New evidence in Hani death plot
Secret Military Intelligence reports warning of Chris Hani’s impending assassination have raised the startling possibility of a wider plot to kill the popular South African Communist Party leader before the 1994 elections.
The Mail & Guardian is in possession of two documents, at least one which appears certain to have been delivered to the old South African Defence Force’s Department of Military Intelligence (MI) before the assassination. Julie Wilken, long-time girlfriend of MI agent Eugene Riley, says in a sworn statement that she typed the documents, which Riley had composed for his MI handlers.
She has passed a lie-detector test on the contents of her affidavit.
Riley died of a single gunshot wound to his head on January 31 1994. His death remains a mystery.
The documents raise the question why MI, pre-warned, had done nothing to prevent Hani’s death. More surprisingly, they claim an unidentified group of African National Congress operatives had a hand in Hani’s death.
To many, the book was closed on one of South Africa’s most emotional chapters when Conservative Party politician Clive Derby- Lewis and Polish immigrant Janusz Waluz were sentenced to death for the April 10 1993 murder.
But both have now applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - the start, perhaps, of a new chapter that will look more closely at forces other than the small group of rightwingers that wanted Hani dead.
Key to the mystery is an apparent ANC-MI double agent codenamed “Ramon” - described in the documents as the source of the information on the impending assassination.Wilken names “Ramon” as Mohammed Amin Laher, whom M&G knows independently to have co-operated with Riley.
Laher this week threatened to take M&G to court should it name him as Ramon, adding that “the only two people who can [identify him as Ramon] are dead”.
Wilken says in her affidavit: “I found out Laher was a member of the ANC’s Department=20 of Intelligence and Security (DIS) when I typed a number of reports over a period of several months - reports which Riley made to his handler at MI after debriefing Laher ... The reports contained sensitive information on ANC matters.”
About two weeks before Hani’s assassination, Laher started giving Riley information on an assassination attempt that would be launched against an unnamed “prominent political figure”. In follow-up meetings, Laher gave more detailed information, including that Hani would be the target. Wilken states she was present at some of the earlier meetings.
Her affidavit says she recognises the two documents in M&G‘s possession, one dated April 8 or 9 1993 and the other April 10, the day of the assassination, as true copies of the documents she typed. The first document wavers between whether it would be an actual assassination or an attempt to “frighten” Hani. The later document confirms the intent to kill - and even talks of a “Polish member of the `strike unit’”.
Wilken says to the best of her knowledge Riley had, before the assassination, handed at least the first report to his handlers at MI.
A number of weeks after Riley’s own death, Laher told her the plot to kill Hani had come from a small group within the DIS which had found out that the rightwingers were planning the assassination already. Laher told her the DIS members’ role had been to “facilitate” the right-wing attempt and mentioned “something about” Hani’s bodyguards (who were absent at the time of the assassination). “Laher also threatened me not to say anything about the ANC involvement in Hani’s death or his own role.”
The M&G was unable this week to confirm Laher’s exact position with the DIS. But one senior intelligence source said: “This may be related to a policy that we will never confirm or deny the identity of a source.”
Among a number of explanations for the contents of the reports is that it was a conscious disinformation attempt against the ANC by “Ramon”. But the question remains how he could have had foreknowledge of the assassination, which still indicates at least acquiescence on the part of the agency - ANC or the government - where he gleaned his information.
But, like Wilken, who believes Laher had been with the DIS because of the regularity with which he provided ANC information to Riley, there are some in the ANC who believe ANC members had something to do with Hani’s assassination.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was reported in the London Sunday Times, a week after the assassination, to have told confidants she believed moderate ANC leaders had “conspired” with the National Party government to eliminate Hani. The repor said: “According to her, details of Hani’s movements, including critical information about when his bodyguards would be absent, were passed to government security agents, who in turn made this known to Waluz.” Madikizela-Mandela is believed still to hold the same view, but would not comment this week.
Indications in support of this thesis include:
* Both MI documents state that the planned assassination would be moved from April 11 to April 10 “since no access could be obtained to Hani on 1993/04/11”. Strong evidence emerged during the investigation and trial that Waluz had acted earlier than originally planned.
A previously unpublished fact is that Hani had secretly spent the final hours of his last night at a Johannesburg hotel. He might have had reason to send his bodyguards home because of the clandestine nature of the hotel visit. Few people would have had that intimate a knowledge of Hani’s movements to feed to Waluz.
* Journalist Arthur Kemp, originally arrested for having provided address details for the “hit list”, had connections with the apartheid security establishment. A former security police sergeant, he claimed at the time of his arrest to have been an informer for the National Intelligence Service. While there is no evidence to suggest he had in fact played such a role, this gives an indication how the Derby-Lewis-Waluz group could have been infiltrated and manipulated by an outside agency. Kemp was a state witness during the trial.
* Wilken says Riley told her some time after Waluz’ arrest that Waluz would secretly be freed from jail after sentencing, and that a large award would await him. In June 1995, the Sowetan published an article quoting “highly placed intelligence sources” as saying there were negotiations secretly to deport Waluz to Poland and Derby-Lewis to Australia. While it was denied by the government at the time, the Sowetan journalist this week maintained: “I am sure the negotiations took place.”
* The first MI document says “Ramon” claims Hani’s “own agenda has become a big headache for the MK [Umkhonto weSizwe]/DIS hierarchy”. This may well be true. Hani, never one to be dictated to, first came into conflict with his ANC seniors as far back as the ANC’s 1969 Morogoro conference,when he was suspended for his militant approach.
And in 1991, when the ANC had its first National Executive Committee leadership elections in South Africa, Hani’s immense popularity led him to challenge Thabo Mbeki for the party’s deputy presidency. Many in the ANC hierarchy disapproved as the ANC at the time wanted to project a more moderate image. After intense behind-the-scenes jockeying, both Hani and Mbeki agreed to stand down in favour of Walter Sisulu as compromise candidate.
A few months before his death, Hani said in a foreign newspaper interview that he was thinking of starting an outside communist/labour organisation to act as a check on the ANC in the government. No doubt this made him more enemies because of the serious threat posed to the ANC power base. For that, he had only his popularity to thank.
Mpumalanga Premier Matthews Phosa, who headed the ANC’s own investigation into the assassination, this week commented: “It is very clear that those who aided and abetted Janusz et al are now doing everything in their power to further cover their tracks. We, however, remain convinced that the truth will ultimately out. The ANC has kept its file open on this matter until such time as Janusz’s principals are fully disclosed and brought to book.”