Grosskopf gets amnesty

2000-12-13 23:03

Johannesburg - The TRC's amnesty committee has granted amnesty to Heinrich Johannes Grosskopf for the bombing of the Wits Command army base on 31 July 1987. This brings to an end a long and painful saga for his family.

Johannes Grosskopf, a former Beeld editor, on Wednesday welcomed the news. He said the family had suffered many years of torture at the hands of the security police when it became known that his son - as an operator for Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) - was almost single-handedly responsible for the attack in which more than 30 people were injured.

"After Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok's initial hysteria the security police kept harassing us. Cowardly policemen phoned us with threats in the middle of the night and also robbed us blind" Grosskopf said.

The amnesty committee ruled that the attack by Grosskopf was targeted at the army and the apartheid regime as the political enemies of the ANC and MK.

Injuries to civilians had been expected, but that hadn't been the primary aim of the attack. Although people were hurt, nobody died. Therefore the committee believed the incident was politically motivated as described in the Act on Reconciliation and National Unity.

The committee was also convinced that Grosskopf completely revealed all relevant facts and consequences of the attack. He had on 21 November testified in Pretoria before the committee on his modus operandi of establishing a cache in Emmarentia where he stored four limpet mines, two hand grenades and an AK47 rifle and ammunition.

Young Victim Did Not Oppose Application

The total indemnity against criminal prosecution is an early birthday present for Grosskopf, who turns 37 next Thursday.

The amnesty committee came to a swift decision on his application, one of seven connected to human rights violations between 1960 and 1994. This was possible because no victim of the attack officially opposed his application.

Spokesperson for the TRC, Odile Pearce, said the speedy processing could also be attributed to the fact that his application was supported with finer detail and that he was prepared to testify personally before the committee.

Alta Klaasen, at the age of 17, was one of the youngest victims of the attack. She said she would never forget Grosskopf's face, but she did not oppose his application.

According to the amnesty committee, Klaasen could demand compensation. Her left eye was severely damaged when the explosives devastated the Quartz Street building in downtown Johannesburg. The 120kg bomb was hidden in a Valiant bakkie.

In his presentation to the TRC, Grosskopf said: "It was impossible for me to grow up in South Africa, even in the white suburbs, without becoming aware of the inequalities and injustices of apartheid. Throughout my school-going years this resulted in arguments with my fellow pupils and, as I grew up, with teachers."

Grosskopf joined the ANC in 1986 in Swaziland. He became a member of MK and after military training, a member of its special operations unit. He moved to Britain in 1991.