EAST LONDON March 30 1998 - SAPA


The Azanian Peoples' Liberation Army regarded the University of Transkei as one of the apartheid government's oppressive structures and a legitimate target for Apla's "repossession" attacks in the 1990s, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee heard in East London on Monday.

Former Apla commander Thapelo Maseko is seeking amnesty for his part in a robbery at the university in 1993, in which a policeman was killed, two others were wounded and R500,000 was stolen.

Maseko on Monday said Unitra was justifiably not regarded as a normal civilian structure but "an enemy instrument for oppressing our people".

He said he had been instructed to lead a new Apla unit called Beauty Salon, charged with "financing" Apla's operations.

As a commander of the unit, he received his instructions and reported directly to Apla's director of operations, Letlapa Mphahlele.

"The funds would enable Apla to carry on the struggle to liberate the oppressed masses, alternatively to bring home to the apartheid regime that their policy was unacceptable, unworkable and had to be changed," he said.

The decision to rob Unitra followed information from a female "comrade student" known as Nolitha about registration fees collected by the university.

On the day of the raid, Maseko divided his unit of eight men into three groups, each with a specific task.

"The assault group got inside the auditorium where the money was supposed to be and the support group would secure their safe withdrawal and getaway.

"The cut-out group, of which I was a member, was positioned outside the auditorium."

His colleagues were armed with firearms, but Maseko only had a knife as they were short of guns. He said he was not meant to be present, but attended to give moral support.

While he was positioned next to a back door outside the auditorium, he heard gunfire before a plainclothes policeman appeared and shot him.

He fled to the residences where a female student bandaged him after he told her that he had been hit by a stray bullet.

His friends managed to escape with the money, which he later handed over to Mandla Lenin, Apla's regional administrator in the Transkei.

Showing occasional signs of emotion, Maseko constantly objected to the amnesty committee members calling the attack a robbery, saying the money was not for personal gain.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

South African Press Association, 1998
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