Silverton Siege

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Police crouch behind cars while another group of officers negotiate with the trio. Source: Pretoria News Library

On 25 January 1980 three MK Cadres – Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela – were allegedly on their way to carry out a planned MK sabotage mission on petrol depots at Watloo near Mamelodi. En route, ‘the Trio’ realised they were being tailed by the police. In an attempt to escape, they took refuge in a branch of Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria. They held 25 civilians in the bank hostage, making a number of demands, including a meeting with State President Vorster, the release of Nelson Mandela and a man called Mange, as well as R100 000 in cash and an aircraft to fly them to Maputo.

After a series of negotiations, which included the police handing food over to the cadres and hostages, a police unit stormed the bank and all three cadres were killed by the police. Two civilians, Valerie Anderson and Anna de Klerk, were killed and many others were wounded in the shootout.

The Six Hour Siege

Sequence of events as reported by the media

12.00 – 1:15:

The armed Trio enter the Volkskas Bank; eyewitness accounts vary as to the exact time.

The cadres take 25 civilians in the bank hostage, moving them into a corner cubicle.

1:30 – 06:00:

As the focus of the siege is on the ground floor, bank staff on the upper floor manage to escape the building. However bank accountant, Andre Theron, stays behind in hiding.

Members of the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit gain access to the Barclays Bank building nearby. The team set up surveillance equipment, enabling them to monitor what was happening in the Volkskas bank through a periscope and record every sound by means of a tape recorder and microphone.

Captain C.J. de Swardt and Brigadier L. Neethling negotiate with the Trio.

Later two hostages are released carrying notes outlining the Trio’s demands.

The Trio sing freedom songs to keep up their moral and remain focussed.

Police gain access to the basement of the bank – using a stairway out of sight. They make their way to the first floor and to Andre Theron. The police are now able to overlook the scene. 

Approximately 6.30:

Police appear prepared to act. Police Commissioner, General Mike Geldenhuys, orders the immediate area to be cleared.

Ambulances move closer to the scene and a large crowd of onlookers is ordered to move further away.

7.05:

The first burst of gunfire is heard.

It is unclear if MK cadre Stephen Mafoko opened fire when he realised the police were in the building, or if the police fired first.

Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela are killed swiftly, but Mafoko continues firing at the police, throwing a hand grenade. Willie Grobler, a teller, grabs the grenade and tries to throw it away. But it explodes, injuring hostages.

Police gun down Mafoko. The Trio die on the scene.

The injured are rushed to the H.F. Verwoerd hospital nearby. Hostage, Valerie Anderson, dies on the scene. Hostage, Anna de Klerk, dies hours later in hospital.

In the month following the Siege, Police arrested nine ANC members. All nine were part of the June 16 detachment, a generation of MK recruits thrown up by the Soweto Revolt of 1976.

Last updated : 20-Jan-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 18-Jul-2011

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