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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 402

Paragraph Numbers 57 to 67

Volume 3

Chapter 5

Subsection 8

Detentions and torture

57 There were several distinct waves of detentions and torture during the 1960–75 period. The first occurred under the March to August 1960 state of emergency. The next wave, accompanied by severe torture, occurred in 1963 under the ‘Ninety-Day Detention Law’, passed on 1 May, and following the arrest of the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) high command at the Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg at around the same time. Mass arrests of Poqo or PAC members were followed by extensive torture and trials that led to death sentences for many of the accused. After further intermittent detentions and trials throughout the 1960s, there were the nation-wide arrests of South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and Black People’s Convention (BPC) members in 1973–74 which extended to the Western Cape as well.

58 In the evidence before the Commission, Warrant Officer Hernus JP ‘Spyker’ van Wyk is the individual most consistently associated with torture in the Western Cape over a thirty year period. Mr Theunis ‘Rooi Rus’ Swanepoel is also among those mentioned frequently in submissions to the Commission.

59 A special ‘screening centre’ was created at the Bellville police station, where Poqo suspects were beaten and tortured during interrogation and forced to make statements implicating themselves and their comrades. Mr Sisa Ncapai [C2660/97WTK] told the Commission:

I was arrested in November 1964 and questioned about my political activities, especially the recruitment of the youth for military training in the countries outside South Africa. I was tortured with electric shocks and made to stand on my toes on bricks placed on each other and this act would continue for over an hour, and the arms are stretched out sideways.
An empty twenty-litre paraffin bucket was placed on my head down to the shoulders and a dirty rag dipped in an oily substance that gave a nasty headcracking smell was inserted in the corner of the bucket. The smoke which came from the rag sent me fainting. I was kicked and hit with fists and I stayed without food for hours on end. It was worse when the security personnel led by Sersant van Rooyen, … Mostert and others brought with them cadres who were arrested on the borders …

60 ANC member Christmas Tinto [CT00477] was arrested in 1963 and was also tortured at the Bellville police station. A bag was placed on his head, electric shocks were applied at his fingertips and he was beaten and kicked. In 1968, he was again detained, beaten and held in solitary confinement for eleven months, followed by more torture in 1972. He described being taken blindfolded at night to a cliff by the sea, where he was taken to the edge and threatened with death.

The following morning I was taken to Pollsmoor prison … I was put in a big hall. They locked the door and told me to undress which I did. They even forced me to take off my undertrousers and I was left naked. I was told to stand on a chair handcuffed. A rope was thrown over the ceiling rafters and tied around the handcuffs. They put a bag over my head and tied some wires around my fingers, one in each hand, and electric shocks were then applied … Van Wyk said “Tinto now we are serious and you are going to tell us”. He had a pair of pliers in his hand … He squeezed the cover of my penis with a pliers, pulling all my hair on my private parts till I was unconscious and found myself sleeping in Valkenberg mental hospital for two months. I was charged under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on Robben Island.

61 Some detainees were taken to Pretoria and tortured there, amongst them Western Cape ANC president Mr Zolile Malindi [CT00510], who was detained together with his wife under the state of emergency regulations in 1960. In 1961 he was banned for two years, was detained again in 1963 under the ninety-day detention law3 and held in solitary confinement in Worcester. Mr Malindi was tortured in Pretoria Central prison by about six Special Branch men including Sergeant Greeff. He was given the ‘helicopter’ treatment4 and was suffocated with a plastic bag. This was followed by electric shock torture on his body. Mr Mountain Qumbelo [CT03711] was beaten, suffocated, forced to hold physical positions and subjected to electric shocks in Pretoria by Sergeant Greeff and others.

62 Ms Stephanie Kemp [KZN/SELF/072/DN] stated that Warrant Officer van Wyk “beat me senseless while I was in detention. Viktor came down with one Van der Merwe and kept me standing through the night and longer while interrogating me.” Subsequently jailed for sabotage, she was later paid out R2 000 by the then Justice Minster, Mr John Vorster, for torture.

63 Mr Johnny Issel and Mr Steven Carolus were amongst six Black Consciousness Movement activists detained in the western Cape in October 1974 under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act. They were taken to Pretoria where a national investigating team, including Van Wyk, was formed to interrogate the 100 black consciousness activists being held in Pretoria Central. Interrogation took place at the police commissioner headquarters (COMPOL).

64 Issel reports that he was questioned by a team of fifteen security policemen. They took turns beating him with their fists and kicking him about the room. Later that evening he was made to crouch on his knees. His hands were tied behind his back and he was blindfolded. Wires were attached to the little finger of each hand and he was shocked four times. Each time this happened his body was flung across the floor. The two policemen drank brandy throughout the torture. Interrogation continued and they remained dissatisfied with the answers they were receiving. Issel was blindfolded again and subjected to electric shocks by Colonel Andy Taylor and others. Other forms of torture at COMPOL included spending an entire day doing frog jumps around the room until all sense of coordination was lost, and standing against the wall with arms outstretched.

65 Issel was released as a state witness after being held for five months at Pretoria Central. He laid charges of assault against the security police, but the matter never reached the courts.

66 Mr Steven Carolus was interrogated by a panel of security policemen who made him sit on an ‘invisible chair’ when they were dissatisfied with his answers. Taylor and a German-speaking policeman then gave him electric shocks to his genitals. After about a week of questioning and constant beatings, Carolus was held in solitary confinement for seven months before being released.

67 Mr Danile Landingwe [CT01311], also part of the SASO group taken to Pretoria in 1974, states that he faced repeated detentions, assault and torture:

The interrogation started daily. I was assaulted and I lost two teeth. Spyker van Wyk was instructing other security police to beat me. … You would also be asked to stand next to the wall, carrying a book. You were given fourteen days to do this exercise but on the eighth day you fell. They would start beating you again. I was held for five months and released in 1975.
3 Section 17 of the General Law Amendment Act No 37 of 1963. 4 The ‘helicopter’ technique refers to a method of torture where a victim was suspended from the ceiling, with hands and feet shackled to a stick, and spun around.
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