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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 415

Paragraph Numbers 182 to 201

Volume 6

Section 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 17

Armed ambushes

182. Other attacks on civilians took the form of armed ambushes on vehicles. These attacks, ascribed to APLA, became the subject of bitter dispute between the Transkei and South African governments, with South Africa accusing Transkei of harbouring APLA members and providing them with weapons and training. The Commission received no statements or amnesty applications in connection with such training or provision of weaponry.

Attack on a Translux bus, Beaufort West

183. APLA member Mr Thembinkosi Henge [AM6137/97] applied for amnesty for an armed attack on a Translux bus at or near the Gamka River Bridge in Beaufort West on 27 August 1993. Eight people were injured in the attack.

184. Mr Henge testified that he received orders from his commander, the late Mr Sichumiso Nonxuba, to attack a Translux bus that passed through Beaufort West on its way to Johannesburg. Two buses apparently travelled that route , and the applicant had to decide which of them to attack. He eventually chose the midnight bus as it entailed a lower probability of detection and offered a better opportunity for retreat .

185. The applicant was ordered to collect firearms and ammunition from the Ngangelizwe location in Umtata. He collected two R4 rifles and five loaded magazines and returned to Beaufort West. After approximately two weeks, he was informed that a certain ‘Mandla’ (an alias) would be sent from Umtata to assist in the operation. When Mandla arrived, Henge showed him the layout of the area and briefed him about the plan for the attack.

186. The next day, 27 August 1993, Mandla and Henge fired a magazine at the bus. In total, approximately fifty shots were fired. Although they had intended shooting the driver so that the bus would crash off the bridge and into the river below, they missed him altogether, even though they fired at the front of the bus. Eight people were injured in the attack and all the occupants of the bus were traumatised and shocked by the incident.

187. Under cross-examination, the applicant conceded that he had previously been a supporter of the ANC, having become politicised at the age of ten. He said he had decided to join the PAC because he preferred its policies and was not happy with the progress of national negotiations. He expressed his regret at what had happened.

188. In reaching its decision, the Amnesty Committee noted that the attack took place when most political parties were engaged in negotiations, but that the PAC had not yet abandoned the armed struggle. The applicant was a member of APLA and had received an order to attack the bus. The arms and ammunition used in the attack were supplied by APLA and the orders came from Mr Nonxuba, who was at that time a member of APLA’s High Command.

189. The applicant felt obliged to carry out the order, which he believed would speed up the negotiation process and make whites understand that the PAC was serious about its position. His actions were, therefore, found to be associated with a political objective as defined by the Act, and the application was granted [AC/2000/167].

Ambush of a vehicle near Zastron

190. Mr Luyanda Humphrey Gqomfa [AM0949/96] applied for amnesty for the ambush of a vehicle travelling from Zastron to Sterkspruit in the Orange Free State on 18 March 1992.

191. The victims lived in Zastron and travelled daily to Sterkspruit, where they were running a furniture business. Mr Fanie Smith was shot dead in the attack while he lay injured next to the car. Mr Deon Martins was seriously injured in the left hand and his finger was subsequently amputated. Mr Ben Maliehe and Mr Andrew Lategan Franzsen escaped the ambush unhurt and were able to flee from the scene.

192. Though APLA commander Mr Letlapa Mphahlele was listed as a co-applicant, it became clear during the hearing that he had no intention of participating in the proceedings. His counsel Mr Lungelo Mbandazayo made a number of attempts to secure his co-operation and attendance, but to no avail. As a result, his application lapsed.

193. Mr Gqomfa testified that, as a member of APLA, he had received military training in exile and then returned to the country, where he carried out various operations on behalf of the organisation. He received orders in respect of all these operations f rom the High Command of APLA, most often from Mr Mphahlele, who was A P L A’s Director of Operations at the time.

194. At the time of the incident, Gqomfa was being harboured at a house in Sterkspruit, secured for him by Mphahlele. Whilst he was there, Mphahlele and another APLA member, Ben Wakumzi (an alias), took him to a meeting with a group of APLA operatives.

195. Mphahlele ordered them to attack white travellers along the Mayaputhi road near the Sterkspruit bridge. In order to acquire a vehicle, Gqomfa and two other operatives went to Ndofela Village where they robbed Mr Nkopane Johannes Lesia of his Isuzu 2200 Diesel Bakkie.

196. Lesia reported the incident to the police and later received a report that his vehicle had been found. He told the police that, on the afternoon of 18 Marc h 1992, he was on his way from Palmietfontein (where he lived) to Ditapoleng village. As he drove past Ndofela village, he saw three black men standing next to a small bridge. They were all armed and fired shots to force him stop. They told him that they were freedom fighters and needed his car ‘for the struggle’ and gave him R20 so he could travel to work.

197. After robbing Lesia of his vehicle, Gqomfa and his comrades proceeded to the Mayaputhi road near Sterkspruit bridge. Here they found that Mphahlele was in charge of the operation. When Smith and the other victims approached, Mphahlele opened fire. The others followed suit. The vehicle stopped immediately and Martins, Maliehe and Franzsen alighted and fled the scene. Smith was injured and fell to the ground next to the vehicle, unable to flee. Mphahlele ordered Gqomfa to shoot Smith, which he did.

198. At the hearing, Gqomfa expressed his regrets at the shooting but said that he had had no choice as he was carrying out orders.

199. The Amnesty Committee found that Gqomfa was a member of the PAC and APLA and that he had acted in terms of these organisations’ policies and objectives. The Committee accepted that APLA was still engaged in the armed struggle at the time and that it regarded all whites as supporters of the government. The Committee found that Gqomfa had acted under the orders of Mphahlele, that the offences and acts applied for were acts associated with a political objective and that the applicant had made full disclosure of all relevant facts. He was granted amnesty [AM0949/96].

Eikenhof attack

200. Mr Phila Martin Dolo [AM3485/97] applied for amnesty for the killing of Ms Zandra Mitchley, her son Shaun and Claire Silberbauer, as well as the attempted killing of Mr Norman Mitchley and Craig Lamprecht. The victims were shot while driving in their vehicle in the Eikenhof area of Johannesburg on 19 March 1993. Three ANC members were arrested and later convicted of the attack, for which two were sentenced to death and the third was given a long term of imprisonment.

201. However, in 1997, Mr Dolo asserted in his amnesty application that the attack had been an APLA operation, conducted by four APLA operatives known only by their codenames. Mr Dolo had given the orders for the attack, originally aimed at a school bus carrying what he termed ‘settler school children’. The four attackers were unable to carry out the attack and instead opened fire on the Mitchley’s vehicle. The sentenced ANC members were released from prison in November 1999. Mr Dolo was granted amnesty [AC/2000/147].

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