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Vincent Malaza: Double agent who saved ANC cadres' lives from apartheid police

21 April 2020 2:27 PM

#UnResolved investigates the life of Malaza, who switched to the ANC after being horrified at the torture of 1976 activists.

In this episode of UnResolved, Vincent Malaza details his life as a double agent for the African National Congress (ANC) and the apartheid security police. Malaza focuses on the activists they captured, tortured and murdered while working for the security police and some of the apartheid activists he helped escape from the likes of Eugene de Kock.

Recruited in 1970 to join the South African Police force, Vincent Sphithi Malaza spent eight years working as a double agent during the apartheid era. Malaza was able to move freely in the country without needing any passbook to do so. He was recruited by another black security agent and was not given the full details of what he was getting into.

I didn’t want to join the police but there was nowhere I could find a job. I just knew I would be wearing private clothes and I will not be wearing uniform, so I wasn't aware of what was happening in the security.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

We used to go to the tribal authorities to tell the community that ANC are terrorists, they are taking the land for themselves and they are working for the communists, ‘the Russians'.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

Malaza had access to security forces’ top secret files on the ANC. He used the files to connect to the members of the ANC in the country and in exile. Malaza used the information he had from the top-secret files to warn ANC members who the apartheid police were targeting next.

Mathews Phosa was an underground ANC operative and all the documents that were smuggled from the security branch were photocopied in his office. I would smuggle the photocopies to the African National Congress.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

In 2019, former president Jacob Zuma told the state capture commission of inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that former communications minister and umKhumto Wesizwe General Siphiwe Nyanda was an apartheid spy.

Following the allegations, Nyanda brought an application at the Gauteng South High Court suing Zuma for defamation, R800,000 compensation and an apology.

However, Malaza says there was no information to support that Nyanda was a spy. In fact, the security force wanted to abduct and kill him.

There was no information of that nature. He was never an agent. He was noted as a notorious commander who sent freedom fighters to infiltrate and set up attacks at places like Sasol 2.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

UnResolved spoke to Nyanda, who confirmed what Malaza said about him. Nyanda says he knew there was a person called Malaza involved with the security force and the ANC.

I was aware that I was a highly wanted person and I knew that there was a security person called Malaza who worked for the security force and the ANC.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

Vlakplaas, a farm located 20 kilometres west of Tshwane, was used as the headquarters for the South African Police counterinsurgency unit C10 working for the apartheid.

The base was established in 1979 and a 15-member death squad of elite assassins would kidnap and torture anti-apartheid activists for information.

The C1 unit led by Security Police commander Dirk Coetzee and later police colonel Eugene de Kock buried, burnt and even blew up the people they tortured at the Vlakplaas.

Malaza says he worked with “askari” members to get information to pass to the ANC. Askari refers to members of the ANC or Pan Africanist Congress, who through defection or torture, switched and joined the Security Branch to provide information as well as identify and trace their former comrades.

I would make it a point that when the askaris were in the Eastern Transvaal, I provided them with a place to sleep.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

I would arrange shebeen places where when they are drunk, they would give me information. I acted carefully that I must not be captured by the enemy, I thought I was doing the right thing the way I was doing it but in the end I was compromised.”

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

The then provincial head of the Security Branch in Mpumalanga told Malaza that his double life had been uncovered.

Visser Snr, who was based in Middleburg, said to me: ‘We knew from long that you have been betraying us.'

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

They had to make sure that was I the member who was betraying them. When I was interrogated, I gave up my life knowing that after getting what they wanted they would kill me.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

The ANC helped Malaza flee from the Security Branch to Mozambique, leaving behind his wife and three children. He spent four years in exile and when he returned his wife had passed away.

The information that Malaza gathered during his time as a double agent helped the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Missing Persons Unit resolve some cases.

He was able to help us with several cases and he brought a case to us that we wouldn't have known about. Joel Paile from Mamelodi who left the country in 1976, went for training and came back in 1977.

Madeleine Fullard, Head - NPA Missing Persons Task Team

He was arrested and has never been seen again.

Madeleine Fullard, Head - NPA Missing Persons Task Team

Fullard adds that Malaza was able to lead to people who might know or who knew what happened to those missing people.

Malaza came face to face with Eugene de Kock when he was working with the NPA to find the remains of apartheid activists.

I feel pity for him because I understand he is not well. At PietRetief I bought him a pair of socks and underwear. This was a man who wanted me killed.

Vincent Malaza, Former apartheid police officer

In 2015, De Kock was granted parole after spending 20 years in prison for the crimes he had committed during apartheid. While the government turned Vlakplaas into a museum.

Listen to the full podcast and Karyn Maughan's interview with Azania Mosaka here:


21 April 2020 2:27 PM

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