Ex-detainee says: I was kidnapped in Swaziland – by an SA policeman

Sheila Moipane Mathabe Nyanda alleges in an affidavit that she was abducted from Mbabane last year and interrogated in South Africa. She was later held under Sections 29 and 31 of the Internal Security Act before being released on November 1 this year. She claims that at least one of her abductors was a South African policeman who later took part in her interrogation in Piet Retief.

Nyanda also claims that another of her kidnappers had said the group was "an assassination squad and that they were going to kill me". Her attorneys are to institute a civil claim against the Minister of Law and Order for damages, and the Attorney­ General will be requested to institute criminal action for abduction against the policeman implicated.

In the affidavit, Nyanda, 37, claims that at 7.30pm on May 24 last year, two white males knocked 3t the door of her home in Mbabane. Both had been occupying the house next door and one had previously introduced himself to her as "Andre … a student on holiday from South Africa." "On opening the door, I was con­fronted by one 'white' male ('Andre') armed with a sub-machine gun fitted with a silencer. He told me not to make any noise. Behind him stood another white male."

Nyanda alleges "Andre" told her he knew she was "Guebuza's wife" (her husband is a member of the African National Congress in Lusaka), and proceeded to tie her hands behind her back with a rope. "Andre's companion then packed some of Nyanda’s belongings and demanded the keys to her car. She was blindfolded and taken to the car. "A third white male joined the other two." After travelling for some time, during which one of the men communicated by walkie-talkie to some other party", Nyanda says she was transferred to a combi. She was told to point out all ANC houses she knew in Swaziland. After denying such knowledge, she alleges she was "slapped several times across the face and punched a few times in the face. I heard what sounded like a cigarette lighter flicking … my left foot was burned just above the left ankle … they once again demanded to see ANC houses … My right foot was then burned on the calf."

According to the affidavit, "I reached a point of such pain that I said OK I will show you a house." After being handcuffed, Nyanda led the men to a house, which was empty. She was then driven back to her car, and "bundled into the back seat, …  accompanied by two of the men… (who said)  'totsiens' to the third. "We travelled for a long period of time over different terrain  … At one stage the car stopped and I was told to lie down or else my head would be blasted off.  "We reached a spot where one of the men got out. It sounded to me as if a fence or barrier of some sort was being removed."

Nyanda says she was then driven a short distance before being taken into a house, where her "right hand was tied by rope to something on the wall … I remained there all night … "In the morning I heard more voices (including Andre's) … I was then whipped across my back and told to name all activists I knew of in the country. I replied that I knew of none. They then demanded to know of  'cadres' sent by my husband on missions. I replied that my husband never discussed his business with me."

After further questioning, Nyanda alleges she was taken to another house and questioned, and was eventually told she would be seen by a doctor. "I heard the sound of a helicopter overhead, and I was told the doctor had arrived from Pretoria." He examined the burn marks, according to the affidavit, and said there was "niks verkeerd met die een" (nothing wrong with this one). That evening, Nyanda says she was driven in the combi to a "South African Police charge office … Andre was one of the two men accompanying me." She alleges she was then locked in a cell, from which she was fetched the next morning. She was taken to an office where personal details were requested. "We then drove to the security offices in the town, above the 'Green Door' restaurant."

For the first time Nyanda realised she was in Piet Retief, a town she had never been in before. At the offices she was met by "Andre and … Warrant Officer Pienaar as well as five other  'white' men. The captain seated at the desk said to me, now you are in South Africa. We would like you to work with us’." Nyanda claims she was offered money and free passage back to Swaziland if she agreed to inform on the ANC. When she refused, she was taken to another room and told to write a memo about her movements since leaving South Africa in 1977. She was returned to the police station cells. After being questioned by "Andre" three days later, says Nyanda, he gave her a book to read, called "Jian". "I later realised that Andre  .. was known by his colleagues as 'Sergeant Lappies' because at some stage I was asked by a security policeman to return Sergeant Lappies' book."

After further interviewing the following day, Nyanda was driven towards Ermelo. The vehicle used to The "same comi – metallic blue, registration number LGV 595T". "A white man approached … (and) introduced himself as a security policeman from Middelburg. He told me … I was being detained under Section 29 of the Internal Security Act. "I was detained under Section 29 in Piet Retief until November 26 1987. I was then transferred to Section 31 until my release on the 1st November 1988. I have never been charged.

"Nyanda, who was born in Klipspruit, Soweto, left South Africa in 1977 while she was a second year Bachelor of Arts student in social work at the University of the North. She left to join her fiancé, and has since lived in the frontline states and Swaziland. On her release from detention, she was served with a subpoena to appear as a witness in a forthcoming terrorism trial. Her affidavit was released to the Weekly Mail by the firm of attorneys Krish Naidoo and Company, with Nyanda's consent.

•The affidavit was received immediately prior to the Weekly Mail's deadline, too late to be put to the police for comment. The Police Act allows publication of material where there are reasonable grounds for believing it to be true.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

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Shaun Johnson
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