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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 665
Paragraph Numbers 507 to 517
507 During the 1980s, MK planted a number of bombs in urban areas of the Transvaal. According to ANC policy, the targets selected were meant to be security force personnel or the buildings in which they worked, such as police stations or military installations, but the reality was that more civilians than security force personnel were killed in such explosions.
508 The first major bomb blast of this kind was the Church Street bombing in Pretoria on 20 May 1983.31 Twenty-one people were killed and 219 injured when a car bomb exploded outside the building which housed the administrative headquarters of the South African Air Force. Eleven of the dead were employees of the South African Air Force, two others were MK operatives. The remaining casualties were civilians.
509 Three amnesty application have been received in respect of this incident. Mr Aboobaker Ismail [AM109/97] applied for amnesty in his capacity as an ‘Instructor (1978–79)’, ‘a member of the command structure of Special Operations (1979–87)’ and ‘Chief of Ordinance (1987–90)’. Mr Johannes Mnisi [AM7096/97] tested the devices and was part of the contact with Mr Freddie Shongwe and Mr Izekiel Masango, the MK operatives who died in the explosion. Ms Helene Pastoors [AM7289/97] delivered the car with the explosives for the two operatives to pick up.
510 A number of those injured by the Church Street bomb, and relatives of those who died in the blast, have testified to the Commission. Most of the deponents described the traumatic personal and economic cost of the blasts rather than the circumstances of the blast itself.
511 Ms Adrianna de Wet [JB00689/02PS], a member of the South African Air Force, lost her mother in the blast. Ms Walters [JB00696/02PS] lost her husband, Stephanus. Mr Neville Clarence [JB00702/02PS] was a member of the South African Air Force. He lost his sight as a result of injuries sustained in the blast. Ms Marina Geldenhuys [JB00163/01ERTEM], an employee of the South African Air Force, sustained severe injury to her eardrums, as well as other injuries.
THE COMMISSION FINDS MR ABOOBAKER ISMAIL, MS HELENE PASTOORS, MR JOHANNES MNISI, MR FREDDIE SHONGWE AND MR IZEKIEL MASANGO RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHURCH STREET BOMBING IN WHICH A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WERE KILLED, INCLUDING MS MEYER AND MR STEPHANUS WALTERS, AND SEVERAL OTHERS INJURED, INCLUDING MR NEVILLE CLARENCE AND MS MARINA GELDENHUYS. THE COMMISSION FINDS MK, THE ANC AND THE INDIVIDUALS LISTED ABOVE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
512 During 1987 there were several bomb blasts in Johannesburg. One of these bombings took place on 20 May outside the Johannesburg Magistrates Court. Four policemen were killed and fourteen other people injured. Mr Adriaan Pieter Duvenhage’s son [JB02168/03WR] André, a policeman, went to assist the injured and was killed when a second explosive was detonated. Two applications for amnesty have been received in respect of this incident (Mr William Mabele [AM5313/97] and Mr Joseph Kgoetle [AM7500/97]).
Attacks on the police
513 Attacks on policemen and their homes escalated dramatically once the ANC adopted the strategy of a ‘people’s war’. According to the former Minister of Law and Order, Mr Adriaan Vlok, 144 policemen were killed between 1984 and 1987.
514 Most of the information which the Commission collected about attacks on members of the SAP emerges from MK members’ amnesty applications rather than from the police themselves coming forward to describe these attacks on them.
515 In 1988, Constable Edmund Gregory Beck [JB00135/01GTSOW] was patrolling with two other constables when he was shot in an ambush allegedly carried out by ANC members. Two recently arrested rent defaulters were in the police van at the time of the ambush. One of these was critically injured. Constable Beck was hospitalised for a year after the incident. He described the ambush at a Commission hearing:
I just suddenly heard the sound of automatic and rapid fire from – machine gun fire. Then I heard screams at the back … the people at the back of the van that I was patrolling with were hit, one civilian was hit through the neck. And then suddenly I heard shots all over round me that was shot from the sides, concentrating on my position as the driver. The shots riddled through the bodywork of the vehicle, past my body, past my head and shattered the windscreen and windows of the vehicle. I then accelerated to pick up speed in order to get the people to safety and I didn’t know whether my assailants were on foot or by car, but eventually the engine of the vehicle was struck and I was hit through the right leg at the tibia several times …
516 Mr Mayeza Peter Mahavle [JB01101/01MPNEL] details the difficulties he faced as a black policeman working in the eastern Transvaal during the 1980s. He suffered two arson attacks in 1981 and 1986. According to Mr Mahavle, both incidents resulted from mistaken identity. In the first case he allegedly resembled a policeman who had detained ANC members, and in the second he was mistaken for a policeman who had shot a young boy during a stay away in 1986. Mahavle told the Commission that in spite of being targeted because of his role as a policeman, he also faced suspicion from his white colleagues who suspected that he had sympathies with the forces for liberation.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE ‘COMRADES’ RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTEMPTED KILLING OF MS MAHAVLE, THE WIFE OF POLICE OFFICER MAYEZA PETER MAHAVLE, AND THE ARSON ATTACK ON THEIR HOME, IN 1981. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE UDF AND THE ANC RESPONSIBLE FOR GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
517 Few former community councillors came forward to testify to the Commission about the many attacks that were perpetrated against them in the Vaal area during this period. Such was the extent of violence against councillors that by June 1985 only five of the thirty-eight black local authorities remained in office. Attackers did not always discriminate between councillors and their families, who were frequently caught in the crossfire. The issuing of firearms to councillors for their defence contributed to the conflict. This is evidenced by events in Sebokeng, where a councillor opened fire on a group of marchers protesting against rent increases, thereby precipitating widespread violence.31 For more information on this and other bombings, see Volume Two of this report.