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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 482
Paragraph Numbers 309 to 315
Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW)42
309 Bonteheuwel is a ‘coloured’ township that became known as a militant area in the second half of the 1980s, not least because of the activities of the Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW). The idea of forming “a militant body to co-ordinate and intensify the revolutionary activities, especially at the Bonteheuwel High Schools” emerged from Bonteheuwel Inter-Schools Congress (BISCO) members, including Ashley Kriel.
BMW would co-ordinate all militant and violent actions at the schools during the day and would spearhead similar activities on the streets after school hours.43
310 It is estimated that at the height of the activities of the BMW more than 100 members were involved in its networks. The BMW, operating in small cells, comprised several types of units that adopted increasingly sophisticated ‘urban guerrilla’ strategies. Groups of youths participated in stone-throwing and street barricading. Twenty members, divided into five units of four people, were the ‘gunmen’ who carried out most of the more serious attacks of arson and raids on people and homes. There were also support units responsible for organising safe houses, money and the supply of arms and ammunitions. One home virtually became a factory for zip guns.
Links to the UDF and ANC (MK)
311 There is little evidence to suggest that the formation of the BMW was part of the strategic plan of the UDF regional structures in the Western Cape. However, there is evidence that at local level the process was welcomed and endorsed.
We were very aware and conscious of the BMW. We obviously approved, given the context … Broadly there was an understanding that they fell under the political leadership of the UDF. However, it was not a situation of command and control.44
312 Another UDF executive member suggests that the BMW, although not formally linked to the UDF local structures “… was endorsed, although more informally. It was discussed by UDF executive members, but not in normal UDF meetings because of security reasons. It would rather be discussed at a braai after the meeting, for example.”45 This was largely because the UDF area committee was a very broad coalition including churches, which precluded discussion of armed activities.
313 Members of the BMW established links to the ANC and MK. Several members trained in exile and returned to the area. Others were recruited into various MK cells in the Western Cape. During 1986, an MK operative known as ‘the General’ provided some training and armaments such as Makarov pistols, limpet mines, grenades and an RPG-7 anti-tank rocket launcher. Short crash courses were organised in various places in the Western Cape. The BMW also sourced arms from local gangsters or by theft from policemen.
Violations by BMW members
314 By late 1986 and early 1987, the BMW were executing raids on policemen and suspected ‘informers’ as well as ambushing police patrols. This made Bonteheuwel a ‘no go zone’ for the police and people who co-operated with them. The BMW were also responsible for attacks on vehicles, buildings and individuals. Mainly state and company vehicles were targeted. Trucks containing foodstuffs such as meat and bread would be hijacked and the contents distributed amongst BMW members and the Bonteheuwel community.
315 Over a period of several months during 1986, City Tramway buses were burnt on a daily basis. There was also a failed attempt to blow up a truck transporting petrol. Buildings attacked included the Bonteheuwel post office and the Netreg railway office. Several homes of policemen and suspected police informers were attacked with petrol bombs, or a grenade in one instance, or were shot at. Policemen walking in the Bonteheuwel area were also targeted.42 See appendix to chapter on Special Hearing: Children and Youth in Volume Four. 43 Interview with BMW member. 44 Interview with Bonteheuwel UDF executive member. 45 Interview with Bonteheuwel UDF executive member.