|Nic van Rensburg is the security branch boss who ordered the killing. In 1989 Vlakplaas fell directly under his command, as did Gideon Niewoudt, security branch head in the Eastern Cape. Niewoudt is the man responsible for planting the explosives. In 1996 he was sentenced to 20 years for the Motherwell bombing. He is now out on bail. Eugene de Kock is the man head quarters called in to help Niewoudt eliminate the suspect policemen. De Kock was then commander at Vlakplaas and the Security Branch’s Mr. Fix It. He is now serving life plus 212 years in Pretoria Central C Max. Major Vaal du Toit is the man who built the bomb, he was technical unit commander at Vlakplaas. Jacobus Kok helped Du Toit build the explosive device. Snor Vermeulen and Lionel Snyman are the men who fitted the car with the explosives. They were sent down from Vlakplaas along with Martinus Ras who would execute plan B, namely to shoot the suspect cops if plan A – to blow them up – went wrong. Major Gerhardus ...more
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|They could have identified some of our informers and members and sketched profiles of them. // Were you also convinced that under the circumstances there was no other option than to eliminate these double agents or moles? // That is so Your Honour. // And you were also ordered by Brigadier Gilbert to do it? // I was given a direct order by Brigadier Gilbert.
|The man they all blamed, Brig Fanie Gilbert, is now deceased. // After all these facts were placed before him, did Brigadier Gilbert tell you to eliminate these people? // That is so Your Honour. // You told me that the second sentence here should read. ‘He then suggested that this operation be directed in such a way that the ANC would be blamed for the elimination.’ // That is so Your Honour. // The way it reads at the moment it seems like it was your idea. // That is so Your Honour.
|But from your application and the application of Mr. Niewoudt the suggestion is that Brig Gilbert got the OK as it were. Is my understanding correct? // That is correct. // Mr. Gilbert is no longer here to tell us exactly how that happened. // That is correct.
|By the way, you pushed the button that detonated the bomb. // That is so Your Honour. // Did you have a problem with that? // I was quite hesitant about doing it. // Why? // Because they were colleagues.
|Niewoudt and Van Rensburg faced heavy cross examination on the motives for the bombing. The point of the cross examination was to find out if Niewoudt and his men carried out the explosion for their own reasons, namely to cover their fraudulent and murderous tracks, or if the bombing was politically motivated.
|In summary what was the story? // He told me that some of the black members of the PE Security Branch had been recruited by the ANC and had access to sensitive information that they wanted to give to the ANC.
|What is the basis of the security branch, why is it there? // It is for the protection of the government of the day Your Honour. // I believed in the government of that time and that I had to do everything in my power to protect that interest. Then there were statements by politicians and pressure for results from Headquarters. // You were a policeman; you were a policeman for many years. Your duty was to maintain law and order, is that right? // That is correct. // To in fact bring criminals to justice, not to yourself participate in criminal activity. // That is correct. // Through these perceptions of yours you were able to make the step, from maintaining law and order to criminal activity, just through these perceptions. // As I’ve said in that time and under those circumstances I believed it was the right way to combat the total onslaught.
|Up to this point I’m hearing different stories. now it’s the fraud, the next moment he is about to cross the stage and join the ANC, the next moment he is part of the ANC, the other moment he is going to implant limpet mines in the security police cars. So, I don’t know which one is the truth. It is difficult for me to say he is speaking the truth and I have got the truth.
|Then, amidst some of the tightest security yet seen at the TRC Eugene de Kock took the stand. De Kock was one of the Security Branch’s most trusted, powerful and efficient operatives. He said fraud was a major reason for the cover-up that was the Motherwell bomb. De Kock’s version differed from those of Van Rensburg and Niewoudt, in substance as well as tone.
|[Why did you feel it necessary to give evidence here today?] // First let’s put all the facts on the table and expose those who gave the orders. That’s where you start on the way to the top. Also out of sympathy with the families – I’d like to speak with them later. // Is it true that you have a need to sympathise with the families? // Yes, if it would help them, I understand their feelings and pain and their loss of family, because I am experiencing the same situation, though not as traumatic as theirs where there is no returning. // You say that Van Rensburg then called you to his office. // Yes, that’s right // And it was explained to you that two members of the security police and a former ANC member who were causing a problem for them. // That’s correct. // And Niewoudt said that it involved fraud and that cheques were being intercepted that were meant for trade unions and left wing organisations. // That is correct. // And that these cheques were being used for ...more
|Was there any question that those to be killed were ANC members? // No, he only referred to Goniwe and similar cases. // He didn’t mention that these people were recruited by the ANC? // No, no there was nothing like that.
|Then you went back to Vlakplaas where you gave orders to Martinus Ras, Snyman and Vermeulen to prepare for the operation. What precisely did you tell them? // I can’t give you specific details, but the gist of it was that people would be killed and specifically that policemen would be killed. // You worked on the basis that you gave orders and they executed them and that you were prepared to accept the responsibility and consequences on behalf of your men? // Yes. // And is that still your feeling today? // Yes, I take full responsibility from myself downward, for all my men’s actions, but not for those above me – not anymore. // Did you also expect the same from people who gave you orders? // Yes, I wrongly believed the hierarchy had integrity and moral fibre.
|I believe you feel bitter towards the generals and the politicians. You feel that you are in this position today because they sold you out. // Yes, I was also disillusioned. // Your relationship with the generals, Van Rensburg specifically, he is one of the generals, isn’t he? // Yes, at last we have a general here. // Who does what? // Who admits he was involved. // When you came to testify at Motherwell was it your attitude that you thought he would not admit to it and that he was another general escaping his responsibilities? That must have made you bitter and you are still bitter? // Not bitter, it made me sick. // Let’s not play with words. // I’m not playing with words, I mean what I say. I can speak Afrikaans.
|I want to make it clear that many of those who gave these orders have never had to live with the fact that they pulled the trigger. It is easy for them that the trigger was pulled, but to do it yourself to shoot the person yourself and then to go back and interact normally with society, is a struggle. I remember two, three occasions when Minister Vlok came to Vlakplaas. On one of these he came to thank C1, members from Soweto and Johannesburg for certain operations like the bombing of COSATU and Khotso House. I’ll never forget what he said that we, the police and the Afrikaner, will not surrender not in a thousand years. I remember a man saying the same thing in Germany in the 1940s. No member of the National Party including the former president who has now run away, could ever have gone to sleep believing that they were running the country with the support of the majority. Not at all. They were kept in power by the police, the army and the intelligence structures. There should be ...more
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|Oh I feel relieved, especially for Mr. De Kock, what he says. He impressed me really. In fact, he impressed me from day one of the trial, because he speaks the truth.
|Col Eugene, he must go to the ‘tronk’ [jail] because we are suffering so many times and years ago you know. // I feel terrible for De Kock, you know, because I can hear that he feels so sorry about everything he’d done. // No amnesty for the killers.
|Eugene de Kock expressed the desire to meet with the families of the dead policemen. They granted him the opportunity, but at both De Kock’s and the family’s insistence, their encounter was a private one.
|When we look at this new face of Eugene de Kock and wonder why he seems so human and normal we should remember what the author Hannah Arendt said about the notorious Nazi leader Adolf Eichman in her book Inquiry into the Banality of Evil. This is what she wrote. // ‘The trouble with Eichman was precisely that so many were like him and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic. That they were and still are terribly and terrifyingly normal. This normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.’