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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

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...Who killed Hani?

Just the ultra-right?

"The ANC would be well advised to sever its links with the Communist Party, and especially one Mr Hani..."

De Klerk's Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee, October 9, 1992.

In July 1992 an assassination attempt was made on Chris Hani in broad daylight in central Johannesburg. A young black male, tailed Hani along Marshall Street, just around the corner from the SACP head office. The nervous-looking young man stepped into a women's hair salon and, ignoring the shop assistants' queries as to what he was doing, fiddled with an object concealed in a windbreaker. The shop assist-ants were convinced he was cocking a gun.

The young man then stepped out on to the pavement, followed by the assist-ants, who recognised Hani half a block away. They rushed over to warn him. When the would-be assassin realised he had been spotted, he fled across the busy road, nearly getting knocked over in his panic. He hurried over to a Toyota Cressida that had been hovering on the far side of the road, and spoke to twowhite males in the front. He then sprang into the back-seat, and the car moved off at high speed. The number-plate of the Cressida was noted. It turned out to be false, the number for a trailer.

There were several other sinister features to this attempted assassination, not least the complete unwillingness of the South African Police to investigate. At first they argued that no charges had been laid and therefore they could not investigate, although the SACP had held a well-covered press conference within an hour of the event. When formal charges were laid through our lawyers, the SAP said that the number-plate of the car was false and so any follow-up was impossible (see New Nation, 14.8.92). No attempt was made to question witnesses or even Hani himself.

But there was another sinister circumstance surrounding the July 1992 assassination attempt.

Character assassination chapter one: MK renegades

It is possible that the identity of the would-be assassin a young, black male was not entirely fortuitous. In the weeks before this event, a major anti-ANC campaign had been launched, using former detainees held by the ANC in Angola. In the forefront of this campaign was Patrick Dlongwana (also known as Hlongwane and Harvey Maringa) of the so-called Returned Exiles Committee. (Dlongwana, incidentally, was arrested in Lusaka in January 1987, after trying to infiltrate the ANC. He was a notorious security policeman, and confessed to a lengthy and brutal career as an agent).

Not long before the July 1992 assassination attempt, Dlongwana had actually appeared on SATV and threatened that his Committee would assassinate ANC and MK leadership figures. Dlongwana, of course, was never charged for making these statements, nor was the SATV ever reprimanded for allowing Dlongwana, in this pre-recorded inter-view, air-time to make such threats.

What if the July 1992 assassination attempt had been successful? Would the SAP have failed to produce a killer (as in the case of David Webster's assassination, and numerous others)? Or, would they have conducted a seemingly professional investigation, finding that it was "just a former ANC member with a personal grudge"?

The ground had certainly been pre-pared for such a finding in the weeks before the attempt.

Character assassination number two: APLA and anti-white terrorism

In the second half of last year, military and national intelligence services produced an 18-page disinformation document entitled "New political development formation of South African People's Party (SAPP)". The document claimed that Hani, together with Winnie Mandela, was preparing a breakaway party and that he had established a secret army (the "Black People's Army") in Zimbabwe, drawing on disenchanted elements of the SACP, APLA and MK. The moving spirit behind the disinformation document, according to The Weekly Mail ("Army of the night: Dreamed up?", 26.3.93), was Hernus Kriel, De Klerk's Minister of Law and Order.

Kriel's document came back to haunt him in parliament some nine days after Hani's assassination. In the face of national and international outrage, the De Klerk government was keeping a very low profile, hoping everyone would for-get their own intense character assassination campaign in the preceding months and weeks. But not everyone had for-gotten. Not everyone thought it was disinformation Schalk Pienaar, for instance.

In the State President's vote in parliament, on April 19, the CP's Schalk Pienaar (MP for Potgietersrus) wanted to know why the government was suddenly being so silent about Chris Hani's renegade army in Zimbabwe. Pienaar, obviously referring to a confidential security briefing he had received, presumably from De Klerk's securocrats, wanted to know why the government was not telling the public about Hanes South African People's Party "formed in a neighbouring territory...Why did the government not tell South Africa what Chris Hani was busy with in the last few months?" (The Citizen, 20.4.93).

In the months before the assassination, various versions of this story were floated. Rapport, often in the foreground of these campaigns, carried a story on October 12 last year that the SACP, and in particular Chris Hani, were planning to take over MK, and a future South African army.

The London Sunday Times correspondent Richard Ellis (another major actor in the anti-Hani disinformation campaign) claimed that Hani (and Winnie Mandela) were planning a breakaway from the ANC (31.1.93).

Then, on the Sunday before Hanes assassination,Rapportagain tried to blow life into this disinformation campaign. It claimed that Hani (and senior MK leaders) had held unmandated meetings with APLA members ("aimed at securing mutual co-operation so as to derail the negotiations process") (Rapport, 4.4.93). Some of the meetings were alleged to have happened in the Transkei.

SAP spokesperson, Captain Craig Kotze (another cog in the Hani character assassination machine) added the next day that "the government could confirm such meetings had taken place and also had information that dissident MK members had joined APLA" (The Citizen, 5.4.93).

This disinformation continued to be spread in the days before Hani's assassination, despite his outright denials and despite his outspoken criticism of PAC and APLA (for their failure to unambivalently condemn anti-white terrorism).

Against the background of the murder of whites in the Border region and at Eikenhof, and against a regime-inspired hate campaign against the Transkei and APLA, everything was being done tolink Hani, in some way, to anti-white terrrorism.

When a white right-wing extremist was arrested shortly after Hani's slaying, a motive had already been well established by months of systematic disinformation. It was a disinformation campaign that had reached a peak, wit-tingly or unwittingly, in the very week before the killing.

If Waluz and the Derby-Lewises are clearly part of an extreme right wing, those who had waged the campaign of character assassination against Haniwere something else again. Besides the "third force" in its various guises, there is a powerful first force with its headquarters in De Klerk's security establishment.

Character assassination chapter three: bank robbery

In November last year the Goldstone Commission raided the secret head-quarters of the SADF's Military Intelligence (MI) Department of Covert Collection. "With the assistance of reinforcements provided by the South African Police, the building housing the Military Intelligence unit was sealed and five files were seized", the Goldstone Commission announced a few days later.

What these five files (five presumably from among thousands whose contents remain unknown) showed was that the notorious ex-CCB agent, Ferdi Barnard, had been employed by MI until December 1991, despite official denials to the contrary. Barnard, a convicted double murderer, was employed by MI to discredit MK. The manner of discrediting, according to the Goldstone Commission, was to be by "linking it to criminal acts and crime syndicates by using a members oldie I?ebimerl Exile Committee, network of prostitutes, homosexuals and drug dealers." (The Citizen, 17.11.92).

This kind of dirty tricks campaign has continued, with or without Ferdi Barnard.

For instance, on Friday March 26th, fourteen days before Hani's assassination, Solomon Mqanqeni and two others appeared in the Rand Supreme Court, charged with murder and bank robbery. The three were alleged to be members of an ANC inspired self defence unit, with MK connections. In a written statement, which Mqanqeni claimed had been extracted from him under duress, he alleged that the murder weapons were distributed to the group by Chris Hani and a "Tokyo" (an obvious reference to ANC PWV chairperson, Tokyo Sexwale). The statement further alleged that a portion of the loot from the bank robbery had been given to "Tokyo" in Shell House (the ANC headquarters).

On the very evening of this statement being presented in court, and admitted as evidence, Mqanqeni and his accomplices mysteriously escaped from Diepkloof Prison. According to prison authorities, they drove out of the prison in the prison truck which had just brought them back from court. They apparently (and incredibly) drove out through a wide open front gate.

Two days later, after the convenient court appearance and the alleged escape, Minister of Law and Order, Hernus Kriel went on the rampage against MK in parliament. He accused MK of being "nothing but criminals". And referring to the negotiations demand for multi-party joint control over all armed formations, Kriel said: "We are not interested in joint control over criminals...we have declared war against war-mongers andcriminals." (The Citizen, 30.3.93)

The Mqanqeni affair, with its sequel in parliament three days later, had all the hall-marks of a stage-managed operation. The investigating officers into the bank robbery and murders committed in the course of the robbery never once questioned, let alone contacted, either Hani or Sexwale. Yet the police and prosecutor were implicating them in extremely serious crimes. "These public servants seem to be more intent on making political propaganda than on investigating crimes", the SACP central committee said in a press statement at the time.

The circumstances of the fortuitous escape are also puzzling. Whatever the explanations for it, the escape prevented the SACP and the ANC cross-checking whether Mqanqeni and his co-accused were really ANC self defence unit members as alleged. At the time, Chris Hani, in a gesture typical of his generosity, expressed concern for the safety of Mqanqeni and his co-accused. "Having served a useful purpose, I am worried that they might now be eliminated. In the past, fabricated escapes have been used to eliminate individuals."

On the eve of his assassination, then, a systematic and intensified campaign of disinformation had been directed against Hani. Needless to say, virtually all of these stories were launched in the press without the basic journalistic courtesy of first getting comment from Hani, the SACP or the ANC. The journalists responsible showed as much journalistic inquisitiveness as the SAP in the Mqanqeni affair. It was the construction of disinformation not the pursuit of information that they were after.

It is true that there were frequent denials from our side. We also called for Goldstone to investigate the Mqanqeni affair. But part of the disinformation war (or PSYOPS for psychological operations as it is known to its practitioners) is to create first and frequent impressions. The allegations need have no substance, and they may even be mutually contradictory (Hani was at once meant to be trying to take over MK and launch a separate renegade army, for instance). The point is to build an individual into a bogey, to surround him or her with continual controversy.

After the assassination, the disinformation continues

The pattern of disinformation against Chris Hani did not end with his death. In the hours after the killing, and soon after the arrest of Waluz, Captain Craig Kotze and Deputy Minister of Law and Order, Gert Myburgh announced that this had been "the act of a lone gunman without political motive". It is difficult to know whether this explanation was the result of sheer stupidity, "parental" instincts in defence of a killer of a communist, or whether it was an attempt at a cover-up. At any rate, Waluz's obvious connections to the ultra-right quickly discredited this line of argument. Since then, the SAP and government spokespersons have been anxious to portray the assassination as a right-wing conspiracy, implicating leading members of the Conservative Party.

They have also been anxious to present the case as one that has been quickly and surgically solved. No-one has been more anxious to present a neatly wrapped-up case than the official SAP spokesperson for the Hani investigation Brigadier Frans Malherbe.

Brig Frans Malherbe

Brigadier Frans Malherbe has played a similar role in at least one previous political assassination case.

David Webster, the Wits anthropologist, was murdered in Johannesburg on May 1, 1989. On the 25th of that month a man calling himself Van Niekerk arrived at Webster's research post at Kosi Bay, near to a possible joint SADF/ Renamo infiltration route into Mozambique. The man claimed to be a fellow researcher who had worked in the past with Webster. He tried to enter the post but was denied access by Webster's colleagues, who immediately suspected something sinister. The man then left by boat with three others.

The incident was reported to the SAP team investigating Webster's murder. Later Frans Malherbe (then a colonel) announced that the police had investigated the matter, and that Van Niekerk's story was true. He was a student based at the University of Potchefstroom, claimed Malherbe. Both Potchefstroom and Wits Universities, however, checked their records, and denied that he had ever been registered (Weekly Mail, 27.7.90).

Is Brigadier Frans Malherbe routinely employed in politically sensitive assassination investigations? And what is his function as "spokesperson" in these cases?

Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis, the Johannesburg based correspondent for the London Sunday Times, has been one of the most active journalists in the disinformation campaign against Chris Hani. On January 31, 1993 he published a particularly offensive article on Hani, entitled "South Africa's Saddam stakes his claim".

But Ellis, like others, did not confine himself to disinformation before the assassination. One week after the assassination, he made the most sinister of interventions ("Winnie Mandela links ANC with assassination of Hani", Lon-don Sunday Times, 18.4.93). The head-line tells the story, Ellis claims that Winnie Mandela has alleged that Hani was murdered by political rivals within the ANC.

When questioned, Ellis admitted he had not spoken to Mrs Mandela. When asked by the ANC's Department of In-formation and Publicity why he had failed to seek comment from them, he claimed to have tried repeatedly, and that he had left messages with the telephone answering service, AutoPage. As it happens, AutoPage records all messages. Ellis had left no such message.

Worse still, in the days following the London publication of this terrible lie, Ellis approached Democratic Party MP, Lester Fuchs, to raise the allegation in parliament. A last minute intervention by DP leader Zach De Beer stopped Fuchs. The CP MP, Schalk Pienaar did, however, try to give the story some local mileage by raising it in parliament.

A simple survey of disinformation on Chris Hani over the last nine months gives the impression of a systematic and multi-faceted campaign. It seems to be a campaign with extensive resources and media networks. Is this impression justified?

"Komops Vyand"

In 1991 Major Nico Basson began talking to the press. Basson was the former head of the SADF Department of Military Intelligence Comops (i.e. disinformation) operation in the run-up to the Namibian independence elections in 1989. His revelations lifted the veil on one aspect of the apartheid regime's intelligence networks.

According to Basson: "Discrediting political leaders in the opposition camp is a popular strategy, especially in the army. In Namibia one of the main themes of the anti-Swapo strategy was the discrediting of the senior leadership of the party. In South Africa this strategy has also been used with great success." (Vrye Weekblad, 12.4.91).

According to Basson more than a million rand was spent in Namibia on just one disinformation front company PRO Communication Projects. The Namibian anti-Swapo election campaign, codenamed Operation Agree, was, according to Basson, a "dress rehearsal" for elections in South Africa. "All the networks are in place" (The Star, 11.6.91).

Basson said that a sub-department of the army's propaganda department, "Komops Vyand", had been working with great success over many years "in the planting and dissemination of false information" on, for instance, Winnie Mandela. Basson named a Colonel Tobie Vermaak of MI as the head of this project.

Although De Klerk retired some MI and other intelligence figures in the wake of the Goldstone revelations on Ferdi Barnard, all the structures remain essentially in place. The notorious General Joffel van der Westhuizen (associated with the Goniwe "death" signal) remains head of MI. What are all these structures up to?

The German based Top Secret Magazine has its own theory. It claims that the assassination of Hani "was not a right-wing conspiracy organised by a 'third force' that is 'acting out of control ' (22.4.93). Citing unnamed sources within Pretoria's intelligence services, the magazine asserts that the assassination was part of a broader strategy, codenamed Operation Thunderstorm. It says that Operation Thunderstorm was hatched in the summer of 1990, and that it is co-ordinated by an ultra-secret team consisting of the top leadership of NIS and MI. MI, it says, co-ordinates the "dirty tricks" side of the opeation. Ac-cording to the publication, Hani's assassination was "executed by the security forces of the white minority regime; some of the extremist right-wing forces are just used in the scenario designed by Operation Thunderstorm."

At this point in time, we have no way of knowing whether or proving that these claims are true. De Klerk, certainly, has failed to dismantle his intelligence and dirty tricks departments. Insofar as he has retired some of his operatives, he hasdone so secretively and without taking the South African public into his confidence. The parliament has recently voted R3,7 billion of taxpayer's money to the SADF's secret account. Again, we have no way of knowing where all this money is going.

What we can see, because it is a matter of public record, is a consistent campaign of disinformation, which, as we have tried to show, included a major character assassination of Chris Hani in the months and days before his physical assassination. Whether the character assassination and the physical assassination were connected in a conspiracy, or whether they simply coincided in time is a matter of speculation.

Either way, those involved in the disinformation, dirty tricks campaign against Hani must not be allowed to escape their share of culpability for the terrible crime that has been committed.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.