Brigadier Swanepoel, we welcome you here this morning. Thank you for coming down. Can we have your full names please?
JOHANN MATHYS ADAM SWANEPOEL (Sworn, States)
Brigadier Swanepoel, you were due to give your evidence tomorrow, but we have agreed to accommodate you because we understand that you have to go off abroad on official duties tomorrow, or to meet with foreign visitors, and we've agreed to have you in today. We were going to have an Afrikaans translator in from tomorrow, so we apologise that we don't have one for you today, and we thank you for giving your evidence in English. --- Not a problem, Sir.
Also the subpoena which was served on you to come and talk today was unfortunately for some reason only served on you yesterday. --- Yes.
It should have been served on you last week, and you were not able to give us a written summary of your evidence. Nevertheless we understand that you are just going to - you have put something together and you will be telling us about the perspective of the Defence Force from that time. (Pause) Sorry, we're having a couple of problems with the translation service. Brigadier, can you then start by telling us what position you held in March 1990, and how the Defence Force - I think it was Group Nine - was structured. We're going to suggest that you put the earphones on so that you can hear my questions in English without being disturbed by the Zulu translation. Can you hear me through the earphones now? --- Thank you.
Good. Thank you. Right, if you can then just start giving us an account of what position you held, briefly how the Defence Force was structured here, and then go on to tell us your account. --- Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen of the Council, first of all thank you for allowing me to appear before the Council today. Is it okay? Not working?
Sorry, we're just going to get earphones for ourselves because we can't hear above the Zulu translation. I apologise for the delay. (Pause) --- (Incomplete) ... me today. As you said I have commitments and I really appreciate you fitting me in today's programme. I was - I am a serving member of the South African National Defence Force, serving as the deputy- chief of the Service Corps in Pretoria. I was appointed the officer commanding of Group Nine in January 1989. I served for three and a half years in the Natal Midlands. I am saying three and a half years because from July until December of 1990 I was away on an extended course in Pretoria. When I arrived in Pietermaritzburg in January of '89 Group Nine was essentially a very small Defence Force organisation. People from Richmond will remember that the group headquarters was situated in Richmond, and the whole of 1989 was spent in re-organising and re-establishing Group Nine Headquarters in Longmarket Street, where it is today. We opened the headquarters in November of 1989. Essentially in that period from January '89 leading up to March of 1990 the force strength of the defence in this area - I am talking about the Natal Midlands - was first of all the group headquarters, secondly we also had some part-time forces like Umkomaas
Commando, Umvoti Commando, East Griqualand Commando, etcetera, so we had a territorial responsibility at that time. We also had one company deployed in the Pietermaritzburg area, and they were accommodated in a facility, a temporary facility right next to us at the drill hall. So, to enable us to understand the events leading up to 1990 one must for a moment look at the situation in South Africa. I am going to say two things. First of all there was a security situation developing in South Africa which resulted in Defence Force units deployed in places like Sebokeng, the Rand area in general, and also in the greater Durban area. So at the beginning of 1990 the headquarters of Group Nine was in Longmarket Street, where it is today, we had one company residing at the drill hall, and our task was to support and assist the police in their activities in this area. With regard to the relationship of the Defence Force and the police, the police were and are still essentially in control of security matters of this area. When Defence Force elements get called up or get involved in a situation like this there are certain constraints and restrictions which do not allow us to operate on our own. At that time in 1990 the Defence Elements essentially assisted the police in specific task emanating from planning sessions on a low level. I want to continue, Chairperson, to the events leading up to March of 1990. As a person from outside I found it difficult to really understand what is happening in this part of our lovely country. When March 1990 dawned we knew about some rallies taking place in Durban. We also took cognisance of some large groups of people leaving the Natal Midlands
to attend those rallies, and the focus military-wise and security-wise was essentially in the Durban South Coast area. In the planning session which was held between the company commander of that time and the police it was agreed that the Defence Force, having a very limited capacity, will deploy in smaller groups along the Edendale Road, and the task that was allocated to the Defence Force through that planning session was to keep that route open, because we foresaw the possibility of that important route being closed, and workers from that area that they couldn't come in to work the next day. So we deployed along that road essentially to assist the police to keep it open. To explain to the Council the strength of that period. The forces involved essentially were more or less, I would say, about six Buffels - that's the military open vehicle - and plus/minus 100 troops. Those were the only elements we had in Group Nine at the time. I will now continue to talk about the events of that fateful week in March. I received reports from the ground about a situation developing in the Edendale Valley. We got reports saying that people are fighting, they are killing. There were reports about looting, and of course on national media we could see the hundreds of houses burning in the Edendale Valley. When I received those reports I reported to my headquarters in Durban, saying that we are faced with a serious situation in the Edendale Valley. And in that week I also said that I think it is of national importance to get Defence Force reinforcements in to assist the police. After that week - I would say it must have been around the 2nd of April - as far as I remember about four companies, with their vehicles and
equipment, were moved from the Rand area, as well as from Durban, and round about the middle of April 1990 I remember we opened the gates of Mayor's Walk, which we got from Transnet - we got the facility from Transnet - to accommodate the extra troops. So essentially from mid-April onwards we had a force level of Defence Force troops in this area which I remember prompted the media to say that at that time there were more troops in this area since World War Two. I also in that week, which is now called the Seven Day War, visited some refugee camps in the area of Imbali, and higher up in the valley at the mission station and at schools. We said to the authorities of this area that the Defence Force was willing to bring in medical elements to assist Edendale Hospital, but at the time the response we got was that Edendale Hospital could handle the situation ... (incomplete - end of Side A, Tape 1) ... on the question posed by the previous speaker about the Defence Force preventing that sad event, Chairperson, I will essentially agree with what he was saying, but we must keep two things in mind. First of all the reality was that the Defence Force at that specific time had very limited resources. And secondly, looking back and reflecting on what happened in that valley, I at that time as a military commander said, "In my view many thousands of troops will be necessary to deal with this situation." I want to close by saying that after the events in the Edendale Valley in my view the situation rapidly spread to the rest of the Midlands, and by the end of 1990 we found ourselves deployed throughout the Midlands of Natal, and the Defence Force mission in all that time was to try and assist in
getting a peaceful situation. Chairperson, members of the Council, I received many requests from the communities of this area to bring in Defence Force elements. We did that when we had the resources to deploy. I remember the Imbali Womens Association coming to see the Mayor - it was Mayor Pat Ranier at this stage - saying, "Please send the Defence Force to Imbali so that we can sleep again at night." And that is exactly what we did when we received the resources. In conclusion, Chairman, I must make a few comments about my own perception of the reaction to the Defence Force. I can understand that people wanted the Defence Force at the time. We also found a general very positive response when we started to move in. Of course we had some complaints about white soldiers, black soldiers, coloured soldiers, and I remember we also had some response about the Portuguese-speaking people that came in for a while. We were sort of tangled up in the community very quickly, in the sense that as soon as I wanted to change troops the communities always came to me and they said, "Please, are you taking the troops away?" and I had to reassure them that we're not taking them away, we are merely changing them for new ones. Sir, in my own personal view I think that the Defence Force has contributed, maybe sadly so, after March of 1990, in creating a relatively peaceful situation in the Natal Midlands. Thank you, Sir.
Thank you, Brigadier Swanepoel. We will put some questions to you. Just to start with a question. From what you've said is it correct that the first time that Defence Force vehicles were deployed in the area was on the 2nd of April? --- No. No, Sir. One company of
Defence Force troops were assisting the police in various areas since 1989 up to March of 1990. The reinforcements, however, arrived only, as far as I remember, round about the 6th of April.
So prior to the 6th of April, during the period commonly known as the Seven Day War, which was from 27 March to about the 4th of April, where were Defence Force vehicles deployed, and in what numbers were they deployed? You've said that they were deployed along the Edendale Road. --- Yes.
Now, you don't need to repeat that. Where else were they deployed? --- The troop levels at that stage, as I said, consisted out of about a maximum of six military vehicles, and I would say about roughly 100 soldiers. I can't remember the names of places, but I would say the first troops were deployed along the route at the robot just before you get to the Edendale Hospital, and as far as I remember we didn't go much past the hospital. Does that answer you, Chairman?
Brigadier, there is something which is very interesting which you have just said here, which was always a puzzle to some of us when at certain times we felt that the Defence Force was not effective. But you have just said here today that when the Defence Force was called upon there were certain restrictions applied. Can you just try and tell us about those restrictions? What type of restrictions were those, and who was giving the command that those restrictions must be observed? I think that is going to help the picture about the Defence Force. --- Thank you, Reverend. First of all, the restrictions
I was referring to refers to the type of training a soldier gets. A soldier, Sir, is not trained to arrest people. They are even not trained to investigate and to deal with crime-related activities. So the restrictions is firstly one of that you cannot use a soldier in the role of a policeman. But what one can do, Sir, is you can assist the police by means of patrols, roadblocks, and other type of actions, but the police, according to the law, must be - must remain the main role-player in any criminal type of activity. And for that reason, although the Defence Force were always under their own commanders, the police remained the persons by law to deal with things like arrests and related things.
Could you move in in a situation to help with a conflicting situation without getting the approval of the commander of the police? That is question number one. And question number two, since you were working together with the police, helping them, was there any situation where you could meet with the police and sort of discuss the situation and how you think you should be acting together? --- Reverend, on your first question, on agreement by the Security Committee of that time, a police member had to be with Defence Force elements at all times. Even if we had a group of 30 soldiers working in a specific area our agreement was that at least one police member must be with the soldiers in order to deal with crime-related actions. On your second question, the police and the soldiers have been working together for a long time on, I would say, two levels, the first level being the management level, and the second level being the grass roots level. And yes, Sir, in both situations
discussions can take place and did take place.
The last one now, that's this last. You know very well that there's a general perception that the police worked with the other organisation. As you people were very close to the police would you say that that is a false assumption or is there some truth in that, because even here you heard yesterday the police working with the organisation, and you say that you have been working close with the police? Can you say something about that? --- Reverend, it is extremely difficult for me to make assumptions, or even comment on something like that. I, as an individual, having been involved on planning level with the police, never got the impression that we are sitting here with the support of security forces to one particular faction in society.
So finally, in other words, you say that there was nothing like a third force in the conflict between the two groups? You say that there was no third force. We have heard a lot about the third force, and are you saying that there was no third force? --- Sir, with respect, you know, I also through the media heard a lot about those things which you have mentioned. In my time in this area we tried to have an honest and direct approach to trying to create peace. I want to use one example just to - and the people of that area can maybe come forward and - take, for instance, the role that the police played in Mpumalanga. That role they played resulted in peace in that area. That of course is my own perception, but after a while, through the involvement and assistance of those people, we achieved what we were there for, and that is to create peace and stability in a very difficult situation.
Brigadier, your - did your unit, as Group Nine, have its own intelligence gathering operation? --- Group Nine had its own intelligence section.
And was that section involved in gathering intelligence about the potential build up that was taking place, as we've heard, in the Edendale Valley? --- Sir, I would venture to say that the intelligence community as a whole was sort of assessing the situation, not only in Natal, but also in relation to the rest of the country at that time. As I said, the more serious situation prevailed in the Rand prior to March 1990.
You see, we've heard evidence so far over the last two days that indicates that by the 27th, and even before the 25th in fact, there were already clear signs that Inkatha was massing forces, that - for example we heard yesterday about the meeting between the chiefs at Ulundi, and the King, where people were encouraged to clean up their areas. Your people were aware of that, is that correct? You're nodding your head at me, so I am assuming that that's correct. --- No, I will answer. Of course we knew about the rallies taking place in Durban. We were aware of the fact that in KwaZulu Natal as a whole, and in South Africa maybe as a whole, some political people were saying things, and I must admit that at the time we said that this stirring of emotions, and this talks that we hear on the rallies, can only result in a problem. So my answer to your question is yes, holistically we of course knew and realised that things were starting to develop.
Now I want to take you on in this process, because some of the evidence we've heard is that elements in the police and Brigadier Buchner, as he was at that time,
together with one of his officers, Mr Meyer, actually stopped a group a day before the violence really started, a huge group of people, several thousand strong. --- Yes.
Now, surely at that time it must have been evident to yourselves, and to them, because you had a joint planning group. --- Yes.
It must have been evident to you that the potential for these people to mobilise quickly and efficiently was very, very strong, and what I want to know is what logistical preparations did you make to meet that strong potential? --- If you are referring to the National Defence Force, we were not in a position to make logistical preparations. As I said, when this started to happen, and you will realise or remember back that all the main political people were involved, like President Mandela, Mr de Klerk, and it was really a situation of this community asking for Government to assist. Once the Defence Force were given the resources we had to sort out the logistics, which even today is not favourable, in the sense that we had to - that we had to accommodate our troops in a place like Mayor's Walk.
You see, what I am trying to understand is this, and you must remember that I myself was in the SADF as a national serviceman. I understand how it works, I understand the lines of command, I understand all that stuff. And you must also remember that I've worked with policemen for years as an attorney. I understand how their lines of communication work. --- Yes.
I have also represented clients on the receiving end of, for example, the security process, and I've sat
through trials listening how decisions get made. And what I can't understand is that when it suited the State it could act with immense speed and power. When certain areas came under threat that the State really wanted to protect they did so effectively and quickly, and you'll concede that. --- Sir, let me say to you that I cannot talk on behalf of the State. I ... (intervention)
Well, in your experience - sorry, I'll allow you to continue. I beg your pardon. --- You must remember that I was part of this organisation on a group headquarters level, and obviously as a thinking person the authorities of that period had their factors to appreciate, and they had reasons for doing things. So I cannot answer on behalf of the State, Sir.
Who sat with you on that joint planning committee? --- Initially at the early stages of '89 and early parts of '90 it was essentially a low level planning thing between the company commander and - the Stability Police, I believe they were called then.
Yes. Who were those individuals? We just want to know that. --- Well, you know, I can't recall all those names.
Order please. Order please. (Pause) This is serious. We are not in the circus, we are about business. Please, give us the time. Okay.
Thank you. Sorry, Brigadier, for that interruption. As commander of Group Nine you would have been part of the joint management structure. --- Yes, I was.
And that joint management structure was primarily responsible for waging what was called the total strategy. Correct? --- Well, I don't know what you mean by that. /Are you
Are you referring to our own here in Pietermaritzburg?
I am referring to a national policy, in terms of top secret documentation that's been made available to this Commission, and that has been confirmed, both in terms of the de Kock trial, the Malan trial, and a number of amnesty applications before this Commission. So you don't have to be afraid to tell us about it. You're not breaching the Official Secrets Act or anything like that. --- Yes.
It's in the public terrain. --- Yes. Sir, you know, if one looks at the management structure you're talking about then one must realise that the structure of that time in Pietermaritzburg was the police - I think about three or four brigadiers in this area - and myself, and we had some subcommittees looking at the social economic side of things, and the matters we dealt with was the maintenance of law and order in this area. In the process, of course, plans were made and executed throughout Natal. And that I know about as the commander of Group Nine.
You see, Brigadier, we're quite familiar with this whole structure. It's not a secret any longer. --- Yes.
And it was that structure and its substructures which, for example, authorised what later happened in Trust Feeds. And what we want to know from you is what did that structure do about what was clearly a dangerous situation developing in the Edendale Valley? And, you know, from what you're saying, you're saying the SADF could do nothing, it was up to the police to organise it, you didn't have the resources. Is that correct? Is that impression we're getting, is that correct? --- Well,
Sir, you have to look at the Natal situation of the time, and essentially yes, in this area the Defence Force, due to other factors outside our control, simply didn't have the resources ... (incomplete - end of Side B, Tape 2) ... and in fact it happened, but it happened for different reasons. And even today the part-time forces are being called up to deal with specific things in the Natal Midlands.
I have one question which is a follow-up to Mr Lax. When I listened to Mr Mkhize yesterday, when I listened to Mr Keys, and when I listened to Father Smith today, their response was to a crisis situation. I almost heard there was a sense of panic in the way they responded. I am not getting the sense of panic from you when you received the first call, which told you that people were killing, were looting, and they were fighting. Mr Mkhize specifically told us that he panicked, he phoned the police, he phoned the Justice Department, the Minister of Law and Order, the Riot Unit, almost all the resources that could be mobilised. I do understand that you were in a position of power. Can you just help us briefly to tell us how was your response to this crisis which would indicate to us that you panicked about events? --- Madam, I must first say that it was an extremely sad period, and in my role as the military commander of this area I did what I could, namely the authorities in the military line of command, who are really the people with the power, were informed about this situation on a minute-to-minute basis. We of course had the same sense of urgency in a professional way, in the sense that we started to
organise, and we assisted a lot of people with limited resources at our disposal. To mobilise a Defence Force, or even parts of the Defence Force, is not and was not within my power.
One more question. These three other people actually went - they went to the places where there was this fighting. Did you go there? Where did you go? --- Madam, the police were in full command of this operation. According to the plan the troops that we had were involved in that thing - in a limited way, as was described. I myself went out to the area to see for myself what was happening. And because of my observation there, and having visited these refugee camps, having visited the people that were going to all these places, I again went back and I said to the authorities, "This is a situation that needs intervention on a senior level." Secondly we also then extended an invitation to the authorities of this area in saying that we can mobilise doctors, medical personnel if they need us to do so. And at the time Edendale Hospital said, "Thank you, but we can cope with the situation." So, Madam, that was my reaction.
Brigadier, just so that perhaps someone like me, and maybe us here, can understand, you said you were a commander of the South African Defence Force. Somewhere in your presentation you mentioned Portuguese-speaking soldiers. I wonder if you can explain to us the National Defence Force of South Africa and its connection with the Portuguese-speaking soldiers. --- You are referring to that time?
Yes. --- Thank you, Madam, I understand. At the time of - the battalion I am talking about was called 32 Battalion. 32 Battalion was part and parcel of the South African Defence Force. They consisted out of Portuguese-speaking soldiers, and when I said in my testimony that we had mixed reaction about those troops, it's essentially because people had the perception that they're very aggressive. But later on, after they've been deployed for a while, and they walked the streets of Imbali, they went to visit houses and so on there, we actually got very positive response from the community. So it was a Defence Force unit at the time.
I just want to understand whether they were South African nationals? --- Madam, they were part of the South African Defence Force. I cannot respond to that answer because I simply don't know. I just know that they're a Defence Force unit. And in fact that unit operated in South Africa in various areas for a long, long time.
I think it's common knowledge that 32 Battalion were made up or comprised Unita members from Angola, who left Angola to join the South African Defence Force, and they were black, Portuguese-speaking soldiers. --- Well, that's essentially true, yes.
Brigadier Swanepoel, I just want to clear my own demons in my head about the police and the soldiers. You know I said that I had finished, but I am persuaded to ask this question. Brigadier, were there any occasions when the South African Police refused to use the services of
the SADF? --- Sir, definitely not to my knowledge. The actions that took place on grass roots level are grass roots actions, so to my knowledge and in my term of service it didn't happen.
Okay, let me leave Ilan to pursue some of the questions.
Brigadier, you mentioned earlier on that your - the furthest that Defence Force vehicles and personnel went was just beyond the traffic lights off the Edendale Road, is that right, between the 27th and the 4th or the 6th of April? Just beyond the hospital, the traffic lights. --- Well, that specific day, the specific day of Sunday, that was the area they were. But I am not saying that they sort of stayed there all the time.
Are you saying that they were deployed throughout the region, the KwaShange, KwaMnyandu, Gezabuso, Ashdown, Xaluza, Umphumuza - are you saying that your troops were deployed throughout that region from the 27th of March to the 2nd or the 4th of April? --- No, Sir, I am not saying that.
Can you tell us why they weren't deployed there? --- It was according to the plan.
Whose plan? --- The motivation for the joint planning committee to deploy the Defence Force resources on the Edendale Road was specifically to keep that road open for the civilians and the workers to come to work the next morning. And I believe that was the only reason why they were deployed there.
So are you saying that throughout this region - and let us remember that most people who died during this
period died during that crucial week of 26th, 27th, 28th, specifically, 29th, 30th. That is when most of the deaths, the 200 deaths, took place. And they didn't take place on the Edendale Road. They didn't take place anywhere near the Edendale Road. They took place in the valleys higher up. Now, are you saying that the plan was to deploy Defence Force vehicles to keep open the Edendale Road? That was your primary purpose. --- Yes, that was the primary purpose at the outset.
And the purpose of keeping the Edendale Road open was so that people from Vulindlela could get to work and -could get to work unhindered. --- Well, Sir, I didn't mention names, but what I am saying is that at the time also roads were sort of blocked, and we thought as security forces that it would be of importance to keep that road open. But I didn't suggest for one moment that that road was kept open at the cost of whatever happened in that week.
Yes, Brigadier, you didn't make that suggestion, but it appears as though the fact that the Defence Force was deployed in the Edendale Road to keep the Edendale Road open meant that they could not be deployed in the areas where witness after witness at this hearing have suggested they should have been deployed. They should have been deployed where people were being murdered and where people were having their houses looted and burned. That is where they should have been deployed, not keeping the Edendale Road open. --- Well, Sir ... (intervention)
And can you tell me who made - who made the decisions at those planning meetings, because there must have been several planning meetings during that period?
Who made those planning meetings as to where the Defence Force should have been deployed? --- I believe that Director Meyer, he was on the ground there, and I also believe that most of the decisions and so on were taken there on the ground. So that answers the part about the person involved on the ground.
Is that Director Meyer from the South African Police? --- Yes, to my recollection he was the commander on the ground, or involved in the ground.
And did you have - at that planning meeting did you have members of the Unit Eight Riot Police? --- Well, I don't know, Sir. Director Meyer, I believe, was part of that unit at that time, but I don't know.
Do you recall the names of any other people from the South African Police that attended those meetings? --- At the time the new officer commanding of that unit arrived. He was called Colonel Bok Fourie. That is - he was the commander of that unit at the time I believe.
Now, you're saying that you were aware of the size of the tragedy that was taking place. You visited refugee camps. Could you have made a decision and taken what resources were available to you, your six armoured vehicles, your hundred soldiers - could you have said, "No, look, it's nonsense just keeping this road open. Soldiers are more urgently needed up in Ashdown, in Umphumuza, or Xaluza, or KwaShange," where people were dying in their scores? Could you have made a decision to say, "I am going to take my vehicles and my men and I am going to go and prevent these armed incursions from taking place"? --- Sir, to take a unilateral decision of that nature I believe would have been out of order.
So are you saying that you were not empowered to take such a decision? --- No, what I am saying is that if there is a need to make a decision on any level, that I believe it must be a joint decision discussed between the police and the Defence Force.
So in fact those decisions were considered - or those possibilities were considered and a decision was taken not to send the Defence Force up into the valleys? --- I am not saying that, Sir.
Well, why weren't the vehicles there then? --- Well, they were - I must repeat that this plan started from a specific point and it developed. You know, what happened on the third day and what happened on the seventh day I am not in a position to tell you. I can recall that our people assisted wounded people, took them to hospitals, and things like that. So it was a situation that the security forces were in, and the decisions that were made on grass roots level - I mean they were made because of prevailing circumstances at the time.
Do you agree that the resources which were available to you were not adequate? --- I will concede to that. They were not adequate to deal with a situation of that scale.
But, having said that, do you agree that if you had six armoured vehicles with - what do they hold, 10, 20 men each? --- 10. 10 each.
10 men each. If you had 60 armed men on top of armoured vehicles patrolling those valleys you could have prevented loss of life and damage to property, rather than on the Edendale Road. --- Well, Sir, I mean that must be true. The presence of the troops on the Edendale Road
also prevented specific things which were planned for.
It's just one last question. Do you consider yourself responsible for the planning that did not go well? --- Madam, in retrospect, a plan was made to cater for a specific situation. I still believe that, given the specific circumstances of that time, that was the correct decision to take. I hold nobody responsible for making specific decisions, because this tragedy in the Edendale Valley happened, and it escalated to the extent that the previous speakers described to us. And, quite frankly, in retrospect I hold nobody responsible for making specific decisions.
So, just to recap, are you saying that had your people been deployed at the time when people were making telephone calls to the police, to the newspapers, and to your headquarters - people were making phone calls pleading for the Defence Force to come into these areas, had those soldiers and those armoured vehicles been immediately deployed in the areas where people were being killed, where houses were being burned and looted, do you not agree that lives could have been saved, many, many lives could have been saved? --- That is a difficult thing for me to respond to. Of course if 60 troops arrives in an area, yes, of course they will be able to prevent things happening. But it didn't happen that way. I believe that people, maybe some relatively junior people, had to contain a specific situation, and, you know, to be fair to anybody involved in these things, and also knowing that area, it is most difficult for any
commander on the ground to make decisions that will historically be proved to be correct or incorrect.
Yes, Brigadier, I know that we now have the benefit of hindsight, but I maintain, and I think many observers and monitors and witnesses who have given evidence here also maintain, that the presence of the Defence Force was absolutely vital to maintain law and order in those regions. Everyone said that. And the only thing that the residents of those valleys did not see were members of the Defence Force, until way, way after the death and destruction had happened, many, many days after. --- Sir, that is quite true for the simple reason that those people, the limited numbers of people, were involved in a small area in that place. But I again want to say that, also having the benefit of hindsight, that if we did have, you know, all the military equipment and forces that we got a little bit later on, we would have been in a better situation to deal with that situation in the Edendale Valley.
One of the speakers yesterday, Mr Radley Keys for the Democratic Party, said after much intervention, pleading, begging, the Defence Force finally agreed to be deployed - I am not quite sure which date it was, but they - it was on the 29th, which was the Thursday, and the Defence Force apparently were deployed at Huletts Aluminium on the main road to Edendale, where they waited for some hours, and there was an expectation that they would then enter the strife-torn area. It was in fact Imbali township. And the Defence Force vehicles waited at Huletts Aluminium for some time. They did not in fact enter Imbali and they returned to base. Do you recall
that incident? --- I don't recall an incident like that, Sir.
Well, evidence was given to that effect by Mr Radley Keys yesterday, that he phoned the police and Group Nine to persuade them to send troops into Imbali - sorry, it wasn't Radley Keys, it was Professor John Aitchison - and that in fact after an initial agreement to deploy the troops in Imbali a decision must have been taken not to deploy them in Imbali, and the vehicles returned to base. You don't remember that at all? --- I don't remember that at all.
Brigadier, sorry, I just want to return back to this planning, if I may, because ... (intervention) --- Yes, sure.
... clearly you believed at the time that the appropriate deployment of your forces was on the Edendale Road. Let me just say that, unlike my colleagues, I fully understand your position. I just want to clear this up before I go on to the question. In terms of the Defence Act the military may not be deployed in an urban area and under normal circumstances except under command of the SAP, and except where martial law has been declared. --- Yes.
I just want to put that on the table so everyone understands that. Is that correct? --- I must qualify, Sir, the command part of what you are saying. It is essentially true that if the Defence Force deploys in any situation now, without an emergency situation and so on, that the police are in control. But the Defence Force members remains under the command of their own people.
Fair enough. --- So essentially the police are still the main role-players, they are in control, yes, it is quite correct.
So obviously if the police say, "Get out of an area," you don't argue, you just get out. --- As I stated to the lady earlier, I believe that any decision like that must be, and as far as I know normally will be, a joint decision. In other words the two commanders on the ground will assess the situation and they will make a decision that will solve the developing situation on the ground there. I believe it's a joint thing.
But clearly if they can't reach agreement what the police guy says is what will go at the end of the day. --- Yes, that I think is essentially true, yes.
Okay. I just want to come back to the planning issues, as I said earlier. You've told us that in terms of your plan your forces would be deployed along the Edendale Road to keep the road open. --- Yes, Sir.
Where were the other forces to be deployed, and what was the plan in that regard? In other words where were the police people going to be? You would have had to know where they were going to be as you had a plan. --- I understand the question. It is difficult - it is impossible for me to answer that because I didn't make that plan. I was aware of the planning, and we were aware of the bus incidents that took place when the buses through Edendale Valley, and sitting thinking here I think the buses and the incidents on the Edendale Road were concentrated on in that specific plan. So what the police have planned for the rest of the area I cannot answer, Sir, I am afraid.
Okay. Are you aware that the rally that these people were going to was in fact paid for by the Government in essence? --- Are you referring to the Durban rally, Sir?
Correct. --- No, I wasn't aware of that.
You see, we in this Commission are hearing evidence on a regular basis of the fact that the security forces and your ... (incomplete - end of Side A, Tape 3) ... the security branch. And that's why we know to the last cent how much was paid - some R152 000,00 odd. That rally was arranged by the police for Inkatha. So it should not come as a surprise then that in your planning your elements would have known that the rally was being paid for, because you guys paid for it. --- Sir, I must react on what you have just said. I, as a group commander, at the time and even today, didn't know that information. We didn't pay for that. So you may be right, Sir, I must - you may be right, but what I want to place on record is that the knowledge of whoever organised that or paid for it, that was definitely not visible on my level.
You see, what I am attempting to give you an insight into is that you may have been a military commander doing your duty as you saw fit, but there were other role- players you were working with that had another agenda completely, and those would have been people like Brigadier Buchner that you would have worked with. So it doesn't surprise us, seeing the big picture, to see that you were relegated to a duty of keeping the road open, while the rest of the main offensive was happening up in the valley. Do you see what I am saying to you? --- Well, I hear what you're saying to me. Of course, you
know, I cannot respond to that. I am, and was, a military commander of this area, doing things according to our military rules and regulations, so I cannot comment on the rest of the possibilities that could have existed at the time.
Let me put it to you this way. You're a senior Defence Force officer. I can see you're a highly intelligent man. As an officer, if you were to assess the facts I've just put to you, what conclusion could you possibly come to, being absolutely honest about the facts? --- I think it is maybe, if I may say so, a little bit unfair question to pose to me, because I may be a senior officer now, but we must please keep in mind that at the time of these things that we are discussing today that this area was my world, and my frame of reference comes from whatever happened in this area. So I cannot, based on anything, come to specific conclusions about things. I think that would be irresponsible of me to do so, and I think maybe I should say that no, Sir, I cannot comment on that specific part.
You see, what I am really asking you to do is to, with the benefit of hindsight, look back, and today say if you knew what you knew today what conclusions would you come to? That's really what I am asking you to do. But you don't have to answer the question, I can see you're unwilling to. --- Yes. Yes.
But that's okay. --- I must put on record I am unwilling to do so, because we are judging a local situation here, and I cannot for the life of me extend that thing into speculating and so on. I think I will not be able to comment on that.
That's fine. Unfortunately it's my job to judge the situation. --- Thank you.
Before Dlamini goes on, because he has not had a chance, I want to put it just nicely to make it easier for you, Brigadier. I am following what my brother has been saying. So much has been said here, and you seem not to be knowing some of the things which have been happening. Are you embarrassed by what you are hearing here? That is very easy. --- Reverend, it is easy and straightforward. In listening to the previous speaker, and sitting here after six years, I am not embarrassed, I am really very sad to hear all these things that happened in the area. But from a military point of view the planning that was done, the way it was executed, it happened in that way. If it proved to be not that effective so be it, but I am not embarrassed, Reverend, really I am not.
You must be very hard. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr Chairman. In fact all the questions have been asked that were quibbling me. It's just one thing to note. I am equally concerned about the amount of joint operations planning that took place. I am trying to relate that to what other witnesses said, especially analysts like Professor Aitchison, Mr Keys, and others, that this incident was not by accident, it was strategically planned. But my question. Brigadier, you have understandably explained to us that the resources were very limited at your disposal, that with adequate resources you would have done some of the things which did
not take place on that day. But the question that I have is, don't you think that with proper and adequate joint operation planning you would have had adequate resources to make sure that people were safe and secure? --- I think that is a fair question. I want to refer back to what I said about the national situation reigning in South Africa at that time. I cannot speak on behalf of the Government or the State, but obviously in assessing the national situation resources at that time were not made available, or were not available to this area, but the reasons for that I cannot comment on. I, as a commander, was given a specific force level, which of course, as you know, was drastically upgraded after this sad incident in Edendale. So essentially, yes, you are correct, but we simply didn't have the resources then.
Sorry, Brigadier, just two last questions. The first aspect - or the two last aspects, should I say. As a person involved in support services and so on, and logistics - we've had evidence of literally 20, 40 trucks, KwaZulu Government vehicles, that were used to ferry these combatants from the gathering places to the areas where the attacks took place. What I find unbelievable is that your intelligence didn't know about this. You know, to have 20 or 40 trucks moving around an area is a pretty obvious thing to see. These are big, white, Toyota Government trucks. I am sure you've seen the like of them before. Just a comment on that. --- Do you want me to comment?
Ja. --- It may be like that, but a report to that nature was never placed on my table in Group Nine.
So it may have happened, but I didn't know of those
The second part of that aspect goes like this. The evidence we've heard is that these many thousands of people that were involved in these attacks spent the nights camped in the vicinity of the two chiefs' homesteads. So we're talking about large camps of people. Surely as a commander of forces - I am asking your opinion if you were in charge - wouldn't the most simple thing to have been is simply surrounded those groups and removed them from the area - disarmed them, removed them from the area? --- Yes, of course. If you look back at any situation it may have been a good thing to do, but the fact is it didn't happen that way, and I believe there must be a number of reasons why it didn't happen that way. And on the matter of, you know, knowledge and intelligence, I think that most of the things are experienced on the ground level and decisions are taken there within the broader framework of, you know, the plan.
No, I understand that. My final question for you, and it really is my final question. What do you know about Operation Doom that we've heard about? --- Operation Doom?
Correct. --- I don't know of Operation Doom.
Brigadier, thank you for giving us your account. What you've had to say has been very revealing. We don't hold you personally responsible, but I think it's evident from what we have heard you say, and from what we have heard other witnesses say, is that the people who died,
and whose property was destroyed, were let down by the
Defence Force and by the South African Police. I think that really is all one can say at this stage. Thank you. --- Thank you, Sir.