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Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 15:09:59 -0500 (EST)
From: Terence Sibiya <tgsst10+@pitt.edu>
To: swazi-net <swazi-net@list.pitt.edu>
Subject: Hearing Portrays Struggle in Durban in Late 80s
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.96L.981120150913.13942H-100000@unixs4.cis.pitt.edu>

Hearing Portrays Struggle in Durban in Late 80s

By Mbongeni Hlophe, Africa News Service
19 November 1998

(The Sowetan, November 20, 1998) - Police informants and Vlakplaas askaris played a vital role in the abduction and assassination of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadres believed to be responsible for several bombs that went off in greater Durban in the 1980s.

This is the picture painted by the testimony of six former Durban security branch police officers applying for amnesty in Durban this week in connection with four incidents that led to the disappearance and death of six African National Congress activists in the late 1980s.

Among them are the late MK Swaziland commander Phila Portia Ndwandwe (also known as Zandile), who was abducted in Manzini in 1987.

She was forced into a vehicle by three police officers assisted by informants who are now "not traceable".

General Johannes Albertus Steyn, Colonel Johannes Hendrik Botha and Sergeant Lourens Gerald Wasserman are applying for amnesty in connection with Ndwandwe's death.

According to them she was killed on a farm in Elandskop, outside Pietermaritzburg, on instructions of the late Durban security branch commander Colonel Andy Taylor.

"We blindfolded her and led her to a shallow grave," said Wasserman. "I struck her with a riot baton until she lost consciousness and I pulled out my pistol and shot her in the head once." Wasserman said Ndwandwe was killed because she refused to cooperate with them when they tried to recruit her as an informer.

"We laid her body in the grave, stripped it of all the clothing and poured agricultural lime on the body to make sure there was no smell to attract unnecessary attention," he said.

Ndwandwe's grave was filled with refuse bags. "We wanted it to look like an old refuse dump. If someone dug, they would be discouraged from digging further," Wasserman added.

Phumezo Nxiweni, another MK cadre and University of Natal law student, was killed and buried in a similar fashion in 1988.

For the past seven days Botha, Wasserman and Colonel Sam du Preez have been attempting to explain to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee why they had to blow up the bodies of three MK cadres.

The "KwaMashu Three" - Sibusiso Ndlovu, Manzi Vilakazi and Elias Mtshali - were lured to Avoca bridge, where they were intercepted by three policemen who later killed them in November 1988.

"We tied them to a railway line and placed their bodies on three land mines to make it look like they were blown up by their own mines while trying to blast the railway line," said Botha.

The three were killed near Phoenix railway station and their bodies were mutilated beyond recognition.

"We forced them to kneel down on the same railway line they were going to blow up and we each had a pistol to shoot the suspects simultaneously," said Wasserman.

The three applicants informed the committee that Taylor told them that the three cadres were very dangerous and that it was impossible to recruit them to join the police network of informants.

However, when questioned about why they did not arrest the three cadres and charge them for formal prosecution, the three former policemen failed to explain this to the committee.

"This could have been a very easy way to remove these people from their activities for at least eight years that they would spend in prison," said amnesty committee chairman Judge Andrew Wilson.

All the former policemen claim they were "just following orders" from their seniors, who were in turn bowing to political pressure on them from National Party politicians.

Utterances such as "you are senseless murderers" and "you deserve to be killed yourself" were constantly heard from the audience during the hearings.

"You will never see heaven because you killed our relatives without any reason," said Sipho Ndlovu, whose brother was among the assassinated.

Members of Stanley Sipho Bhila's family appealed to the committee to assist them to locate the spot and the cliff from which his body was thrown.

His killers said the body was dumped at Umbumbulu, south of Durban, 11 years ago. But attempts to find his body on Wednesday proved fruitless.

Bhila's death seemed to indicate the frustration of police because his assassination came only three days after he was acquitted in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on charges related to the bombing of Amanzimtoti's Sanlam Centre in December 1985.

Steyn, Wasserman, Sergeant Adrian Roslee, Sergeant Daniel Bosch and Colonel Frank McCarter admitted that Bhila's killing was prompted by anger at his having escaped conviction because of a lack of evidence in the bombing trial.

"We were convinced that he was guilty of the offence but the court failed to convict and sentence him," said McCarter during his testimony last week.

It emerged during the amnesty hearing that the lack of evidence in Bhila's prosecution was due to the possible implication of police informants who apparently participated in the bombing while they were still on the side of the ANC.

It appears that police did not submit this evidence in court because their informants would have been forced to testify and their identities would then be disclosed. But Bhila's family still hope that his body will be found.

"Just knowing the spot where he was dumped will have positive meaning to us," his sister Nonhlanhla told Sowetan.

By Mbongeni Hlophe

Copyright 1998 The Sowetan. Distributed via Africa News Online.

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