNOT BE CONDONED IN THAT IT RESULTED IN GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS – CAUSING INJURIES TO AND LOSS OF LIVES OF CIVILIANS, INCLUDING FARM LABOURERS AND CHILDREN. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE USE OF LANDMINES INEVITABLY LEADS TO CIVILIAN CASUALTIES AS IT DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN MILITARY AND CIVILIAN TARGETS AND THEREFORE CANNOT BE CONTROLLED. THE ANC IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR SUCH GROSS VIOLATIONS. THE COMMISSION ACKNOWLEDGES THAT, TO ITS CREDIT, THE ANC ABANDONED THE LANDMINE CAMPAIGN IN THE LIGHT OF THE HIGH CIVILIAN CASUALTY RATE.