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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 395
Paragraph Numbers 112 to 125
Attack on St James’ Church, Kenilworth
112. Eleven people were killed and fifty-eight wounded when APLA operatives opened fire with automatic rifles and threw hand grenades at worshippers in St James’ Church, Kenilworth in Cape Town, at approximately 019h30 on 25 July 1 9 9 3 .2 0 6206 Volume Two, Chapter Seven , p.686 , and Volume Three, Chapter Five, p. 505 .
113. Those killed were Mr Guy Javens [CT00620/SOU], Ms Denise Gordon [CT01124/SOU], Ms Marita Ackerman [CT02922/SOU], Mr Richard O’Kill [CT03029/SOU], Ms Myrtle Smith [CT03029/SOU], Mr Gerhard Harker, Mr Wesley Harker, Mr Oleg Karamjin, Mr Andrey Kayl, Mr Valuev Pavel and Mr Valentin Varaska. The last four were Russian sailors.
114. PAC/APLA members Mr Gcinikhaya Makoma [AM0164/96], Mr Bassie Mzukisi Mkhumbuzi [AM6140/97] and Mr Tobela Mlambisi [AM7596/97] applied for amnesty for the attack [AC/1998/018]. Mr Letlapa Mphahlele, who initially applied for amnesty for the same incident, failed to appear at the hearing. On the second day of the hearing, the Amnesty Committee heard via the press that his failure to appear at the hearing was in protest against the Commission’s lack of objectivity. Mr Mphahlele’s application was accordingly set aside.
115. At the hearing on 9 July 1997, Mr Mkhumbuzi testified that his unit leader, the late Mr Sichumiso Nonxuba, had selected the target because ‘whites were using churches to oppress blacks’ and whites ‘took our country using churches and bibles. We know and we have read from books that they are the ones who have taken the land from us’. The applicants testified before the Amnesty Committee that killing white people would ‘put pressure on the white government to return the land to the African people’.
116. The Amnesty Committee heard testimony that Makoma and Mlambisi stole a vehicle on Nonxuba’s orders on 25 July 1993. The applicants testified that they had no prior knowledge of the operation until they actually arrived at the c h u rch. Although the target was not disclosed, the unit prepared for the attack during the week before it took place. Mkhumbuzi was instructed to travel to the Transkei to procure weapons and ammunition from members of the APLA High Command. He was given two R4 rifles, 365 rounds of R4 ammunition, three M26 hand grenades and R200. He took these in a bag to a house in Khayelitsha and reported this to Nonxuba. The day before the attack he was ordered to prepare four petrol bombs for use in an operation that was to take place the following day. This he duly did.
117. At 18h00 the attackers convened at a taxi rank and drove to the church. Nonxuba still did not reveal any details about the target but simply told the others that Mkhumbuzi would be ‘security’, Mlambisa the driver, and that Nonxuba and Makoma would enter the target building. Makoma testified as follows:
When we entered the church, Nonxuba led the way and as we entered we were in a passage which led to the main doors. People were walking up and down the passage. We left off the passage for a few seconds and then Nonxuba said we will enter through the main doors. Nonxuba then told me to throw the hand-grenade and to shoot to kill. Nonxuba led the way and we then burst through the doors of the church. Nonxuba first threw his hand grenade (he was on my left hand side) and then I threw mine. As the hand grenades exploded, we took cover behind the doors, re - e n t e red and, while the people inside were screaming , we started to shoot. We shot indiscriminately and I finished my full R4 magazine, some thirty-one rounds of ammunition. We had also heard a shot outside and a car screeching. We went back into the passage to re-load for our later protection. Inside the church one of the churchgoers had also fired at us… (Cape Town hearing, 9 July 1997.
118. When they came out of the building, Mkhumbuzi was supposed to throw the p e t rol bombs into the church. He did not do so because
I heard a grenade and gunshots and then saw a red car stopping in front of us, apparently to block us. I got out of the car and threw a petrol bomb at the car and Mlambisa got out and shot at the car causing the car to speed away. Then Nonxuba and Makoma came out of the church, jumped into the car and we immediately sped away. (Cape Town hearing, 9 July 1997.)
119. After the attack, Mlambisi drove the operatives to a house in Ottery where he left Nonxuba and Makoma. He and Mkhumbusi then drove to a nearby scrapyard, left the car there and returned to the house on foot. Later that night, they saw a CNN television report about what had happened in the church .
120. Makoma was arrested on 5 August 1993. He was charged and convicted on eleven charges of murder and fifty-eight charges of attempted murder and sentenced to 237 years’ imprisonment. The trial court found that a palm print on the interior surface of the left rear window of the stolen car linked Makoma to the crime. Bloodstains on the print were of the same blood group as Makoma’s. DNA tests showed a very high degree of probability that the blood found in the Datsun was his.
121. Mlambisi returned to the Transkei when he heard of Makoma’s arrest. He himself was arrested at Tempe, Bloemfontein, on 25 January 1996. Mkhumbuzi, who had also returned to the Transkei, was arrested in February 1996 while already in custody in connection with a charge of armed robbery.
1 2 2 . Mr Dawie Ackerman, whose wife was killed in the attack, opposed their amnesty applications. There was also opposition from Mr Lorenzo Smith and Mr Dimitri Makogon, who had lost an arm and both legs in the attack. Both Messrs Ackerman and Smith argued that the applicants had not fully disclosed the nature of the facts of their participation in the attack and, further, that the
offences were disproportionate to the political objectives of the PA C .
1 2 3 . They also contended that, because APLA’s Director of Information denied at the time that the attack was an APLA operation, it could not have accorded with the political objectives of the PAC. Furthermore, they pointed out that Mr Barney Desai of the PAC had accused the so-called ‘third force’ of mischievously connecting the attack with the PA C ’s military wing in order to derail negotiations which were then underway and in which the PAC was a participant.
124. The Amnesty Committee considered these arguments but concluded that many political parties or liberation movements could have decided to deny involvement in this incident because they might have considered it strategically and politically wise and expedient to do so, and that accordingly the statements distancing the organisation from the attack needed to be viewed within the political context that prevailed at the time.
In our view what is of cardinal importance is the fact that both the PAC and APLA have acknowledged in their submissions to the TRC in 1996 and 1997 respectively that the St James attack was one of the authorised operations carried out by APLA. [AC/1998/0018.]
1 2 5 . The victims also disputed the legitimacy of APLA’s claim that it had directed the attack against a white congregation in a white suburb of Cape Town. According to Mr Ackerman, the congregation was about ‘35 to 40 per cent people of colour and the others so-called whites’ on the night of the attack. However, counsel for the applicants argued that the operatives had assumed that all the c h u rchgoers would be white because St James was in a white group area, but that they had obviously been wrong in their assumption. Mr Arendse, for the applicants, went on to say:
We will also submit that the acts were performed in the execution of an APLA High Command order; that having regard to the political context at the time, that the offences were directly proportionate to the political objectives sought to be achieved by APLA and lastly, Mr Chairman, that the offences were not committed for personal gain and were not done out of personal malice, ill-will or spite against any of the deceased or the victims concerned. (Cape Town hearing, 9 July 1997.)