The terrorist organisation lost about 12 killed, including three women. Other people in the targets at the time of the action were spared because they could not be identified as terrorists. One member of the SADF was slightly wounded.
The operation took place in the early hours of Friday, 14 June 1985. Time on target was about 40 minutes. The targets were houses and offices spread throughout Gaberone in such a way that the ANC could hide and shelter among the normal residential and business suburbs of the town.
From these innocent-looking shelters the "peaceful" inhabitants formed the control centre of the Transvaal Sabotage Organisation of the ANC. From Botswana the ANC had been responsible since August 1984 alone for 36 acts of terrorism and violence. During this period six people were murdered and extensive damage was caused to property.
The operation was not aimed at the Government or the people of Botswana, but at clearly identified militant ANC terrorists who were actively involved in the planning and execution of violence and murder in South Africa.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation has for some time played a role in training ANC terrorists and the hand grenade attack on the Deputy Minister-designate Mr. Landers and Mr. Fred Peters in Cape Town earlier in June followed the PLO pattern and was the "last straw" which convinced the South African authorities to go ahead with the Gaberone operation.
Within hours of the return of the SADF teams, South African and foreign news media representatives were briefed at a press conference at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Pretoria, by the Chief of the SADF, Gen. Constand Viljoen, and Brig. Herman Stadler of the Security Branch of the SA Police.
Among items shown to the correspondents after being captured from the ANC were a silencer and subsonic ammunition for the Soviet-supplied AK assault rifle, a sophisticated night telescope sight for the RPG-7 rocket launcher, plans for a remote-controlled car bomb and correspondence identifying a target for ANC terrorists. A large quantity of other material, including documents, also taken during the operation, will be evaluated during the next few weeks.
Gen. Viljoen said there were other ANC targets in Gaberone but that, because of the high risk of casualties on the Botswana side, the SADF had decided not to act against them during this operation. He said:
But we are hoping that the Botswana Government will take note and remove these people before it is necessary for us to operate against them too.He said the targets hit by the SADF had been involved in the planning of terrorist activities and the training, control and provisioning of terrorists against South Africa.
Gen. Viljoen said the ANC's new defensive strategy of hiding among the local population gave them protection and made the task of acting against them "rather difficult". This type of operation was unpleasant, but "we had no choice".
The SADF had been ready to hit the targets a long time ago, but in the interests of stability in our part of the world and "because we sincerely hoped that the Botswana Government would be able to deal with this unwanted presence in their towns and cities", was hoping that the operation would not be necessary.
New intelligence in the previous few weeks, however, had pointed towards the intention of the ANC operating from Botswana to commit many acts of sabotage in the last two weeks of June. The ANC was also planning the assassination of prominent Black, Coloured moderate leaders and also of influential Government and other individuals in South Africa.
We were still hoping that it would not be necessary to carry out the operation when the attack in the Cape came in the Landers case. That was the last straw that convinced us that it would be necessary to do this operation before they could do more harm.Gen. Viljoen hoped the operation had been in time, because it was not known how many ANC teams had infiltrated South Africa from Botswana and had been controlled from the targets attacked in the operation.
The object of the operation had been to disrupt the nerve centre of the ANC's machinery operating against South Africa from Botswana. Since the signing of the Accord of Nkomati between South Africa and Mozambique, the ANC had had to find another way of infiltrating South Africa and had chosen Botswana, which offered a very easy route, establishing "operational nerve centres" manned by people who gave the impression that they were normal civilians or refugees.
Gen. Viljoen said some of the targets had been involved in providing instant training or "crash courses" for ANC terrorists, which was a new feature. Previously the ANC would establish bases where terrorist trainees would spend lengthy periods under instruction. But these bases were detectable and thus vulnerable to attack. So now the ANC was providing crash courses. Recruits would arrive in Botswana as normal weekend tourists and receive training in, for example, the handling of hand grenades. Then the newly-trained recruit would be given a number of grenades and be told to use them on certain targets on certain dates and to claim responsibility.
Referring to the provisioning role of the targets, Gen. Viljoen said that although a number of items of weaponry were found, "we did not find, nor did we expect to find" a big magazine full of rifles, mines, etc. This was because of the ANC's practice of not keeping weapons in large quantities in places like Botswana because the local security police would confiscate them and make arrests. Instead the weapons would be concealed in caches or sent ahead to be used by operators later.
Another role carried out from the targets was the tasking of terrorist groups which were to enter South Africa, and the provision of "safe houses" as well as transportation.
Referring to the operation itself, Gen. Viljoen stressed that he had given specific instructions to the operators to act only against known terrorists.
There were cases where women in the houses were saved because they were identified as not being trained terrorists. Unfortunately also in the crossfire, according to our records at this stage, one woman and two children were wounded. According to Botswana Radio one child died. That is a great pity.He added that great care was taken not to involve the local public.
We were really concerned about the safety of all the innocent people around them. We made use of loudhailers. The inhabitants of Gaberone acted very well. They co-operated. We asked them to go inside their houses and they did, which saved them from being injured.Gen. Viljoen said there had also been instances where the SADF elements had met with Botswana police patrols.
We asked them by means of loudhailers not to interfere, which they did, and we are very grateful for their co-operation. We would hate to get involved with the security forces of Botswana.There was one incident away from the target areas. As Gen. Viljoen recalled:
We also had the case where one vehicle came towards us - I'm not sure what type of vehicle it was, I don't think it was a police vehicle. The vehicle came from the Kapfontein (border post) area at quite a speed with its hazard lights on and it came straight up to a certain position of ours that we had to keep open for the teams to withdraw...Gen. Viljoen said the driver saw the SADF position and stopped. Shots were fired from the vehicle.
We tried to convince them not to shoot, but they continued shooting. Then because we had to keep this point open at all costs, we dealt with that vehicle and I think the two occupants were killed.Answering a question after briefing the correspondents, Gen. Viljoen confirmed that possible international repercussions had been considered when the operation was being planned.
It was very carefully debated and very carefully thought out. We acted in a very responsible way. We considered every possible repercussion and we came to the conclusion that this was the right thing to do.
This was disclosed by Brig. Herman Stadler of the SA Police Security Branch when he briefed local and foreign correspondents after the SADF operation against ten ANC targets in Botswana.
Brig. Stadler said President Masire of Botswana had given the ANC permission to operate a political office in his country. The ANC leader Oliver Tambo took advantage of this and sent a secret message to ANC members in Botswana placing them on "full-scale armed alert" and ordering them to continue attacks on South Africa from there.
Weapons were secretly smuggled into Botswana and caches were established, enabling a series of terrorist attacks to be launched from Botswana soil.
Brig. Stadler said Botswana had been activated by the ANC because of the terrorist organisation's inability to continue their attacks on the RSA either directly from Mozambique or via Swaziland.
Months of painstaking intelligence gathering undertaken by the Security Branch of the SA Police, exercising its primary task of ensuring the safety of the South African population had enabled the police, in conjunction with the SA Defence Force, to identify certain targets in Botswana.
Describing the targets, Brig. Stadler pointed to a display of photographs and details where each was illustrated. Examples quoted below (space does not allow for each to be described in detail):
Plot C, Thlokweng: Used as a safe house since 1980 for trained terrorists en route from Zambia to the RSA prior to their infiltration. Regularly used for crash course training of ANC recruits attached to the Transvaal and Western Cape "suicide squads". Swartruggens murder (see table) planned from here in April 1985.
Plot A, Thlokweng Occupied by "George", an Indian, and Tim Williams. "George" was fully trained militarily and responsible for accomodation of ANC "underground leadership" as well as of ordinary terrorists prior to their infiltration to the RSA. He also accommodated ANC recruits during their visits to receive crash course training. Williams had been actively involved in ANC activities in Botswana since the 1970's, and also responsible for accommodating terrorists.
7819 Broadhurst Occupied by Duke Machobane, militarily trained and active since January 1985 in underground activities in Botswana. Provided secret accommodation for Mkhonto We Sizwe in Botswana and acted as liaison between trained terrorists arriving from Zambia en route to RSA, and the leadership of Mkhonto We Sizwe.
13212 Broadhurst Occupied by Nkukwane Motsweni, alias Mkhulu, responsible for ANC logistics in Botswana since June 1981, and for the transportation of trained terrorists arriving from Zambia to "safe houses" in Botswana.
2914 Pudulugo Close Occupied by Mike Hamlyn, actively involved in ANC activities in Botswana since February 1982 and responsible for accommodating terrorists and for transporting ANC recruits attached to the "Transvaal Suicide Squad" during their visits to Botswana for "crash course" training.
Cycle Mart Building housing the offices of the "Solidarity News Service" (SNS), consisting of Mizra Rajee (alias Daniel Simmons/Simon), Barry Gilder, Heinz Klug, Peter Richer and Sadi Pule, who formed part of the "intelligence gathering" apparatus of the ANC in Botswana and who also distributed a propaganda pamphlet in "newsletter" form aimed against the RSA.
15717 Broadhurst Occupied by George Pwale, active since October 1980 in Botswana, transporter of trained terrorists for infiltration to the RSA, controller of ANC financial affairs and responsible for the bomb blast at the Carlton, Johannesburg, in December 1976.
And so the list of targets went on...
Continuing his briefing, Brig. Stadler said the terrorist attacks in the Western Cape showed a marked similarity to other attacks orchestrated from Botswana soil by the ANC.
Among the numerous weapons of war brought back by the SADF were certain highly specialised items, including a sophisticated optical sight for the RPG rocket launcher. In daylight the sight could be used as a telescopic sight and at night, a battery-illuminated reticule provided sighting facilities.
Another item was a silencer for the AK assault rifle, which with the subsonic ammunition also found, indicated that the ANC was planning selected assassinations. The silencer was the first of its type to be found in southern Africa.
Brig. Stadler also showed correspondents' plans of a transmitter and receiver, with detailed instructions, for the manufacture of remotely-detonated car bombs such as were used in Church Street, Pretoria, and in Durban.
Brig. Stadler stressed that pre-knowledge of terrorist plans enabled the security forces to take preventive action. "Indeed we (the Security Branch) owe it to the public of South Africa to gather as much information as possible on the aims and objectives of terrorist organisations such as the ANC."
He said this task became even more challenging because the ANC had no internal logistic infrastructure and must therefore operate from outside the borders of the RSA.
Intelligence gathered about conspiracies within the borders of the RSA was aimed primarily at eliminating such conspiracies by due process of law.
"In circumstances, however, where the conspiracy against South Africa occurs in a foreign state, other methods must be used," he said.
In a discussion on 21 April 1983 at Jan Smuts Airport between Mr. Pik Botha and the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana, Mr. Archie Mogwe, the Botswana Government was provided with a list of names of ANC terrorists in Botswana together with an indication of their active participation in the planning and intended execution of violence in South Africa and was urged to take appropriate action to curtail their activities. This request was repeated to Mr. Mogwe at a meeting in Cape Town on 28 February 1984.
On 22 March 1984 the South African Government proposed and on 26 March 1984 the Botswana Government accepted that the security forces of the two countries should design measures to prevent the planning and execution of acts of violence, sabotage and terrorism against each other.
During a further meeting at ministerial level in Pretoria on 24 May 1984 concensus was reached that neither Botswana nor South Africa would harbour elements which planned or executed terrorism.
In a public statement on 12 September 1984, in response to certain remarks attributed to President Masire of Botswana, Minister Botha said that the Botswana Government was not able to reach an acceptable understanding with the South African Government on the combating of acts of terror against South Africa from Botswana territory. Mr. Botha therefore warned that South Africa reserved the right to take steps to prevent acts of terror and sabotage from being planned and executed from neighbouring states.
The Security Forces of Botswana and South Africa held a further meeting in Gaberone on 30 October 1984 which ended inconclusively because the Botswana authorities had no mandate from their government to agree on practical arrangements to prevent Botswana from being used as a launching pad for terrorism against the RSA.
In the circumstances, Minister Botha wrote a letter to the Botswana Foreign Minister, Dr. G.K.T. Chiepe, on 14 December 1984, inviting her for further ministerial discussions.
During discussions between the South African Police and the Botswana Police in Gaberone on 24 January 1985, Botswana was warned that there was conclusive evidence that the ANC was using Botswana progressively more as a launching pad for acts of terror in South Africa.
In a telex of 29 January 1985 to the Botswana Foreign Minister, Minister Botha once again stressed the need for effective arrangement between the two relevant branches of the Security Forces to combat organised subversion.
He indicated that since his letter of 14 December 1984, terror against South Africa and its neighbour, the Republic of Bophuthatswana, had increased.
Minister Botha once more pointed out that peace and stability in southern Africa could not be maintained if terrorists and their supporters, intent on the overthrow by force of a sovereign government, were harboured in the territory of a neighbouring sovereign state, be it with or without that latter state's knowledge or consent. In short, the Minister said this situation could not continue, adding that it had always been the South African Government's belief that the problems of the southern African region should be solved by the leaders of the region. It was for this reason, Minister Botha stressed, that he once again made an earnest appeal to the Botswana Government to give urgent attention to this problem with a view to reaching an understanding on some effective and practical arrangement between the Security Forces of the two countries, to ensure that the territory of neither was used for the planning or execution of acts of sabotage or terrorism against the other.
During a subsequent meeting between the Botswana and South African Foreign Ministers in Pretoria on 22 February 1985, Minister Botha commenced the discussion by stating that the main purpose of the meeting was to come to an arrangement on the serious issue of the infiltration into South Africa of terrorists from Botswana. The Botswana Foreign Minister was told that South Africa knew for a fact that the ANC had chosen Botswana as an important infiltration route to South Africa.
It was agreed during this meeting that the Security Forces of the two countries would once again attempt to come to an understanding on practical arrangements on how to combat this growing danger.
However, at a meeting between the Security Forces of the two countries which followed the ministerial meeting, the Botswana Security Forces again indicated that they had no mandate to accept the proposed arrangements although they themselves displayed a willingness to do so because of a realisation on their part of the destabilising effect of the growing ANC presence in Botswana.
Since August 1984, the ANC has been responsible for 36 acts of terror and violence which were planned and executed from Botswana. During this period, 6 persons were murdered and extensive damage was caused to a power station near Rustenburg and the properties of individual South African citizens.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has for some time played an important role in the training of ANC terrorists and the cowardly hand grenade attack on Deputy Minister Designate Landers and Mr. Fred Peters, National Secretary of the Labour Party, followed a typical PLO pattern.
The South African Security Forces had no alternative but to protect South Africa and its people from the increasing number of terrorist attacks emanating from Botswana. Botswana has repeatedly been warned to curtail these activities in its territory.
It is an established principle of International Law that a state may not permit on its territory activities for the purpose of carrying out acts of violence on the territory of another state. It is equally well established that a state has a right to take appropriate steps to protect its own security and territorial integrity against such acts. South Africa will not tolerate such activities. Although it is committed to resolve its differences with its neighbours by peaceful means, South Africa will not hesitate to take whatever action may be appropriate for the defence of its own people and for the elimination of terrorist elements who are intent on sowing death and destruction in our country and in our region. We will not allow ourselves to be attacked with impunity. We shall take whatever steps are appropriate to defend ourselves. South Africa is nevertheless convinced that the problems of our region cannot and will not be solved by violence.
At a second press briefing, held as Paratus was going to print, the SAP expanded on information disclosed at the earlier Waterkloof briefing.
Maj. Craig Williamson, who had himself infiltrated the ANC in the past, said the most important single find was the ANC's financial records for Botswana from 1977 to date, with full details of receipts and payments and records of subscriptions. The financial statements, as well as other documents, showed that the ANC's Botswana operation ran a banking account under the name of "African Arts and Crafts Exporting Agents", and that there was no shortage of funds. Information about the banking account was a most important point, because it showed that the ANC hid its financial affairs from the Botswana authorities.
Other important finds were the computer, taken from the "Solidarity News Service" with full operating instructions, and telephone accounts with details of trunk calls made to ANC contacts in the RSA. The SAP were following up these leads.
Evidence had also been found that the Dutch citizen of Somali extraction, Ahmed Mohammed Geer, killed in one of the targets, had contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Other points to emerge from the briefing...
Material brought back had provided overwhelming proof that the intelligence upon which the decision to proceed with the operation was correct, he said.
From: Paratus, July 1985
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