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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 629

Paragraph Numbers 205 to 218

Volume 2

Chapter 7

Subsection 17

Hit squads

205 Hit squad activity became widespread in KwaZulu and Natal during the 1990s. From information received by the Commission, it would appear that the hit squad operations were predominantly supportive of the IFP, drawing in officials of the KwaZulu government, the KZP and senior politicians and leaders of the party. As such, hit squad members had access to KwaZulu government resources such as vehicles, arms and ammunition. A measure of protection from prosecution was made possible through the collusion of the KZP and instruments of the state security forces.

206 In May 1990, Colonel MA van den Berg (MI) compiled a memorandum reporting on a meeting between himself, Colonel ‘Cor’ van Niekerk (also MI) and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi on 31 October 1989. In the memorandum, Van den Berg reported that Buthelezi had expressed concern that he was “losing the armed struggle and in that regard emphasised that ‘offensive steps’ were still a necessity, meaning the deployment of ‘hit squads.’” When questioned on this passage, during a section 29 hearing, Van den Berg said he doubted that Buthelezi had used the actual words “hit squad”. However, he said that he was “entirely convinced” that the offensive actions Buthelezi had in mind at this stage were indeed hit squad activities, including assassinations.

207 In the same 2 May 1990 memorandum, Van den Berg recorded that Inkatha’s Mr MZ Khumalo (codenamed Reeva) indicated that “he had not yet given up on his idea of an armed force, or at the least ‘cells’ which could take out undesirable members.”

208 In the Wartburg area during 1990, a Roman Catholic priest Father Garth Michelson wrote a letter to former Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok, in which he expressed his concern that there was a police hit squad operating in the Mbava area, near Wartburg. He raised these concerns following the murder of two UDF activists, Mr Vusi Ngcobo and Mr Bonakwe Gasa [KZN/HG/922/NY], on the 6 January 1990. Vlok responded to Michelson’s letter on the 30 July 1990 as follows:

Investigations instituted have proved that so-called hit squads do not exist in the South African Police. This is a far-fetched figment which exists only in the imaginations of certain individuals, organisations, etc. and has no foundation whatsoever.

209 Ngcobo and Gasa had been shot and killed in a mealie (corn) field in Swayimane. Witnesses said that one white and three black men wearing light blue shirts similar to the SAP uniform carried out the killing. The four men were seen arriving at the home of KwaZulu MP Mr Psychology Ndlovu in a yellow police van and then proceeding from Ndlovu’s home in a white Cressida with a private registration number.

210 An informal inquest held in 1991 found that “persons unknown” were responsible for the deaths. A second inquest was held in May 1995 at which inquest magistrate RA Stewart found that former special constable Welcome Muzi Hlophe (aka ‘BigBoy’), SAP Lance Sergeant Peter Smith, KwaZulu government driver Mr Abraham Shoba and a fourth unknown man were prima facie directly responsible for the murders. He also found that the original investigating officer, Major Joseph van Zyl, was an accessory to the murders and recommended that an investigation be opened with a view to a possible conviction of Van Zyl (also implicated in the Trust Feed massacre). He further found that the then secretary of the KwaZulu Legislature, Mr Robert Mzimela (at present deputy speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal parliament), KwaZulu employee ZG Mkhize (now an IFP member of the KZN parliament) and then head of the KLA Protection Unit Major Leonard Langeni (now retired) had been implicated in a cover-up operation.

211 KwaZulu-Natal Attorney-General Tim McNally declined to prosecute any but Hlophe and Smith. He further failed to pursue any investigations in respect of the other findings made by the inquest court. Hlophe and Smith were subsequently acquitted in the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court.

212 Politically motivated violence between supporters of the ANC and Inkatha erupted in 1991 in the Esikhawini area near Richards Bay. A meeting was called at KZP Captain Leonard Langeni’s office in Ulundi some time in early 1991. At the time, Langeni was the officer commanding the then KwaZulu Legislative Assembly Protection Unit. Others present at the meeting were Mr Daluxolo Luthuli, Prince Gideon Zulu (then KwaZulu Minister of Pensions), Mr M R Mzimela (then Secretary of the KwaZulu Legislature), and Mr M Z Khumalo (then personal assistant to Buthelezi). It was agreed that a group of reliable, trained operatives would be brought together to undertake operations directed at targeted members of the political opposition, members and supporters of the UDF and ANC.

213 Caprivi Trainee Gcina Mkhize was the first to be conscripted into this group. He testified that he was told that “the time had arrived to use the skills acquired at the Caprivi” and he was instructed to work directly with the mayor of Esikhawini, Mr BB Biyela, and IFP councillor Ms Lindiwe Mbuyazi. He was to report directly to Major Langeni and Daluxolo Luthuli. Mkhize was told to gather reliable people to assist him.

214 Initially, the plan was that he would assist Inkatha youth who were already involved in carrying out attacks in ANC dominated areas. He worked with IFP youths including a Mr Mathenjwa, Mr Lucky Mbuyazi, Mr Siyabonga Mbuyazi and others. Captain Langeni arranged for Mkhize to collect weapons for their activities from a Caprivi trainee based at Port Durnford, by the name of Mr Thomas Buthelezi.

215 The youth were unable to prevent the ANC from continuing to launch attacks on Inkatha members. This was reported to Langeni and Luthuli.

216 Over the next few months, a number of other meetings took place both in Ulundi and Esikhawini at which the operations and composition of the hit squad were discussed. It was decided to form a more sophisticated hit squad. Mkhize proposed former KZP member Mr Romeo Mbuso Mbambo [AM4598/97]. Luthuli proposed Mr Israel Nyoni Hlongwane [AM4600/97] who had been involved with Luthuli in the violence in Mpumalanga and Mr David Zweli Dlamini [AM3685/96], a ‘Caprivi trainee’ who had been involved acts of violence in both Clermont and Mpumalanga. Others included in the hit squad were Caprivi trainees PS Ndlovu and Jethro Mthethwa and KZP Constable Victor Buthelezi.

217 Mkhize was the leader of the group and in the main took instructions from Captain Langeni. Ms Mbuyazi and Mayor BB Biyela were aware of their activities and, in specific instances, provided actual support to their operations. Less frequent co-conspirators included Prince Gideon Zulu from Eshowe, Chief K Mathaba from Nyoni and Mr Robert Mkhize from Empangeni.

218 Ms Mbuyazi arranged with the district commissioner Brigadier Mzimela for the transfer of Romeo Mbambo to the Detective Branch where he would be in a position to cover up the crimes of IFP supporters and prevent their arrests. Mkhize was already a member of the Esikhawini Internal Stability Unit and his instructions were to ensure that patrols would take place away from where Inkatha was planning to attack. Mbambo’s instructions were to ensure that cases against the hit squad members were not properly investigated by destroying evidence and making misleading entries in the police dockets. The hit squad was to carry out attacks on those nights when Mbambo and Mkhize were on duty.

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