/ 22 December 1995

Caprivi 200 The year of the Generals

The indictment of the Malan 20 by Attorney General Tim McNally comes as a small victory to journalists who have fought for the expose of the Caprivi 200, write Mail & Guardian

By 1995 many South Africans — force-fed over the years with a diet of reports about “third forces”, “covert operations” and “state-sponsored hit squads” — could not easily be moved to read yet another expose about that dark period of South African history in which members of the country’s security forces deliberately used their proficiency for violence to tear at the fabric of the nation they were supposed to protect.

Then, on the eve of the November local government elections, came the bombshell. Sunday newspapers reported that the attorney general for KwaZulu-Natal, Tim McNally, was on the verge of arresting our erstwhile Defence Minister Magnus Malan and a coterie of other generals and military officers on charges of promoting internecine violence and political murders during the late 1980s.

The indictment against the Malan 20, as the group of generals and military officers charged with the massacre of 13 civilians at KwaMakutha have come to be known, is mostly the result of untiring detective work by a crack group of policeman and lawyers in the Independent Task Unit (ITU). It must be stressed that the charges against the officers still have to be proven in a court of law.

But the fact that a prosecution has been successfully lodged comes as a small victory for that band of newspaper reporters who have long tried to convince the authorities and the public that much of the mayhem that still mars this country’s move towards peace had been arranged in the 1980s from the highest ranks of the military.

The case against Malan and his men was also vindication for David Soggot, a human rights lawyer who had tried to convince Judge Richard Goldstone that the Caprivi 200 — a unit of Inkatha members trained by the South African Defence Force (SADF) — was the agency responsible for many of the happenings that his commission of inquiry into public violence had been appointed to scrutinise. Buried in Soggot’s lengthy submission to the Goldstone Commission is a prophetic paragraph, ignored at the time, whose accuracy has only now been

It says: “The entire operation relating to the training and deployment of the Caprivi training was manifestly masterminded, planned and funded by various members of the Defence Force … It is pointed out that this operation was carried out in conjunction with Inkatha, the KwaZulu government and the KwaZulu Police and that there must exist in consequence a considerable body of documentation, correspondence, books of account, memoranda and reports capable of proving that the SADF, then and now, constitutes a most important single source of political violence in the Republic.”

That a former cabinet minister is now in the dock is largely due to the fact that Colonel Frank Dutton and his colleagues in the ITU were able to track down some of those documents, mainly top-secret reports of a State Security Council subcommittee set up in 1985 to coordinate the training of the Caprivi 200, and make them available for the KwaZulu- Natal Attorney General to prepare his case against the Malan 20.

For many reporters on this newspaper, reading McNally’s charge sheet against Malan and his fellow suspects is a bit like taking a trip down memory lane. Almost every major point made in the indictment was covered by The Weekly Mail (now the Mail & Guardian) in a string of exposes that began more than five years ago with our revelation that a regiment of Inkatha warriors had been trained in the “art of offensive guerrilla warfare” by the Department of Military Intelligence in the Caprivi Strip during 1986.

Here are some examples:

l Says the Indictment: “On 19 December 1985 accused number 14 (General Tienie Groenewald) presented (Inkatha leader Mangosuthu) Buthelezi’s requirements to accused number 19 (General Magnus Malan) and recommended inter alia that the Defence Force should initially train a defensive unit of 10 to 20 men (on a covert basis) for Buthelezi and Inkatha.”

In September 1990, The Weekly Mail ran a front page report that described how the Caprivi 200 were trained at a secret training base on the banks of the Cuando River that had been set up by the Department of Military Intelligence.

“After training was completed the unit was divided into four divisions — called ‘offensive’, ‘defensive’, ‘ministers aides’ and ‘contra-mobilisation intelligence’ — before returning to Ulundi where some were required to train other Inkatha members,” says the report.

It was used at the time to back claims made by Nelson Mandela, then leader of the African National Congress, who had for the first time begun to voice concern in public that a “third force” was responsible for an upsurge in train murders, drive-by shootings and other forms of black-on-black violence in Natal and on the

l The indictment adds: “Accused no 19 (General Malan) also ordered that Colonel Cornelius Johannes Van Niekerk (Accused number 13) head the project. Accused number 13 was then Director of Special Tasks 2 (known as DST-2) and fell under the direct command of Accused number 15 (Colonel Cornelius Jacobus van

These two officers were in charge of South Africa’s covert support for the Renamo rebel movement that waged a 15-year civil war in Mozambique. The Weekly Mail’s September 1990 report said: “There are compelling reasons to believe the devastation and social fragmentation generated by South Africa’s support for Renamo in Mozambique, where a million people have died as a direct or indirect result of the war, have now come home to roost.”

l The charge sheet notes that a “contra- mobilisation group” of the Caprivi 200 were trained to promote Inkatha by a military front company called Adult Education. The recruits were paid by military intelligence long after they returned to South Africa. This was paid into an Inkatha account and paid to members of the paramilitary unit by accused number seven (MZ Khumalo).

In December 1991, The Weekly Mail ran a front- page report under the headline “SADF’s Hidden Hand in Inkatha” which showed that more than R7-million of taxpayers money was used to train and support the Caprivi 200 and that this was funnelled through a military front company called Adult Education.

l The Attorney General’s charge sheet describes in detail how the Caprivi 200 were transported from Namibia back to South Africa and housed at various bases in KwaZulu-Natal. It was from these barracks that a “restless” group from the unit was allegedly recruited to carry out the KwaMakutha killings.

In August 1991, The Weekly Mail uncovered a secret base used by the Caprivi 200 near Mkuze in KwaZulu-Natal. The report begins by saying: “Inkatha members who President FW de Klerk claims were trained by the South African Defence Force as security guards for KwaZulu leaders were involved in the assassination and attempted murder of anti-apartheid activists”.

l The indictment describes how the Caprivi unit and its SADF handlers cooperated with officials at the army’s Natal Command to gather intelligence and obtain weapons in preparation for the KwaMakutha attack.

In an expose published in January 1992 by The Weekly Mail, Inkatha defector Mbongeni Khumalo described in detail how one MZ Khumalo, acted as a liaison between Inkatha and military officers in Natal Command.

The reports says: “Khumalo also reveals that throughout 1989, in collaboration with Inkatha, the SADF’s Natal Command had drafted and distributed tens-of-thousands of leaflets in Natal townships vilifying the Mass Democratic Movement … This is the first direct evidence to back the widely-held belief that MZ Khumalo, Buthelezi’s right-hand man, acted as Inkatha’s chief liaison with Pretoria’s security forces.”

l The charge sheet describes in detail how Daluxolo Luthuli, a commander from the Caprivi 200 unit, played a major role in selecting the home of ANC-sympathiser Victor Ntuli as a target for for the hit squad. “Luthuli was requested to select four potential targets. It was stressed that only persons whose death would have a positive impact on Inkatha must be chosen as targets,” says the indictment.

In February this year, just before Luthuli defected from Inkatha to join the ITU’s witness protection programme, The Weekly Mail ran an exclusive interview with the paramilitary commander. It quoted Luthuli as saying: “I will disclose all I was doing and I want politicians and hit squad members to testify so that they can remind each other … In this way the truth will come out and heal the country’s past wounds and hatred.”