From: A Crime Against Humanity - Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State edited by Max Coleman

Up to this point attention has been focussed on those forms of apartheid repression, which have enjoyed the dubious benefit of the cloak of respectability conferred by legislation emerging from the apartheid parliament. But there is much, much further to travel in order to comprehend the full spectrum of 'total strategy'. The time has come to descend into the murky depths of extra-legal forms of repression, referred to collectively as 'covert operations'.

The repression iceberg

Apartheid repression can be likened to an iceberg, having a visible portion known as formal repression and a submerged portion known as 'informal or extra-legal' repression. The deeper one goes, the murkier the picture becomes and the hazier the statutory links. It is in this netherworld that covert operations are located but they are a part of the whole. Each stratum within this iceberg uses methods less defensible publicly than the previous one and relies therefore on a. greater degree of secrecy and covertness.

The first stratum, based on security legislation, relies on laws passed by the apartheid parliament and on the existence of a massive law enforcement machinery and has been comprehensively covered in Chapters 2 to 5. The second, a security management system, which, while it has no constitutional status, draws on the support of public structures, but also goes much deeper - it can be said to be located on the waterline of the iceberg and extending downwards. The third, vigilantism, relies upon the planting of a 'fifth column' within dissident communities. The fourth, hit squads, is a means of last resort, the elimination of political opponents and the crippling of their structures by faceless assassins and strike groups: they lie at the depths of visibility and legality. There is a fifth component in a special category which deserves attention, namely, external destabilisation, that is, the destabilisation of South Africa's neighbours.

In this chapter we explore the depths of what is known variously as informal repression, counter- revolutionary warfare, low-intensity conflict, or simply - covert operations. Here we shall encounter, not acts of parliament, no laws nor promulgated regulations but centres of control, receiving information, making decisions and issuing instructions - all without any constitutional status but nevertheless supported by secret budgets and resources with no public accountability. For example, within the national budget for 1989/90 over R6 billion was allocated to secret funds about which the public was not entitled to know.
In order to undertake this journey free use is made of the following HRC publications and co-publications:
• Human Rights and Repression in South Africa, HRC/SACC/SACBC (May 1989)
• Children and Repression, HRC (January 1990)
• State Violence, HRC (August 1990)
• The CCB, HRC/David Webster Trust (September 1990)

In addition, other sources are drawn upon and acknowledged in the appropriate place.


Situated at the waterline from which it could control both the visible and the submerged portions of the iceberg is the security management system known previously as the 'National Security Management System' (NSMS) but more recently renamed the 'National Co-ordinating Mechanism'.

During the days of the NSMS, the nerve centre was the State Security Council, which effectively ran the country as a super cabinet over the parliamentary cabinet but without my statutory status. The nerve ends of the system were the approximately 500 regional, district and local Joint Management Centres known as JMCs, forming a complete network around the country and with their fingers on the pulse of every area, township and village.

In this way a constant stream of information was fed to the SSC enabling it to formulate a continuous national security profile and take decisions at both national and local levels, ' Such decisions could then be implemented by the formal law enforcement structures backed by legislation or by other structures acting covertly. In this way, action could be and was ' taken at both a macro- and a micro-level. The means existed to react to developing situations with large-scale measures of an overt or covert nature and at the other end of the scale, to remove a troublesome individual like Matthew Goniwe from society, again by) either overt or covert measures.


There can be no security without reform'. This was the slogan of the P.W. Botha government in the early 1980s and it neatly summed up the intentions of the 'total strategy' reforms of the period. But the failure of those reforms to in any way meet black political aspirations and the threat of the 'people's power' uprising from 1984 to 1986 have led the state to adopt a new set of more thoroughgoing and military informed strategies, known as 'counter-revolutionary warfare'. Law and order minister has often expressed the essence of the new counter-revolutionary policies.

Adriaan Vlok. To defeat the 'revolution', he says, the state must do 3 things:
• address the security situation (State of Emergency);
• address grievances and bring good government to the ordinary person (upgrading and municipal elections);
• and address the political question (the National Council with limited black

The National Management System and its 500 odd Joint Management Centres (JMCs) are the key co-ordinating structure in the implementation of this new strategy. It is designed, in the words of police counter-insurgency chief Bert Wandrag, to 'nip the revolution in the bud'. But the government's secretive network is struggling to fulfill the intentions of state security planners.

JMCs fall under the jurisdiction of the secretive 'super-cabinet' - the State Security Council - and are the regional, district and local extensions of the National Management System. According to the generals and police chiefs who set them up, they are supposed to co-ordinate the counter-revolutionary warfare strategy of 'eliminating' activists and 'winning hearts and minds' of the masses (WHAM), which has been put into action since 1986. But the growing economic crisis, increasing expenditure on the instruments of repression, the illegitimacy of minority rule and the depth of black political resistance are proving to be insurmountable obstacles to the 'crush - create - co-opt - reform' strategy of the National Party state.

It is in the make-up of a JMC that the overall intentions of the new security managed policies can best be found. A JMC has 5 committees - Intelligence, Security, Welfare, Communications and an Executive Committee, which brings together representatives of each of the 4 functional committees. The committees are known by their Afrikaans acronyms, thus GIK (Gesamentlike Intelligensie Komitee - intelligence), Veikom (Veiligheids Komitee - security), Semkom (Staatkundige, Ekonomiese en Maatskaplike Komitee - welfare) and Komkom (Kommunikasie Komitee - communications).

The Intelligence Committee is staffed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the security branch of the South African Police (SAP) and Military Intelligence. It collects 2 broad kinds of intelligence on communities. The first is 'hard' intelligence on the intentions, plans, activities and problems of activists and their organisations. This intelligence is then channelled to the Security Committee. A second kind of intelligence, so called 'soft' intelligence, encompasses the universe of attitudes, grievances and perspectives which make up a community's overall stance toward the state, its officials and its reform programme. This intelligence is sent to the Welfare Committee.

The functions of the Security Committee and the Welfare Committee encapsulate the overall intentions of state security strategists. These are, to use the words of law and order minister Vlok, to 'take out' activists while 'addressing grievances'. Thereby, it is hoped the conditions will have been laid for eventual political reform through a new accommodating local leadership and the hearts and minds of the masses will be won over to the state instead of the 'revolutionaries'.

The Security Committee, which is staffed by riot police, security police, soldiers and officers of the municipal police and kitskonstabels ('instant police') is the repressive arm of the system. It co-ordinates the process of detentions, restrictions, bannings, spying, monitoring and allegedly also violent attacks and harassment which are made on those • who are seen to represent an extra-parliamentary threat to the state. The Welfare Committee, on the other hand, takes responsibility for co-ordinating the functions of the civilian administration. In areas identified as important to the counter-revolutionary effort, in particular education and local upgrade programmes; it helps cut red tape and ensures that things get done. Its membership consists of officials of the non-security state departments such as roads, education, welfare, manpower and health as well as local and regional officials of the provincial administrations and Regional Services Councils (RSCs). This overall Security Management strategy is sold to the public via the fourth of the JMC's committees, Komkom. Staffed by local representatives of the Bureau for Information, plus public relations personnel from government departments, Komkom attempts to ensure the maximum publicity for welfare type projects and government supporting 'counter-organisations' (such as counter-youth groups, gospel associations, sports bodies, and local authorities) while explaining the sincerity of state reforms by means of letters, pamphlets, film, radio, television, newspapers, meetings and organised tours.

Business involvement in the JMC strategy comes essentially through its central role in the privatisation and upgrading effort. In addition JMCs have established so-called Community Liaison Forums and Joint Liaison Committees for the purposes of private sector liaison. Many businesses and civic and welfare type organisations which have participated in these bodies have been unaware of the full ramifications of their involvement. Although government ministers have at several times stated in parliament that the system is not secret, they have certainly not gone out of their way to make its workings public. This has led both opposition politicians and academic observers to allege that it has become a 'shadow state' unaccountable to elected officials. What cannot be disputed is that the system - which constitutionally has no status - has effectively appropriated many executive and decision-making powers for itself and is able to lean heavily on departmental officials to implement policies determined within the security dominated JMCs.

from Children and Repression
HRC, January 1990

Since the imposition of the national State of Emergency in June 1986 up until June 1989, the state adopted various strategies that can be broadly conceptualised and analysed as a 3-phase strategy. The intentions of the state security strategists, in the words of law and order minister Adriaan Viok, has been to 'take out' and 'eliminate' activists in the first place, while 'addressing grievances' in the second place and thirdly, to find a constitutional dispensation acceptable to the majority of South Africans.

Phase 1 'Bomb the enemy' (12 June 1986-11 June 1987)

The nature of repression during this period can be summed up as generalised repression. We saw the mass occupation of townships, villages and schools by joint 'security forces'. Particular forms of stare repression concentrated on smashing the infrastructure of the mass democratic movement. Areas of community based power and mass mobilisation were closed off. The state's aim was to smash and immobilise community organisations.
From the strategies and forms of repression during this period one can conclude that the main aims of the state were to:
• reverse the 'revolutionary' situation,
• ‘pacify' and demoralise the population,
• create a 'political wasteland' by crushing the democratic movement.

Phase 2 'Creating good government' or counter-revolutionary bases (11 June 1987-26 October 1988 and beyond)

In 1987, one of the state's major 'reform' policies was the decentralisation of repressive power to regional and local levels administered by 11 Joint Management Centres (JMCs). The 11 JMCs correspond to the area commands of the SADF. There are 60 sub-JMCs operating at the level of Regional Services Councils (RSC) and almost 500 mini-JMCs at the level of local authorities.

The immediate task of the JMCs has been to neutralise the power of mass-based democratic organisations, and regain control of the townships. By relying on the JMCs, RSCs and local authorities to maintain 'peace', the state could then reduce the profile of the South African Defence Force and the South African Police. It also increased the role of the municipal police and kitskonstabels or instant cops. (The term 'kitskonstabel' is derived from the fact that they undergo only 6 weeks of training.) At the same time, the level of vigilante action increased and vigilante crimes remain unsolved. The informer network was re-established. Principals and education authorities were co-opted to re-establish control of the schools.

On 24 February 1988, amendments to the Emergency regulations empowered the state to take action against organisations. 17 organisations were restricted, including a number of youth and student organisations. All activities of the democratic movement were effectively banned or restricted. The state also attempted to break the power of the democratic unions by restricting them from participating in politics.

At the same time, in order to make way for the government's so-called reform initiatives, the 'oil spot policy' was instituted in which oil is poured on 'troubled areas'.' This is a process of selective upgrading, the purpose being to 'win the hearts and minds' of people by diffusing their grievances. People mobilise and organise around their grievances. By attempting to diffuse grievances, the state is attempting to break organisations. It is the role of the JMCs to co-ordinate, monitor and develop strategies to ensure the implementation of these reformist policies at local and regional level (without addressing the real problems of apartheid). The JMCs have the dual task of carrying out the state's policy of repression and reform. While meeting some of the community's demands for the provision of services and infrastructure, the JMCs simultaneously remove from circulation the leaders who articulate grievances and political aspirations. The leaders are either detained, forced into hiding or subjected to campaigns of intimidation. In Alexandra Township, for example, after detaining a large number of Alexandra Youth Congress activists, the state ploughed R90 million into upgrading projects in an attempt to win over a community who for 40 years had been denied electricity, waterborne sewerage, post offices, and sufficient schools and homes. Through these 'oil spots' the security forces believed they could 'regain control' over the black population. The state however, does not have the economic resources to upgrade areas on a national scale.

The conclusions that one can reach about the aims of the state during this period are that the state was attempting to:
1. Internalise and localise the conflict by building up local repressive forces.
2. Re-establish local apartheid structures.
3. Disorganise and diffuse peoples' grievances by selectively upgrading various areas and sectors.
4. Isolate and 'pacify' the areas continuing to resist.
5. Isolate the leaders and organisations of the democratic movement from the masses, and prevent their re-emergence.
6. Isolate the trade unions from the mass democratic movement.
7. Re-establish the building blocks of constitutional 'reform'.

Phase 3: 'Constitutional reform' (late 1988 to mid-1989)

The goal of the state during this period has been the maintenance of relative 'peace' in order to proceed with constitutional reform. During this period the state has aimed to:
1. Consolidate local and regional structures.
2. Create patronage and dependency through the policies of selective upgrading.
3. Divide the mass democratic movement.


Vigilantism is an important component of the counter-revolutionary tactic of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), which first evolved in Algeria and was further developed in South and Central America.

Vigilante groups first wade their appearance in South Africa around 1985 and have their origins in the support systems, which were built up around the highly unpopular apartheid created structures of homeland authorities and Black Local Authorities (BLAs). They were often recruited from conservative 'traditional' elements, or from the ranks of the desperate unemployed and even from criminal elements. Having a vested interest in these structures that they were called upon or paid to protect, they would intervene, often with extreme violence, in any situation which threatened those structures, such as calls for those authorities to resign. Their growth was actively encouraged or tacitly condoned by the state through thinly disguised support by the security forces, but also by covert support through funding, training and motivating.

Vigilantes and the Policing of South Africa N. Haysom, 1989


Trade unionists in the Pietermaritzburg area refer to the nearby Edendale Valley as the 'valley of widows'. It has more widows, they claim, than any other valley in South Africa. In 1988 twice as many persons died as a result of vigilante and counter-vigilante violence in the greater Pietermaritzburg area than died in Beirut in the same period. Since vigilante violence erupted in that region over 1200 persons have died, thousands have been subjected to violence on their person or property in one form or another, an estimated 30 000 persons have become internal refugees. Yet in 1988 South African television viewers were exposed only to the human tragedy that is Beirut. They saw little visual footage of the Edendale Valley, if indeed they saw any at all.

By October 1988 over 90% of unrest-related deaths were caused by vigilante and counter-vigilante violence in South Africa. This is a turn-about from the October 1984 figures. It is clear that township residents in South Africa are now far more likely to die as a result of vigilante violence than they are as a result of confrontations with the South African police. For these residents the vigilante phenomenon has become the most terrifying manifestation of a conflict-ridden society. How is it that such extreme violence can be tolerated? How can it occur with such little official concern, such limited local and international media attention?

Low intensity conflict

This paper suggests that the operation of vigilante groups in South Africa's black areas since 1985 is an expression of the militarisation of South Africa, that the prevalence and operation of these groups should be seen as the internal equivalent of the strategy of destabilisation of neighbouring states. It is a low intensity civil war, which appears to be conducted an arm's length away from an aggressive state. In fact, however, the state benefits in a variety of ways from the conflict it licenses or sponsors, indeed more so than it would from direct intervention.

As commentators have noted, there is a strong parallel to be drawn between vigilante violence in South Africa, and that in El Salvador and the Philippines. In those countries violence by vigilante and civilian units have become a central component of the mode of repression adopted by the governing regimes. Modern counter-insurgency theory lays stress on 'total war' - which incorporates a 'winning of hearts and minds' (WHAM) component. The necessity of destroying popular movements without appearing to be directly waging war on the populace is the dilemma that has led to the U.S. sanctioned 'low-intensity' civil wars of Central America, the vigilante movements of the Philippines and the destabilisation of states in Southern Africa. The logic of this theory involves the clandestine creation of surrogate armed forces but which organisations appear to emerge spontaneously' from the 'people' themselves. It is then claimed that the Contras, UNITA, (the Philippines vigilante groupings are an expression of popular support, or popular rebellion, as the case may be.


It is necessary to describe the operation and emergence of vigilante groupings in South Africa. This paper records only the patterns and implications of vigilante activities, rather than providing specific details of the various vigilante groupings in South Africa.

The term 'vigilante' is itself a source of confusion. In South Africa the term 'vigilantes' connotes violent, organised and conservative groupings operating within black communities, which, although they receive no official recognition, are politically directed in the sense that they act to neutralise individuals and groupings opposed to the apartheid state and its institutions. These features, and the fact that they are alleged to enjoy varying degrees of police support, is all that links the A-Team, Phakatis, Mabangalala, Amadoda, Witdoeke, Amosolomzi, Amabutho, Mbhokhoto and the Green Berets.

Vigilantes are not an entirely new phenomenon in South Africa. For example, vigilantes supervised by the Ciskeian authorities terrorised the inhabitants of Mdantsane during the course of a bus boycott in that town from June to October 1983. However, 1985 saw a sudden proliferation of such groups as well as the emergence of their more complex urban counterparts.

In 1986 a survey of 13 communities, which had experienced vigilante violence revealed a distinct pattern in this new phenomenon. The communities examined in the survey included Crossroads, Ashton and KTC (Western Cape), Queenstown and Fort Beaufort (Eastern Cape), Huhudi (Northern Cape), Thabong (Orange Free State), Umlazi, Inanda and Lamontville (Natal), Leandra, Moutse and Ekangala (Eastern Transvaal) and Soweto (Transvaal).

Firstly, as community leaders from the Cape to the Transvaal reported, nation-wide vigilante activity in the form of violence against members of anti-apartheid organisations commenced in 1985. The intimate connection between the emergence of vigilante activity and the more general political crisis in South Africa is evident from the fact that vigilantes emerged in 1985 as the political crisis in South Africa deepened and, as the crisis of control over black areas extended geographically, so did the incidence of vigilante activity.

Secondly, the composition of both the vigilante leadership and the victim groups were broadly the same in all regions. The target groups were those perceived to be resisting apartheid institutions whether they be students campaigning against 'Bantu education', community leaders creating alternative black municipal structures or communities resisting the jurisdiction of homeland authorities. Vigilante leadership is comprised mostly of functionaries in the homeland governments (including chiefs) and in the urban areas members of the state and local state organs (police and community councillors) or members of an 'embryonic middle-class with an interest in stability and a natural inclination to conservatism'. In the Pietermaritzburg area the warlords appear to come from both homeland functionaries and the members of such an 'embryonic middle class'.

The third feature in the pattern of vigilante violence is such that the vigilantes appear to enjoy police support, operating brazenly as if there are no legal consequences to their extra-legal violence.

It cannot be proven that all vigilante groups have received direct sanction or open support from the security forces - although they allegedly did in areas such as Crossroads, Kwanobuhle and Queenstown. Direct support is not necessary for the generation of vigilante conflict. A mere reluctance to curb vigilante activity or a failure to intervene in conflict in the townships allows one group a substantial advantage over the other. The effect is much the same whether the police actively sanction and support the vigilantes or whether they merely appear incapable of or reluctant to curb vigilante activities, particular­ly where the vigilante group has access to firearms. The police's passivity while the vigilante gang killed community leader Mayise in Leandra (Transvaal), an impi of lnkatha supporters marched into Lamontville (Natal) or the Mbhokhoto leaders pursued an intensive regional campaign of intimidation in Kwa Ndebele, must be contrasted to the police's vigorous dispersal of UDF gatherings or their prosecution of members of anti-apartheid organisations or trade unions. When the victim communities or organisations attempt physical contest with the vigilantes, police intervention has supported the vigilantes.

The vigilantes' use of township council facilities (notably in Thabong and Ashton) and resources provided by homeland governments (in KwaNdebele and Ciskei) reveals that support for vigilante activities may take a variety of forms. A copy of minutes of a meeting between a senior police officer and black traders in the Vaal triangle area on 13 November 1985, suggests that police attitudes could have prompted vigilante formation in some areas. At this meeting the police officer offered to arm the traders and encouraged them to form a self-protection organisation. It should be mentioned that it is nearly impossible for a black South African to acquire a gun licence without police approval. In Natal many of the vigilante warlords openly carry firearms and there is evidence to suggest that the police have armed some of these warlords or tolerate others carrying firearms when they knew that the warlord had no permit to carry a firearm.

Finally, a distinctive feature of vigilantism is the extreme and brutal nature of the violence. Thus vigilante violence is associated with the brutalisation of the body of the victims including, the dismemberment or decapitation of the victims. Vigilante violence is extreme and symbolic terror.

Some vigilante incidents

Although the composition and operation of these groupings varies from region to region, the face of the vigilante phenomenon is well illustrated by the following random but representative incidents described in Mabangalala (Haysom, 1986) and elsewhere:
* In April/May 1985 a vigilante grouping calling themselves the 'Phakatis' emerged in Thabong township in the Orange Free State. The grouping, openly using the facilities of the municipal authority, embarked on a campaign of indiscriminate assaults on youths whom they believed were involved in a school boycott. One night they apprehended a boy on the streets, David Mabenyane, and whipped him so severely that he died. After whipping the boy and while he was still alive they dropped him at the local police station.
• During August 1985 armed gangs of so-called 'Amabutho' took to searching houses in Umlazi, Natal, claiming they were looking for United Democratic Front (UDF) 'troublemakers'. Mr B.M., a UDF supporter, was at home one night when the Amabutho arrived at his house, surrounded it and set it alight. His brother, Michael, attempted to flee with his infant niece but was shot in the head. His elder sister Florence was also shot as she tried to escape the flames. B.M. recognized 1 of the 3-armed men as a local member of the KwaZulu homeland legislature.
* In 1985 the KwaNdebele homeland leader, Simon Skosana, launched a vigilante organisation called 'Mbhokoto'. On 1 January 1986 a large group of Mbhokoto vigilantes from KwaNdebele abducted over 400 men from the Moutse district, a district resisting the jurisdiction of the KwaNdebele homeland authorities and were taken to a community hall in the capital of KwaNdebele. There they were ordered to strip and were severely beaten for several hours before being released. The prime minister of KwaNdebele supervised the assaults. Some of the victims identified their assailants to the police. Police have not as yet apprehended any of the assailants.
• More recently in Kwanobuhle, a township bordering on Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, a vigilante group calling itself 'AmaAfrika' emerged in the latter part of 1986. On 4 January 1987 a mob marched through the township destroying the houses of 14 activists and killing 2 persons in a 12-hour attack. The Monitor (June 1988, p.46) describes the attack:
All the houses they attacked were in the area now known as old Kwanobuhle and in particular in the very oldest section known as Angola. Most of these houses were the homes of members of United Democratic Front-affiliated organisations such as the Uitenhage Youth Congress or area committees ... One of the most disturbing aspects of the day's events was that the Kwanobuhle Municipal Police and the South African Police apparently made little effort to curtail the violence and destruction. It appears to have been pre-arranged by the 2 parties with the understanding that the vigilantes would perpetrate the destruction and assaults with the police monitoring the events to ensure the safety and success of the AmaAfrika... They also used it as an opportunity to take more detainees.
• In Leandra, a black township on the East Rand, the residents had been involved in a campaign to improve their living conditions and to prevent the forced removal of the inhabitants of the township. To this end they formed an alternative civic structure to the officially approved municipal council. By late 1985 the organisational strength of the alternative Leandra Action Committee (LAC) was such that the authorities were compelled to negotiate with one of its leaders, Chief Ampie Mayise, and not the officially recognised black councillors. Shortly thereafter vigilantes began brazenly attacking members of the Leandra Action Committee. The attacks culminated in a mob assault on Chief Mayise's house on 11 January 1986 during which Mayise was publicly hacked to death. A policeman alerted to the attack by Mayise's call for assistance to the") nearby police station was ordered not to intervene. Shortly thereafter youths in the township were ‘forced to flee the area for fear of their lives. The leader of the LAC's house was later attacked and the Leandra Action Committee collapsed. Throughout the period of violence the police are alleged to have openly sided with the vigilantes.
• In January 1986, vigilantes calling themselves 'Witdoeke', emerged in 4 squatter camps referred to here as Crossroads and KTC. The communities numbering nearly 70 000 persons had been engaged for several years in a struggle with the authorities over their right to live in these squatter settlements. They had persisted in their campaign despite detentions, threats and intrigue by the authorities. Vigilantes, with the police allegedly intervening only to assist the Witdoeke, tore through the camps in May and June, destroying and burning the houses and driving the inhabitants out. Inhabitants of the squatter camps have described the attacks, which started on 17 May, alleging that police assisted the Witdoeke at the camps by breaking up groups of resisting residents and clearing the way for Witdoeke to penetrate the camp. Police stood by and watched the illegal destruction of property and the assaults. They allegedly intervened whenever the Witdoeke were under attack. During the attack on KTC, which commenced on 9 June, the police were also alleged to have accompanied the Witdoeke and to have broken the defence line formed by resisting residents. Witdoeke also took 'prisoners' and tortured them without police intervention. In the 2 attacks 53 people were killed and 7000 shacks demolished. In weeks the vigilantes accomplished what the state had failed to do in 10 years. The 70 000 refugees were compelled to seek refuge in other townships including the government designated option - Khayelitsha. The government has denied responsibility for this tragedy but undoubtedly the alliance between vigilantes and security forces made a forced removal possible whereas the authorities were incapable of doing this themselves legally and openly.

From vigilantes to community guards

A national trend, which has caused concern amongst human rights activists and victim communities alike, is the induction of vigilantes into the state's formal law and order machinery. The incorporation of many of the Queenstown vigilantes into the Queenstown Commando is one such example. A more prevalent form of this process is taking place through the appointment of community guards, a form of municipal police under the control of the community councillors. It has already been reported that erstwhile vigilantes in Ashton, Thabong and Mpumalanga have made application to join the community guards. Minister Heunis stated in 1986 that R26 million has been allocated for the training of 5000 guards.

List of vigilante groups

The municipal police ('greenflies') and police auxilliaries (kitskonstabels) have indeed, made a special contribution to converting the mood of the townships from protest to fear. Human rights groups from the Eastern Cape to the Transvaal report numerous incidents in which the municipal police have assumed the methods of the vigilantes. Complaints include torture, beatings, thefts and forcible evictions. Their responsibilities have less to do with crime prevention and more to do with pacification. More importantly, the greenflies' increased involvement with the policing of the townships has gone hand in hand with a withdrawal of the security forces from these areas. Thirdly, there has been little or no attempt by the authorities to curb the illegal activities of these forces despite the intense resentment towards them by ordinary residents. The use of municipal police and police auxiliaries is directly in line with a militarisation of ordinary residents and a de-militarisation of the actual government of the townships.

Note: It is appropriate to mention here that vigilantism was destined to play a major role in the post-total strategy era of destabilisation.


Delving further into the murky depths of covert operations we find hit squads. The term 'hit squads' is used rather than 'death squads' since the scope of operations has included activities other than assassinations, such as harassing and threatening individuals to scare them off, destroying facilities of organisations and sowing confusion and dissension through the spread of disinformation. We are now at the lowest depths of the iceberg with zero visibility and zero legality.

HRC, August 1990

The existence of hit squads has been felt for many years through assassinations and other acts which have occurred since the mid 1970s and which were clearly of a political nature. In the 1980s, and especially during the years of the Emergency, these incidents escalated sharply in frequency and level of sophistication, both internally and externally. It became clear that such actions were the work, not of individuals acting on the spur of the moment, but of well organised hit squads operating with the advantages of expertise, skills, information, equipment, financial resources and, it seemed, immunity from discovery or prosecution. It also became clear that their purposes were the elimination of anti-apartheid political activists by assassination or their intimidation by harassment of every conceivable kind; and the crippling or disruption of anti-apartheid organisations through destroying their offices by bombing or fire or through burgling or wrecking their equipment and records.

A common denominator for all of these attacks was the access, which the perpetrators seemed to have to intimate details and intelligence of the victims' movements, habits and activities and the target area's physical layout and accessibility. All the indications pointed in the direction of state-based structures. It then came as no surprise when a now familiar sequence of events commencing in late 1989 led to the revelations that such hit squads were indeed spawned within the structures of the South African Police (specifically the Security Branch) and the South African Defence Force (specifically the Special Forces Division). Nor will it come as a surprise to find that the hit squad concept, as a means of 'last resort', was evolved or at least adopted and expanded by the total strategy proponents, and that it has flourished under the guidance of the State Security Council, as but one of the many strings in its bow. It is inconceivable that the very considerable budgets needed, and approved, for such activities, could have been created without the knowledge and the blessing of those at the very top.

HRC, 1989/90

Despite the welter of statistical and circumstantial evidence that the very considerable level of hit squad activity during the 1980s was state sponsored, no hard evidence was forthcoming to penetrate the wall of official denial. None, that is, until in the dying days of the decade, when a remarkable event occurred which threw open the floodgates of hidden information which continues to pour out even today and no doubt will continue to flow for some time yet.

On 20 October 1989, Almond Butana Nofomela was due to be hanged for a non-political murder. The day before, he decided to reveal his involvement in a hitherto unpublicised unit of the South African Police, namely the Vlakplaas C1 assassination unit, as a means of at least temporarily staying his execution. This had the effect not only of revealing the existence of the unit to the public but also of implicating a number of policemen as members of the unit, both past and present. Within 10 days, the current commander of the squad, Brigadier Willem Schoon announced his 'retirement'. Shortly thereafter, on 17 November journalist Jacques Pauw published an interview in the Vrye Weekblad with Captain Dirk Coetzee, a previous commander at Vlakplaas who by now had fled the country and who confirmed everything Nofemela had claimed and much more. Two days later another member, David Tshikalanga, added his confirmation, also from outside the country. Besides Vlakplaas, the existence of another base was reported by Coetzee, referred to as 'Daisy', also near Pretoria but intended specifically for launching foreign missions.

It took only another couple of months before the South African Defence Force, on 11 February 1990, admitted that they too had a hit squad called the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB). This admission was not voluntary, but came as a result of some more investigative, journalism, this time on the part of Kitt Katzin and Steve McQuillan of the Star newspaper. They picked up on the fact that police investigations into the political murders of David Webster and Anton Lubowski suggested that certain detained suspects had links with military intelligence. In making the existence of the CCB public for the first time, an SADF spokesman said that the unit was a covert organisation of the Special Forces arm of the SADF, established to gather information about enemies of the state and to conduct 'possible actions against identified aggressors'.

As a postscript to the exposure of operational hit squads within the South African e Police and the South African Defence Force, it was inevitable that in time the existence of 'co-ordinating structures would come to light; we now know that one such structure went B»y the name of TREWITS, an acronym for Teenrewolusionere Inligting Taakspan (Counter-revolutionary Intelligence Target Centre). Monthly meetings of TREWITS involving members of SAP, SADF and NIS would identify targets, both human and other, for 'taking out', and allocate responsibility for carrying out the tasks either within the country or abroad. The first reference to TREWITS to be noted by the HRC was in a memorandum by General J.V. van der Merwe former Commissioner of Police, submitted to a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in January 1995.

The revelations, one after the other, of the existence of Vlakplaas and the CCB hit squads the 2 wings of the security forces, were but the beginning of a very long journey, continuing today through court cases and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, complete the picture. This is not the place to piece together the story thus far; that is mo properly the task of the TRC upon completion of its search for the truth. For our purposes, will suffice to list at the end of this section the names of all State Covert Structures and Covert Projects and Operations known to us; and to list in Appendices 2 and 3 all hit squad abductions, disappearances and assassinations recorded by HRC over years of monitoring.
We close this section with extracts from Almond Nofomela's sworn affidavit of 19 October 1989 and from the HRC/David Webster Trust publication. The CCB, Origin Actions and Future of the Civil Co-operation Bureau (September 1990).

19 October 1989




I, the undersigned
do hereby make oath and state:
1. I am a 32-year old male presently under sentence of death. My execution is scheduled for tomorrow morning, 20 October 1989, at 07h00.
2. The contents hereof, unless otherwise indicated by the context, are true to the best of my personal knowledge and belief.
3. I did not commit the murder for which I stand condemned. I repeat my evidence at the trial, which led to my death sentence. I confirm the contentions raised therein by myself and on my behalf by my Counsel.
4. I wish to hereby reveal facts about my past, which I respectfully contend, might very well have had a bearing on my conviction and/or sentence of death had they been known to the Trial Court, Appeal Court and the Honourable First Respondent. .
5. I was a member of the Security Branch stationed at headquarters in Pretoria from 1981 until my sentence of death on 21 September .1987.
6. During the period of my service in the Security branch, I served under station commander Brigadier Schoon. In 1981 I was appointed a member of the Security Branch's assassination squad, and I served under Captain Johannes Dirk Coetzee, who was my commanding officer in the field.
7. Some time during late 19811 was briefed by Brigadier Schoon and Captain Coetzee at Pretoria to eliminate a certain Durban attorney, Griffiths Mxenge. I was told by these superiors that Mxenge was to be eliminated for his activities within the African National Congress. They instructed me to travel to Durban in the company of Brian Justice Nqulunga, David Tshikalange and Joseph Mamasela, colleagues of mine in the assassination squad. I was the leader of this group that was to eliminate Mxenge, and initially I was briefed alone. Thereafter, also in Pretoria, Coetzee briefed the 4 of us together.

There follows a description of how the group drove to Durban where at the CR Swart police station they received further briefing from Coetzee with instructions that only knives be used for killing Mxenge. Poisoned meat was thrown into the Mxenge yard. After monitoring Mxenge's movements for a few days, he was waylaid, forced into a car, driven to a stadium where he was assaulted and stabbed to death. The body was left stripped of items of value in order to simulate a robbery. The group then returned to CR Swart with Mxenge's car where they informed Coetzee of completion of mission. Next Coetzee and Nofomela drove to Piet Relief, taking Mxenge's car with them after fixing on false number plates. There they stripped the car of all removable items such as the radio, before driving it to the Swaziland border where it was doused with petrol and set alight in a plantation. They then returned to Piet Retief and on to Durban.

19. Some days thereafter, Brian, David, Joseph and I returned to Pretoria in the service bakkie in which we had travelled to Durban in, and Coetzee returned in his service bakkie. We drove in convoy.
20. The next day was month end. Usually at month's end we had a week off. Before going off, Coetzee handed Brian, David, Joseph and I R1000 each, which he said was from Brigadier Schoon for successfully eliminating Mxenge.
21. Before we went off for one week, in fact, immediately after our return from Durban, all the items removed from Mxenge's car and placed in Coetzee's service bakkie in Piet Relief were given to Sergeant Schutte by Captain Coetzee in my presence with the instruction that the radio/tape and booster were to be installed in Brigadier Schoon's vehicle. After my return from one weeks leave, Schutte remarked to me informally that the radio/tape had been installed into Brigadier Schoon's service bakkie.
22. After my return from one week's leave, Captain Coetzee informed me that Mxenge's wife is also active in the ANC's activities, and that he might require me to eliminate her as well at some future date. This was the last I heard of this.
23. I was involved in approximately 8 other assassinations during my stint in the assassination squad, also numerous kidnappings. At this stage, I do not recall the names of any of the victims. Some of the assassinations, 4 in fact, took place in Swaziland, one in Botswana, one in Maseru and one in Krugersdorp. The victims were all ANC members, except in Krugersdorp where the victim was the brother of an ANC terrorist. This terrorist had allegedly shot and killed a policeman in De Welch. The brother had been working in the United Building Society as a security guard (Krugersdorp Branch).
24. All these missions were performed under different officers in the security branch. Another Captain Coetzee, Major de Kock, Lieutenant Vermeulen, Colonel Cronje are these officers. Their superior was at all times Brigadier Schoon, who was at all times aware of these missions.
25. I am instructed that due to a shortage of time, I cannot here furnish details of these other missions.
26. I now wish to explain why I have only revealed all this information at this stage. Major de Kock visited me with Captain Naude after my sentence of death. De Kock told me that Brigadier Schoon asked him to convey to me that I was not to reveal anything about my activities as a member of the assassination squad, and he further promised that they will help me out of this problem. This visit by De Kock and Naude was 1987. Thereafter other members of the security branch visited me at various intervals. They were Lieutenant Van Dyk, Lieutenant Letsatse, Constable Mofalapitsa, Constable Khumalo, and some whose names I don't know. They all brought messages from Major de Kock that steps are being taken to get me out of the Maximum Prison.
27. Then on 12 October 1989, I received my notice of execution, and on 17 October 1989 Captain Khoza and a certain Lieutenant, both members of the Security Branch visited me and informed me that the instruction from Major de Kock was that I should take the pain. I then realised that I had been betrayed by my superior officers, who had promised to assist me in getting out of the Maximum Prison.
28. It was at this stage that I decided to reveal all of the aforegoing, and I sent a message to the Lawyers for Human Rights to send someone to me to take a statement accordingly to apply for a stay of my execution.

Signed and sworn to before me at Pretoria on this the 19th day of October 1989, the deponent having acknowledged that he knows and understands the content of this Affidavit and that he considers the oath taken by him to be binding on his conscience.

Extracts from THE CCB
Origins, Actions and Future of the Civil Co-operation Bureau
HRC/David Webster Trust, September 1990

Origins and objectives of the CCB

In 1988, the activities and structures which carried out various military assassination functions were consolidated into the vehicle through which the army would operate in future, the Civil Co-operation Bureau. This military organisation has a civil facade. We believe that the reason is the recognition that its covert activities were, and remain, illegal, and the SADF did not want its name tarnished by illegal conduct. The CCB was therefore '.irate and distinct from the SADF but remained under its command. This organisation would commit acts of arson, intimidation, sabotage and murder.

The CCB's major objective is to disrupt the enemies of the Republic of South Africa to the maximum possible extent. As 'Slang' van Zyl said at the official instruction course:
We were advised that the disruption of the enemy could, for example, be anything from the breaking of a window to the killing of a person and that this depended on the target's priority classification. The chairman would determine the priority classification for action allocated within these classes, namely the breaking of a window to the killing of a person.

The chain of command

The Civil Co-operation Bureau was a division of the Special Forces, which in turn, is a division of the Operations Section of the SADF. Each of the CCB's 10 regions was run by a co-ordinator and a regional director. And in each region, cells of operators of between 6 and 26 persons, made up the basic task force. These 'guesstimates' are based on evidence before the Harms Commission.

The CCB worked on a so-called 'need-to-know' basis, with operatives and controllers being given only enough information to carry out specific tasks. This meant that CCB 'managing director' Joe Verster, assumed de facto control of the CCB, directing the flow of instructions and information to those both above and below himself. 'Slang' van Zyl has said that often CCB operatives carried out a task with no idea as to its purpose.

Individual operators were provided with basic information regarding the structure and existence of the organisation. They knew only those people with whom it was absolutely essential to co-operate and normally communicated with one another under the guise of assumed names. Ideally, an operator's knowledge would be restricted to the people and activities of his own cell.

The CCB operated in 8 active regions. Those outside South Africa included Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa and Europe. Each region had an area manager and its own co-ordinator who reported to the managing director. Sections 9 and 10 were logistics and administration. Region 6 - the Republic of South Africa - was only activated in 1988, although the CCB blueprint had originally made provision for this area of operation. CCB director, Joe Verster, claimed that this region only gathered specialist information. The evidence indicates that this is untrue. 'Slang' van Zyl and Botha were emphatic that they were told that the CCB's primary task was 'maximum disruption of the enemy'. The nucleus of the Region 6 CCB was formed on 1 June 1988 when Verster hired 4 police officers, Staal Burger, 'Slang' Van Zyl, Chappie Maree and Calla Botha, all previously "of the infamous Brixton Murder and Robbery Squad.

The first head of the Civil Co-operation Bureau was General Joubert. He was a member of the general's staff and reported directly to the chief of the SADF, General Jannie Geldenhuys, and/or the chief of staff operations, at least regarding external operations. When reports concerned activities in internal Region 6, certain members of the general's staff were informed, according to evidence given by General Eddie Webb, himself a member of the general's staff and chairman of the CCB since the beginning of 1989.

There is good reason to believe that responsibility for the CCB could have been structured.

Modus operandi

The CCB developed what it termed the 'blue plan', in which CCB members would lead legitimate civilian lives and businesses would be set up or bought to provide civilian business cover for a cell member or his cell. The Matthysen Busvervoer is one such business. In this manner the CCB infiltrated industry, local government and the private sector at various levels. These open activities were referred to as the 'blue plan'.

The 'red plan' targeted victims and detailed action to be taken against them. The scenario was as follows:
Step 1: A person or a target would be identified as an enemy of the State. A cell member would then be instructed to monitor the 'target'.
Step 2: A project - i.e. the elimination of a target would be registered with the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator would then have the project authorised by the regional manager and the managing director.
Step 3: The CCB member would then do a reconnaissance to study the target's
movements with a view to eliminating him or her.
Step 4: The operative would propose the most practical method to the managing director. If the director felt this method was efficient, he would sign the proposal at what was called an 'in-house' meeting. There adjustments could be made to the plan before it was approved. The budget would be considered and finance would be made available for the project. The finance would come from the budget the Defence Force allocated to CCB activities. Indications are that money was always paid in cash.
Step 5: The co-ordinator would be requested to make available the necessary arms and ammunition such as limpet mines, poison and/or live ammunition or other logistical support such as transport, etc.
Step 6: The project would be carried out and the target would be eliminated. To do this the cell member could engage the assistance of what were termed 'unconscious members'. These were essentially underworld criminals who would, for money, kill as instructed. These 'unconscious' members were never told of the motive or the SADF connection - a false motive was usually supplied.

HRC files, 1990-1996

The following is a partial listing of State covert units and activities compiled by the HRC from various sources. By the very nature of the subject matter the listing is very far from being complete and likely to contain inaccuracies.

SAP units

1. Combating of terrorism unit C1 (later known as C10)
National headquarters - Wachthuis Building, Pretoria.
Operational facility - Vlakplaas (near Pretoria). Regional facilities:
Natal: Mount Edgecombe/Phoenix (north coast), Elandskop (midlands),
Camperdown, Bulwer
Northern Transvaal
Others yet to be identified
Special facility: 'Daisy' Farm

2. Security Branch covert units Covert intelligence Covert Strategic Communications (Stratcom)

3. Counter-revolutionary intelligence unit C3 ('TREWITS')
With representation from Military Intelligence (MI) and National Intelligence
Service (NIS), TREWITS identified targets for neutralisation internally and externally.
(TREWITS = Teen Rewolusionere Inligtings Taakspan)
'Koevoet' Counter-insurgency unit
Established in Namibia in 1978.

SADF units

1. Directorate: covert collection (DCC)
Wing of military intelligence.
Reported to have been involved in the arming and training of Renamo, Ciskei Security Forces and Inkatha.
2. Directorate: special tasks (DST)
Wing of military intelligence (?).
Planning of support for RENAMO and UNITA.
Planning of activities of 'Recce' regiments.
3. Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB)
4. Special force operational units
32 Battalion.
No. 1 and no. 5 Reconnaisance Regiments ('Recces').
'Hammer' unit (Eastern Cape elimination squad).
5. Seventh Medical Battalion.
Involved in the development of chemical and biological warfare.
6. Front organisations
Adult Education Consultants (AEC)
Front for DCC.
Responsible for numerous 'counter-mobilisation' projects.
Creed Consultants
Subsidiary of AEC; coordinator of Caprivi training.
Wisdom Group
Chemical and biological weapons development.
Privatised companies include:
Delta G
Roodeplaat Navorsings laboratorium
Roodeplaat Teelonderneming

State covert projects/operations

1. Counter-mobilisation projects
Designed to establish alternative structures within township communities to counter the growing popularity of the United Democratic Front (UDF); and to promote 'black-on- black' violence within communities.
Project Orange
Project Ancor
Project Kampong
Numerous subsidiary projects.
Under the control of Adult Education Consultants (AEC)

2. Counter-revolutionary operations
Designed to develop or support militant anti-liberation movement groupings, or promote destabilisation:
Operation Milia; support for RENAMO
Operation Marion; support for Inkatha
Operation Katzen; foster Xhosa Resistance Movement
Operation Pastoor; stoke East Rand violence
Operation Longreach
Project Henry; foster AmaAfrika National Front
Project B

3. Chemical weapons projects
Operation Coast
Project Jota


Finally, within the pattern of informal repression and covert operations, something needs to be said about operations carried out by the apartheid state against its neighbours, which resulted in the destabilisation of the entire Southern African region. In a Commonwealth report of 1989 entitled Apartheid Terrorism, this destabilisation during the 1980s is described as having reached 'holocaust' proportions. The report estimated that at that time the human cost was 1 million dead through military and economic action, most of them children, while a further 4 million people had been displaced from their homes. The economic cost to the 6 Frontline States was estimated to exceed 45 billion US dollars, not to mention the destruction of agriculture, industry, education and health care in countries like Mozambique and Angola.

Amongst the destabilisation methods resorted to by the apartheid state were:
• Armed action, ranging from sporadic commando raids into several neighbouring countries to full-scale invasion and occupation as occurred in Angola.
• Hit squad raids to abduct or assassinate political opponents.
• The encouragement or even the creation of surrogate anti-government forces through logistical support, intelligence and training as in Mozambique and Angola.
• Political pressures to promote the installation of governments well-disposed towards apartheid South Africa as in Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho and 'Namibia.
• Economic pressures to create and maintain a dependency on the South African
transport, harbour, customs and financial systems.
One of the by-products of these activities is that we have inherited the remnants of the mercenaries involved in all the colonial wars of Southern Africa, such as the Selous Scouts Rhodesia, Koevoet from Namibia, RENAMO elements from Mozambique and UNJTA elements from Angola. Large numbers of these 'Dogs of War' have found their way into the Special Forces and other Security Force structures, there to play a role in internal covert operations.

Destabilisation report by the Commonwealth Secretariat, 1989

Evolution of political events in the Southern African region

South Africa remained apart from the 'wind of change' that swept most of the rest of the continent to majority rule in the 1960s. Protected by a ring of colonial buffer states, Pretoria concentrated its regional policy on strengthening economic and military ties with; those states and on thwarting the activities of liberation movements in the region. The coup d'etat in Portugal on 25 April 1974, caused by military opposition to the far-off African wars, changed the face of the region virtually overnight, bringing independence to Mozambique and Angola in 1975.

Attempts at 'detente' and 'dialogue' by the South African Prime Minister, B.J. Vorster, collapsed with the invasion of Angola by the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1975, Pretoria's first large-scale military intervention in the region.

Perceiving the threat to its safety in terms of an externally organised 'total onslaught' conceived by the Soviet Union, rather than in terms of democratic opposition to apartheid, South Africa's response was drawn from the ideas of a French General, Andre Baufre, who developed a theory of 'total strategy' based on his experiences in wars in Europe, Algeria and Indo-China. The South African concept of 'total strategy', detailed in a defence white paper in 1977, encompasses economic, military, political and diplomatic tactics toward the region and uses military means to achieve economic ends.

During the period from mid-1980 to 1982, South Africa launched a concerted offensive against the region involving direct incursions as well as sabotage, assassinations, kidnappings, bombing and espionage, particularly against the newly independent state of Zimbabwe. In Mozambique, captured documentation revealed the extent of redeployment of MNR, their source of supply and their instructions to destroy or disrupt economic targets. There was also evidence of direct sabotage by the SADF, and an open commando attack in Maputo. In Angola, the SADF reoccupied part of southern Angola in an invasion in August 1981 and remained for the next 4 years. Sabotage of the Benguela railway closed it to all traffic. Two brazen commando attacks against regional capitals, Maputo and Maseru, in this period killed 33 South African exiles, 12 nationals of Lesotho and a Portuguese technician. Further afield in the region, a South African initiated coup d'etat failed in the Seychelles in late 1981.

The period between 1983 and 1985 saw an escalation of this activity in a more systematic implementation of 'total strategy' but using a more subtle tactical approach. Beginning with a period of heightened military activity followed by the diplomatic offensive of 1984 and then a rapid return to the former posture, these changes characterised in the South African press as 'thump and talk'.

The sabotage of a main pumping station on the pipeline in the Beira corridor in 1982 had brought the Zimbabwe National Army into Mozambique to protect its lifeline to the sea and the escalation in 1985 brought Zimbabwean combat troops into Mozambique. The Cahora Bassa power lines were put out of operation through sabotage in 1983 and the Limpopo and Nacala railways were similarly halted in 1984. Two attacks in Maputo in 1983 killed 3 ANC officials and 6 others, only one of whom had ANC connections, and damaged a jam factory. In Angola, the SADF launched 'Operation Askari' in December 1983 and were surprised by new and sophisticated Soviet weaponry.

This period saw the conclusion of a military agreement for the withdrawal of troops from Angola, and a security agreement with Mozambique called the 'Nkomati Accord', both in early 1984. It was revealed that Swaziland had signed a similar agreement 2 years earlier. South African troops withdrew and then re-entered southern Angola in 1985 and, in Mozambique, the capture of the main MNR base at Gorongosa revealed massive violations of the Nkomati Accord by South Africa.

Economic and military pressure against Botswana escalated in this phase in the form of bombings and raids as well as withholding of SACU revenue payments and border! congestion. In a massive SADF attack into Gaborone in June 1985,10 houses and an office I block were destroyed and 12 people killed, only 4 of whom had any connection with the ANC. Despite the pressure, Botswana has refused to sign a security agreement saying its territory is not used for aggression against its neighbours.

The period between 1986 and 1988 saw a massive escalation of military action across the region, directly and through surrogates. 1986 began with the economic blockade of Lesotho that prevented movement of migrant labour, food and other essential supplies and led to the coup d'etat on 19 January; the year ended with the death of President Samora Machel of Mozambique in a still unexplained plane crash in South Africa. In between those events were the 19 May raids on 3 Commonwealth capitals in the region, an increase in economic pressure on Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and a massive invasion of the centre-north of Mozambique aimed at taking and holding towns and cutting the country into two. Tanzania committed a brigade of combat troops to northern Mozambique, as well as its earlier offer of military training facilities, and Britain increased its training of Mozambican military units in eastern Zimbabwe.

A further escalation through 1987 was signalled with the 25 April SADF commando attack on Livingstone, Zambia, 11 days before the South African election showing, as is often the case, that these events are timed for internal consumption. Cross-border attacks into eastern Zimbabwe and Zambia began in mid-1987 and escalated through 1988, killing and kidnapping nationals and destroying property. Commando attacks and bombings in Maputo and Harare killed and wounded nationals and Botswana continued to be a target for bombings and cross-border raids. In May, on the Botswana border, South Africa staged 'Iron Eagle', its largest ever-airborne commando exercise, delivering a message of military power not dissimilar to that of a year later, in September 1988, when it staged its largest ever-naval exercise off the coast of Walvis Bay.

South African-trained forces continued their economic destruction in northern Mozambique and, following a massive infiltration from South Africa of men and equipment in April and May; a new wave of terror began in the south. There were several large massacres, including one of over 400 people at Homoine and another of over 100 people, as well as vicious attacks on civilian convoys. As 1987 drew to a close, attacks on the main roads around Maputo increased, isolating the capital by making its main access roads unsafe to normal commercial traffic.

Malawian troops entered Mozambique in this period to protect railway workers repairing the Nacala line, the country's shortest and cheapest route to the sea and out of operation since 1984. Mozambicans continued to flee into southern Malawi swelling the ranks of the displaced to well over 600 000 by late 1988.

A South African offensive in south-eastern Angola in late 1987 led to the siege of Cuito Cuanavale; the commitment of Cubans to the fighting in the south for the first time since 1976; the subsequent agreement a year later on South African and Cuban troop withdrawal and Namibian independence.

South African car bombings, assassinations and kidnappings escalated sharply in 1988, particularly in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland and Lesotho, as well as against ANC representatives in Europe. In the diplomatic offensive, P.W. Botha visited Songo near Cahora Bassa but the military situation deteriorated after the meeting. Having destabilised the region, however, South Africa, now claimed to be the 'stabiliser'. The deputy minister of defence, delivering 'non-lethal' equipment to Mozambique for the rehabilitation of Cahora Bassa power lines, said: 'South Africa is the stabiliser of the region and would like to expand this role.'

However, lest the region forget South Africa's military might and its 'superpower' aspirations, a new intermediate-range ballistic missile - capable of delivering a nuclear warhead as far north as Angola and Tanzania - was test launched in early July 1989. The missile is a modified version of Israel's Jericho II IR BM and has been developed, with assistance from Israel, since 1987.

compiled by HRC, 1989

1. Commando raids

 Commando raids

2. Bomb attacks

2. Bomb attacks

3. Cross-border abductions

Cross-border abductions

<< Previous chapter Next chapter >>