SANDF destroyed raid weapons

Louise Flanagan

THE South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has admitted destroying weapons used in the Umtata raid two years ago, in what the victim’s families have called an attempt to conceal vital evidence.

Five youths aged 12 to 17, died when troops of the old South African Defence Force (SADF) attacked the Umtata home of PAC member Sigqibo Mpendulo in October 1993. The SADF acknowledged responsibility and claimed it had attacked an Apla base and seized a weapons cache.

“The SANDF regards the whole matter of the Umtata operation as finalised,” an SANDF spokesman said this week. This follows a Cabinet decision to compensate the families of the deceased and the subsequent payment of R238 000 to the claimants.
Once finalisation of the matter was reached, the weapons were destroyed in accordance with normal practice.”

But the lawyer for the victims’ families, Dumisa Ntsebeza, who negotiated with Justice Minister Dullah Omar personally over the civil matter, said there was an agreement that this settlement did not mean the end of the criminal case.

“The news that these weapons have been destroyed is absolutely outrageous and amounts to what one can consider concealment of evidence that would obviously be crucial in any criminal proceedings,” said Ntsebeza.

He showed the Mail & Guardian copies of letters written to both the then Transkei Commissioner of Police and South African Minister of Defence in October 1993 asking for access to the weapons to allow independent forensic tests to be carried out on them.

Ntsebeza said the families were still determined to have the attackers charged.

Meanwhile, work on the criminal investigation appears to have come to a standstill after confusion over who is dealing with it. The case was initially being investigated by the Umtata police but was taken away from them six months ago by the Eastern Cape police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Gerrie Bezuidenhout.

The docket was needed for a separate but related investigation into allegations of security force involvement in hit squads in former Ciskei, made by self-confessed police informer Nzuzo Matiwane.

National police commissioner Lieutenant-General George Fivaz ordered an independent investigation into these

Matiwane was held in then Transkei for some months on allegations he was part of the SADF raid but charges were later dropped for lack of evidence.

He was later charged with murder related to a February 1993 attack in Mdantsane, which he claimed had been carried out with the security forces. This case has also been dropped due to lack of evidence.

The independent investigation into the Matewane matter has been completed and the raid docket is due to be returned to General Bezuidenhout this week.

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