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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 341
Paragraph Numbers 50 to 54
Public order policing
50 In April 1980, following a national call to students, students in Bloemfontein engaged in protest and boycott actions. The police appeared initially to act with restraint in their response to these school boycotts. However, reports soon emerged of the use of unnecessary force to break up crowd demonstrations, including the use of baton charges and mass arrests. Student protests in Bloemfontein and Thaba'Nchu were dispersed by police. In May, police dispersed a crowd of 2 000 demonstrating pupils at Witsieshoek in QwaQwa.
51 Police shootings were also reported in the course of policing the 1980 student protests, often resulting in injury and, in some cases, death.
The death of Daniel Thabo Malotolo
Sixteen-year-old Daniel Thabo Malotolo was shot dead on 21 May 1980 while participating in a student march in Bloemfontein [KZN/TIS/008/BL].
IN REVIEWING EVIDENCE OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY THE STATE SECURITY FORCES IN THE ORANGE FREE STATE DURING THIS PERIOD, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE SAP ASSAULTED AND TORTURED DETAINEES AS PART OF A SYSTEMATIC CAMPAIGN TO SUPPRESS AND SILENCE OPPOSITION TO THE APARTHEID POLICIES OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT. THE SAP IS FOUND TO HAVE ACTED WITH LESS AND LESS RESTRAINT AGAINST PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTESTS AND RESORTED READILY TO THE UNJUSTIFIED USE OF DEADLY FORCE, FIRING ON CROWDS WITH LIVE AMMUNITION, RESULTING IN DEATHS AND INJURIES TO MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC.
52 Refugees and exiles living in Lesotho were increasingly subjected to surveillance, raids and bombings during this period. In July 1978, six South African exiles were seriously injured when one of them opened a parcel bomb disguised as copies of an ANC publication.
53 Reports of cross-border abductions were also received. Witnesses were not always able to tell the Commission who was responsible for the disappearances of individuals from the exile community in Lesotho. However, several applicants for amnesty told the Commission that they had been personally involved in targeting individuals in exile, some of whom were known to be MK operatives.
The attempted assassination of Chris Hani
In his application for amnesty, Eben Frederick Coetzee told the Commission that, in 1980, he was given the order by senior members of the Security Branch to kill Mr Chris Hani, then MK commander in Lesotho, because of Hani’s perceived growing influence in the ANC/South African Communist Party (SACP) alliance. At the time, Coetzee was a department head of the SAP Security Branch in the Orange Free State.
An attempt was made to place an explosive in Hani’s car in Maseru, but the explosive went off prematurely, injuring Mr Tumelo Ernest Ramatlala (Ramotalo), who was responsible for placing it. According to former senior Security Branch member Dirk Coetzee, Ramatlala was a Lesotho national and a member of the Lesotho Youth Organisation. He was an informer for the Bloemfontein Security Branch and allegedly a close confidant of Chris Hani.
Ramatlala spent three months in hospital under police guard and was charged for the explosion. On being granted bail he fled to South Africa and was taken to Vlakplaas to prevent him from revealing information about the planned killing [AM4079/97].
The kidnapping of ‘Comrade A’
Amnesty applicants Mr Almond Nofemela [AM0064/96] and Mr Dirk Coetzee gave information about the attempted killing of ‘Comrade A’ (Lehlohonolo) in Maseru in 1981. Coetzee, then stationed at Ladybrand Security Branch, near the Maseru Bridge border post, said he equipped Nofemela and another police officer with firearms and a hand grenade and instructed them to enter Lesotho via Ficksburg Bridge. They were to go to the Maseru home of ‘Comrade A’ and to shoot him when he opened the door in response to their knocking. In the event, the victim did not open the door. The hand grenade was thrown through a window, injuring both ‘Comrade A’ and a child.
SADF Raid on Maseru
The most significant cross-border attack launched by members of the South African security forces from military bases in the Orange Free State was the SADF raid on Maseru on 9 December 1982, in which forty-two people were killed, twelve of whom were Lesotho nationals. (This event is documented elsewhere in the Commission’s report.)
54 LLA attacks were also reported, involving cross-border activities between Lesotho and the Orange Free State.
The case of Seisa Seisa and others
In November 1981, LLA member Seisa Seisa, with others, bombed a bus stop at Motshepang, Magogoeng, in Butha Buthe. The Commission heard that they then went to Clarens in the Orange Free State where, ironically, they were arrested and taken to Bloemfontein. Here they were beaten and tortured because police thought they were members of MK.
When it was discovered that their commander, Mr Ntsu Mokhehle, was working with officers of the South African security forces, the authorities tried to negotiate with Chief Leabua Jonathan to exchange them for Chris Hani. Jonathan refused. They were then given a limpet mine and driven through a roadblock by Dirk Coetzee to undertake an LLA mission in Lesotho [KZN/SMB/102/LB].
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THIS PERIOD WAS CHARACTERISED BY A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN ILLEGAL CROSS-BORDER ACTIVITIES BY THE SAP AND SADF, AND AN INCREASING NUMBER OF COVERT OPERATIONS IN LESOTHO WHICH RESULTED IN LARGE NUMBERS OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR WHICH THE SAP AND THE SADF ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.