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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 2 of Episode 83

16:10From one cover up to another. In Port Elizabeth this week the Truth Commission’s Amnesty Committee met to hear applications from seven security policemen who were responsible for the 1985 deaths of a group of Eastern Cape leaders who have become known as the Cradock Four.Full Transcript and References
16:08At the beginning of 1985 the Eastern Cape was on fire. Mass meetings, marches and boycotts had resulted in a partial state of emergency. Dozens were detained as the state tried to quell the growing defiance. Three weeks before the declaration of a national state of emergency in July the burnt and mutilated bodies of Cradock High School principle Matthew Goniwe and three comrades were found in a deserted beach area outside Port Elizabeth. Police said circumstances surrounding their deaths were unclear.Full Transcript and References
16:42In another incident of physical violence two United Democratic Front committee members had been stabbed and set alight after an attack on their car between Cradock and Port Elizabeth. A police spokesman has named the two murdered men as Mr Sparrow Mkonto of Cradock and Mr Sicelo Mhlauli of Oudtshoorn. The body of one of the men was found near the burnt out car and the other was found some distance away. Two other passengers in the car, both members of an affiliated organisation of the UDF are still missing.Full Transcript
17:16An inquest in 1989 found that the men had been killed by a person or persons unknown. The deaths of the Cradock Four, as they came to be known, remained shrouded in mystery until May ’92 when the New Nation newspaper published a document said to be a military signal that called for the permanent removal of Matthew Goniwe from society. Two more inquests simply added more questions to those that remained unanswered. This week, the man who carried out the killings, Johan Martin van Zyl, told the amnesty committee that he was carrying out the orders of his superior, Col Nicholas Janse van Rensburg.Full Transcript
17:56Col Van Rensburg words to me were that a drastic plan should be made very quickly with these particular people and that I accepted to mean that they should be eliminated.Full Transcript
18:17Sakkie van Zyl, former member of Koevoet and then a captain said he was also given details on how the attack should be carried out. // Will you please tell about that? // Col Van Rensburg proposed or gave order that the attack should appear as if it was a vigilante or AZAPO attack, in other words we should use sharp objects to eliminate these individuals and that we should burn their bodies with petrol. Full Transcript and References
18:57On the night of June 26, 1985 Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparrow Mkonto were on their way back to Cradock after attending a meeting in Port Elizabeth. Just before midnight they were pulled off the road by three security policemen Capt Sakkie van Zyl, Lt Eric Taylor and Sgt Gerhardus Lotz.Full Transcript
19:24We then got them out of the vehicle, we asked them to get out of the vehicle and we handcuffed all four of them. // How did you cuff them? // By means of handcuffs, with their hands behind their backs. And we then loaded them into Lt Taylor’s vehicle and two of them into my vehicle and Sgt Lotz then drove their vehicle and one activist also accompanied him.Full Transcript
20:02In the early hours of June 27th 1985 the three security policemen drove their soon to be victims to this secluded spot just outside of Port Elizabeth. They were ordered out of the car. With their cuffs still on they were executed one by one. Petrol was poured over their bodies and set alight. Full Transcript
20:22Mr van Zyl, 63 stab wounds were inflicted on the four people you murdered on the night of the 27th 1985. Do you agree with the District Surgeon’s report with that? // I cannot disagree with that Mr Chairman. // Do you agree that the 63 stab wounds is evidence of barbaric conduct? // Mr Chairman, in retrospect, absolutely. The fact is though that instruction was that this killing should look like a vigilante attack and that a more humane way of doing it would not have had the same effect. // Does your answer mean that you were prepared to behave like a savage barbarian in order to mislead anyone that bothered to investigate the murders that you had committed? // In effect, yes Mr Chairman. I thought at the time that I could do it and it turned out that I personally was not able to do it myself.Full Transcript
21:53In his testimonies Sakkie van Zyl named three other men as those who actually carried out the murders, two of them were security policemen, WO Glen Mgoduka and Sgt Amos Faku, the third was an askari, Sheperd Shakati. All three were killed in a car bomb explosion at Motherwell in 1989.Full Transcript and References
22:15I told Faku that we had to stab him with a knife. Mr Faku and the other two members then all took part in that; they all stabbed the corpse using knives. They then took petrol from my vehicle, it was in a petrol can. They poured it over the body and set it alight.Full Transcript
22:48Sakkie van Zyl was not able to tell the Committee in what order the Cradock Four had been killed or why the bodies and the car were set alight in four different locations. But he did explain why he thought his actions had a purpose.Full Transcript
23:00How did you think by killing these four gentlemen it would serve the interest of the Republic of South Africa? // Along with the instruction that I received Mr Chairman I was convinced at the time the elimination of these people would bring about stability in the area. It was not my decision but I agreed with it. // Why did you do it? // Mr Chairman I’ve asked myself that question many times. // Well, let’s hear your answer. // I think at that time I was just so motivated that I was prepared to do anything for this country, which is in retrospect it was misplaced, but I have no other real explanation than that. // Would these killings have occurred without you being told or ordered to do so? // No Mr Chairman. // Your application indicates that you committed these crimes as a result of being ordered to do so by Col Snyman, Lt-Col Van Rensburg and Col Du Plessis. // That’s correct. // Is that the truth? // That is the truth Mr Chairman. // You were at liberty to refuse to do so ...moreFull Transcript
25:22Van Zyl was ordered by his immediate superior, Lt-Gen Nic van Rensburg who in turn said he received his order from the commander of the Eastern Cape security branch, Col Harold Snyman.Full Transcript
25:36Mr Snyman told me that he had a private conversation with Mr Le Grange and that Le Grange had told him that the situation in the Eastern Province needed attention and should be addressed. He wanted to know why these people weren’t being prosecuted, what the problem was and why people responsible for the violence could not be brought to court. Mr Snyman apparently answered that lawful action simply had no effect any longer and that witnesses were simply not obtainable as a result of the intimidation and that the other options such as detention etc. were no longer effective because it simply led to an escalation in the violence. // So we’re talking about restriction orders, detention without trial, banning etcetera. // Yes. // What else did he say? // He told me that Mr Le Grange told him, well then you should make some other drastic plan.Full Transcript
27:14Harold Snyman is seriously ill. The amnesty committee’s doctors are checking on his ability to testify. The amnesty committee also considered the role of the Eastern Cape Joint Management council, a body which coordinated the enforcement of security in the area. The JMC or GBS consisted of military as well as security police members and had an information gathering unit called the GIS.Full Transcript
27:38Your evidence was that Col Snyman reported that there was discussion at the JMC in which the Defence Force people put in the JMC, put the security police under pressure and suggested that the security police were unable to stabilize the position. Do you recall that? // Yes. // Now ... of this information that was furnished to the Committee under oath whether that clearly indicates that the persons you refer to as Cradock Four in inverted commas, the question was discussed at GBS meetings and the information available to the GBS was made available to you when you decided to recommend the elimination of this persons. // I don’t know about any information which the JMC gave to us and that we reacted on information coming from the JMC.Full Transcript
29:03 The JMC had decided to act against the recommendation by the education department to reinstate Matthew Goniwe as principle of his high school in Cradock. This committee was the so called source of the death signal, signed by the JMC chairman, Brig Joffel van der Westhuysen. Last year the TRC heard from the families of the Cradock Four. They told of their suffering and loss of their loved ones. They also had many questions to ask.Full Transcript
29:33They chopped off his right hand. We buried him without his right hand. We don’t know what they did with it. // Ms Mhlauli what do you think about the evidence that you’ve heard over the last four days? // My impression about the evidence that I’ve been listening to throughout these days is only about lies, more especially on the part of my husband they were making fabricated lies right through trying to paint him black much as they can, according to them. And this gives me an impression that they’re not really asking for pardon more than wanting to just save their skins.Full Transcript
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