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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 229
Paragraph Numbers 221 to 237
Port Natal Security Branch
221. The divisional headquarters of the Port Natal Security Branch was based at CR Swart SAP Headquarters in Durban, with branches or operatives based at Port Shepstone, Scottsburgh and Stanger.
222. Port Natal Security Branch played an extensive role in relation to MK activities in and from Swaziland. Like its counterparts in other parts of the country, it set up a Terrorist Detection or Tracing Unit in the mid-1980s. The unit was headed by then Major Andrew ‘Andy’ Russell Cavill Taylor and established a significant askari base, drawing additionally on the resources of the Pietermaritzburg-based Natal Security Branch and operating throughout the province. Most amnesty applicants applied for offences committed while they were part of this unit.
223. The askari unit operated from a number of safe houses and farms in Natal and established its main centre at a farm near Camperdown. The unit’s primary task was tracing, apprehending and interrogating MK suspects, but as an operational unit it was also able to take proactive and reactive measures .
224.One of the ANC’s submissions to the Commission notes a significant number of losses amongst its Natal operatives during the 1980s, with the number of operatives killed or disappeared rising sharply in 1987 and 1988. The rising number of deaths in these years coincides with the establishment of the Natal askari unit .
225. Sixteen members of the Port Natal Security Branch, including the divisional commander and the head of the Terrorist Detection Unit, applied for amnesty for twenty incidents committed between the late 1970s and 1991. These incidents involved more than ten abductions and seventeen killings, almost exclusively committed by members of the Terrorist Detection/askari unit between 1986 and 1990. The Amnesty Committee also received several amnesty applications for numerous acts of torture in the 1970s, including one from Colonel Taylor.
226. Applicants were granted amnesty in fifty-two instances and refused in four (the abduction and killing of Ms Ntombi Khubeka – see below). In five instances no decision was made as the applicant, Colonel Taylor, had died before the hearing.
227. Six members of the Port Natal Security Branch based in the Terrorism Investigation Section and two C1/Vlakplaas operatives applied for amnesty for their role in the abduction, death and subsequent disposal of the body of Ms Ntombikayise (Ntombi) Priscilla Ngcobo (née Khubeka) in April or May 1987.
228. Ms Khubeka lived in KwaMashu near Durban, and was suspected of acting as a co-ordinator between the external and internal units of MK. Two C1/Vlakplaas askaris, Xola Frank Mbane and a Mr Dube, made contact with her.
229. Mr Mbane drove Ms Khubeka to Battery Beach from where she was abducted by the Port Natal team, blindfolded, bound and taken to an abandoned shooting range at Winkelspruit, south of Durban. Still blindfolded, she was interrogated by a team consisting of Colonel Andy Taylor, Captain Hentie Botha, Sergeant Laurie Wasserman, Sergeant Cassie van der Westhuizen, Joe Coetzer and Warrant Officer ‘Bossie’ Basson.
230. Captain Botha testified that the interrogation lasted approximately fifteen to twenty minutes and that Taylor struck her approximately ten to fifteen times with a sjambok. Sergeant van der Westhuizen’s testimony suggests that the interrogation lasted an hour. Both of these accounts were disputed by askari Mbane, who alleged that the interrogation lasted for about two hours and that he could hear her ‘screams of pain’ from where he waited outside.
231. Ms Khubeka’s dead body was dumped near the Bhambayi informal settlement, some distance away from her home. Later Captain Botha established that her family was unaware of her death and appeared to believe that she had gone into exile. It was subsequently rumoured that she had left the country for Mozambique because of the attentions of the Security Branch. It was only after the application was received by the Amnesty Committee that it became possible to discover what had happened to Ms Khubeka. Cases like this demonstrate the value of the principle of requiring full disclosure before amnesty is granted.
232. The Commission exhumed remains believed to be Ms Kubeka’s from a pauper’s grave at Charlottedale Cemetery in Stanger. In a post-mortem examination, a pathologist concluded that the remains matched those of Ntombi Khubeka. A single metallic object of approximately 10 mm in length fell from the skull and was later identified by a ballistics expert as a spent 7.65mm bullet. The University of Glasgow made a positive facial identification of the skull. Following a challenge by the applicants, the findings were confirmed by the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria .
233. Applicants Botha, Du Preez, Wasserman and Van der Westhuizen were refused amnesty for failing to make full disclosure. Applicants Radebe and Baker, who were neither present during the interrogation nor involved in the disposal of the body, were granted amnesty for her abduction.
Natal Security Branch
234. The Natal Security Branch was based in Pietermaritzburg, with branches or operatives based at Ladysmith, Greytown, Kokstad and Matatiele. Natal Security Branch operatives were also based at the Sani Pass and Boesmansnek Border Posts with Lesotho. Amongst the Branch’s divisional commanders was Brigadier Jacobus Hendrik ‘Jac’ Buchner.
235. As mentioned above, the Natal Security Branch participated in the work of the askari unit and owned one of the farms from which the unit operated. It was on this farm near Elandskop that the bodies of three abductees were exhumed.
236. Applications were received from five members of the Natal Security Branch for six incidents committed between 1980 and 1988. These incidents included four killings, an attack on a homestead belonging to an IFP member as part of establishing credibility for a source, and an attempted abduction.
237. Amnesty was granted to all applicants for all incidents excluding an attempted abduction in Swaziland.