Broederstroom hide-out has clear view of Pelindaba

The four alleged African National Congress guerrillas arrested this week in Broederstroom had a clear view of the Pelindaba nuclear research station from their rented home - less than five kilometres away. Their arrests led to the seizure of the biggest single consignment of guerrilla weapons ever captured by police, according to Law and Order Minister Adriana VIok.

The group included a former Johannesburg journalist - who is believed to have adopted the pseudonym Richard Stacey - and a former University of the Witwatersrand student - who reportedly called himself- Peter Schaeffer. Viok claimed the four, who have been detained under Section 29 of the Internal Security Act, were "members of a highly specialised terror unit" and had received military training in Moscow, Cuba and Angola.

The Weekly Mail is in possession of the names of the three men and a 'British woman -  who are in their twenties or early thirties - arrested on Sunday morning, but is unable to publish them.  "Stacey", who attended Rhodes University in the late 1970s, was selected for the South African Associated Newspapers cadet course in about 1980.
He worked on the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Express and there became friendly with Marion Sparg - the first white female ANC soldier to be convicted of high treason. She was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment in 1986.

Sparg and "Stacey" attended a Marxist reading group run by another journalist, Arnold Geyer. Colleagues said the three were drawn together by their disillusionment with the press. In 1981, according to Sparg's court evidence, the three petrol-bombed the Johannesburg offices of the Progressive Federal Party to protest against the PFP's refusal to boycott the Republic Day celebrations. Shortly after the attacks they fled to Botswana. "Stacey" left his wife and children behind, according to reports at the time. "Schaeffer" comes from a family with a strong tradition of political activism. His uncle was a well-known author, academic and one-time member of the South African Communist Party.

In 1974, while studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, "Schaeffer" was peripherally involved in student politics and joined the National Union of South African Students' Wages Commission.  Fellow students recall that he became disenchanted with student politics, which he did not believe were sufficiently radical. When he received a military call, up in the mid-1970s he left the country and allegedly joined the ANC. His mother, a Black Sash member, died last year. "Schaeffer" last saw her in about 1983.

In the past, captured guerrilla groups have been black or racially mixed groups. Sunday's arrests were the first time an all white group, particularly one based in the conservative Pretoria area, had been exposed. A representative of the ANC in Lusaka said for some time its military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, had had a number of white members. He said the ANC had not received reports that any of its cadres had been arrested. He added it was policy not to confirm those arrested were ANC members, as this might prejudice court cases, and often ANC guerrillas were not known by their real names.

A British embassy representative said he had been informed that the woman arrested, who said she had been born in Swaziland, had claimed British nationality. The embassy was making enquiries to confirm this. Vlok's announcement uncovered new levels of military sophistication in the ANC's guerrilla struggle against the South African government:

  • The group's alleged arsenal included a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile system - the weapon used to bring down two Viscount aircraft at a critical stage of C guerrilla war for Zimbabwean independence. Unnamed security sources were quoted saying the group had considered using the missile against a police helicopter.
  • The four - equipped with powerful radio equipment and large aerial in their garden - had allegedly established direct radio communication with ANC headquarters in Lusaka and could monitor police and defence radio networks. Weapons captured at the Broederstroom smallholding and those discovered elsewhere as result of the arrests included the SAM-7 missile, limpet mint hand grenades, Ak-47 assault rifles, pistols, machine guns, demolition charges, mortars a explosives. Vlok said although the poll did not yet know precisely how the weapons had been smuggled into South Africa, "if had already been established that they came in overland through Zimbabwe and Botswana". Vlok said police were investigating the possibility that the unit was responsible for the bombing of a South African Defence Force bus on March 1 in Benoni and "other deeds of sabotage". He did not say the four had been linked to any deaths. Police statements claimed an ANC member betrayed them to police but did not say whether the alleged informer was also in detention.  

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

 

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