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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 619

Paragraph Numbers 164 to 173

Volume 2

Chapter 7

Subsection 13

Further coup attempts against Transkei: Operation Abbot

164 Attempts to overthrow the Transkei government did not end with the abortive Duli attempt. The following year the SADF’s Operation Abbot referred to expectations that Transkei civil servants would not be paid as usual on 15 June 1991 due to a financial crisis in that government, and drafted a plan ostensibly to deal with any violence resulting from this. The Abbot plan included a phase of initial deployment in the region, a second phase involving the closure of the Transkei border on receipt of the code-word “close-up” and the third phase involving entry of South African forces into Transkei on the code-word “sort-out”. Third phase planning was done both for a scenario in which the SADF entered Transkei with that administration’s permission and a scenario in which entry was carried out without permission, involving overcoming resistance by the Transkei security forces. An armed invasion into Transkei did not take place. On 12 June, the day Abbot was scheduled to start, members of One Parachute Battalion from Bloemfontein had arrived in the region to participate in what the SADF called at the time a group command control area protection exercise which was “straightforward routine” and not part of a troop build-up.

165 SADF call-ups for this period indicate additional troop movements. There were three consecutive “detached duty” call-ups for Operation Tonto in Komga (the nearest South African town to the main southern Transkei border post) for a constant period from 3 June to 30 August 1991 – three of sixteen detached duty call-ups run by Group 8 in East London over the three years from 1989–91. There was what appears to have been an additional “monthly camp” for 8 June to 2 July to the Kaffrarian Rifles in East London. There was also an “ops duties” call-up for the East London Commando from 13 to 27 June involving one company for “Ciskei stabilisation”. The availability of additional troops in the region during the Abbot time period was greater than during the period for the November 1990 Duli operation.

166 In the run-up to the expected 15 June payday crisis, there was an increase in tension between the Transkei and South African authorities, including:

a In mid-May, Holomisa denied allegations that he had appointed Chris Hani as Transkei’s Minister of Police and Defence and that Hani was amassing guerrillas in Transkei;

b On 24 May, Holomisa denied allegations that his government had made a loan to MK from the civil servants’ pension fund;

c Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha gave weekend newspapers a press conference on Transkei’s financial affairs and Holomisa accused him of deliberately provoking a financial crisis in Transkei in order to encourage a coup attempt. Holomisa claimed the South African government had delayed passing the Transkei budget;

d On 11 June, Holomisa flatly denied reports that the ANC had established two training bases in Transkei at a cost of R250 000;

e On 12 June, Pik Botha told Parliament that there had been no transgressions of the non-aggression and bilateral agreements South Africa had with Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei, and that similar agreements with Transkei had been terminated by Transkei on May 10, 1978;

f On 13 June, pamphlets calling for Holomisa’s resignation were circulated in Transkei, apparently dropped by air, by a previously unknown group calling themselves “The Voice of Bona Fide Transkeians”. Speculation at the time was that these pamphlets had been dropped by the South African government.

167 There was also increasing concern among the security forces in June 1991 that Gqozo’s Ciskei government was on the verge of being overthrown by dissident former CDF members acting together with MK elements. Whether such a plan was in process or not, IR/CIS was submitting “Top Secret” source reports to Gqozo (and presumably also to SADF MI as was routine for IR/CIS) stating that such plans were underway.

168 It is not clear what happened to stop Abbot from going ahead. Possibly it was aborted because of the widespread rumours of a South African-sponsored attack. It is possible the Abbot plan may have been revived two years later. On 31 March 1993 the SADF and SAP threw a blockade around southern Transkei for several days, in what was widely regarded at the time as an economic blockade. This appears to fit in with the “phase two” described in the Abbot plans.

The killing of Charles Sebe and Onward Guzana

169 On the night of 27 January 1991, Ciskei rebels Charles Sebe [EC0904/96CCK] and Mangwane Onward Guzana [EC0405/96ELN] drove into Ciskei in the belief that a coup attempt was underway or had just taken place and that they were to head the new government with the support of the Ciskei troops. Guzana was a former CDF officer who had formed the military government with Gqozo until he was detained on allegations of coup plots and subsequently fled to Transkei. Here he linked up with Sebe, who had been in Transkei since his 1986 jailbreak.

170 Instead of driving into Bisho to take over the government they drove into a CDF roadblock where Guzana was shot dead. Sebe fled, was captured the following day in a nearby village and shot dead.

171 A lengthy inquest ensued and, as a result, murder charges in connection with Sebe’s death were brought against Gqozo and his bodyguard, Thozamile Veliti. Both were acquitted. It emerged at the court proceedings that there had been a deliberate plot by IR/CIS to lure Sebe and Guzana back to Ciskei on the pretext of a “coup attempt”. The inquest found that IR/CIS chief Anton Nieuwoudt worked together with Gqozo “in all the planning stages of the plot to eliminate the threat posed by Sebe and Guzana” and that while the two rebels believed they were involved in a coup attempt, “Nieuwoudt and company knew there was no inside component [to the coup attempt] and knew there was no danger to any interested party in Ciskei. The trap was set for one purpose only: to rid the regime in Ciskei under Brigadier Gqozo of any further threat from Sebe and Guzana”6.

172 The inquest could not make a finding on how Guzana was killed, but found that Sebe’s death had been ordered by Gqozo and carried out by Veliti and others. The subsequent murder trial acquitted both Gqozo and Veliti, finding that there was no direct evidence that Veliti had fired at Sebe, that there was a reasonable doubt as to whether Sebe had been killed on the basis of an order from Gqozo, and that it was not proved that Gqozo had issued an order to kill Sebe unlawfully. The trial judge did however find that Sebe had been killed unlawfully.

173 The Commission received an amnesty application in connection with this matter from IR/CIS member Clive Brink [AM6373/97], who was stationed at the roadblock during the operation.

6 Inquest findings by Judge MH Claassens, Bisho, 30/8/93
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