TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
NAME: JOHANNES VELDE VAN DER MERWE
HELD AT: PRETORIA
MR VISSER: If it pleases you Mr Chairman the next applicant is well known to you, he is General van der Merwe. He is ready to take the oath Mr Chairman.
JOHANNES VELDE VAN DER MERWE: (sworn states)
EXAMINATION BY MR VISSER: Mr Chairman we have taken the liberty of drawing, also in the case of General van der Merwe, a written document which we believe might serve to shorten matters. Evidence has already been given on this document to other committees Mr Chairman. It is precisely the same apart from the incidents. We will endeavour to traverse the document fairly quickly, fairly briefly.
His application in full appears in Bundle 1 of the bundles before you, Volume 1, at page 115 Mr Chairman. He deals with the incidents specifically from page 119 -we will come to that in a moment.
Mr Chairman there is one ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: Before you go on, this bundle you have handed in will then be Exhibit E.
MR VISSER: Thank you Mr Chairman. Exhibit E.
Mr Chairman, yes, there is one matter which we should address. At page 115 you will recall we have had this situation before, we have applied for an amendment to paragraph 7(a) and (b). I think you will recall the amendments for General Erasmus etc when we were in Port Elizabeth, it seems that there seems to be no process whereby that amendment is effected in the files of the TRC once the amendment has been granted. Perhaps what we should do Mr Chairman is, to avoid having to apply each time for an amendment which has been granted two or three times in the past, is to draft a replacing document and perhaps let the TRC have that on their records for future inclusion. Because it seems that every time it comes up again the amendment has not been rectified. The reason why I am saying this Mr Chairman is that in some of them the applicants' cases that are going to come before you today amendments will be sought which haven't been granted before but in other cases they have been granted already, some by you and some by other - this committee and some by - I am sorry, some by you as the Chairman of some of the committees and some by chairman of other committees.
So what we just want to say here Mr Chairman is that in the case of General van der Merwe that amendment has already been granted, that 7(a) reads, "Nationale Party" and 7(b) reads "Ondersteuner".
CHAIRPERSON: I don't think the TRC should substitute an amended page. There may be reasons why somebody at a later stage may wish to say you didn't say that in your original application. But I think an amended page could be prepared which could be attached to the original one.
MR VISSER: Perhaps that is the way to go Mr Chairman. I will arrange with my attorney to take it up with Mr Mpshe and see whether an arrangement in that regard can be made, so that at least you will know in which cases amendments have already been made, been allowed.
General van der Merwe you've applied for amnesty in front of this Committee, for amnesty with regards to explosions which took place in Cosatu House in 1987, 6th to the 7th of May 1987; and also Khotso House which took place on the 31st of August 1988; and with regards to bomb threats and fake explosions; and this is relevant to the showing of the film Cry Freedom. Your application for amnesty is for any illegal acts or irregular acts which you committed or which can be ascribed to yourself with regards to the incidents, its planning, the planning of these incidents, the execution thereof, and the consequences which flowed from this afterwards?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
ADV DE JAGER: Mr Visser I need some clarity please. You say for "any consequences" which could have flowed from these incidents, now the consequences could, for example a civil case, but the cover-up of an incident do you cover that as well? It's something separate, this cover-up later, did you include this when you said that?
MR VISSER: I thank Commissioner de Jager. My word choice of "consequences" is not correct. I am just trying to think of a better description or a better word - What happens afterwards which could be linked to what happened initially and maybe we should say that all the irregular or illegal acts which followed afterwards and which is still relevant to the original incident being linked to that incident.
If I can continue. General van der Merwe previously in your evidence you've already given the document, the foundation for the equality of law, Exhibit P45 and your own submission, P46 and you added the statements of ex-generals, P47, you've already incorporated that into your evidence and you'd like to do it again today also in this application, is that not true?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
MR VISSER: General van der Merwe, on page 2 of Exhibit E, you summarised your career in the South African Police Force, I am not going to read it. It carries on up until page 3 and if the Committee will give me permission, I am going to ask you if you could give us a short summary of your background and your personal circumstances and the approaches as we find that on page 3. You do not have to read them.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Thank you Chairperson. I apologise to those who have already had to listen to this. I will be short.
I was born in Ermelo in the Eastern Transvaal on the 25th of August 1936. My parents are both conservative and fiery supporters of the National Party. From early on in my life I identified myself with the aims, goals of the National Party. This also concerns the policy of separate development which was subscribed and protected by the church, the school, the national media and the majority of the white community.
There was very little influence on me which made me think that this policy was wrong. Most of the people that I came into contact with believed in this policy and also supported it.
During the struggle of the past a lot of people were killed and injured and a great amount of damage was done by radicals who were opposed to the policy of separate development and the political power and they wanted to take this over with violence and they also caused damage to property. This lead to the normal member of the police to motivate him to support the policy of the government, in some cases indirectly in the exercising of their duties in order to maintain law and order and to protect internal security and to do everything possible to stop the onslaught.
Through the years utterances and speeches of several leaders and other politicians which was aimed to achieve support for the policy of separate development and to motivate the police to stop the violent onslaught and the unrest which was connected with this, and this influenced me very strongly to support the government's policy.
We, as members of the police, specifically the Security Branch, realised that we were the last line of defence against total chaos and eventually anarchy as well.
In my official capacity I had access to publications of radical organisations, for example the ANC/SACP alliance and the PAC. The cold-blooded way in which the masses in South Africa were whipped up or incited by these publications to commit violence convinced me that the revolutionary onslaught had to be stopped with everything within our power. Except for that, certain horrible experiences which I was unfortunate to experience touched me in such a way that I did everything in my power to fight the revolutionary struggle.
The struggle of the past where, specifically the ANC/SACP alliance tried to undermine the government by means of violence, and they did not hesitate to kill innocent people and to maim them, this inspired me, as well as other members of the security force, to fight the onslaught with every means at our disposal. The protection and the interests of the government was always my first priority.
Just my personal experiences and insights. During my career I had to deal with all facets of terrorism. The struggle in South Africa was mainly identified by killings of people, killings of members of the security forces, specifically South African Police, car bomb attacks, limpet mine attacks, landmine attacks and other explosive devices and the targets were very often innocent defenceless people being both black and white.
Pressure to solve the problem. Unlike in Namibia in South Africa it happened - very exceptionally happened that the security forces were in physical fights with leaders of the MK or other forces. The struggle by the security forces, and specifically the Security Branch of the South African Police was much more sophisticated. The onslaught which we had to stop was multi-dimensional of nature and it existed out of political, economical, communal and in spiritual dimensions. Specifically in the mid-eighties it gained momentum when the ANC/SACP alliance threw everything into the struggle to take the political power in the country. To achieve this objective the ANC/SACP alliance focused themselves on creating a people's war and they describe it as follows. I am not going to read all of that. I think most of us know about this already.
According to the ANC/SACP the revolutionary war was founded on four pillars. You are also well aware of them. In its attempt to create a violent political take-over the ANC/SACP alliance focused more on mass participation in the violent struggle. The part that follows Mr Vlok gave us a much more elaborate description thereof in his application. I am not going to repeat all of this. You can take notice of it. It's exactly as what Mr Vlok testified to. I'd very much like to continue on page 7, paragraph 59.
The role of COSATU in the revolutionary climate was sharpened and the South African Police's task in order to maintain public order was very difficult. The ANC/SACP alliance also succeeded in order to gain pressure from outside of the country against the government and this led to sanctions and boycotts against South Africa. In order to maintain this pressure and to make it even bigger every possible aspect of the ANC/SACP alliance was grabbed by them and it was often exaggerated.
When the internal supporters of the ANC/SACP alliance were not able to succeed by means of methods we've already mentioned to promote mass participation in the armed struggle then they used intimidation to a great extent. Moderate people in the black townships lived in fear and they were forced to take part in stayaway actions, boycott actions, strikes, marches etc. Then my political motivation. During my career as a member of the Security Branch it was often expected of each member to be loyal to the government and the South African Police. There was a team spirit between the government and the Security Branch and there was trust which was established and this in some cases led to blind loyalty.
Despite the fact that the violent onslaught against the government was contained the ANC/SACP alliance did succeed, by means of intimidation and persuasion, to bring the masses or the greater majority of the black population in opposition to the police and the government.
The political situation deteriorated to such an extent and it was only the acts of the security forces which prevented that total anarchy and chaos was created all over the country.
The ANC/SACP alliance during 1987 depended greatly on the United Democratic Front as a front by which they could achieve their revolutionary objectives. On these terms the UDF openly aligned themselves with the violent actions of the ANC/SACP alliance, identified to that and also in co-operation with COSATU, the National Education Crisis Committee and the South African Council of Churches. Apart from that supporters of ANC/SACP alliance by means of intimidation where the well-known necklace method played a very big role, they used this in order to dominate the black townships within the country.
Street committees as well as street courts were established in most of the townships and this succeeded in making powerless the black councils, council members and structures in the black townships. The South African Police were in a sense - they had no power to prosecute an activist because evidence or informants feared for their lives and they just blatantly refused to appear in court. People who worked with the Security Branch or who were thought to be working with the Security Branch were brutally or cruelly killed, often by the necklace method, and their houses were often burned down.
And then I mention several explosions. I think Mr Vlok dealt with most of them and if you will allow me I'd like to continue on paragraph 66 on page 9.
Security situation in South Africa forced the government, first on the 21st of July 1985 to proclaim and emergency situation and that was stopped on the 4th of March 1986. On the 12th of June 1986 there was another emergency proclaimed all over the country and it was renewed after that up until the 8th of June 1990 it was stopped, except for Natal, where it was only stopped on the 18th of October 1990.
Despite other capacities that were created by the state of emergency the security worsened and we had to take drastic steps to counter the revolutionary onslaught. This meant that members of the Security Branch were tasked to do things that were outside their capacity as policemen and despite the bad situation that was prevalent the security forces succeeded to prevent actions of - the action to try and create total anarchy by the ANC/SACP alliance. The Security Branch played an important role in this and many attacks on citizens were prevented because of intelligence collecting and preventative measures by members of the Security Branch. Many lives, which include the lives of innocent citizens, were protected in this manner.
To maintain this level of efficiency members of the Security Branch had to work long hours in difficult circumstances. Daily they were exposed to violent situations and despite the fact that superhuman demands were put to them they equipped them well of their task. They were loyal towards the government and irrevocably in the ideals to stop the onslaught of the ANC/SACP alliance where they wanted to plunge the country into anarchy and usurp the government.
Mr P W Botha said that he would not ask, or he would not excuse or ask for forgiveness for the struggle for those who tried to destroy the government of that day, I would like to quote from him. It was an undeclared war and the ANC/SACP alliance wanted to usurp the government with any means using violence, it was the government's duty to protect the country.
Unfortunately both the previous government and the ANC/SACP alliance in their attempt to have high moral ground maintained ...(indistinct) for people and persons who were really in the struggle, made it impossible for them to comply with this. The previous government maintained that the RSA was not in war and that the existing war, which was supplemented by security legislature and emergency regulations, was enough to stop the onslaught.
It was expected of the South African Police and South African Army to stop the onslaught at any price, even if they had to act outside the parameters of the law, as in a war situation.
The ANC/SACP alliance, however, used forces that could not be controlled and this led to necklace murders and the death of innocent citizens, and hereby the situation was worse than a conventional war and persons at grassroots level that participated in the struggle and they had to take decisions in situations themselves.
MR VISSER: General, yes, you would have listened to the testimony of Mr Vlok where he sketched the political motivation and you heard him say that everything he did he did within the framework of supporting the National Party and to further the party's interests, was it also the general feeling between members of the security forces and yourself?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes definitely.
MR VISSER: And would you then agree with the political background that led and was prevalent in the struggle of the past?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: You mean as Mr Vlok sketched it?
MR VISSER: Yes.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson yes, maybe I'll have small differences here and there, but in essence, yes.
MR VISSER: The political background at that time, were there any problems specifically now with the applications that are before this Committee, concerning Unions and Union-related actions, can you inform the Committee if you refer to your original application, Volume 1 on page 120? We will go into English because I see that it is in English.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Mr Vlok also treated this in his application. What I would just like to point out from my side is firstly, that one has to remember that as far as the activities were concerned with regards to Cosatu House we struggled with this problem over a long period of time and the impression might be created that when we say that we have done everything, we used all the means available to us to solve the problems which were created there, that we exhausted all of these means and it was not over several months, it was a long time.
The impression might also have been created that it was only restricted to the South African Police which is not true and I would just like to emphasise the fact that the State Security Council, the members of the Intelligence communities, they daily had to struggle with problems and the role which Cosatu played as such and specifically the planning of the things which took place in Cosatu House itself and this led to violence. It led to the undermining and it also led to strikes. This was not only to solve certain labour problems but it was purely with the intention to further the interests of the ANC/SACP alliance. That Cosatu, as far as the revolutionary struggle is concerned, that they played a key role there. That's for sure, that's definite.
With its great number of members who at that stage amounted to about 800,000 people Cosatu had a massive influence all over the country. This meant that it had all the means and the capacity available to it to make sure that the planning which took place there to spread it all over the country and in that fashion it served as a channel as far as the messages are concerned, to convey these messages, revolutionary messages to the masses.
So consequently when we had to deal with the specific incident the strike of SARWU and the committee where Mr Michael Rossos was involved in.
MR VISSER: If I can just interrupt you, you are now referring Chairperson, to page 11 of Exhibit E, that's 7.2 in your submission?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct. Thank you Chairperson, yes. When we had to deal with that specific situation was not the only issue we had to deal with. That wasn't the only thing that made us make our decision, because our applications might create the impression that it was concerned to that, but when we prepared our applications we realised that there will be an administrative process and we tried to be as complete as possible. But it was still restricted. It was one of the incidents which we already considered and Mr Michael Rossos, we held him in accordance with the emergency regulations. Afterwards the court case was brought against us and we were solely dependent on information which we got from informants, and consequently the court case succeeded against us and he was released.
Secondly, it is also so the question was put and in the light thereof that there were certain actions where people who fled to Cosatu House, often they attacked the police and then we could not have access to the building and in that specific incident, Chairperson, the police did go to the building and a great many people were arrested and we detained them. But the conclusion of all our actions was unfortunately that the situation only deteriorated.
Also we detained leaders of trade unions at times for short periods of time because the pressure afterwards because of strikes and from the strikes usually you would find violence because they succeeded in inciting the strikers themselves and we had to release those people after a short period of time. When they were released they had so much more influence because the fact that they were detained and now with regards to people who at that time did not have a very good status, now they achieved that status once they've been detained. So it was true that at one point round about 40,000 people in accordance with the emergency regulations were detained. We detained about 40,000 people at one specific time and I often said to Vlok that this does not lead to anything. We cannot keep them indefinitely. As soon as we detain them we cause that person, not only that person but also his family and all his friends, we brought them all into unrest against the police, in opposition to the government, with the consequences that with the detention of a person was actually advantageous - it took the person out of the community, so in that sense we could restrict its influence, but at the same time we made a lot of enemies by doing this, and afterwards they were no longer prepared to work with the police. So it was an evil circle in which we find ourselves.
So with the result that when the SARWU strike came, and specifically in the light of the fact that there was information that Cosatu intended to organise a countrywide strike with the intention to disrupt the election of the whites on the 6th of May we realised that if we allowed the planning, which was taking place in Cosatu House, if we allowed it to continue it might lead to the fact that the election might be disrupted and more than that, that afterwards if they succeeded in this countrywide strike this would give them so much momentum, would give the revolutionary onslaught so much momentum that we would not be able then to treat the consequences thereof.
And after we considered everything Chairperson, we decided it was not possible to act against Cosatu House before the time, after we have decided now to make it unusable and to blow it up, we cannot do it before the election because before the election Cosatu House had men around it all the time. So we decided what would be best and we did not want to put any lives in danger to do it during the evening, that night of the election because there wouldn't be anybody in Cosatu House, that would have been the safest option to take.
We never thought for one minute that by blowing up Cosatu House we'd solve this problem forever, but at least we realised that it would cause so much disruption that it would give us a breathing space and our members who were at that stage, because of the massive amounts of pressure they showed that they were exhausted, it would give them a chance just to gather their wits around them again and to once again continue the struggle.
So consequently after we'd looked at all these aspects Mr Vlok and I decided that the only thing we could do in those circumstances was to blow up Cosatu House. After we have decided this Brigadier Schoon, he was then the head of C1, the so-called Vlakplaas Unit, I gave him instructions to execute this task, or to perform this task ...(intervention)
MR VISSER: Just before you continue with that can I just for a second take you back. I am now going to allow you to speak to Brigadier Schoon, you also made mention on page 12, Exhibit E, with regards to a problem that the police had with regards to certain kidnapped people who were kept in Cosatu House, can you just quickly give us the background to that please?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. We received information that several Railway workers were taken to Cosatu House where they were intimidated and tortured. We also received information that specifically five kidnapped workers, their lives were in absolute danger. As Mr Vlok testified we made an attempt to obtain permission to enter Cosatu House but this was refused. At that stage we did not have sufficient evidence to get a search warrant or even to make use of our capacity to enter this building with a specific search warrant.
CHAIRPERSON: From whom did they want to get permission?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: They tried to obtain permission from the janitors or the people who were at Cosatu House themselves. There were usually people who guarded the entrance, you couldn't just enter Cosatu House.
Chairperson one out of five succeeded in escaping and with the help of information we got from him we obtained a search warrant and we took this search warrant on the 29th of April 1987 and we afterwards we found certain exhibits with regards to the minutes of the meeting under the Chairmanship of Mr Rossos. The other four escaped, or the other four workers who were supposedly there, we could not find them, and later we found their burnt bodies in Kaserne.
So the police investigations ...(intervention)
MR VISSER: Before you continue, was there a court case, did a court case follow after all these things?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes. I'd like to say that a further police investigation which followed this led to the fact that we arrested several people and we brought them in front of the court and they were found guilty of murder on the four people.
MR VISSER: And the people, did they have anything to do with Cosatu House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson. The people we arrested were indeed the people who kept these kidnapped people in Cosatu House. And it was also found during the court case and also in the appeal which came afterwards that the accused, who were then found guilty later, they were the people who were present in Cosatu House during the detention of the four workers. These deeds of intimidation etc continued, like I have already said, and eventually we decided that there is only one possible way for us to stop the source of all evil in a temporary fashion and that was to make the use of Cosatu House impossible.
MR VISSER: If I can run ahead, the question was previously asked, after the explosion took place was there a decrease in activities? And maybe you can just handle that now.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes definitely Chairperson. This action led to the fact that incidents decreased and it also had a massive effect on the revolutionary climate as we understood it in the practical manner of speaking, and it gave us the opportunity to take certain steps with the aim of placing us in a stronger position to stop the revolutionary onslaught.
MR VISSER: And with regards to the strikes?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson the strikes around it also decreased but I have to say that on the 6th of May there were countrywide strikes and this was because of the considerations that I have already mentioned we could not prevent that, but it was obvious that the strikes did in fact decrease.
ADV GCABASHE: Sorry Mr Visser just to clarify that. These were of a temporary nature as your measure had been?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR VISSER: You were at the point to talk about the practical performing of the tasks after you had then the talk with Mr Vlok and there we refer to page 13 of Exhibit E. Now you've referred to the negotiations you've had with Mr Vlok at 7.6 and what you decided to do, that's also in 7.7. And now in 7.8 you say how you practically did this.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson as I've already mentioned Brigadier Schoon was the head of the Vlakplaas Unit, I asked him to do the task. I had already made use of the C1 unit and I knew personally that with certain incidents they acted across the border and they did their task extremely well, and the members of C1 itself, all of them, were very experienced and competent members and they had anti-insurgency training and they were capable of working in difficult circumstances and to work with a clear mind and they were actually the only operational unit within the security forces.
MR VISSER: You said that, in 7.9, if I can just run ahead, 7.9 on page 13 you say that you asked Brigadier Schoon not to put any life in danger, can you just elaborate on that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I meant that the operation had to be performed in such a fashion that every possible preventative measure had to be taken, that no person's life, because of this operation, would be placed in danger.
MR VISSER: Or by means of people who might die or be seriously injured?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes definitely Chairperson, both. As much as possible we wanted no person to be injured in any sense and because of that expose that person to the chance that he might die.
MR VISSER: What you did realise that there was always a possibility for this to happen when you are using explosives, it could have happened that somebody got injured or died.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct Chairperson, but I was also aware of the fact that we had the best explosive experts in the country and they compared with the best in the world. And I was also convinced that our people were capable of doing it in such a manner that the possibility would be so restricted that in the specific circumstances there was no risk for other peoples' lives.
MR VISSER: And indeed with regards to both the explosions at Cosatu House and Khotso House there were no serious injuries. And one can add now that also with regards to the actions with regards to Cry Freedom, there were no serious injuries or death caused in any of the actions, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson I note that in Bishop Storey's evidence he said that people were seriously injured at Khotso House, but I can say that immediately after these incidents both, also with Cry Freedom I received no information with regards to anyone who got seriously injured. And also in the consequent Harms investigation which treated this very thoroughly, there was no evidence that any person was injured seriously. In the case of Khotso House I know there were 13 people who were lightly injured but I never carried any knowledge about someone being seriously injured.
MR VISSER: Yes, is it true that in the Harms investigation, with the facts in front of them, they also found that there were no serious injuries?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, that is correct Chairperson.
MR VISSER: Now except for Brigadier Schoon who did you know would also have to become involved at the execution of this instruction at Cosatu House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson I also spoke to General Major Erasmus. He was the commander of the Security Branch in the Witwatersrand, I contacted him, and I asked him to assist Schoon and his unit and I also gave him the same instruction to the extent that no life must be put in danger and that everything must be done and planned in such a fashion that around these incidents that there should not be any danger to other people's lives.
MR VISSER: That explosive unit were they part of C1?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson, they were not.
MR VISSER: Did you also foresee that they would have to become involved?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson, I accepted that Brigadier Schoon would make the necessary arrangements and that he would contact everybody that he needed or that he deemed necessary.
MR VISSER: You had nothing further to do with the practical execution of this, but you were later informed that the operation was indeed successful, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson, that's correct.
MR VISSER: With regards to a year later or almost a year later the incident at Khotso House, can you turn to page 13, para 8.1, can you brief the Committee with regards to the circumstances there? Exhibit E, paragraph 8.1, can you tell the Committee surrounding your actions at that time in terms of Khotso House in August 1988.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson the ANC/SACP alliance realised that they could use mass resistance in its revolutionary onslaught. And consequently the alliance used the UDF to get in touch with the masses or to use the masses and the UDF in its turn realised that the broader society could be mobilised best through church, labour area and by using the education. The UDF consequently aimed itself at the South African Council of Churches, Cosatu and the National Education Crisis Committee, NECC, to reach the masses.
As I have already said the ANC/SACP alliance their revolutionary onslaught to usurp the government was based on a dual basis. First the peoples' war to have mass participation in a process of revolutionary liberation. Secondly the promulgation of a political diplomatic offensive to build up its political credibility internationally as well as in this country. And as I have already mentioned the violent onslaught of the ANC/SACP alliance rested on four pillars and the South African Council of Churches played a very important role in mass participation and the isolation of South Africa.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu's viewpoint that the bible is the most revolutionary book that was ever written gave credibility to this revolutionary struggle of the ANC/SACP alliance. Besides that he had no doubt played a role in the sanctions and the disinvestment of South Africa and to isolate South Africa internationally.
The Council of Churches served as a channel for the execution of these decisions of the World Council of Churches within South Africa and during their national conference in June/July of 1987 they had the following policy which would serve as guidelines for radical churches and other church lay organisations in the onslaught against the South African government.
Firstly, the government legally and morally had no legitimacy. The violent actions of the liberation movements was justified because they were only resistance against the violence of the illegal government. Churches and memberships were encouraged to take action and also not to pay their taxes and their rent as well as get their persons registered in the population register.
The head office of the South African Council of Churches was in Khotso House where all the planning was done and all the actions were co-ordinated in the country by this Council. Because of the radical stance that the UDF took Khotso House was a safe haven for radicals. The UDF had weekly meetings in Khotso House where hundreds of radicals attended these meetings. Inciting speeches were held and every time after the conclusion of such a meeting there was violence in the centre of Johannesburg. Buildings, vehicles and other property was damaged and members of the public were endangered.
Information that we received regularly from informants who independently reported to us mentioned that Khotso House was used, amongst others, for the following: to give a safe haven to people who were on their way out of the country to receive military training; supply a haven for terrorists who came into the country; they were also given money to finance their operations; as a depot for weapons and explosives to be used by terrorists who came into the country; to finance projects that were aimed at undermining the government; as a communication channel between terrorists in the country and ANC headquarters in Zambia.
We could create the impression here that in general, in terms of all terrorists, this was the exception, but it did happen according to the information that we had, you can be sure of that. Because informants who made reports and who were always in danger, they were handled delicately and liaison was very careful. And I can also mention, Chairperson, the question arises immediately that if we had this information why did we not act and I have to explain here that liaison with informants under our circumstances we had to be very careful in doing this. An informant could not run to a telephone quickly and call his handler and tell his handler listen, I just noted a person who is probably a trained terrorist entered Khotso House. According to the usual communication between the handler and the informant in the normal procedure could only receive the opportunity probably a day or two, maybe a week later, to contact his handler and convey the information that he had. We did look at measures to facilitate the conveyance of information but we had to consider the security and the safety of this informant. In practice this meant that there were very few cases where an informant could inform you immediately of information so that you could act immediately also to catch people red-handed. It was a great frustration to us in the system, but in our circumstances we had to live with this.
ADV GCABASHE: Sorry General, just to clarify one minor point. These informants were paid for the information they gave you?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Definitely Chairperson. While we are at this point can I just mention of persons who do not know how Intelligence communities work, they will not be aware of this, but when we receive information from an informant that information is evaluated and every informant has a value adhered to him after a time in terms of information that was given to us that we could evaluate and we could confirm if he spoke the truth.
Most of our informants, as far as we were concerned, they were classified from A to F.
A would be an absolutely trustworthy informant, somebody whose information was unconditionally accepted.
B was an informant who was usually trustworthy.
C was reasonably trustworthy and,
D was not always reliable.
E was not reliable at all and,
F was unknown and was never tested.
I might have made a mistake here but that is how it is.
And as far as the intelligence it was classified from 1 - 7.
1 was absolutely reliable, you can accept it unconditionally.
2 was usually reliable.
So that when we received information we looked at the classification and the evaluation of that information. And instances to which I am referring to are those instances of B2 and higher. That was usually put before the State Security Council and that is also, Chairperson, a golden rule as far as the collection of information or intelligence is that no intelligence was given to the head of State which is not evaluated and weighed up.
MR VISSER: And if it is then suggested that they would tell the police what they thought what the police would want to hear because they wanted to make money, that would have had an effect on what you saw as information or intelligence that was reliable in terms of Cosatu House and Khotso House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. Unfortunately it is so that as Advocate Gcabashe pointed out that people who were paid were usually coloured in their intelligence because of their remuneration, but I can tell you in my practical experience of informants despite the fact that an informant is reliable they did here and there add something because it would look better, but not in such a manner that it did anything to his reliability.
MR VISSER: And I wish to ask you then, since we mentioned this aspect, the fact informants were paid, what effect did it have on the acceptability of what you are telling this Committee now of what you believed the facts surrounding the situation in terms of this incident?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Surely it is possible that this intelligence that we had was not always correct and it is highly improbable that most of this intelligence was not really intelligence that we had. But the intelligence that came from our informants and it was put to the State Security Council and we saw it as reliable, and can I just say at the same time, there was a system to ensure that intelligence that went to the State Security Council did not come from one member of the Intelligence service or community but also came from other persons of the Intelligence community.
MR VISSER: Just to finish off, there were cross-checks, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. There was a special mechanism put in place, a special branch known as the branch of National Interpretation, and if it was now the Security Branch, National Intelligence Service and also the Intelligence Service of the Army as well as Foreign Affairs who had an Intelligence Service, all that information was collected, it was evaluated and it was determined against the background that they had if that information was reliable that it could be put forward to the State Security Council.
MR VISSER: And then in other words it was justified that on the basis of that information you could act?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR VISSER: And the intelligence or the information that you give today to this Committee did you see it as such, as important?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes I did, but of course the information that I am giving you now I have to immediately say is I have to rely on my memory here because we did not have any documents that were put to the State Security Council. We did everything to collect information but because of the changed systems those documents are just not available anymore.
MR VISSER: Sorry Mr Chairman, will it now be convenient to take the adjournment?
ADV GCABASHE: Can I ask a short question while we are waiting. Take the Khotso House bombing, did you attend a State Security Council meeting that discussed the Khotso House bombing?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Mr Chairman I was not a member of the State Security Council. I received information afterwards.
MR VISSER: As it pleases you Mr Chairman.
JOHANNES VELDE VAN DER MERWE: (s.u.o.)
EXAMINATION BY MR VISSER: (cont)
I believe we have progressed to page 16, 8.14. I believe that the last issue which we addressed was the question of the reliability of information emanating from the informers.
General is there anything you want to add before we carry on?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson yes, if you allow me. I know I am still under oath and I would like to continue. Just one aspect which I really want to make very clear because this might lead to confusion, the question was put whether we've paid our informers, it wasn't when he gave a report that we paid them. We only paid an informer after we've evaluated the information and determined that it is indeed reliable.
I will go slower. The impression might have been created that when the informer gives us the information right then and there we will pay him. That is not the case. In each case before an informer was remunerated for his work we evaluated the information and then in accordance to the reliability of the information that's how we determined how much we pay him and then we pay him. When I mean how reliable the information was then I mean that in all the cases where we obtained information except for the worth of reliability, which was attributed to the informer, and the information we independently evaluated the information by looking at other information we received from other sources and according to that we determined how reliable the information is.
If I say this to you, this information that was available to us was received from reliable informers who gave reports independently of each other and as such it was confirmed as reliable and consequently we regarded this information as reliable and on that basis it was submitted to the State Security Council.
MR VISSER: And if you speak about, in this case, here you refer to the information which is connected to the Cosatu and Khotso House incidents as you have mentioned them in your submission?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. I am talking about the information which has been presented thus far in my submission.
MR VISSER: Now you would like to continue with 8.15 and you are busy explaining which problems you experienced with regards to legal behaviour with regards to activities in Khotso House and people who committed these activities there. Could you just continue there please.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Thank you Chairperson. Chairperson I already mentioned that despite the fact that the informant's information was considered reliable it was necessary for us, when we acted be it in sense of detention in accordance with the emergency regulations, or the search of a building or whatever other legal behaviour or acts we considered, we had information available to us which we could use and in the case of a court case ...(intervention)
MR VISSER: If I can interrupt you. Maybe wrongly I got the impression this morning with regards to questions which Mr Mafojane put to you or to Mr Vlok rather, it might be a faulty impression, but it was that the police, specifically in terms of emergency regulations only acted without their being any evidence or witnesses available and a person was only detained without the fact that there was evidence or information which connected him to unrest or violence. Was that the Police point of view during a state of emergency that they acted without any information pertaining to the involvement of a person?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson. Our point of view was constantly that in all those incidents there must have been good information available of such a nature that if there was any application at the High Court when it was submitted there we would be able to prove that we have met all the requirements of the Act and that there was good ground for us to detain that person then.
It was always our approach, and specifically like I said before, the detention of a person normally, because it normally had very negative consequences we placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that the information which we received had to be reliable and when we do detain a person we must be very sure that there were good grounds, good information otherwise it would mean that we detain a person who was not really involved in one or other undermining activity, be it the incitement of people or the incitement of unrest of whatever nature. And because of that we'd make a lot of people angry with us, and that person might not have played an important role as far as the revolutionary climate is concerned.
MR VISSER: Right, go ahead.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson except for the things I've mentioned it was also the case that the South African Council of Churches by means of the World Council of Churches they had massive international support. Except for those things already mentioned to you the Police could not dare to search Khotso House except if we were convinced that the searching would be successful. I already explained to you what problems we had with by contacting our informants with the result that it was very seldom possible to search a place with the probability that the subject about which the search was taking place, that we'd find that.
Therefore, when I received a message from Mr Vlok that P W Botha wanted Khotso House to be made useless I was glad of this opportunity. Mr Vlok put it very clearly that no lives had to be placed in danger. I told Mr Vlok that we'd follow the same actions as in the case of Cosatu House and he agreed to this.
MR VISSER: The reason for that was purely because the perspective, the way you made Cosatu House useless, you realised that this was an efficient way, is that why you wanted to do it again?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct Chairperson. We temporarily succeeded in rendering Cosatu House useless. We succeeded, like I've said, to stop or temporarily to dampen revolutionary climate.
MR VISSER: You said that you welcomed the opportunity, what are you trying to say by that? Did you agree then with this idea of this action?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes it might sound that I was happy about this, that was not the case. Maybe I've put it wrongly. I agreed with it and at that stage I also was of the opinion that actions of that nature could contribute insofar as it could stop undermining activities. Undermining activities have been planned in Khotso House for a long time and therefore it got the status it did.
MR VISSER: Now as far as the practical implementing of that concern can you continue with that.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: As in the case of Cosatu House I gave instructions to Brigadier Schoon to make the necessary arrangements and I once again emphasised the fact that no lives should be placed in danger.
I also requested of him to contact Major General Erasmus as in the previous case, to co-ordinate with him and he would have given him the necessary assistance. I also gave Major General Erasmus the instruction and I requested of him to give the necessary assistance to Brigadier Schoon and his unit.
Khotso House, on the 31st of August 1988 is when it was rendered useless by means of explosives. It was damaged in such a fashion that the building could no longer be used by the South African Council of Churches as well as the UDF or any other organisations who occupied the building. They could no longer use it.
MR VISSER: And according to your knowledge and as far as you know no person died and no one was seriously injured in these actions?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct Chairperson.
MR VISSER: If we can go on to the Cry Freedom incidents. You've listened to the introduction which I gave to the Committee when in the beginning we started talking, do you agree with that introduction that it was hysterical steps which took place at that stage?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson I agree.
MR VISSER: Now can you just please continue and inform the Committee about what your insights were in this case.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson this film appeared on the scene in the middle of 1988 and as it has already been made clear the revolutionary climate was very high and mass resistance and unrest was increasing against the government. And I don't think it would be wrong to say that at that stage the revolutionary climate - it was the crest of the wave at that time. It reached its peak.
I'm aware of the fact that there were very different opinions about the content and the showing of the film and Mr Vlok also explained this.
During negotiations which took place in Mr Vlok's office, and as far as I can remember Lt General Joubert and Brigadier Macintyre was there and these people had talks with different people in different circles and the opinion was expressed that the showing of this film would be exploited by revolutionary organisations and movements in order to heighten the revolutionary climate and mass resistance.
It was already at that time quite clear that in spite of the supplementary measures which were created by the emergency regulations, the breaking down of law and order was on the increase and the danger and chaos and anarchy was getting stronger and stronger. We could not afford to have unpredictable elements which could deteriorate the already explosive situation. We could not allow them to have their own way. Therefore we decided to disrupt the showing of this film by creating mock attacks of arson and sabotage.
Lt General Joubert got the instruction to organise this all over the country with the implicit command that no lives should be placed in danger. It was so, I have just remembered, that we also had to restrict as much as possible, damage to property.
I am aware of the fact that incidents of attempt to arson and sabotage took place on a small scale all over the country and in most of the cases it was very small and no damage was done to property and no one was ever injured.
The Commissioner of the South African Police prohibited the showing of the film in accordance with the media emergency regulations and the films were also confiscated.
MR VISSER: General can you tell us why you acted the way you did? What was your political motivation?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson at that stage we were well aware of the fact that there was a great amount of unrest and resistance amongst specifically black people. But except for that there were several organisations, or a great amount of organisations who were also opposed to the government and used every single opportunity to incite this opposition. I was convinced of the fact that in that climate the showing of that film might have caused the whole thing to get out of hand and might cause that the situation would deteriorate to such an extent that we, as members of the Security Branch, who were already working day and night in order to prevent the situation, we would no longer be able to control the situation.
Chairperson what moved me in a political basis, I took an oath of loyalty as a police person to the State and also the government and whatever I did I did not do for personal gain but I did it as a policeman.
I bona fide believed that my actions were necessary to maintain public order, to stop violence and to prevent the revolutionary climate from getting worse and also to stop the opposition against the previous government. Because of this reason I also believe that my actions were in accordance with my duties as a policeman.
I also bona fide believed that I, because of my sworn capacity, I acted as a member of the South African Police to prevent that the revolutionary climate increased which would have led to violence and ungovernability and consequently anarchy.
I was obligated to do my duties as they are in Section 5 of the Police Law, 7, of 1958 and those duties included the maintaining of law and order as well as the protection of internal security and stability.
I believed that my actions were in the best interest of the country's security and it was also necessary in order to maintain the government of that time.
MR VISSER: And if I can interrupt you, what you are really saying is that for you as a policeman, in order for you to maintain law and order and to maintain internal security it was necessary for you to act illegally?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. We were dealing with a situation here, we were in a war and it was expected of us to maintain the normal law and order and that it wasn't sufficient.
MR VISSER: Continue.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I also believed that this is exactly what then happened. And given the circumstances, which is similar to that of a war situation and in certain circumstances even worse, I believed I had no other choice.
On both sides of the struggle of the past there were fighting parties who inherited the situation and they did not cause this themselves. Because of that we were all forced by circumstances to do things which we otherwise would not have done.
The consequences are that I now stand in front of this Committee and I am asking for amnesty for actions which got committed against the background of my education, convictions and a cruel and merciless struggle which was pertaining at that time and with the call to protect the citizens in this country, and to keep the State in its normal form and the honest intention to perform my tasks as a policeman.
Against the abovementioned background and because of my own view I believed completely that the actions in which I took part in accordance with the existing legislation and views were correct and justifiable.
MR VISSER: So you are asking for amnesty as you've said before, and you confirm also the content of your original amnesty application as it was read together with Exhibit E is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. I'd like to confirm that that is the truth.
MR VISSER: Thank you Mr Chairman.
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR BOOYENS: Thank you Mr Chairman. Kobus Booyens.
General I just quickly want to talk to you about how the command structure worked in the Security Branch at that time.
The reason why I am asking you this is I represent Brigadier du Toit who was then commander of the technical division of the Security Department. Now Brigadier du Toit received a request, and as far as I remember from Mr Eugene de Kock, that one of his members, Mr Japie Kock, who was a specialist in the opening of locks, must accompany them and thus he gave a command to Mr de Kock for de Kock to accompany them to the operation of Khotso House.
Now would it be correct that where a commander of a section, as was the case with Mr du Toit, it would not be necessary to go through channels, for example to the head of the Security Branch, or the second in command, this was an instruction which he himself could have given to de Kock without referring to someone above him?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. To a great extent in our divisions and branches we expected of them to act independently. It would have been impossible in each case to carry this through to the highest authority.
MR BOOYENS: Thank you. Now General I just want to ask you a few things about another aspect. The Police Act, which you've already quoted and no legislature gives any policeman the right to act illegally, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: You, and the other applicants who are applying here, you all acted illegally. We cannot dispute that because if you acted illegally you wouldn't be here.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR BOOYENS: Now I'd like to know from you, in 1987, that's the first of these two incidents, now with regards to Cosatu House, when you gave Brigadier Schoon the command, did you know that you are giving Brigadier Schoon the command that he will be doing something illegally?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: You recommended to him that he makes use of C1, Unit C1 as Vlakplaas people?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct. In fact he was head of that so he obviously would have been involved, yes.
MR BOOYENS: Well did you recommend Vlakplaas?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No I approached him because it was obvious that it would be Vlakplaas, this is what first came to mind.
MR BOOYENS: Oh because it must have been quite logical and I see that you later mention that you told him that he must also contact General Erasmus of the Johannesburg Security Branch and it was to be expected that the bomb disposal people would have been involved because they needed expertise.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is true. The instruction was given to him to use this unit and afterwards that he would contact everybody that he needed for the execution of this specific task and that he co-ordinate this with all of them.
MR BOOYENS: Now at that time you were a senior officer in the Police Force, but I do remember that it was not an offence for any Police person to refuse to do an illegal act, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: But even so in 1987 you must have accepted that the subordinates, the people who have to obey the instructions, that they would do so?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: Now I've already spoken to the Minister about that, but I would like to go a bit further with this. As far as Vlakplaas is concerned you mentioned, in your evidence-in-chief that you were aware of the fact that they were involved in operations abroad.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: Now these operations abroad entailed that there would be loss of life.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: And these operations, and I am talking now thinking of the law that would have been illegal, these operations.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: Specifically with regards to the laws in that other country?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes that is correct Chairperson. There is strong doubt whether it could be placed within any international laws.
MR BOOYENS: Yes, but it was prima facie illegal.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes correct, yes it was Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: And these operations abroad, now I am not going to go into depth into them, but just to lay down a principle here. The reason why the operations abroad were done was actually the same type of reasons why Khotso House and Cosatu House had to be blown up. There was no legal way of doing it, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: Now that's as far as it goes with regards to C1 people. But we already know today that internally there were also operations within the country where people also say that we had no other legal means and they no longer worked and other crimes were committed other than Khotso House and Cosatu House.
And the same principle with regards to internal operations would also apply with regards to what happened abroad because the normal legal options did not work and there was a war raging, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: As far as with regards to specific incidents, yes.
MR BOOYENS: I am not saying it was the general situation but internally in the country there were also incidents - I do not unfortunately know the Afrikaans word for this, but when you gave that instruction were you satisfied that these components of the Security Branch who were going to take part in this, that they already have that mindset that they would be willing to do this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson as I have already said in my evidence the members of the Security Branch were incredibly loyal. I had no doubt in my mind that where it was concerned with the task itself, which was trusted to them that they would be willing, when it is necessary, to even act illegally or irregularly, and to do what those circumstances demanded of them and what was expected of them.
MR BOOYENS: And to act irregularly, and now we are talking once again about the mindset, to act irregularly not only with regards to Khotso and Cosatu House, this is also with regards to the committing of other offences?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR BOOYENS: So within the qualification, if it falls within the qualification of 'we are doing this for the country, it's directed against the enemy and we have no other option'?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. When it was about their tasks, which was the protection of internal security and to protect our people. I am talking of people in general, within South Africa.
MS GCABASHE: Mr Booyens, just for me to understand the questions from you really, you are talking about acts that were authorised by their superiors, is this what you are talking about? Because you are going a little beyond these specific instances. I just want to try and understand these other acts that you are talking about.
MR BOOYENS: Mr Chairman through you, the reason why I ask these questions and why I do specifically go a bit wider and why I submit it's relevant, is any of my learned friends on the other side of the table would be entitled to ask any of my clients - "why do you obey an illegal order?". In order for them to be able to answer that they will have to show that there was a certain mindset in the Police, at that time, where an order to do something illegal, was not necessarily such a strange thing given a certain set of circumstances. That is the reason why I submit it's relevant to go wider.
MS GCABASHE: My question really isn't on the width or the breadth of the questioning, it's in terms of the authority. Are you talking, in these instances we are talking about authority from specific people who were very high up. I am not sure as to what your particular questions relate to. Again people from quite high up or just somebody who is one up from me. That is really the question.
MR BOOYENS: No perhaps I should qualify it, Mr Chairman. I am not only talking about, I am not suggesting that either Mr Vlok or Mr van der Merwe gave specific instructions for every incident that this Commission has heard.
The reason why I am talking about this mindset is, you will recall the evidence of the previous witness was also that they accept that because of the language that was used, the sort-of - the mindset that was formed because of what people said, what was said in propaganda, what was said - even the type of words that were used would give the policemen on the ground a certain mindset. So whether the policeman on the ground believed that he should obey an order coming from the captain, believing he should obey the order from the major above him, or the sergeant believing he should obey the general, the principle I would submit would be the same, and that is why we are talking about this specific mindset.
MS GCABASHE: Sorry, just then to come back to you Mr van der Merwe, you understand that to be the case? ...(intervention)
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I understand the mindset was where he was of the opinion that this was necessary to stop the revolutionary onslaught, to protect lives, to fulfil his duty, he would have complied.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Booyens wouldn't the question be that the policemen would normally accept an order from the person above him who is the person who in the ordinary course of duty would give him orders. I am talking about the lower ranks now. When you get up into the elevated ranks you might ask where does this - who thought this out or where did it come from. But I am talking about your sergeants, your warrant officers, your captains. If Brigadier Schoon came and gave an order to do something they would expect that this is the way it comes. They wouldn't start asking the Brigadier where does it come from. Is that the position?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct, Chairperson, it's very, very correct.
MR BOOYENS: To be truthful to join up with what his Honour has said now the Security Branch specifically, and this is a general statement, but it was a disciplined unit was it not?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR BOOYENS: And in consultation it was told to me, and I would like to hear your comment on this because through all your stages in the Security Branch there was a mindset or a tradition then, it's probably not the right word, but there was, if my branch commanding officer would give me an instruction to do something and then it was just not done in the manner that, "yes but Captain who told you to give me this instruction". In other words, I am not speaking of it being irregular but normally the person who gives you the instruction you would not question his competence.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes that's correct. There was a team spirit like there was in no other unit of the South African Police.
MR BOOYENS: And then I've been told as well that in the Security Branch the members trusted each other.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes it should be necessarily so and because of this one learned to really trust your fellow members in the Security Branch under any circumstances.
MR BOOYENS: And I mentioned the example to you of Colonel de Kock who went to Mr du Toit, both of them are Security people, they both fight for the same cause, but one would not expect that Colonel du Toit would doubt that Colonel de Kock was busy with an authorised operation.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct, Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: Now it has been touched on earlier and I would just wish to know if it's relevant for the men in the lower ranks with the following questions. The Security Police necessarily relied on an information collection system?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct, that was part of their work to gather intelligence. And by using this intelligence they made decisions as to what steps would be taken and how to stop the threat, whichever threat it was.
MR BOOYENS: And this intelligence that was gathered, or the intelligence that you had at your disposal concerning these two issues, Khotso House and Cosatu House, did you have any reason to doubt this information?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Not at all. As I have indicated that information was evaluated properly to, and it was subject to this mechanism that was meant for that reason.
MR BOOYENS: And then it is also true that for the men in the lower ranks or possibly for yourself as head of Security, you did not gather the information, it was a pyramid structure with the gathering of information and if it is evaluated properly you would be satisfied that the information is reliable?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson, if it was subject to all the mechanisms then I would be satisfied.
MR BOOYENS: And as far as you are concerned, I don't want to make any suggestions, but if that information, if it was true or not, or if it was wrong or right, as far as you were concerned it was subjective - subjectively you believed the information at that time?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is so, Chairperson.
MR BOOYENS: And the men in the lower ranks, does that information flow to the men in the lower ranks and you know you work with intelligent people and you don't expect them to behave like slaves, but he has to know at least what is the motivation when there is something asked of him, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Not only that Chairperson, but regularly security reports were drawn up and distributed so that everybody had the background and to gather information you had to know what the threat was, what the nature of the threat was, and because of that reason we informed our members daily as completely as possible as to what the development within the security situation was.
MR BOOYENS: Right.
ADV DE JAGER: So on the same point, are you saying that the sergeant that morning at Vlakplaas, the one who received the instruction, and he was told by Brigadier Schoon or Schoon told Colonel de Kock and he told Beeslaar or whoever that they were informed why Cosatu House had to be blown up?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No Chairperson. What I meant with that our people every day, not necessarily the information that was received on that day, but it is information that we had for a long time, but my intention was to say that we kept our members informed surrounding aspects pertaining to the security to enable them to gather more information concerning certain factors but it does not necessarily mean that the persons who were involved with this operation had the information at that time.
ADV DE JAGER: Yes. And excuse me just the following one. I don't want us to confuse situations but in the applications before us here it is there as far as you are concerned, you gave an instruction and the instruction was complied with?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson. I don't think that all the members were aware of our motivation. It would have been a limited amount of them that would have known
what considerations we made.
ADV DE JAGER: Was it an expressive instruction, nobody had to draw inferences in this situation?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
ADV DE JAGER: Thank you.
MR BOOYENS: Just to elaborate on what the Commissioner has just asked you. The average Security person in the Transvaal would you expect it of him to know, not exactly what you have known, but he would have known what Khotso House means and what Cosatu House means, it was not places which were unknown to them? Even normal civilians knew because that was information that was given to security people.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Let me make this distinction. I would say that every member of the Security Branch, if not all of them in the Witwatersrand, would be up-to-date as far as Cosatu and Khotso Houses are concerned, and I would have been surprised if there was a member who was actively involved with the handling of security who did not know about this. The situation would have then been different if we moved to other divisions.
MR BOOYENS: Chairperson I just want to rectify something. I mentioned the example of Colonel de Kock who would have asked Wahl du Toit, I just used it as an example. That is not how my instructions are from Mr du Toit, I just used it as an example. I do not want to confuse anybody.
Thank you I have no further questions.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR BOOYENS
CHAIRPERSON: Name please?
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR HUGO: Schalk Hugo. General just to start with. As we've said I am here on the instruction of Mr de Kock and I represent three police members and two askaris, and it is in this capacity that I want to ask you these questions just to clarify some things.
Chairperson I understand that there's a document handed in, it's an organogram that was drawn up. I just wish to ask certain questions arising from this organogram. I accept that it is Exhibit F. Can I ask, did you receive it, do you have it before you? On top it says "Security - Head Office, Pretoria".
MR HUGO: Excuse me Chairperson I was under the impression that all the members of the panel had it. We had it but we did not bring all the documents with us, we didn't know who would use it and when they were going to use it.
General if we just superficially look at this document, or refer to this document, I can just tell you what the origin of this document is. It is a document that was drawn up by myself ...(intervention)
ADV DE JAGER: Can I just mention as far as I know September only has 30 days.
MR HUGO: It is one of the reasons why I say it is a somewhat ...(indistinct) document.
From the perspective of Mr de Kock we tried to sketch broad frameworks in terms of how he saw the division in headquarters. On top you will see we indicated it was in Pretoria and you were the head of Security from 1 September 1986 to 30 September 1988.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson no it's from 1st January 1986 to 30 September 1988. I don't think it's very important but I was a brigadier at that stage, I was not a general all the time there.
MR HUGO: And there was the deputy of Security and for us, which is important for us, especially for Mr de Kock, there were different sections, Section A, Section B, Section C and how far did these sections go?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson I cannot recall correctly. I think it was F, but later on there was a G as well. But there were quite a few.
MR HUGO: And all of them had a separate task that was put to them.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
MR HUGO: Are we then correct when we say, if we indicate in this organogram that the bomb disposal unit would be at the same level as Section A, B and C?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct, Chairperson.
MR HUGO: And are we also correct when we indicate that the technical division was functioning at the same level as well?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR HUGO: Now General it is being pointed out to me that on a daily basis there were meetings held with the division commanders of Section A, B and C, as well as the bomb disposal unit and the technical division, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson. Every morning before work started for the day there was such a meeting where discussions were held, aspects were considered in terms of the threat and we decided what we were going to do.
MR HUGO: And then only if you were on leave or busy with other functions you were the chairperson of these meetings?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Usually yes, Chairperson.
MR HUGO: And it is indicated on this organogram specifically to Section C subdivisions, Section C is depicted as anti-terrorism, would you agree with this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct, Chairperson.
MR HUGO: And then Section C is divided into two sections, Section C(1) and Section C(2) and C(3).
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That was three divisions, that's right.
MR HUGO: Let's deal with the two, C(3) was C(3) used for statistical functions and reports of attacks etc?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, to keep on hand.
MR HUGO: C2 was it interrogation, recruitment and recognition by photograph?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, as far as I can recall that is correct.
MR HUGO: And if we refer to recruitment and interrogation then that is terrorism?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct, Chairperson.
MR HUGO: And then General with reference to C1, Vlakplaas we divided it into two divisions. One was the search, identification and finding of askaris, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is right Chairperson.
MR HUGO: And which is of more importance we place it on the basis that there was a second agenda which included that Vlakplaas was tasked with border operations, internal operations, destruction of facilities, it's not here in the organogram.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, not as a full task that was put to them. And in this case we used C1, but not in such a manner that one could say it was part of their task.
MR HUGO: But when operations took place of an irregular nature, as specifically mentioned here, Vlakplaas was involved?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: At certain instances, yes, but it depended on the nature of the action and the ability that we had. I myself was only involved with very singular instances but I cannot testify in general to this, but I would say yes, at some instances where the situation required it we used them.
MR HUGO: General would you agree with me when I say that the commander of C1, Vlakplaas, was probably one of the most sensitive positions in the South African Police Force in the sense that he had very sensitive information?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, that is correct, definitely.
MR HUGO: And I can put it to you that his position was considered yearly, annually.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Not that I know of. Me, personally, was never involved in such a situation or such a circumstance. To tell you the truth I always accepted, because of the fact that Colonel de Kock was one of our very competent and loyal officers, that there was never even talk of his position as such.
MR HUGO: So the best as far as you are concerned there were never ever any complaints with regards to certain behaviour or actions which were not in accordance with what his commanding officers expected of him?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, no, he was one of our great policemen. I never had any reason ever to doubt in any sense his competency.
MR HUGO: I do not know if you know this personally but rumours have been around that at that stage he was one of the most highly decorated policemen in the force, can you comment on that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson yes, I did know and I definitely agree with that.
MR HUGO: Then I just want to ask you a few more questions with regards to the modus operandi of Vlakplaas itself. Did you know that the members of Vlakplaas, under the command of Mr de Kock, received further training for example anti-insurgence, the use of East Bloc weapons etc?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson I did not have complete knowledge of this. I knew this was a highly specialised unit and they were directed at anti-terrorist warfare in all its aspects. And I say, yes, with regards to the use of anti-East Block weaponry, that would have been necessary. Most of the members of the security forces did receive training with regards to this so that they knew what the nature of the threat was, and what they will have to deal with when they had to treat specific terrorist behaviour or actions.
MR HUGO: And then is it also so that it was never expected of members of the Security Police, the commanders of Mr de Kock and also those under de Kock to give written orders specifically if you look at Khotso and Cosatu House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No definitely not.
MR HUGO: And in the same sense they did not have to give written feedback about this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No they did not have to.
MR HUGO: And members of Vlakplaas as far as you know, it was not expected of them to keep diaries as is the case with the Uniform Branch members.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, I do not really know about that, but I concede that it will be very improbable that you'd expect of them in those specific circumstances to keep a diary.
MR HUGO: And General would you concede that if de Kock testified that in the time when he was at Vlakplaas which was over about ten years they were very seldom involved with actual arrests, that was left for the other departments to look after?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson I cannot really comment on that. I know that they did take people into custody, they did arrest people and I also know that some of the members used some of the askaris to give evidence in court, but I would not be able to elaborate on what the nature and extent of that was.
MR HUGO: Thank you. General was the inspectorate who were responsible for the investigation of Vlakplaas in the sense that ...(intervention)
ADV DE JAGER: Mr Hugo, sorry that I interrupt you. I interrupted Mr du Plessis this morning quite strongly about this as well, and now you are taking it even further. We are busy listening to this applicant's application with regards to Khotso House, Cosatu House and Cry Freedom. You must indicate to me what the relevance of diaries etc.
MR HUGO: Chairperson I can just tell you once again with regards to the culture which was pertaining at Vlakplaas. I think it's quite important to indicate why the clients accepted instructions from higher offices without questioning it as would happen in the normal course of events.
ADV DE JAGER: So please tell me again then what has a diary got to do with it?
MR HUGO: Chairperson once again the purpose of this is to sketch the cultural background of how Vlakplaas operated and within which framework it operated. And Chairperson I think it's really very relevant in this case where there is about 30 Vlakplaas members involved.
ADV DE JAGER: But no one questioned the fact that orders were obeyed, orders coming from higher up that is.
MR HUGO: But Chairperson if one of the members who represent Khotso or Cosatu House and they ask these people why did you not question these orders, then it's necessary for me to lay down the basis.
ADV DE JAGER: Yes but I am sure you will be able to re-question again, but if you have to cover all these things we will be here for weeks.
MR HUGO: Chairperson I've got about four more questions with regards to this aspect.
ADV DE JAGER: Carry on.
MR HUGO: Thank you Chairperson. General can I just ask you about one further aspect. Colonel de Kock is going to testify that with regards to Cosatu House he is going to say that a long time before that preparations were made and it was not something that was done impulsively after the instruction was received. Amongst others they made use of a helicopter to take aerial photos of the building. And the question I want to put to you is, as far as you know do you know that the helicopter was used during these operations or during the planning of this operation?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: According to hearsay, not in the fact of Cosatu but well in the case of Khotso House.
MR HUGO: Can I just ask you further. With regards to information which was given to de Kock, and once again I use this as an example, information by Brigadier van Schoon where he gives motivation about why Khotso or Cosatu House had to be blown up, was there any mechanism or any channel with regards to how he could test this information or research this information?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson yes if he himself wanted to understand the situation better and he made the request and said that, I want to determine this myself, then surely there were reports and information which one could have submitted to him, but like I've said that would have been kind of extraordinary because that was not the norm, or the normal reaction one would have expected.
But like I've said if he insisted that he would like to have seen reports and other information on the grounds of which we made our decisions then surely, yes, it would have been possible to give him those reports.
MR HUGO: But that was not the norm?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No. I would have been very surprised because this type of attitude which a member of the Security Branch would have adopted would have not been like that.
MR HUGO: Then General like I said, I also appear for some of the askaris and I would just like to ask you two or three questions with regards of the so-called payment that they received. Was there an official policy with regards to the payment of Askaris or members of Vlakplaas with regards to operations in which they took part?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Not that I know of Chairperson.
MR HUGO: Was there, as far as you know, was there not an official payment scale where people would be paid for the finding of weapons or even the killing of terrorists?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: It was valid in the sense of South West Africa, now Namibia but that was not valid in South Africa. I'm not very sure about this but I'm not aware of the fact that there was such an arrangement within South African.
MR HUGO: Can I put it to you that Mr de Kock would testify that there was such a payment scale and also with regards to these things we are talking about now.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I cannot give you factual evidence about this. I cannot testify in a factual way.
MR HUGO: And General lastly, it's the same question I also put to Mr Vlok yesterday. At any stage did you have contact with Mr de Klerk or Mr Botha with regards to your amnesty application before their submissions to the TRC?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I'd like to put it very clearly, I did not contact them with regards to my amnesty applications, this is contact with de Klerk or Botha but in all reasonableness and in all honesty after my application for amnesty and after I gave testimony to Jack Cronjé whom you were involved with, I gave evidence about Khotso House where Mr Botha would have given me an instruction. On the request of Mr Vlok I spoke to Mr Botha because Mr Botha because of the media took, realised, became aware of the situation and he would have been very upset. So I explained the circumstances to Mr Botha and he accepted in that fashion.
In the case of Mr de Klerk maybe I'll have to give a bit more background. I also informed him, as far as it was not concerned with my applications because this was in the years 1991, I can't remember the exact date, but as far it was our involvement in Cosatu House and Khotso house, as far as that was concerned, this happened because of the fact that Mr de Klerk at one point, and I think this was '91, gave us the instructions that investigations against members of the African National Congress and the SACP Alliance and also other freedom organisations with regards to the conflict of the past those investigations had to be stopped.
At the same time it happened, and this is Judge Goldstone, he would have continued with similar investigations against members of the security forces, amongst others the security branch and the same investigations after Goldstone stopped his investigation was given to the Attorney General.
I made objection to the unfair approach and at the same time I also said to Mr de Klerk that we were involved on instruction of the then government with regards to Cosatu and Khotso House and I did not want that my members who were involved with this would be investigated.
MR HUGO: General, just one last aspect and that is with regard to the logistic support which was given to Vlakplaas, and now I am restricting myself to Cosatu and Khotso House, the financing of this operation how did that come about?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, as far as I know it came through the normal channels. I'm not 100% sure which equipment was used but usually certain equipment is provided by our technical department or otherwise it is provided by the then quarter master who now became the logistics officer of the police or it was bought from the secret funds which was specifically there for those kinds of operations.
MR HUGO: So there was a secret fund which was directed at financing operations of a covert nature?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR HUGO: I have no further questions.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR HUGO
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR PENZHORN: Mr Chairperson, Ernst Penzhorn for the record.
General van der Merwe, with regards to what you said in your submission, and now we're looking at the information that you had about Cosatu House. Can I just ask you, before you had the meeting with Mr Vlok you gathered information over a long period of time with regards to the activities which were taking place within Cosatu House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: And in the light thereof, were you convinced that the activities there would lead to intimidation and violence and in general instability and the furthering of the revolutionary climate?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: Now similarly in the case of Khotso House information was also gathered, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR PENZHORN: And the basis of that information was almost as it was in the case of Cosatu House that what's happening in there would give lead to intimidation, instigation towards violence and the furthering of the revolutionary climate etc?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: With regards to the decisions you've taken, how you're going to act in Cosatu house, you've done this in the light of this information which you gathered and an attempt to stop this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: The evidence which the Committee has heard with regards to Cosatu House is that in that case there was no talk of any authorisation of either Mr Botha or the State Security Council or anything like that, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: In that case then you did not deem it necessary to, before you believed that these actions were necessary in order to maintain law and order and to improve the stability in the country, you did not deem it necessary to, as was testified, you did not have to get this instruction from right at the top from a very high position?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson, but I must say that I accepted that our behaviour in the light of the general attitude which I experienced at the committees where I was linked with and who in their turn they once again contacted or they liaised with the State Security Council, I thought that our actions would join the specific need which did exist, that in one way or another an end had to made to this difficult situation.
MR PENZHORN: Yes, but the essence of the question is this, your actions which you launched by means of the Security Council you did not in every case look at specific authorisation for an operation coming from the State Security Council. I think that is the essence of your evidence. You believed that those actions and those things which you did you did because you wanted to prevent this revolutionary climate and re-instate order in the country.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR PENZHORN: Now what I want to ask you is this, as far as the Khotso house it's a similar thorn in the flesh as Cosatu House and the purpose of the destruction was according to your evidence, the destruction of Cosatu House and Khotso House was the same?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR PENZHORN: Now what I want to ask you, this is in accordance with a question which my learned colleague asked you and that also the fact that you said you welcomed the opportunity when Mr Vlok told you that Mr Botha also now wanted the terrorists to stop the use of Khotso house. Now at that stage you already sat and waited to act, you'd been waiting to act. ...[indistinct] serious preparations. We've heard about the helicopter.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, this was only done after we received the instruction Chairperson. At that stage we did not make any arrangements and if you ask me, and I think this is what you're asking me, why you did not do the same, then I must tell you that in the case of Khotso House it was a more controversial incident or issue because of the fact that the South African Council of Churches was involved and therefore we could not have endeavoured in this in a light fashion.
MR PENZHORN: I think you've answered the question that I've asked but it is possible that the action in general, this type of action like Cosatu House and Khotso House did not necessarily rest on the approval of the State Security Council, whether you needed to have such approval formally.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I was only involved with Khotso House, Cosatu House and Cry Freedom so I cannot answer in general.
MR PENZHORN: General van der Merwe, I concede, maybe I should limit myself to the matters with which we are concerned here today. That was indeed my intention.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Thank you Chairperson.
MR PENZHORN: I have no further questions.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR PENZHORN
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR CORNELIUS: Mr Chairperson, Wim Cornelius for applicant N G Vermeulen.
General, did you attend functions at Vlakplaas where Colonel de Kock and members of his unit were complimented on their actions and contributions towards the "bekamping" of terror in South Africa? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes Chairperson, in 1988 I together with Mr Vlok attended the event of which evidence has been given. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR CORNELIUS: Would you then accept and agree that Colonel de Kock's reliability in accordance with the authorisation of operations was not questioned by members of his unit, specifically in the light of ministerial thanks, funding for operations, logistical support and liaison with headquarters? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I think in general his members would comply with his instructions. I think the relationship in that unit was as such, you are definitely correct there.
MR CORNELIUS: And then lastly, if a member would refuse an instruction or not carry it out, would this be a serious safety risk? If we look at the safety background, if he would question such an instruction?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, it would not create a security risk but if a person refuses to carry out an order it is obvious then that such a person would be removed from that unit. Nobody would have wanted to work with such a person if that person was not willing to participate in the task with the rest of the unit.
MR CORNELIUS: So the person would understand that disciplinary measures would be taken against him against him or would he would have had financial implications or he would have been removed from the unit if he did not carry out the order? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, there wouldn't necessarily be disciplinary action taken. If you read in that that they would have taken him away from the unit as a disciplinary step, yes, but he would not have to appear before any commission depending on whether it was a legal or illegal instruction but I accept that for our purposes you are referring to a instruction which was has reference to an illegal instruction.
MR CORNELIUS: Correct.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: If it concerns that, this person would be removed, thereof I have not doubt but no further steps would be taken against this person except for the fact that I think in general such a person would have had a difficult life in the South African Police.
MR CORNELIUS: Yes, and he would have been branded by his fellow-workers?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, that is definitely so.
MR CORNELIUS: I thank you for your honesty, thank you General.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR CORNELIUS
MR NEL: Thank you Chairperson. I'm Christo Nel appearing on behalf of two of the lower ranking applicants, Hanton and McArthur. It seems to me that if I want to get a question is then I have to get myself a chair to the right of Advocate Booyens but I have no questions.
NO QUESTIONS BY MR NEL
MR DU PLESSIS: Thank you Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Please place yourself on record.
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR DU PLESSIS: Sorry, Roelof du Plessis for George Hammond, Pierre le Roux, Hennie Kotze, Michael Bellinghan and Gert Beeslaar.
General, we have had several discussions in the course of these proceedings and therefore I have already asked a large number of questions which I wanted to ask you here and we won't go through it again.
Can I get back to what you have testified just now. If I understand you correctly you have testified according to the incidents regarding Khotso House, Cosatu House and Cry Freedom and that you discussed it with Mr de Klerk in 1991 and through that he knew of it in 1991?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Not Cry Freedom Chairperson, it was specifically Cosatu House and Khotso House because those were the investigations that were ongoing at that time. It was because of this investigation that I would put it very clearly, it was because of our indemnity also. It could have been later than 1991 but it was before 1994. During 1991/1992, it's a couple of years back and I'm not quite sure of the date but it was during the time when he was the State President and amongst others it had reference to the Attorney General's investigation and Judge Goldstone's investigation. In the light of that I told him that I didn't want any uncertainty, I wished to put it to him very clearly as far as it concerned Cosatu and Khotso House incidents. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR DU PLESSIS: And what was Mr de Klerk's reaction?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: This was concerned with indemnity and his undertaking was that they would endeavour to do everything to see whether in some manner they could "inklee" the Act so that indemnity could be received by those of our members who were involved in this.
MR DU PLESSIS: Can you remember if Mr de Klerk told you you must reveal those facts to the Goldstone Commission?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, no. Maybe I should just broaden the background here. What happened further was that after Judge Goldstone's investigation I also went to Mr Kobie Coetzee and I told Mr Kobie Coetzee there are presently matters being investigated by Judge Goldstone against members of the security forces and specifically the South African Security Branch while similar investigations were being prohibited against members of the ANC/SACP Alliance and I protest against this. I asked him to liaise with Judge Goldstone to stop these investigations. Mr Coetzee undertook to do it but despite this the investigations continued.
I then went to President Mandela and I told President Mandela in the light of the negotiations, circumstances and the fact that South African Police wished to play a role as far as stabilising the climate in the run-up to the elections was concerned, I protest strongly that Judge Goldstone was investigating matters against the security forces, in particular the security branch while similar investigations against his people were stopped.
I also told President Mandela that if this unbalanced situation continued there was no way in which I could motivate my people to be of full assistance with the maintenance of law and order with the view to peaceful negotiations and an election. President Mandela then undertook to liaise with Judge Goldstone which he apparently did because the investigation was stopped thereafter.
Thereafter it so happened that Judge Goldstone's investigations were handed over to the Attorney General, Doctor Jan d'Oliviera and I then went to Doctor d'Oliviera and told him I am aware that the investigation was communicated to him and that I just wished to tell him forthwith that as far as Cosatu House and Khotso House were concerned it was done in accordance with instructions from the government and that members who were involved there just carried out orders.
Doctor d'Oliviera undertook then, as far as Cosatu House and Khotso House was concerned, not to take the matter further at that point in time. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR DU PLESSIS: In other words General, am I correct in saying that Mr F W de Klerk and Mr Kobie Coetzee were aware of the Khotso House and Cosatu House matters at some stage during the negotiations before the election in 1994? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And am I also correct to say that they therefore were aware of these actions by the security forces when they negotiated the aspect of indemnity? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson. It was just with the aim that the Indemnity Act was amended to make provision for members of the security forces and General Magnus Malan, Mr Vlok and myself and altogether with 3 500 members of the security branch requested indemnity. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR DU PLESSIS: Do you know, are you aware of any other similar irregular actions, if I could call it that, by the security forces that Mr de Klerk was aware of at that stage before the elections? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson. I'm aware of the Umtata incident but I would not say that it was irregular and I am not aware of anything else.
MR DU PLESSIS: And then General, I would just like to know from you if you have any explanation as to why Mr de Klerk did not in the first submission of the National Party, mention any of these facts there because he apparently was aware of it? ...[transcriber's own translation]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson, we have to bear in mind this was not a gross violation of human rights and I think that submission was concerned with gross human rights violations.
MR DU PLESSIS: General, let's get back to Mr Botha's reaction, when did you speak with him?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I spoke to Mr Botha the day after I appeared before the Amnesty Committee.
MR DU PLESSIS: This was in October 1996, is that correct?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And did you inform him of your involvement with these incidents, Cosatu House and Khotso house?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, not Cosatu House just Khotso House.
MR DU PLESSIS: And the discussion entailed Khotso house because I implied him there, I implicated him there and because of media reports he was well aware of hit.
MR DU PLESSIS: And what was his attitude to that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: His attitude was that, his words to me were: "General, they want to chase us away but we have to stand our ground".
MR DU PLESSIS: Did he say anything else?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, he didn't say anything else.
MR DU PLESSIS: General you were present this morning when Mr Adrian Vlok testified and you heard his testimony.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And you heard the questions that I put to him in terms tacit approval and all those aspects.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct.
MR DU PLESSIS: I do not wish to drag you through that whole process but can I ask one question. Do you agree with what he testified?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: In essence yes, Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: Now General, Can I just make a statement with reference to that which I neglected to put to Mr Vlok. My client requested me to put it to you and I'm just seeking your confirmation in terms of this. There are certain aspects that contributed to the atmosphere in which the security forces acted which could have led to them thinking or believing that they were justified and they had authority to act and this was just tacit approval to act illegally.
I am not going to read these documents to you but it comes from Michael Bellinghan, Captain Michael Bellinghan's amnesty application and it comes from his political motivation -Mr Chairman, it's not necessary that I place these documents before you, it's not a lot that I'm going to refer to.
What is important for me General is, he calls it: "Prescribed study material contained in the document titled: "Trade Craft" on the Intelligence Handlers Course which he attended at Daisy Farm in 1983 and then there is also one in 1985.
Do you bear any knowledge of the type of study course which intelligence people underwent?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, not in detail.
MR DU PLESSIS: But this is a formal document that was handed out at that course. I just wish to read one or two quotations to you and I wish to know what your comment on it is and if you agree with what is said there. One of the is:
"A secret operation is a task which is carried out secretly by an operative or group of operatives in execution of a secret instruction and in spite of opposition"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: You would agree with that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, I do.
MR DU PLESSIS:
"Secret operations in this department"
This is now intelligence.
"are carried out on the basis of an authoritative organisation implying a disciplined acceptance of instructions. Lower ranks are commanded and controlled by senior ranks although decisions are often required on lower levels and as such are permitted"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And that was the manner there was acted in the security branch, all decisions were not taken by senior officers?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, as I've already said people at grassroots level had to in certain circumstance make decisions on their own.
MR DU PLESSIS: And there were actions with high intensity depending on whether you wanted to destroy the enemy, it had to be used at, we had to apply these measures to get the necessary results.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, the interpreters are throwing their hands in the air in desperation. I just wanted to draw your attention to that.
MR DU PLESSIS: Mr Chairman, it's been a habit of mine for two years. I beg your pardon, I'll go slower.
Let me read it slowly to you. Depending if it's the aim to defend the onslaught or to chase them or to defeat them or to destroy them, the correct mixture of political, economical, social and safety measures within the framework of the total structure would be applied to get the necessary results.
What I want to know from you - let me put the question to you. What I want to know from you besides physical action in a specific operation would there be other elements like propaganda, disinformation, misinformation after the time, would it play an important role in normal operations?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, Chairperson. As Mr Vlok has already testified, certain strategic communications were used, misguidance and propaganda so yes, I think in certain special cases it would have happened Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And would you say that the propaganda element, in other words the Stratcom operations which were executed and the actions surrounding these and also the disinformation with regards to certain things and on the other hand the propaganda in order to make the security police look better, would you say that was a very important aspect of the security police's duties? What percentage of importance would you give to that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson no, I'd say the strategic complications formed part also at a late stage. Initially it was mainly the function of the South African Defence Force and afterwards there was a division and we received a certain part of that or we inherited a certain part of that and like all the other tasks it formed part of what we had to do. I wouldn't say at this stage that it was a very important role that it played but yes, it was fairly important.
MR DU PLESSIS: Would you say on the other hand then that propaganda against the enemy, against the security structure within the country was of great importance and it also caused a lot of damage to the security forces?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, definitely Chairperson, that formed the essence of the revolutionary onslaught.
MR DU PLESSIS: And one of the most important aspects with regards to where the South African Council of Churches was involved was this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct.
MR DU PLESSIS: Now just a last quotation which I'd like to read to you. I just want to hear if you agree with me or not:
"The South African Police and specifically the security forces, since the beginning of the revolutionary armed struggle in 1961 without doubt played the most important role in the identification of the destruction of the elements of the enemy's military services as well as its military and political ideology"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: General van der Merwe, last thing. With regards to the injuries which people sustained at the Khotso House incident you'd find a reference to the specific injuries on page 55 to 58 of Volume 2. That is the amnesty application of one of my clients, George Hammond and you will find a complete list there of the people and the names of who were injured and what type of injuries they sustained.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I have it in front of me Chairperson.
MR DU PLESSIS: And I can tell you that that was drawn up from an official document which we have available and which is in our possession and we'll also make it available to the Committee if they are interested in that. I'd refer to this during his amnesty application when he gives evidence.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I have noted that Chairperson, thank you.
MR DU PLESSIS: And you will see that it confirms that there are not serious injuries.
I just want to ask you something with in relation to the evidence which you presented with regards to the explosive experts which are my clients and that you said that you knew that you had the best explosives experts and that they would make certain that people would not get injured. You would also agree that they could not have control over the presence of people, Khotso House for example, of people in the building or outside.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, I specifically referred to that part of their duty.
MR DU PLESSIS: I'll also put it to that they will testify as far as that is concerned, that is the presence of other people within and outside of the building, they had to rely on the information which they received from other members of the security branch in Johannesburg.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson, that is the reason why we involved them.
MR DU PLESSIS: As it pleases you Chairperson, I have no further questions.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR DU PLESSIS
MR BOTHA: Thank you Chairperson. I am Hannes Botha appearing on behalf of P C Schneiders. I have no questions thank you.
NO QUESTIONS BY MR BOTHA
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR ROUSSEAU: Mr Chairman, may I just place on record, Mr Polsen appearing on behalf of Mr Kendall is not present and there will be no questions as far as Mr Kendall is concerned.
I'm Mr Rousseau acting on behalf of five applicants, number 2 in Volume 1, Mr Zeelie, Mr van Heerden, Bosch, Willemse and Britz.
General, I have a few questions for you. With regards to the reliability of the sources, I would just like to put it to you that Mr van Heerden will testify that he was the handler of a source who specifically went to Khotso House and received financial means there.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Under the cover that he was a terrorist?
MR ROUSSEAU: Yes.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, Chairperson, I also received such information, that is correct. I did receive the information as such.
MR ROUSSEAU: General, the second aspect which I'd like to mention to you, what you have mentioned to General Erasmus as the security branch in Johannesburg and that he'd be involved in Khotso house, I'm specifically referring to Khotso House now, can you tell us how did you involve him and where did this happen? Can you still remember?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson I can't but during negotiations I think it was in my office at headquarters because I'm now aware of the fact that there is confusion between Cosatu House and Khotso House and I must be honest, I must concede that initially I also got a bit confused about the incidents because these things happened a long time ago but after one considered all the aspects I am of the opinion that the version as I've just given it to the Committee, that is the true version.
MR ROUSSEAU: Then I just put it to you that Zeelie will testify that there was a request from the members of the security branch at John Vorster Square that people should act against the activities in Khotso House and when I say: "initiative" I'm not saying that the authorisation didn't come from a higher structure. We cannot deny that but there were also members under Mr Zeelie who were his subordinates who were specifically tasked with the investigation of the activities of the South African Council of Churches and here I'm referring to Mr Beyers specifically.
Mr Chairman, Mr Beyers is apparently not represented here and I don't think he is present.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I can honestly not remember that I received any indication from General Erasmus. I spoke to General Erasmus and we discussed the actions with regards to Khotso House in accordance with the request I received from Mr Vlok in the light of Mr Botha's request.
If there was an overlap and if there was a similar attempt, I think it was also put to me with regards tot the Council of Churches and Khotso House, why we did not do the same as we did in the case of Cosatu House. It's quite possible that there could have been such thoughts being developed but I do not have any knowledge of that.
MR ROUSSEAU: General, I'm hesitant to use the word overlapping because it might create the impression that there was a separate action by the security branch in Johannesburg and therefore I apologise. The statement I want to make is that Zeelie is going to say that he and Beyers went to General Erasmus and they discussed the problem with regard to the activities in Khotso House with him and General Erasmus told them that with that aspect he is going to take it up with you in Pretoria.
A day after, as far as Mr Zeelie is concerned, a day after he did go to Pretoria and then when he got back to Johannesburg he informed that he, Zeelie and Beyers all had to return with him the next day to Pretoria and that at that second opportunity where Mr Zeelie was concerned, Zeelie and Beyers waited outside your office whilst General Erasmus had discussions with you. Can you remember something like that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I can remember that I spoke to General Erasmus but I cannot remember that anything came from his side as far as this request is concerned. If it happened it could have been overlapped but maybe it was a quite a coincidence that when he came to me I gave him the instruction. That is the only explanation that I can give you for that. I did not get any other requests from General Erasmus and I did not handle the situation in any other way than I've testified here.
MR ROUSSEAU: General I will accept that is probably not so improbable that it could have happened because according to your evidence the authorisation was already given at the end of June and that according to Mr Vlok's evidence if I remember correctly and the evidence of Mr Zeelie is that it was shortly before the operation that they travelled to Pretoria and visited you.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Then it is possible Chairperson.
MR ROUSSEAU: And Mr Zeelie will further testify that he and Beyers and General Erasmus went to the explosive unit in Pretoria where they asked assistance with regard to this operation.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I do not carry any knowledge with regards to that.
MR ROUSSEAU: Now in line with that there was a first attempt to create an explosion at Khotso House.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I do not know anything of that.
MR ROUSSEAU: And that that attempt was futile, it was unsuccessful, it was aborted and only afterwards Vlakplaas became involved.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I do not know anything of that Chairperson.
MR ROUSSEAU: Now the final aspect with regard to use of the helicopter, my instructions are, I've heard you say it is hearsay evidence, my instructions are that inasfar as it concerns the Vlakplaas members, the helicopter was used for observation at Cosatu House.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I thought it was Khotso House Chairperson.
MR ROUSSEAU: I've got no further questions Mr Chairman.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR ROUSSEAU
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR LAMEY: Thank you Chairperson. Lamey on behalf of the applications, Mr Nortje and Mogoai.
General, I'm going to be very brief. You testified that the movements of Vlakplaas was that of a specialist unit, I'm just summarising what you've said, you said there were people with counter-insurgence training and with a lot of experience with regards to cross-border operations. What I want to know, were you aware of the fact that some of these members were specifically trained as Koevoete and they had experiences there and because of those specific experiences which they had they were very appropriate for being used against the counter-revolutionary fight in South Africa.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes against terrorism.
MR LAMEY: Yes.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, specifically because when it was still South West Africa or now Namibia, when they were involved in battles against terrorism or terrorists they were well equipped to fulfil their duties which they were expected to do.
MR LAMEY: I accept that it was a temporary decision taken that Vlakplaas and specifically Brigadier Schoon was to be responsible for the execution of this instruction. What I would like to know is, the security problem which was created at Cosatu House lay inside the jurisdiction area of the security branch of Johannesburg.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson.
MR LAMEY: Was there, before the decision was taken to involve Vlakplaas, was there consideration given to the execution of the operation by the security branch in Johannesburg? In other words before the actual decision was taken and discussions were held where Erasmus or the commander of the security branch together with Brigadier Schoon and when they were considering all the options and eventually they decided that Vlakplaas were the people to be involved in assistance with the security branch in Johannesburg and not the other way around. That means the security branch is not going to act with the assistance of Vlakplaas but the other way around.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I would not make a very strong distinction. I gave the instruction to Brigadier Schoon with the request because his unit was the best equipped for this type of task, to do the necessary co-ordination and I asked General Erasmus to give him the necessary assistance but I do not think you should look at that and then think that I necessarily restricted General Erasmus when he himself had specific ideas or thoughts. That is not the way the security branch worked. It was just an order to initiate the whole thing, so I would say they were on equal foot as far as this was concerned.
MR LAMEY: The reason I'm asking you this is because maybe it's just generally so, and I'm going to get back to Cosatu House and the question of Mr Nortje, is that usually when a security problem came into life and usually when it was necessary for a security branch as specifically Vlakplaas to become involved or when their assistance was called in then it was a request of the security branch via the channel of security headquarters and it was channelled through to the commander of Vlakplaas.
In some cases it could have been your problem and in other cases not but that is normally how the command structure worked. In this case was it similar or was it different?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, it was different because, you must bear in mind Vlakplaas normally acted in the execution of its normal duties, there was no rule as far as this its tasks were concerned. I've already mentioned it was the first incident where I involved Vlakplaas in the Witwatersrand so it was quite unique, this situation.
MR LAMEY: What I'd like to put to you, this is according to Mr Nortje and I'll also take this up with Mr de Kock, he understood, and this was in these discussions that this came about, in the discussions when the instruction was given to him, he remembers that Colonel de Kock mentioned to him that the Johannesburg Security Branch approached him to help them with the explosion at Cosatu House and he said that the instruction was given to de Kock by the Divisional Commander of the Johannesburg Branch, Brigadier Schoon.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I honestly think that the person believes this but I am aware of the fact that there is confusion with regard to the two incidents between Khotso House and Cosatu House. You see if go to Khotso house there are other members who experienced it the other way and one has to take into account that at that specific time there were hundreds of incidents of violence which took place in the country and well on a daily basis and they had to be handled. Obviously it's impossible to expect of our people to remember everything to the exact detail. Because this stuck out one should try to remember these incidents because they
were quite prominent and I don't think there is any attempt to mislead anyone here.
MR LAMEY: What I'd like to know from you is, even though it worked the other way around in this case can I put it to you this way, was it not very exceptional that a security branch in a specific area called in the assistance of Vlakplaas and to that via the command channels and send it through the higher structures to Vlakplaas.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: As far the normal procedures were concerned, yes it was the arrangement, the relevant security branch always expressed their need and that is how things mostly worked.
MR LAMEY: I have not further questions, thank you Chairperson.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR LAMEY
MS GCABASHE: Can I just ask for clarity Mr van der Merwe. So you gave an instruction to both Brigadier Schoon and to General Erasmus but re the person who was so-called in charge would be Brigadier Schoon, is this what you are saying?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, the idea was, this was a joint operation and amongst the members of the police force it was always the case that where it concerned a certain area the senior member, which would have been Brigadier Schoon, he would have been in command of that portion of the operation that his unit had to do but General Erasmus would assist him insofar as reconnaissance of the building, information that they needed, protection of the environment and whatever it entailed there. So all of them would comply with their own task but it would be co-ordinated.
MS GCABASHE: So with respect to the aborted attempt, the first one that was undertaken by Mr Zeelie, he was part of the Johannesburg Security Branch.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MS GCABASHE: So that would be General Erasmus acting within the course and scope of the instruction given to him? That would have nothing to do at that stage with Brigadier Schoon?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MS GCABASHE: And it's only later that Brigadier Schoon got involved and brought Vlakplaas in?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR ROUSSEAU: Sorry. Mr Chairman, just for clarity, I don't if this was the intention by the Commissioner's question but the aborted attempt was not undertaken by Mr Zeelie, he was just part of it. It was not him on his own, if that is what you understood.
MR VISSER: I'm sorry Mr Chairman, but perhaps my learned friend can just explain because I'm not quite sure I understand what he says happened there. Who undertook this aborted attempt if it wasn't Zeelie. I thought it was Zeelie.
MS GCABASHE: No, I understand you to say that Mr Zeelie was part of a team ordered by General Erasmus, he did not go there on his own to conduct this particular operation on his own, is that correct?
MR ROUSSEAU: Sorry, just for clarity's sake maybe I can inform the Committee that the testimony of Mr Zeelie will be that there was a request by Mr Beyers to his senior which was Mr Zeelie that something must be done about the situation and the activities that took place in Khotso House.
My instructions are that Mr Beyers was in charge of the investigation as far as the workings of the South African Council of Churches was concerned in Johannesburg and thereupon Mr Zeelie said that they must go to General Erasmus in order to discuss the matter. General Erasmus then said: "I'll go to headquarters Pretoria, discuss it with General van der Merwe".
He came back to Johannesburg, informed Mr Zeelie and Beyers that they should accompany him the next to Pretoria. At that time when they came to Pretoria, Mr Zeelie will testify that he and Mr Beyers waited outside the office while General Erasmus discussed, I can't say what he discussed but he was in the office with General van der Merwe, and from there they went to the explosives headquarters in Pretoria where specifically a discussion took place with Mr Hammond, Mr Kotze, as far as I can recall now, and that a few nights later the aborted attempt, there was an attempt which was aborted, that took place at that time. Mr Zeelie was present, Mr Kotze was present, Mr Hammond was present if I'm not mistaken and Mr van Heerden was also present.
There was also a meeting beforehand at a safe house in Johannesburg and all that happened that night was they drove past the building, saw that there were too many people around and Mr Kotze who was the most senior rank I believe at that stage, said that the attempt should be aborted and that General de Kock from Vlakplaas will called in to assist and that attempt apparently took place a couple of nights later.
ADV DE JAGER: So there was no attempt, there was no dynamite placed or anything or an attempt to light it? They drove past the building, saw people present, went home and said: "Let's call de Kock"?
MR ROUSSEAU: Indeed Mr Chairman. Maybe the word: "attempt" is the incorrect word.
MS GCABASHE: Again just clarify this for me. They were acting at that time under the instruction from General Erasmus, is that right or wrong?
MR ROUSSEAU: Mr Chairman, indeed. Mr Chairman, the testimony will be that before this incident there was a meeting at a safe house in Johannesburg where General Erasmus was also present.
CHAIRPERSON: As I understand what you've said is that before this incident there had also been a meeting between General Erasmus and General van der Merwe?
MR ROUSSEAU: Well Mr Chairman, that was the meeting in Pretoria.
MR ROUSSEAU: But Mr Zeelie was not present in the office ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: No, but there was a meeting, so General van der Merwe may have given instructions, you can't tell us.
MR ROSSOUW: Indeed.
MR NYOKA: But I remember reading a portion where it was said Mr Zeelie had explosives in a checkers container and they fell down and rolled in the street in Johannesburg, is it the same incident?
MR ROUSSEAU: Mr Chairman, that I believe will be the evidence by Mr de Kock and as I read his application that is hearsay evidence and it will be denied by Mr Zeelie of course.
MS GCABASHE: Thank you.
CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR JANSEN: Thank you Mr Chairman. Jansen on behalf of applicant Ras, number 9.
MR JANSEN: General, you will accept that Mr Ras was a Warrant Officer at the time?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson.
MR JANSEN: And I just want to place my question in context, it's been levelled at Mr Ras in particular and at various other applicants that they did not come to the Truth Commission because of some Damascus experience and because some extreme bona fide intention to speak the truth but because they were in trouble and as it were the loose of the hangman was tightening, are you aware of that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I am aware of the allegations Chairperson.
MR JANSEN: Mr Chairman, I catch myself speaking in English, I suppose I should do it in Afrikaans.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: You can speak any language, I have no objections.
MR JANSEN: No, my client is Afrikaans. It was my intention to listen to the English translation.
Would you accept that the initial unwillingness of many of the security policemen has a direct connection with you as their commander and also General Magnus Malan, your mistrust of the whole process?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, if I could explain in this manner. When this process started of the TRC, myself, General Mike Geldenhuys, General Johan Coetzee, General de Wit was not always present, but the three of us we had discussions with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Doctor Alex Boraine and we told them this was a difficult process and the regulations of the Act were difficult to explain to our members. There is mistrust towards the work of the Commission and only if we succeed to give our people legal representation so that they can be assisted in this process, there would be no way where we could tell our people from our side to apply for amnesty because it's going to be difficult for us to distinguish, firstly is a person complies with all the requirement and secondly if that person can handle the application on his own so consequently there was mistrust. It was only after we succeeded through negotiations with the Minister of Justice to convince him that it was necessary to have legal representation and in our case the South African Police will carry the costs thereof, that we have to approach our people with the help of members of the Department of Justice and we could explain the process to them and then we could convince them through their legal representatives to handle the situation. Up to that point all our members refused to participate in the process. When we got to that point I think the majority who are involved now came forward.
MR JANSEN: Can you remember more or less when that was?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, Mr Wagener was also involved there with the negotiations, I think it was June/July 1996. It could have been later but I can tell you precisely because there was a meeting organised at the South African Police College where we invited all the people and where the whole affair was explained to them and at that instance I told them that they played an important role and myself and the other Generals, not all of them, are prepared to where we gave an instruction, to accept responsibility and that members who were involved in such a deed may mention it that they are free to mention that incident but just to approach us and to inform us. It was in the early stages before the first applications came about. You will remember as well, if you go back to the news, it was during the incident where Advocate Roelof du Plessis, he was also involved there - can you remember when it was? ...[intervention]
ADV DE JAGER: The Cronjé application was handed in at the beginning of October.
MR DU PLESSIS: Yes, it was handed in in the beginning of October. ...[intervention]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: But it was round about that time Chairperson, round about, between July and October 1996.
MR DU PLESSIS: Yes, the hearing ended two weeks, close to the end of October.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, it was round about that time period Chairperson.
MR JANSEN: Thank you Mr Chairman, I have nothing further to ask.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR JANSEN
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman, it's Mafojane here on behalf of Cosatu. I notice Mr Chairman, that we are left with only five minutes before the break ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: How long do you think you'll be?
MR MAFOJANE: I will be about an hour to an hour and a half Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: So we will start at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
MR MAFOJANE: As the Chairman pleases.
ON RESUMPTION: 23RD JULY 1998 - DAY 4
MR MAFOJANE: ...[inaudible] and go directly to the bombing of both Khotso House and Cosatu House and just get your opinion on that before we get into the finer details thereof.
In your various documents that have been submitted to this Commission you have said that there was anarchy in the country and that it was necessary, in order to stand the tide of anarchy, to bomb these places, now isn't it strange that in attempts, in your attempts to stem anarchy you actually contributed to that anarchy in the public perception particularly with regard to the Cosatu House bombing just before the elections, that in your attempts to stem that anarchy, the perceived anarchy that was there or let us say anarchy, other people might describe it in other terms but for your purpose that is anarchy, wouldn't you concede that these activities actually contributed to that climate of anarchy, the escalated perception or anarchy both in the country and even externally?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, no, definitely not. Firstly, as far as Cosatu House is concerned ourselves, we had no doubt that all law abiding people, and this includes that part of the workers corps who wanted to do their jobs and not because of intimidation continually being dumped into strikes, they would have welcomed this, that a house like Cosatu House where certain planning took place with regards to strikes and also where intimidation took place and because the steps which were taken people were brutally killed, that such a place should be rendered useless. In my mind, and each one has to express his opinion about this, but in my mind I had no doubt that the explosion at Cosatu House would not have contributed to the climate which was directed at the furthering of the revolutionary onslaught especially because of the fact that any reasonable thinking person would have realised that whoever was responsible for Cosatu House was not part of that revolutionary onslaught.
CHAIRPERSON: Why would you say that? Would people not say: "What kind of country is this where explosions take place in Johannesburg" and if they think it's the police who caused the explosions they'd say: "What type of conditions are these, they can't stem the anarchy so now they're committing deed of anarchy".
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, in normal situations that would have been correct but you must remember we were not in a normal situation or conditions, we were dumped into a situation as we've expressed before, similar to that of a war situation and most of our people in the community also experienced it in such a fashion. If one has to look at the reaction then it's my impression that our people also experienced it as such. We were in a war situation and this unfortunately was part of the psychosis which spread from that situation.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, is it your opinion that this state of anarchy would not contribute to the heightening of tension amongst both blacks and whites?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, no. Once again it was my impression that that part of the black community who wanted to live in peace, even if the majority of them supported the ANC/SACP Alliance, they were also tired and fed-up with the violence, fed-up with the intimidation and also with the strikes. At that time I did not judge that this would contribute to make the moderate people more angry with us.
MR MAFOJANE: General, some of the issues that you raised now I will take up with you towards the end. They are more, less to do perhaps maybe with this process though they would form part of the background of this process about this notion of the majority of black people wanted to live in peace under apartheid, under those conditions and I ...[indistinct] to say that the term, the silent majority perhaps could have been more appropriately applied to people who were afraid, who were afraid to take up the ...[indistinct] and challenge the state because people were afraid. There was security legislation.
It was known that people died during those processes and dire consequences could be visited upon anyone who was seen to be opposing the state and the majority of people as it always happens everywhere, they remain quiet, they remain silent because they are afraid. You have a few people who actually take up the ...[indistinct] the struggle of the Afrikaner general. The history of the Afrikaner is peppered with the history of such people, of heroic commanders. No all the Afrikaner population rose up against the English imperialism, only a few people, co-ordinated those activities. So it is not actually the fact that the majority of people are not up against the government, it doesn't necessarily that there are ...[indistinct] in its policies. I just wanted to say that.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, could I just react? I did not say that the majority was not in resistance towards the government. I put it very clearly that the vast majority were ANC/SACP Alliance supporters and one could also accept that even though the majority probably identified themselves with the violent struggle of the ANC/SACP Alliance, the majority were not prepared to become involved with violence or to become involved with deeds which led to the fact that they were exposed to violence and because of that they had to use intimidation to move the masses to do certain things and where the affiliates of Cosatu and especially SARWU, they played an important role.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, I want to refer you to Exhibit E, the document that was submitted yesterday, your submissions to this Commission. I want to refer you particularly to paragraph 8.10 on page 15 under the heading:
"The Attack on Khotso House"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I have it Chairperson.
MR MAFOJANE: Now I'll just read out this paragraph. It says:
"The head office of the South African Council of Churches was settled in Khotso House were all the planning took place and the activities of the council were co-ordinated countrywide"
Now General, which activities are you referring to here? Now General, which activities are you referring to?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson ...[intervention]
MR VISSER: Chairperson, may I just enquire. Is my learned friend now also appearing for the SACC? I thought he is appearing for Cosatu. I just pose the question, I don't want to interrupt or stem his tide of cross-examination but I'm not quite certain how he's got loco ...[inaudible] to ask these questions.
CHAIRPERSON: I think the two attacks have been very closely linked in the evidence you have led Mr Visser and I think it one investigates one, one can investigate the other.
MR VISSER: As it pleases you Mr Chairman.
MR MAFOJANE: Thank you Mr Chairman.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: It goes together with paragraph 8.9 and there if I can quote myself:
"The South African Council of Churches served greatly as a channel to help the other churches within the country, and afterwards"
I'm giving certain policy opinions which we adhered to. "The fact that the South African government morally and judicial lost all the legitimacy and the violent actions of the liberation movements were justified because they only acted against the violence of an illegitimate government and that other churches and members of churches were encouraged to fight for them"
MR MAFOJANE: Is that your response?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR MAFOJANE: Now if we move to paragraph 8.11 you refer to affiliates of the UDF which were houses in Khotso House and I just want clarity on this question in particular, what those affiliates were.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I do not have a list available right now but there several affiliates of the UDF who were in Khotso House. The people often had meetings there but who exactly they were I cannot tell you at this stage.
MR MAFOJANE: And again on paragraph 8.12 you refer to certain incidents of violence that occurred after meetings were held at Khotso House. I also want you to refer to those specific incidents General.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, if it's necessary I could go and find you the incidents but I can't remember them.
MR MAFOJANE: Because you see General a lot of time has passed between then and now and one can easily contend that all these incidents are just made up to actually clothe your application, give it some justification and that it is unimaginable that incidents of violence could have been organised and co-ordinated from the precincts of the South African Council of Churches.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, it was well-known in Johannesburg and the members of the security branch in Johannesburg itself who had to deal with it every day would certainly give you comment on that. I'm referring to reports that I received with regard to this but I have not doubt in my mind that it indeed happened this way, that there was inciting speeches held and afterwards violence did occur in the centre of Johannesburg.
If it's necessary we can make an effort and we can find the incidents around this but I think that the members of the security branch could give comment on that very easily but I cannot do that.
MR MAFOJANE: You go further on and say at paragraph 8.13.3, and that forms part of what you say there: SACC and particularly Khotso House was being used and you say that it was used as:
"as a depot for explosives and weapons which were meant for terrorists who got into the country"
Am I correct in saying that that is what you're implying there?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Correct Chairperson, but I also said yesterday that it happened on occasion and it's put quite widely here. The information was that at certain occasions explosives and weapons were stored in Khotso House.
ADV DE JAGER: Were there any prosecutions of people in Khotso House?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson, not which held direct connected with Khotso House. I've already explained that just because of the fact that our liaison with informants had to be done in such a careful manner. We were never given the opportunity to hit Khotso House immediately.
When we received the information from the informer a certain amount of time already expired after this actual incident took place and there was too little hope and the risk was too big to do a search of the house. Secondly, it was also the case that we could not risk or dare to expose our informers to any problem which might be caused by the actions of the police, and to put them in such a difficult situation.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, wasn't Khotso House like Cosatu House and all other buildings that were perceived by the state to be part of this revolutionary onslaught against the Republic, kept under surveillance? Surely that would have been reasonable to do that, to keep them under constant surveillance.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: It just wasn't possible to have them under surveillance day and night. Secondly, over and above that if one had someone inside of the building surveillance from outside would not have achieved much. The manpower which one would have had to have for that purpose would not have been advantageous.
I can tell you that in the case of Cosatu House it was the case that from time to time we did have the place under surveillance but once again you had to get inside the building from outside and surveillance from the outside, because of the great magnitude of people who entered and left the building, it would have entailed a massive effort in order to learn anything in that fashion.
MR MAFOJANE: Are you saying that it was a very costly exercise?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: It was not only that, it was also an exercise which in the end would not have been worth it because of the circumstances. If you put a building under surveillance you had to do it by means of video cameras and the people who went in and then came out had to be identified. It doesn't help to have a place under surveillance if you cannot say who is going in and who is going out and you can't identify them. With all the sophisticated equipment which you would have to have in which other well developed countries have, if you had that you could have maybe tried this but we felt that with our manpower and the circumstances in which we found ourselves where our people were working day and night to stop the onslaught, such a thing was just not possible.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, this was a place where weapons of war were allegedly kept and wouldn't it have been justifiable to go that extra mile and spend all the resources on keeping such a place under surveillance and making sure that the place is sealed and searched and that the weapons are found? Anyway it was the stated intention and I will refer to that in this document that was handed to us, Exhibit B where part of the aims of the State Security Council were to discredit the South African Council of Churches, amongst others internationally because you had identified the international aspect as having isolated South Africa tremendously and that as a counter-measure it should be discredited, all forces should be discredited, the ANC, its alliance with the Communist Party should be highlighted to the international community and that the South African Council of Churches as well, its branch of theology should actually be exposed overseas in order to lessen support for these organisations.
Wouldn't it have been natural for you if you truly believed and knew through your informants that there were weapons in that area, to actually ensure that all resources were expended and that indeed the weapons were found and that prosecutions followed and as a consequence of that, that convictions follow? Surely it would have been enough?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I accept that this has regard to Khotso House, this question. Correct Mr Mafojane. Your question relates to Khotso House?
MR MAFOJANE: It's relevant to Khotso House and to Cosatu as well.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson no, let me answer like this. I have already mentioned this and I mention it again, it was only at certainly occasions we had certain information that explosives and weapons were kept in Khotso House but only on occasion. I must tell you that all over the country there were weapon depots and the run-up of explosives and weapons and the danger which it held was much bigger and it asked of us to pay more attention to this as in the case of Khotso House. So once again to take all those steps thinking of the fact that weapons and explosives were stored there at occasions, so in the circumstances it just wasn't practical.
MR MAFOJANE: Now, if I get just beg the Chairman's indulgence for a moment.
MR SIBONYANI: Maybe if I can take this opportunity to ask one question.
Mr van der Merwe, when the building was demolished were these weapons and explosives found in either Khotso House ...[intervention]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson, no weapons or explosives were found.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, with regard to Cosatu House, and you just have to bear with me as I'm going to keep jumping from Cosatu House to Khotso just like that, after Cosatu House was bombed obviously it was rendered useless as was the intention and the affiliates dispersed to other offices in Johannesburg and these offices were subsequently bombed as well. Were you also involved in that General?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson, definitely not, I don't even have knowledge of it.
MR MAFOJANE: Now in your mind who would have been responsible for that, and I'm not saying you say you have no personal knowledge, I'm saying in your mind who would have been responsible for that? ...[intervention]
MR VISSER: Well can we hear which offices he is referring to Mr Chairman, with respect.
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman, my instructions are that the NUM offices in Welkom were bombed, and NUM is an affiliate of Cosatu. In Johannesburg it's shared an office actually. It had an office at Cosatu House. The Cosatu offices amongst others in Northern Natal were also bombed and the SACAUW offices as well. The SACAUW offices apparently were also subject to attack. I have stated General that if you do not know about this, what I'm asking you is to actually just venture an opinion as who could have been responsible.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I would like to do better. I would just like to get the facts and determine what the circumstances were, how it happened exactly and what led to it. I would not want to sit here and venture a wild opinion to that but if you would grant me I would get the particulars and then I would try to give more information to the Committee instead of just speculating wildly.
MS GCABASHE: Could I ask General, if these were people in your department in the security branch, would you have expected a report on these incidents?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: What are you referring of now, the incidents that were mentioned now?
MS GCABASHE: The additional bombings.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Before I answer that can I just determine what the circumstances were? Do you mean if those incidents were committed by the members of the police?
MS GCABASHE: Yes. If members of your security branch had bombed these other offices, you as the head of security would you get a report of this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Let me put it clearly. At this stage I have no reason to believe that it was my people but if one would go purely hypothetically they wouldn't have reported to me definitely not. It's a bit far fetched but they would not have reported to me, if it was our people.
MS GCABASHE: Again coming back to the question of authority, we are talking hypothetically, who would have authorised them if it were them? Who would have authorised them if you wouldn't have known about it at all?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, now we are in a hypothesis that I cannot answer to truthfully.
MS GCABASHE: Fair enough, I'll leave it to Mr Mafojane.
MR MAFOJANE: Thank you learned Commissioner.
Just as a by the way Mr van der Merwe, my clients say that in your various raids at Cosatu House you seized documents, amongst others you seized T-shirts, posters and they would like to have them back for purposes of archiving them. They've asked me to ask you if you can be of any assistance in getting those things back, they need them for historical purposes.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I will convey the request to the South African Police Services.
MR MAFOJANE: Now I'm going to refer you again to paragraph 8.16 and 8.17 and 8.16 says:
"When I received the message from Mr Vlok that P W Botha requested that Khotso House be rendered obsolete I welcomed the opportunity. Mr Vlok put it clearly that no lives had to be endangered. I told Mr Vlok that we would follow the same action as in Cosatu House and he agreed"
And paragraph 8.17 continues:
"As in the case of Cosatu House I gave the instruction to Brigadier Schoon to make necessary arrangements and I emphasised that no lives had to be endangered. I further requested him to co-ordinate with General Major Erasmus, the Divisional Commander of the Security Branch in Witwatersrand who would assist him"
Now General, reading these two paragraphs I actually notice that almost the same ingredients that were there in the Cosatu House bombing, that is now with regard to the Khotso House bombing, the same ingredients, that is apart from explosives of course, the same ingredients that were there in the Cosatu House bombing are also there in the Khotso House bombing, the same chain of command, the same people are contacted but what is most interesting is that there is one ingredient missing and that ingredient in the first case is Mr P W Botha. Would you be able to explain that glaring absence?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, in both cases I liaised with Mr Vlok, I did not liaise directly with Mr P W Botha. In terms of Cosatu House, I did not explain why Mr Botha was not informed or advised to that matter, it did not concern me. I was satisfied that Mr Vlok would act according to his conviction and whatever is required of him as minister in those circumstances.
MR MAFOJANE: And would you have expected that Mr Vlok would obtained authorisation from Mr P W Botha in this instance?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, no, I wouldn't have expected of him to receive authorisation but I would have expected that he would later inform him.
MR MAFOJANE: General, I'm going to refer you to something that is common cause, Mr Eugene de Kock's trial where he says, when he was approached with regard to the Khotso House bombing, he was a highly decorated policeman, quite senior, I mean the rank of Colonel is senior it is not a lowly rank and he had what I would call carte blanche in a way what he has described, carte blanche to do whatever he wanted within the purposes of forestalling the onslaught against the Republic, the perceived onslaught, and he said and I'm not going to quote the page or anything in from the trial but that is what came out of the trial, that he actually wanted to know, he was so shocked that he actually wanted to know whether this sort of thing had been cleared with the authorities and he was a policeman and not a politician, similarly in the same position as you were. Now when you received this request from Mr Vlok, you weren't a politician, bear that in mind, weren't you shocked in a way and didn't you take steps to ensure that you were going to do, which was patently illegal, that it had the blessings of higher authorities?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson. As I've explained previously between us there was mutual trust and I had no reason to believe that Mr Vlok would act in this manner, that it did not have the approval of Mr P W Botha. I honestly have to say that my impression was in the committees in which I served, I did not serve on the State Security Council, was that from the State Security Council's side there was such a feeling towards the activities in Cosatu House and also later Khotso House that they would reconcile with our actions.
MR MAFOJANE: Are you saying that even Mr P W Botha would have reconciled himself with those actions?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is how I believed it.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General - just bear with me Mr Chairman.
Now General, I'm going to refer you to some other aspect that has emerged from the documents that you've handed up to the Commission, and I'm just trying to find the page in the relevant document. It refers actually to the handgrenade explosions in the East Rand where some youths were given booby-trapped handgrenades. ...[intervention]
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, I must preface the questions of my learned with the following remark. There is an application for amnesty in that regard. I'm going to object to any questions by my learned friend or by anybody else relating to the facts and circumstances of the matter. If the questions are going to be directed at basic similarities or differences, that would be a different matter but I'm not going to allow my client, with respect Mr Chairman, to answer questions on an issue to which he still has to go and give evidence at a later stage before a different Committee.
CHAIRPERSON: I don't understand, will you say that again?
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, I'm saying, in regard to the ...[indistinct] handgrenades there is an application for amnesty by General van der Merwe which will serve at some future date before this Committee. It would be highly iniquitous for him now to answer questions on the facts and circumstances regarding that incident today.
CHAIRPERSON: Is there an application in that regard pending?
MR VISSER: Yes, Mr Chairman. What I'm saying Mr Chairman, is that if my learned friend wishes in broad parameters to draw distinctions or to make comparisons, that is one thing but it will be iniquitous to expect General van der Merwe to reply to questions on issues pertaining specifically to that incident. I'm sure you will understand the predicament.
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman, I understand my learned friend's predicament here. Basically what I want to sketch is just the general principal. I was not even aware that General van der Merwe has applied for amnesty for these incidents. It is not my intention certainly to probe the specifics of these incidents, I just want the general principles and my learned friend is free to object if I pose the question and he feels that it's going to prejudice his client at the subsequent hearing, he is free to do so and I leave the matter in the hands of the Chairman and the learned Commissioners.
CHAIRPERSON: The incident has been mentioned already in evidence hasn't it? The General confirms that.
MR VISSER: Yes, we all know that there is an application for amnesty, yes certainly Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Now I'm talking about the evidence led before us, there has already been mention of this.
MR VISSER: That was in October, yes indeed Mr Chairman.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, you have said that these youths were intent on attacking installations and ...[intervention]
MR VISSER: No, Mr Chairman, I object to these questions. With all due respect ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Let him finish the question before you object Mr Visser.
MR MAFOJANE: Thank you Mr Chairman.
You have said that these youths intended attacking installations and that it was necessary that they be attacking families of policemen and leaving the country for military training and that it was necessary for the police to introduce these booby-trapped handgrenades to them. Now obviously that was with the intention as you say here, I mean that's the result, that the timing device of the handgrenades would be shortened? I'm not too familiar with these terms General, I'm not a military man but certainly you get what I'm trying to say, that there wouldn't be a delay between the time of detonation and explosion and obviously this was intended to kill. Now I want to know as to why, you know if you knew about all these plans, why was it not necessary to erase these youths and take them into custody ...[indistinct] happened? If they conspired to commit a crime why were they not taken into custody?
MR VISSER: May I now object Mr Chairman?
CHAIRPERSON: Surely the answer is not for you to object but for the General to say: "We knew youths were doing it but we don't know who, we didn't know who they were, we couldn't arrest them"?
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, may I ask one question? What is the relevance of this question to what you're busy doing here today?
CHAIRPERSON: Because I understand the point he wishes to make is that the police weren't bothering to arrest, they didn't arrest Cosatu House, they didn't arrest the youths, they just blew up and killed.
That I understand is the point you want to make isn't it?
MR VISSER: If that is the question Mr Chairman, I won't object to that question but I'm objecting to this question.
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman, I think the point has been aptly made by yourself, that was my intention.
Now General, what do you say to that ...[intervention]
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Could I just get the facts correctly. Firstly, it did not concern installations, it concerned an attack on police persons and their families and this was common cause. I would just like to put that right. Secondly, it is indeed as you said, there was no way in which we could arrest these people it was in those circumstances the only solution for us to take protect policemen and their families against the attacks of handgrenades and other explosives.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, I do not understand why you say you could not arrest them. If you managed to infiltrate a policeman into that group certainly you could have managed to arrest them?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I would like to handle further questions in the amnesty hearing.
MR DU PLESSIS: Mr Chairman, I don't want to interpose but as far as I can recall, at the amnesty hearing of Brigadier Cronjé and my other clients all these questions were answered aptly. It's on record, everything is there and I think as far as I can recall General van der Merwe was asked in quite a lot of detail about this Mr Chairman. That record is available on the TRC website as well Mr Chairman.
MR MAFOJANE: We are still in the process of trying to access computers.
ADV DE JAGER: You're not the only one Mr Mafojane.
MR MAFOJANE: Okay General, I will leave that incident, that particular incident alone. Now I want also to refer you to a document, I think it is a document that you and your fellow colleagues, the Generals submitted earlier on. I think it's a document by General Mike Geldenhuys, Johan Coetzee, Hennie de Wet and yourself, which was submitted as a memorandum to the Truth Commission. I want to refer you to ...[intervention]
MR MPSHE: Mr Chairman, may I come in here for clarity's sake, based on the objections raised that the questions - it's Mpshe speaking, sorry, the questions raised by my learned friend, Mr Mafojane that caused the objection, these questions are based on the document that has been included as evidence as part of this application.
Now I would like the Chairman to make a ruling because as far as I am concerned subject to what the Committee will say, if this is part of the evidence then one is entitled to cross-examine on the contents thereof. Can the Chair just give us a ruling there, because the handgrenade things is not something that is out of abstract, he does not suck it out of his own thumb, it's based on page 25 of the submission which forms part of the applications. If we could get a ruling on that, page 25 in particular.
ADV DE JAGER: ...[inaudible]
MR MPSHE: It was said that it is not an Exhibit because it forms part of the application, the submissions by the General, that is where it comes from. It starts on 25 to 26:
"The booby-trap handgrenades as we used to refer to them in the past"
ADV DE JAGER: Mr Mpshe, I can't find it on page 25, maybe I've ...[intervention]
MR MPSHE: I'll go directly to where that is mentioned, and if you go ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: It's the last paragraph on page 25.
MR MPSHE: And 26 as well, it is included. Thank you Mr Chairman. If we can just have a ruling because this part of evidence.
CHAIRPERSON: This is part of the document you handed in isn't it Mr Visser?
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, yes ...[intervention]
MR VISSER: May I just address you on that. One has to look at this document in context. What is happening here Mr Chairman, is it is a presentation which refers to what our history consisted of and there is a reference yes, certainly, as there is a reference to other incidents ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, and I do not see that an applicant can come before us on this basis that we have three applications now but he can't be cross-examined on anything else.
MR VISSER: Well Mr Chairman ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: His credibility in general is in issue Mr Visser.
MR VISSER: Granted that Mr Chairman. With respect, if the idea is that one is allowed to cross-examine General van der Merwe on the other amnesty applications the question remains, what is the relevance here ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: If it effects his credibility it is extremely relevant Mr Visser.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, Mr Mpshe has asked you for a ruling, is the ruling you are asked to make that cross-examination may be directed within the confines of page 25 to 26 I have no problem with that but when it goes further than ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: I am not limiting cross-examination in advance Mr Visser.
R U L I N G
Cross-examination Mr Mpshe will be allowed if it is relevant to the applications we are hearing. As I have indicated, the question of credibility in general may be relevant but we are not going to permit cross-examination of incidents, the factual incident which has nothing to do with the present applications. You have elected, and I say you because I think you are responsible for setting matters down, you have elected to set three matters down for hearing, to separate them and I think the purpose of that is to try to speed up hearings, not to have a full go at each one of the separate hearings about all the matters. So you will confine yourself please to matters which effect the issues that we have to decide and as I have said credibility may be one but detailed evidence about other incidents does not seem to meet that test.
MR MPSHE: I thank you Mr Chairman, thank you.
MR MAFOJANE: Thank you Mr Chairman.
Now General, you have this document in front of you, apparently it's an addendum to, yes ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Perhaps you should indicate that this is P46.
MR MAFOJANE: P46 Mr Chairman, that's correct.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That's correct Chairperson, I have it in front of me.
MR MAFOJANE: I want to refer you to page 31 ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Page 31?
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: My copy of P46 which is the representations by General van der Merwe finishes at page 29.
MR MAFOJANE: Certainly Mr Chairman, I have the same difficulty that Mr Rob in that we obtained our documents quite late and it might well be that in my haste I could have misread the numbering but the document I'm referring to is entitled:
"The Role of the South African Police in the Conflict of the Past.
CHAIRPERSON: Well that is the document: P47.
MR MAFOJANE: As it pleases you Mr Chairman.
Yes General, I'm referring to the document P47 and page 11, paragraph 31 thereof. Do you have that page in front of you?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I have it Chairperson.
MR MAFOJANE: ...[inaudible] says:
"It is therefore understandable that although political leaders on both sides of the spectrum rarely issued direct instructions or formulated the policy which would amount to the gross violation of human rights, most of the members who may have been guilty of such violations sincerely believe that which they were engaged upon was done in furtherance in the particular aims and objectives of their respective political leaders"
And paragraph 32 continues and I actually want to refer you to a sentence there - I beg your pardon, the seventh sentence in that paragraph, but I'll start it at the beginning. It says:
"We wish to emphasise that although most of the said acts, incidents or omissions did not occur with our foreknowledge and in some case may have occurred against our expressed instructions, they did occur during an era"
And then it continues. I'm more interested in this:
"against our express instructions"
Now which incidents are you aware of that occurred against the express, and I'm saying: "express", against the express instructions of the top echelons of the police management and the politicians, that you are aware of?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, can I just explain. This submission was done by four previous commissioners and this reflects more or less the involvement from different vantage points of four different commissioners. Secondly, this document was drawn up after the TRC commenced and at that time there were certain incidents which came to light, but what is meant here is not insofar as there were specific incidents but where in general during the course of the working of any of any of these commissioners there was a, it was prohibited or where the standing orders of the South African Police were, they prohibited an action that would have seen the light under the powers of the commissioner but this has no relevance to a specific incident but more in general.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General, I'm also going to refer you to Exhibit B, the State Security Council document and I will refer you to the paginated page 5 thereof. This has to do with the nomenclature that was used ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Exhibit what?
MR MAFOJANE: Page 5 Mr Chairman.
MR MAFOJANE: Exhibit B.
Now at the bottom of that page, I think it is sub-paragraph O. I just need some clarity with regards to those words:
"to recruit support of the UN Commissioner for refugees in neighbouring states, to oppose what"
What was meant by that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I wasn't involved in the compiling of this document. In the course of my duties I also did not have anything to do with this specific paragraph so I really cannot be of help to the Commission in that regard. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR MAFOJANE: So similarly General, you are unable to comment on page 7 and that I think is sub-paragraph (h) where it says:
"to neutralise the powers and influence of key persons of the ANC and their cohorts"
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson, this was in general part of our task not necessarily as far as it concerns this paragraph but it is necessarily so that from our side we did everything possible to neutralise that influence.
MR MAFOJANE: Now if we could got to page 20 of that document under paragraph 7 and the heading :
It says there at sub-paragraph (e), that is on page 21:
"Cosatu had the potential to ruin the organised labour on a more co-ordinated manner to ruin the South African economy"
Now in all that General, I find no mention, and this is a top secret, at the top here the document says:
It's for your eyes only, and I'm not meaning yours General, I'm saying to the reader. I hear no mention there of any armed activity that is being organised by Cosatu or any plans of sabotage that are being organised by Cosatu. Certainly if the security forces of the day believe that such activities were taking place and even if they did not want to reveal those to the public they would certainly have been included in this document, or are there other documents maybe that you are not in possession of that actually describe that scenario?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, this document was drawn up on the 27th of November 1986 and there is no doubt whatsoever that since that date affiliates of Cosatu who occupied Cosatu House were definitely very more militant.
If I can just quote my term to try and demonstrate to you what happened, what the spirit was more or less at that time with regards to Cosatu House and the spirit they adhered. Just a few paragraphs I'd like to quote to you. Out of the case the case of THE STATE v MATCHILIE AND OTHERS that has already been handed in to you, where the Judge made the following remarks after certain people who were kept in Cosatu House were then murdered and as you know this is the Appeal Court Judge's remarks. I'll leave it to my advocate to help you more with the page references, I am only going to quote to you:
"The deceased were barbarically and ruthlessly slaughtered. Their suffering must have been extreme. They would have known for some time before that they were to be killed. They were quite defenceless. Appellants acted with dolus directus. They did not act impulsively"
And then a further quote a little further on:
"All five appellants helped to guard one or more of the deceased at Cosatu House in the afternoon..."
And this incident took place on 28 April 1987.
"....or when they were forced into the car and driven away or when they were led into the bush after a ...[indistinct] the car then that is the motive for the murders. The evidence establishes that it was not merely to punish the particular deceased for not participating in the strike but also to coerce non-strikers to stop working and to compel SATS, The South African Transport Service to come to terms with the strikers. This explains why after the deceased were killed their bodies were burnt, it accentuated the message that appellants sought to convey this, that there had to be solidarity with the strike lest it collapse. In short the murders were an act of intimidation, indeed one of terror"
And this happened at Cosatu House Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Have you got the reference?
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, we gave it to you yesterday. I'm looking for the page references. The case reference is 1991(3) SA264 AP. I have not been able to find the references to which the witness, where he quoted ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: There he's got it in his hand.
MR VISSER: I'm told Mr Chairman that the reference from which he quoted is at 268(E), against the marginal letter E and H on the same page, 268 Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
MR VISSER: I have a copy available if you want to have it before you.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Those are just a few of the quotations, there are a lot more. What I want to say is that Cosatu House was not only a place where labour issues were discussed and furthered, it was indeed a place where violence was planned and also executed.
MR MAFOJANE: General, your reference to this matter actually shows that where indeed a crime was committed you were able to go in, you were able to gather the evidence and you were able to convict. Now what this means is that in other instances you had no evidence and you had no basis on which to proceed against individuals or against Cosatu itself and you actually resorted in your desperation to bombing.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I may and this is my personal opinion but I think it will also be subscribed by the other members of the security branch, in my mind I had no doubt that there was no chance that we would have succeeded to catch these accused and to bring the crime to the fore if it was not for the case that Cosatu shortly after this was made useless and the means, specifically the intimidation which took place there to stop it unfortunately only for a short time.
MR MAFOJANE: Now I also wish to refer you to sub-paragraph (k) there in the same page and that is in relation to the South African Council of Churches I'd presume, and it says:
"Churches and church organisations as well as individuals play a very important supportive role to influence the coloured population negatively against the current government"
Now more than your suggestions that Khotso House was used for armed activity and to store weapons, wasn't this actually the reason why it was bombed, that it presented the government in a very poor light nationally and internationally?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson firstly that is not what this paragraph is saying, this paragraph says that to influence people negatively against the then system and that means to bring the people into resistance against the system or at least to make the people hostile towards the system.
Secondly, our actions against Khotso House was firstly in the light of the factors already mentioned and secondly also because of the fact that the UDF and its affiliates also occupied that place and they also played an important role.
I think Mr Mafojane would concede that the UDF without any doubt played the most important role in South Africa in order to mobilise the masses and to bring them into resistance and eventually this meant a lot for the revolution.
MR MAFOJANE: Am I expected to react to that General?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I think so Chairperson.
MR MAFOJANE: I will concede that the UDF was a very important political player in the country at that stage General, nothing further than that.
Now General, I would like to refer you once more to page 33, and I hope Mr Chairman that it is still part of the same series, Exhibit B and there it is under the heading, it's the same document and it's under the heading:
"The Security Area"
and then it list, there are columns there and the columns are as follows if I may read that out. The first column is:
and the second one would be:
and it would say, the next column:
Do you have that page in front of you General?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Page 33?
MR MAFOJANE: Page 33.
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I have it Chairperson, thank you.
MR MAFOJANE: Now I'm particularly interested I think VI and that would actually be VII and it says there:
"Intimidators must be neutralised by means of formal and informal policing. Another responsible agency"
That is the agency that would be responsible for that, it talks about:
"The South African Police and the South African Defence Force"
Now General, what is the import of this statement here at number VII, what do we mean by: "formal" and: "informal" neutralisation? What was meant by that?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: I'm afraid, as Mr Vlok already pointed out to you, this document was drawn up by the Secretariat of the State Security Council and the people who served there were usually desk officers who had to deal with very complicated terminology and expressions and no-one else ever really understood this and I'm very honest with you, I do not understand it myself and in the work I've done I did not really have to deal with this.
MR MAFOJANE: Now were these instructions:
were they ever conveyed to you?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, from time to time there were documents of this nature. I cannot say if these were spread in official channels with regards to the specific departments mentioned there or in which manner it was distributed. All I can tell you is that with regards to these I did not actually have to deal with any of this, I had nothing to do with it.
MR MAFOJANE: Now I'll proceed again to page 35 in the same series under III. It says there, the second column:
"The politicisation of the school-going youth especially that of the black youth must be opposed by amongst others, to create youth organisations or to found them and to launch a goal directed youth development programme"
Let me proceed:
"behoudende jeug organisasies te stig en 'n doelgerigte jeug ontwikkelings program te loods"
and under the column, the last column:
"contaminated youth militants must be removed from the community and rehabilitated in accordance with acceptable practices"
Now here we talk about contaminated youth and I would imagine reference here was made to youths who were active in organisations. What is the import of that sentence as well General, when we say:
"They must be removed from the community"
What was the meaning of this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I never dealt with this directly. What I do know is that at a certain stage there was an attempt as was in the case of Namibia, the then South Africa, to found a kind of centre where black youths who were involved in violence or who were involved in certain acts of intimidation and other actions which led to the commitment of violence, where they could be rehabilitated, where they would be exposed to a programme but the whole issue as far as I know only stayed with talking, it never really developed further than the drawing up of several documents.
CHAIRPERSON: Doesn't this one differ from what we've heard before in that it is not asked for the people to be eliminated or to be removed, it says:
"....out of the community"
and you will look earlier and see the people who were given instructions to do this included teachers, education, this surely merely means that these people should not be allowed to influence other members of the community?
MR MAFOJANE: Certainly ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: They should be rehabilitated?
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman, that is certainly the observation that I made but I just wanted the General to just sketch a general picture of what was ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: But he did not prepare these documents. You can ask him what he understands by them but he has told us that he was not a member of the this committee and these documents were not prepared by him.
MR MAFOJANE: Mr Chairman with due respect, I imagine that when learned friend, Mr Visser handed these documents in they were meant to ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: He didn't hand them in.
MR VISSER: I didn't hand them in.
MR MAFOJANE: Okay, then I'll leave the point and I'll just keep in mind the fact that they were not handed in by Mr Visser. I was under the impression that they had been handed in by Mr Visser. But Mr Chairman, the witness is entitled to comment fairly on those issues that he has knowledge of.
MR MAFOJANE: Whether some instructions were conveyed to him and what he understood by those instructions. If he does not know the contents of that document but certain things that appear in the document were conveyed to him perhaps it would also be helpful for him to say so. And of course the documents sketches a context within which certain actions were taking place.
And General, I will keep that in mind. I just want to refer you to page 48, bearing in mind that you did not author that document, page 48, sub-paragraph (b). This page here or the contents here have to do with certain steps that have to be taken in order to forestall I imagine, the revolutionary onslaught against the country. (b) says:
"Identify and eliminate the revolutionary leaders and especially those with charisma."
Now General, was such an instruction every given out to yourself?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, on several occasions already I've testified to this. I never received or I never issued any instruction from my side which came down to the fact that people must be eliminated in the sense of the person on the street would understand it. The fact that these documents were distributed and spread amongst the people in the security community and the fact that people would have got insights from this that is for sure, but as such with regards to these aspects I did not deal with them and because of that I did not issue any instructions.
MR MAFOJANE: General, now the last aspect, and I'm ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Before we go on, it is clear is it not that these are actions that must be taken under the emergency regulations?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: That is correct Chairperson.
MR MAFOJANE: Thank you Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: So when they talk of eliminate it means in terms of the emergency regulations.
MR MAFOJANE: Well Mr Chairman, I will certainly ...[indistinct] very respectfully that one still has a problem actually contextualising the word: "eliminate" even in terms of the emergency regulations ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: If you look at the top of the page it makes it clear that ...[indistinct] the opportunities of the emergency regulations must be used to the full, the following measure can then be considered.
MR MAFOJANE: I will not take the issue further Mr Chairman.
I just want to find out from you General, and just get this clearly and that is my last aspect with regard to the discussion between yourself and Mr Vlok, is it correct, I mean what you said earlier on that you were under the impression and you would have expected that the State President, Mr P W Botha would have known, do you remember when I asked whether you were not concerned and anxious about the two of you taking on such an action without authorisation from higher up?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, let me put it very clearly, I'm talking from my own angle now, I had no reason at that stage to believe that what we were doing was not approved by Mr P W Botha and for that reason, I did not say that Mr Vlok himself said this, but I had no reason to think that Mr Vlok would have hesitated in informing Mr Botha about this and if one asks the question: "Would you not make him a collaborator"?, I did not consider this question any further but my impression was that in any case at that stage there was such a situation which the government was aware of the situation and the government would have realised that certain steps were necessary to handle and control that situation.
MR MAFOJANE: Now General lastly, and perhaps this might not well be within the purview of your competencies at the time you were the Commissioner of Police but we all know that there was a union which was formed, The United Workers' Union of South Africa, UWUSA and that subsequent to its formation violence flared up between it and Cosatu and that there were revelations in the media that indeed UWUSA had received funding from the government, would you know anything about this?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Yes, Chairperson, I'm aware of that. I was involved with negotiations inasfar as this matter is concerned, where Mr de Klerk gave certain instructions with regards to that and he also made certain media releases.
MR MAFOJANE: Now wasn't it quite strange, and I know this might well be outside the parameters of this Commission, wasn't it quite strange that a union would receive funding from the government?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: Chairperson, I think with regards to that no-one ever hesitated in saying that the government or the previous government definitely supported UWUSA and they wanted to use the influence of UWUSA in a positive way but despite that also to its own advantage.
MR MAFOJANE: Do you take responsibility for the violent acts that were perpetrated amongst others by this union?
GEN VAN DER MERWE: No, Chairperson definitely not, I had nothing to do with that.
MR MAFOJANE: I have no further questions Mr Chairman, thank you.
NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR MAFOJANE
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.
MR THULARE: Mr Chairman, this is Mosh Thulare on behalf of the South African Council of Churches. We have the same problem in respect of cross-examining General van der Merwe as we had with Mr Vlok. I may just state that we will cross-examine the other applicants immediately they have finished their cross-examinations so we will not be asking anyone other than Mr Vlok and Mr van der Merwe to be stood down and that we will not oppose the, our instructions are that we should not oppose the amnesty applications of the other applicants, we will only oppose the applications of Mr Vlok and General van der Merwe.
CHAIRPERSON: So you can give me an undertaking that is we allow this cross-examination to stand down, you will not apply for the same again, you will continue cross-examining all the other applicants?
MR THULARE: Yes, on the basis of the documents that are before the Commission at this point in time ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: And the information you've obtained from your client. You have no had ample opportunity to obtain instructions from your client.
MR THULARE: I wouldn't put it as ample opportunity. We have certainly consulted with three of the current and previous office bearers of the South African Council of Churches. The relevant people from whom we can get instructions from, most of them have no long left the South African Council of Churches and in some cases it's hard to get hold of them and when we get hold of them to have consultation at such short notice but I can assure you Mr Chairman that we have had extensive consultations with those office bearers that we have managed to get hold of.
CHAIRPERSON: I presume the churches are still in contact with members who represented them on the South African Council of Churches?
MR THULARE: The people who will be able to give us instructions are mainly the office bearers, the former General Secretaries of the South African Council of Churches, people who were working there and most of them have moved on, they are not in government ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: In government? Well that shouldn't be difficult to contact?
ADV DE JAGER: So they've joined politics in the meantime even if they have not been involved in it at that time?
MR THULARE: No, they haven't joined politics, most of them are merely civil servants in government. I don't think that civil servants are usually regarded as politicians.
CHAIRPERSON: Would it be possible to arrange for General van der Merwe to come here on a subsequent day? I see he is nodding once again, thank you General.
MR VISSER: Yes, Mr Chairman, we are available.
CHAIRPERSON: But I would also ask that the cross-examination of these two applicants be conducted as soon as possible, I would not like to see it delayed to the end of the hearings because matters might arise from the cross-examination of these two witnesses which we or other persons here would like to put to some of the other applicants for explanation. I therefore think, and I think Mr Visser would agree with me, that we appreciate the problems you have but we would ask you to try to overcome them as quickly as possible.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman, in fact I was trying to make that very point yesterday, perhaps it came over incorrectly. Mr Chairman, could you perhaps place a time limit that we now know when to have these witnesses available, be it Friday or Monday or whatever ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: I would suggest Monday. That gives them a weekend as well if they need extra time.
MR VISSER: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: I see Mr Vlok behind is nodding.
MR VISSER: As you mentioned Mr Chairman, it may influence the questions etc., issues may arise which one would really have liked to put to other witnesses either by the panel or by my learned friends.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I overlooked that you yourself might as a result of questioning want to put things to other people to clarify them.
MR VISSER: Correct Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: So Monday morning.
MR THULARE: We will certainly try to make sure that we are available Monday morning.
CHAIRPERSON: I would suggest that you will be available and that would have given you ample time, your clients were told last week. Apart from having been told earlier in June when they were notified in writing, will you tell your clients and Mr Rob that we will proceed with the questioning on Monday morning?
MR THULARE: Yes, I'll convey that information Mr Chairman. We will make every effort to comply with that. I may just mention that we had a short discussion with Advocate Visser yesterday during the tea break where we suggested that we could start on Wednesday, and at that time there wasn't any objection on his part but anyway ...[intervention]
ADV DE JAGER: Mr Visser is not running this Committee Mr Thulare, it may seem so but it's not so.
MR MPSHE: Mr Chairman, may I be afforded that same indulgence by being put at the end of the tale?
MR MPSHE: To cross-examine at the end after the ...[indistinct] have done so Mr Chairman, as I was given the indulgence.
CHAIRPERSON: Well I see someone else over there ...[inaudible]
MR PENZHORN: Mr Chairman thank you, it's Penzhorn for the record. I would like to repeat the application which I made yesterday and that was in regard to certain aspects which my learned friend, Mr Mafojane now put to General van der Merwe which concern my client, Mr P W Botha. Now for the same reason as I mentioned to you yesterday I would request that I be granted an opportunity after Mr Rob has eventually come to the fore with his questions and he has completed his questioning, that I be granted an opportunity to ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: It seems to me that it will be reasonable in the circumstances because information has become available which was not on the papers and there may be more information elucidated which does effect your client, where statements are made about matters that people have not remembered as yet because they're talking about something that happened ten years ago, but it may be and I think it would be fair to allow you to put any further questions after that ...[inaudible]
MR PENZHORN: As it pleases the Committee.
MR BOOYENS: Mr Chairman, if I may just come in here, and I think what I say may be true for many of the lower ranks, the problem we might have if the cross-examination stands over any further than Monday is obviously that our evidence is going to a very large extent rely on the fact of the orders at the mindset of these lower ranks. For that reason we would also like, in order to enable us to decide exactly how to lead our evidence, ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Would you speak up a little more.
MR BOOYENS: I'll try.
CHAIRPERSON: Sorry, have you go problems?
MR BOOYENS: As far as the lower ranks are concerned it seems to us in any case that cross-examination of General van der Merwe and Mr Vlok should be completed before we start with the lower ranks in order ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: As far as I can see cross-examination that has been reserved by the Council of Churches will be limited largely to the allegations made about the activities of the Council of Churches and I presume denials will be put about those activities. They should not effect the questions of the mindset of the lower ranks at all.
MR BOOYENS: Very well Mr Chairman, thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: I think we can start with the next applicant but as we are going to take the adjournment in five minutes time, I think we should perhaps take the adjournment now so he can continue uninterrupted. We will once again try to be ready to proceed with him at 11 o'clock.