Amnesty Decisions

Excerpts from the TRC decision regarding the applicants for amnesty for the death of Steve Biko, heard September 10-14th, 1997 and December 8-12th, 1997:

Harold Snyman:
    Snyman says that he never saw a piece of hosepipe....It is impossible to understand how Snyman would not have seen this part of the scuffle because he says he was continuously present from the moment Biko was brought into [the] room, to the moment when he was tied up on the grille with handcuffs and irons.  Significantly, he also says he knows that a slurred speech and inability to move on the part of an injured person is clear evidence of brain injuries, and therefore constitute a cause for urgent medical attention.  He exculpates himself by saying this was Goosen's and not his business...
    This evidence clearly demonstrates that the condition of Biko was not at all a matter of concern to Snyman.  He says he was not involved in making arrangements to transport Biko to Pretoria and only heard about it on the day when Biko left.  He says that he did not even see Biko when he left....We find Snyman's apparent extreme disinterest in the condition of Biko very striking.  This is particularly so in view of the fact that he was leading a team investigating a very serious matter, which investigation had now been suspended due to Biko's condition.  There was simply no desire on his part to ascertain when Biko would possible be ready for the continuation of what was clearly an important interrogation.
Daniel Petrus Siebert:
    [Seibert's] evidence coincides with the testimony of Snyman.  He denies having personally caused the death of Biko and claims that it was a result of the incident.  He does, however, hold himself responsible because he took part in the scuffle.  When asked what he is referring to in his application where he applies for assault on Biko, he says it is the fact that medical attention was delayed and not arranged immediately after the scuffle, and the fact that he ordered Biko be chained and handcuffed.  He is unable to say that he caused one or more of the injuries that were indentified to have caused Biko's death and says it could have been anyone of his colleagues.
Rubin Marx:
    He is 75 years of age and so no need to apply for amnesty.  He had only done so on instructions from Nieuwoudt....Marx says he never assaulted Biko and the duration of his participation in the scuffle was two or three seconds.  When he fell with Biko he did not do so on purpose, but simple to restrain him.  Anyway he ahd known Biko from a previous encounter in 1974 and Biko had struck him as a "quiet, co-operative, courteous, and civilised" man.  He criticised Siebert for not having created a "good" atmosphere for a starting point.  He says "I will not say that one would have won his trust, but at least one would have had mutual respect for one another."
Jacobus Johannes Oosthuysen Beneke:
    In his application Beneke says that he was a spectator when Biko was being questioned and specifically says Biko was refractory, contemptuous and aggressive.  However, at the hearing he testified that he did not personally observe this particular stage of the altercation.  He says he was simple drawing an inference because Siebert would never have been so agitated if Biko had co-operated.  He denies Jones' testimony of the existence of two hosepipes in room 619, the green one called "Green Power" and the black one called "Black Power."  He says there was only one hosepipe there are it was used by Mr. Coetzee to syphone fuel from an extra cannister which was always carried around in the Land Rover police vehicle.  He could not explain why on that particular day a hosepipe was lying in the interrogation room and not kept in the vehicle.  He says he only saw the hosepipe at the end of the scuffle but had felt the pains when Niewoudt had mistakenly hit him on the back.
    There can be no doubt that the death of Biko resulted from head injuries sustained on the 6th September 1977 when his head collided with an object....during a confrontation between Biko and his interrogators which included the Applicants.
    In our view this application can be decided simply on the version of the Applicants who must satisfy the Committee that their applications comply with the requirements of the Act.  On this version Biko's head was accidentally knocked in an attempt to restrain him after he attacked Siebert.  This was the sole objective sought to be achieved by the Applicants.  There was clearly no political objective being pursued in restraining Biko.  None of the applicants alleged that they were actuated by a political motive in participating in the scuffle with Biko....
    The version of Applicants, moreover, does not disclose any offence or delict as required by the Act.  Applicants accepted that they acted lawfully either in defence against an attack by Biko or simply in restraining him.
    On the above basis alone we are not satisfied that the Applicants comply with the requirements of the Act in that the killing of Biko is not an act associated with a political objective.
    In any event, we are not satisfied that the Applicants have made a full disclosure as further required by the Act.  Applicants' version as to the cause of the scuffle and the manner in which Biko sustained the fatal head injury is so improbable and contradictory that it has to be rejected as false....It appears more probable that Biko was attacked after Applicants did not take kindly to his arrogant, recalcitrant and non co-operative attitude particularly exemplified by his occupying a chair without their permission to do so.  This attack appears to be actuated by ill-will or spite towards Biko.  This view is reinforced by the cruel and inhumane manner in which Biko was treated after he sustained the fatal injury, in particular the manner in which he was shackled to the metal grille and his transportation to Pretoria....
    In the result the applications are dismissed.

(The application of Niewoudt was likewise dismissed on the grounds that the "nature of the applicant's explanation of the events does not lend itself to the finding that he or his colleagues had reasonable grounds to believe that their actions were related to destroying political opposition, in any way.")

Excerpts from the TRC decision regarding the applicants for amnesty for the death of Amy Biehl, heard July 8th and July 9th, 1997:

    According to the evidence of the applicants they were among those who were involved in the attack on Amy Biehl.  Peni admitted throwing stones at his victim when he was three to four metres from her.  Manquina stabebd her with a knife in addition to throwing stones at her.  Nofemela threw stones at her and stabbed her 3 or 4 times.  Ntamo threw many stones at her head when he was only a metre away.  They stopped attacking her when the police arrived on the scene.
    ....The applicants explained their behaviour by saying that earlier that day they had attended a meeting at the Langa High School where a Pan African Student Organisation (PASO) unit was relaunched.  Peni was elected Chairperson at the meeting. Manquina was Vice Chairperson of the PASO unit at the Guglethu Comprehensive School and Nofemela was a PASO organiser at the Joe Slavo High School.
    ....Applicants said that they were all inspired by the speakers to such an extent that they left the meeting with many others in a militant mood.  They marched through the township toyi-toying and shouting ONE SETTLER ONE BULLET, determined to put into effect what they had been urged to do.  This is how they got involved in the activities briefly described above which led to the killing of Amy Biehl.
    ....As members of PASO, which was a known political organisation of students, they were active supporters of the PAC and subscribed to its political philosophy and its policies.  By stoning company delivery vehicles and thereby making it difficult for deliveries in the townships, they were taking part in a political disturbance and contributing towards making their area ungovernable.  To that extent, their activities were aimed at supporting the liberation struggle against the State. But Amy Biehl was a private citizen, and the question is why she was killed during this disturbance.  Part of the answer may be that her attackers were so aroused and incited, that they lost control of themselves and got caught up in a frenzy of violence.  One of the applicants said during his evidence that they all submitted to the slogan of ONE SETTLER, ONE BULLET.  To them that meant that every white person was an enemy of the Black people.  At that moment to them, Amy Biehl was a representative of the white community.  They believed that by killing civilian whites, APLA [Azanian People's Liberation Army] was sending a serious political message to the government of the day.  By intensifying such activity the political pressure on the government would increase to such an extent that it would demoralise them and compel them to hand over political power to the majority of the people of South Africa.
    When the conduct of the applicants is viewed in that light, it must be accepted that their crime was related to a political objective.
    The PAC regarded the killing of Amy Biehl as a mistake committed by young people who were misguided.  They nevertheless supported the application for amnesty.
    .....The applicants have made a full disclosure of all the relevant facts as required...On a consideration of all the evidence placed before us, we have come to the conclusion that they be granted amnesty for the murder of Amy Biehl and the crime of Public Violence arising from the stoning and damaging of vehicles on the 25th August 1993.