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Major Operations

6.1 The Siege of Volkskas Bank, Silverton - 25 January 1980"

Four hostage takers, armed with AK47 assault weapons and hand grenades, held the Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria under siege. They threatened to kill the hostages if all their demands were not met.

In the ensuing release operation, Special Task Force members killed all the hostage takers, while hostage casualties were caused by hostile small-arms fire and a hand grenade explosion.

6.2 Laingsburg flood disaster - 25 - 30 January 1980

The Special Task Force lead the search - and rescue operations. 47 bodies were recovered in 5 days. The Special Task Force also rendered disaster relief assistance to the local population.

6.3 Hostage Situation- Goedemoed Prison - 30 July 1988

Using sharpened objects, 22 prisoners attacked the prison warders at Goedemoed Prison.

One of the warders failed to escape and was taken hostage in a cell.

The hostage was stabbed twice in the neck while one of the warders was trying to negotiate with the prisoners.

The SAPS Special Task Force was called in to assist in the matter. Nine members of the Special Task Force were flown to Goedemoed Prison.

The Special Task Force freed the hostage with the assistance of the negotiator (warder) and the Reaction Unit of Bloemfontein.

The two prisoners who held the warder hostage, were wounded, one of them fatally.

6.4 Operation Husky: The Bus Capture & Hostage Situation at Lesotho - 14 September 1988

The Pope visited Maseru on the above date. Four members of the Lesotho Freedom Alliance hijacked a bus transporting 74 passengers at the British Embassy.

The SAPS Special Task Force was called in to assist in the matter.

When negotiations failed, the hostage takers began shooting at the bystanders in the British Consulate. They then attempted to use the bus to ram through the embassy gates.

The Special Task Force stormed the bus, killing three hostage takers and capturing one. They disarmed an IED (improvised explosive device).

17 hostages who were injured by hostile gunfire were stabilized by Special Task Force medics.

6.5 Bophuthatswana Coup - July 1988

6.6 Mobilisation and Assistance to Koevoet: 7 day war - 1 April 1989

6.7 Body recovery at Selby Mine - Johannesburg - 13 December 1989

Two members of the Special Task Force assisted the Brixton Murder and Robbery Unit in recovering a corpse from the Selby mineshaft, Johannesburg.

The corpse was found at a depth of 141 meters. Obstructions, bad construction and the threat of toxic gases created additional hazards.

Two members of the Special Task Force were individually lowered into the shaft, but were forced to return to the surface owing to respiratory difficulties.

One member was given oxygen apparatus and lowered down the shaft again. After securing the corpse to a rope, he was hoisted to the surface.

Both members were awarded the South African Police Cross for Bravery for their unselfish deed.

6.8 Hostage Situation - Walmer, Port Elizabeth - 11 January 1993

A former Mkontho wiSizwe member working at the time for the military took a woman hostage and held her at gunpoint.

As negotiations failed, the Special Task Force entered the building and incapacitated the captor with 2 shots. The hostage was not hurt.

6.9 Hijacked Fokker FU28 at Jan Smuts International Airport - 4 July 1993

A Fokker FU28 airliner of Royal Swazi Airlines with 21 passengers on board was hijacked and diverted to Jan Smuts Airport, near Johannesburg.

The SAPS Special Task Force was summoned to the scene and 22 members were dispatched to the airport to contain the situation and release the hostages. After being informed by the psychologist on the scene that the hijacker was emotionally unstable and irrational and a threat to the hostages, the Special Task Force was given the command to recapture the aircraft and to release the hostages.

The hijacker was wounded in the head during the storming of the aircraft. A hostage was wounded in the shoulder and the pilot in the leg.

No casualties were sustained by members of the Special Task Force.

6.10 Rescue Operation SALU Building, Pretoria - 15 June 1994

On 15 June 1994, 28 members of the Special Task Force raced to the city centre to assist with a rescue operation.

A building with a number of floors was on fire and personnel working in the building above the floors which were on fire were trapped.

Members of the Special Task Force, SAPS Air Wing and SA Air Force using helicopters rescued people from the top of the building.

Other members used roping equipment to evacuate the trapped people to safety. Only a small number of people were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

6.11 Arrest of Weapon Smugglers at Nduma - 10 July 1994

Weapons are regularly smuggled from Mozambique to South Africa via the Kruger National Park which borders on Mozambique.

The Organized Crime Unit and Firearm Tracing Unit requested the Special Task Force to be of assistance by way of observation duties of specified areas which had been identified by informers as areas which the smugglers readily use.

10 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the Nduma area in the Kruger National Park where they established observation posts.

The operation was successful and three (3) Mozambicans were traced and arrested. The members seized 30 AK47 rifles and three (3) SAM-7 ground-to-air missiles.

6.12 Hostage Situation and Attempted Suicide at Telkom Offices, Pretoria - 27 October 1994

A man armed with a firearm and was upset about the non-payment of his salary, entered the Telkom Distribution offices where he worked and took a number of people hostage.

The hostage negotiators and 21 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the scene. After prolonged negotiations, all the hostages were released but the man refused to surrender and threatened to take his own life.

The Special Task Force were still in position and ready to take action while the negotiations with the man continued. While the negotiations were taking place, the man decided, without warning, to move to another office.

The man was over-whelmed in the passage after his attention had been drawn by a stun grenade and he was disarmed. Neither the man nor the people who disarmed him were injured in the incident.

6.13 Hostage Situation (1st) St Albans Prison - Port Elizabeth - 24 to 25 February 1995

On 24 February 1995, 22 members of the Special Task Force were summoned to St Alban's Prison, Port Elizabeth where approximately 105 prisoners had taken a prison warder as hostage.

During the night of 24 - 25 February 1995, after prolonged negotiations the prison warder was released after a tactical release lasting 20 seconds.

One hostage taker was fatally wounded. One injured and the other prisoners were arrested. The hostage was released without injuries. Two firearms and a M26 hand grenade were seized after the operation.

6.14 Hostage Situation Bella Vista, Johannesburg - 1 March 1995

A man took his fiancée and her little daughter hostage after a family dispute.

The hostage negotiators and six members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the scene. During negotiations, the man continually held a knife against the throat of his fiancée and also sodomized her in the presence of her daughter. The child was also ill-treated by the man while his fiancée had to watch.

A tactical release of the hostages was the only way out. One member of the Special Task Force was employed as a sniper and during the tactical release of the hostages, the man was fatally wounded. A firearm was found in the room where the man had held the woman and child hostage.

6.15 Arrest of Dangerous Criminal, Citrusdal - 16 May 1995

On 12 May 1995 8 members of the Special Task Force, Cape Town were summoned to Citrusdal to trace and arrest a dangerous fugitive in the Citrusdal area.

On 16 May 1995 the suspect was traced to a storm water drain in the Citrusdal area. A gun-battle between the fugitive and a member of the Special Task Force ensued. The fugitive was wounded in both hands and the member of the Special Task Force in his upper arm.

The fugitive was arrested and was found guilty on several charges of murder, attempted, murder and robbery.

6.16 Hostage Situation Hollywood Café, Sunnyside - 6 August 1995

A man, fleeing from the SAPS on 6 August 1995, took a woman hostage in the Hollywood Café, Esselen Street, Sunnyside.

The Special Task Force was summoned to the scene by Radio Control after which the hostage taker was arrested and the hostage tactically released.

The man was found guilty of armed robbery, kidnapping, pointing of a firearm and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

6.17 John Ross House: Attempted Murder, Esplanade, Durban -??August 1995

Members of the Durban Child Protection Unit had a warrant to remove a baby from her mother's care. The mother decided that nobody would get her baby and decided to hang the baby outside the window of her 10th floor flat. Members of the Special Task Force entered the flat and grabbed the baby from the mother. The mother was charged for attempted murder and child abuse.

6.18 Operation Rachel I to V Tracing and Destroying Weapon Caches in Mozambique - 1995 to 2001

Five (5) dangerous cross-border operations involving members of the South African Police Service and Mozambican Police have already taken place in respect of the tracing and destroying of weapon caches in Mozambique. The following weapons and explosive ordnance have thus far been recovered and destroyed:

• Rifles - 5903
• Pistols - 13
• Explosives - 42kg
• Detonators - 254
• Hand grenades - 842
• Land mines - 81
• Anti-personnel mines - 5260
• Mortars - 4220
• Projectiles - 5780
• Ammunition - 189392
• Magazines - 1360

6.19 Tracing of Suspects, Siyabuswa - 8 September 1995

Information was gathered by the Pretoria Murder and Robbery Unit about a planned armed robbery of a factory in Siyabuswa on 8 September 1995. It was a Friday which was also payday with a large amount of wages at the factory.

The information gathered was very vague as the identity of the suspects was not available, the type of transport to be used and the manner in which the robbery would take place. The Special Task Force deployed 9 members to the scene to assist with protection of the factory and arrest of suspects, if needed. The robbers entered the premises and tried to holdup the cashier. The Special Task Force members reacted and a gun-battle ensued. Two robbers were fatally wounded, one wounded and one arrested. One vehicle and firearms were seized on the scene.

6.20 Kidnapping and Hostage Situation, Vereeniging - 27 November 1995

The Intelligence Service and CID of Secunda and Vereeniging requested the assistance of the Special Task Force in an operation to locate the whereabouts of a man who had been kidnapped and was being held hostage.

Information at hand was that the man had been kidnapped by 3 men and was being held hostage in a Daleside, Vereenigng house. 9 members of the Special Task Force were made available for the operation and the kidnapped man was released uninjured during a tactical release. All three men were arrested without a single shot being fired. 5 fire-arms which had been used by the hostage takers were seized.

6.21 Assistance: National Investigation Task Unit, Natal South: Shobashobane Massacre at Izingolweni - 2 February 1996 to 3 June 1996

On 2 February 1996 the Special Task Force was deployed to assist, in Port Shepstone, the National Investigation Task Unit, Natal South, which was charged with the investigation into the Shobashobane massacre in the Izingolweni district.

The Special Task Force performed the following services:
• The protection of Director Engelbrecht, Superintendent Moodley and four other officers.
• Making arrests and also protecting investigating officers.

On 18 April 1996 Operation Shobashobane commenced and these tasks were performed by the members of the Special Task Force. The operation ran from 18 to 29 April 1996.

On 29 April 1996 Senior Superintendent Fryer scaled down the assistance to only one team, as well as two members for protecting Director Engelbrecht. The team consisted of the following Special Task Force members:

Detection Team
• Six officers

Protection Services
• Two officers

During Operation Shobashobane the Special Task Force and the investigating officers were assisted by Captain W N, a SAPS pilot flying one BK 117 helicopter, Doctor F and six medical orderlies of 7 Medical Battalion, Pretoria. Sincere thanks are expressed to these persons, and the organizations they represent, for their contribution to the operation.
• Suspects were arrested by the Special Task Force and investigating officers.
• The Special Task Force's services and assistance were terminated on 3 June 1996.
• No difficulties were experienced.
• Good cooperation was experienced between the various units and other organizations.

6.22 Arrest of Subject - May 1996

Members of the Special Task Force, Durban were summoned to the Port Shepstone beachfront where they came across a man who was firing at any person who dared to move. The situation was brought under control after a Special Task Force sniper shot the pistol out the suspect's hand from a distance of 35 meters.

6.23 Hostage Situation Northriding, Johannesburg - 11 July 1996

A 39 year old man took his wife and children as hostage. The Special Task Force deployed 12 members to protect the hostage negotiators and to do a tactical release.

After prolonged negotiations it was decided to tactically release the hostages after which the hostage taker was arrested without a shot being fired. The wife and two children were unscathed after their release. A 9mm pistol and 112 rounds of ammunition were seized.

6.24 Hostage Situation 34 Baccus Street, Irene - 12 August 1996

On 12 August 1996 a man took a year old baby hostage at 34 Baccus Street, Irene. The Special Task Force deployed 21 members to the scene. During negotiations, snipers were deployed in the vicinity.

The snipers observed that the man held the baby in front of him with a knife to it's throat all the time. The hostage taker only moved a curtain occasionally to see what was going on outside, but never let go of the baby.

Negotiations which had lasted a long time did not succeed and it was decided on a tactical release of the baby by members of the Special Task Force.

During the tactical release, both snipers fired simultaneously, fatally wounding the hostage taker. The baby was safely released without any injuries.

6.25 Hostage Situation, Utrecht Prison - ????1996

The commander and two officers from the Utrecht Prison were released by members of the Special Task Force, Durban. 66 prisoners were arrested and four firearms which were illegally in the possession of prison warders were seized.

6.26 Arrest of Suspects on a Ship: Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town - 20 October 1996

On 20 October 1996 10 members of the Special Task Force, Cape Town were summoned to the Table Bay harbour for a hostage situation on a Chinese boat, the Win Furr. On arrival at the scene it was established that the captain of the ship had been held hostage but was released. When a member of the SAPS boarded the boat to arrest the suspects he was disarmed by them and they threatened to shoot the police.

Members of the Special Task Force decided to do a tactical release when a gun-battle ensued. Two Chinese crewmen who were part of the mutiny were wounded and 15 others arrested.

6.27 Hostage Situation (2nd) Correctional Services: St Albans: Port Elizabeth: -10 to 12 February 1997

On 1997-02-10 at 12:15 the Special Task Force received a call from Senior Superintendent John Best, of POP, Port Elizabeth to assist during a hostage situation which had arisen at St Albans Prison, Port Elizabeth. Six hostages were held by 55 prisoners with 2 pistols and other sharpened weapons.

A total of 40 Special Task Force members were mobilized from Special Task Force, Pretoria and Special Task Force, Cape Town. All the members were transported by air to Port Elizabeth.

On their arrival at St Albans members attended a briefing. The briefing was elucidated through videos, photographs and plans of the building.

After the briefing the plan was explained to members and members were divided into several groups.

The groups took in their appointed positions.

At 03:00 the Special Task Force was given permission to act. The members positioned themselves right in front of the entrance route. The hostage takers were informed of the impending action by corrections officers sympathetic to the prisoners. The Special Task Force members then withdrew tactically.

Planning commenced anew, and this led to new needs arising. An additional 5 Special Task Force members departed from Pretoria to Port Elizabeth with the needed equipment.

At 02:00 the members advanced towards various entrance routes and took action at 03:25.

The hostages were rescued into safety within 40 seconds. All five of them were unharmed. Members of the Special Task Force then withdrew. The outcome was as follows:

• Five hostages were rescued.
• One prisoner died.
• One prisoner was wounded.

6.28 Hostage Situation West Street, Durban - 6 April 1997

A father took his family hostage in a parked vehicle in West Street, Durban. During negotiations the Special Task Force used a stun grenade to break the cars window and releasing the hostages. There were no shots fired or any injuries.

A pistol was confiscated from the man before he could use it. This incident received world wide coverage.

6.29 Hostage Situation Nando's, Johannesburg - 22 May 1997

Three robbers trying to rob Nando's on the corner of Cromhout and Kimberley Streets, Johannesburg were cornered by members of the SAPS Johannesburg after being alerted by members of the public. The robbers took the employees of Nando's hostage. A gun-battle between the robbers and the SAPS took place during which two members of the SAPS were wounded.

19 members of the Special Task Force were deployed. During the release of the hostages, the three robbers were wounded and arrested. No members of the public were injured.

6.30 Hostage Situation, Bloemfontein - 3 to 4 August 1997

A man who had been fleeing from the Police after a robbery went awry entered a block of flats to hide. The police followed the fugitive into the flats where the man had taken a woman hostage to negotiate his release.

6 members of the Special Task Force were summoned to the scene. After prolonged negotiations, it was decided upon a tactical release of the woman.

The situation started on 3 August 1997 and the woman was only tactical released by the Special Task Force on 4 August 1997. During the tactical release of the woman, the hostage taker was fatally wounded by a sniper.

6.31 Rescue Operation City Centre, Durban - 12 February 1998

A fire started on the 28th floor of the Commercial City building in central Durban. Members of the Special Task Force, Durban were lowered by Air Force helicopter onto the roof of the building.

Several people trapped by flames outside the 12th floor were rescued. It was dangerous for members due to the risk of the ropes burning.

6.32 Hostage Situation, Pretoria - 7 March 1998

On 7 March 1998 a man armed with a .357 revolver took two children hostage and on several occasions threatened to shoot the children if his demands were not met.

The hostage negotiators attempted to negotiate for a considerable time with the man for him to abandon is demands, but were unsuccessful. The Special Task Force had deployed 16 members to the scene and the children were tactically released without a shot being fired. The children were released unscathed and the man arrested.

6.33 Arrest of Transit Robbers, Midrand - 11 August 1998

The Republic of South Africa has been characterized by an increase in transit robberies. The robbers strike with military precision and time and again have got away with large quantities of money. During these robberies, the robbers do not hesitate to make use of firearms and on several occasions innocent members of the public have lost their lives.

Information was gathered by the Special Investigation Unit about another such robbery about to take place and the Special Task Force was called in to assist with the guarding of the money and possible arrest of the suspects.

27 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to be of assistance during the operation. The information gathered was spot on and 5 robbers were fatally wounded, 5 wounded and 2 arrested. 5 vehicles, 3 AK47 rifles and 3 firearms were recovered at the scene.

6.34 Farm Attacks, Hammanskraal - 26 November 1998

Attacks on farms in the RSA have assumed enormous proportions. The CID of a local police station at Hammanskraal maintained that they had gathered information about a planned attack on a farm in their area.

Members of the Special Task Force had on several occasions followed up the information, but were not successful.

On 26 November 1998 the SAPS Hammanskraal again approached the Special Task Force with new information. 10 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the scene where the members protected the farmer and his family in two separate dwellings. The attackers struck the farms as stated by the information and when the members of the Special Task Force attempted to arrest them, a gun-battle ensued. 4 attackers were fatally wounded, 1 wounded and arrested. 4 firearms and a knife were recovered on the scene.

No farm inhabitants or animals were injured.

6.35 Arrest of Serial Rapist/Murderer Capital Park, Pretoria - 5 January 1999

Since October 1998 a number of rapes and murders and occurred in the Capital Park suburb of Pretoria. The specific area is mountainous and very little activity occurs in the area making it ideal for a person to hide or conceal something.>

Over a period of 3 months, 7 corpses had been found in the area, which suggested that, a serial rapist and murderer was active in the area.

The assistance of the Special Task Force was requested and observation posts were to be established to gather information which might lead to the arrest of the suspect(s). 11 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the area. On the first night, a suspect was spotted and arrested. The suspected man has been positively linked to the rapes and murders by means of DNA tests.

6.36 Hostage Situation Venda University, Thohoyandou - 26 January 1999

On 26 January 1999, 10 members of the Special Task Force were deployed to the Venda University where a man, armed with a firearm, had taken a woman hostage in an room. The man had fled from police officials who attempted to arrest him on a charge of robbery.

After negotiations had failed, the members decided on a tactical release of the hostage. The room could only be entered through a wooden door, which was locked.

By way of a tactical release the hostage taker was fatally wounded and the woman released.