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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 298

Paragraph Numbers 132 to 148

Volume 6

Section 3

Chapter 2

Subsection 15

Offensive armed actions

132. Some applications for armed actions apply to the period January to August 1990, before the suspension of armed struggle. Thereafter, certain MK operatives engaged in armed actions on their own initiative, often based on what they described as the ‘command initiative’ delegated to MK operatives. Although the bulk of MK applications relate to the activities of SDUs, a small number relate to incidents undertaken at the initiative of MK operatives. On the whole, these were ‘own missions’, unauthorised by the ANC. They include assassinations, armed robbery, skirmishes with security forces, internal clashes and the possession and provision of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

133. On 25 May 1993, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) organised a march to the Bophuthatswana Consulate in Kimberley in the Northern Cape to hand over memoranda of protest to the Consulate and the SAP. As the marchers began to disperse, one of the protesters threw a hand grenade at the building. It bounced back towards the crowd and exploded, killing ANC marcher Mr Ezekial Mokone and wounding up to forty others.

134. Northern Cape Regional MK Commander Khululekani Lawrence Mbatha [AM3363/96] and ANCYL member Walter Smiles [AM3365/96] applied for amnesty for the incident. Mr Sipho Moses Mbaqa [AM0010/96] and Mr Nkosinathi Darlington Nkohla [AM0013/96], who were convicted of the attack, also applied for amnesty although they denied involvement in the incident.

135. Mbatha told the Amnesty Committee that he had instructed Smiles to throw the grenade. He said that as commander he had discretionary powers to act in circumstances where no direct instructions from the civilian leadership (fro m whom he took instructions) could be obtained, and that he had acted within the scope of his express or implied authority.

136. This operation was contrary to the ANC’s suspension of armed struggle. It was not committed in the execution of an order on behalf of or with the approval of his organisation. On the contrary, the local ANC leaders under whose authority he fell conceded that he had given an assurance to the local Peace Committee151 that the march would be a peaceful event. Indeed, the grenade was thrown while the local chairperson of the ANCYL was asking marchers to disperse peacefully.

137. Thus Mbatha acted contrary to the express undertakings given by his organisation. Any bona fide belief that he was acting within the scope of his authority was further contradicted by his behaviour after the event. He did not report to his leaders about the event which, had it been carried out within the policy of the organisation, would surely have been approved by them.

138. The Amnesty Committee found the evidence of Walter Smiles to be contradictory and unreliable. Both he and Mbatha were denied amnesty [AC/2000/053 and AC/2000/241]. Mbaqa and Nkohla were also refused amnesty as they maintained that they had not committed any offence or delict and thus fell outside the ambit of the requirements of the Act.


139. The transition period (1990 to 1994) was a difficult time for many MK operatives. In exile, the ANC had provided basic necessities and provisions and supplies for operational purposes. Back home, MK structures dissolved, MK operatives dispersed and the old support base fell away.

140. In testimony before the Commission, it emerged that while robbery remained contrary to ANC policy, the ANC turned something of a blind eye to acts of robbery for operational purposes – that is, robberies to secure weapons or money for logistics.

141. For example, a senior MK operative, Mr Japie Aaron Mkhwanazi [AM6215/97] deployed an MK operative to establish an SDU to counter the IFP-aligned ‘Black Cats’ gang in Ermelo in the Transvaal. At the Ermelo hearing on 28 August 1998 he testified that he was aware that the operative had engaged in armed robberies:

I know that that is not the policy of the ANC; but the situation under which we lived at the time was that we had no alternative … The instruction that I gave was that he [MH Gushu] should form and arm the self-defence units. It was therefore up to him to take the necessary steps as to how the self-defence units should be armed and that’s what decision he took: armed robbery.

142. Mr VL Dlamini, an MK operative who was active in SDUs in the Transvaal, concurred :

There is no policy [supporting] robbery in the ANC but with regards to the needs of the units on the ground you would try to raise funds in any way. Even then the leaders would not expressly give you authority to involve yourself in robberies but would only say that whatever you do you should not compromise the movement … (Johannesburg hearing, 30 September 1999.)

143. The security forces were the most obvious and popular targets for such robberies, although private persons and businesses were also targeted for vehicles and money. As a result, there were several amnesty applications for acts of robbery by both MK and SDU personnel, some of which resulted in injuries and deaths.

144. Mr Pumlani Kubukeli [AM5180/97], an MK operative deployed in Umtata in the Transkei, was tasked with the training and provisioning of new recruits. Due to budgetary constraints, it was decided that alternative means of obtaining the requisite finance should be employed. Kubukeli and two others robbed the Engcobo Wiers Cash and Carry store. There were no injuries or damage. The three were later arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison terms for armed robber y.

145. On 17 August 1992, four ANC members, including at least two MK members, shot and killed Mr André de Villiers outside his farmhouse in Addo, Port Elizabeth. Mr de Villiers was due to testify at the forthcoming inquest into the killing of activist Mathew Goniwe and others. Mr Thamsanqa Oliver Mali [AM0124/96] asserted that they had been told by Chris Hani to use their own initiative to acquire arms.

146. The robbery went wrong and Mr de Villiers was fatally wounded and other family members were fired at. A few days later the group was arrested and eventually sentenced to long prison terms. The leader of the group, Mr Xolani Ncinane, died in prison; another member escaped. The remaining two, Mali and Mr Lindile John Stemela [AM0125/96], applied for amnesty. Mali was granted amnesty; Stemela, who was not an MK member but a recent SDU recruit, was refused amnesty [AC/1999/0234].

147. The ANC distanced itself to some extent from their application. At the Port Elizabeth hearing on 19 January 1999, ANC representative Thembisi Mbatha told the Commission that:

Our investigation with our Port Elizabeth office could not establish that a meeting between SDUs and the late comrade Chris Hani was held in early 1992. Secondly, it is sad that the name of Chris Hani, because he is not there to answer for himself, should be used to support the amnesty applications. According to our comrades in Port Elizabeth, the motive for the incident was a rmed robbery and not political at all. We have unfortunately not been able to trace the Xholani Tjebilisa to which they refer as their commander.

148. A more common form of robbery was to attack police or police stations in order to secure weapons. Mr Moses Vuyani Mamani [AM6141/97] was part of a gro u p of four MK operatives who attacked and robbed the Frankfort police station in the Ciskei on 12 August 1992 in order to acquire weapons. One police officer was shot and wounded in the attack. Mr Mamani was granted amnesty [AC/1999/0354].

151 Peace Committees were established across South Africa during the early 1990s to monitor political protests and state action and ensure liaison between the various groups involved so as to avoid violent confrontations.
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