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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 3 of Episode 80

10:35The names of Eugene de Kock, Dirk Coetzee and Joe Mamasela have become household names in South Africa the last few years. So has the name Vlakplaas, the farm where these efficient killers had their base. The secret of the so-called successful death squad was the use of a group of men and women called askaris. Let’s meet some of them.Full Transcript and References
10:49I was forced to kill my own people, the people that I devoted my life into liberating. // We believed in what we were doing as killers, we were seeing it as a war situation. // Our job was to hunt cadres, whether PAC or ANC, and we kill them. If we think they are useless, we kill them, but if we think we can arrest them we can arrest them and change them to askaris. // There was torture on a daily basis; there was killing on a daily basis. We just turned into political serial killers. We had no respect for human life and our commanders had absolutely no respect for our lives. // I didn’t know anything. They never said to me you’re going to kill people, you’re going to steal cars, you’re going to kidnap … they never said those things. // We were above the law, I mean we were untouchable. We had the backing of the upper echelons in the police and the politicians. We were above the law. Full Transcript
12:11The dramatic successes of the police anti-terrorist unit in Namibia, codenamed ‘Koevoet’ led the South African Security Police to borrow some of their methods. Among Koevoet’s most efficient killers were SWAPO guerrillas who were caught and compromised, then forced to fight their own comrades. Security police section C1 was born. Three of the most hardened South African policemen became its commanders between 1979 and 1993. Dirk Johannes Coetzee, convicted killer and amnesty applicant; Jack Johannes Jakobus Cronje, amnesty applicant for numerous cases; Eugene Alexander De Kock, 212 years sentence for murder and fraud. The nerve centre of these men’s death commando was this beautiful, scenic 44 hectare farm outside Pretoria, Vlakplaas. The secret of the success of this unit was the Koevoet recipe, but at Vlakplaas they were called ‘askaris.’Full Transcript and References
13:19It was ANC cadres that infiltrated the country on operations that were caught by the police, by the security police. Then they had the difficult option of facing court cases and long interrogation, third degree methods used, electrical shocks, smothering with a wet bag over the head or decide to work for the security police with benefits like proper pay and a luxury life on Vlakplaas. So it’s obvious, it’s human that you would choose the easy way out.Full Transcript
13:58In my opinion an askari is a racist derogatory term, because it’s used to denote only captured ANC, PAC cadres who tend to become South African Police but only black ones. // There came this guy in the name of Eugene de Kock, the one who told me first it’s either you cooperate or you die. Then he took out his pistol, it was a Parabellum. He cocked it, he shot one shot in the air, then he put it here next to my head and then said to me you stay here? You walk or you remain here, what do you say? Then I could see these guys are also drunk and he already shot one shot in the air and the next one is coming to me, that’s what he said. Then, I couldn’t do otherwise, I had to say OK guys, I’ll cooperate.Full Transcript
15:10You were recruited after being kidnapped. You were given a lot of false information promising houses, money, all those things. And some came on their own. They talk of… they were eating rats and snakes in exile and there’s a lot of tribalism in the ANC, fights amongst each other. They talk a lot of bad things about ANC.Full Transcript
15:41Vlakplaas and the askaris did become the main instrument in the killings in the 1980s and early 1990s, yes. The Mxenge killing, I mean I couldn’t walk as a white man into a black township and I would stand out like a sore finger. So you need black guys to cooperate and do the job for you and act as instrument for you. So, depending on the situation and circumstances, you need a guy who was black, you need a guy who could speak a local language, you need a guy to throw out as a front runner, to go and prepare the way and speak to and search for your specific target in a way that no one would suspect anything funny.Full Transcript
16:27Vlakplaas in my opinion was a living hell on earth; there was torture on a daily basis, there was killings on a daily basis. Full Transcript
16:37The worst part of it is that one couldn’t get out of it, you will just disappear like Ace Moema, we don’t know where he is. Many other people that were in Vlakplaas, they just disappeared. Even if you asked … if you posed a threat to the security, you’re gone.Full Transcript and References
16:52We had another two guys who were from Natal, they escaped to Swaziland and then we were given a mission to go and hunt them down, we were given false passports, a car, a hide-out compartment to hide the weapons which we are going to use there. And then they went in, we followed them, De Kock and other people, Pienaar from Piet Retief. We went in, they followed us and then there was a certain informer of Pienaar of Piet Retief; he showed us the place where the guys were. We went there, we went inside. Our order was not to bring them alive, was to shoot them, to shoot and kill them right in Swaziland.Full Transcript
17:59Askaris were never policemen, we never went to Hammanskraal. Askaris were political animals, our main crime was, we carried our revolutionary instructions to the … and in the process some of us we fell.Full Transcript
18:11Human rights lawyer and United Democratic Front activist, Griffiths Mxenge was killed by three askaris: Almond Nofemela, David Tshikalanga and the late Brian Ngqulunga. Dirk Coetzee and David Tshikalanga were convicted for the killing. Both have been granted amnesty.Full Transcript and References
18:35The intention was not to kill him brutally, it was to make the whole thing appear … it was to simulate robbery, but unfortunately on the scene of crime certain things develop that you don’t expect. Mxenge’s physical strength was undermined, but when he was stabbed, he stood up and he fought. It was a life and death struggle. It was not as if people were there and they killed Mxenge and Mxenge just lie there. He was chasing us around with our knives, you know it was like a pack of hungry wolves attacking a prey and the prey was fighting back.Full Transcript
19:21One of the most notorious askaris was Glory ‘September’ Sidebe. He aided the Vlakplaas operatives in capturing and killing MK cadres from Swaziland.Full Transcript
19:34I didn’t know by then this actual name that is Glory Sidebe, I knew him by his MK name ‘September.’ It’s a person that we have kidnapped in Swaziland, near Matsapha; it’s in the vicinity of Manzini.Full Transcript
19:48One person who fell victim to Glory Sidebe selling out was Ismael Ibrahim, an ANC political Military Committee Chairman at the time, based in Swaziland where Sidebe was abducted. // The NIS kidnapped me from Swaziland and they handed me over to the South African Security Police, so my interrogators were members of the South African Police. During one period, I remember, they brought in an askari by the name of Glory Sidebe; it was not an interrogating session, they just brought him there to show me that here, one of your ANC persons has now decided to work for the South African Police. And they said, look at him, his quite happy working for the South African Police and he has no problem. But this person was kidnapped from Swaziland, six months before I was kidnapped and the very next day or a day or two later, the South African Police raided a number of homes in Swaziland and Sidebe was with them. Full Transcript
20:53The existence of Vlakplaas was exposed by Dirk Coetzee and Almond Nofemela in a Vrye Weekblad interview in November 1989. It was met with flat denials from generals and police officers. These lies were repeated under oath to the Harms Commission of Inquiry into state death squads. Vlakplaas was only disbanded in 1993. Even at the Truth Commission hearings the apartheid politicians were denying responsibility for this unit.Full Transcript
21:28I was at no stage aware of any unit carrying out assassinations. The Vlakplaas unit as it was explained to me had a totally different objective, a totally different field of activity, I was never part as I’ve said of any decision to assassinate or murder anybody. I totally distance myself from assassination even in the fight which we had. Assassination is wrong and I would never have supported it and if I had any inclination, any indication that there were actually people committing assassinations and that there was a unit which was used for that I would have acted violently myself. Full Transcript
22:18Vlok used to come there, Commissioner van der Merwe used to come there, Kriel used to come there, Hernus Kriel used to come there at Vlakplaas, a lot of ministers used to come there.Full Transcript
22:32Here is the place which they then later built where the ministers and Basie Smit and them braaid, had their Chivas Regal whiskey, congratulated the guys where the ‘potjiekos’ was made, you can see big fireplaces. If you have all the liquor and the meat that was absorbed here you can open a bottle store and butchery for the rest of your life I can assure you that. Full Transcript
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