NEWS

More Details Expected To Surface About Alleged Plot To Assassinate Nelson Mandela 23 Years Ago

2 senior police officers have been involved in mammoth, high-level investigations, for years.

10/03/2017 18:04 SAST | Updated 10/03/2017 18:08 SAST
Juda Ngwenya / Reuters
Nelson Mandela dances in front of the crowd at the Union Buildings after he was inaugurated as South Africa's first democratic president in May 1994. On the left is second Deputy President F.W. de Klerk and, on the right, first Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. Renewed allegations of a plot to kill Mandela at the inauguration are emerging in a court case.

Suppressed information about a top secret operation, involving senior police officers who allegedly plotted to have a sniper kill former president Nelson Mandela at his inauguration in 1994, is expected to surface in a court case soon.

Details about massive amounts of counterfeit money apartheid-era police officers allegedly produced are expected to be revealed in the same case.

The matter involves Major-General André Lincoln, and will start being heard in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

Highly-placed sources, who declined to be named, told News24 the case is set to lift the lid on sensational information about apparently stagnant investigations.

Lincoln and senior Western Cape police officer Major-General Jeremy Vearey, are set to testify in the matter.

Both have been involved in mammoth, high-level investigations, for years.

Lincoln is claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police) in the long-running matter which is now to be in the High Court.

He also wants judgment passed on what his legal team has termed a "malicious investigation and instigation of prosecution" against him.

Lincoln was discharged from the police in October 2003 and reinstated in June 2010, after being acquitted of charges he effectively believes were fabricated because of his access to Mandela.

Mandela, according to a court document detailing the claims in the matter, appointed Lincoln as the head of the presidential investigation task unit in June 1996.

This was "to investigate allegations of police corruption in the Western Cape and the alleged activities of Mr Roberto [Vito] Palazzolo, who was a suspected member of the Sicilian Mafia [Cosa Nostra]".

Lincoln was later arrested.

Transcript of court proceedings, in News24's possession and date back to 2002, detail a Mandela assassination plot.

This transcript is from a previous court appeal by Lincoln.

Covert operation

At the time, Peter Viljoen, better known by the first name Piet, then a former member of the presidential task unit, had testified that information surfaced about a covert operation, Project Donna, being run by the police's organised crime fighting headquarters in Pretoria.

He said Project Donna had to do with, among other things, printing counterfeit money.

"The information we got was that there was corruption involving leaders of the SA Police Service in the project itself, that the police themselves printed the money, or leaders of the police, and that there was co-operation between the police and Vlakplaas leaders," Viljoen had testified.

Vlakplaas was the farm outside Pretoria, known as apartheid's death squad headquarters, where activists were taken to be tortured and killed.

Viljoen testified this information was passed on to Lincoln, to then minister of safety and security Sydney Mufamadi, and then deputy president Thabo Mbeki.

At that stage he had wanted documents to see if the allegations made against senior police officers were true.

Viljoen had testified the allegations included officers being involved in printing counterfeit money and in corruption, and that they were using Project Donna for their personal gain.

Murder plot

He said there was other information about the officers and that they tried to destabilise the first democratic elections in 1994.

"It looked as if information was obtained that someone, a sharp shooter, would shoot President Mandela at his inauguration.

"With the information we got, we established that the firearm to be used, was in a certain office of [the] organised crime [unit]."

Viljoen had testified that information about the firearm was correct as the rifle was seized in a secret office of the unit in Pretoria.

Counterfeit dollars

He said that early in 1990s, a person was arrested with counterfeit US dollars. Viljoen however testified that this person was not taken into custody, but instead taken to a Holiday Inn hotel.

"This, what I'm saying now, is confirmed in statements from his side, Eugene de Kock's side."

De Kock was an apartheid-era death squad leader.

Viljoen testified that the person taken to the hotel was then used to pay sources in other countries, including Switzerland and Angola, with dollars. These dollars were apparently exchanged with counterfeit ones.

The US Secret Service had for years been searching for the person who was producing counterfeit money and who was taken to the hotel. A team from the US was sent to SA to probe the matter.

Viljoen testified that $35m in counterfeit dollars was found in SA.

He said information surfaced that those linked to Vlakplaas had their own printer, which they used to produce documents including matric certificates.

Viljoen had testified that access to Operation Donna ledgers was made difficult for him. He was eventually handed the ledgers and testified in court that he hoped "we can one day investigate further".

Mafia link

After Lincoln's arrest, Viljoen was ordered to probe Palazzolo. Palazzolo, who at one point lived in SA, is now jailed in Italy.

In 2009, he was sentenced in absentia to nine years' imprisonment by an Italian court for having an association with the Mafia.

He was arrested in Thailand in 2012, on an Interpol notice as he was travelling back to SA.

News24