Civil Cooperation Bureau

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For other uses, see CCB (disambiguation).

The South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) was a government-sponsored death squad[1] during the apartheid era that operated under the authority of Defence Minister General Magnus Malan. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee pronounced the CCB guilty of numerous killings, and suspected more killings.[2][3][4][5]

Forerunners and contemporaries[edit]

When South African newspapers first revealed its existence in the late 1980s, the CCB appeared to be a unique and unorthodox security operation: its members wore civilian clothing; it operated within the borders of the country; it used private companies as fronts; and it mostly targeted civilians. However, as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) discovered a decade later, the CCB's methods were neither new nor unique. Instead, they had evolved from precedents set in the 1960s and 70s by Eschel Rhoodie’s Department of Information (see Muldergate Scandal[6]), the Bureau of State Security (B.O.S.S.)[7] and Project Barnacle (a top-secret project to eliminate SWAPO detainees and other "dangerous" operators).[8]

From information given to the TRC by former agents seeking amnesty for crimes committed during the apartheid era, it became clear that there were many other covert operations similar to the CCB, which Nelson Mandela would label the Third Force. These operations included Wouter Basson’s 7 Medical Battalion Group,[9] the Askaris, Witdoeke, Experimental Group Program (also called "Clandestine Cooperation Bureau") and C1/C10 or Vlakplaas.

Besides these, there were also political front organizations like the International Freedom Foundation, Marthinus van Schalkwyk's Jeugkrag (Youth for South Africa),[10] and Russel Crystal's National Student Federation[11] which would demonstrate that while the tactics of the South African government varied, the logic remained the same: Total onslaught demanded a total strategy.[12]


Inaugurated in 1986 with the approval of Minister of Defense General Magnus Malan[13][14] and Chief of SADF General Jannie Geldenhuys, the CCB became fully functional by 1988. As a reformulation of Project Barnacle, the nature of its operations were disguised, and it disassociated itself from all other Special Forces and DMI (Directorate Military Intelligence) structures. The CCB formed the third arm of the Third Force, alongside Vlakplaas C1 and the Special Tasks projects.[15]

In his 1997 submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,[16] General Malan described the CCB as follows:

"15.1 Let me now deal with the matter of the CCB. The CCB-organization as a component of Special Forces was approved in principle by me. Special Forces was an integral and supportive part of the South African Defence Force. The role envisaged for the CCB was the infiltration and penetration of the enemy, the gathering of information and the disruption of the enemy. The CCB was approved as an organization consisting of ten divisions, or as expressed in military jargon, regions. Eight of these divisions or regions were intended to refer to geographical areas. The area of one of these regions, Region Six, referred to the Republic of South Africa. The fact that the organization in Region Six was activated, came to my knowledge for the first time in November 1989. The CCB provided the South African Defence Force with good covert capabilities. 15.2 During my term of office as Head of the South African Defence Force and as Minister of Defence instructions to members of the South African Defence Force were clear: destroy the terrorists, their bases and their capabilities. This was also government policy. As a professional soldier, I issued orders and later as Minister of Defence I authorised orders which led to the death of innocent civilians in cross-fire. I sincerely regret the civilian casualties, but unfortunately this is part of the ugly reality of war. However, I never issued an order or authorised an order for the assassination of anybody, nor was I ever approached for such authorization by any member of the South African Defence Force. The killing of political opponents of the government, such as the slaying of Dr Webster, never formed part of the brief of the South African Defence Force."

Reports about the CCB were first published in 1990 by the now-defunct weekly Vrye Weekblad, and more detailed information emerged later in the 1990s at a number of TRC amnesty hearings. General Joep Joubert, in his testimony before the TRC, revealed that the CCB was a long-term special forces project in the South African Defence Force. It had evolved from the 'offensive defence' philosophy prevalent in P.W. Botha's security establishment.[17]

Nominally a civilian organisation that could be plausibly disowned by the apartheid government, the CCB drew its operatives from the SADF itself or the South African Police. According to Joubert, many operatives did not know that they were members of an entity called the CCB.[18]

In the wake of the National Party government's Harms Commission, whose proceedings were considered seriously flawed by analysts and the official opposition, the CCB was disbanded in August 1990.[19] Some members were transferred to other security organs.[20] No prosecutions resulted.

The Assassin's Web[citation needed]


The CCB consisted of four groups with different functions:[21] an executive, a management board, two staff functions, eight operational sections known as regions, and an ad hoc collection of contractors. The overall size of the CCB never exceeded 250-300 full-time personnel.[22]


There is much dispute about what senior military officers knew when. However it is common cause that the CCB was a unit of special forces at first controlled by the General Officer Commanding Special Forces, Major-General Eddie Webb[23]:53[24] who reported to the Chief of the SADF.

Management board[edit]

The CCB operated as a civilian entity, so it had a chairman of the board and a group of 'directors'. The GOC Special Forces – Major General Joep Joubert (1985–89) followed by Major General Eddie Webb from the beginning of 1989 - was the chairman. The rest of the board included Joe Verster (managing director), Dawid Fourie (deputy MD), WJ Basson, Theuns Kruger, and Lafras Luitingh.

Staff functions[edit]

Although there is consistent evidence that the CCB had two staff functions[23]:53 it is not clear what the names of these groups were and whether these remained the same over the life of the CCB. Region 9, is sometimes referred to as Intelligence or Psychological Warfare and elsewhere as Logistics. Region 10 is known as Finance and Administration or simply Administration.[25]

Operational sections[edit]

Each region had an area manager and its own co-ordinator who reported to the managing director.

  • Region 1: Botswana - regional manager up to 1988 was Commandant Charl Naudé and thereafter Dawid Fourie, while Christoffel Nel handled the intelligence function.
  • Region 2: Mozambique and Swaziland - the manager was Commandant Corrie Meerholtz until the end of 1988. He was replaced by the operational co-ordinator, Captain Pieter Botes. while the intelligence function was performed by Peter Stanton, one of the few remaining ex-Rhodesians from the D40 and Barnacle eras.
  • Region 3: Lesotho - Fourie was also the manager in region 3.
  • Region 4: Angola, Zambia and Tanzania - Dawid Fourie was also responsible, taking it over in 1988 from Meerholtz. Christoffel Nel handled the intelligence function while Ian Strange was also involved in this region.
  • Region 5: International/Europe – Johan Niemoller appears to have been coordinator. In 1987, he was suddenly withdrawn following the arrest of a number of individuals living in England on charges of plotting to kill ANC leaders. Eeben Barlow, the founder of the private military company, Executive Outcomes, then took command of Region 5.[26]
  • Region 6: South Africa - formed on 1 June 1988; Staal Burger was regional manager; operatives included 'Slang' Van Zyl, Chappies Maree and Calla Botha. The TRC later receives eight amnesty applications related to four operations: 1) the attempted killing of Abdullah Omar, 2) the planned killing of Gavin Evans, 3) bombing of the Early Learning Centre in Athlone Cape Town on 31 August 1989, 4) the harassment of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town in 1989.
  • Region 7: Zimbabwe - Various CCB members co-ordinated this region including WJ Basson and Lafras Luitingh. Others involved in sub-management were Ferdi Barnard (for a brief period) and Alan Trowsdale. Kevin Woods and three members of a CCB cell, Barry Bawden, Philip Conjwayo and Michael Smith conducted a Bulawayo bombing action.
  • Region 8: South West Africa - headed by Roelf van Heerden.

Unknown region: Operated by ex S.A.D.F. members. Some names were: Micks McCloud (aka:Ausie)and Schalk Van Der Merwe (aka: William Reid, Morise Morris, Reson)

Blue plans and red plans[edit]

Operatives were required to have a 'blue plan'. This referred to a front operation (mostly a business) funded by the CCB. Slang Van Zyl, for instance, started a private investigation business while Chappies Maree ran an electronic goods export company called Lema. Operatives were allowed to keep the proceeds of their activities.[27] Proceeds from all blue plan activities vastly exceeded the funding CCB received from the state. A large private sector was created, which employing tens of thousands of people. Former security officers not in the CCB ran these companies alongside CCB officers.[22] In the December 1993 Goldstone Commission, the task group found that ex CCB members were involved in various illegal activities including gun and drug smuggling

Red plans, on the other hand, detailed the activities they would undertake against the enemy. Operations could be of a criminal nature as long as they had prior approval from the CCB bureaucracy. These mostly began with a feasibility study. If the report showed merit it was verified, then reviewed by a panel of five: the operative, the manager or handler, the coordinator, the managing director and in the case of violent operations, the chairman. Where loss of life was anticipated the chairman was required to obtain approval from the Chief of the Army or the Chief of Staff.[27]

The 'red plan' targeted victims and detailed action to be taken against them. The scenario, as described by Max Coleman in A Crime Against Humanity: Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State, was as follows:

Step 1: A person or a target would be identified as an enemy of the State. A cell member would then be instructed to monitor the 'target'.

Step 2: A project - i.e. the elimination of a target would be registered with the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator would then have the project authorised by the regional manager and the managing director.

Step 3: The CCB member would then do a reconnaissance to study the target's movements with a view to eliminating him or her.

Step 4: The operative would propose the most practical method to the managing director. If the director felt this method was efficient, he would sign the proposal at what was called an 'in-house' meeting. There adjustments could be made to the plan before it was approved. The budget would be considered and finance would be made available for the project. The finance would come from the budget the Defence Force allocated to CCB activities. Indications are that money was always paid in cash.

Step 5: The co-ordinator would be requested to make available the necessary arms and ammunition such as limpet mines, poison and/or live ammunition or other logistical support such as transport, etc.

Step 6: The project would be carried out and the target would be eliminated. To do this the cell member could engage the assistance of what were termed 'unconscious members'. These were essentially underworld criminals who would, for money, kill as instructed. These 'unconscious' members were never told of the motive or the SADF connection - a false motive was usually supplied.[28]

Known and suspected operations[edit]

To date there is no published record covering all operations conducted during the CCB's five-year existence. It is estimated[who?] that 85–100 active operations were conducted, including:

Operations planned but not executed[edit]

According to TRC records,[45][46][47] CCB operatives were tasked to seriously injure Martti Ahtisaari, UN Special Representative in Namibia,[48] and to eliminate the following:

Known associates[edit]

While the CCB was a section of the SADF's Special Forces they were joined on many operations by individuals from other parts of the state's broad security apparatus,[50] sometimes making it difficult to ascertain whether a specific person was part of the CCB or not. Of the estimated one hundred covert members, evidence exists that the following individuals were deployed as administrators or operatives:[51]

Senior military decision-makers[edit]

  • Magnus Malan – General, Minister of Defence (1980–1991)
  • Jannie Geldenhuys – General, and Chief of the SADF (1985–1990)[52]
  • Joep Joubert – held the rank of major general, Chairman of the management board (1985–89)
  • Kat Liebenberg – General, and Chief of the SADF (1991–1993)
  • Eddie Webb – held the rank of major general, Chairman of the management board (1989–1990)
  • Pieter Johan Verster – mostly known as 'Joe' Verster, aliases 'Gerhard',[53] 'Dave Martin', 'Jack van Staden' and 'Rick van Staden', held the rank of colonel, CCB Managing Director or general manager

Operatives and associates[edit]

Associates who died mysteriously[edit]

Truth and Reconciliation Commission[edit]

Although the entire truth about the Civil Cooperation Bureau may never be known, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) concluded that:[110]

"...the CCB was a creation of the SADF and an integral part of South Africa’s counter-insurgency system which, in the course of its operations, perpetrated gross violations of human rights, including killings, against both South African and non-South African citizens. The Commission finds that the activities of the CCB constituted a systematic pattern of abuse which entailed deliberate planning on the part of the leadership of the CCB and the SADF. The Commission finds these institutions and their members accountable for the aforesaid gross violations of human rights."

As per the policy of the TRC, its findings were set out, but no action was taken.

According to General Malan, the CCB's three objectives—comparable to those of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE)—were:

  • to infiltrate and penetrate the enemy;
  • to gather Information; and
  • to disrupt the enemy.

In his testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Malan declared that he had never issued an order or authorised an order for the assassination of anybody, and that the killing of political opponents of the government never formed part of the brief of the South African Defence Force.[111]

Negative outcomes[edit]

The front company Oceantec among others was used to embezzle $100 million US from private investors and a collateral trading house as part of a supposed sanctions busting operation between 1989 and 1991.[112]

CCB member Eben Barlow and Michael Mullen recruited other CCB members to start Executive Outcomes a private military contractor that provided combatants, training and equipment.

See also[edit]


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