TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
APPLICATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 18 OF THE PROMOTION OF NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION ACT, NO.34 OF 1995.
EUGENE ALEXANDER DE KOCK 1ST APPLICANT
KOBUS KLOPPER 2ND APPLICANT
WILLEM ALBERTUS NORTJE 3RD APPLICANT
IZAK DANIEL BOSCH 4TH APPLICANT
JACOBUS KOK 5TH APPLICANT
JACOB FRANCOIS KOK 6TH APPLICANT
WYBRAND ANDREAS LODEWICUS
DU TOIT (AM5184/96) 7TH APPLICANT
WILLEM RIAAN BELLINGAN
(AM5283/97) 8TH APPLICANT
SIMON MAKOPO RADEBE 9TH APPLICANT
These applications for amnesty arise out of two different but connected incidents. The first of these was the attempt to kill Dirk Coetzee by means of an explosive device prepared for that purpose which was sent to him at a postal address he was making use of in Lusaka. The second incident was the actual killing of one Bheki Mlangeni. This happened when Coetzee refused to accept delivery of the parcel and it was returned by the postal authorities to Mlangeni whose name and address had been entered on the parcel as being the alleged sender. Details of the incidents will be set out hereunder.
Dirk Coetzee had been an extremely active member of the Security Branch of the South African Police. He was at one stage the commanding officer of Vlakplaas, the now notorious Security Branch station on a farm in the then Transvaal where turned askaris were housed as well as other members of the force who were used as members of units which were sent throughout the country and into neighbouring countries to carry out violent and frequently illegal operations on behalf of the Security Branch. Such operations were obviously carried out under conditions of great secrecy. Coetzee left the police force and in 1989 he left the country and joined the African National Congress ("ANC"). He thereafter made statements to the Vrye Weekblad, a newspaper opposed to the existing government, in which he exposed the "hit squad" activities of Vlakplaas, certain incidents such as the killing of Griffiths Mxenge and the instructions which had emanated from named senior officers.
These articles caused great concern to the reputation of the Security Police, the South African Police force as a whole and the government of the country. He was regarded as a traitor by members of the force and it was feared he would make further statements or reveal more details when he gave evidence in court or before commissions. It was known that he was to give evidence before the Harms Commission and later at the Lothar Neethling trial. It was feared that such disclosures would do more to bring the government into disrepute with other countries.
It was in these circumstances that a decision was taken to eliminate him. It was known that he was out of the country and that when he gave evidence it would be in London.
There was considerable dispute in the evidence before us of Colonel De Kock and his commander General Van Rensburg as to who took the decision. De Kock said it came from Van Rensburg or even higher whilst Van Rensburg denied having given any instruction or in participating in the planning. Coetzee had made damaging statements about Van Rensburg and other senior officers; he had also exposed Vlakplaas for what it was and this would have damaged the reputation of the commanding officer, De Kock. However in addition to any personal animosity these parties may have had, there was, so we were told, a general hatred of Coetzee as a traitor who had caused harm to the force and was now a member of an enemy liberation force, the ANC. In these circumstances we have been unable to decide who gave the initial instruction but are satisfied that this is irrelevant as whoever did so, did it in the course and scope of his duties in what he understandably believed to be in the best interests of the government of the time and in context of the conflicts of the past. The political objective was to prevent further harm being done by Coetzee making more disclosures.
The Applicants were all members of the Security Branch and the Second Applicant Klopper, the Third Applicant Nortje, the Fourth Applicant Bosch, the Eighth Applicant Bellingan and the Ninth Applicant Radebe, were all stationed at Vlakplaas under De Kock's command and all they did in connection with these incidents was in consequence of what they considered to be valid and legal orders.
The Seventh Applicant, Colonel W.A.L. du Toit was the commanding officer of the Mechanical Division of the Technical Division of the Security Branch and the Fifth and Sixth Applicants J Kok and J.F. Kok (Japie) who were brothers, fell under his command.
In May 1990 De Kock went to see Du Toit to discuss an order he had received to manufacture a parcel bomb which would be posted to Coetzee to kill him. De Kock required assistance and expertise of his branch and he agreed to help. De Kock's visit was to him in his personal capacity, thereafter Bosch visited J.F. Kok and they came to see Du Toit. He agreed they could continue working on the project. J.F. Kok began working on a design for the bomb but when he had to leave the office his brother J. Kok took over. The bomb they made had explosives inserted into the earphones of a Walkman unit which played audio-cassettes. This had been chosen for two reasons, the first being that it would not cause damage or injury to anyone else in the vicinity of the person listening, the second being that cassettes could be chosen which would attract Coetzee's interest. One was his favourite musician Neil Diamond, the other one labelled "Evidence - Hit Squads". After the first device had been completed and tried out successfully a second one was built which, according to J. Kok was fetched by Bosch and Bellingan who helped with packing. Both the Kok brothers knew Coetzee was the target.
The device was taken back to Vlakplaas and kept in Bosch's office. There is some confusion as to where the addresses came from and who put them on the packet.
There is another conflict of evidence between De Kock and Van Rensburg which we again cannot resolve. Suffice it to say that somebody supplied Coetzee's correct postal address in Lusaka and it was posted to him from Joubert Park Post Office by the Ninth Applicant Radebe on the instructions of Bellingan. The name of the sender on the parcel was given as Bheki and the address was that of the firm of attorneys he was with. We have been given various reasons why his name was used including the fact that it was said all parcels sent to Coetzee went through him. He clearly knew Coetzee well, had represented him and had seen him in London and Lusaka.
The parcel was posted on the 10th May 1990. Coetzee first heard of it in August 1990. He immediately felt there was something wrong with it and refused to collect it. On 2 October 1990 whilst being taken to the airport by a member of the ANC he was first taken to the post office. He examined the parcel and said it was a bomb, he refused to pay the R60 requested and asked that the police be notified. The postal attendant looked at him as if he was mad as did the ANC member. He was told the parcel would be returned to sender. He then made a note of the writing and labels on the packet and asked the ANC member to warn Bheki Mlangeni. This was apparently not done.
The parcel arrived in Johannesburg and was delivered to Mlangeni on the 15th February 1991. He opened the parcel in his office and left the packaging there. He took the Walkman home and when he tried it out it exploded causing fatal massive head injuries. It appeared from the evidence before us that none of the Applicants thought there was any possibility of the bomb being returned. De Kock believed Coetzee had discovered it and dismantled it long before. It appears to us that none of the Applicants intended any harm to Mlangeni, however we are of the view that all those who took part in the preparation and posting of the device knowing it was a bomb must have been aware of the danger of such a device exploding and accidentally killing or injuring people in the vicinity. It had happened to a previous parcel bomb sent from Vlakplaas. Such person could accordingly be convicted of culpable homicide arising from the death of Mlangeni. They are thus entitled to apply for amnesty in respect of this.
After the explosion an investigation was set up, handwriting samples and fingerprints were taken and premises were searched. It appears that notice was given to Vlakplaas before the search and the Second Applicant, Klopper, assisted in the cleaning of the premises, the removal and replacement of paper etc. He had taken no part in the operation but now must have realised that some offences had been committed but he did nothing to inform the investigators.
The Ninth Applicant, Radebe, who posted the parcel said he knew it was being sent to Coetzee but had no idea what it contained nor did he think it might be anything unpleasant. He did say that he was told later, after Mlangeni's death, that the package they had sent had exploded. Although he then realised Vlakplaas was responsible for the death he did not say anything.
We are satisfied that all those who participated in the attempt to kill Coetzee did so for the reasons set out above relating to De Kock and acted as they did in carrying out orders.
We are also satisfied that the Second Applicant acted as he did as a result of orders received and that Ninth Applicant in failing to make any statement did so in what he believed to be in the interests of his unit which had carried out what he believed was a legitimate operation.
Applicants one, three, four, five, six, seven and eight are GRANTED amnesty in respect of the attempted murder of Dirk Coetzee and of the culpable homicide of Bheki Mlangeni and of all offences and delicts arising therefrom including defeating the ends of justice.
The Second and Ninth Applicants are GRANTED amnesty in respect of defeating the ends of justice and all offences and delicts arising therefrom in connection with the attempted murder of Dirk Coetzee and the culpable homicide of Bheki Mlangeni.
The Committee is of the opinion that Mrs Catherine Mlangeni, the mother of and Mrs Sepati Mlangeni, the wife of the deceased Bheki Mlangeni are victims and the matter is referred to the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee for its consideration.
DATED AT CAPE TOWN THIS 16TH DAY OF MAY 2001
JUDGE ANDREW WILSON
MR JB SIBANYONI
MR I LAX