Mbeki, Zuma, Maharaj must be charged for Church Street bombing - apartheid police general

2016-05-20 13:30
Former apartheid policeman Johan Van der Merwe. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Former apartheid policeman Johan Van der Merwe. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pretoria - Former apartheid police general, Johan van der Merwe, says former president Thabo Mbeki, President Jacob Zuma and Mac Maharaj should all be charged with murder for their roles in bombings during the armed struggle.

"The Pretoria bombing was authorised at the highest level of the ANC. I know the ANC is blaming Mr Oliver Tambo because he is dead, but in terms of their structures, the NEC was responsible for the policy and conduct of these bombings. And the political military council was responsible to authorise these operations,” Van der Merwe said at an AfriForum conference in memory of the victims of the Church Street bombing in 1983.

The bomb was set off outside the Nedbank Square building in Pretoria's Church Street on May 20, 1983. The target was the South African Air Force offices. Nineteen people, including the two bombers, were killed and 217 people were injured.

Van der Merwe said those who gave evidence at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) could help in securing a conviction against the three.

"Most of the members of the ANC who served in this structure are dead, but Mr Thabo Mbeki, President Jacob Zuma, Mr Mac Maharaj and a few of them are still alive. Notwithstanding the fact that members of the police, security forces and government have already been charged for offences related to the conduct of the past, none of them were ever charged. All of them were, in terms of our law and the principles of common law, guilty of murder."

'Nothing but an act of terrorism'

Van der Merwe gave background on the bombing and used the example of [MK operative] Aboobaker Ismail’s testimony to the TRC. He said Ismail told the TRC that the bombing at Church Square was in retaliation to the raid in Maseru, in which a number of ANC supporters were killed.

He described the bombing as "nothing but an act of terrorism".

"Those who received amnesty can be compelled to testify against them. There is ample evidence available to charge them. There was no indication at any stage that the National Prosecuting Authority would proceed with such prosecutions," he said.

Van der Merwe said the decision not to prosecute the three was in stark contrast with Provision 9 of the Constitution, which provides for equality before the law.

He also spoke about the need for reconciliation.

"It’s in the interest of this country that we should reconcile. That it should be understanding and not revenge. There should be liberation and not retaliation, there should be Ubuntu and not intimidation as our Constitution provided, but then it should come from both sides."

Van der Merwe admitted at the TRC that he had given the order in 1988 for the police to blow up Khotso House in Johannnesburg on August 31, 1988. The building was the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches and housed other anti-apartheid organisations.

Van der Merwe claimed that apartheid Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok had passed on the order directly from then-president PW Botha.

Botha denied any involvement in the bombing of Khotso House.

Former apartheid policeman Johan Van der Merwe speaking at a memorial event of the 1983 Church Street bombing. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Read more on:    afriforum  |  pretoria

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.