All thirteen Applicants apply for amnesty in respect of all acts, omissions, delicts or offences committed by them in regard to the so-called Zero-Zero Handgrenade incident.

The Zero-Zero Handgrenade incident took place at approximately midnight on 15/26 June 1985. It was the culmination of an operation carried out by members of the Security Branch of the South African Police, including members of the C10 Unit (Vlakplaas) and members of the East Rand Division. The operation was the idea of and formulated by Johannes Velde van der Merwe (the 7th Applicant) who was then second in charge of the Security Branch. Approval for the execution of the operation was given by Louis Le Grange, the Minister of Police.

The operation entailed the infiltration of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) members on the East Rand, providing them with handgrenades and a limpet mine of which the timing devices had been reduced to zero seconds and enticing them to use such explosive devices simultaneously. The operation resulted in the death of eight people and seven people being seriously injured. Those people killed were Vincent Khole Nokwindla, Jabulane Mahlangu, Morhoa Mashiane, Solomon Mashabane, Osborne Mbougeni Dlamini, Congress Mtsweni, Cedric Nicholas Dladla, Johannes Veli Mazibuko, Joseph Titus Mazibuko, Humphrey Leholohonola Tshabalala, Samuel Lekatsa and John Mlangeni.

The role played by each of the Applicants may, on their testimony, be briefly described as follows:

Jacobus Lucas Marthinus Delport (the 6th Applicant) was the commanding officer of the East Rand Division of the Security Branch. He received information from an informer, via a subordinate, one Lt Oberholzer, that certain members of COSAS were intending to attack the homes of policemen and councillors and that they, the COSAS members, were waiting for a consignment of arms to be delivered to them by the African National Congress (the ANC). He forwarded this information on to his head office in Pretoria where it was received by the 7th Applicant. At the time political violence in the East Rand townships, including Duduza and kwaThema, was rife and the police in those areas were regarded as being the enemy. It was a common occurrence for houses of policemen, as well as councillors, to be attacked.

The 7th Applicant then formulated the plan to eliminate the COSAS activists with the use of booby-trapped handgrenades. He testified that the reasons why he decided on such a course of action were that he considered it impossible to adequately protect all the policemen and councillors and their families from the expected attacks, that it would result in the elimination of activists who were wanting to participate in the armed struggle against the government and that it would undermine the credibility of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). He drafted a memorandum to the Minister of Police in which he set out his proposals. He states that it was stressed in the memorandum that once infiltrated, none of the activists should be persuaded against their will to accept handgrenades and attack targets. The handgrenades should only be given to those who were willing to accept them and who were of mind to launch attacks.

The 7th Applicant then personally handed the memorandum to General Petrus Johannes Coetzee, the Commissioner of Police, for referral to the Minister. The 7th Applicant informed the Commissioner of the contents of the memorandum.

The memorandum was forwarded to the Minister who gave approval for the operation to be executed. The 7th Applicant then instructed the commanding officer of Unit C, Willem Frederick Schoon (the 11th Applicant), to arrange for the timing devices of Russian-made handgrenades to be modified to Zero seconds.

The 11th Applicant then discussed the question of modifying the grenades with Paul Jacobus Hattingh (the 13th Applicant), who was the commander of the Explosives and Demolition Division of the Security Branch. He gave no details of the operation to the 13th Applicant save to tell him that the grenades were required for an operation on the East Rand. The 13th Applicant informed him that the Technical Division of the Security Branch would be better equipped to perform the modifications.

The 13th Applicant then approached Wybrand Andreas Lodewicus du Toit (the 12th Applicant) who was the commander of the Technical Division. The 12th Applicant confirmed that the grenades could be modified by his division. He was then supplied with approximately twenty Russian made handgrenades, half of which were offensive grenades and the other half defensive grenades.

The 13th Applicant then approached Wybrand Andreas Lodewicus du Toit (the 12th Applicant) confirmed that the grenades could be modified by his division. He was then supplied with approximately twenty Russian made handgrenades, half of which were offensive grenades and the other half being defensive grenades.

The timing devices of all the grenades were then modified by the 12th Applicant and three other members of his division, namely, Willem Petrus Louw (the 3rd Applicant), Jocobus Kok (the 4th Applicant) and Jacob Francois Kok (the 5th Applicant). None of the members of the Technical Division were aware of the reason for modifying the grenade. They also, at a later stage, modified the timing mechanism of a limpet mine to zero seconds.

After having instructed the 11th Applicant to make arrangements for the modification of the grenades, the 7th Applicant proceeded to Springs, where he held a meeting with the 6th Applicant, Colonel Roelf Venter and Brigadier Jack Cronje, the commanding officer of Unit C10. He informed those at the meeting that the operation had been approved by the Minister and that the object of the operation was to protect members of the police and their families and also to control the political violence in the area. He ordered Brigadier Jack Cronje to be in command of the operation. The plan was to carry out the operation on the night of 25/26 June 1985 and the 6th Applicant was instructed to have a team of explosive experts on hand that night for them to visit scenes of the explosions and to give the impression that they were investigating the incidents.

Contact was made with Congress Mtsweni, a leader in COSAS, by one Joe Mamasela, a member f Unit C10. Thereafter Mamasela was assisted by Thinyelwa Daniel Nkala (the 2nd Applicant), who was an askari member of Unit C10. Together they made contact with approximately twenty members of COSAS under the pretence that they were members of MK. The 2nd Applicant testified that he was instructed by Mamasela and the 2nd Applicant were, one night, all brought together and given basic training in the handling and use of handgrenades. They were informed that they would be issued with handgrenades and that they must select targets. They were also told that the grenades should all be used at midnight on the night of 25/26 June 1985, the anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter.

In the meantime the said Cronje instructed Eugene Alexander de Kock (the 1st Applicant) to assist in the operation. The 1st Applicant who at the time of receiving the instruction was on duty in KwaZulu Natal, proceeded to Springs. The next day he and Captain Venter went to Pretoria to collect the modified handgrenades. On seeing the grenades the 1st Applicant expressed the opinion that they would not kill everybody but used them as only those who used the defensive grenades would be killed. The 1st Applicant also suggested that a limpet mine should be modified by reducing its timing device to zero seconds to ensure that the leader of the COSAS group, who could easily identify Mamasela, be killed.

A limpet mine was modified by the Technical Division and was later collected by Lawrence Charles Phillip Prince (the 8th Applicant) and handed over by him to Joe Mamasela. The 8th Applicant was a member of the East Rand Division of the Security Branch. Prior to being ordered by Colonel Roelf Venter to collect the limpet mine, he had been called to a meeting in the 6th Applicant's office, which meeting was attended by the 6th Applicant, Brigadier Cronje and other members of Unit C10. At that meeting he was shown a hit list, allegedly obtained from COSAS, which contained the names of a number of East Rand policemen, including his own. It was believed that the residences of the persons appearing on the list would be attacked.

On the night of 25/26 June 1985 Francois Steenkamp, (the 9th Applicant), who was an explosives expert attached to the East Rand Security Branch, was ordered by the 6th Applicant to be on standby as a number of explosions were expected to occur in the East Rand townships that night.


Joe Mamasela and the 2nd Applicant met with most of the persons they had made contact with and who they had briefly trained in the use of handgrenades. The modified handgrenades were distributed amongst them and Congress Mtsweni was given the modified limpet mine. The persons with the grenades split into groups and proceeded to the pre-selected targets. Mamasela, the 2nd Applicant and Congress Mtsweni drove to an electrical substation. When in the vicinity of the substation, Mamasela ordered the 2nd Applicant to proceed on foot with Congress Mtsweni and to place the mine on the substation. The 2nd Applicant went with Congress Mtsweni, but turned back as he suspected that the mine may have been modified in the same manner as the handgrenades. Congress Mtsweni went alone to the substation and was blown up and killed as soon as he set the timing device of the mine. The persons who had gone to the pre-selected targets were also victims of explosions as soon as they pulled the pins of their grenades.

The scenes of the explosions were investigated by the 9th Applicant, the 8th Applicant and one Gert Kruger, all explosive experts of the East Rand Security Branch. A number of surviving victims of the explosions were arrested and charged. The 9th Applicant was the investigating officer in the case against these persons. He testified at the trial but never revealed his knowledge that the accused persons at the trial were victims of a police trap.

Johannes Veli Mazibuko also testified at the hearing of this matter. He was a founding member of the Duduza branch of COSAS, which branch was formed during 1984. He stated that COSAS was a non-violent organisation established primarily to improve matters pertaining to education. However, COSAS did get involved in other matters which affected the community. The Duduza branch became involved in the community protest against the bucket system of sewerage. This protest led to clashes with the police and matters deteriorated to such an extent that COSAS could not properly control its members and ultimately the community drove the police presence out of the township.

He testified that Congress Mtsweni introduced him to two persons called Mike and James. Mike and James, who were in fact Joe Mamasela and the 2nd Applicant respectively, had asked Congress to introduce them to Mr Mazibuko and John Mlangeni, as they were wanting to establish units to defend the community. They requested the witness assemble fifteen persons for the unit in the Duduza area. The witness and John Mlangeni met with Mamasela and Nkala again on Saturday 23rd June 1985. At that meeting it was settled that they would gather together a number of people who would receive training from "Mike" and "James" the next day. The next day they had gathered a group of ten persons. They were picked up at the Duduza Church Hall in a kombi motor vehicle by Mike and James. In the kombi were other people from Tsakane and kwaThema. All of the persons wrote their names on a list. There were approximately eighteen people who were then taken to a place in Tsakane where they received a demonstration in the use of handgrenades. After the demonstration they were told that they would receive a consignment of grenades the next day and that they must identify targets to throw the grenades at. They were told that all the grenades must be thrown at midnight. The witness stated that his group of ten persons were split into two groups of five persons. They decided that their targets would be symbolic in nature. They decided on the deserted burnt out houses of Stephen and David Nomani, two persons who were suspected of being collaborators and who had been driven out of the area.

The next night he and the other members of his group who were still prepared to participate each received a handgrenade from Mamasela and the 2nd Applicant. He was surprised to learn that Congress Mtsweni was going to target an electrical substation with a limpet mine. The witness then proceeded with his group to the house of Steve Nomani. His group consisted of himself, Samuel Lekatsa, Humphrey Tshabalala and Osborne Dlamini. At the house they performed the drill that they had been trained by "Mike" and "James". The witness counted one and they all held the lever of their handgrenade, he counted two and they all pulled the pin and as he counted three, the count on which they were all to throw their grenades at the house, the grenades exploded while in their hands.

Mr Mazibuko was seriously injured. He managed to get away from the scene of the explosions but was shortly thereafter arrested. He, together with Joseph Titus Mazibuko, John Mlangeni, Samuel Lekatsa, Humphrey Tshabalala, Hosia Lengusane and Cedric Dladla, was thereafter charged and tried in respect of a number of offences including terrorism and the unlawful possession of handgrenades. He was convicted and sentenced to an effective sixteen months imprisonment.

Section 20(1) of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995 (the Act) provides that amnesty shall be granted to an Applicant if the Committee is satisfied that (a) the application complies with the requirements of the Act, (b) the act, omission or offence to which the application relates is an act associated with a political objective committed in the course of the conflicts of the past in accordance with the provisions of subsections (2) and (3) of Section 20, and (c) the Applicant has made a full disclosure of all relevant facts.

The applications of all the Applicants were submitted timeously in the correct form and we are accordingly satisfied that the first of these requirements has been complied with.

All of the Applicants were, at the time of the commission of the offences, members of the Security Forces of the State as defined in Section 1 of the Act. It can readily be concluded from the evidence and documentation before us that COSAS was a publicly known political organisation as envisaged by the provisions of Section 20(2)(b) of the Act. It and its members played an active and important role in the community matters and participated in protests and demonstrations beyond those directed against the education system and many of its members were political activists.

It is also clear that at the time in question political violence in the East Rand townships was rife and that the presence of policemen in the townships was not only not welcomed but was also not tolerated. They, their houses and their families were subject to attacks which resulted in many of them being forced to leave the townships. Policemen were in general regarded as being legitimate targets. The police were under siege and had the mentality that any act, even illegal ones, could be carried out if the purpose was to frustrate the revolution and to keep the government in power (see the decision in amnesty applications of Jan Hattingh Cronje, Roelof Jacobus Venter and others - Decision No AC99/0031).

We, after taking into account the above circumstances that then prevailed as well as the fact that all of the Applicants, save for the 7th Applicant, were acting under orders in their participation in the operation, that the operation was carried out with the approval of the Minister of Police and with the knowledge of the Commissioner of Police, that the operation was carried out against political opponents and that it was devised in the belief that it would anticipate expected attacks against policemen and their families for whom it would not be logistically practical or possible to provide adequate conventional protection, are satisfied that the offences in respect of which the Applicants apply for amnesty were acts associated with a political objective as contemplated by the provisions of Section 20 of the Act.

With regard to the third requirement for amnesty, viz., full disclosure of all relevant facts, certain discrepancies do exist between the evidence of some of the Applicants. There is, for instance, the different versions of the 1st Applicant and 2nd Applicant as to when the 1st Applicant became involved in the operation, the evidence of the 11th Applicant that he first approached General Joubert of Special Operations concerning the modification of the handgrenades which evidence is contradicted by others who state that he first approached the 12th Applicant in this regard and also there are different versions as to how the decision to provide Congress Mtsweni with a limpet mine came about. These discrepancies, together with other minor discrepancies, do not, in our opinion, allow us to arrive at the conclusion that the Applicants concerned were intentionally not telling the truth and therefore have not made a full disclosure of all the relevant facts. The discrepancies relate to peripheral issues and may be ascribed to an imperfect recollection of detail due to the passing of time. We were not left with the impression that any oft he Applicants were intentionally playing down the role played by himself in the operation.

It is apparent from the evidence of Mr Mazibuko that members of COSAS, certainly in his region, were not planning to attack the houses of policemen and councillors and they were not awaiting a supply of arms from MK. The evidence of Mr Mazibuko in this regard controverts the information given by the informer to the East Rand Security Branch. However, the 6th Applicant testified that he believed that the information was reliable which led him to forward it on to headquarters where it was acted upon. The fact that the information was not correct does not impugn the credibility of the Applicants' testimony.

The 2nd Applicant testified that both Mamasela and himself took active steps to recruit members of COSAS. Such action was against the instruction not to persuade COSAS members to participate. The 2nd Applicant dealt directly with and received his instructions from the said Mamasela concerning the modus operandi to be followed in the infiltration. It may well be that Mamasela failed to obey instruction in this regard and the evidence of the other Applicants concerned to this effect cannot be rejected as being either untruthful or improbable.

We are accordingly satisfied that the Applicants have made a full disclosure of all the relevant facts.

In the result, amnesty is GRANTED to all the Applicants in respect of:

* The conspiracy to kill and the murder of Vincent Khole Nokwindla, Jabulani Mahlangu, Morhoa Mashiane, Solomon Mashabane, Osborne Mbongeni Dlamini, Congress Mtsweni, Stephen Modisana and Lucky Mogodi and the attempted murder of Hosia Lengusane, Cedric Nicholas Dludla, Johannes Veli Mazibuko, Joseph Titus Mazibuko, Humphrey Lehlohonola Tshabalala, Samuel Lekatsa and John Mlangeni on the East Rand during or about June 1985 and the following offences connected therewith:

* contravening Sections 2, 28, 29, 32, 36 and 39 of the Arms and Ammunition Act, 75 of 1969;

* contravening Section 2 of the Dangerous Weapons Act, 71 of 1968;

* contravening Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 and 29 of the Explosives Act, 26 of 1956;

* malicious damage to property;

* defeating the ends of justice;

* any other offence directly linked to the facts in this particular matter.

We are of the opinion that Hosia Lengusane, Cedric Nicholas Dladla, Johannes Veli Mazibuko, Joseph Titus Mazibuko, Humphrey Lehlohonola Tshabalala, Samuel Lekatsa, John Mlangeni and the immediate family members of Vincent Khole Nokwindla, Jabulani Mahlangu, Morhoa Mashiane, Solomon Mashabane, Osborne Mbugeni Dlamini, Congress Mtsweni, Stephen Modisana and Lucky Mogodi are victims and this matter is referred to the Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation for its consideration in terms of Section 26 of the Act.