TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

DAY 1 - 12 AUGUST 1996

 

AMNESTY APPLICATION

ADRIAAN SMUTS

 

MR PRINSLOO: The next witness is Adriaan Smuts, the second applicant.

CHAIRPERSON: Will you please stand. Do you swear that the evidence you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

ADRIAAN SMUTS (sworn states)

MR PRINSLOO: Thank you Mr Chairman. MR SMUTS, what is your age?

MR SMUTS: I am forty-four years old.

MR PRINSLOO: Is it correct that on the 13th of September 1991 you were convicted in the Supreme Court by Mr Justice Galgut, and you were sentenced to death, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: Yes, that is correct.

MR PRINSLOO: And your offences of which you were convicted were seven charges of murder, twenty-eight charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

MR SMUTS: That is correct Mr Chairman

MR PRINSLOO: And the sentence of death was imposed?

MR SMUTS: Thatís correct.

MR PRINSLOO: And the sentence was later commuted to twenty-five years imprisonment, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: Yes.

MR PRINSLOO: Is it correct that you are currently in prison at the Zonderwater Prison near Cullinan?

MR SMUTS: That is correct.

MR PRINSLOO: Mr Botha, can you tell us - MR SMUTS, rather, can you tell the Commission what your background is relating to your political affiliations?

MR SMUTS: I was raised in a conservative home. We were a religious family and we believed in the triune God. From a very early age onwards I attended political meetings with my father. And as a result of that, my objectives became the following - I believed also that these objectives were very important to me. I believed in the triune God, in the preservation and continued existence of the Afrikaans language and culture, self-determination and the continued existence of the Boer people in its own territory. The promotion of an independent Christian freedom at all costs.

I worked in Potgietersrus, I worked in Potgietersrus on the mines as an artisan on the mines and that is where I saw what was happening in our country politically speaking. I saw that things were changing in the sense that things were affecting the Boer people. I then went to an AWB meeting in Potgietersrus, I listened to what was said and I listened to the objectives of the AWB. And I approved of these objectives because I realised that these people were actually fighting the Afrikaner cause. I also became a member of the CP at the time.

I then left Potgietersrus, I moved to Richards Bay. When I arrived there, there was no branch of the AWB at the time. One day when I came home from work I saw some AWB posters announcing an AWB meeting to be held and I went to the particular meeting. Mr Eugene Terreblanche was present at the meeting and he led the meeting.

After the meeting a request was made that people that wanted to join the AWB had to stay behind, and I did that because I wanted to join the AWB, and thatís where I met Mr Botha. After the meeting I visited Mr Botha on a number of occasions.

We drove to Eugene Terreblancheís home and the Wenkommando was established at one such meeting, and Mr Botha was elected as the Kommandant for Richards Bay. Mr Botha appointed me as a Field-cornet in Richards Bay. In due course Mr Botha contacted me. I went to him, and he told me that he had been approached by the Orde Boerevolk. He showed me the oath form. I read it and I agreed with all the principles set out in the form. At that stage I could not take the oath because a witness was not present. I went home, and after quite a while, on the evening or on the day of the 9th of October 1990, at about six oíclock in the evening, Mr Botha contacted me and asked me come to his home, and I did so.

When I arrived there, Mr Botha and Mr Marais were present at his home. Mr Botha informed me of the attack which had taken place in Durban, in which approximately 30 PAC members had been involved. They had entered a shop and stolen knives and attacked White people on the beach front. We then decided that we would act against these attackers. We then left for Durban that same evening.

We drove to Durban and planned to attack a taxi. We did find a taxi and started following it, but the taxi turned off from the freeway and we then decided to abort that particular attack. We decided that it was late at night and that we should rather return home, and then we decided to go to a petrol station to buy some cooldrink before returning home. Whilst we were drinking our cooldrinks a bus drove past and we decided that we would launch the attack at the bus. We followed the bus and when we overtook the bus, Mr Botha gave the order to fire. We fired at the bus. We drove past the bus and made a U-turn and came back.

MR PRINSLOO: MR SMUTS, on that particular evening, did you act of your own accord or how did it happen?

MR SMUTS: I acted on the instructions of Mr Botha.

MR PRINSLOO: And did you believe that Mr Botha was acting on his own accord or on behalf of some organisation?

MR SMUTS: I believed that Mr Bothaís order, the order which he gave me, that he had in turn received that from higher up.

MR PRINSLOO: And from what organisation would that have been?

MR SMUTS: From the Orde Boerevolk.

MR PRINSLOO: MR SMUTS, at your trial you pleaded guilty, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: Yes.

MR PRINSLOO: You did not testify yourself, but Mr Botha did?

MR SMUTS: Yes.

MR PRINSLOO: Now today, how do you feel about the act committed by yourself on that day?

MR SMUTS: Iím sorry that people were hurt as a result of our actions and that people had to be killed in the process, but you must realise that in a war people get killed on both sides and hurt on both sides.

MR PRINSLOO: MR SMUTS on that day you were in possession of a firearm, an unlicensed firearm, correct? And you also pleaded guilty to that charge?

MR SMUTS: That is correct.

MR PRINSLOO: You - you also pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition?

MR SMUTS: Yes.

MR PRINSLOO: Now for what purpose were you in possession of that firearm and that ammunition?

MR SMUTS: On that evening I was in possession of the firearm for the purpose of launching an attack as a counter-measure to the attack which had taken place that morning.

MR PRINSLOO: Where did you get the weapon?

MR SMUTS: I obtained the weapon from Mr Botha.

MR PRINSLOO: What calibre was this weapon?

MR SMUTS: It was an FN.

MR PRINSLOO: Pardon me? It was an FN?

MR SMUTS: Yes, that is correct.

MR PRINSLOO: MR SMUTS, you are applying for amnesty for murder, attempted murder and illegal possession of the firearm and ammunition, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: Yes.

MR PRINSLOO: Thank you Mr Chairman.

NO FURTHER QUESTIONS

CHAIRPERSON: Do you have any questions to put to this witness?

MR WILKINSON: No, thank you.

NO CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR WILKINSON

CHAIRPERSON: Mr Brink?

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR BRINK: MR SMUTS I will ask my questions in English, but you may answer in Afrikaans.

MR SMUTS: Is it possible that I could have an interpreter.

MR BRINK: To what level of education did you achieve?

MR SMUTS: I reached standard nine.

MR BRINK: And when did you commence to work?

MR SMUTS: [Indistinct]

MR BRINK: When did you commence employment?

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, I must just recollect my thoughts, it is quite a long time ago. In about í76 I qualified as an artisan.

MR BRINK: Now on the day in question when the bus was followed and shot at, you said that you and your colleagues had decided to come to Durban and act against the attackers, in other words the PAC people, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: Yes, that is correct.

MR BRINK: How was it that you proposed to act against them?

MR SMUTS: We planned, on our way to Durban, to attack a taxi.

MR BRINK: Any taxi?

MR SMUTS: Any taxi with Black passengers, Mr Chairman.

MR BRINK: Why didnít you carry on with your attack against that particular taxi you mentioned?

MR SMUTS: Because the taxi turned away from the freeway into a residential area, a built-up area.

MR BRINK: Inhabited by Blacks?

MR SMUTS: Correct.

MR BRINK: And did you not abort that attack on the taxi because you were scared of getting caught?

MR SMUTS: No, Mr Chairman.

MR BRINK: Well, youíve told us that you wanted to retaliate against these various people including Black people. Had you attacked the taxi and other people in the township had been hurt, wouldnít that have served your purpose?

MR SMUTS: No, it was not meant to be an act of revenge. It was not meant to be retaliation. We wanted to do something to show the Government of the day and any organisation which was a threat to the freedom of the Boer people. We wanted to oppose any such organisation and we wanted to weaken, soften the Government and to show them that the Orde Boerevolk and the Boer people would not tolerate such attacks.

MR BRINK: When you decided to abort the attack against the taxi, why did you then proceed to shoot the bus?

MR SMUTS: When we stopped to drink cooldrinks and the bus passed us, we saw that this was the target. This was the appropriate target to bring home the message which we were trying to put across.

MR BRINK: Well why didnít you try and bring that message across by shooting at the taxi?

MR SMUTS: Because the taxi drove away into a residential and built-up area, and if we had shot at the taxi many more people would have been injured. The residents in the township area would have perhaps have been killed.

MR BRINK: Well wouldnít that from your point of view be more satisfactory? From your point of view have been more satisfactory thereíd be greater impact?

MR SMUTS: No, it was not our purpose to kill as many people as possible. Our purpose was just to prove that these attacks were launched against Boer people, that we would retaliate, that we would hit back. There was no point in just shooting people at random, then we could have done that in Richards Bay for instance and not go to Durban.

MR BRINK: But thatís exactly what you did do. You shot at people in the bus at random, intending to kill them, so how can you say that, MR SMUTS?

MR SMUTS: We played according to the rules laid down by the PAC that with their attack that morning. They went to the beach front and killed people and injured them.

MR BRINK: Yes, we know that, we know that. What Iím asking you is, why did you not attack the taxi even if it meant killing bystanders in the streets. Would that not have served your purposes better than shooting at a bus at random?

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, in any war you want to continue to fight another day, you cannot just allow people to kill you, or catch you. We wanted to continue the struggle. We did not want to terminate it on that particular evening.

MR BRINK: Well if thatís an answer to my question, Iíll leave it there. Did you not say to Mr Botha when he ordered you to shoot at the bus, "Thereís no point in doing this, weíve left the taxi alone, letís leave the bus alone?"

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, I think youíre misunderstanding me. What I meant was that we wanted to continue with our struggle. If we had followed the taxi and attacked the taxi in that built-up area, and the road was also quite busy, the chances would have been quite good to have been caught that particular evening.

But we aborted that attack and went and had our cooldrinks and then started following the bus and we then attacked the bus. And our purpose in so doing was to send a message to the Government and bodies and parties such as the ANC and the PAC who were threats to the Boer nation.

MR BRINK: Why did you not consider attacking the PAC offices in Durban? You could have found out where they were.

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, time was a major factor, and I acted on Mr Bothaís orders and instructions. He told me, these are the orders, you must attack tonight. I worked that entire day and I only became aware of the attack after six when I arrived at Mr Bothaís home.

MR BRINK: When you left Richards Bay to drive to Durban, was it your intention to kill people?

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, in any war, when you attack, your aim is to kill people and I regarded myself as a soldier of the Orde Boerevolk and of the Boer people as a whole.

MR BRINK: My question was, when you left Richards Bay for Durban, did you have it in mind to kill people?

MR SMUTS: Mr Chairman, considering the type of weapon I was to use, I could have had no other intention than to kill. If you shoot at people with an automatic rifle, you must hurt people. Itís obvious.

MR BRINK: To kill people whether they were members of the ANC or not - PAC or not? Just kill anyone with a black skin? Was that your intention?

MR SMUTS: No, that was not my intention to kill anybody with a black skin. My intention was to play according to the same rules established that morning by the PAC. They also attacked people purely on the basis of their skin colour.

MR BRINK: So your intention was to kill someone whose skin colour was different from yours, regardless of whether they were PAC or not?

MR SMUTS: The PAC acted against Whites. I was a soldier of the Orde Boerevolk and I acted against Black people that night.

MR BRINK: Innocent Black people. Innocent Black people going home after work, fathers, mothers, didnít worry you?

MR SMUTS: It wasnít easy to do it. But the people who perpetrated that morningís attack, they didnít ask first whether the Whites they attacked belonged to any particular party or not. They were also innocent White people.

MR BRINK: So what you did was a revenge killing, MR SMUTS?

MR SMUTS: No.

MR BRINK: What was it?

MR SMUTS: It was as I said previously in my - that we wanted to show the government, the PAC and the ANC that we would fight back if there were attacks of this kind. We tried to soften the Government, send them a message to yield to the demands for a Boerestaat where we, us Whites could govern ourselves and pursue our own ideals, culture and religion as we would allow for any other nation and people.

MR BRINK: You donít know how many members of the Orde Boerevolk there were at that time, do you?

MR SMUTS: That is correct.

MR BRINK: You donít know whether senior authority in Orde Boerevolk would have approved your action, do you?

MR SMUTS: No, I reacted because I believed in Mr Botha, he was my commanding officer in the AWB and the oath form which I had signed, I believe that came from people higher up than Mr Botha.

MR BRINK: Just tell me, remind me, please. When did you sign that oath?

MR SMUTS: The evening of the 9th of October 1990.

MR BRINK: Before going to Durban?

MR SMUTS: That is correct.

MR BRINK: What was the need to take the oath then? You could have accompanied Botha and Marais without having signed that oath. Your intention was to kill people, you told us, so why sign the oath?

MR SMUTS: No-one could belong to the Orde Boerevolk without the sworn oath, and I believed what was set out in that oath. I believed that that would promote the ideals for which I also stood and believed in.

MR BRINK: But you signed the oath after you had made a conscious decision to go to Durban to kill, is that not correct?

MR SMUTS: No, I first signed the oath, and then we drove to Durban.

MR BRINK: Well let me put it this way. Before you signed the oath you had discussions with Botha and Marais at Bothaís house?

MR SMUTS: Correct.

MR BRINK: You discussed the fact that the PAC or alleged PAC members had killed Whites in Durban?

MR SMUTS: Correct.

MR BRINK: And you discussed going to Durban to wreak some sort of havoc or vengeance on Black people, is that correct?

MR SMUTS: That is correct, but the weerwraak ... [intervention]

MR BRINK: Yes. And then you signed the oath.

MR SMUTS: That is correct. May I just add something. Before I signed that form, Mr Botha - I have already mentioned it, Mr Botha discussed the oath with me and it was at that stage already that I said I was prepared to sign the oath, but I couldnít do so because we did not have any witnesses at the moment. Thank you, sir.

NO FURTHER QUESTIONS BY MR BRINK

JUDGE NGOEPE: MR SMUTS, you said in your evidence-in-chief that about 30 people, PAC people launched an attack on certain Whites in Durban that morning.

MR SMUTS: Thatís right.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Then you went on to say, thatís now you and the other applicants, then decided to launch an attack on those people.

MR SMUTS: No, we decided to launch an attack against - to launch an attack that will - I apologise, I donít quite know how to express this correctly - we decided to launch an attack so that the Government and those organisations could be shown that the Boer people ... [intervention]

JUDGE NGOEPE: The essence of my question is, attacks against whom?

MR SMUTS: Against Black people.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Any Black people?

MR SMUTS: Well those were the rules that the PAC had laid down that morning. They attacked any Whites.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Let me put it like this. Let us accept that, that evening in that bus, there were Whites wearing PAC T-shirts. The people who - the Whites were supporters of the PAC, what would you have done in such a case?

MR SMUTS: Thatís quite difficult, but the attack that the PAC had launched that morning was directed against Whites so we had to reflect that message back. We had to make it clear that we were not going to allow Whites to be attacked and as the attack that morning had been launched by Blacks. I donít know what - how we would have acted if they had been Whites wearing PAC T-shirts.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Why donít you know what would have happened?

MR SMUTS: I believe, for example, if it had been Whites with PAC T-shirts who had murdered those people and that evening I could have found Whites who belonged to the PAC, then I would have done the same.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Isnít the reason for the difficulty of this question for you - isnít the reason you - what you actually had in mind was to attack people purely because they were Black.

MR SMUTS: No, thatís not the case at all. Thatís why we say we had also declared war on the Government of the day, and that was a Government of Whites.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Now I donít understand at all, MR SMUTS, you were intending to attack any Black people.

MR SMUTS: Thatís right, but the people who had attacked the Whites that morning were Whites - were Black people. I couldnít then go and attack White people if it had been Black people who had attacked White people.

JUDGE NGOEPE: Irrespective of whether those people belonged to the PAC, it was good enough that they were Black - if they were Black that was quite good enough.

MR SMUTS: Those were the rules of the PACís murders ... [intervention]

JUDGE NGOEPE: Iím not asking about the PAC, Iím asking if for you, it was good enough.

MR SMUTS: It was a military strategy.

JUDGE NGOEPE: You still havenít told me if it was good enough for you as long as the people were Black. Was that your attitude?

MR SMUTS: That is right because that morning Whites had been attacked, so it was good if they were Blacks.

MS KHAMPEPE: MR SMUTS, why did you believe that Mr Botha was acting on the orders of the Orde Boerevolk?

MR SMUTS: Because Mr Botha told me that he had already sworn the oath.

MS KHAMPEPE: But did he at that time tell you that he was acting in his capacity as the leader of the Orde Boerevolk?

MR SMUTS: Thatís correct.

MS KHAMPEPE: When was the decision to attack the taxi made?

MR SMUTS: On the way to Durban.

MS KHAMPEPE: So before you left for Durban, you had not decided on who the target would be for your counter-attack?

MR SMUTS: Thatís correct.

MS KHAMPEPE: Did you react to the news - let me first ask this, how did you react to the news when you heard that PAC members or alleged members of the PAC, had attacked Whites at the beach front, what was your reaction?

MR SMUTS: When Mr Botha told me about this, I was shocked because we believed that the Black on Black violence would actually change to Black on White violence.

MS KHAMPEPE: Did you react the way you did because you were shocked that Blacks had attacked Whites or you reacted because a Black - members of a Black political organisation had attacked Whites?

MR SMUTS: I reacted that way because an organisation which was a threat to the Boer people, had attacked. That is why I reacted in that way.

MS KHAMPEPE: And what belief did you have that the people had launched the attack, were in fact members of the PAC?

MR SMUTS: I was going by what Mr Botha had told me because he was my cell leader and I did not think that he would tell lies about such a thing. And he told me that he had heard that on news broadcasts during that day.

MS KHAMPEPE: In your evidence youíve just stated that you believe that - in Botha because he was your Commander in the AWB, you remember saying that?

MR SMUTS: Thatís correct.

MS KHAMPEPE: Could you have believed that a mission could have been carried out under instructions of the AWB, could you have believed that way at the time?

MR SMUTS: No, because Mr Botha explicitly told me that the instructions came from the Orde Boerevolk and that this attack would be launched under the banner and instructions of the Orde Boerevolk.

MS KHAMPEPE: Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON: Did you know when Mr Botha had received those instructions from the Orde Boerevolk?

MR SMUTS: No.

MS KHAMPEPE: Do you know how he received those instructions?

MR SMUTS: Mr Botha just one day told me that he had been to a meeting of the AWB, and that the Orde Boerevolk had approached him there.

CHAIRPERSON: Yes, Iím talking about the instructions. What instructions did they give him?

MR SMUTS: Mr Botha just told me that the Orde Boerevolk had given orders that as far as politically orchestrated violence was concerned, a violence in which Whites were killed, for every one White person that died, ten Blacks would be killed. Ten Blacks had to die.

CHAIRPERSON: Is that what he told you on the evening of this incident?

MR SMUTS: No, he told me this on the occasion when he gave me this oath form to look at and discuss.

MR PRINSLOO: No re-examination thank you, Mr Chairman.

NO RE-EXAMINATION BY MR PRINSLOO

MR WILKINSON: Thank you very much.

CHAIRPERSON: Is Mr Purshotam still here? Yes. Mr Purshotam do you have any questions to put to this witness?

MR PURSHOTAM: No.

NO CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR PURSHOTAM

CHAIRPERSON: Thank you.

WITNESS EXCUSED