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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 212

Paragraph Numbers 187 to 195

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 21

187 After several queries from Bopape’s lawyers as to his whereabouts, the SAP informed them that he had escaped. On 13 July 1988, then Lieutenant General Johan van der Merwe, head of the Security Branch, informed the lawyers that Bopape had “wilfully escaped” while “being escorted by motor vehicle to Vereeniging, where certain police investigations were in process. A flat tyre en route necessitated that the police vehicle stop and whilst the spare tyre was being fitted, your client made good his escape.” Van der Merwe said that this escape had not been publicised for fear of jeopardising a sensitive police investigation regarding the movement and activities of trained “terrorists”.

188 In an article that appeared in Business Day on 26 April 1989, Minister Vlok was reported to have announced that Bopape had been seen in an area where an act of terror took place. Similarly, on 15 June 1989 the Sowetan quoted Brigadier Leon Mellett of the SAP as saying that Bopape had been seen by a former colleague, whose name was not disclosed. On 19 June 1990, Vlok reported to Parliament that the investigation into Bopape’s disappearance was continuing. He refused to disclose the names of the officers in whose care Bopape had been at the time of his disappearance, but indicated his preparedness to do so if the Harms Commission wished him to. The Harms Commission decided that there were insufficient grounds for holding a hearing.

189 Bopape’s disappearance remained unresolved until amnesty applications were received from Lieutenant Charles Zeelie [AM3751/96], Mr HAB Mostert [AM4403/96], Major AP van Niekerk [AM4353/96] and Mr JL du Preez [AM4404/96] for their role in his death. In addition, the head of the Security Branch, Lieutenant General JV van der Merwe [AM4157/96], Colonel S Visser [AM5000/97], Captain Leon van Loggerenberg [AM5010/97], Witwatersrand divisional commander Major-General GN Erasmus [AM4134/96], and Major General PL du Toit [AM4131/96] applied for amnesty for their role in covering up the death.

190 The amnesty applications reveal that a meeting was held on Saturday, 11 June at the offices of the Krugersdorp/West Rand Security Branch. The meeting was attended by about fifteen Security Branch members, including officers Mostert and Colonel Van Niekerk from Johannesburg. They were told that Bopape had been trained by MK member Odirile Maponya, and had been involved in and/or planned several terrorist attacks. Maponya’s group, Mr MRA Toka and eleven others, had stood trial on several charges of murder and bombings in Pretoria.

191 On Sunday, 12 June 1988, Bopape was taken from his cells to the offices at John Vorster Square for questioning by Mostert and S/Constable Engelbrecht. After Bopape refused to co-operate, Van Niekerk, Zeelie, Mostert and Engelbrecht together decided that Bopape needed to be given a “little fright” to persuade him to co-operate. Colonel Van Niekerk approved the use of the electric shock instrument. A Sergeant du Preez brought the instrument from Sandton where it was kept. Van Niekerk relates:

We decided to tie Mr Bopape to a chair … His shirt was removed, his hands were tied to the supports of the chair and his feet to the legs … Sergeant du Preez had the shock device in his hand ... There were two cords running from the device and at the tip of it, these cords, there were two pieces of cloth which were wrapped around the tips of the cords. This device was turned three or four times by Sergeant du Preez and whilst he was turning it, Mr Engelbrecht pushed these cords against his body … It didn’t take very long, maybe two to four minutes, the device was turned, then it was stopped, then someone asked him if he wanted to say something and if there was no reaction to that, then the machine was turned again and this must have happened about three times. By the third time, Mr Bopape’s head fell forward and I realised there was something wrong. We immediately untied him, placed him on the floor and Sergeant du Preez gave him mouthto-mouth resuscitation. It seemed that he was dead already and I think that all of us standing there … all thought that he was dead.

192 The five officers discussed the possible consequences of Bopape’s death and decided that they could be extremely serious. Aside from the negative publicity around yet another section 29 death, June 16 was only a few days away and the Security Branch feared that the news of his death could spark off violence. Colonel Van Niekerk reported the matter to his divisional commander, who discussed the matter with Lieutenant General Johan van der Merwe and they agreed that a fake escape should be arranged. Brigadier Schalk Visser, head of the Eastern Transvaal Security Branch, would assist with the disposal of the body.

193 As night fell, Stanza Bopape’s body was secreted out of the police station. Members of the Johannesburg Security Branch met members of the Eastern Transvaal Security Branch next to a highway near Bronkhorstspruit, where they handed over the ‘sensitive package’ to Captain van Loggerenberg. Van Loggerenberg could see that it was a human body covered in plastic. He drove directly to a crocodile hole in the Komati River close to Komatipoort, near a picnic spot frequented by police officers. He pushed the body partially into the hole and it sank away. On his return he reported to Visser.

194 The applicants claimed that they only “turned the instrument two or three times” and that this was not sufficient to cause death in a healthy human being. They said that Bopape had previously been treated for a heart complaint at the Princess Clinic, that they had been unaware of this, and that his death must have occurred as a result. The Princess Clinic no longer exists and corroborating records are not available. However, Bopape’s girlfriend claims that his treatment at the Princess Clinic was in connection with a nasal complaint.

195 Odirile Maponya, who is alleged to have trained Bopape, was blown up while allegedly laying a limpet mine in Pretoria in 1988. Maponya’s brother was abducted and interrogated about his brother’s network and killed (see below).

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