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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 418

Paragraph Numbers 202 to 218

Volume 6

Section 3

Chapter 4

Subsection 18

Attacks on farms

202. The Committee received a total of twenty-seven applications from PAC and APLA members for attacks on farms, all committed between 1990 and 1993. A total of twelve people were killed and thirteen injured in these attacks. The Amnesty Committee granted all but four of the applications.

Attack on Mr RJ Fourie on the farm ‘Stormberg’

203. PAC/APLA members Hendrik Leeuw, Daniel Magoda, Meshack May and Sebolai Petrus Nkgwedi applied for amnesty for the robbery and killing of Mr Roelof Johannes Fourie on the farm ‘Stormberg’ in the district of Verkeerdevlei, Orange Free State, on 12 February 1992.211

204. The Committee heard testimony that, during 1991, the PAC and APLA launched their ‘Operation Great Storm’, in terms of which APLA operatives were instructed to attack and to instil fear in farmers. The applicants testified that the purpose was to drive the white farming community from their farms in order ‘to get the land back’. During November 1991, APLA Commander Jan Shoba (now deceased) instructed the applicants to carry out attacks on farmers in the vicinity of Botshabelo, Tweespruit and Ve r k e e rdevlei. He supplied them with a .38 special revolver for this purpose.

211 Volume Three, Chapter Fo u r, p. 3 8 0 .

205. The farm of Mr RJJ Fourie was identified as a target by Mr Leeuw and Mr Nkgwedi: Mr Nkgwedi had grown up on the farm. The four applicants went onto the farm property and observed Mr Fourie and his companion leaving, apparently on their way to town. They also noticed that Mr Fourie had left the gate open. The applicants closed the gate so that, on his return, Mr Fourie would be obliged to stop and open it. They then positioned themselves in the bushes adjacent to the gate and waited for the couple to return. When Mr Fourie stopped to open the gate as anticipated, one of the applicants shot him in the back of his head. His companion, Mrs May, remained in the car, which the attackers then drove to the farmhouse.

206. The applicants searched the house and stole two firearms, money, watches, a camera and numerous personal belongings. After tying up Mrs May and disconnecting the telephone and radio, they drove off in the deceased’s car.

207. The Amnesty Committee received a submission from Mrs Margot Penstone, who stated that the deceased was not involved in party politics and was a progressive farmer who had assisted his farm workers to improve their stock, housed them in brick houses with running hot and cold water, built a school for their children on the farm and provided them with a soccer field. She added that she believed the murder to have been a purely criminal act. In this, she was supported by Mrs May, who stated in an affidavit that the applicants had repeatedly asked her where the money was kept and said that they were only interested in valuable articles. Mrs May and Mrs Penstone did not give evidence before the Committee, so the applicants’ counsel did not have the opportunity to cross-examine them on these claims.

208. The applicants testified that they were instructed to take the property and hand it over to their commander, Mr Jan Shoba, who would sell it in order to obtain money for their struggle. They had also intended to hand the vehicle to him. However, they testified that they were arrested two days after the robbery and before they had had the opportunity to hand the property over. The applicants w e re all convicted and sentenced to terms of between nine and fifteen years’ imprisonment.

209. In making its decision, the Amnesty Committee first considered Mr Nkgwedi’s involvement in the attack and whether, having grown up on the farm, he might have been motivated by ill-will or personal malice. In reaching a decision on this issue, the Committee concluded that an act that was, or may have been, motivated by a personal grievance could, nonetheless, qualify for amnesty where there was also a strong political motive. Therefore, although there was some evidence of a personal motive in Nkgwedi’s case, the fact that the applicant would have killed any white person in furtherance of official APLA policy meant that the political motive for the attack outweighed the personal.

210. The Amnesty Committee further accepted that, in both their submissions and oral evidence to the Commission, the PAC and APLA had stated that ‘Operation Great Storm’ involved the killing of farmers and the stealing of weapons. It also noted that, while the PAC had stated that it was opposed to armed robbery, it had also referred to ‘repossession’ and to the existence of ‘repossession units’. The Committee felt that it was by no means clear about the distinction between ‘ robbery’ and ‘repossession’, save that in the case of repossession the proceeds would be handed over to the Commander to be used to further APLA’s goals.

No distinction was drawn between what might have been property for military use and property taken for personal gain. The Committee is there fore faced with the dilemma that the act does not authorise us to grant amnesty in respect of a portion of a sentence. Having found that the murder of Mr Fourie and the robbery of the fire arms were offences associated with a political objective, the Committee is obliged to grant amnesty in respect thereof. No provision is made in the Act for dealing with offences which have elements of criminality as well as political motivation in it. [AC/1999/297.]

211. Amnesty was granted to Messrs Hendrik Leeuw, Daniel Magoda, Meshack May and Sebolai Petrus Nkgwedi [AC/1999/0297].

The killing of Mr John Bernard Smith

212. Mr Jacob T Mabitsa [AM5178/97], Mr Petrus T Mohapi [AM1167/97], Mr Thabo Paulus Mtjikelo [AM1249/96], Mr Simon T Olifant [AM5177/97], Mr John Wa -Nthoba [AM2997/96] and Mr John Xhiba [AM1215/96] applied for amnesty for the killing of Mr John Bern a rd Smith on 25 July 1993 on his farm at Wesselsdal in the district of Vanstadensrus in the Eastern Cape.

213. The applicants also stole a motor vehicle, three firearms, various pieces of equipment and clothing, two bottles of liquor and a sum of cash. Mohapi, Oliphant and Mtjikelo were convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to an effective 25 years’ imprisonment. The other applicants were convicted only on the charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances and were each sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.

214. The applicants testified that they left Botshabelo for Wesselsdal on the 23 July 1993 with the intention of carrying out the attack. They called this off because of the presence of visitors on the farm. On 25 July, Mjikelo, Mohapi, Oliphant and Xhiba went back to the farm and approached Mrs Smith with a request forpet rol, saying that their car had run out of fuel. Mrs Smith called her husband who said he would help them to syphon some petrol from his car. Mr Smith gave Xhiba his store room key and asked him to fetch a container and a pipe.

215. The other three applicants accompanied Smith to the garage and, while he was syphoning petrol from the car, Mohapi stabbed him in the back. Mr Smith fell to the ground and Oliphant stabbed him in the chest and other parts of his body, ultimately inflicting approximately nine wounds. The attackers then searched the house, seizing three guns and a small amount of cash. They tied Mrs Smith up and locked her in a ward robe. They then took possession of the Smiths’ Mercedes Benz for use in future operations.

216. Oliphant confirmed the evidence and testified that it was the objective of the PAC to wage the struggle for the return of land to the African people, which was why he was involved in that operation. When it was pointed out to Oliphant that the attack took place while negotiations were underway at Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) in which the PAC was a participant, Oliphant stated that the PAC had not suspended the armed struggle and that, while the negotiations continued, operations were conducted in order to put pressure on the government to give in to the demands of the liberation movements.

217. The applicants called Mr Lerato Abel Kotle, the regional commander of APLA in Bloemfontein, to give evidence about ‘Operation Great Storm’. Khotle explained that ‘Operation Storm’ was intended as a means of intensifying the armed struggle and was decided upon by APLA’s military commission, which included the political leadership of the PAC and the military leadership of APLA. He described the attacks on farmers as one of the phases of the campaign. The PAC believed that the farming community had participated in the dispossession of the African people and that farmers were beneficiaries of the land taken away from the Africans.

218. The Amnesty Committee accepted the contention that the applicants had committed the offences believing they were advancing the struggle being waged by their political organisation with the aim of returning the land to the African people. The offences committed were, therefore, acts associated with a political objective. The possession of the pistol and knives used for carrying out the operation was also associated with a political objective. Amnesty was granted to the applicants [AC/1998/0020].

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