1 June 1980
The attacks on SASOL I, NATREF and SASOL II took place on the night of 31 May/1 June 1980 in order to coincide with Republic Day. The attack was organised by Solomon Mahlangu of the Umkhonto weSizwe Special Operations. Initial reconnaissance was undertaken during July 1979 and two teams of chosen cadres were trained in Angola for the operations. The teams were infiltrated into the country and a final reconnaissance was carried out the night before the attacks. On the night of the attack the teams gained access to the refineries by cutting through the perimeter fence. Special limpet mines with thermite were then placed on fuel tanks and the teams withdrew undetected. The limpet mines exploded and eight fuel tanks in all were destroyed causing damage estimated at R66 million. The team that attacked Sasol I and NATREF at Sasolburg remained in the country for approximately two weeks before returning to Mozambique via Swaziland. The team thatattacked Sasol II at Secunda drove to Swaziland immediately after the attack and returned to Mozambique the next morning. Nobody was killed in the attacks and but a security guard at Sasol I was injured. A movie titled 'Catch a fire' was made recently about these events, and in particular, about the life of freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso. Patrick, an employee at SASOL at the time, was arrested in the aftermath of the bombs because he was one of the last drivers to leave the area where the bomb was placed. Patrick did not play a role in this first attack. Police at the time had the power to hold people suspected of political crimes indefinitely, without access to a lawyer or family. Patrick was detained and tortured for two weeks. This experience motivated Chamusso to join the MK. He went to Maputo and approached Joe Slovo saying that he could bring the Secunda plant to a standstill and make it burn for days, because of his knowledge of the plant. Patrick went to Angola to train in explosives, and came back to Maputo to prepare for his operation. He chose to work alone, which was unusual for MK operatives. Read more of Chamusso's story. Link: MK feature Sources: (Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds)(1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.) Two Sisters: Patrick's Story. MK UNIT SLEPT IN POLICE STATION BEFORE SASOL ATTACK: TRC HEARS. South African Press Association, 1998. Poster 'Catch a fire'