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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 408
Paragraph Numbers 157 to 167
The Crazy Beat Disco attack
157. Ms Gerbrecht van Wyk was shot dead and at least two other people were injured when APLA operatives fired shots through an iron grid at the entrance to the Crazy Beat Disco club in Newcastle, Natal, on 14 February 1994.
158. APLA members Walter Falibango Thanda [AM5784/97] and Andile Shiceka [AM5939/97], and PAC member Bongani Golden Malevu [AM0293/97] applied for amnesty for the attack. All three had been convicted on 26 May 1994 on charges arising from their roles in the attack. Thanda and Shiceka had been sentenced to 25 years and Malevu to ten years; both were serving prison terms at the time of their amnesty hearing.
159. In their evidence to the Amnesty Committee, the applicants testified that they had been sent by their commanders in the Transkei to Newcastle to ‘identify areas where whites gather’. They said they targeted the disco because it was frequented by white patrons. They had initially targeted a restaurant in the area. However, when they arrived at the restaurant on the night of the attack, they saw a number of black people in the vicinity and decided to attack the discotheque instead.
160. Thanda was the commander of the small unit that planned and carried out the attack. He testified that he reported to his commander ‘Power’ from time to time in order to keep him up to date with the developments. Asked why he did not question the order, he responded, ‘it was not for one to do so; if one had any question to ask, it would only be after the execution of instructions’.
161. In May or June 1993, Mr Malevu received information from a member of the High Command in Transkei that APLA would be taking its struggle to Natal. He was given arms to transport to the Newcastle area. He also helped transport the other applicants to a point where a vehicle was forcibly taken from its owner for use in the attack. Like his comrades, Malevu testified that white people were t a rgeted because they were regarded as political oppressors. If they attacked white people, the government would take them seriously; white people were the ones who could persuade the government to change.
162. The Amnesty Committee challenged the applicants on the issue of whether race was a factor in the selection of the target :
ADV PRIOR: I must put to you the question … that the reason for not attacking the restaurant and attacking the disco instead seemed to be a decision which smacked at racism. You were n ’t prepared to injure anyone other than white people. Could you comment on that? Was that part of your motivation in attacking the discotheque?
MR SHICEKA: Mr Chairman, APLA is not a racist organisation. I think you are aware that whites were oppressing us; that was the race that was oppress i n g us. We didn’t attack white people because we hated white people; we don’t hate white people. Even the documents of the PAC clearly state that those who a re accepting a democratic goal in Africa should be recognised as Africans. We didn ’t attack the Crazy Disco because we are racist. Right from the foundation of the organisation we are not a racist organisation. However, the situation in which we had to live created a conflict between a white person and a black per son: it’s not that we are racist. (Pietermaritzburg hearing, 9–11 February 1998.)
163. In his defence, Mr Shiceka argued that, although he regretted the attack, he did not regard the operation as a success, as only one person was killed. He said that whites were the only oppressors and that this is why they were targeted . For this reason, he denied that his action smacked of racism.
164. In argument, counsel for the applicants offered three reasons why the Committee should not find that the attack had been a purely racist act:
MR ARENDSE: Firstly, the applicants, on the uncontested evidence were foot soldiers carrying out orders; that is not disputed. They were not part of the APLA hierarchy or High Command which, it is well established, made the policy decisions and decided on matters of strategy. For the same reason that Brian Mitchell or Coetzee or any other ex-South African Defence Force soldier wasn’t part of the inner ...[indistinct] of Botha’s cabinet making decisions to pursue cross-border raids, etc.
Secondly, the struggle for liberation in this country inevitably had to have a racial dimension and the reason for that is quite simple and very glaring; and we d o n ’t need evidence for that because the applicants lived through it. Black people in this country lived through it who were born here. They were governed by whites; they were controlled by whites;, they were suppressed by whites, and the overwhelming majority of the white electorate voted in the same gove rnment repeatedly by, in fact, increased majorities as we moved towards the April 1994 election.
So that was an inevitable part of the history of this country. Now it’s very important that our Parliament, a democratic elected Parliament, recognised this by making the cut-off date the 10th of May 1997. It recognised, the law makers recognised, that we were engaged in a racial struggle up to that point. And the 14th of February falls within that cut-off date.
Then just thirdly, again on a parity of – because this is what this Committee must do, this is what the Commission as a whole must do is to be even-handed and to treat people in the same fashion. The apartheid government targeted overwhelmingly black people. Coetzee was told to get rid of Griffiths Mxenge and he did so very effectively. Griffiths Mxenge was a well-known human rights activist but he was a black civilian. Brian Mitchell committed the Trust Feeds murder where he killed innocent black young men, woman and children; he slaughtered them. Those were civilians and both of them got amnesty. (Hearing at Pietermaritzburg, 9–11 February 1998.)
165. The applicants expressed their remorse at the hearing and their desire to meet the family of the victim and ask for their forgiveness. They said that they wished to explain to the family that the act was carried out on instructions and that, as soldiers, they had no option but to obey them. The victim’s mother declined to attend the proceedings, preferring instead to leave the decision in the hands of the Amnesty Committee.
166. The Amnesty Committee deliberated about whether or not this was an APLA operation. It noted that two of the applicants did not live in Natal and that they had not known one another at all until they met for the purpose of carrying out the operation. This gave credence to their story that they were brought together by their military commander ‘Power’, who was known to all of them. The victims of the attack were also not known to them and they derived no personal benefit from the attack. In considering why strangers should come together and trust each other in order to plan such an operation, the Committee reached the inescapable conclusion that the operation must have been ordered and co-ordinated by APLA. The Amnesty Committee also noted that, at a meeting in Umtata before the incident (the meeting at which Malevu was given the weapons used), the PAC had passed a resolution not to suspend the armed struggle. Despite this, it accepted that APLA was autonomous in military matters.
167. Mr Walter Falibango Thanda, Mr Bongani Golden Malevu and Mr Andile Shiceka [AM5939/97] were granted amnesty for the attack [AC/1998/0016].