I won't apologise, says CCB boss

It is not every day that you get to question the man you believe ordered your death 11 years ago.

And then watch as eight friends, who were with you when a bomb intended to assassinate you exploded, stand up in an amnesty hearing and listen to the man say he won't apologise.

This was one part of the drama at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission amnesty hearings in Cape Town on Wednesday, when a Civil Co-operation Bureau bombing victim, attorney Peter Williams, questioned the dirty tricks organisation's former managing director, Joe Verster.

Colonel Verster is applying for amnesty in connection with the bombing of the Early Learning Centre creche in Athlone in the 1980s and conspiracies to murder Dullah Omar, now Minister of Transport, and Weekly Mail journalist Gavin Evans.

His co-applicants are CCB opratives Carl Casteling "Calla" Botha, Wouter Jakobus Basson, Abram "Slang" van Zyl, Daniel du Toit Burger, Ferdi Barnard, Edward Webb and Leon Maree.

Over a decade ago, Williams was the co-leader of the Cape Youth Congress, which met at the Early Learning Centre in Athlone. A remote-controlled limpet mine was placed in the creche by a gangster, Igsak Hardien, who had been recruited by CCB operatives.

Hardien was paid R18 000.

Colonel Verster has admitted he sanctioned the bombing, but said the CCB had not intended anyone to die in the explosion. It was meant to destroy the building and to "send a message" to the young political activists.

The colonel has remained adamant during three days of testimony that he is not sorry for the acts of the CCB, because they had acted under orders.

He said that Umkhonto weSizwe had not won a single battle against the apartheid state. "Maybe they won politics but they never beat us," he told the amnesty panel.

In response to questions about whether he accepted the changes in South Africa and the new constitution, and whether in retrospect he would have done things differently, he said he was still proud of the work he had done.

Asked whether he had "come to terms with the changes in the new South Africa", he replied: "I do not accept it as correct. There are many things I have a problem with. I do accept the fact that they were elected democratically.

"If the new government were angels with white wings then I would not have had a problem, but they did the same things we did."

His bitterness emerged on Wednesday when he told the commission that he and his former operatives had now become the enemy of both the present government and of the former apartheid government they had worked for.

Williams, who told the commission that he had waited 11 years for the truth, said he believed that the CCB had intended to kill the young political activists who used the Early Learning Centre as a meeting-place. He believed that the police had been involved in the explosion and its subsequent cover-up.

Shortly before the lunch break yesterday, eight activists who were with Williams in the creche at the time of the explosion, stood up. Their attorney, Selwyn Hockey, asked Colonel Verster whether he was sorry he had called them "gangsters who were enemies of the state".

Colonel Verster said he would not be drawn into a public confession, in spite of hearing that the intended victims were teachers, social workers and academics.

Among those he refused to apologise to was Oesman Alexander, at the time a university student, Chris Ferndale, then a social worker, Nazeema Mohamed, at the time a university researcher and Miranda Abrahams, then a nursery-school teacher.

Earlier Williams told the commission they were lucky to be alive and that the CCB had intended to kill them.

"I was in the building at the Early Learning Centre when the bomb exploded. I ran outside and immediately noticed that there was a Casspir on the scene. Within minutes there were also policemen and bomb experts. Did they have prior knowledge of the bombing?" Williams asked.

"Not at all, " Colonel Verster answered. The Early Learning Centre had been chosen as a target because the premises had been used for "leftist activities".

"I was under the impression that the centre was used to plan bomb explosions," he said.

Mr Williams said it was sheer luck that he or the others were still alive today.

Colonel Verster answered that if he had wanted to kill Williams, the CCB would have killed him.

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