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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 611
Paragraph Numbers 124 to 137
Security force involvement in SDUs
124 Evidence before the Goldstone Commission revealed that Phola Park SDU member Michael Phama was a police informer and had been instrumental in planning and carrying out the attack on IFP supporters on 8 September 1991, in which eighteen IFP supporters were killed (see Volume Three).
125 In Khayelitsha, Cape Town, the conflict between witdoeke and an ANC SDU was exacerbated when the ANC denied the SDU access to weaponry in an attempt to control the violence. A former witdoek leader Mr Prince Gobingca, who has been found by the Commission to have worked for both the Security Branch and Military Intelligence, established a relationship with the SDU in September 1993 and provided weaponry and other assistance in order to facilitate their attacks on ANC members (see Volume Three).
126 In Richmond, the Security Branch recruited both of the key protagonists in the conflict – Sifiso Nkabinde (ANC) and David Ntombela (IFP) (see Volume Three)
127 The reluctance of the intelligence community to reveal the names of past sources was a great hindrance to the Commission. Without identifying who was working for whom, the Commission was limited in its ability to uncover the dynamics and causes of violent conflict within communities.
Allegations of security force involvement in train violence
128 Train violence first emerged in July 1990 with a series of attacks on commuters travelling on the Johannesburg–Soweto line, which left one person dead, and approximately thirty injured. Between 1990 and 1993, approximately 572 people were to die in more than 600 incidents of train violence. Only three people were convicted. Two applied to the Commission for amnesty.
129 Over time, the violence developed a momentum of its own. Unplanned group attacks and individual killings became more frequent than planned, orchestrated incidents involving large groups of people. Most early attacks were characterised by large groups of men (up to 300), often dressed in red headbands and using anything from iron rods to automatic weapons. Gunmen would open fire from train station platforms or spray commuters with bullets from inside coaches.
130 Young and old, male and female and supporters of all political parties fell victim to the violence, suggesting that it aimed at causing general terror rather than at achieving a clear political objective.
131 Amnesty applicants to the Commission seem to support this thesis. However, there were points at which the connection between negotiations and an escalation of train violence appears clear. The launching of Inkatha as a national political party and the suspension of the armed struggle by the ANC in July 1990 and the announcement of a date for elections in July 1993 saw a general rise in political violence.
132 The two IFP supporters who applied for amnesty for their part in the train violence both stated that they saw themselves as participating in a political conflict between the ANC and IFP. Mr Felix Ndimene, a Mozambican who had served as a sergeant in 5 Reconnaissance Regiment (5RR), made a victim statement to the Commission in which he claims he was abducted from Mozambique on 23 August 1982 and was later brought to the SADF’s Phalaborwa base where he was tortured and forced to join the SADF. In an interview with the New Nation in July 1991, Ndimene alleged that the Selous Scouts of Pietersburg and 5RR together with members of RENAMO had been involved in train violence, particularly the Benrose massacre; he also named a Zimbabwean who had allegedly been involved in train attacks. Ndimene alleged that the intelligence division of Spoornet Security was composed of former members of the Special Forces, and that they orchestrated the violence on trains.3
133 A special investigation unit of the Goldstone Commission could not substantiate Ndimene’s allegations. It ultimately found that the 51 Kommando named by Ndimene was at a legitimate clandestine internal (to the Eastern Transvaal) operation at the time of the Benrose massacre. It further found that most members who had allegedly been involved in the Jeppe attack were in the Phalaborwa camp at the time of the attack. However, a former senior Goldstone investigator told the Commission that he believed that this did not necessarily disprove Ndimene’s allegations as Special Forces often operate in small groups of three to four men. The investigator believed it was possible that a small unit of 5RR could have been deployed covertly to conduct train operations. Further evidence to the Commission indicated that a senior commander in 5RR confirmed to an intelligence service that members of the unit were involved in such violence. A former deputy chief of staff intelligence expressed the view that the randomness of the attacks combined with their military precision pointed to people with Special Forces training.
134 SAP member Wayne Hugh Swanepoel, who applied for amnesty [AM3727/96], stated that he and others in his unit were involved in throwing people from the trains around 1988 “in an attempt to cause the ANC and the IFP to blame each other”. During such actions, they wore balaclavas and those parts of their skin that were exposed were painted. Afterwards, they would go to the scene of the crime “to make sure they were dead” and his own unit would investigate the case. He claimed that the people who assisted them were paid by the CCB, and that the orders came “from inside the security police and higher up”.
135 Former Vlakplaas askari Joe Mamasela alleged in the New Nation in March 1997 that Eikenhof farm in the Vaal area was used to house alleged train killers. Mamasela’s testimony was confirmed by an ex-police officer referred to by New Nation as ‘Mandla’. Mandla stated that he and other Vlakplaas members were not allowed access to those they suspected to be train attackers and that they suspected that the attackers were foreigners; they “were very dark and spoke bad English”, and that the men would be armed with R5 rifles and 9mm weapons.
136 A statement by Mr Xola Frank ‘Jimmy’ Mbane, enclosed in the files of amnesty applicants Thapelo Johannes Mbelo [AM3785/96] and Wilhelm Riaan Bellingan [AM5283/97], alleged that most of the briefings for train operations took place at Vlakplaas. He said that his train squad consisted of himself, Khayo, Sylvester, Mvelase, Shushe, Joss and Kilino. The last-named served as commander and paid the others R1 000 after successful operations.
137 The Commission was not been able to confirm the above allegations, some of which will be further pursued in amnesty hearings.3 Verslag omtrent die ondersoek deur `n ondersoekspan van die Goldstone Kommissie na die bewerings met betrekking tot ongeruimdhede deur lede verbonde aan militêre inligting van SAW pp 33–41.