The Amnesty Committee of the TRC has granted amnesty to five members of a Pan Africanist Congress task force who killed a Free State farmer and robbed him of a car, firearms and household goods in 1993.
It also granted amnesty to an ANC Youth League member who defected to the task force for the attack. The Committee accepted that the six applicants -- three of whom were convicted of murder and robbery and three of whom were convicted of robbery -- believed in good faith that they were advancing the PAC's struggle for the return of land to the African people when they committed the crimes.
The Committee granted amnesty to Thabo Paulos Mjikelo, Simon T Oliphant and Petrus T Mohapi in respect of the murder and robbery of Mr John Bernard Smith of Wesselsdal in the district of Vanstadensrus on July 25, 1993, and of the unlawful possession of a firearm. They had been sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for the offence.
It granted amnesty to Jacob T Mabitsa, John Xhiba and John N Wa-Nthomba in respect of robbery with aggravating circumstances from Mr Smith and for unlawful possession of firearms. They had been sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment.
The Committee quoted in its decision the evidence of Mr Abel Kotle, regional commander of APLA in Bloemfontein, about the PAC's "Operation Great Storm" of the early 1990s:
"He stated that Operation Great Storm was decided upon by APLA's military commission which included the political leadership of the PAC and the military leadership of APLA. He said that one of the phases of Operation Great Storm was to step up attacks on farmers because the PAC believed that the farming community had participated in the dispossession of the African people and they were beneficiaries of the land taken away from the Africans. He confirmed that the Applicants in committing the offences in question... were therefore acting in accordance with the policy of the PAC."
The Committee also referred in its decision to evidence from APLA to the TRC in which it acknowledged that "repossession operations" were carried out by their units "because their resources were not always adequate..." and that these were sanctioned by the APLA High Command.
The Committee found:
"Having regard to all the evidence led before us, we are satisfied that the Applicants were members of the task force of the PAC, that they were acting on behalf of or in support of their organisation when they committed the offences in question, and that they acted in compliance with the instruction of Mr Mjole to implement Operation Great Storm and attack the farming community, and that in stealing the items mentioned... they did so in compliance with the `repossession' policy of APLA as alluded to in their submission to the TRC. Quite clearly the theft of the liquor and cooldrink by one of them (three of 17 items stolen) was a misguided act and not authorised by Mjikelo.
"We therefore accept that the Applicants bona fide believed that by committing the offences in respect of which they seek amnesty they were advancing the struggle being waged by their political organisation against the then government for the return of the land to the African people. We therefore accordingly find that the offences committed were acts associated with a political objective."