Joe Mamasela, himself a self-confessed hitsquad member, described the beating to death of the Pebco Three as some of the most savage and brutal behaviour he had ever witnessed.

Testifying before the amnesty committee in Port Elizabeth on Monday, Mamasela recounted the final gruesome hours of the three members of the Port Elizabeth Black Civics Organisation who mysteriously disappeared in May 1985. He painted a graphic picture of how the three were abducted at the Port Elizabeth airport, taken to a deserted police station near Cradock and then systematically beaten to death.

This account contrasted sharply with the testimony given by the policemen applying for amnesty for the deaths of Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela and Qaqawuli Godolozi, the Pebco Three.

In their application for amnesty, the policemen admitted to killing the three, but said they were merely shot to death and were neither interrogated nor tortured.

The applicants are former Port Elizabeth security policemen Col Gideon Nieuwoudt, Gehardus Lotz, Col Herman du Plessis, Capt Sakkie van Zyl and Col Harold Snyman, Gerhardus Beeslaar, Johannes Koole and askari Peter Mogoai.

Mamasela was confident in his testimony and provided the gruesome details with great gusto.

During interrogation by Kobus Booysen appearing for the policemen, Mamasela was aggressive and argumentative. The chairman of the committee, Judge Bernhard Ngoepe, on several occasions asked him to restrain himself and to listen to the questions.

He also warned that the committee would form an impression of a witness, not only by the content of his testimony, but by the way he conducted himself.

Mamasela's testimony has thrown more light on what became of the Pebco Three whose disappearance was a mystery until April last year. In a dramatic conffession on televsion, Mamasela admitted to being part of a squad of policemen that killed the three.

Testifying at the hearing on Friday, Mamasela gave a graphic account of how the three were interrogated, tortured and then systematically beaten to death. He described how Hashe, after being severely beaten, offered to take the police to his sister's home where some AK47's were supposedly hidden.

Mamasela said he gained the impression that Hashe was making up the story in order to save his own life. His effort proved futile because, according to Mamasela, one of the policemen, Warrant Office Johannes Koole, jumped on to the Hashe's chest with his knees and strangled him to death.

Mamasela described Koole as "vicious bull terrier".

Godolozi, the second of the three to be interrogated, tried to tell his captors that he worked for National Intelligence Services. Mamasela said he believed this was also a ruse by Godolozi to save his own life.

According to Mamasela, they then questioned Galela who was subjected to prolonged beating by being kicked, punched and struck with a stick and a steel pipe. Mamasela said at one stage, Beeslaar squeezed Galela's testicles "until they were the size of golf balls" and then punched them with his fist.

"This is most brutal thing I've ever witnessed. It was a dehumanising experience," he said adding that Galela also later died from his injuries

Mamasela said Godolozi, who had been spared, was forced to sleep the night next to the bodies of his colleagues.

He said the next morning a man who wore a smart suit and "looked like a gentleman" arrived. He was apparently from NIS and said Godolozi had provided them with no useful information.

This proved to be Godolozi's death warrant and he was then also beaten to death, Masamela said.

The hearing is continuing in the Centenary Hall in New Brighton near Port Elizabeth.

South African Press Association, 1998
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