/ 27 April 1990

The man who watched Webster

Johannesburg security department spy Tony Naude was paid to cultivate the friendship of David Webster and was his jogging partner until shortly before the activist was gunned down, according to sources who knew Webster. The Hiemstra Commission of Inquiry – which is expected to throw light on the Webster murder as the May 1 anniversary of the assassination approaches – heard this week that Naude’s information was passed on to military intelligence and that Naude had meetings with SADF intelligence officers. 

Former Johannesburg security training officer Johan Beetge said that the city hall security department functioned as ”nothing more than a front for South African Defence Force military intelligence”. Military intelligence’s alleged involvement in Webster’s murder, via the Civil Co-Operation Bureau, is being investigated by the Harms Commission Naude was involved in the Progressive Federal Party youth section when another PFP member introduced him to the Five Freedoms Forum, according to FFF representative Gael Neke. He immediately joined the FFF’s ”contact group”, chaired by Webster, and worked there for a year. 

Friends of Webster say Naude went out of his way to befriend him. Naude filed reports to the security department the day after every meeting of the group. These reports, including references to Webster and his home address, were sent the same day to military intelligence, according to evidence before the Hiemstra Commission. Documents before the commission indicate that the security department kept a file on Webster – but these cannot be found, indicating that they may have been destroyed. In another dramatic development at the commission yesterday, former city council security department section leader Hannes Gouws claimed that he had been instructed to carry out acts of violence against the council’s political opponents. He said he had been ordered by Major Frik Barnard, a major in military intelligence, to ”sort out” a black security guard and trade union shop steward in March 1989. 

According to Gouws, Barnard said ”be wouldn’t mind if the man died” when asked what he meant by ”sorting out”. The man was locked in a small hut and teargassed by Gouws and three colleagues. During the three weeks of hearings at the commission of inquiry into alleged irregularities within the Johannesburg City Council, headed by Mr Justice VG Hiemstra, witnesses have repeatedly denied that the municipal spy ring’s activities went beyond the collection of information. Gouws claimed yesterday that re¬ ports from operatives were made directly to officers in military intelligence, though city council funds were used for payments. He also contradicted evidence given by Johannesburg security chief John Pearce that the covert operations of the security section had been wound down in June 1988. 

According to Gouws, Barnard referred to the order but instructed his operatives to carry on as usual. Gouws went on to allege that Barnard was responsible for spying on colleagues in the security apparatus. He cited one instance in which Barnard arranged for the tapping of the telephone of former policeman and senior security officer, Brigadier Jan Visser. On another occasion he came into possession of a tape which recorded a private conversation in the office of a military intelligence commandant. The incident in which the guard was assaulted, Gouws claimed, led to conflict between himself and Barnard. He said he was harassed until he signed from the city council’s security department He was, he claimed, subjected to further intimidation from his former peers and, as an insurance policy, took bundles of documentation from the city hall files. 

However, the intimidation did not cease. His parents’ house was watched by people in a white Toyota Corolla; the windows of his own house were broken on two separate occasions; he himself was beaten with a steel pipe. Finally, after approaching Barnard, his superior, and being repeatedly snubbed by the town clerk, Gouws said he took the advice of a ”senior member of the city council” and approached a newspaper with the documentation which broke the city hall spy scandal –  Kathy Strachan & Ivor Powell.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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