A diary lost at kidnap site leads trial to … army HQ

Its leader is Lieutenant GF  "Frikkie" van Rooyen, who has been linked to the Witwatersrand Joint Management Centre. Police yesterday submitted a docket to theattorney general after investigating charges against eight men allegedly involved in the abduction. The charges include assault theft and pointing a deadly weapon.

Using a diary dropped during the "operation", Weekly Mail has traced the eight to a unit of the South African Defence Force known as Group 16, which is based at the Witwatersrand Command. "The facts are not being denied," said the police officer investigating the case, Lieutenant- Colonel Alf Huggett. The men claim they were acting bona fide, in accordance with Emergency regulations, he said. The SADF has also confirmed that complaints against SADF personnel were being investigated.

The squad arrived at Mashabane's home in plain clothes on the evening of February 9, Mashabane claimed in an affidavit. After searching the house, taking a knife belonging to Mashabane and telling the family they should buy coffins rather than build on to their house, the squad took Mashabane out into the veld. He said they interrogated him while pointing a gun at the back of his head. The Duduza activist believes he narrowly escaped death that night.

Two mistakes led to the docket being filed with the attorney general yesterday. Firstly, the men were unsure about the identity of Mashabane, secretary of the Duduza Civic Association, Mashabane has been detained twice since the imposition of the 1986 State of Emergency. His abductors believed be looked younger than his 26 years and were unsure whether they had the right person. Mashabane claims he was interrogated while lying face down on a grave with two guns pointed at his head and body. He escaped after one of the men said: "Hy's nie Vusi nie" and they drove away. Their cars returned minutes later, but Mashabane hid in the tall grass.

The second slip-up occurred when Van Rooyen, the leader of Group 16, dropped his military identity card and diary – including the names and phone numbers of a number of senior policemen – while searching the house. This allowed investigators to trace the team and identify its members. Two of the eight squad members were picked out by Mashabane and his sister at an identity parade at the Springs police station earlier this week.

The diary contains other extraordinary revelations: mention of various meetings and agendas of the Witwatersrand branch of the Gesamentlike Bestuursentrum (CBS) or Joint Management Centre – which is referred to in the diary as "Wit". The JMC is part of the controversial National Security Management System, a Security Force-dominated network' of committees that brings together various government departments. The diary indicated Group 16 would be discussing an "information plan" as well as the "outlay of 'nb' (nie-blankes) in the plan" and personnel problems.

Another entry mentioned the exiled South African Congress of Trade Unions. It also noted the Transvaal Indian Congress was scheduled to hold a planning meeting at the Nehru Hall in Springs on January 27. A TIC representative yesterday confirmed such a meeting had taken place. A "Major Van den Berg" of the Benoni police, whose name appeared in the diary, was this week reluctant to talk about Wit. "This type of thing I will never discuss over the telephone," he said. The next day he claimed he had never heard of Wit. Also listed was the number for the "Dunnotter" police station and the names of senior members of the security forces, including a Captain Swanepoel, Commandant Erasmus, Colonel Scott and Captain Killian – the word onlus (unrest) appeared after his name.

On Monday, February 1, seven days before the abduction and following an entry concerning a Wit meeting ("Wit trek vra Armadale", Wit goes to Armadale) Van Rooyen wrote in his diary: "Wapens kry" (Fetch weapons). On the Friday of that week, another entry reads, "Kry naam van ANC ter ... by Dirk Coetzee" (Get name of ANC "terr" … from Dirk Coetzee). Coetzee's name and telephone number were also in the diary but efforts to trace him were unsuccessful.  

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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