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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 443

Paragraph Numbers 166

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 23

The fuel depot bombing suspects
On 25 June 1985, the Umtata fuel depot was blown up together with the city’s water pipelines and electricity sub-station. In what must surely have been one of the most spectacularly successful MK operations, the fuel depot burned all day, leaving panicked Umtata residents queuing for petrol, the city without electricity for several days, and the possibility of running out of water before the pipelines and electrical pumps could be restored.
On 24 September, student activist Bathandwa Ndondo [EC0237/96WTK], a University of Transkei student representative council member who had been expelled the year before, was picked up at his home in Cala near the South African border by a unit involving SAP member Mbuso Enoch Shabalala, Transkei policeman Sergeant Gciniso Lamont Dandala and askaris Silulami Gladstone Mose and Xolelwa Virginia Shosha. He was shot dead. Within weeks, the then Transkei president Chief Kaiser Matanzima had announced publicly that Ndondo had been killed because he had been involved in the fuel depot bombings.
Guerrillas Masizizi Attwell “Pieces” Maqekeza [EC0224/96UTA], Zola Dubeni [EC2653/97UTA], Welile Salman, Sisa Ngombeni and Mzwandile Vena were sought by police in connection with the fuel depot bombing23 .
On 21-2 January 1987, Maqekeza was one of two guerrillas who assisted guerrilla Mbulelo Ngono, aka “Khaya Kasibe” or “KK” [EC0330/96PLZ], to escape after a thirty-six-hour shoot-out between Ngono and the combined forces of the TPF, TDF and SAP. Maqekeza and Ngono, together with Mr Thandwefika Radebe, were attacked by unknown gunmen in Lesotho weeks later. Radebe was killed, Ngono fled and subsequently disappeared, while Maqekeza was killed by unknown gunmen on 15 March 1987 while recovering under police guard in the Maseru hospital from the first attack.
During 1988, Maqekeza was mentioned in at least five security trials in Transkei in cases in which others were charged with assisting him. Also in March 1987, Dubeni was shot dead by police in Cape Town, allegedly after trying to attack them after pointing out his arms cache. Ngono disappeared later in 1988 when he was abducted by South African security police from Lesotho to work as an askari; he has never returned home and his fate is unknown (the Commission received amnesty applications in connection with this abduction).
In October 1990, Salman died in Mafikeng in a shoot-out with security force members.
Vena, one of the only guerrillas linked by police to the fuel depot bombing to survive, was arrested in Cape Town in 1988; he subsequently unsuccessfully fought against his extradition to Transkei where he was later released after the 1990 unbannings.
Those who had offered assistance to guerrillas such as Maqekeza, Dubeni and Vena were subsequently arrested and tortured. They included Mr Zakade Alfred Buka [EC0310/96WTK] and Mr Dugard Maqekeza [EC0219/96UTA].
About twenty eventually ended up in court in various cases. The main case was thrown out of court after months of postponements; police scrambled to re-capture some of their detainees as they leapt over the dock and ran for the courtroom doors as soon as the magistrate made the ruling.
Few of the guerrillas made it as far as a courtroom - Vena seems to be a notable exception here. Generally those who got to court were those who were charged with assisting guerrillas.

166 Key Eastern Cape people were also targeted by other regional police forces during this period. For example, on 25 April 1987 Mr Phindile Mfeti (40) disappeared in Durban. The Commission subsequently found that Mfeti, a unionist who had been banished to Transkei, had been abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the Natal SAP.

23 They were all named as involved in this incident in the statement that Mzwandile Vena allegedly made to a Wynberg magistrate after his arrest in Cape Town in 1988.
 
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