SABC News | Sport | TV | Radio | Education | TV Licenses | Contact Us

TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 97

Paragraph Numbers 207 to 210

Volume 2

Chapter 2

Subsection 23


Assassinations, ambushes and abductions
Not even South Africa’s borders stopped them … Nobody had been safe anywhere in the world. (Former Vlakplaas Commander Eugene de Kock’s trial evidence in mitigation, 8 October 1996.)

207 The cases examined below do not reflect all the incidents known to the Commission. Moreover, the cases dealt with here were not all directly referred to the Commission; some are cases about which the Commission acquired information in the course of its work. The attempt to kill Mr Bafana Duma is included because it represents the first case known to the Commission of an attempted assassination of an ANC chief representative.

208 In their forays into foreign territories, the SADF and the security police did not operate alone. Aiding and abetting them was a formidable intelligence and operational infrastructure. This was comprised of five main elements:

a Sympathetic governments like those of Swaziland and Malawi, as well as Lesotho after the military coup of 1986, when a joint security task force (veiligheidswerkgroep) was set up with representatives of the SAP security police and MI, and the Basotho Police and Defence Force. A similar level of co-operation existed with Swazi security.

In his testimony to the Commission, Colonel Christo Nel, the one-time head of the DCC’s target-development section, stated that from 1986/7 MI had “a permanent presence in Swaziland and we had a permanent interrogation centre outside Mbabane … captured or arrested MK soldiers were taken there by the Swazis and we were given the opportunity to interrogate them”.15

b Sympathetic security officials of governments less inclined to co-operation than those above. A prominent example here is the one-time commissioner of police in Botswana, Mr Simon Hirshfeldt, who, though not an agent, is said to have worked closely with the security police in Zeerust.

c Sympathisers amongst the residents of neighbouring states who were prepared to share information with and otherwise assist South African security. This applied, for example, to some white expatriates. A number of amnesty applicants from the South African security police have talked of help in the form of free accommodation at hotels and free meals at restaurants. They have told, too, of farmers whose properties abutted South African territory and who allowed security operatives through their fences. In an amnesty hearing, an eastern Cape security policeman, Colonel Barend du Plessis [AM4384/96] testified how their work in relation to Lesotho was facilitated by an informer network in the Maseru office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Further, there were police members in the BLS states who worked with South African security operatives for payment.

The extent of the above support should not be generalised. Firstly, a significant minority of whites aided the liberation movements. Similarly, while many Swazi, Basotho and Batswana citizens aided South African security, many citizens of those countries helped members of the liberation movements, often at considerable personal cost.

d Agents and informers operating from within the ranks of the liberation movements. The vast majority of these were coerced in some way into ‘turning’. Others were deployed to penetrate the liberation movements from outside.

e Professional spies operating under cover in the region and internationally. Craig Williamson, Section G deputy head in the early to mid-1980s, ran an extensive African and international spy network. Its African base was in Malawi and was headed by amnesty applicant Captain ‘Vic’ McPherson [AM7040/97]. Its focus was Zambia and Tanzania.

Amongst the amnesty applicants for the London ANC bombing are two operatives who at various times ran Williamson’s European operation out of Brussels and London respectively. Recruited into that network were South African students studying abroad, a ranking Dutch police officer, some European journalists and a journalist working for the BBC World Service. Not only was the head of the Spanish anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s an apartheid agent, but the organisation was set up at Williamson’s suggestion and funded by his section. As head of a European anti-apartheid national group, the Spanish head became part of the broader European anti-apartheid family, thereby allowing for the penetration of South African intelligence.

Zimbabwe was also extensively penetrated by both NIS agents and double agents operating from within Zimbabwe’s security service. In a particularly notable case, South African MI infiltrated a DCC operative, Mr Nigel Barnett (aka Henry William Bacon, Nicho Esslin and HW Otto) into Mozambique in 1983. He was still operating there under cover fourteen years later. Other networks were developed in Zambia and South West Africa by DCC operative Geoffrey Burton Price.

209 Despite this array of intelligence resources, a striking feature of the cases presented below is the high number of instances in which the victim or target of the violation turned out to have been the wrong one. The Bheki Mlangeni case is perhaps the best known.

210 Before moving to the individual cases, it should finally be noted that findings are not made on those cases where there were amnesty applications or decisions pending at the time of reporting, or where there was no corroborated evidence to support a finding.

15 Transcript, section 29 hearing,15 April 1998, p. 85.
Broadcasting for Total Citizen Empowerment
SABC © 2021