non-stop against apartheid #30 Trial of the Cape Town Sixteen

First published in non-stop against apartheid #30 (the monthly bulletin of City of London Anti-Apartheid Group)

Botha hear the young lions roar!

Amandla! to the 15 young activists who dared to challenge the vicious system of Apartheid-Capitalism in South Africa. They have remained true to the motto of the South African Youth Congress (National Youth Affiliate to the UDF): FREEDOM OR DEATH! VICTORY IS CERTAIN! Victory to the Cape Town 15 who courageously faced the ugly wrath of the Botha regime. The apartheid state showed its fear of the new generation of young people who rise up defiantly to challenge it by gagging, shackling, and incarceratign 14 young activists in Cape Town last month.

One young militant paid the ultimate price. 20-year-old Ashley Kriel, friend and comrade of the convicted 14 was murdered by the South African Security Forces. The 65-day trial of the Cape Town 14 ended on 14 December, 1988, the same day as ANC member Ashley Kriel's inquest began. Ashley Forbes (24) was sentenced to 15 years jail and a further 10 years suspended for five years. Peter Jacobs (22) and Nicklo Pedro (21) were sentenced to 14 years with a further 10 years suspended for five years; Anwa Dramat (20) to 12 years with a further 10 years suspended for five years. Nazeem Lowe (25) and Clement Baadjiess (20) to 10 years with a further 10 years suspended for five years.

Four of the trialists convicted of aiding people they suspected were guerrillas and who admitted to storing explosives were sentenced to two years jail each with a further five years suspended for five years. They are David Fortuin (23), Jeremy Veary (25), Wayne Malgas (22) and Ashraf Karriem (22).

Walter Rhoode (25), Colin Cairncross (23) and Colin Petersen (24) were sentenced to five years suspended for five years because they "failed to report to the police people they knew were planning attacks".

Leon Scott (29) who was convicted of furthering the aims of the ANC by compiling and publishing a pamphlet, The Call to Form Mass Revolutionary Bases, was also sentenced to five years suspended for five years.

The trial, one of the most historic of the Western Cape, was on the basis of evidence beaten out of the defendents by Warrant Officer Benzien while they were held in solitary confinement under Section 29 of the Internal Security Act. Section 29 means that militants can be held for up to six months without having access to their families or to lawyers. It is the period when the South African security police have free reign to interrogate and torture their victims.

In the words of one of them, "Benzien forced me to lie face down on the mat. The material-canvas-type bag was placed over my head and turned extremely tight. After a short period I was near suffocation and then water would be thrown on the bag. I then inhaled the water. On the verge of losing consciousness he would remove the bag from my mouth for brief seconds. To just immediately continue this seemed to me like hours. After a period of this I said that I would talk. Everything was then removed but other handcuffs would be put on...I told them where I stayed but got stuck on the present address because Forbes was there. Then again Benzein said, "I'll take you to the verge of death as many times as I want to." In that momentary break something was placed in my anus and ear with which I was shocked...I thought I should just resist a bit longer cos by now Forbes would be gone."

His ANC commander was Ashley Forbes who in 1983 together with Ashley Kriel was a founder member of the Cape Youth Congress (Regiional Affliate to the UDF). Both had decided to join the ANC military wing in 1985. Forbes was arresxted on 16 May 1987 and was repeatedly tortured and interrogated by the brutal Benzien.

"Benzien was always that week they also informed me [Ashley Forbes] that Ashley Kriel had fallen. In fact WO Benzien almost bragged while he explained how he personally killed Ashley Kriel. During this period Benzien also said that Peter [Jacobs] was going to be assaulted and that he would come back to me. When next I saw him he had the usual clothes on which he uses during assaults and his shirt had stains of blood on it."

On 13 November 1987 Forbes was moved to Pollsmoor jail. WO Benzien who received congratulations from the judge during the Forbes trial, has had his evidence at the Kriel inquest described as "improbable" by a forensic expert. An open hearing will commence on 22 February.

While attempting to mislead the world that apartheid is humanitarian by releasing veteran activists like Govan Mbeki (77), Zeph Mothopeng (75), Harry Gwala (motor neuron disease has paralysed his hands) it is forced to incarcerate ten young lions. We salute the heroic stand taken by the brave fathers of the liberation movement and we know that their releases are victories won, struggled for, and died for by the young black workers, students, the unemployed and women of South Africa.

Michael Burgess 1989