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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 116

Paragraph Numbers 294 to 314

Volume 3

Chapter 2

Subsection 26

The ‘Cradock Four’

294 The cases of the ‘Cradock Four’ and the related ‘Motherwell bombing’ illustrate the use of sophisticated covert operations by the security forces in the assassination of both political opponents and dissidents within their own ranks.

295 The UDF activists known as the ‘Cradock Four’ were Mr Matthew Goniwe [EC0080/ 96NWC], Mr Sparrow Mkonto [EC0029/96NWC] and Mr Fort Calata [EC0028/ 96NWC], and Oudtshoorn activist Mr Sicelo Mhlauli [EC0079/96NWC]. They were abducted and assassinated outside Port Elizabeth on 27 June 1985. Testimony was given to the first East London hearing of the Commission in April 1996 by their wives, Ms Nomonde Calata, Ms Nyameka Goniwe, Ms Sindiswa Mkhonto and Ms Nombuyiselo Mhlauli, and by Mhlauli’s daughter, Ms Babalwa Mhlauli. Before their deaths the ‘Cradock Four’ had all been frequently detained, tortured, threatened and harassed by the security police.

296 On 27 June, they drove to Port Elizabeth to attend a UDF briefing. They did not return home to Cradock, and their burnt and mutilated bodies were found near Bluewater Bay outside Port Elizabeth about a week later. An inquest in 1987 found that they had been killed by unknown persons. The inquest was reopened in 1993 and, after the disclosure of the top secret military signal calling for the “permanent removal from society” of Goniwe, it was found that the security forces were responsible for their deaths, although no individual was named as responsible. The families subsequently filed a claim for damages against the SADF and the SAP and this was finally settled.

297 The families requested further investigation to ascertain who was responsible. Ms Mkhonto requested that the perpetrators be brought to court so that justice could be done. Ms Mkhonto, Ms Mhlauli and Ms Calata also requested assistance with the education of their children. Ms Mhlauli requested the return of her husband’s hand, which is believed to have been kept in a jar by the security police at Louis le Grange Square in Port Elizabeth. Mr Madoda Jacobs [EC0025/96NWC], the former head boy of Lingelihle High School, told the Commission that while he was in detention in Port Elizabeth in 1985, security police had shown him a hand in a bottle and told him it was Mlhauli’s.

298 In January 1997, the Commission received amnesty applications from members of the Port Elizabeth security police for the killing of the ‘Cradock Four’. Those who applied for amnesty were Mr Eric Alexander Taylor [AM3917/96], Mr Hermanus Du Plessis [AM4384/96], Mr Nicolaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg [AM3919/96], Mr Harold Snyman [AM3918/96], Ms Gerhardus Johannes Lotz [AM3921/96] and Ms Johan Martin ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl [AM5637/97]. It was revealed that the car in which the four were travelling was intercepted at the Oliphantshoek pass. The four were shot or stabbed, and their bodies mutilated, before being dumped in the veld near Port Elizabeth.

The ‘PEBCO Three’

299 The killing of the ‘Cradock Four’ followed that of the ‘PEBCO Three’ on 8 May 1985, a very similar killing. These two killings of prominent UDF activists, within weeks of each other, added enormously to the tension in the Eastern Cape during 1985. At the time of the second killing, the ‘PEBCO Three’ had disappeared and their fate was suspected but not confirmed.

300 The ‘PEBCO Three’, Mr Sipho Hashe [EC0003/96PLZ], Mr Qaqawuli Godolozi [EC0004/96PLZ] and Mr Champion Galela [EC0005/96PLZ], were all members of PEBCO. They were lured to the Port Elizabeth airport with a false telephone message, abducted by the Port Elizabeth security police and taken to the remote disused Post Chalmers police station outside Cradock where they were killed. It was only when the Commission received amnesty applications in connection with these killings that the fate of the victims was confirmed. The amnesty applicants are Mr Johannes Koole [AM3748/96], Mr Harold Snyman [AM3918/96], Mr Gideon Johannes Nieuwoudt [AM3920/96], Mr Gerhardus Johannes Lotz [AM3921/96], Mr Hermanus Barend du Plessis [AM4384/96] and Mr Johan Martin ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl [AM5637/96].

The Motherwell bomb

301 This case involved a bomb blast outside Port Elizabeth in 1989, in which three black security police officers including Mr Amos Themba Faku [EC2115/97ELN] and Mr Mbambalala Glen Mgoduka [EC2631/97PLZ], and an askari (guerrilla fighter ‘turned’ by the police) died when the car they were travelling in exploded. It was initially thought that the blast was an act of MK, and it was alleged that the ANC had claimed responsibility for it. However, an investigation led to the trial and conviction of senior members of the SAP Security Branch, including Mr Gideon Nieuwoudt. The accused held that they had killed their colleagues because of a case of fraud involving the Council of Churches.

Armed activity by liberation movements

302 MK activities increased throughout the region during this period; armed attacks and clashes between guerrillas and police were reported and political trials continued. Transkei, which had a common border with Lesotho, became an infiltration route for guerrillas. The South African and homeland security forces often co-operated in matters such as handing over detainees. Detentions were frequently accompanied by torture.

303 In December 1987, the Prisoners’ Welfare Programmes (Priwelpro), a human rights group in Umtata, published a report on security activity in the homeland in 1987 (up to 15 November). It claimed that 238 people had been detained (one had been in detention since 1985). A total of 738 people had been charged in forty-one political trials. In nineteen cases, charges had been dropped or the accused acquitted; there had been convictions in only ten cases. Of twenty-seven court applications, most of them seeking relief from detention or banishment and expulsion orders, twenty-four led to final orders or interim relief. The report said that there were thirty-two legal suits pending against the Minister of Police, claiming a total of R1.7 million; all but two of these dealt with unlawful detention or arrest and assault in detention. By May 1988, these claims had risen to a total of R2 million. Of 155 prisoners sentenced to death in the previous ten years, eighty-five had been executed and thirty-three were on death row. There were eleven political prisoners serving sentences at the end of 1987. In September 1988 Priwelpro was banned — the only organisation known to have been banned under the Transkei military government.

304 The Institute for Strategic Studies reported nineteen incidents of armed activity in Transkei alone during 1985–87. During 1988, there were at least twelve political trials relating to ANC activity in Transkei, many relating to armed incidents. Half of these cases were linked to one another and to another seven trials that had already been concluded. The Commission received a number of submissions dealing with these incidents and trials; in many cases there were allegations of torture in detention.

305 The following are some of the incidents of sabotage reported for this period:

306 An attempt to bomb the Bantu Affairs Administration Board (BAAB) offices in Port Elizabeth on 26 January 1983 resulted in the bomb apparently exploding prematurely, killing a bystander and the holder of the bomb, MK member Petros ‘James’ Bokala [KZN/ZJ/066/BL]31. Bokala was part of a small network of ANC members in Port Elizabeth, some of whom were later jailed.

307 The bombing of the Umtata bulk fuel depot and sabotage of the Umtata water and electricity installations, both on 25 June 1985, resulted in no deaths or injuries. Transkei enforced a nightly curfew for years after this and several trials resulted. After the bombing, the ANC sent MK commander Mzwandile Vena to Cape Town to replace an operative who had been arrested. Vena was also arrested in Cape Town and fought unsuccessfully against extradition to Transkei to face charges on this matter. The state alleged he had been assisted by Mr Mazizi Attwell Maqekeza (see below) and Mr Zola Dubeni [EC2653/97UTA]. Dubeni was killed by police in Cape Town in March 1987 and Maqekeza was gunned down in Lesotho. In another trial, Mr Zakade Alfred Buka [EC0310/96WTK] was jailed for seven years for assisting the bombers; he had been tortured severely in detention.

308 Shortly after the bombing, then Transkei prime minister Chief Kaiser Matanzima publicly accused student activist, Mr Batandwa Ndondo [EC0237/96WTK] of involvement in this incident. On 24 September, Ndondo was fetched from his home by a group in a minibus. Shortly afterwards he was seen trying to climb out of the vehicle’s window, shouting that he was being attacked. He escaped briefly and was gunned down in a neighbour’s yard. Transkei and South African police together with askaris from Vlakplaas were implicated in the killing, but the trial collapsed due to lack of co-operation from the security forces. The Commission received amnesty applications from former police officers Mbuso Enoch Shabalala [AM5727/97] and Gcinisiko Lamont Dandala [AM6535/97] in connection with this matter. Six men connected to Ndondo (either as his relatives or as potential witnesses at an inquest into his death) were banished to remote Transkei regions for two years after his killing.

309 In July 1986, an MK unit attacked the police station in Madeira Street, Umtata. Three police officers and four others are believed to have died. ANC guerrilla China Talakumeni (aka Solly Prusente) was fatally injured and was later buried secretly by his colleagues. His body was subsequently exhumed by police; the Commission was unable to establish where he was eventually buried.

310 In January 1987, Mr Mbulelo Ngono (aka Khaya Khasibe) [EC0330/96PLZ] faced Transkei police, military and SAP in a thirty-six-hour shoot-out at a rural shop, the home of Ms Enid Jafta [EC0329/96STK] in Willowvale, southern Transkei. Ngono escaped with the assistance of guerrillas Dumisani Mafu, Zolile Ntlathi and Mazizi Attwell Maqekeza [EC0224/96UTA]. Mr Ngono and Mr Maqekeza were subsequently attacked in Lesotho; Maqekeza was killed in a second attack while recovering from the first in a Maseru hospital in March 1987. He was mentioned in numerous political trials in Transkei, with charge sheets indicating that he had operated in that territory for over three years. Ngono disappeared after the first attack, and the Commission learnt from amnesty applications32 that he had been one of four members of the same ANC cell who voluntarily allowed the police to ‘abduct’ them from Lesotho to Ladybrand in December 1987 in order to become police informers. The applicants were unable to say what had subsequently happened to Ngono and the others, Ms Betty Boom, Ms Nomasonto Mashiya and Mr Tax Sejanamane, all of whom disappeared.

311 On 5 August 1987, police shot dead MK member Sonwabo Mdekazi (aka Thandi Malgas Khumalo [EC1286/96NWC]) in Port Elizabeth. The inquest heard that police had surrounded the house where he was staying at about 04h30, broke in and shot him dead because he had tried to shoot them from his bed. Police reported seizing an AK-47 rifle, a pistol and ammunition at the scene. Mdekazi had been a founding member and later regional organiser of COSAS; he had spent three years in jail until 1980 on charges of public violence before leaving the country.

312 On 12 January 1988, MK member Sthembele Zokwe [EC0018/96STK] was shot dead by Transkei police at his home in Ngqamakwe just hours after his detention in Butterworth. Police claimed he had tried to throw a grenade at them. The family’s lawyer said that he had inspected the room in which Zokwe had been shot and found fifty-four bullet holes. Onlookers said they had heard a burst of gunfire five minutes after Zokwe had been escorted by police into his mother’s house. Two police officers appeared in court to face murder and attempted murder charges arising out of the death of Zokwe and assaults during an earlier detention. However, the accused, Sergeants Aaron M Tyani and Pumelele Gumengu, escaped from police custody in late October, shortly before they were due to appear in court. They escaped from separate prisons on the same day after requesting medical treatment. There had been at least two previous attempts by police to kill Zokwe; in one of these he was shot in the neck.

313 In February 1988, a joint South African and Transkei Police hit squad gunned down MK members Lizo Macanda (aka MK ‘Gift’, also known as Thembinkosi Gladman Mgibe), Zolile Sangoni [EC0243/96STK] and Zonwabele Mayaphi [EC0189/96ELN] in broad daylight in an Umtata suburb. A fourth man, Mr Thozamile Nkume [EC0257/96STK], escaped. Mayaphi’s brother was on trial for a bombing at the time; Sangoni’s brother was a prominent civil rights lawyer. Among the first to arrive at the scene of the attack were lawyer Lungisile Stofile and Priwelpro fieldworker Vumankosi Ntikinca. They chased the assassins, who drove straight into the local police station backyard at full speed. Ntikinca was subsequently detained and film in his camera was destroyed by police. Transkei and South African police officers openly admitted their involvement at an inquest later, but no one was ever charged. One of them, Mr Mpumelelo Madliwa, was later gunned down in Ciskei in an attack alleged to have been carried out by MK. The Commission subsequently discovered that Macanda had been buried in an unmarked grave in the Umtata cemetery.

314 In March 1988, MK member Qondo Hoho [EC0283/96QTN] was shot dead by police together with a relative at Mlungisi, Queenstown. The house in which he had been staying was smashed down by police during the incident.

THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE SAP AND PARTICULARLY ITS SECURITY BRANCH EMBARKED ON A PROGRAMME OF KILLING POLITICAL ACTIVISTS DURING THE LATE 1980S. EVIDENCE BEFORE THE COMMISSION POINTS TO THE RESULTING DEATHS AND DISAPPEARANCES OF ACTIVISTS BEING PART OF A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF ABUSE WHICH ENTAILED DELIBERATE PLANNING BY MEMBERS OF THE SAP, FOR WHICH THE SAP AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT, DURING THE LATE 1980S, THE TRANSKEI HOMELAND POLICE FORCE EMBARKED ON A PROGRAMME OF KILLING POLITICAL ACTIVISTS. EVIDENCE BEFORE THE COMMISSION POINTS TO THE RESULTING DEATHS AND DISAPPEARANCES OF ACTIVISTS BEING PART OF A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF ABUSE WHICH ENTAILED DELIBERATE PLANNING BY MEMBERS OF THE TRANSKEI POLICE, FOR WHICH THE TRANSKEI POLICE AND THE TRANSKEI GOVERNMENT ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. THESE DEATHS AND DISAPPEARANCES WERE GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE PERIOD 1983—89 WAS CHARACTERISED BY A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN THE RELIANCE BY THE SAP, THE CISKEI POLICE AND THE CDF ON: THE UNJUSTIFIED USE OF DEADLY FORCE IN CROWD CONTROL AND PROTEST SITUATIONS; THE USE OF DELIBERATE AMBUSH AND SO-CALLED ‘TROJAN HORSE’ OPERATIONS IN WHICH MARCHERS OR PROTESTERS WERE DELIBERATELY TARGETED AND KILLED; THE USE OF ASSAULT AND TORTURE ON SUSPECTS AND DETAINEES AS A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF ABUSE; THE FOSTERING OF DIVISIONS BETWEEN POLITICAL AND SOCIAL GROUPINGS; THE DELIBERATE KILLING OF POLITICAL ACTIVISTS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THESE ACTIONS LED TO WIDESPREAD GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS (KILLINGS, ATTEMPTED KILLINGS, TORTURE, ARSON AND SEVERE ILL TREATMENT) FOR WHICH THE SAP, THE CISKEI POLICE AND THE CDF ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
31 Bokala was found not to be a victim by the Commission in terms of its policy on combatants. 32 SAP members Lesizi Michael Jantjie [AM7107/97], Antonie Jagga [AM7106/97] and Colin Anthony Pakenham [AM7163/97].
 
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