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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 446

Paragraph Numbers 170 to 178

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 25

170 There were various incidents of guerrillas dying in clashes during 1985-86; it is not clear how many of these were deliberately orchestrated by the security forces and how many were isolated incidents. They include: six PAC members killed in a clash with Lesotho security forces at Qacha’s Nek near the Lesotho/ Transkei border (one of the six was Mr Thami Zani from King William’s Town, a friend of Steve Biko); Mr Zolani Mvula, who died during an explosion in a car while travelling between Engcobo and Umtata together with brothers Mlungisi and Bongani Booi; the death of an unknown guerrilla in Sterkspruit on 13 April 1986 following two clashes with police; in May 1986 an unnamed guerrilla was reported by the press to have been shot dead at a roadblock in Transkei; in July 1986 there was a clash between police and guerrillas at Mount Fletcher, Transkei and an explosives cache was found; also in July 1986 former SAAWU member turned ANC guerrilla Mathemba Vuso was shot dead by Ciskei police in Mdantsane. In December 1986 alleged guerrilla Ngwenduna Vanda was shot dead by Transkei police Constables Ishmael Commando Dzai and Nelson Nceba Solombela while crossing from Lesotho in Transkei near Telle Bridge border post; an inquest later found they did not have the right to shoot him, but no prosecution ensued. In July 1987, another former SAAWU unionist, Mr Eric Mntonga, died in detention at the hands of the Ciskei police.

171 In March or April 1987 General Johan Coetzee moved into the region. The official reason for bringing the general out of retirement was to co-ordinate a tri-partite commission involving South Africa, Transkei and Ciskei, to keep peace between the two warring homelands. Ironically, the immediate need for the commission had been sparked off by the failed TDF attack on the Ciskei president Lennox Sebe’s palace in January 1987; this was later revealed to have been planned by the SADF as part of Operation Katzen.

172 At the same time, national politicians publicly warned of the possibility of illegal security force actions against guerrillas. On 28 March 1987, then Minister of Defence Magnus Malan warned that the South African security forces would “sniff out” any ANC guerrillas in neighbouring states and wipe them out. Ten days later on 8 April, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Pik Botha claimed ANC “terrorists” were planning to disrupt the upcoming elections and warned neighbouring states that South Africa would take “whatever action” necessary to stop them. It was during March and April that Maqekeza was killed in Lesotho, and Dubeni and Mfeti were killed in South Africa.

173 Not much is known about Coetzee’s tri-partite commission; its role was still unclear by the time it closed down two years later. It held very few meetings, Coetzee was unwilling to be interviewed by journalists and no public report was ever issued by it.

24 Terrorism Research Centre, ‘Special Report: South African political violence and sabotage’, 1 July - 31 December 1981, Cape Town 1982, p30.

174 About four months after it was set up, the Commission announced its first meeting. This meeting established a security agreement signed by SA, Ciskei and Transkei in Cape Town on April 10 by PW Botha, Lennox Sebe and George Matanzima.

After the meeting, Coetzee said the group was likely to meet again soon and regularly. A statement issued by the director of co-operation between the TBVC states and South Africa at the Bureau for Information, Mr CM van Niekerk, said that the functions of the commission would be “to promote good neighbourliness, peace, security, justice and economic progress in the Eastern Cape region by investigating, monitoring and making recommendations to the two governments about all matters which may adversely affect relations between the three states”. In October, Coetzee told the Eastern Province Herald that he could not discuss the commission's work unless the other two members, Ciskei director general of manpower MC Kashe and Transkei's chief of civil defence General JS Mantutle, were present.

175 During the period of the commission’s existence, Coetzee was consistently unavailable for interviews, and at one point both bantustan governments said that they did not really know what the commission was doing. There was frequent tension between Transkei and Ciskei during this time, but the three-person commission rarely met. In January 1989, during yet another spat between the two homelands, Ciskei spokesman Headman Somtunzi said he did not think the commission existed anymore, while South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Roland Darrell said that he thought it still existed but he “was not aware of anything that it’s done recently”. Darrell later said it was “overshadowed” by other initiatives, but confirmed that Coetzee was still involved. Other South African officials were reluctant to comment or gave confusing replies. By April 1989, the mysterious commission had closed down, although this was only reported in January the following year; a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said at the time that the closure had been reported to a local newspaper, but the newspaper could find no record of this. When asked to comment on the possibility that the commission had been an excuse for Coetzee to be in the region to run security operations, Mr Mark Phillips of the Wits University Centre for Policy Studies said that Coetzee was a proponent of the view that targeting and removing key activists was a better way of dealing with opposition than the state of emergency.

176 A complication for these covert police operations was the coup in Transkei by Major General Bantu Holomisa, who took over briefly first in September 1987 and then permanently in December 1987. During 1988 the SAP and their askaris were still operating in Umtata, but apparently without the support of the military government, which seems to have been a little confused over how to stop them; by early 1988 there were rumours in Umtata of a clandestine SAP base operating from a house near the Umtata golf course. It seems that part of the need for the clandestine co-operation between SAP and TPF was not just in order to keep it out of the public eye, but more importantly to keep it out of Holomisa’s eye.

177 Illegal handovers went hand in hand with the crackdown on guerrillas; during 1988-89, this appears to have been a source of some conflict between the then ruling TDF and the more conservative TPF. In 1987 ANC guerrilla Livingstone Matutu was arrested in Bophuthatswana, handed over to South African security police and then illegally handed over to Transkei authorities. During 1988, he appeared on trial in Transkei, in a case that his lawyers claimed the authorities tried to keep from their knowledge. In December 1988, Transkei commissioner of police, General Leonard Kawe, said that Transkei and South African forces needed to co-operate in order to carry out their work. Kawe was speaking in response to criticism from South African judge PB Hodes, who criticised the South African police for knowingly and illegally allowing the Transkei police to cross the border to deliver a suspect. By the end of 1988, the Transkei police seemed to be increasing their power in the bantustan, with the military rulers apparently unable to curb them. By early 1990 the military government felt confident enough to take on its own police force in public: Holomisa warned his police that any activities involving their cooperation with the SAP had to be cleared with their seniors first. Holomisa said that earlier in the week members of the SAP had searched vehicles “deep inside Transkei territory” and that the SA embassy in Umtata had said this was done with the co-operation of a Transkei police officer but that this had still to be verified.

178 During this period, the police also tried to recruit askaris among guerrillas who had survived to be jailed. Mr Stembele Zokwe (see below) was probably one of these; he was later shot dead in 1988. During 1989, East London security policeman Captain Charles van Wyk told a Transkei court he had tried to recruit accused Phumzile Mayaphi (later sentenced to death for the Wild Coast Sun bombing) as a police spy.

25 Affidavit by Dirk Coetzee, Lusaka, 11 November 1990.
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