The ANC security officer who ordered the Shell House shootings in March 1994 believed his actions ensured that the historic April 1994 election went ahead, the Truth and Reconciliation's amnesty committee heard on Monday.

Gary John Kruser, 37, was deputy head of security in the African National Congress' intelligence and security department when thousands of Inkatha Freedom Party supporters marched on the ANC headquarters at Shell House in Plein Street, Johannesburg, on 28 March 1994.

Kruser is one of 13 ANC security staff members applying for amnesty for the shooting in which eight people died and 84 were injured.

He told the amnesty committtee that if he had not given the order to repel the marchers, they would have invaded the ANC headquarters and this could have resulted in the murder of ANC leaders. He said if this had happened, the democratic election would not have taken place.

Describing the events of that fateful day on which more than 50 people were killed in violence in and around Johannesburg, Kruser said he had been warned that Inkatha Freedom Party marchers intended attacking Shell House.

He said the first indication of the violence that was to follow was crowds of people running past the entrance to Shell House. Some people tried to enter the building to seek shelter from the approaching marchers.

Kruser said waves of marchers passed by, but one particular group stopped and performed what appeared to be a war dance. They were armed with spears and sticks, and some had firearms. He said he noticed an automatic rifle that one of the marchers was trying to conceal under his jacket.

Kruser said gunfire from the crowd rang out and bullets struck the walls of Shell House. He said he ordered his security staff to fire warning shots but this did not seem to deter the advancing marchers. He then gave the order to repel the attack and the firing commenced.

Once the attack had been warded off he immediately gave the order to stop firing.

Kruser said he regretted the deaths that occurred during the march but believed he had no other option at the time than to give the order to fire.

The application for amnesty by Kruser and the other 12 is being opposed on the grounds that the full reasons for the shooting were not being disclosed and there was no political motive.

Danie Dorfling, who is appearing for some of the victims of the shooting, told the hearing they believed they were shot for no reason. They also claimed they were ordered by their indunas (chiefs) to take part in the march in support of the Zulu monarchy.

Earlier in the hearing George Bizos SC, who is appearing for the applicants, told the committee the march had been organised by two IFP leaders, Humphrey Ndlovu and Themba Khoza. He said attempts to portray the march as being in support of the Zulu king were a smokescreen for the IFP's intentions to cause chaos in Johannesburg.

Bizos produced documents which showed that chaos was brewing in the Johannesburg city centre on the morning of the march on Shell House and police had warned the IFP to control their supporters.

The warning was contained in transcripts of a conversation between police liaison officer Captain Chris Wilken and Ndlovu and Khoza on the morning of the march.

According to the transcripts Wilken told the officials the marchers were stoning cars, blocking roads and shooting at policemen.

"... you must try from your utmost side to calm people down... Otherwise we're gonna have chaos in town this morning," Wilken told Ndlovu.

In a lengthy address to the committee, Bizos quoted repeatedly from the record of the inquest into the shootings. Members of the audience became impatient during his address and began voicing their disapproval.

"Tell us why they shot us, not about the inquest," people shouted from the audience.

Committee chairman Judge Hassan Mall adjourned the proceedings until the audience settled down.

The hearing at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg continues on Tuesday.

South African Press Association, 1998
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