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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 401
Paragraph Numbers 133 to 143
Heidelberg Tavern attack
133. Three women were killed and six people injured when two APLA operatives opened fire on patrons in the Heidelberg Tavern in Observatory in Cape Town on 31 December 1993. Another person was killed and one injured when the attackers fired on two people outside a neighbouring restaurant as they were making their escape.207
134. The three people killed in the tavern were Ms Rolande Palm [CT00415], Ms Lindy-Anne Fourie [CT02703] and Ms Bernadette Langford [CT00415]. Mr Jose ‘Joe’ Cerqueira was also shot dead and Mr Benjamin Broude was shot and injured when they ran out of a neighbouring restaurant into the street.
135. APLA members Luyanda Gqomfa [AM0949/96], Zola Mabala [AM5931/97] and Vuyisile Madasi [AM6077/97] applied for amnesty for the attack. They had been found guilty in December 1993 on four counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 24 to 27 years.
136. The applicants argued that they had acted on instructions from the APLA High Command in executing the killings at the Heidelberg Tavern. Gqomfa testified before the Committee that he had received an order to launch the attack from Mr Sichumiso Nonxuba and Mr Letlapa Mphahlele on the grounds that the tavern was frequented by members of the security forces.
137. At the amnesty hearing, Mr Bulelani Sipho Xuma also claimed to have been amongst those who gave the order. He gave evidence before the Committee as follows:
On behalf of the High Command of APLA, in my capacity as the member or members of High Command of APLA, the Deputy Director of Operation and Head of Special Operations, I have nothing to hide, affirm unashamedly with pride that Brian Vuyisile Madasi who happened to be Unit Commander, Humphrey Luyanda Gqomfa and Zola Mabala, in an order group attended by myself and the late comrade Sumiso Nonxuba, were given clear and loud orders to conduct attacks in Cape Town. Suffice to say that the Heidelberg Tave rn was attacked as a result of orders given by me in my capacity as APLA’s Head of Special Operations. According to intelligence reports prior to the attack, we learnt that the Heidelberg Ta v e rn was a regular relax-in for South African police members. (Cape Town hearing, 28 October 1997.)
138. Gqomfa testified that Nonxuba brought Madasi and Mabala to his house on 13 November 1993. He said that he was the only person to be told what the targets were and that he notified the other members of the unit only on the morning of the attack.
139. The Amnesty Committee described the attack on the Tavernas particularly brutal.
It appears from the evidence and the other information available to us that the t avern was a place largely used by students and other young people, and that those who made use of its facilities were not only members of the white community, that is the people frequently referred to as ‘settlers’ by APLA members. Of the three young ladies killed, only one was White; the other was Coloure d and the third was an Indian. It is quite clear that they intended to kill as many people as possible. The evidence was that nails had been glued onto one of the grenades to increase the lethal effect of the explosion. After their arrival at theta v e rn, shots were fired into the tavern using automatic weapons, and a rifle grenade was fired which did not explode. [AC/1998/026.]
140. In an interview with members of the Amnesty Committee, APLA’s Director of Operations Mr Letlapa Mphahlele said he accepted responsibility for the attack on the tavern. The fact that APLA took overall responsibility for operations was confirmed in its submission to the Commission:
It should, there fore, not surprise anyone that targets like the St James Church, King Williams Town Golf Club, Heidelberg Tavern etc. were selected. The leadership of the APLA takes full responsibility for all these operations. The APLA forces who carried out these operations followed the directives from their commanders and those directives were from the highest echelons of the military leadership. We do not therefore regret that such operations took place and there is therefore nothing to apologise for.
141. Gqomfa said he did not carry out the operation for personal gain. The aim of the attack was to take back from whites land that had been taken from the African people through violent means. This would be achieved because the government would sit up and take notice of African people’s demands in the light of ongoing attacks on white people. He said he was aware that the PA C was involved in the negotiations process at the time; but was also aware that the PAC had resolved at its December 1993 Congress to intensify the armed struggle through APLA. He said that he did not see any contradiction in the PA C (as a political party) negotiating while its armed wing, APLA, was engaged in furthering the armed struggle. He testified under cross - examination :
As APLA soldiers, we are members of PAC, which is the mother body. The political direction which was taken by the country, did not affect me. As soldiers we had to fight the war. Our political leadership did not say that we must stop fighting it; we could not stop fighting then. As soldiers, if an order had not come that we must stop fighting, we could not have stopped. PAC had not reached that decision at that time, that we must stop fighting. We were following orders accordingly. (Hearing at Cape Town, 27 October 1997.)
142. Gqomfa conceded at the hearing that, during their political and military training, APLA soldiers were never briefed on the codes of guerrilla warfare or international humanitarian law insofar as they related to the killing of civilians. Indeed, former APLA member Brigadier Fischla told the Committee that:
The fact of the matter is that we did not consider any international humanitarian l a w. At no stage did we in our camps educate our forces about internation a l humanitarian law. The first time I understood what international humanitarian law is, is when I integrated into the South African National Defence Force and that is when I got the meaning of what international humanitarian law is. And what I discovered also when I integrated into the SANDF is that equally the form e r SADF did not even know what international humanitarian law was. (Cape To w n hearing, 27 October 1997.)
143. Gqomfa testified that it made no difference if a given order involved killing soldiers, police or civilians. He said that APLA drew no distinction between so-called ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ targets. Asked if, as a commander, he had any discretion to break off an attack once it was realised that the targets could not advance a political objective, Gqomfa testified that he was expected to comply with any o rd e r. He was not expected to change orders or to defy them.207 Volume Th r e e, Chapter Fi v e, p. 507 .