About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Chapter Twelve: Further Allegations and Evidence About Violence in 1995 and 1996

Introduction

The period from January 1995 to October 1996 was characterised by continued allegations and evidence regarding 'third force' responsibility for political violence in KwaZulu/Natal. This emerged from various trials-particularly those of Colonel Eugene de Kock, a former commander of a police unit at Vlakplaas near Pretoria; and of General Magnus Malan, a former minister of defence, and of other former senior army officers.

Col de Kock was alleged, inter alia, to have supplied arms to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in the early 1990s, for use in 'hit-squad' attacks in KwaZulu/Natal and elsewhere, and in train violence on the Reef. Gen Malan and his colleagues were alleged to have provided Inkatha, during the 1980s, with a paramilitary unit, trained in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), and intended to equip Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, president of Inkatha, with an offensive capacity for use against his enemies-the United Democratic Front (UDF), and the banned African National Congress (ANC). Those thus allegedly trained for 'hit-squad' activity against the ANC alliance were further alleged, in January 1987, to have attacked the home in KwaMakhutha (south of Durban) of a UDF office-bearer, Mr Victor Ntuli, and killed 13 members of his family.

The allegations and evidence which emerged in 1995 and 1996 are canvassed in this chapter. While the focus falls primarily on the De Kock and Malan trials, allegations made in other contexts are also outlined. These include, in particular, the allegations made during the trial of Mr Romeo Mbambo and his co-accused that senior IFP officials and officers of the KwaZulu Police (KZP) were involved in 'hit-squad' activities against the ANC and other perceived enemies of Inkatha.

The Mbambo Trial

In mid-March 1995 Mr Romeo Mbambo, who had been convicted in the Durban and Coast Local Division of the Supreme Court in Durban on six counts of murder (including the murder of a KZP officer), said in mitigation of sentence that he had been acting at the behest of senior officials in the IFP and KZP who had instructed him and his co-accused on the people they were to assassinate. Those alleged to be implicated in hit squad activity by Mr Mbambo included the member of the executive committee (MEC) for social welfare services in KwaZulu/Natal, Prince Gideon Zulu, and the acting commissioner of the KZP, Brigadier Patrick Como Mzimela.

According to Mr Mbambo, the hit squads were well-organised and had clear command structures. First, information would be gathered by the local IFP leadership of perceived ANC trouble-makers and it would be fed to the local bureau of security and intelligence officials, who would evaluate the data. Files would be opened and sent to Ulundi for the attention of the deputy commissioner of the KZP, Major General Sipho Mathe. Gen Mathe then transmitted relevant information to Mr Zakhele Khumalo (a former private secretary to Chief Buthelezi who had resigned in the wake of the Inkatha funding scandal in July 1991 and had subsequently been appointed deputy secretary general of the IFP); another former deputy secretary general of the IFP, Captain Leonard Langeni, previously in charge of security at the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly; and Mr Daluxolo Luthuli, a former Caprivi trainee (who had recently turned state witness). 'If the three felt that the people named in the files were dangerous,' stated Mr Mbambo, 'we would be called to Ulundi and ordered to eliminate them.'

Mr Mbambo also said that the Reverend Celani Mthethwa, the MEC for safety and security in KwaZulu/Natal, had delivered a box of 20 AK-47 rifles to the IFP office in Empangeni (northern KwaZulu/Natal). Mr Mbambo had received one of these rifles, while another had been given to Ms Lindiwe Mbuyazi, a senior IFP official and presently a member of the National Assembly.

Mr Mbambo also stated that part of the role of the hit squads was to cover up Inkatha-orchestrated violence. 'Our instruction,' said Mr Mbambo, 'was to move in after the attack and remove all the evidence by taking away cartridges At times, I would book out Inkatha members arrested by the SAP [South African Police] as though I wanted to question them. Instead, I would brief them on how to defend themselves and take the information to Inkatha lawyers.'

A similar cover-up, it was alleged, had followed the murder by Mr Mbambo of Sergeant Solomon Dlamini, a member of the KZP. Sgt Dlamini's assassination had been ordered by Brig Mzimela, on the basis that the sergeant had supplied information to the Goldstone commission. After Mr Mbambo had carried out the execution order, he had been congratulated by Ms Lindiwe Mbuyazi, who had told him that Brig Mzimela was 'very happy that Dlamini was dead'. Brig Mzimela had later met Mr Mbambo and discussed with him the best means of 'throwing the Goldstone investigation team off the scent'. It was agreed that 'the cartridge cases from the scene of the killing would be changed as a precaution' and that 'the barrel on Mbambo's weapon would be swopped with another to further hamper the Goldstone investigation'.

One of Mr Mbambo's co-accused, Mr Gcina Mkhize, said he had been recruited by Inkatha in 1986 and sent for military training in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). He said he had been indoctrinated about the evils of communism-as manifest in Angola and Mozambique-and told that unless he stood up against the ANC, South Africa would go the same way. He had been trained in the use of various weapons, including mortars, as well as in tactics used in assassinations. He said that, after he had returned to Ulundi with his fellow trainees, Chief Buthelezi had visited their camp and thrown a party for the trainees. Mr Mkhize also stated that it was Chief Buthelezi who had arranged for the Caprivi trainees to be trained as special constables and absorbed into the SAP.

The IFP and KZP officials named by Mr Mbambo denied the allegations against them. An attorney acting for those implicated in the hit squad activities described them as 'high-profile political figures and members of the IFP'. 'If [they] were to give evidence,' he stated, 'to rebut the evidence of convicted criminals who have nothing to lose by their further false evidence, the trial may very easily degrade into a trial of the IFP.' He added that considerable political propaganda for rival political parties, as well as trial by the media, would inevitably ensue. 'To require high-ranking political personalities to abandon onerous duties and responsibilities to give evidence each and every time a criminal pleads political justification would lead to an untenable situation,' the attorney said. He added that the trial could 'very easily degenerate into a fishing expedition to achieve results which the minister of safety and security had been unable to achieve'.

In August 1995 sentence was passed on the three accused. Messrs Mbambo and Mkhize were each sentenced to an effective 75 years in prison, while Mr Hlongwane received a 52-year term. Mr Justice N van der Reyden said it was 'common cause' that the three were part of a hit squad operating in Empangeni's eSikhawini township in the early 1990s. He stated that life imprisonment would have been an appropriate punishment, had it not been for the mitigating factors present-including the fact that 'the accused had acted on instructions from people of higher authority'. Judge van der Reyden said the case provided 'confirmation of speculation that hit squads were part of the problems contributing to violence in KwaZulu/Natal'. It would be improper, he continued, for him to make findings against those named by the accused as there was no 'conclusive proof' against them, but this did not mean that 'those persons were above the law'. 'It is for the proper authorities,' he stated, 'to investigate each and every allegation and to deal with them in accordance with the law.' If this did not happen, he added, he would forward transcripts of the trial record to the ministers of justice and of safety and security.

Judge van der Reyden also criticised the KZP's investigation into the murders, indicating that this reflected more than incompetence and was probably a 'deliberate attempt to frustrate the proper investigation' of the killings. The judge also took account of evidence that the accused had been exposed to an intense process of indoctrination and imbued with a belief in a justified war. 'No matter how noble their cause might seem,' he added, 'killers must be told that civilised society will not tolerate the assassination of its members, particularly by members of a police force who are duty bound to protect citizens.'

The ANC welcomed the judgement and said 'the root cause of political violence in KwaZulu/Natal was that the province was led by a party whose leaders were alleged to be running murder squads'. It said it would embark on unprecedented rolling mass action, together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party (SACP), as part of a 'spring offensive' demanding the return of peace to the province. The IFP said the ANC's allegations were distorted and imbalanced, and that the ANC was trying to capitalise on the judgement. 'Those making the most noise are implicated in the violence,' said an IFP spokesman, Mr Ed Tillet.

The ANC also criticised the attorney general of Natal, Mr Tim McNally, for failure, inter alia, to subpoena the IFP officials and KZP policemen named in the trial. It said Mr McNally should be brought before a judicial committee to account for his handling of the matter, and should resign 'in the interests of justice'. Mr McNally's inaction, stated the ANC, had further eroded public confidence in the justice system, which was 'overwhelmingly white and whose main function had all along been to underpin the white racist status quo'. Six attorneys general from other provinces defended Mr McNally, saying the allegations against him were 'of a generalised nature and completely unsubstantiated, making it virtually impossible to respond meaningfully to them'.

Towards the end of September the attorneys general from all nine provinces, including Mr McNally, were called before a special parliamentary justice committee. The chairman of the committee, Mr Johnny de Lange, accused Mr McNally of 'lacking a sense of urgency' in his attitude towards prosecuting political murders. Other committee members questioned him about the fact that 'only 2% or 3% of political killings' had been successfully prosecuted. A United States-based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, called on the minister of justice, Mr Dullah Omar, to appoint an independent inquiry to investigate Mr McNally's apparent reluctance to prosecute in certain politically related cases, saying that not enough could be achieved in a single hearing.

Mr McNally responded that his office fulfilled its role 'professionally, speedily and urgently'. He blamed poor police investigation and the reluctance of witnesses to come forward for the low number of prosecutions, and said: 'It is not my role to go on to the highways and byways with handcuffs to seek out those responsible for political killings in Natal.' Only two 'hit squad' dockets had been given to him by the Investigation Task Unit (ITU), he added, and one had resulted in prosecution while the other lacked prima facie evidence.

Mr McNally was cross-examined for seven hours by the committee, led by Mr de Lange and two ANC colleagues, Mr Willie Hofmeyr and Ms Bulelani Ngcuka. Mr McNally told the committee that both the ANC and IFP had pressed him to adopt a more 'adventurous' prosecution strategy, but that 'his job was confined to deciding whether the cases presented to him by the police had a good chance of succeeding in court'. He said he had decided to prosecute the murderers in the Romeo Mbambo case because he had a firm case against them-rather than gambling on putting a case against their superiors.

Mr Douglas Gibson, justice spokesman for the Democratic Party (DP), subsequently described the hostile cross-examination of Mr McNally as an 'inquisition which far exceeded permissible bounds'. He expressed particular disquiet at statements by ANC committee members about the possible transfer of Mr McNally from KwaZulu/Natal. The DP urged attorneys general in all the provinces 'to assert their independence and not to be intimidated into being used as tools in any party political struggle'. It added that the independence of the judicial system and its capacity to function without fear or prejudice was a cornerstone of the country's legal system-and that the ANC's conduct in relation to Mr McNally placed South Africa 'on a slippery slide towards the eventual loss of judicial independence'. Chief Buthelezi also criticised the hearing, saying that the cross-examination of Mr McNally was 'nothing short of raw intimidation'. The ANC said the hearings revealed the need for an 'independent national attorney general to co-ordinate policy' on prosecutions, as the different approaches adopted by different provincial attorneys general infringed the right to equality. Mr F W de Klerk, the deputy president from the minority party, criticised the ANC for wanting to appoint a 'super attorney general', saying 'an attorney general should be able to act independently without a supervisor'.

In late October, Mr McNally stated that he had decided not to prosecute the prominent IFP leaders and KZP officers implicated in hit squad activities by Mr Mbambo and his co-accused. Mr McNally said there were inconsistencies in the testimony of state witnesses, and that there was 'no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution'. His decision was criticised by the Investigation Task Board (to which the ITUs in the province reported). Said the board's chairman, Mr Howard Varney: 'Through a meticulous and coherent presentation of the State's case, and cross-examination of defence witnesses, there would in our view have been a reasonable prospect of success.'

The Malan Trial

At the end of October 1995 Mr McNally announced that he had decided to prosecute General Magnus Malan, a former minister of defence, and other former senior security force officers for involvement in the murder of 13 people in KwaMakhutha (south of Durban) in January 1987. The first arrest in relation to this massacre had been made in June 1995, when a senior SAP officer, Colonel Louis Botha, was arrested and charged with various counts of murder. His arrest followed investigations conducted by the ITU, established by the minister for safety and security, Mr Sydney Mufamadi, in August 1994 to probe hit squad activities within the KZP. (The ITU comprised 40 detectives and two state counsel, and its members were selected by a civilian board comprising three lawyers. The ITU was accountable to this board, which was chaired by Mr Howard Varney of the Legal Resources Centre in Durban.)

Soon thereafter the IFP's deputy secretary general, Mr Zakhele Khumalo, had also been arrested on 13 counts of murder arising from the KwaMakhutha killings. (Press reports at the time of his arrest stated that Col Botha and Mr Khumalo had been in close contact in the 1980s, and that it was Col Botha who had 'channelled R250 000 from a secret government fund to Inkatha to hold two anti-sanctions rallies', in what subsequently became known as the Inkatha funding scandal, revealed in July 1991. The money had been received by Mr Khumalo, who said that he had acted without the knowledge of Chief Buthelezi.) A third person, Brigadier John More of Military Intelligence (MI), had also been arrested soon thereafter by the ITU, on the same charges as Mr Khumalo and Col Botha.

The ANC responded to the June arrests by saying that they confirmed that violence had been perpetrated 'on orders from superiors'. Mr Senzo Mchunu, the secretary of the ANC in the province, stated that the arrest provided 'proof that the IFP had been the sole cause of violence in the province since 1985'. He added that the 'past ten years of IFP rule had been characterised by violence'.

Mr Tillet, a spokesman for the IFP, said that his organisation wanted the disbandment of the ITU 'as it was a politically partisan body trying to rewrite history'. It was also selective in its focus, ignoring the deaths of some 380 IFP leaders and thousands of IFP supporters. 'It is strange,' stated Mr Tillet, 'that investigations of those killings do not fall within the terms of reference and the mandate of the ITU.' Mr Tillet added that the ITU had been guilty of corruption and bribery in its efforts to gather information, and should be replaced by a body capable of honest appraisal. The new investigation body should be formed after input from all political parties, he added.

Mr Varney said that the investigation had only just begun and that many more arrests were expected. Mr Varney denied that the ITU was a 'new secret police' and said that charges against ANC members were also being investigated. Despite difficulties in procuring evidence, said Mr Varney, he had been able to build up a 'clear picture of an organised network intent on wiping out support for the ANC and fermenting black-on-black violence assisted by the former NP [National Party] government'. The ITU had conducted an authorised raid on military intelligence headquarters in Pretoria in early June, he continued, and the evidence gathered suggested that 'key figures from the old regime might be implicated'. 'The investigation goes far beyond the province,' said Mr Varney, 'and we will follow the evidence to wherever it goes, however high up it takes us. By the time we've finished we expect to have arrested some extremely senior people.'

Later in the month another member of the IFP, Mr Peter Msane, was also arrested in connection with the KwaMakhutha killings in 1987. Mr Tillet stated that the ITU was 'singling out the IFP as part of a carefully orchestrated plan to nurture a politically correct view of violence in KwaZulu/Natal and in the rest of South Africa'. He said that the members of the board which controlled the unit had been 'handpicked by Mr Mufamadi on the basis of their political pedigree'. Mr Varney, he continued, had been 'a leading member of a small white ANC front called the Port Elizabeth Action Committee, which disbanded when all its members joined the ANC after its unbanning in 1990'. Mr Varney had also been a director of the Legal Resources Centre in Durban which, in monitoring violence in KwaZulu/Natal, had been 'distinguished for its selective focus on the KwaZulu Police'.

An article in Ilanga later in the month queried why the ITU had made no progress in investigating the deaths of some 400 IFP leaders, when evidence of the involvement of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (Umkhonto), in these killings was clearly available to it. This evidence included the SAP submission to the Goldstone commission in December 1992, the involvement of Umkhonto cadres in arms smuggling into Kwa-Zulu/Natal in the 1990s, and the statement by a former state president, Mr F W de Klerk, in Parliament in April 1993, that 'the leadership of the IFP had been systematically decimated by the ANC and its structures'.

Interviewed by New Nation in mid-June the president, Mr Nelson Mandela, was asked why violence continued in KwaZulu/Natal notwithstanding the change in government. Mr Mandela responded that the blame lay primarily with elements in the security forces who had trained and funded hit squads in the province, and who had to be removed before violence could be brought to an end. The government, he stated, could not end the conflict in KwaZulu/Natal without first 'changing the structures, and sometimes the command structures, of the security forces in the country'. This was because, said Mr Mandela, 'very important elements in these security forces have been behind these hit squads. The Inkatha people were trained by Military Intelligence-200 of them in the Caprivi. It was the apartheid government that gave Inkatha R8,25m in order to give it the capacity to commit mayhem and carnage. It is the apartheid government that has frustrated all our plans to bring peace to Natal. We had therefore to change the command structures of the security forces,...and the police have now started arresting people'.

Mr Varney's prediction of arrests at senior level was fulfilled in early November 1995 when warrants for the arrest of Gen Malan and various other senior military officers were issued. Various criminal charges, arising from the KwaMakhutha massacre, were alleged against Gen Malan; a former chief of the South African Defence Force (SADF), General Jannie Geldenhuys; a former intelligence chief of staff, Vice Admiral Dries Putter; a former intelligence operations chief director, General Neels van Tonder; a former SADF chief, General Kat Liebenberg; a former MI chief director, General Tienie Groenewald; a former special tasks director, Brigadier Cor van Niekerk; a former MI security officer, Commandant Jan van der Merwe; the former MI operative, Colonel Dan Griesel; a former Natal Command intelligence officer, Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Victor; and a former special operations instructor, Major Jakes Jacobs. Mr Mufamadi said 'indictments would be served on the officers relating to their role in setting up a paramilitary force for the IFP, which was allegedly responsible for the KwaMakhutha attack'. This force, said Mr Mufamadi, was 'nothing else but hit squads perpetrating violence in the province'. Investigations by the ITU would continue, added Mr Mufamadi, and Mr de Klerk and Chief Buthelezi could also be charged if sufficient evidence was uncovered of their involvement in the massacre.

An editorial in Business Day commented that the key priority was for the truth regard ing the massacre to come out. It added that the trial also raised a number of questions which needed to be answered. These questions included whether the timing of the trial was politically motivated, and designed to embarass the NP and IFP in the run-up to the local government elections scheduled to take place, in most provinces, on 1 November 1995. There was also a question regarding 'the sudden change of plan by Mr McNally, who had originally designated Gen Malan and the other generals as witnesses'. Though Mr McNally now said a review of evidence showed charges to be warranted, that review had taken place after public criticism by a parliamentary justice committee that Mr McNally 'seemed reluctant to prosecute senior politicians'. A further question was the need for such a trial at all. Many senior ANC leaders-possibly involved in the Church Street (Pretoria) bombing in 1983 and other killings-had been granted temporary indemnity from prosecution, while the accused in the KwaMakhutha trial would probably be eligible for the grant of amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was about to commence its work.

A journalist, Mr Allister Sparks, countered that these questions, though important, were misconceived. The Malan case was different, he said: 'The allegations against Malan and the ten others relate to the birth of the so-called third force, which has been behind the KwaZulu/Natal violence that has so ravaged this country and continues to be the most serious factor threatening our future. It is therefore a case of the most profound contemporary relevance, quite apart from the light it may throw on deeds done in the past.' The KwaMakhutha attack, he continued, was a precursor to hundreds of similar attacks, which in time led to counter-attacks and 'escalated into Natal's bloody civil war in which thousands died-and continue to die-and which for a time spread into townships and even the commuter trains of the Witwatersrand'.

At the beginning of December 1995 the state presented a 32-page indictment to the defence, outlining the facts and charges against the accused. The charges included murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. The state acknowledged that 14 of the accused-including Gen Malan, Gen Liebenberg and Gen Geldenhuys-had not been present at the scene of the crime. Mr McNally contended, however, that the KwaMakhutha attack fell 'four-square within the scope and mandate of Operation Marion which the accused had facilitated by planning, training, authorising, provisioning of weaponry and transport, funding or avoidance of detection'. Operation Marion, said the state, was the codename given to co-operation between the SADF and Inkatha and, from its inception, included both defensive and offensive elements. Offensive actions, it alleged, were to include actions amounting to murder. It had been decided-following a request for help by Chief Buthelezi to the State Security Council in October 1985 and subsequent discussions-that a defensive unit of between 50 and 100 people should be trained, as well as an offensive unit of between ten and 20. The latter's offensive capability was intended to provide a means 'whereby the UDF/ANC/SACP alliance could be prevented from disrupting Inkatha meetings, destroying property and terrorising, injuring or murdering Inkatha members'. The force was trained at a secret base in the Caprivi Strip, later known as the Hippo Camp, and the offensive group was trained in skills such as 'house penetration, weaponry, explosives and attacks on identified targets'.

Following the return of the Caprivi trainees to the region, Mr Khumalo-who was then Chief Buthelezi's private secretary-contacted one of the trainers, who told him that 'the trainees were getting restless and that they wanted to practise their training'. Approval was given for the offensive team to be put to use, on the basis that 'only persons whose death would have a positive impact on Inkatha should be chosen as targets'. Mr Victor Ntuli, a UDF activist and a leader of the KwaMakhutha Youth League-and who had 'the most comprehensive dossier'-was chosen as the target and 'his house was attacked on 21 January 1987'.

In preparation for the attack, Mr Khumalo was alleged to have taken the offensive group to a deserted area near Ulundi where they were instructed on how to attack the Ntuli house. Each member of the group was given an AK-47 rifle with which to practise shooting, and 'mock attacks were also performed'. Torches were strapped to the rifles, and a white combi prepared to transport the attackers. Col Botha, then a security branch policeman in charge of liaising between Operation Marion operatives and the SAP, was fully briefed on the planned attack, and undertook to ensure that police patrols were diverted from the area. He also agreed to act as a 'sweeper', and to remove all incriminating evidence which might accidentally have been left on the scene.

At the end of February 1996 Mr McNally filed an alternative count of conspiracy to murder against the accused. In the original indictment, the accused had been charged on 13 counts of murder, four of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to murder Mr Ntuli. The alternative charge alleged that the accused had unlawfully conspired to kill UDF and ANC members in the period from December 1985 to June 1989. The conspiracy, alleged Mr McNally, had involved the establishment of a paramilitary capability for Inkatha. Two hundred men had been covertly trained by the SADF and a 'small full-time offensive element was established for deployment against UDF and ANC members'. Mr McNally said that the conspiracy charge did not have any bearing on the KwaMakhutha incident itself and if the main charge of murder or attempted murder against any of the accused could not be proven, the state would have the conspiracy charge to fall back on.

The trial began in mid-March 1996. One of the state's key witnesses was a former MI operative, Captain Johan Opperman. He testified that he had been second in command of Hippo Camp, where some 200 IFP members were secretly trained by the SADF in offensive and defensive tactics, contra-mobilisation, and guarding VIPs. The group trained for 'offensive' purposes comprised 30 IFP members, who were trained, inter alia, in 'kidnapping, sniping and urban warfare'. Capt Opperman testified further that the trainees, following their return to KwaZulu, were 'anxious to put their training into practice' and pressurised Mr Khumalo for this reason. As a result, Mr Victor Ntuli was chosen as a target, and his house attacked. The operation, said Capt Opperman, was approved by Maj More of the SADF, while Capt Botha agreed to keep police out of KwaMakhutha after the attack-and to act as 'sweeper' by removing all potentially damaging evidence left at the scene. The AK-47 rifles used in the attack, said Capt Opperman, were supplied by the SADF from the Ferntree military base near the Drakensberg. Following the attack they were handed by Capt Opperman to Col Victor, fetched from him by Comdt van der Merwe, and taken to Pretoria where they were melted down in an Iscor furnace.

Capt Opperman added that the information provided by one of the Caprivi trainees-that Mr Ntuli and a group of UDF members would meet at Mr Ntuli's house on the night of the planned attack-proved false. Instead, Mr Victor Ntuli was not there and it was his father and a number of women and children who were killed in the attack. Capt Opperman said he was horrified when the identity of the massacre victims became known, but that he was nevertheless congratulated by Gen van Tonder on the planning and execution of the operation, though 'not for the people killed'. No further attacks had been executed, he said, and Operation Marion had subsequently petered out. Capt Opperman later added that Inkatha trainees must have carried out many other attacks on ANC/UDF targets, as Umkhonto had 'thousands of cadres' inside the country at the time, and 'the families [of the trainees] were being shot'. No further attacks had been authorised, however.

Under cross-examination Capt Opperman acknowledged that the trainee sent to gather information on Mr Ntuli did not have a photograph of the intended target, and did not know how old he was or whether he was still at school. Capt Opperman said Mr Ntuli had been chosen as a target by Mr Daluxolo Luthuli, commander of the Caprivi trainees, on the basis that he (Mr Ntuli) was 'the chief and paymaster of UDF offensive operations'. Capt Opperman added that the offensive unit had not been disciplined for killing the wrong people because 'the victims were ANC and UDF supporters' and it did not matter that 'children were killed as long as the enemy were killed'. (Press reports published at the time of the incident in January 1987 said that the house attacked belonged to Mr Willie Ntuli, a member of Inkatha, who was killed in the massacre, together with a number of his children. Some reports said that he and his family were the intended targets of the attack. Others, including a report in The Weekly Mail, said the attack had been aimed at Victor Ntuli, his 22-year-old son, who was the treasurer of the UDF-affiliated KwaMakhutha Youth League. The Weekly Mail report also stated, however, that Victor 'had not been staying at home for several weeks-ever since the start of clashes between supporters of the UDF and Inkatha in the township'. According to a report in the Sowetan on 8 January 1987, two Inkatha members had recently died following petrol-bomb attacks on their homes in KwaMakhutha, while the homes of four other Inkatha members (including that of the mayor, Mr Jerome Shabalala) had been petrol-bombed. In addition, Chief Buthelezi's praise singer, Mr Ephraim Buthelezi, had been shot at and his home in KwaMakhutha had been petrol-bombed for the fifth time.)

Capt Opperman added that he had decided to turn state witness 'after evidence of his past was presented to him by the ITU'. He had been incorporated in a witness protection programme, had been sheltered in Denmark since turning state witness, and would start life again in a new country, together with his family, once the trial was concluded.

Under cross-examination Capt Opperman said his true identity had never been revealed to Mr M Z Khumalo, then personal assistant to Chief Buthelezi. He stated that the 'wool had been pulled over MZ's eyes' by the use of false names by MI officers. The IFP recruits, he said, believed they were going to be trained as policemen for the KZP. He added, however, that he thought Mr Khumalo must have realised that the SADF was behind the training, as 'there were lots of security breaches'.

Capt Opperman was also cross-examined by the defence on a statement inconsistent with his testimony. In this, Mr Daluxolo Luthuli, himself a Caprivi trainee, had given revenge as the motive for the attack. The trainees, said Mr Luthuli, had been 'instructed to plan a revenge attack following attacks on Inkatha supporters in KwaMakhutha'. Mr Luthuli also stated that the attack had been successful, as its objective had been achieved.

Capt Opperman's evidence was also at odds to some extent with that provided by another state witness, Mr André Cloete, a former MI officer who had helped train Inkatha members at the Caprivi and had been involved in the KwaMakhutha attack. Whereas Capt Opperman had stated that Mr Victor Ntuli had been the only intended target, Mr Cloete told the court that members of the Inkatha hit squad responsible for the attack had been told to leave no survivors. 'The order was that they must shoot everybody they saw,' said Mr Cloete. 'They were trained that there should be no survivors after they had penetrated the house.' Capt Opperman, testified Mr Cloete, had 'personally ordered the hit squad members to eliminate everyone in the Ntuli household'.

Mr Cloete also stated that he had been 'heavily influenced by police investigators while making his first statements on the KwaMakhutha massacre, and that members of the ITU had told him what to say'. He had had the impression, he stated, that 'if he did not say what [the investigators] wanted he would be arrested'. He later denied, however, that he had been pressurised by the ITU.

In cross-examining Mr Cloete, one of the defence counsel, Mr Klaus von Lieres und Wilkau, said there was a 'strange resemblance' between the contents of Mr Opperman's statement and that of Mr Cloete. 'There are hopelessly too many examples in your statement of sentences that come from other statements,' Mr von Lieres und Wilkau told Mr Cloete. 'I find it strange that you should have used the same words as Mr Opperman,' he continued. Giving examples, he said that both Mr Cloete and Mr Opperman had used the words 'we drove around the area and visited several towns'. Both, moreover, had made the same mistake regarding a press report of the massacre. Both had stated that 'a newspaper they read in the morning after the attack had mentioned that 13 people had been killed in the Ntuli house at KwaMakhutha'. The newspaper report in question, however, stated that 12 people had been killed. (The 13th had died later in hospital.) Both, moreover, had said that a Mr Jerry van der Merwe had been present when they went to collect the AK-47 rifles to be used in the attack. The defence, however, had established that Mr van der Merwe was not there. Mr Cloete said in response that his oral statements in Afrikaans had been translated into English by the investigators. He could not explain why the same mistakes had been made in both statements.

A member of the ITU, Superintendent Clifford Marion, later testified that he had been part of the ITU that had approached Mr Cloete and recorded his statement. Some of Mr Cloete's statement, he said, comprised 'transferred sections' from Capt Opperman's statement. These sections had been transferred verbatim from the one statement to the other, using a 'cut and paste' computer function. 'Where the witness (Cloete) agreed with a version in Opperman's statement, that was transferred into Cloete's statement,' Supt Marion said. Mr von Lieres und Wilkau said the transfer method used was 'highly dangerous' and might have led to falsehoods. 'The evidence in this case,' he continued, 'seems to have been contaminated by the style and technique that the ITU preferred to follow. One can easily fall into the trap of transporting facts that later turn out to be falsehoods.' He added that various factual errors in Capt Opperman's statement had been duplicated in this way.

Another state witness, Mr Bhekisisa Alex Khumalo-who had admitted taking part in the KwaMakutha killings-had been offered provisional amnesty if he testified in the trial. Having initially identified six of teh accused in the dock as members of the KwaMakhutha hit squad, Mr Khumalo said under cross-examination that he was uncertain if two of the six had in fact taken part in the massacre. He also said he had seen a car belonging to Mr M Z Khumalo parked near the site in Ulundi whare the hit squad was being trained for the KwaMakhuta attack. A secret military signal showed, however, that the car had been bought for Mr Khumalo-because of the 'enormous number of kilometres' he travelled while performing Inkatha duties' only in September 1988. The witness's testimony in court, added Mr von Lieres und Wilkau, also differed in part from what he had sain in his original statement.

Further evidence of an alleged state conspiracy to murder ANC and UDF activists was provided when Brigadier Willem van Deventer took the witness stand. Brig van Deventer testified that various secret military documents, including a report co-authored by one of the accurse, Gen Liebenberg, had been found hidden inside a wooden case disguised as and electrical circuit box at the Pretoria home of another of the accused, Brig van Niekerk. The Liebenberg report and the other documents were submitted to the court in evidence. According to an account in The Sunday Independent, the documents suggested that senior SADF officers had held regular briefing sessions with Chief Buthelezi regarding the progress of Operation Marion; that the Inkatha president had requested that the operation be initiated to give Inkatha an KwaZulu a military capability; that the need for an 'offensive capability' for Inkatha had been discussed with Chief Buthelezi as early as February 1986; that in January 1988 Chief Buthelezi had asked for further Inkatha memeberss to be trained to 'swing the conglict in the townships in his favour'; and that, in October 1989, Chief Buthelezi had asked the intellignce division to reconsider training offensive cells for Inkatha. The documents also suggested, said the newspaper report, that the SADF had distanced itself from the offensive aspect of Operation Marion after the KwaMakutha killings, and that the SAP had become more involved as a result. No specific mention was made in the documents of the KwaMakhuta massacre.

Responding to reports of these secret documents in The Sunday Independent and other newspapers and to a statement in the Sunday Argus that the disclosures might provoke calls for the arrest of the IFP president, Chief Buthelezi described the reports as a 'ferrago of smears and innuendoes' aimed at linking him to Operation Marion. 'For the record and for the media,' he continued, 'I wish to state that the South African people should recognise these reports as yet another product of the ANC's dirty tricks department. In their panic over the certainty of losing the [local government] elections in May, they have dressed up a pile of old, stale stories as new news. Because the ANC know I am innocent of any wrongdoing, they are attempting to engineer a trial by the media. They want journalists to do their dirty work for them.'

Chief Buthelezi added that he had always pursued non-violence as the only way to solve South Africa's problems. 'I have never deviated from this commitment to non-violence,' he continued. 'Never have I been in any way associated with violence against anybody, for any reason, let alone political reasons.' At the time of the KwaMakhutha killings, he said, violence was intensifying and KwaZulu had only a small police force. The acting commissioner at that time accordingly decided to approach the military for help, and 200 young people were sent for training. 'Where they were trained, and how they were trained, I was not involved in that,' he stated. 'If those people decided to break the law, and do what they did, that is a matter of law, to be resolved in the courts.' There was nothing sinister in what he had done, he continued, and he had 'a very clear conscience about it'. Responding also to media speculation that his arrest might be imminent, Chief Buthelezi said: 'If somebody wants to risk burning this country to ashes, let them arrest me.'

In cross-examination on the contents of the Liebenberg report-which detailed the assistance that was recommended to Inkatha, including an 'offensive element'-Brig van Deventer said the words 'offensive element' might imply a force used to carry out attacks. Defence teams argued that the Liebenberg report contained no direct reference to murder squad activities. They also told the court the Liebenberg report had been freely available to senior military officials. It was highly unlikely, they contended, that any reference to murder squads would have been put in writing and kept in this manner.

In early May a further secret document was handed to the court and provided details of approved expenditure on 'sensitive defence activities'. Military assistance to Inkatha, dubbed Operation Marion, was shown as item number 41 on a list of some 45 such operations. The document described the purpose of Operation Marion as: 'To put Inkatha in a position to neutralise the onslaught from Umkhonto we Sizwe.' The document showed that R2,31m had been spent on the operation in each of the 1987/88 and 1988/89 financial years, while a further R3,5m had been spent on it in the 1989/90 financial year, and nearly R200 000 in the 1990/91 financial year. In a written affidavit submitted as evidence, Mr Barend du Plessis, finance minister at the time, said he recognised the format of the document and the list of operation names. He said he also recognised his own handwriting and signatures, but could not recall whether these had in fact appeared on the original documents in the places indicated. He denied knowledge of Operation Marion, and said he would have marked it with an asterisk if it had indeed appeared on any of the documents put before him for signature.

A further secret document-a letter from Gen Geldenhuys to Gen Malan in March 1990-suggested that the state president, Mr F W de Klerk, had also had knowledge of Operation Marion and had approved its continuation. In the letter Gen Geldenhuys wrote that Mr de Klerk had been briefed on a broad spectrum of sensitive projects, had approved them in principle, and had directed the defence force to continue them. Appended to the letter was a list of 45 special operations, including Operation Marion, on which a total of R6,5m would have been spent from 1987 to 1991. The letter, according to a report in the Sunday Times, contained signatures approving the funding of these operations by Gen Geldenhuys, Gen Malan and Mr Du Plessis. In the annexure, the purpose of Operation Marion was described as: 'To put Inkatha in a position to neutralise the onslaught against it from Umkhonto we Sizwe.'

A further secret document also submitted to the court in early May had allegedly been signed by Gen Geldenhuys, and requested indemnity for senior SADF officers involved in the military training of Inkatha members. The document, according to a report in The Citizen, referred to the military's concerns regarding possible criminal prosecution arising from Operation Marion. 'Offensive actions are part of Operation Marion's task,' the document said. 'The assurance is therefore desired that these officers enjoy protection in terms of Article 103 of the Defence Act in case they are charged while conducting Operation Marion.' The document also indicated that Mr Khumalo, then private secretary to Chief Buthelezi, had requested military assistance to acquire a permanent base camp for the Caprivi trainees who were becoming 'restless'. According to the document, Mr Khumalo was told that this request should instead be forwarded 'through KwaZulu channels', as direct contact between Mr Khumalo and senior officers could link the army to the Inkatha programme.

An article in Rapport said it was important to remember, as a background to the trial, the circumstances which had prevailed in the 1980s. There were pleas from the ANC, broadcast on Radio Freedom, for the assassination of established leaders in South Africa, including Chief Buthelezi and the Zulu chiefs. There were lanand limpet-mine explosions, and car-bomb attacks in which many innocent civilians were killed or seriously injured. These included the Pretoria car bomb, the Magoo's Bar bomb, the bombs at Ellis Park rugby stadium and at a number of Wimpy Bar restaurants. Mrs Winnie Mandela spoke of liberating the country 'with our boxes of matches'. Hundreds of people were killed in necklace murders. They were forced to drink petrol or oil, a tyre was put around their necks and filled with petrol-and then they were set on fire. They died a gruesome death.

In KwaZulu and Natal, the ANC's military wing set in motion a civil war. Cadres were sent from outside the country to murder people in the province. Tons and tons of weapons were brought into the region. Countless Zulu chiefs were murdered, precisely in keeping with the instructions and pleas broadcast on Radio Freedom. All these actions were constantly justified in the SACP publication, Sechaba, and further violence exhorted. As the violence intensified, moreover, it was the government's clear duty to do all it could to protect its citizens. It was against this background that men from KwaZulu, Venda, the Transkei, and the Ciskei were trained in VIP protection.

The terrible events of the 1980s, concluded the article, could not excuse the killings at KwaMakhutha. They did, however, provide a context for the training provided to the Caprivi trainees-and underscored the need, in particular, for the adequate protection of KwaZulu's leaders.

The prosecution closed its case in early May, and defence counsel thereafter applied for the discharge of the 20 accused on the basis that the state's evidence against them was insufficient, and had revealed 'serious flaws'. The evidence of witnesses, they said, had proved unreliable under cross-examination, while in some respects witnesses had contradicted one another. In addition, the defence contended, the secret military documents submitted in evidence showed only that the training provided to Inkatha was intended to provide 'contra-mobilisation activities' in KwaZulu and Natal in the 1980s. They did not show that the SADF had intended to train hit squads, nor that there was any direct link between the military assistance provided to Inkatha and the KwaMakhutha attack.

Mr McNally opposed the application for discharge, stating that the evidence showed that Gen Malan had been 'in the driving seat' of a military conspiracy to create hit squads for Inkatha for offensive action against the ANC and its allies during the 1980s. 'It was his SADF guns that killed 13 people at KwaMakhutha,' he continued. There was also a considerable body of undisputed fact relating to the massacre, which included 'the covert military training given to some 200 Inkatha recruits in the Caprivi, the salaries paid to trainees, the use of SADF AK-47 rifles in the KwaMakhutha attack, and the delivery of the rifles to an SADF officer shortly after the attack'. Mr McNally also rejected the defence contention that Mr Opperman and Mr Cloete had been 'rogue' officers, who had planned the attack 'as a frolic of their own'. In addition, Mr McNally contended, there was sufficient evidence to implicate all of the accused on at least a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

Mr McNally also acknowledged that three of the state's witnesses-Messrs Opperman, Cloete and Khumalo-were all accomplices in the KwaMakhutha killings and that their evidence must therefore be viewed with caution. He added that an accomplice could not be expected to be fully reliable or credible, and that the court should remember that memory was often fallible. As regards Mr Cloete, Mr McNally said: 'He is my witness, but evidence does not always tell the truth.' Mr McNally also criticised the way in which the ITU had taken statements-by transferring sections from one document to another-and said this had given rise to serious mistakes.

Mr Justice J H Hugo said he was deeply concerned about the methods of identification used by the ITU, and that he had difficulty understanding its logic in this regard. Witnesses had identified some of the accused on the basis of their names alone, while photographs-which were available-were not used. This had resulted in Mr Khumalo having to withdraw his identification of two of the accused. Judge Hugo also expressed concern about two other aspects of the evidence. These were the reliance placed in many instances on the testimony of a single witness, and the fact that such witnesses were also accomplices. Both Mr Cloete and Mr Khumalo, he added, had made serious mistakes. 'Cloete at first put accused number four at the scene, and later withdrew this. Khumalo put accused number five and accused number six at the scene and later withdrew this.' There was thus nothing to link these accused with the KwaMakhutha massacre other than the fact that they formed part of the 'offensive group'. He queried whether a reasonable court could convict on such evidence.

Three of the accused-the former MI chief director, Gen Tienie Groenewald; the former MI officer at Natal Command, Col Johannes Victor; and the former MI operative and Ferntree military base commander, Col Dan Griesel-were subsequently discharged by the court, Judge Hugo stating that reasons for this would be given later. The prosecution of Gen Malan and other senior security officers proceeded, and the derence opende its case in early June.

The first of the accused to testify, Mr Hloni Mbuyazi, admitted he had been a member of a select 'offensive' group which had received weapons training in the Caprivi Strip in 1986. He denied, however, that the training formed part of an SADF plan to eliminate members of the ANC and its allies in Natal. He had been told, instead, that he would be integrated into the KZP on completion of training. In the event, however, this had been delayed because the KZP could not afford to take the trainees on. In the interim, they had on occasion been used to guard parliamentary buildings in KwaZulu. Mr Mbuyazi denied that he had taken part in the attack on the Ntuli home, and said he thought he had been attending a training camp for Caprivi trainees at the time when it occurred.

Four of the other accused likewise testified that they had had no idea that the SADF had been responsible for their training in the Caprivi, and that they had believed that they were being trained to join the KZP. Most of them also claimed that they had been only vaguely aware of the ANC during their training. Instruction had emphasised guard duties, and trainees had never been told they were being instructed in how to kill members of the ANC. Political instruction had taken the form of informal talks about Inkatha culture and its non-violent policy.

Another of the accused, Mr Zakhele Khumalo, told the court he had not been informed that the SADF was providing the training. He had believed the men were being trained for service in the KZP, and that instruction was being provided by a private security company. He said he found out about the SADF's involvement only after the KwaMakhutha massacre. He added that 'documents before the court suggested that Chief Buthelezi and a former KZP deputy commissioner, Brig Sipho Mathe, had had a "cover-up arrangement" with military officers at the time of the training'. Mr Khumalo added that he had been put in charge of the trainees in Natal, but had had difficulty in controlling them. Chief Buthelezi had arranged a meeting for him with Gen Malan in Cape Town in August 1988, at which he (Mr Khumalo) had explained the problems which had arisen. 'Trainees had begun moving back to their home areas, becoming involved in violent activities, and most of them returned to Ulundi only once a month to collect their salaries,' he said. 'We heard that they were getting involved in the fighting that was going on in their areas. Some would just disappear for weeks.' The meeting with Gen Malan was very short, but led to the posting of a military officer to Natal, and the provision of further training for the Caprivi trainees, who continued to receive intermittent training until they were integrated into the KZP in 1989. Mr Khumalo denied that the trainees had ever become involved in hit squad activity, saying that their sole purpose was to protect dignitaries and buildings of the KwaZulu administration, then under considerable threat from the UDF. He added that Chief Buthelezi's involvement with the military with regard to the trainees was justified because 'people were entitled to protection', and that the secrecy surrounding the project was related to the sensitive political climate at the time.

In cross-examination, Mr Khumalo was shown a letter he had written in 1991, referring to the Caprivi training operations as 'my project', even though he had earlier told the court that he had never been fully informed about the extent of the Caprivi operation. Mr Khumalo said he had never meant that the training had been his own private affair. He had used inverted commas in his letter, he said, to 'indicate that althought I said it was my project, it wasn't my project'. He was also asked to explain numerous references to the 'offensive' nature of the Caprivi training, as well as a secret report by Gen Liebenberg that detailed the SADF's plan to establish an Inkatha 'offensive' unit and a seprate 'defensive' unit to assist Inkatha against the ANC. Mr Khumalo told the court the plan was never implemented. The trainees returned from the Caprivi in 1986 and were integrated into the KZP in 1989. Mr Khumalo also told the court of a meeting in March 1988 between Gen Malan and Chief Buthelezi, which had focused on the need to increase the scope of covert activity againste the ANC.

Gen Groenewald testified that Chief Buthelezi had remained staunchly opposed to the apartheid government during the 1980s, despite his acceptance of military assistance to counter the activities of the ANC. He had continued to call for the release of Mr Mandela, and had refused to accept independence for KwaZulu. He had also refused to negotiate with the government until Mr Mandela had been released.

It was evidence of an ANC plot to assassinate Chief Buthelezi in the mid-1980s, added Gen Groenewald, that had prompted the giving of SADF assistance to the Inkatha leader and the KwaZulu administration. 'Before 1985,' said Gen Groenewald, 'the ANC believed that killing [Chief Buthelezi] would have made him a martyr, but in that year orders were given to the ANC in Natal that they must get rid of him.' Specialist ANC groups had then begun to infiltrate Natal. Chief Buthelezi had also uncovered the plot and had asked the SADF for help-partly because he did not trust his own bodyguards, who had been trained by the SAP. The SADF's knowledge of the assassination plot had prevented the ANC specialist groups from carrying out their orders. Chief Buthelezi's request for assistance was recorded in MI records, which were later submitted to senior SADF officers.

Gen Kat Liebenberg thereafter testified that the report he had co-authored had never recommended unlawful or 'offensive' actions against the ANC, despite its reference to setting up an 'offensive element'. He said the 'offensive element' envisaged was a 'protection unit' that could defend Inkatha against ANC attacks. 'Not one of us found the offensive element strange because we were convinced it was all about protection. For us it was clear that we were talking about an offensive element within the context of proper protection,' he stated. The present day military establishment, he added, did not draw a simple distinction between 'offensive' and 'defensive' capabilities. The two terms were used interchangeably, and had become 'intermingled'. Drawing on various military examples to illustrate his point, Gen Liebenberg also emphasised that modern soldiers were not trained exclusively in 'offensive' or 'defensive' tactics. 'We no longer differentiate,' he said, 'between defensive and offensive operations. A soldier gets trained in both.'

In cross-examination, Mr McNally accused Gen Liebenberg of having misled the Goldstone commission in 1992 by denying knowledge of the Caprivi training and failing to tell the commission of the secret report he had co-authored. (The commission had been mandated to investigate alleged Inkatha hit squad activities, following reports that Inkatha supporters had received training in the Caprivi in 1986.) Gen Liebenberg responded that he had not thought the report was relevant, largely because at the time he had forgotten its contents. 'It (the report) was a few hours work and the army programme for that year was very full. Six years later (when appearing before the commission), I really didn't remember the contents of the report.' He was also asked to explain various contradictions arising from different documents before the court.

The trial was adjourned at the end of June, and resumed in August. Before closing its case, the defence called as a witness Mr Johan van der Westhuizen, a retired Iscor security manager. This followed allegations by the prosecution that the AK-47 rifles used in the massacre had been smelted afterwards in a furnace at Iscor, near Pretoria. Mr van der Westhuizen testified that all vehicles entering and leaving Iscor in 1987 were searched. He denied that SADF weapons had been brought for smelting, and said the army-unlike the police-did not have approval for disposing of weapons in Iscor furnaces. Moreover, when the police disposed of guns in the furnaces, the weapons were first inspected by Iscor security officers and the occasion was noted in an occurrences book. (These books were destroyed after five years.)

Mr van der Westhuizen testified that he had been threatened with imprisonment when he was interviewed by Superintendent Frank Dutton, the officer in command of the ITU, who did not seem satisfied with the answers given to him. 'I got the impression,' said Mr van der Westhuizen, 'that he wanted me to know about defence force weapons having been melted down.' Mr van der Westhuizen told the court that Supt Dutton had said to him, 'Try to remember. Don't let me have to come back and take you in.'

Mr van der Westhuizen added that Supt Dutton's testimony to the court regarding security and smelting procedures at Iscor related to those in force in 1996, even though he had repeatedly told Supt Dutton that these procedures were not the same as those which pertained in 1987. In the late 1980s, Iscor's Pretoria plant was a specified national key point, and security measures were strict.

In September, the state withdrew its charges against one of the accused, former Military Intelligence officer Cmdt Jan van der Merwe, who was alleged to have collected the AK-rifles used in the attack and taken them to Iscor for smelting. Mr McNally said the state did not believe the accused's denial, but was not in a position to ask for him to be convicted on any of the charges. He was accordingly entitled to acquittal.

The court gave judgement in mid-October, and acquitted all of the accused. Mr Judge Hugo said that he and his two assessors, Mr T N Kruger (a retired magistrate) and Mr H Q Msimang (a Pietermaritzburg attorney), were unable to rely on the evidence of the state's three key witnesses. All were accomplices who sought to benefit by testifying and whose evidence had to be treated with caution. Other witnesses who might have been able to corroborate their testimony had not been called, and the court could not rely on their evidence alone. Capt Opperman was a 'lying witness', while it appeared that the ITU, led by Supt Dutton, had coached witnesses as to what they should say. It had also transferred paragraphs from one witness's statement to another, and this had contaminated the evidence before the court. Moreover, Supt Dutton's own evidence regarding security arrangements which prevailed at Iscor was misleading, for he had testified as to the lax security arrangements which prevailed at Iscor in 1996. Judge Hugo said that 'if Supt Dutton had not meant the court to infer these were the same security measures in force in 1987, then the evidence would have been irrelevant. If the inference was intended, as seemed likely, then Supt Dutton's evidence was misleading, and probably deliberately so, for Supt Dutton had failed to mention that Iscor was a national key point in 1987 and its security measures were far stricter then'. The court also criticised the failure of the investigators to hold proper photograph and identity parades.

Elaborating on the court's assessment of the evidence proffered by Capt Opperman, Judge Hugo said it was 'often contradictory, improbable or absurd'. Unsatisfactory elements of his testimony included his 'extremely unlikely' claim that he was appointed by senior Military Intelligence officers to command the massacre even though he had no combat training or experience. Moreover, the careless way in which the attack had been planned and executed tended to support the defence suggestion that it was not an authorised military operation. In addition, it was clear that Capt Opperman was lying when he said the target was a single person, Mr Ntuli, for this was inconsistent with the large number of weapons and the quantity of ammunition used.

As regards the conspiracy charge, Judge Hugo said the various documents relating to Operation Marion tendered by the state in evidence were capable of more than one meaning-and could be given an innocent interpretation favourable to the accused. The inference the state sought to draw-that there was a plot within the SADF to murder opponents of Inkatha-was not the only reasonable inference that could be drawn. The prosecution had relied on references in these documents to 'offensive' action, but the defence had led 'copious evidence to show that the words, in a military context, did not necessarily mean aggression'. The word 'attack' did not once appear in the documents, nor was there any reference to the KwaMakhutha operation, to 'hit squads', to murder, or to any unlawful deeds. The documents thus revealed no unlawful aim, and 'no meeting of minds among the accused which might amount to a conspiracy to murder'.

The court also said in passing there was little doubt but that the KwaMakhutha massacre had been committed by some of the Caprivi trainees, and that Messrs Opperman and Cloete 'between the two of them planned the operation and instructed or guided those trainees that took part in it as to what to do'. Judge Hugo refused to grant indemnity from prosecution to Capt Opperman and his two accomplices, saying they had failed to answer questions honestly and frankly.

Mr McNally said thereafter that the state did not propose to prosecute the three, as 'there was no evidence against them besides their own testimony'. Mr McNally attributed the failure of the prosecution to the main witnesses having proved unreliable in court, and the 'weight given by the judge to evidence that an innocent interpretation' could be placed on documents relating to Operation Marion. He denied that he had embarked on an 'ill-advised prosecution of the KwaMakhutha accused under political pressure', and added that, in the light of the judgement, 'there could be little doubt that the massacre was carried out by Inkatha supporters trained in the Caprivi and in the pay of the defence force'.

The ANC in KwaZulu/Natal said it would be 'forced to accept and live with the ruling', but that 'in the eyes of our people it might not be acceptable'. The organisation said it doubted its constituency would 'have faith in the judicial system unless it was transformed'. Mr Bheki Cele questioned the way in which the prosecution had been handled by Mr McNally, asking why he had failed to call additional witnesses to corroborate the state's case, and had proceeded with prosecution without ensuring adequate evidence was placed before the court. He added that the onus now lay on Mr McNally to clarify who had killed the 13 victims of the KwaMakhutha massacre. The ANC stated that the trial had proved that 'IFP members were trained by the apartheid security forces, making the IFP an extension of the apartheid security forces'.

President Mandela issued a statement saying that he fully accepted the court's decision. 'I have confidence in the judiciary,' the president stated. 'I am a politician and I am guided by their decision. I will not interfere in the judicial process.' He added that it was important to respect the judicial arm of government, and to remember that only the trial court had heard all the evidence, and the cross-examination of witnesses. 'Without confidence in the courts,' he stated, 'this society will degenerate into private vengeance and extra-legal activities.' The courts were the institutions to determine the guilt of those accused, but the judgement left the government with the task of finding who had been responsible for the KwaMakhutha killings.

The chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Archbishop Desmond Tutu, indicated that the TRC might not accept the verdict and could summon Gen Malan and the other accused who had been acquitted. He and his deputy chairman, Dr Alex Boraine, said the commission had not yet decided 'whether it would conduct its own investigation' into the issues raised by the trial.

The IFP welcomed the verdict, saying the state should be more cautious before embarking on prosecutions which had 'high level political connotations'. The judgement had strengthened perceptions that there was a preference for prosecuting IFP members in a bid to deal with opponents of the government.

The NP said the accused should never have been charged, for it had been clear from the outset that the grounds on which the prosecution was based were 'flimsy and somewhat far-fetched'. Moreover, the judge's verdict on the way the team of investigators had manipulated the evidence and the witnesses was a serious issue, and undermined South Africa's legal process. It was also time, it added, for investigation and ensuing court cases to proceed against senior ANC political figures against whom serious allegations of human rights abuses had been made for some time. Incidents which merited investigation were various bomb attacks, as well as '500 cases of necklacing, hundreds of limpet mine attacks, and human rights abuses in ANC internment camps'. The NP wanted 'even-handed treatment of alleged offenders on all sides'.

The De Kock Trial

The most serious other 'third force' evidence arose from the trial of Colonel Eugene de Kock in the Transvaal Provincial Division of the Supreme Court in Pretoria. Col de Kock, who had been implicated by the Goldstone commission in gun-running to the IFP and other 'third force' activities, had been charged on 121 counts, including murder, fraud and terrorism. By the time the state closed its case in April 1996, 87 witnesses had testified and the transcript of the evidence put before the court ran to some 12000 pages. The evidence-provided primarily by Col de Kock's former subordinates at the C-10 unit stationed at Vlakplaas-implicated the accused, inter alia, in various fraudulent schemes, in bomb attacks on ANC offices in Lusaka and London, and in the torture and murder of a number of people, mainly anti-apartheid activists, askaris, or other policemen suspected of being about to confess to third force activities.

For the purposes of this study, the most relevant testimony concerned Col de Kock's alleged supply of arms to the IFP. According to affidavits before the court, three reinforced rooms at Vlakplaas were used to store illegal arms. They were 'packed from floor to ceiling with arms and ammunition trucked to Vlakplaas from Koevoet bases in Owamboland. Col de Kock alone had the keys to the mini-arsenals, filled with AK-47 rifles, RPG-7 rocket launchers, anti-personnel mines, hand grenades and other weapons issued to or confiscated by Koevoet during the Namibian war. From Vlakplaas, vast quantities of the weapons eventually found their way to members of the IFP, and were used to foment violence in townships on the east Rand and Natal'.

Comparatively little evidence was presented to the court, however, in substantiation of the allegations linking Col de Kock to the supply of weapons to the IFP. In October Mr Willie Nortjé, a former Vlakplaas member, told the court that eight high-ranking IFP officials had been registered as monthly paid Vlakplaas informers in August 1990. This had been done, he said, 'not to obtain information from them but to buy their allegiance and to control them'. Two ANC officials were also registered, he said, and with the same motive. Mr Nortjé said that weapons had also been supplied to the IFP.

Mr Nortjé also told the court that he had 'spilt the beans' to the Goldstone commission in order to survive, and ahd been influenced in doing so by an undertaking given by Mr Justice Richard Goldstone, chairman of the commission, that he would receive indemnity from prosecution and would not be required to testify in open court. He denied that he had testified to make money and said he had learnt of the R90 000 paid by the Goldstone commission to another state witness, his colleague Mr Chappies Klopper, only during the course of the trial.

Another state witness, Mr Brood van Heerden-a former Vlakplaas member who had left the police, joined Absa Bank as a security guard, and allegedly acted as a 'middle man' in contacts between the Vlakplaas unit and the IFP -told the court that IFP informers had been paid for some six to eight months from October 1990. (Mr Nortjé had earlier testified that they had been paid for some four months.)

In giving evidence, Mr van Heerden 'made it clear he felt he was forced into testifying because-not being a policeman-he could not afford legal representation, and pressure was also put on him by his former employer, Absa Bank'. Mr van Heerden also said that Major Eugene van Vuuren, 'who had got Chappies Klopper to testify about third force activities to the Goldstone commission, was obsessed with linking certain generals to criminal activities'. According to Mr van Heerden, Maj van Vuuren 'believed he would be promoted to the rank of general in the new dispensation'. Maj van Vuuren, he stated, had been promoted to brigadier-'jumping two ranks and without completing any required police courses'-since the release of the Goldstone commission's report in March 1994.

Following Mr Nortjé's testimony, the Sunday Times reported that Mr Themba Khoza, the leader of the IFP in Gauteng, and the Reverend Celani Mthethwa, safety and security MEC in KwaZulu/Natal, had been exposed as 'paid informers and gun-runners for the former government' by the evidence given in the trial. The ANC's provincial leadership in KwaZulu/Natal called for the arrest of the IFP leaders and their immediate suspension from public office. They demanded explanations from Chief Buthelezi, the KwaZulu/Natal premier, Dr Frank Mdlalose, and Mr de Klerk, and said: 'If the allegations are correct, they will confirm the ANC's belief that the IFP is nothing but an extension of apartheid covert security forces.' They would also show that 'taxpayers' money was used to foment political violence among blacks' and would explain why violence persisted in KwaZulu/Natal 'where Mr Mthethwa was responsible for safety and security'. An ANC spokesman, Mr Ronnie Mamoepa, urged a thorough investigation into 'the scope and involvement of the third force network in the current violence', the murder of prominent ANC leaders in KwaZulu/Natal, the manipulation by the third force of 'the coloured community to call for a tenth province in the Transkei', and 'the manipulation of financial markets to bolster the image of the NP'.

Mr Velaphi Ndlovu, the IFP's national spokesman on safety and security, said that the allegations were a gambit to 'discredit the IFP'. He denied them, and said both IFP leaders would be encouraged by the party to sue the Sunday Times for defamation and 'lying in public'. Dr Ziba Jiyane, the secretary general of the IFP, also rejected the allegations and queried why the evidence that ANC members had also been recruited as informers had not been mentioned in the newspaper report. He added that both IFP leaders were entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Mr Khoza denied the allegations against him and challenged the ANC to lay criminal charges against him, so that he could disprove these in court. He added that he doubted that the ANC would take the matter to court, as it would mean 'they would be proven wrong'. The ANC responded that it had, for the time being, 'ruled out laying charges against Mr Khoza and Mr Mthethwa' as more evidence would probably surface during the de Kock trial, and the immediate priority was for this trial to 'take its course'.

Mr Mthethwa also denied the allegations made against him by Mr Nortjé and Mr van Heerden and said calls for his resignation-made repeatedly in the wake of the Sunday Times report-were unwarranted. He said the allegations had been made by 'criminals who risked lengthy imprisonment' and that he would be 'more than willing' to co-operate in any criminal investigation into the accusations made by them. (Soon thereafter, Dr Mdlalose personally assumed control of the safety and security portfolio in KwaZulu/Natal, and gave Mr Mthethwa responsibility for public works instead. The ANC said this was 'suspicious but expected' and showed that there was 'something fundamentally wrong' with Mr Mthethwa. Dr Mdlalose responded that Mr Mthethwa's portfolio had been changed to public works to relieve the pressure on another KwaZulu/Natal MEC, Mr S J Mhlungu, who was responsible for both public works and finance.)

Further evidence regarding Col de Kock's alleged supply of arms to Inkatha was provided by another state witness, Mr Marthinus Gouws, who worked for an armaments company called Mechem Consultants (a subsidiary of the Denel group). Mr Gouws testified that the huge arsenal of arms to which Col de Kock had access had been supplied by Mechem at Col de Kock's request. Mr Gouws stated that Mechem had, over time, accumulated an enormous quantity of arms and ammunition-more than it was licensed to possess-and had decided to destroy the excess. On 1 October 1993, he had been introduced to Col de Kock by another Mechem employee, Mr Joe Verster, the former managing director of the disbanded Civil Co-operation Bureau. This took place at the company's Wallmannsthal plant where he (Mr Gouws) was armaments officer. According to Mr Gouws, Mr Verster said that the police needed explosives for 'training new recruits' to the C-10 unit. The arms were loaded on to an eight-ton truck, and included '182 RPG-7 rockets, 14 400 AK-47 rifle rounds, 15 191 R-1 rifle rounds, 112 60mm high explosive mortars, 1 428 rifle grenades, 98 anti-personnel land mines, 3 900 9mm tracer rounds, and almost 125kg of plastic explosives as well as a large quantity of detonators and fuse wire'. Three weeks later Col de Kock returned to Mechem and loaded 395g of explosives, 188 mortars, 288 hand grenades, 7 500 rounds of 7,62mm ammunition and 200 shrapnel mines. Col de Kock, said Mr Gouws, signed for both consignments. The arms-which Col de Kock was never asked to pay for-were obtained some six months after he had left the police.

In cross-examining Mr Gouws, Mr Flip Hattingh SC, counsel for the defence, said that the arms had been intended to be used in training IFP self-protection units (SPUs) in Kwa-Zulu/Natal, which had been established to protect the party's leaders in the province. The request for help, said Mr Hattingh, had come from Mr Philip Powell of the IFP, and lorries belonging to the KwaZulu administration had been used to fetch the two consignments. The number plates of the trucks had been covered with masking tape and a police registration number had been written on the tape in thick black letters. The tape was removed after the lorries left Mechem's premises. The weapons were taken to what was believed to be an SPU training camp in Umfolozi, where they were inspected by Col de Kock.

A further statement on the issue was subsequently made by a former security policeman, Captain Dirk Coetzee, who had in 1989 confessed to involvement in hit squad activity, including the assassination of Mr Griffiths Mxenge in Durban in 1981. Mr Coetzee told the court that, in 1993, 'Eugene de Kock still operated and supplied arms to the right wing and Inkatha, and was also involved in train violence'. He acknowledged that he had previously lied to the Harms Commission, as well as before a disciplinary committee, saying: 'I fabricated evidence because there was a mighty onslaught against me'. He said that he had left the country in 1989 to escape injustice, and that he had received an allowance from the ANC for the four years he was away from South Africa, and for some five months thereafter. He added that 'the ANC expected nothing in return, but he felt he had to give the ANC information in order to stop the violence'.

In March Col de Kock applied for amnesty from the TRC. The application filed by Col de Kock ran to three pages, and explained why he believed the offences listed were associated with a political objective. The application did not, however, said the attorney responsible for its drafting, 'include any details of the 121 charges against him'. Col de Kock, it was later reported, had decided not to approach the commission for amnesty until his trial was concluded.

The state closed its case against Col de Kock in mid-April. Col de Kock subsequently declined to testify in his defence, but the presiding judge, Mr Justice W J van der Merwe, said there were certain witnesses he and his assessors might want to call to clear up certain points. One of the witnesses subsequently called at the request of Judge van der Merwe was Mr Eugene van Vuuren, part of the former Goldstone commission's special investigating team and a member of a team investigating the restructuring of the police. (This was the same Mr van Vuuren that Mr van Heerden had told the court was 'obsessed with linking certain generals to criminal activities', and believed he would be 'promoted to the rank of general in the new dispensation' if he succeeded in this.)

Mr van Vuuren told the court that his main aim had been to rid the police of the 'cancer' in its midst. In order to do this, the generals behind 'third force' activities had to be exposed. Officers of lower rank, he said, had been 'victims of the system'. Mr van Vuuren said that R100 000 was paid to Mr Klopper, a key witness for the state, after he had 'told all' to the Goldstone commission. He denied the payment was a reward for testifying, saying it was for Mr Klopper's protection in terms of a witness protection programme.

Director Piet du Plessis, also a former member of the Goldstone commission's investigating team, was also called as a witness at Judge van der Merwe's request. Mr du Plessis could not explain 'why an amount of R90 000 was paid secretly and in the dark' to Mr Klopper, or why this was kept secret from another state witness, Mr Nortjé. Mr du Plessis said he had been 'contacted by the Institute for a Democratic Alternative in South Africa (Idasa), who gave him the R90 000 handed to Mr Klopper. He did not know if the money came from Idasa's own funds or elsewhere'. Mr du Plessis said he had warned Mr Nortjé that the latter was in 'big trouble' because of the imminent release of the Goldstone report (of March 1994) on 'third force' activities. He said he had 'felt sorry' for Mr Nortjé, whom he had known for many years, and denied that his warning had been an attempt to pressurise Mr Nortjé into testifying. He also denied that the money had been paid to Mr Klopper to induce him to talk, prompting Judge van der Merwe to comment that the 'logical conclusion' was that Mr Klopper had received money to talk. Mr du Plessis responded that 'one could see it that way'. Mr du Plessis was also questioned about a R10 000 'gift' he had received from Mr Klopper just before both left for Denmark. He said Mr Klopper had handed the money to him, saying he should keep it in case he needed it. Mr du Plessis added that he had known the Goldstone commission would take care of him while he was overseas, but he was nevertheless unsure when it would start paying him. He thought he might need Mr Klopper's money. Subsequently, he said, Mr Klopper had told him he need not repay it.

In June the trial resumed and all charges relating to the other accused were withdrawn, leaving Col de Kock alone in the dock. No reasons were provided for this. The defence subsequently closed its case without ever having called Col de Kock to the witness stand. The prosecution said a negative inference should be drawn from the silence of the accused, for he 'could have proved his innocence had he taken the stand'. Instead, the prosecution argued, the testimony of the numerous witnesses who had given evidence for the state remained substantially unchallenged and was sufficient to justify conviction. The trial was postponed to the end of July, and the defence conceded that the state had proved most of the 121 charges against the accused.

Judgement was given at the end of August by Judge van der Merwe and two assessors (the chief magistrate of Natal, Dr W G van Zyl, and a retired director general of justice, Mr J Booysen). Col de Kock was convicted on five counts of murder (arising, inter alia, from the killing of four would-be robbers in a minibus near Nelspruit (Mpumalanga) in 1992). Col de Kock was also convicted of attempting to murder a former security policeman, Mr Dirk Coetzee, by sending him a parcel bomb in Lusaka; of conspiracy to murder a Vlakplaas colleague, Mr Brian Ngqulunga, who had threatened to disclose security force involvement in the death of Mr Griffiths Mxenge in Durban in 1981; and of being an accessory to culpable homicide by getting rid of the body of an askari, Mr Bruce Nthehelang, killed by members of the C-10 unit after he had lost his firearm in a shebeen. In addition, the former Vlakplaas commander was convicted of defeating the ends of justice by destroying the body of Mr Sweet Sambo, who had died during interrogation by security police members stationed at Komatipoort (in Mpumalanga on the border with Mozambique). The court found that the accused had also ordered the murder of an askari, Mr Goodwill Sikhakhane, to prevent him revealing police involvement in the disappearance of ANC members involved in Operation Vula. Col de Kock was also found guilty of culpable homicide in relation to an ANC attorney, Mr Bheki Mlangeni, who died in 1991 when he switched on a Walkman cassette player containing an explosive device, and which had been intended to kill Mr Coetzee. In addition, Col de Kock was convicted of conspiring to murder a Krugersdorp security guard, Mr Japie Maponya, and of having kidnapped and assaulted him in order to obtain information regarding his brother, Mr Oderile Maponya, known to be an Umkhonto cadre.

Col de Kock was also found guilty on 61 charges of fraud, involving more than R375000, and relating mainly to false claims against the police's secret fund. The accused was acquitted on 31 charges (mostly fraud charges involving monthly payments of informer fees to C-10 members), the court finding that the state had failed to prove these beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court also found that Col de Kock had illegally possessed large quantities of armaments and explosives which, according to testimony before the court, he had obtained from Mechem's premises near Pretoria and had transported to KwaZulu/Natal for use in training IFP supporters.

Commenting on the testimony before the court, Judge van der Merwe said the evidence of many state witnesses had to be 'treated carefully', not only because they were accomplices, but also because some of them held grudges against Col de Kock. In addition, several witnesses were still members of the SAPS, and hoped to keep their positions by testifying against the accused. Account had also to be taken of the new political dispensation in the country, and the possibility that 'some witnesses might have been politically inspired to prejudice Col de Kock'. Moreover, it was possible that one of the state's key witnesses, Mr Chappies Klopper, had divulged his information for financial gain-for he had received cash payments amounting to R100 000 after he had testified to the Goldstone commission, and had implicated a number of high-ranking policemen in a range of serious crimes.

The report of the Goldstone commission, which had in large measure been based on the testimony of Mr Klopper, had said there was strong prima facie evidence that General Krappies Engelbrecht, General Johan le Roux, and Gen Basie Smit had been involved in a host of 'third force' activities. It had also indicated that General Jac Buchner, a former high-ranking police officer and commissioner of the KwaZulu Police, had been involved in these activities-which had included gun-running to the IFP and responsibility for train violence on the Reef. Evidence put before the court, in relation to these individuals, alleged that:

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht was involved in formulating false statements regarding the attack by Col de Kock on the minibus near Nelspruit;

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had ordered Col de Kock to get rid of the body of Mr Sambo; and

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had played a role in falsifying petrol claims made by the group who abducted Mr Japie Maponya, and in making a false declaration in this regard to the Harms commission.

In mid-September, Col de Kock-who had earlier told journalists he would 'not go down alone'-began his evidence in mitigation of sentence. He told the court that he had been involved in several cross-border operations, including one in Lesotho in 1985 in which ten people had been killed-including Ms Jackie Quinn and her husband, Mr Leon Maree-and which had been sanctioned by a former state president, Mr P W Botha. He had also killed Mr Zwelibanzi Nyanda, commander of Umkhonto in Swaziland, in 1983; and had, in the mid-1980s, supplied booby-trapped hand grenades to UDF activists so that they would blow themselves up in using them. In addition, he had blown up the ANC's offices in London, as well as Khotso House in Johannesburg, the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches. He said he had been congratulated for the virtual destruction of Khotso House by a former minister of law and order, Mr Adriaan Vlok, and that Gen Magnus Malan, as well as a former foreign affairs minister, Mr Roelof ('Pik') Botha, had had 'full knowledge of the dirty tricks employed in the apartheid era'.

Col de Kock added that former state president Mr F W de Klerk must have known about covert units and operations during the apartheid years, for he had ordered a raid on the Transkei in 1993 and must have known that these units would be used to implement his instruction. 'He gave the order for the 1993 attack in Transkei and knew perfectly well covert units existed for exactly that purpose.' (Col de Kock added that Mr de Klerk was 'the greatest coward' the country had ever known, and that he cared nothing for his fellow South Africans-for he had gone into negotiations with the ANC 'a small, scared dog who lay on his back to have his belly scratched by the enemy'. In addition, he had effectively abdicated his responsibilities towards the security forces, whom he had 'delivered to the ANC'. 'The moment he unbanned the ANC and PAC, he abdicated... He rolled over like a frightened little puppy and wet himself.')

Mr de Klerk responded that Col de Kock's claims in relation to the Transkei raid in 1993 'were nothing new' for 'nothing had been hidden'. There had been full transparency regarding the raid, which had been aimed at legitimate military targets on the basis of cross-checked intelligence information. Mr de Klerk added that, since the NP had embarked on its reforms in the early 1990s, there had been a small element within the security forces 'who had fought as much against the transformation process as they had against the ANC'.

Col de Kock also stated that Mr Bantu Holomisa, then the military leader of the 'independent' homeland of Transkei, had-together with the late Mr Chris Hani, a former Umkhonto commander and general secretary of the SACP-been responsible for the murder of Mr Craig Duli, after Mr Duli had tried to overthrow Gen Holomisa's military government in the early 1990s. Referring to another incident, Col de Kock added that he, personally, had shot and killed Mr Johannes Magota, who had worked with the police as an askari but had later returned to the liberation movement. Mr Magota had been both bodyguard and driver to Mrs Winnie Mandela (the wife of Mr Nelson Mandela, then still imprisoned on Robben Island), as well as Mrs Mandela's 'sex slave'.

Mr Bantu Holomisa denied the allegations made by Col de Kock against him, and accused the former Vlakplaas commander of 'fabrication'. Mr Duli's widow said her husband had been shot by a junior Transkei officer at a military base outside Umtata.

Col de Kock also stated that a number of high-ranking former security officers had ordered him and his men to 'maim and kill people' in Lesotho and Swaziland, as well as in South Africa itself. He told the court that the State Security Council, Military Intelligence, and the National Intelligence Service had all been party to cross-border raids.

In relation to the four generals earlier implicated by the Goldstone commission in 'third force' activities, Col de Kock stated, inter alia, in the course of his evidence in mitigation that:

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had asked Col de Kock to eliminate a Vlakplaas member, Warrant Officer Piet Botha, who had become involved in illegal vehicle deals and thereby become a threat to the security branch, and that Gen Smit had been aware of this;

Ø     Gen Buchner and Gen Smit were among those who had ordered Col de Kock and his Vlakplaas unit 'to kill and maim people' both in South Africa and in neighbouring states;

Ø     Gen Smit had awarded silver cross medals to Col de Kock and other policemen involved in the Lesotho raid in 1985, in which Ms Quinn and others had been killed;

Ø     Gen Smit had authorised funds to manufacture 100 rifles for the IFP, and had suggested that Col de Kock 'make a false claim from the police secret fund to finance the weapons deal';

Ø     Gen Smit had needed false receipts for expenses incurred on an official trip to London, and 'receipts totalling between R80 000 and R100 000 had had to be manufactured to pay for everything from hotels to car hires'. To achieve this, 'the slips for false claims were signed in every possible way-left-handed, right-handed, even with their feet or something';

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had authorised false claims totalling well over R100 000 to assist Mr Leon Floris, an SADF officer, who had been arrested in the United Kingdom in 1992 'after trying to do a R1m semtex plastic explosives deal with the Ulster Volunteer Force';

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had been the only senior police officer to 'support' Col de Kock when the time had come for the former Vlakplaas commander to leave the police. Gen Engelbrecht had been close to tears when he found that Col de Kock's retirement package (of some R1m) would be some R400 000 less than anticipated, and had encouraged Col de Kock to 'put in false claims for R250 000 in order to buy a house';

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht and Gen Smit had both requested Col de Kock to supply weapons to the IFP, and this had then been done;

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht and Gen le Roux had been 'involved in dirty tricks campaigns';

Ø     Gen le Roux had asked him to kidnap and 'seriously question' Mr Japie Maponya, an instruction which had often entailed the killing of the person under interrogation. Gen le Roux had added that 'he never wanted to see the man again' and had later conveyed, through a police captain at Krugersdorp, that 'the man had to be eliminated';

Ø     during a meeting with Gen Engelbrecht, Col de Kock had been instructed to have Mr Ngqulunga killed, and the askari was later shot;

Ø     Col de Kock had asked Gen Engelbrecht what to do, following a request for help from the security police in disposing of the body of Mr Sambo. However, Gen Engelbrecht had said he 'did not want to have anything to do with the matter', and Col de Kock had then decided on his own that Mr Sambo would be blown up; and

Ø     Gen Engelbrecht had told Col de Kock in 1992 that the C-10 unit could not be disbanded because 'the ANC could pull out of constitutional negotiations at any time and resume the armed struggle'.

Describing his role in supplying weapons to the IFP, Col de Kock said that Mr Philip Powell, an IFP senator, had instigated paramilitary training for IFP members and had ordered armaments from him for use in KwaZulu and Natal. 'The weapons which were used by the IFP in its fight against the ANC were supplied by the police,' stated Col de Kock. He said he had been personally involved in transactions in which huge arms caches had been handed over to the IFP. In addition, in one instance, R85 000 was requested on behalf of the IFP by General Bertus Steyn, and this sum had been supplied from 'Vlakplaas slush funds'. An IFP leader in what was then the Transvaal, Mr Themba Khoza, had also been supplied with a car bought with Vlakplaas funds, and had also had his bail paid for him by the police when he was arrested at a roadblock with several AK-47 rifles in his car, which had been earlier supplied to him by Vlakplaas. Col de Kock said he had personally delivered arms to Mr Khoza in Johannesburg, while other IFP leaders who had received arms and ammunition were Mr Mthethwa and Mr Powell. Most of the 'homemade' weapons used by the IFP, he added, were manufactured for them on orders from the police.

Col de Kock said the police had first started supplying homemade shotguns to the IFP 'to further self-defence units and as a way of countering the ANC'. As the demand for weapons increased, however, 'modified AK-47 rifles, explosives, hand grenades, landmines and large quantities of ammunition were supplied to the IFP'. He had continued supplying weapons to the IFP after his retirement, providing the organisation with some 60 tons of weapons and explosives. (He later said he 'could not remember the date, but he had personally ended assistance to Inkatha in October 1993, just before retiring from the police force'.)

Col de Kock also said that he had helped in the military training of IFP members at a camp near Ulundi (the capital of the former KwaZulu homeland). The weapons he had supplied to Inkatha, he continued, had included 'land mines, fragmentation bombs, missiles, AK-47 rifles and special shotguns, as well as tons of ammunition'. He implicated another IFP leader, Mr Humphrey Ndlovu, in the supply of arms to the IFP as well, and said that the provision of aid to Inkatha had begun 'as the result of a conversation at a braai held at Vlakplaas'. 'A man named Andries van Heerden came to see (Captain) Willie Nortjé at Vlakplaas and asked whether we would arm Inkatha,' stated Col de Kock. 'I said no, but offered ammunition if required. The ammunition was required for AK-47s and it was passed on to Themba Khoza.' Later, at a social function at Vlakplaas, Gen Engelbrecht-as well as Gen Smit and Gen Nick van Rensburg-had again asked for a supply of weapons, and Mechem, an armaments company near Pretoria, had worked out the cost of manufacturing 100 shotguns. 'Van Rensburg agreed to the deal,' said Col de Kock, 'and Smit gave it his approval'. The first 60 shotguns-manufactured to look as if they were homemade-were supplied to the IFP in Johannesburg, while a further 40 were sent to Gen Jac Buchner, as were a further 50 shotguns which had been manufactured without authorisation. The demand for shotguns lessened after Inkatha had found another supplier, but pressure for other weapons mounted. AK-47 rifles were finally provided, but were confiscated when Mr Khoza was stopped at a roadblock in Vanderbijlpark (south of Johannesburg) and arrested for having them in his possession. In addition, said Col de Kock, Gen Nick van Rensburg had 'once asked him to make R20 000 available so that the police could purchase assegais for the Zulus'.

Describing the training provided to the IFP, Col de Kock said Mr Powell had developed plans for the development of quasi-military self-protection units. Mr Powell had then asked Col de Kock to procure additional ammunition, missiles, mortars and landmines from Mechem. The armaments had been delivered in three convoys of two trucks each, and Col de Kock had personally been involved in one of these convoys. Col de Kock had declined to be paid for his services, and had asked instead that the money be sent to his Vlakplaas colleagues.

Mr Khoza denied the allegations made against him by Col de Kock, and said the former Vlakplaas commander was 'lying his way to indemnity'. 'De Kock has not yet told the truth,' said Mr Khoza, 'and I am not sure he will ever tell the truth.' He predicted that, if Col de Kock were freed, he would give a different version of his story. Mr Khoza denied gun-running, spying for the government, and being bailed out of jail by the police, and said he had gathered the necessary evidence to disprove the allegations in court. He wanted to appear in court, he added, in order to clear his name.

In the course of his evidence in mitigation, Col de Kock also said he had been betrayed by a former commissioner of the SAP, General Johan van der Merwe, and other police generals, and 'displayed visible anger towards his senior police colleagues for no longer supporting him'. 'I knew every one of them and the final message to me that they were not giving their support was when I saw them [on television] get off a bus outside the Durban Supreme Court to support General Magnus Malan. They had dissociated themselves from me.' The final straw came, he added, when he heard that 'Gen Nick van Rensburg had applied for amnesty to the TRC but had requested that his name be kept secret'. He realised then, he said, that each of these senior policemen was going to try to get amnesty in secret, and without being discredited. 'It was then that I decided to look after myself,' said Col de Kock.

He had also felt betrayed, he indicated, when the bans on the ANC, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), and other organisations had been lifted in 1990, and the decision had been made to 'scrap Vlakplaas'. 'This was my work,' he continued. 'The enemy was the ANC, PAC and SACP. I felt the state had decided we had to go, to cut us loose. My loyalty was to the government and the police. It was absolute. I did not leave voluntarily. It has been made to look as if I took a pension.' He added that before he had left the police he had 'spent hours burning tons of files connected with covert operations'. He condemned the government 'for abandoning apartheid after he had offered it the best years of his life to fight Marxism'.

A report in The New York Times quoted legal experts as having said that Col de Kock-despite his wide-ranging statement in mitigation of sentence-had 'still failed to offer damning evidence against top-level officials'. Moreover, his evidence regarding two former presidents-Mr Botha and Mr de Klerk-was 'nothing more than hearsay and would not [generally] be admissible'. In relation to Mr de Klerk, Col de Kock had 'dropped his emotionless tone and lashed out' at the former state president-accusing him of cowardice and saying that Mr de Klerk had known 'all along what assassination units were doing'. Again, however, Col de Kock had been able to offer, by way of evidence, 'no more than his opinion'.

Under cross-examination by the deputy attorney general of the Transvaal, Mr Anton Ackerman, Col de Kock admitted that he had lied to the Goldstone and Harms commissions of inquiry. Asked why he had now decided to tell the truth, Col de Kock said: 'There is always a point when one sees what is right. I decided in December 1994, when a friend was assaulted by the police, that the truth had to be told. I decided then that I would tell the truth, not turn state witness and be taken overseas. I wanted the full picture of what took place to come out as the whole country has a right to know.' He admitted that he had at first not told his counsel about a meeting he had had with the attorney general earlier in the year, but denied that the negotiations which had then ensued had been cloaked in secrecy. He added that, though he had totally misled the Harms commission, not everything he had said to the Goldstone commission was untrue. 'There were certain aspects of my answers which were false, and others which were true.'

Col de Kock also said that Vlakplaas, 'as a single unit, could not possibly have served the whole country'. There were far more 'sick and cold-blooded murderers' than those at Vlakplaas alone. Vlakplaas had been a 'minor cog' in an overall machine in which 'everyone from the commissioner of police to the minister and upwards was working together to cover up the true state of affairs'. He admitted that he had willingly 'murdered and perjured himself to aid the government of the day', and said he had joined the IFP because the 'whites were too useless to fight'. He feared, moreover, that 'the same atrocities that took place in Zaire would take place in South Africa if a black government took over'. He said he had since broken off all contact with the IFP, and expected soon to testify in court against his former friend and ally, Mr Themba Khoza.

In further allegations made under cross-examination, Col de Kock said that South African security forces had been involved in the assassination of a former Swedish prime minister, Mr Olaf Palme, in 1986; that he had been asked to kill a former head of the ANC Women's League, Mrs Gertrude Shope, but had refused to do so as there were 'better targets available, like Mr Chris Hani'; and that he had 'intimate knowledge of the death of the Cradock four', including Mr Matthew Goniwe (who was killed together with three other activists in mysterious circumstances in 1985). He denied that he was 'playing for headlines' by making sensational claims, and said his information was not based on hear-say but came from 'verbal statements made to him directly'.

He also stated that he had made bombs for the IFP, and specifically for Mr Khoza. 'We made bombs in containers for Inkatha, for example, by placing explosives in a 2kg box of washing powder.' Only Mr Khoza, he added, would know how many of them had been used, and how many remained outstanding. He added that he had no longer been a member of the police force when he had fetched arms and ammunition from Mechem for delivery to the IFP. He conceded that he had deliberately misled Mechem into thinking he was still a policeman, as he would never have been given the armaments if the company had known that he had become an arms dealer. 'He said the weapons were due for destruction anyway, and he had only spent a few days in Natal until he had an argument with Philip Powell about the conditions at the training grounds, where Mr Powell was in charge of training.' There had never been any talk of payment for the arms-which included rocket launchers, mortars, ammunition and hand grenades-because 'the main concern was not profit, but the survival of Inkatha, who were being destroyed by the ANC on the East Rand'.

Mr Khoza responded that 'the ANC was using De Kock to assassinate the character of its political enemies'. He described the allegations as 'dangerous and highly irresponsible', and said there were two options open to him-to approach a court to settle the matter once and for all, or to 'demand that the ANC come open on their part in killing IFP people'. Accusing the ANC of having started the violence, Mr Khoza said that 'if truth, reconciliation and peace were to be achieved, the ANC would have to explain why they began killing blacks, where they received their weapons, how they selected IFP targets, and where those weapons were today'. He accused the ANC, in addition, of being 'determined to defeat the ends of justice by distorting the entire history on the tragedy of violence'.

An editorial in The Citizen said that it would 'take years to unravel truth from fiction in Col de Kock's long and bitter testimony'. Most of his evidence was untested, whereas if 'he had made his claims during the trial, he would have been thoroughly examined on their substance'. Noting that Col de Kock might have a 'vengeful motive at being betrayed', the editorial stated that he was also looking for mitigation of sentence and, in due course, for amnesty. The allegations he had made, however, raised a host of questions as to who else had been involved in his nefarious deeds-and his evidence, albeit largely untested, had been 'more than enough to allow those who believed in a 'third force' theory of violence to feel vindicated'.

At the time of writing, Col de Kock was yet to testify to the TRC in support of his application for amnesty. During cross-examination on his evidence in mitigation, Col de Kock said he had applied to the TRC for amnesty, but was still 'treading carefully because the commission seemed to accept allegations as fact without attempting to test the truth of such allegations'. He also told the court: 'My only strategy is to keep alive. I find myself in a steel vault with no passages and no turns.'

The attorney general of the Transvaal, Dr Jan D'Oliveira, said the individuals implicated by Col de Kock might face prosecution if his claims could be substantiated. 'We are going to evaluate De Kock's claims one by one,' said Dr D'Oliveira, 'to see to what extent they can be verified, or fit in with information we already have. We work with facts, not allegations.' A vast amount of work was necessary to evaluate the allegations, and no predictions could yet be made as to who might face prosecution. 'We first have to see which of the allegations yield evidence,' he said. The TRC announced, however, that it had subpoenaed Gen Engelbrecht and Gen Smit to appear before the commission, and that subpoenas would also be served on other former high-ranking police officers implicated by Col de Kock in third force activities.

At the end of October, Col de Kock was sentenced to two life sentences and to 212 years' imprisonment. The sentences were to run concurrently, effectively sentencing the hit squad commander to one life term. Only a life sentence, said Judge van der Merwe, would satisfy society's demand for retribution for 'revolting acts planned and executed in cold blood', and 'condoned and covered up by a system rotten to the core'.

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.