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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 308
Paragraph Numbers 595 to 603
The Eagles in the Orange Free State
595 The Eagles began as a black youth project of the Department of Education and Training in conjunction with administration boards and community councillors in Orange Free State towns in the early 1980s. By the second half of the 1980s, the Eagles had established a significant presence in almost every Orange Free State town.
596 After the dissolution of the Administration Boards in 1985, an MI front company was established to sustain the Eagles, who were then registered as a private company. During 1986 they were listed as part of the contra-mobilisation projects falling under Project Ancor. The Kahn Committee reports identify the Eagles Clubs as Project Napper, a special secret project, described as being active in the OFS, north and west Cape, Vaal Triangle and southern Transvaal, and as “another valuable source of information on violence in black townships”.44 By the time of its ‘termination’ by the Kahn Committee in September 1991, the project had an annual budget of over R2 million and was due to continue independently on a reduced scale. At that stage the Eagles were claiming a membership of 600 000, with fifty clubs around the country involving over eighty members of staff. In reality they never managed to establish a strong base outside the Orange Free State.
597 The Eagles are frequently referred to in SSC documentation as a model of contra-mobilisation. Former State President FW de Klerk stated that none of the projects exposed in 1991 were involved in the gross violation of human rights. However, there are several known violations linked to the Eagles. The Eagles came into conflict with UDF youth organisations, SAYCO in particular, and acted against UDF campaigns. They were involved in repressive activities, such as pointing out activists, launching arson and petrol bomb attacks on activists’ homes (including that of Ms Winnie Mandela), and disrupting political meetings.
598 Amnesty applicant Nelson Mphithizeli Ngo [AM2422/96] states directly that a number of vigilante groups, including those of criminal origin, were in close relationship with the Security Branch in the Orange Free State. He identifies the Eagles in this regard, stating that the Security Branch recruited standard ten pupils from Matshidiso High school and Brandfort and sent them to the Rodeval SADF base for ‘indoctrination’ courses:
The main aim of the SADF intelligen[ce] services in conducting such courses in schools was to teach them tactics and strategies of suppressing student bodies like COSAS and SRCs at school and to replace them with the prefect system. Some of the teachers who were in favour of the prefect system were recruited by Security Branch members to strengthen the structure of the Eagles club at school and were also given courses by the SADF members in Rodeval.
599 Active members of student bodies were also targeted and victimised by the Eagles club, with the co-operation of the recruited teachers. Most members of the Eagles club were armed and protected by the security police when engaged in disrupting meetings in schools. Registered members of the Eagles club working as informers to the Security Branch received a monthly payment from the security police HQ in Bloemfontein. Eagles members themselves were targets of violence by UDF or ANC-aligned people.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE EAGLES YOUTH CLUBS WERE DIRECTLY CREATED AND SUSTAINED BY THE STATE AND ITS SECURITY FORCES. WHILE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A CONSERVATIVE YOUTH GROUP WAS PERHAPS A LEGITIMATE, ALBEIT COVERT, ACTIVITY, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE EAGLES WERE GIVEN FREE REIN AND WERE ENCOURAGED AT TIMES TO TAKE VIOLENT ACTION AGAINST MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS OF THE LIBERATION MOVEMENTS AND THEIR PROPERTY. FURTHER, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE SECURITY BRANCH MADE USE OF THESE ANTI-UDF YOUTH TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE UDF. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MEMBERS OF THE EAGLES YOUTH CLUBS WERE THEMSELVES SUBJECTED TO VIOLENT ATTACKS IN EFFORTS BY UDF ALIGNED GROUPINGS.44 Kahn Committee reports.
Other vigilante groupings: The Phakathis and the A-Team
600 The Phakathi vigilante group emerged in the wake of the student boycott and street resistance that began in Thabong, Orange Free State, from late 1984. They engaged mainly in severe floggings with sjamboks but they also shot and killed several people in their efforts to crush protest activities. At least seven councillors and the mayor were involved in the assaults; numerous unemployed people were also drawn in. The Commission located an Orange Free State JMC report for the period March to May 1985 sent to the SSC, which states that “resistance against agitators is in a covert manner encouraged and allowed.”45
601 The Chesterville Natal A-Team, active between 1983 and 1990, was a pro-Inkatha semi-criminal grouping that engaged in violent attacks on UDF areas and supporters (see Volume Three).
602 The amnesty application and testimony of Mr Frank Sandy Bennetts [AM4059/96] describes the close working relationship between the different branches of the SAP, particularly the Riot Unit and the Security Branch, and the A-Team. He stated that protection and patrols, as well as resources such as petrol, were offered to the A-Team. Members of the A-team were used as informers and for identification purposes.
603 Bennetts told the Commission of his belief that the A-Team was a “handled” outfit. He alleged that it was started by a military intelligence agent employed by the Natal Provincial Administration as the township manager to oversee the administration of Chesterville. He describes seeing a particular MI officer in almost daily contact with members of the group.45 Document dated 3 June 1985, file 22/3/2/47, Vol 4, State Archives.