Remembering June 14, 1985 Gaborone raid

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Press Statement: DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, is commemorating the raid on Gaborone by the-then apartheid government of South Africa on 14 June 1985.

DITSHWANELO wishes to recall the anti-apartheid struggle and the role which Botswana and the region played in the liberation of South Africa. During the time of the raid, relations between Botswana and South Africa were strained because anti-apartheid groups like the African National Congress (ANC) had sought refuge in Botswana.

‘The raid on Gaborone’ (called Operation Plecksy) by the apartheid South African Defence Force (SADF) occurred under the order of General Constand Viljoen. South African soldiers crossed the border into Botswana around 1.30 a.m. on June 14 1985, to lead the attack on what was believed to be the cadres and offices of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the (ANC) and private homes, based in Gaborone.

It is reported that the SADF hired Selous Scouts, a special regiment of the Rhodesian Security Forces. General Viljoen stated that the soldiers used megaphones to urge the residents of Gaborone to stay in their houses while the raid occurred. According to Manuel Olifant, a policeman involved in the raid, the SADF had on standby, fifty (50) tanks, helicopters, and jet fighters in Zeerust for use, if Botswana retaliated. These tanks were however not needed.

On that day, the following people were murdered: a six-year-old Mosotho boy, Ahmed Mohammed Geer (a Somali-born Dutch citizen), Mike Hamlyn (a South African student who was studying at the University of Botswana), Thami Mnyele (a South African graphic artist) and Dick Mtsweni (a 71 –year-old man employed by the ANC as a driver).

On 17 June 1985, the United Nations representative of Botswana sent a letter to the-then President of the United Nations Security Council requesting for help in dealing with the matter. The Government of South Africa sent a letter on the same day, stating that Botswana had been warned about harbouring groups like the ANC, citing that ‘a State had a right to take appropriate steps to protect its own security and territorial integrity against such attacks’.

 The-then Botswana Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Minister Mogwe, stated that alleged evidence of terrorist activities starting in Botswana was fabricated. South Africa responded that since Botswana had not signed the Nkomati Accord (a non-aggression pact with South Africa), the ANC was able to use Botswana as a base for its attacks on South Africa.

The United Nations (UN) Resolution 568 drafted on 21 June 1985 ordered ‘full and adequate compensation by South Africa to Botswana for the damage to life and property resulting from such acts of aggression and affirmed Botswana's right to receive and give sanctuary to the victims of apartheid in accordance with its traditional practice, humanitarian principles and international obligations’.

DITSHWANELO still encourages all Batswana to commemorate this day every year as a reminder of the injustices of the apartheid era, its effects not only to the South African citizens, but those of Botswana and the rest of Southern Africa. We also encourage Batswana to remember the role of Botswana in the anti-apartheid movement.

DITSHWANELO also urges the Government of Botswana to continue keeping to the country’s founding principles and values of Unity and Botho. These principles are testimony of Botswana’s commitment to supporting humanity, in attainment of peace and stability for the enjoyment of their human rights.


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