TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
APPLICATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 18 OF THE PROMOTION OF NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION ACT NO. 34 OF 1995.
PAUL JACOBUS JANSEN VAN VUUREN 1ST APPLICANT
ROBERT LESLIE JUBBER 2ND APPLICANT
MACHIEL ANDRIES STEPHANUS PRETORIUS
(AM5467/97) 3RD APPLICANT
JOHANNES JACOBUS VICTOR (Jnr) 4TH APPLICANT
JAN HATTING CRONJE 5TH APPLICANT
JACQUES HECHTER 6TH APPLICANT
This is an application in terms of Section 18 of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act No 34 of 1995. The applications mainly relate to the following incidents:-
1.1 Arson in respect of the bombing of houses belonging to David Modimeng, to Leonard Brown and Sello Ramakobye; and
1.2 The murder of Joyce Modimeng. All the offences were carried out in Oukasie, Brits during or about 1986.
At the hearing before the proceedings commenced the Committee was advised that Johannes Jacobus Victor had withdrawn his application for amnesty in respect of the present incident.
2. THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
The first witness to testify was Machiel Andries Pretorius who testified that the attacks on the house of Leonard Brown and of Sello Ramakobye were carried out in the same evening, viz round about May 1986. He states that the attack on the house of David Modimeng occurred a few days later, round about the 27 May 1986. At the relevant time Pretorius was a member of the South African Security Police at the sub-branch of Brits where he worked under the command of Robert Leslie Jubber. Jubber fell under the jurisdiction of the Northern Transvaal (NTVL) Security Branch. ?At the time the nearby black township, Oukasie, was being troubled by political unrest and resistance to the exercise of authority by the National Party government of which all the applications were loyal and dedicated supporters. They saw it as their duty to protect the government and defend it against what they saw as a revolutionary onslaught. In some part of the country life was also characterised by unrest and violence; consumer boycotts; class boycotts; worker stayaways and many kinds of campaigns to oppose what the residents of Oukasie saw as a forced removal to Lethlabile. The application further testified that at the time because the Oukasie black township had no infrastructure, the government of the day had decided that the community should be removed to Lethlabile where better social facilities existed. The residents opposed the removal under the banner of the Brits Action Committee ("the BAC"). The result was that the whole matter was so highly politicised that it was no longer a matter of "a responsible government" trying to improve the socio-economic conditions in which the Oukasie black community lived. What further compounded matters was the fact that the Oukasie residents generally supported the African National Congress ("the ANC") which was banned at the time. As the result of the BAC campaigns there was an economic decline in the area and many factories closed down. Pretorius says the situation was so serious that within a period of two (2) years about twenty-four (24) factories closed business and the industrialists concerned left the area. The surrounding black residential areas were also affected by the same levels of unrest and violence. Normal policing was impossible. Intimidation of those who did not support the BAC was the order of the day and these would be beaten up; their homes torched and they were subjected to all manner of threats.
On one particular morning the BAC called an open meeting in the Catholic Church Hall. This was the same hall where the BAC was formed in a very emotionally and politically charged atmosphere. On that day the issue of the removal was discussed. The applicant's opinion is that in the circumstances it would have been better for the Oukasie residents to move to Lethlabile where they would have been able to buy plots for about forty rand (R40,00) each and would have had access to running water and other essential facilities. At the end of the meeting, youths who had also attended the gathering came out with petrol bombs. They attacked several places in the township. Mr Rashinani was the first person's property to be attacked with petrol bombs and stones. The latter's home, shop and vehicles were set alight. There was total chaos in the township. Streets were barricaded and many government buildings, such as the local authority administration offices were torched and destroyed. Residents who were known to have expressed a desire to move to Lethlabile were attacked. A state of total anarchy and lawlessness prevailed for a considerable length of time. In the same context Pretorius' duties as a field worker was to deploy informers in political organisations; he evaluated and contrasted the different reports which he received from his informers; he intercepted correspondence to and fro suspected enemies of the Government of the day; he also personally monitored the movements and activities of those who opposed the State. There were other members of the Security Police who operated with him in the same way as him. They shared and compared the information which they received from their informers but not necessarily confiding to each other as to the identity of sources. All their reports found their way to the NTVL Security Branch Offices where Brigadier Jack Cronje was the Commanding Officer. Pretorius states that he used to know Jacques Hechter very well and they worked together in Brits. There was another nearby security branch local division, Bronkhorspruit. Their members and the Brits Police and a very close working relationship.
Pretorius testified that during the relevant time he used to know Sello Ramakobye as a member of the National Automobile and Allied Workers Union ("NAAWU") and a shop stewards' chairperson at the Firestone Factory in Brits. Firestone was constantly experiencing strikes and as a result production was at a very low ebb. This led to retrenchments and the rate of unemployment increased rapidly. These factors caused further instability and the tide of violence continued unabated. Ramakobye was an executive committee member of the BAC and he wielded immense influence and political power in the community in general. The information which Pretorius received from his sources was further that Ramakobye was involved in the acts of terror by the Oukasie youths against those who did not comply with his orders. Pretorius states that the youth carried out orders from Leonard Brown who worked closely with Ramakobye and the leadership of the BAC. This information, Pretorius states, he forwarded to this Commander Jubber, who in turn conveyed it to the NTVL Security Branch. In his evidence-in-chief Pretorius states that according to his sources Leonard Brown was a supporter of the ANC and its military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe ("MK"). He was allegedly involved in training the youths who blindly followed him. He taught the youths how to make petrol bombs.
3. THE BOMBING OF THE HOUSES OF SELLO RAMAHOBYE AND LEONARD BROWN
On a certain day in 1986, Pretorius continues his evidence, he was called by Jubber into his office. He told him that that evening he was to report in Pretoria to the NTVL Security Branch parking area where he would be met by Lieutenant Jacques Hechter. He told him not to tell any person about the meeting. He was to keep this a secret. According to Jubber, he (Pretorius) and Hechter were to execute certain "disruption actions" in Brits. According to the order, Hechter would come and speak to him and he was simply to follow him. Pretorius did as he was instructed and on his arrival at the place in question he was met by Hechter who was in the company of other people whose identity he could not establish because it was dark. They all climbed into a police minibus and proceeded to Brits. Then the applicant continues, in Brits "Lieutenant hechter informed me that there were two homes in Oukasie that I was to identify for them, namely the home of Sello Ramakobye and Leonard Brown. Upon our arrival at Oukasie, before we moved into Oukasie, all of us donned balaclavas in order to render us unrecognisable. Lieutenant Hechter informed me that I was to identify Ramakobye's residence first and after that the residence of Leonard Brown. Sello Ramakobye's residence was situated at the upper part of Oukasie and Leonard Brown's home was closer to the exit. I identified Ramakobye's home to them. We stopped, some of the persons climbed out and I saw that they threw petrol bombs in the direction of Sello Ramakobye's home.
MR ROUX: Who climbed out, can you recall?
MR PRETORIUS: No, I cannot recall who disembarked from the vehicle. The persons re-embarked into the minibus immediately and we drove away. We moved down into Oukasie. At Leonard Brown's home we drove slower. His home was situated on the left-hand side as one departed from Oukasie. I pointed out Leonard Brown's home to Lieutenant Hechter and I also identified where Leonard Brown would be sleeping in the home according to relevant information. We drove some distance past the house and then we stopped. Lt Hechter and another person disembarked from the vehicle. I cannot recall the other person and they moved back in the direction of Leonard Brown's home. After a while they returned speedily, they climbed back into the vehicle and we departed in haste. Just after we had departed, I heard a loud blow occurring behind me. Upon this we returned to Pretoria where my vehicle was. I climbed back into my vehicle and drove back to my home in Mooinooi, where I was residing at that stage. The following day at the office, I was informed by the other members that there was a fire at Sello Ramakoybye's home and that there had been an explosion at Leonard Brown's home. As far as I know, nobody was injured or killed during these incidents".
Pretorius says he was able to point out the homes of Ramakobye and Brown because he knew Oukasie township very well. This was where the police spent most of their day and he also knew in general where activists resided and, in particular, in which part of the houses they slept. He was continuously monitoring their movements and whereabouts. His informants had told him that in the house Brown shared the same room with his parents. Pretorius knew the interior of Leonard Brown's house very well. He had once conducted a search in the premises and secured some documents which intimated that Brown was possibly collaborating with the MK in its infiltration of cadres into the area. later there was a violent conflict amongst the leaders of the BAC. Some of them were killed and it was widely suspected that they were being killed as the result of the in-fighting. It was at that stage that Leonard Brown was elected as the new chairperson of the organisation and the old leadership was ousted. Under cross-examination Pretorius testified that although he did not throw a bomb at the houses of Ramakobye's and the Brown's he fully associated himself with the attacks. He knew why the places were being attacked. It was because the occupants were known opponents of the Nationalist Party government and its policies and it was not the first and certainly not the last time that such attacks were carried out. He states that in those days it was quite customary for the Security Police members to intimidate activists by torching their houses or even kill them if this was deemed necessary in the circumstances of a particular case. He states that they were never charged for the incident.
4. THE BOMBING OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID MODIMENG AND THE MURDER OF HIS WIFE JOYCE MODIMENG
Pretorius testified that according to his sources Modimeng was not only a prominent trade unionist but he was also a high-profile figure and participated in the affairs of the BAC. His wife, Joyce Modimeng, also took part in the BAC and she was a well-known figure in women's organisation in Oukasie and the anti-removal campaigns. There was also information that David Modimeng frequently travelled to Swaziland and Lesotho where he consulted with ANC members. The ANC members were said to be using him to smuggle weapons into the country. These weapons would later land in the hands of MK cadres who carried out military operations. Then on or about the 26 or 27 May 1986, Pretorius was again called by Jubber and the following is what happened:
"Once again he informed me that on that evening disruptive actions would be executed from Northern Transvaal and furthermore, he informed me that I should wait outside Brits on the Brits/Thabazimbi Road at a certain point during that evening and that Lt Hechter would meet me there. I cannot recall the precise time that he told me but I performed the orders as he told me I parked my vehicle at the Brits Police Station and walked to the point of rendezvous. Shortly thereafter, the white Skyline vehicle of Mr Hechter arrived. At that stage I was aware that this was the State vehicle that he used. He stopped at the point where I was waiting and I climbed into the Skyline vehicle, upon which Lt Hechter informed me. As I embarked into the vehicle, we immediately donned balaclavas and Lt Hechter informed me that I had to identify David Modimeng's residence in Oukasie to them. I assumed that this would be another disruptive action, upon which I informed him that it would be best advisable in terms of escape routes, that we follow the Canal Road, as it was known in Brits. It was the canal of the Hartebeespoort Dam which ran through the Oukasie area. We followed this road to a point where I warned Lt Hechter that we were approaching Oukasie and we parked at the side of the road. We disembarked and I went ahead along with them until we were opposite the residence in the street. I pointed out to Lt Hechter that this was the residence which was used by Mr Modimeng upon which I and another person retreated to the corner where the Canal Road was. We sat there at the side of the road waiting for Hechter and his companions to return. After a short while, I cannot recall precisely how long, Lt Hechter and another person came running past us in great haste and we returned with them to the vehicle, that would be the white Nissan Skyline. Upon our arrival at the vehicle, if I recall correctly, just as we arrived there or just after we departed, I heard a tremendous blow from the direction of Oukasie. They then returned me via the same route that I had identified where they had picked me up. They dropped me off at that same point. I walked back, retried my vehicle and drove back to my residence in Mooinooi. The following morning upon my arrival at the office, I was informed by my colleagues that there had been an explosion at the residence of David Modimeng and that a person had died during the explosion, namely the spouse of Mr Modimeng and that children had also been injured during this explosion".
According to Pretorius he knew where Modimeng lived; which room he occupied, viz the room to the right-hand side of the house. He knew why Modimeng and his wife were being attacked and associated himself with the action that was being taken against them. This is despite the fact that he did not participate in the execution of the attack. Neither had he seen what exactly had happened. He never told any person about the incident because it was conducted on a need-to-know basis. Earlier the legal representative for the Modimeng family intimated that witnesses would be called to contradict Pretorius' evidence that Modimeng acted as an arms courier for the ANC and that his wife was a member of ANC Women's League. This never happened and instead it was suggested to Pretorius that Joyce was a housewife who had no interest in politics. Pretorius was adamant that he had reliable information from his sources and that he had cross-checked its veracity.
Robert Lesley Jubber who was present in the hearing room during the time Du Plessis was rendering his testimony testified and confirmed all the evidence insofar as it relates to him. He states that he was told by Brigadier Cronje that whenever a disruption was to occur in his division (Brits), his members would be required to render the necessary assistance. The instruction was further that all actions would be carried out on a strictly secret basis and no person other than those who were involved in the action was to know of the occurrence of the incident. He accepted this modus operandi and its objectives and was always prepared to comply. Jubber further confirms the evidence regarding the manner in which information was circulated and the use of informers to infiltrate organisations. Ramakobye, Leonard Brown and the Modimengs were known to him as prominent activists in the area. On a certain day in or around May 1986 he received a telephone call from Hechter. He told him that he and his men were coming to his area that evening to carry out "disruption actions". At that stage Hechter was a member of a task forum which was under the command of Jacques Cronje. He states that because Hechter was senior to him, he, being a captain, and Hechter a lieutenant and the fact that he was based in the regional head offices, he assumed that he was conveying to him an order from Cronje. When Hechter spoke to him he also recalled the previous order by Cronje that his members might be required to assist in the execution of actions in his area. Hechter asked him to make a member available and he accordingly instructed Pretorius to go and meet him. Pretorius was chosen because although he did not hold a commissioned rank at that stage, he was a very loyal, hardworking and reliable member Jubber further states that at the time he did not know the selected targets and what kind of disruption actions were going to be carried out. However, he expected that the actions were going to be carried out. However, he expected that the actions were going to take place within his area of jurisdiction. As he was a trained bomb demolition expert, after the targets' homes were bombed he was called to the scene. When he came there he was satisfied that the action had been carried out by Hechter, Pretorius and others who were unknown to him.
Jubber states that Pretorius did not give any report to him about what had happened because it was done on a need-to-know basis. It would have been a very serious security transgression if he did so and he would possibly be expelled from the SAP. Jubber also did not prepare and submit a report on the incident. He says he accepts that by failing to do so he rendered himself open to prosecution for defeating the ends of justice. When he visited the scenes of the attacks to carry out his bogus investigation he knew that it was just part of the farce to make the people believe that the Police were not involved. Jubber confirms that he gave the order to Pretorius to assist Hechter in the attack on the Modimeng's home. The same method that was used in the previous incidents was used, viz he made Pretorius available and after the attack he visited the scene for the so-called investigation and no formal report was subsequently made.
Van Vuuren testified that he had been involved with Hechter in more than three hundred incidents and had a vague recollection of what happened in the Brown, Ramakobye and Modimeng incidents. He states that because he was present when Pretorius testified, he was able to have some recollection of the incidents in Brits, Oukasie Location, where they threw bombs. He did not know the names of the activists and all he knew was that they had been identified by the local Security Police as opponents of the then government. He had not seen the victims prior to the attack and only saw them for the first time at the hearing. However, he associated himself with the action of his colleagues. He was a sergeant and worked under the command of Hechter. He and Joe Mamasela, a former member of MK who was turned an askari, worked very closely with Hechter and were involved in many illegal operations. The three (3) of them worked together as a team. What would happen was, Hechter would receive an order from Cronje and he would instruct them to carry out the operation. Everything was done strictly on a need-to-know basis and no questions were asked. He was purely a foot-soldier and did not deal with files which contained the information on the activities of suspected opponents of the State. All he did was to attack the targets once they had been identified. It was not for him to decide whether or not their attack was justified in the circumstances of a particular case. He admits that in all these operations he foresaw that innocent bystanders could be killed and he would not have been able to identify the homes without the help of Pretorius who knew the area and where activists stayed.
Hechter testified that he is presently suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ("P.T.S.D.") and as a result cannot recall the details of all the incidents
in which he was involved. He states that he is unable to recall the names: Leonard Brown, David Modimeng, Sello Ramakobye. However, he does recall that he operated in the Oukasie area where he carried out acts of intimidation and torched houses of perceived political enemies of the government of the day. However, he is unable to recall when, where and against whom exactly those attacks were carried out. Consequently, he accepts the evidence of Pretorius and Van Vuuren as the only probable thing to have happened in the circumstances viz that on the evenings in question he bombed the house of Leonard Brown, Sello Ramakobye and David Modimeng. He confirms the reporting systems that existed at the time and say that the names of the victims would have come to his attention through reports from the divisional office and that Cronje would have suggested to him that something be done about such persons. The two would never have discussed the plan with Pretorius and Mamasela. They would simply be told to meet him at a certain place in the evening and they would proceed to the targets. The details would not have been discussed with them as it was not necessary for him to do so for the success of the operation. During the day and before the trip proceeded to the target he would have contacted the Brits security police commander to make arrangements for the covert operation that was to be carried out in the evening. The local commander would not be told who the targets were going to be and would only be asked to make a member(s) available to identify the premises of the target(s). Hechter further testified that only he was responsible for the manufacturing of petrol bombs from fuel, petrolite, bottles and a piece of cloth which were thrown into the windows of the targets' house. He admits that there was very little they could do to avoid hitting innocent civilians. The only thing they would do was to try and identify the exact room where the actual target slept. Hechter says he would not return to the scene of the attack after the operation and this he would leave to members of the Criminal Investigation Division to attend. He goes on to say that the home-made petrol bombs were used to ensure that no finger would be pointed at the police. This was all supposed to be viewed by members of the public and the media as part of the so-called black on black violence which existed in the black townships at the time.
Jan Hatting Cronje, due to reasons of ill health, which were accepted by the Committee could not attend the hearing and instead an affidavit (Exhibit A) was handed up for consideration. In the affidavit he states that he has no recollection of the attack on the targets in Brits, Oukasie, but accepts that the actions must have been carried out by the applicants in the course of their duties and functions as members of the security forces. He confirms that at the time all the applicants were his subordinates and that it is quite probable that the attacks were launched as part of the many attacks which occurred at the time. He states that he therefore supports their applications and craves that he also be granted amnesty for all the offences with regard to the said events.
5. THE FINDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE
After carefully considering the evidence we are satisfied that all the Applicants have complied with the requirements of the Act. There is no question that they have not given a full disclosure of the material facts pertaining to the incidents. We accept that the offences committed are "acts associated with a political objective" as required by the Act. There is no doubt that the Applicants acted in their capacity as members of the security forces whose task was to defend the former government of the National Party.
Amnesty is therefore GRANTED as follows:
Jan Hatting Cronje and Robert Leslie Jubber and Jacques Hechter are granted amnesty for conspiracy to murder Leonard Brown, Sello Ramakobye, David Modimeng and Joyce Modimeng in Oukasie Location, Brits, in or about 1986.
They are also GRANTED amnesty for defeating the ends of justice and for any offence flowing from the incidents.
Jacques Hechter, Machiel Andries Pretorius and Paul Jacobus Jansen Van Vuuren are GRANTED amnesty for
(1) The murder of Joyce Modimeng;
(2) The attempted murder of Leonard Brown, Sello Ramakobye and David Modimeng at Oukasi in Brits in or about 1986;
(3) Defeating the ends of justice;
(4) Any offence in contravention of the Explosives Act; and
(5) For any offence or delict flowing from the incidents.
We are further of the opinion that Joyce Modimeng, David Modimeng, Leonard Brown and Sello Ramakobye are victims as envisaged in the Act and their names, as well as particulars of the next-of-kin of Joyce Modimeng are being forwarded to the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee for its consideration.
DATED AT CAPE TOWN THIS DAY OF 2001.
JUDGE J. MOTATA
ADV. N. SANDI
MR W MALAN