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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 261

Paragraph Numbers 399 to 410

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 43

The Gugulethu Seven

399 On 3 March 1986, shortly after 07h00, seven men aged between sixteen and twenty three were shot dead in Gugulethu. They were Mr Mandla Simon Mxinwa, Mr Zanisile Zenith Mjobo [CT00116/FLA], Mr Zola Alfred Swelani [CT00700/FLA], Mr Godfrey Jabulani Miya [CT00818/FLA], Mr Christopher Piet, Mr Themba Mlifi [CT00100/FLA] and Mr Zabonke John Konile [CT00108/FLA]. All sustained numerous gunshot wounds to their bodies; all were shot in the head; one had half his face blown away. Police officers involved on the scene or in the investigation thereafter were Warrant Officers Barnard and McMaster, Majors Johan Kleyn, Dolf Odendal and Stephanus Brits, Captains Charles Brazzelle and Leonard Knipe, Sergeants John Sterrenberg, Grobbelaar and Rian Bellingan, and Constable Mbelo. Those who applied for amnesty for the killing of the Gugulethu Seven were Sergeant Wilhelm Riaan ‘Balletjies’ Bellingan [AM5283/97], Mr Xola Frank Mbane [AM8066/97] and Constable Thapelo Johannes Mbelo [AM3785/96].

400 The ‘Gugulethu Seven’ incident was the subject of an inquest in 1986, a trial in 1987 and a reopened inquest in 1989. The outcome of both inquests, despite opposing eyewitness accounts and conflicting forensic evidence, was a finding by Wynberg magistrate Hoffmann that the youths had died in a legitimate antiterrorist operation.

401 Following a lengthy investigation by the Commission’s Investigation Unit, the following account emerged. During 1985, there was a dramatic escalation in armed attacks by MK operatives, including a hand grenade attack on security forces in August resulting in casualties. This incident led Major General Griebenouw of the Western Cape security police to request the assistance of Vlakplaas. Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock deployed certain Vlakplaas personnel including Joe Coetzer, Riaan Bellingan and several askaris, including Gladstone Moss, Eric ‘Shakes Maluleke and Xola Frank ‘Jimmy’ Mbane. After a final briefing from De Kock at Vlakplaas, Bellingan took charge of the mission. They drove to Cape Town in early January 1986.

402 Based at Koeberg, they were briefed by members of the security police. They were shown photographs of some activists in Gugulethu who were alleged to be dangerous ‘terrorists’. After an unsuccessful attempt to infiltrate Mbelo into a group in Gugulethu, Jimmy Mbane and Eric Maluleke were sent in. They were given weapons and grenades and arrived at the home of squatter leader ‘Yamile’, claiming to be commanders from exile. As proof, they opened a concealed panel in the minibus, showing their guns. Yamile believed the askaris and, after introducing them to Christopher ‘Rasta’ Piet, they soon had the core of the group which became known as the ‘Gugulethu Seven’.

403 Mbane claims to have informed both Bellingan and Liebenberg that these were merely youths rather than hardened ‘terrorists’ and that only one of them – Rasta Piet – was trained. Liebenberg allegedly informed Mbane that he should see to their training. Over a period of two months, the youths received basic training in military combat work from Mbane and political education from Eric Maluleke.

404 The plan was to launch an attack on a police bus which ferried senior police to Gugulethu police station every morning. This plan was reported to both Liebenberg and Bellingan by Jimmy Mbane. After a meeting of senior officers the night before the incident, and a briefing at Wingfield Naval Base, more than twenty-five heavily armed police were deployed to saturate the area.

405 Just after 07h25 on 3 March 1986, Jimmy Mbane, driving a stolen bakery van, began dropping off the ‘comrades’. The police operation commenced with a loud noise and then the firing began. It is alleged that, of the seven, the only person who had time to fire back was Rasta Piet. The two askaris who led them into the ambush were able to escape and were paid R7 000 each – R1 000 for every victim. Mbelo was paid R1 000.

The Chesterville Four

406 According to his amnesty application, Warrant Officer WA ‘Willie’ Nortjé [AM3764/96] was one of a team of Vlakplaas members sent to Durban. The team was informed by the Durban security police that an ANC self-defence unit, allegedly including Charles Ndaba, was responsible for the unrest. Evidence in possession of the Commission suggests that this was Thabane Memela and not Ndaba as Nortjé indicates.

407 In June 1986 a group of seven – Warrant Officer ‘Willie’ Nortjé, Sergeant Izak Daniel ‘Steve’ Bosch [AM3765/96] and other Security Branch members and askaris – set out, allegedly to arrest Memela. While the white Vlakplaas operatives waited at a nearby graveyard, the askaris went to locate Memela. Some time later one of the askaris reported that he had found a group of ‘comrades’ willing to take him to Memela, but they seemed somewhat suspicious. In order to boost the askari’s credibility, Nortjé gave him an AK-47. About half an hour later, Nortjé heard shooting.

408 At the time the askari claimed that the youths had opened fire. He later confessed to Nortjé that one of the police team had produced his gun too soon because he was nervous, and that the other members had then begun shooting as well.

409 Amnesty applicant Constable Butana Almond Nofemela [AM 0064/96] gives a different version. According to Nofemela, De Kock was in charge of the operation and ordered Nofemela not to participate. Others made contact with a group of Chesterville UDF members and arranged a meeting. De Kock accompanied them to the meeting place and issued certain new recruits with AK-47s. The operatives were ordered to meet the UDF members and kill them. De Kock and

410 Those killed were Mr Russel Mngomezulu [KZN/GM/007/DN], Mr Muntuwenkosi Dlamini, Mr Russel Mthembu [KZN/GM/007/DN] and Mr Sandile Khawula.

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