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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 434
Paragraph Numbers 284 to 293
284. F rom 1989, APLA cadres were infiltrated into the country and established asself - reliant, easily-manageable and controllable task force units of no more than three guerrillas. They consisted of a political commissar, whose brief was to make sure that all operations enhanced the PA C ’s political positions and ideology; a cadre in charge of securing logistics whenever needed, and a commander who was in charge of the military aspects of operations.
285. The political commissars were the first to be infiltrated to occupy certain positions inside the country, followed by the logistic personnel and then the commanders, who were ‘the actual fighters’.
286. APLA based reconnaissance units all over the frontline states. Inside the country, however, the political commissars, whose task was generally to pave the way for the entry of the fighters, also had to do the major reconnaissance work. As part of APLA’s all-round training, cadres were equipped to perform any tasks at any given time and situation. It was the commissars who had to answer to the Military Commission in the event of mishaps arising in the course of operations.
287. According to the testimony of Mr Vuma Ntikinca, an APLA operative in the Transkei at the time, this modus operandi made the APLA units:
more slippery, more mobile and more efficient in an encounter with a big arm y. These units were independent of each other. They selected their own targets and they did not face any dangers of their operations and movements being known by the enemy as a result of the capture of one cadre or the whole unit, or as a result of enemy infiltration at headquarters. These tiny units also had the advantage of depriving the enemy of the opportunity of using heavy weaponry. It was easier for us acquiring small and light weapons that suited the size of the units, which could not be easily detected. In the latter part of the operations, though, APLA forces had expanded into much bigger units which were now using rocket launchers such as RPG7s and other weaponry. (Interview with the Commission. )
288. The units were deployed in a manner that ensured that they had no contact with one another. They reported directly to APLA’s headquarters in Tanzania after an operation had been carried out. If serious political repercussions arose from any one military operation, it was the political commissars who answered to the Military Commission, explaining any deviation from PAC ideology, strategy and programme.
289. Local commanders in small units were given a fair degree of autonomy in selecting targets, undertaking reconnaissance, procuring arms and establishing tactics for APLA operations. Once a target had been selected, however, a local commander would have to seek authorisation from a regional commander or some superior official. According to the evidence presented in amnesty hearings, this was generally done.
290. The operational planning of an attack was the task of the commander of the unit assigned to it. As will be clear from the operations described earlier in this chapter, a feature common to most was the fact that the foot soldiers were briefed on the details only moments before they were launched. They were deliberately kept in the dark and prevented by APLA’s operational code fro m asking questions about the proposed attack. Nor were they at liberty to question the instructions they received. The Amnesty Committee repeatedly heard applicants say that it was not their place to question the instructions or the legitimacy of o p e rations .
291. Applicant Andile Shiceka told the Committee that APLA soldiers on the ground had no capacity either to determine or influence policy. They were merely expected to obey orders. They did not participate in making or changing policy in respect of target selection, but simply followed instructions. Many applicants told the Committee that they would never have questioned the orders given to them. They had been trained never to question an order or instruction. A disciplined member of the army would simply carry out the ord e r. Defying an ord e r would be tantamount to ‘mutiny’ within the army ranks.
Early 1990s: APLA repossession units
292. Mr Patrick Thapelo Maseko [AM5918/97] told the Committee that, after receiving PAC training outside the country between 1983 and 1989, he re - entered the country as a member of APLA and was deployed to a repossession unit code-named ‘Beauty Salon’:
I was deployed inside the country with specific instructions to advance the struggle for the liberation of African people in all fronts. We were told that the PAC and APLA have no funds and therefore the cadres should be self-re l i a n t . We were told that the targets will be chosen by us. This unit there fore was called ‘Repossession Unit’. This was the first unit to be sent in the country for this purpose, though we were to conduct other operations. (Statement to the C o m mission . )
293. Maseko was involved in commanding at least twenty-eight operations. Initially, he reported to a man called Msiki in Botswana via a courier code-named ‘General’. Later he reported to Mr Letlapa Mphahlele who had returned to South Africa as part of the APLA High Command after the unbanning of organisations in February 1990. He was expected to hand over to Msiki whatever had been repossessed by the unit, with the exception of arms and ammunition, which he retained for further use by operatives. If the money obtained was less than R3 000, the unit used it to conduct further operations. According to the evidence before the Amnesty Committee, the ‘Beauty Salon’ unit was responsible for the theft of over R40 550. In 1991, over R532 000 was stolen.