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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 444

Paragraph Numbers 167 to 169

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 24

The guerrilla who may have refused to be an askari
In August 1987, police tried to kill guerrilla Stembele Zokwe outside Umtata; he survived and managed to get to hospital. A second attack followed, but apparently the presence of witnesses frightened off the attackers. On 12 January 1988, Zokwe’s luck ran out and he was shot dead by police hours after being arrested in Butterworth. Rumours at the time were that he was an askari who had outlived his usefulness or changed his mind about assisting the police: ANC sources at the time questioned how Zokwe had managed to avoid being charged and was instead freed after he had been arrested in Bophuthatswana on his return to the country with another guerrilla, Mr Gilbert Binda, who was jailed for seven years. Two Transkei police officers, Sergeant Mtobeli Tyani and Sergeant Pumelele Gumengu, were charged with his murder but both escaped from different jails on the same day and disappeared.
The failed abduction
In December 1987 advocate Joseph Mzwakhe Miso was snatched from the streets of Umtata, having been mistaken for lawyer Dumisa Ntsebeza, and driven out of town towards the Kei Bridge border with South Africa by white men who claimed to be South African policemen. They beat him badly and threatened to kill him, releasing him only after he was able to prove his identity. Only days before this attack Ntsebeza had been in Queenstown for a case and had been threatened by Major Venter of the Queenstown security police in the presence of Border region security chief Brigadier Griebenauw. Ntsebeza’s brother, Ndondo, had been killed two years earlier by a hit squad and Ntsebeza’s attempts to get a prosecution underway had repeatedly been thwarted by the authorities.

167 The Vlakplaas askaris were clearly operating in the Eastern Cape and in the then independent Transkei during the early 1980s. The Terrorism Research Centre incident lists record that on 7 August 1981 there was shoot-out between the police and the ANC cadres in Butterworth following a bomb blast in East London the day before; two Transkei policemen died. Later the same day two SAP members were seriously injured in a clash with the same guerrillas at a roadblock near Elliot on the main road to Lesotho; “Two ANC gunmen killed, one captured,” noted the Terrorism Research Centre. Five days later the organisation recorded “Two ANC gunmen fatally wounded, one policeman seriously wounded, in shootout with police on farm near Aliwal North; the two ANC men were the last two of the group involved in the bomb incident at East London on 6 August, and the Butterworth and Elliot shootings on 7 August”24. There is some confusion about the number of guerrillas involved in these incidents and their fate: the Commission dug up the remains of four guerrillas secretly buried by police on an Aliwal North farm after this incident, thus accounting for the two killed on 7 August and the two killed on 13 August. They were Mr Anthony Sureboy Dali, Mr Thabo Makhubo, Mr Joseph Lesetja Sexwale [JB02462/ 01GTSOW] and one 'Senzangakhona'. However, it is not clear what happened to the guerrilla reported as having been arrested on 7 August: was he subsequently one of the two shot dead five days later? He may have been MK member Gwaza Twalo, whose family told the Commission he disappeared from the Pretoria prison following a clash with police in the Aliwal North / Herschel area sometime after 1980; another witness told the Commission that the SAP had told the International Committee of the Red Cross that Twalo had been detained in Aliwal North and released in May 1980 without charges (surprising considering that he had fled the country together with the Azanian People’s Liberation Army’s (APLA) Sabelo Phama and had undergone ANC training in Angola). Depending on the date of disappearance, Twalo may have been the guerrilla arrested on 7 August; alternatively he may have been arrested in an earlier incident and killed in a similar way to the latter four.

168 By late 1981, the Vlakplaas unit had been sent down to the Eastern Cape for a stint of several weeks, as reported by Dirk Coetzee. He reports that the C1 unit moved down to the Eastern Cape following a clash between police and guerrillas at Elliot and Barkly Pass in August 1981 (presumably the clash which resulted in the guerrillas being buried on the Aliwal North farm) and worked there for seven to eight weeks25 .

169 The early killings related to the fuel depot blasts described above may have involved the askaris who were permanently based at Vlakplaas; the Ndondo killing in 1985 seems to have been orchestrated from there. By the time Ngono was abducted the Ladybrand police were involved, according to the amnesty applications to the Commission. By the time of the Sangoni, Mayaphi and Mgibe killings in February 1988, the askari unit was operating out of East London. 1987 and 1988 seem to have been the key years for the killing of guerrillas, primarily by locally based police.

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