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The bombing of Khotso House was decided at the highest level of apartheid-era structures, write Themba Molefe and Tebogo Monama

By unknown | Jul 24, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

"PW Botha instructed Adriaan Vlok to look into the matter in depth and take the necessary steps to make the building unusable."

This statement about the explosive demise, as recorded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tells partly how Khotso House - The House of Peace - was bombed.

On the morning of August 31 1988, South Africa woke up to an eerie day, one that sent shock-waves throughout the world.

In fact, a politician remarked that it was apartheid gone mad.

It was on that day that the South African Council of Churches' headquarters, in downtown Johannesburg, was destroyed by a bomb.

Khotso House had been razed to the ground and so was a sanctuary for political activists who were seeking refuge from apartheid's security forces.

It would emerge later at the TRC that PWBotha had personally ordered the bombing that was carried out by Eugene de Kock, then commander at Vlakplaas, a secret farm owned by the security branch of the South African Police.

Former minister of law and order Vlok and several senior policemen applied for and were granted amnesty for the blast.

When it emerged that the bombings were orchestrated by the security police, former SACC general secretary Frank Chikane said: "I'm happy in one sense that we have been vindicated. I'm also happy that the truth is coming out, but I'm angry as well because so much pain has been inflicted on innocent people."

Evidence that was given to the TRC by former Commissioner of Police General Johann van der Merwe was that Khotso House was bombed because it was a secret meeting place for members of the ANC, then a banned organisation.

Vlok and Van der Merwe were part of a group that was granted amnesty for their involvement in the devastation of Khotso House.

Vlok, who made headline news for his famous washing of Chikane's feet, is facing charges of poisoning the man who insists he has forgiven him.

Others also granted amnesty for the Khotso House bombing include former security police officers General Gerrit Erasmus and Willem Schoon; former commander of the notorious C Unit at Vlakplaas, Eugene De Kock; Wahl du Toit; Paul Erasmus; Douw Willemse; Charles Zeelie; Andries van Heerden; Izak Bosch; Jacob Kok; Larry Hanton; Nicholaas Vermeulen; Hendrik van Niekerk Kotze; George Hammond and Michael Bellingan.

Amnesty was granted to all applicants in respect of public violence and malicious damage to property, the unlawful possession of arms, ammunition and explosives for the purposes of bombing Khotso House.

They were also granted amnesty for defeating the ends of justice, by among other things, spreading false information about the possible involvement of political activist Shirley Gunn in the explosion.

They were also pardoned for other crimes directly or indirectly linked to the blast.

The TRC heard that Vlok had discussed the plan to bomb Khotso House with Van der Merwe. They submitted a report to Botha and the matter was discussed by his security council.

Schoon then instructed De Kock to carry out the explosion.

In his evidence before the TRC, Vlok apologised to Gunn for falsely implicating her in the bombing.

Vlok, Van der Merwe and other apartheid-era police officers will be tried on August 17 in Pretoria for poisoning Chikane's clothing.


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