Volume 6 No.8
1 December 1995
- News Briefs
- Provincial Briefs
- South African transition in a world context
- Search for the truth begins
- Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners Named
- Details of the KwaMakhutha case
- The general, the assistant and the weighty allegations
- New structure to drive RDP
- Cosatu celebrates ten years
- One step closer to final constitution
- Constitution: The outstanding issues
- How the North West was won
- Legacy of strong ANC support
- Building a community with bricks and mortar
- SA throws weight behind Nigeria democracy movement
- Nigeria: History of repression and oil
- Nigeria: Growing call for South African support
- Nigeria: Elders want military money for covert anti-democracy campaign
- A litany of misinformation
- Rapport says sorry after official complaint
- Benoni arrives in the new SA
- Transparency should extend beyond government
- Some remarks on the Open Democracy Bill
- How government works – Parliamentary Portfolio Committees
- Taking parliament to the people
- Will truth be enough to reconcile SA?
- The importance of public relations
- On a road to somewhere – theatre in the post-apartheid South Africa
The year gone by
Nineteen Ninety-Five has been an important year for South Africa. There have been a number of important achievements in the process of democratising of our country.
July saw the abolishment of the death penalty. The Constitutional Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, in violation of the right to life enshrined in the constitution. This judgement brought South Africa into line with the majority of countries in the world.
The Constitutional Court stated in its judgement that the very purpose of the Bill of Rights ‘was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities’. We are currently experiencing exactly those ‘vicissitudes of political controversy’ that the Constitutional Court talked about.
In September the Labour Relations Act was signed into law, heralding a new era in labour relations in South Africa. It is the product of extensive negotiations between business and labour, and broad consultation. Despite the many hitches, hours of hard bargaining and heated moments the resultant Bill represents a victory for the negotiations process.
The 1 November local government elections represented a significant victory for the ANC. Sixty-six percent of all the votes cast on 1 November were in favour of the ANC. Perhaps the most significant aspect of these results was the large swing of coloured voters in the Western Cape to the ANC, who by voting for the ANC showed in no uncertain terms their displeasure with the National Party.
In November the working draft of South Africa’s new constitution was presented to the president and subsequently released to the public at large for comment. This represents a significant milestone on the road to the adoption of a constitution for South Africa that enshrines the principles of the Freedom Charter – a guiding vision for a democratic South Africa.
November also saw the appointment, after a rigorous selection process, of the members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The members of the commission have been tasked with the responsibility of guiding the process through eighteen months of heartache, soul searching, pain and eventually reconciliation for all the people of South Africa.
The Reconstruction and Development Programme was by the beginning of December delivering on a wider and more regular basis than before. The initial communication problems that were experienced by the RDP ministry were overcome in the second half of the year and as a result there was far more positive and encouraging media coverage of the RDP.
The fiscal discipline shown by the ANC-led Government of National Unity has earned praise from all sectors. Of note in this regard were the most recent inflation figures which saw inflation at a 23-year low. In addition, the latest business confidence index is at a ten year high. Budgetary discipline has been praised in the media – in stark contrast to the pre-1994 elections doomsday predictions by some commentators.
While 1995 was a momentous year for the country, it draws to a close with a number of challenges still facing the ANC and the nation as a whole. Of immediate concern are the local government elections in Cape Town and KwaZulu/Natal. The success of the ANC in these elections will be crucial to the democratic transformation of these areas. Given that these areas are the ANC fared worst during last year’s election, they will provide a significant indicator of the ANC’s organisational capacity and its ability to further extend its support base.
The ANC also needs to strengthen its position as the central driving force of the RDP, both within government and within civil society. This means that all structures of the organisation need to be strengthened; a cadre development programme needs to be implemented; and coordination among the organisations of the mass democratic movement and the Tripartite Alliance needs to be improved.
While the improvement of the economy needs to be accelerated, the effects of this growth needs to be felt quite tangibly by ordinary South Africans – specifically through the effective implementation of the RDP. Communities need to be much more integrally involved in RDP projects, defining what their needs are and being part of meeting their needs.
The return of Mayibuye
This was also the year when Mayibuye reappeared on the streets of this country. The return of Mayibuye was well received by many readers. Subscriptions have been coming in from all over South Africa, and from around the world. However, there remains a lot which Mayibuye should be doing, specifically around the building of the organisation.
The first few months of next year will see a couple of changes in Mayibuye, mainly with the aim of making it more accessible to its readers; providing more news and information; and being more enjoyable to read.
Remember that Mayibuye is your paper. We would like to hear your views and suggestions on Mayibuye. Because only with your help can Mayibuye became the vehicle for democratic change that it has the potential to be.
Hypocrisy on Nigeria?
I share the outrage that is being demonstrated by the leaders of South Africa and many other countries at the barbaric actions of the Nigerian military regime lead by Sani Abacha. However, the following questions arise.
Why is it that Nigeria has suddenly become the whipping horse of the western world. Gross abuse of civil rights in Nigeria and many other west African countries are not new, nor is the exploitation of the Ogoni people by the Shell oil company.
One must question the motivation behind the sudden flurry of diplomatic activity in regard to the plight of Nigeria. Before the Commonwealth Heads of Government( CHOGM) meeting in New Zealand and the execution of Saro Wiwa and the eight other activists there were only ‘behind the scenes talks’ in regard to Nigeria’s domestic policies.
While I have no complaint about the sudden change of tactics in regard to dealings with the Nigerian military rulers, it is hard not to believe that the timing of the execution of the nine activists is the real driving force behind the new alignment of political forces against Nigeria, and not the executions per se.
The embarrassment deliberately caused to the CHOG, by the Nigerian military dictatorship’s timing of the executions, would seem to have more to do with the subsequent actions of the CHOG than the actual executions themselves.
It will be most interesting to see whether the USA and other leading nations are sufficiently disgusted with the behaviour of the Nigerian military to institute oil sanctions against Nigeria or, will it require the executions of a further nineteen Nigerian activists, whose lives are now in danger, before real pressure is brought to bear on Nigeria.
Why have the immediate neighbours of Nigeria, such as Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Ghana not joined the worldwide condemnation of Nigeria? Could it be that their human rights records do not warrant close scrutiny, and are they afraid of the likely repercussions that any criticism of Nigeria may attract from Sani Abacha.
More focus on women’s issues, please
I want to congratulate and thank you for producing an outstanding newspaper. The overwhelming success of the local government Elections is partly due to your newspaper. It keeps us informed on what is happening inside Government and at grass roots level.
The newspaper is factual, the cover page catches the eye and is within our reach. It is an achievement of which I am proud. Two articles in your September issue on governance in KwaZulu/ Natal and The role of local government was very informative. I would however, appreciate more articles on women issues, such as, child abuse, rape and domestic violence, which is rife in our country.
Tiger without teeth
If a tiger went to sleep last night without its dentistry surely there is nothing to stop it waking toothless in the morning. I refer to former State President PW Botha’s recent threat about what he calls ‘the tiger in the Afrikaner’. Of course, this is not the first time that the threat is made in political circles.
The fact of the matter is that people were murdered at KwaMakhutha and one wonders what this has got to do with the Afrikaner nation. Innocent children were slaughtered with gunfire and, tiger or no tiger, justice has to be done irrespective of the status of the suspects.
Clearly the court appearance by the former Defence Minister and the Generals is not about the fact that the belong to the Afrikaner nation. Neither is it about that they dutifully served the previous NP government. Their appearance is alleged to have something to do with a particular criminal incident.
Thus I hope that when PW talks of the tiger in the Afrikaner he is not speaking for the entire Afrikaner nation. It is difficult to see how the Afrikaner nation, if at all, can take up arms on behalf of alleged criminal suspects unless there is a belief that the KwaMakhutha killings had something to do with the promotion of the Afrikaner interest. But I doubt that this is the case.
Peace loving South Africans cannot allow their country to be held ransom by a clique of racist bigots who claim to speak for the Afrikaner nation. Here in Ladysmith a number of our Afrikaner patriots point out that they are impressed with President Mandela’s nation-building initiative. People on the ground realise that we cannot wish each other away and are taking the emerging spirit of national unity very seriously.
The problem with the ‘tiger’ is that when it is given the opportunity to talk it squanders it and instead prefers to urinate on the floor of the World Trade Centre after breaking glass and punching negotiators in the face and, undoubtedly, this doesn’t take our country anywhere.
The trials of the former minister and the generals must go on, tiger or no tiger in the wilderness. But we dare not be tempted to regard PW Botha’s threat as another case of the ramblings of a doddering old man and it appears Joe Nhlanhla has a lot of work to do these days.
The people are the experts
This letter responds to the political analysts’ concerns about the direction of democracy in South Africa after the ANC’s landslide victory in the local government elections (reuters, 6 November).
According to the author of the article, Sipho Maseko from UWC and Phil Mtimkulu from Unisa view the ANC’s election victory as an indication that the country is headed for a one party state and is ‘not good for the country’. This will stifle the development of democracy, they claim. The analysts postulate that this victory only came about because there is no strong opposition to the ANC and that the people of South Africa were willing to give the ANC a second chance to ‘deliver’ on the RDP.
There are fundamental issues being ignored here. One is the character of the struggle being waged in South Africa right now. The struggle is about consolidating the victory against apartheid won by the masses of people and improving their lives. It so happens that the ordinary working people of South Africa, who never get quoted because they have no ‘analytical expertise’, have in this case analysed the political situation in the country and made a correct choice. They understand that at present the ANC is the only organisation in which they can develop their full political potential and contribute towards changing the living conditions of the vast majority.
One often wonders why ‘experts’ never look into these very important developments in our country, instead preferring to pronounce abstractions about democracy. the question is, who are they talking to when they raise these questions about democracy? South Africa is the only country in the world I know of where maids were competing against their bosses and may have won.
The most important task in South Africa is to build upon the democratic space that has been created with the burial of apartheid and push forward for more fundamental changes. This is what I think the ANC victory signifies, and is not a process towards a de facto one party state. It also signifies that the working class base of the organisation and how working people will jealously guard this very important fact.
While the ‘experts’ worry about the multiplicity of political parties (there are many in South Africa) working people are struggling to make fundamental changes demanding water, electricity, housing, health, education. What an opportunity to make a fundamental difference.
The counting of political parties is a banal approach in efforts to build a democratic society. I hope we can reject this elitist approach in our efforts to advance and understand the historic process in our country. It should also be noted that the ‘experts’ watched while millions of our people made history. The analysts will do better to learn from listening and working with ordinary people. Let us get to work and not waste time giving ‘expert advice’ that means nothing to the majority of our people.
General Malan indicted
Former defence minister Magnus Malan was indicted along with 19 others on Friday 1 December for the murder of 13 people in the KwaMakutha massacre of 1987. The magistrate warned the twenty accused to appear again on 4 March next year in the Durban Supreme Court.
US vice-president Gore in SA
United States vice-president Al Gore arrived in South Africa to open, with deputy president Thabo Mbeki, the first full meeting of the United States-South Africa Binational Commission at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Gore said the United States sought ‘Ubuntu’ with South Africa. He went on to say that the two nations and two peoples had a great deal in common. But that the two nations shared far more than a common history. ‘We share at long last common aspirations for our futures. We are sister nations united by the vision of non-racial democracy and human rights, of healing and hope, renewal and redemption. We in the US feel that we have a great deal to learn from the new South Africa,’ he said.
Angola to release all POWs
The Angolan government announced that it would free all war prisoners detained since the start of the armed conflict against UNITA rebels. The announcement was made by the UN special representative to Angola Alioune Blondin Beye after a meeting of a joint UNITA-government committee overseeing the peace process in Angola.
According to the United Nations the two sides together must free another 213 prisoners in the operation supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Drug trafficking law is unconstitutional
A provision of the Drugs and Drug trafficking Act, which deems a person arrested with more than 115 grams of dagga guilty of dealing, has been ruled unconstitutional in a unanimous judgement handed down by the Constitutional Court.
The judgement written by Judge Kate O’Regan, with the rest of the bench concurring, found that the relevant section of the Act was an infringement of the section of the fair trail provisions in the constitution which guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
The court found that the presumption of guilt contained in the provision meant that an accused could be found guilty of an offence despite the existence of a reasonable doubt as to guilt on the dealing charge.
MK veterans write armed struggle history
A one-day conference was held at the Mayibuye centre in Cape Town at which Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans, several cabinet ministers and ANC MP’s shared their experiences and analysed events leading up to the commencement of the armed struggle in December 1961.
The conference formed part of the process of compiling the literature of the armed struggle in South Africa, which is currently very thin and contradictory. MK veterans attending the conference were also interviewed as part of the centre’s oral history project.
Cuban doctors for South Africa
Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma announced that Cuban doctors would begin arriving in South Africa next year. The Cuban doctors were needed to help alleviate the country’s critical shortage of general practitioners, Zuma said. The doctors would initially be on one year contracts to the state health service, but could spend up to three years in South Africa.
The deal will cost South Africa nothing, because it will absorb surplus Cuban doctors into vacant posts at hospitals and clinics for which the government has already budgeted.
A team from the Department of Health will visit Cuba soon to begin the selection process. Applicants will have to have at least three years working experience and be able to speak English.
Cape Town demarcation decision
The Electoral Court ruled in favour of the Demarcation Board in the Cape Town demarcation dispute.
The court ruled that Khayelitsha and Langa must be included in the Tygerburg sub-structure, a move supported by the ANC. This is in contrast to the proposal by the NP that Khayelitsha and Langa should go to the Cape Town sub-structure, and Guguletu, Crossroads and Nyanga to the Tygerburg sub-structure.
ANC spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the ruling reflected badly on the actions of the NP, particularly Western Cape local government MEC Piet Marais, in trying to hijack the demarcation process to suit their own ends.
The ruling means that the local government elections in the Cape Town Metropole will now be able to go ahead in the new year.
Deputy vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand William Makgoba was suspended by vice-chancellor Robert Charlton for publishing personal information on staff members gleaned from confidential files.
In response to the action taken against Makgoba, education minister Sibusiso Bengu said he had a duty to intervene in the growing crises at the University of the Witwatersrand. He warned that the situation at the university demanded that all parties act with circumspection and in the interest of the university if they were to avoid deepening the crisis.
The year in review
In line with the 49th National Conference resolution to have nine provinces and, within each province several regions, the process has been completed in the Northern Cape. The province has six regions.
The new process has opened up new challenges. The Regional Executive Committees have under gone induction workshops, looking particularly at how they should relate to the Provincial Executive Committees.
The new regions have enabled the province to revive most the branches that had collapsed immediately after the national elections in 1994. It also allowed the province to consolidate the working relationship among Tripartite Alliance structures in carrying out joint programmes.
The province has ultimately managed to deploy its comrades in all strategic positions to drive the reconstruction and development process in the provincial legislature.
The Eastern Cape province gathered for the first time as a collective leadership at its Provincial General Council (PGC) to demonstrate their common commitment and vision to build a formidable and cohesive movement in the province.
The deliberations and resolutions adopted by the PGC were indeed a clear expression of a proud realisation and determination to overcome the challenges facing the movement in the province.
The PEC has committed itself to identify political centres with a mission to improve cadreship development within the movement. The need for a vigorous intensive political education programme within the movement became more evident as they were preparing for the local government elections.
After the long process of restructuring, the Mpumalanga province was demarcated into eight regions. The regions were demarcated in accordance with the previous sub-regions.
The province was able to organise in previously unorganised areas like farms, mines and villages. Since the beginning of the year the level of farm evictions was very high. The intervention of the ANC contributed to bring it to a minimal level.
Mpumalanga province also managed to achieve peace and stability through an intensive walk-about programme by the Premier, meeting all the different communities big and small. The programme was to close the gap between blacks and whites in the province. The results of the above were witnessed during the elections – a number of white communities voted for ANC councillors in a number of areas.
In the Western Cape the Cape Town demarcation dispute has dominated much of the province’s agenda over the past year. The Department of Information and Publicity in the province played a crucial role in keeping the people informed about the ANC’s position.
As a result of the boundary dispute at least 3 million registered voters were not allowed to cast their ballots on 1 November. This resulted in only about 300,000 people voting in rural towns throughout the province. The NP was caught by surprise and never expected the ANC to perform so well. The Cape Town elections will take place next year.
President Mandela has been having difficulty persuading other African governments to back South Africa in firm measures against the Nigerian Abacha regime. Following the Beit Bridge meeting of President Mugabe at the end of November The Citizen carried two absolutely conflicting reports on the matter.
One report is headlined ‘Mugabe backs South Africa on anti-Nigeria trade curbs’. But in another report, side by side with this one, President Mandela is quoted saying that Nigeria was not discussed at the meeting at all.
Perhaps both reports are right. There was probably no disagreement on the topic, because there was no discussion on the topic.
The world was outraged at the hanging of Ken Saro-wiwa and eight other Nigerian democratic activists. This outrageous action was made even more outrageous, if that were possible, by the timing of the executions.
The Nigerian military junta, led by Sani Abacha, chose to carry out the executions on the very eve of the commonwealth summit, at which the Nigerian human rights situation was due to feature prominently on the agenda. The executions indicated the lunatic criminality of that regime. Abacha was telling the world he simply didn’t give a damn.
That’s Africa for you
But Shell had underestimated popular, world-wide anger. And it had underestimated, here in South Africa, President Mandela’s deep moral indignation.
Faced with this, Shell has now suddenly launched a belated public relations effort. Full page adverts have been appearing in newspapers telling us how much ‘Shell cares’. The hypocrisy of much of these efforts simply makes matters worse.
Local Shell chief spokesperson, when asked by a meeting of the South Africa-Nigeria Democratic Support Group, about the audacity of announcing the R15 billion deal three days after the executions, said the timing was ‘purely fortuitous’.
According to the Shell spokesperson: ‘In Africa regimes come and go, but business must go on.’
This is racism of the first order. Can you imagine Shell shrugging its shoulders at coups and counter-coups in Britain?
Shell is signalling to Abacha, in the only currency that he understands, that it is all just ‘business as usual’.
Where nobody wants the gravy
Umrabulo is not sure whether it is a sign of healthy or unhealthy democracy when everyone is competing against everyone else to get nominated for elections. In the run up to the 1 November local government elections the ANC had to weather quite a bruising process of internal competition for nominations.
How different things seem to be in Sweden. Ingar Carlsson, prime minister and leader of the ruling social Democratic party steps down from both posts next March. The Socialists are almost certain to win the March elections as well.
But nobody in the party wants to stand for the leading position. ‘No thanks, I like it where I am,’ says Goran Persson the present Finance Minister. ‘Sorry, my relationship with my 11-year old son is more important,’ says the Minister for Government Co-ordination. ‘Not me,’ adds the Minister of Agriculture.
As one observer remarks: ‘someone will have to be persuaded to swallow their humility.’
Mayibuye study series No. 6 – The South African transition in a world context
Neither a white-wash nor a witch-hunt
Truth commissions in emerging democracies
In the course of November, General Magnus Malan and other senior officers from the former apartheid security forces appeared in court and were charged with serious crimes. The state’s case against Malan relates to ‘third force’ operations in KwaZulu/Natal.
Coincidentally, soon after Malan’s first court appearance, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed by President Mandela. The Commission will begin sitting in early 1996.
These developments once more raise the question of how to deal with serious human rights abuses that occurred under the old regime. There are many complicated issues at stake.
- Should we punish all those who were guilty of human rights abuses? If this is the case, where do you draw the line ? In our country, every minor apartheid clerk, every pass-office official, was in a certain sense a human rights abuser. And what of comrades who, in the course of a just liberation struggle, but in the heat of the moment, over-stepped the mark and hit civilian targets?
- Still others argue that it is better just to draw a curtain over the past, and let the past be the past. The argument here is that judicial action, or even a truth commission, will stir up emotions and poison the emerging sense of national unity and reconciliation.
These are just some of the complex questions that dealing with past human rights abuses raises. In this instalment of our study series we want to show how South Africa is not the only negotiated transition to democracy that has had to confront these questions.
Dead weight of the past
At one extreme are those societies in which there has been an effective impunity for human rights violators from former authoritarian regimes. Past human rights abuses by the security forces are simply ‘forgotten’. Haiti, Guatemala and the Philippines are recent examples where there have been more or less limited returns to multi-party democracy, but in which the security forces have been left entirely alone. The examples of these countries provide good reasons why simply covering up the past is a bad idea.
In all of these countries, the members of the security forces have continued to believe they are immune from prosecution. Human rights abuses, torture and assassination have continued.
Of course, emerging democratic forces do not always have a free choice. A great deal depends on the nature of the transition; the degree to which the old security forces have been defeated or demoralised; and the power and support of the popular forces.
In several countries, military juntas have been able to anticipate their own retreat from political office, and have arranged general amnesties for themselves. In these situations, newly-elected governments have been forced by ongoing military pressure to uphold such amnesties.
Chile presents such a case. A new democratic government under President Aylwin took office in March 1990. But it operated under a constitution drafted during the regime of General Pinochet, which protects the power of the army. Members of the secret police who carried out gross violations in the past, now occupy comfortable senior positions within the army.
The new Chilean democratic government did, indeed, establish a National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation to investigate deaths and disappearances during the preceding 17 years of military rule.The commission, working with a staff of 60 for nine months, investigated some 4,000 complaints.
In February 1991 the commission submitted its 1,800 page report to President Aylwin. The report was systematic and professional, but it avoided mentioning any individual violators. It also received no cooperation whatsoever from the police or the armed forces.
In accepting the report, President Aylwin apologised on behalf of the state to the victims and their families. He implored the army to acknowledge the pain it had inflicted. He then emphasised the need for the whole society ‘to accept the truth’ and turn the page.
Was this good enough? Clearly the balance of forces within Chile restricted the scope of the process. Many human rights activists in Chile point to ongoing torture and abuses by the armed forces. They argue that the process was not adequate, and that the basis for an effective human rights culture has not been established.
In Argentina the restoration of civilian rule occurred against the backdrop of the severe humiliation that the armed forces suffered in the Falklands (Malvinas) war. This created more favourable conditions for firmer measures to be taken against military human rights abusers.
Within a month after the victorious Radical party candidate Raul Alfonsin assumed the presidency in December 1983, he formed a ‘truth commission’, the National Commission on Disappeared Persons. The commission included representatives from many political parties and civilian groups. The commission did not have the power to prosecute in its own right, but was mandated to submit information of individual violators to the relevant courts.
The commission finally produced an extensive report called Nunca Mas (‘Never Again’). There was widespread public response to the report, calling for the prosecution of the military junta leaders named in the report. Alfonsin bowed to this pressure, and the junta leaders were tried and sentenced.
But these steps, in turn, provoked three separate army rebellions, and Alfonsin backed down from the policy of prosecutions. Two laws were passed in 1986 and 1987 – the Punto Final (‘full stop’) law, and the Obediencia Debida (‘due obedience’) law. The Punto Final law prevented judges from trying officers who had not been charged within two months of the law’s enactment. The Obediencia Debida law ruled that officers below the rank of colonel had acted under orders, and were, therefore exempt from criminal responsibility.
Here in South Africa we have tried to learn from other experiences. But we also have to be guided by our own reality. It is clear that the correct balance has to be found between justice and nation building. We must refuse to engage in either a witch-hunt, or a white-wash.
Meanwhile, General Malan and his co-accused are complaining that their trial is a ‘witch-hunt’. Little do they realise how generous the new South African democratic dispensation is.
In the Czech Republic, for instance, a law called the Lustracje (‘screening’) law was introduced stipulating that anyone who had ever been even a minor office-bearer of the Communist Party in the previous 30 years would not be eligible for any post in the public sector for six years.
Imagine if we were to do the same with NP members, past and present, in South Africa.
Search for the truth begins
Now that the Truth Commission is getting ready to begin its work, the process of reconciliation can start in earnest, writes a correspondent.
With the recent appointment of the 17 members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the work of the commission could get underway early next year. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was appointed as commission chairperson, said he would be in touch with justice minister Dullah Omar and commission deputy chairperson Alex Boraine to arrange the first meeting of the commission so that ‘we can plan our work as expeditiously as possible’.
‘The commission must do its work as quickly as possible so that we can close a horrendous chapter in the life of our nation. We need to turn over a new page and seek to live out our rich diversity of culture, religion, political views and ethnic backgrounds,’ Tutu said.
The truth commission, which will be established in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, is supposed to provide for the investigation of the ‘nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights’ committed between March 1960 and December 1993. The commission has been instructed to:
- establish a picture of human rights violations;
- determine the fate or whereabouts of the victims of such violations;
- grant amnesty to people who make full disclosure of all facts relevant to politically-motivated human rights abuses;
- allow victims the opportunity to relate the violations they have suffered;
- take measures at reparation and rehabilitation of victims of violations;
- report to the nation about such violations;
- make recommendations aimed at preventing the violation of human rights.
The commission will establish three committees: on human rights violations, on amnesty and on reparation and rehabilitation. The Committee on Human Rights Violations will be responsible for conducting inquiries into any allegations of human rights violations. It would need to hear evidence, gather information and document all its findings. If the committee finds that someone has been the victim of a gross violation of human rights, they may refer the case to the Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation.
Any person who feels they have suffered harm as a result of a gross violation of human rights may apply to the Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation for some kind of reparation. The committee can then make recommendations to the president and parliament on ways to restore the human and civil dignity of a victim.
Any one who wants amnesty against criminal prosecution or civil action because of their role in human rights abuses may apply to the Committee on Amnesty. The person would then have to make full disclosure of their knowledge of human rights violation, and must demonstrate that their actions were politically-motivated. If the committee is satisfied that the acts fall within the parameters of the legislation, that the person has made full disclosure of all relevant facts and that the acts were politically motivated, the committee may grant amnesty.
A number of organisations, notably the Inkatha Freedom Party and the National Party, have expressed fears that the commission would become a ‘witch-hunt’ and have accused it of being politically-biased. However, the ANC and several non-governmental organisations have said that the commission is necessary for the process of reconciliation to be successful.
‘The ANC wishes to reiterate its insistence that the Truth Commission should be neither a ‘witch-hunt’ nor a springboard for party political attacks. We are confident that the provisions of the Truth Commission legislation – together with the process by which commissioners were selected – will prevent this from happening,’ the ANC said in a statement.
‘We call on all South Africans to cooperate with the commission, and use it as a vehicle through which we can make a decisive break with our violent and troubled past. We particularly call on victims of human rights abuses to come forward, and present their cases to the commission,’ it said.
Speaking after his appointment as commission chairperson, Tutu said he hoped the commission would be geared towards the victims: ‘The purpose of the commission in terms of the act which establishes it is to assist in the process of healing and reconciliation. The commission needs to be geared towards the victims of human rights abuses rather than the perpetrators. I would like us to concentrate on the rehabilitation of victims and restoration of their dignity, emphasising restitution rather than retribution and reprisal.’
The following people have been named to sit on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu (Chairperson), Archbishop of Cape Town of the Church of the Province of South Africa;
Alex Boraine (Deputy Chairperson), executive director of Justice in Transition formed last year to focus on redressing past human rights violations;
Mary Burton, president of the Black Sash from 1986 to 1990;
Chris de Jager, a member of the Volkstaat Council and the Human Rights Commission;
Bongani Finca, president of the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches and a national executive member of the SA Council of Churches;
Sisi Kamphephe, a lawyer and members of the Black Lawyers Association;
Richard Lyster, director of the Legal Resources Centre in Durban since 1990 and member of the arbitration panel of the Independent Mediation Service of South Africa;
Wynand Malan, former National Party MP and co-founder of the Democratic Party, since retired from politics;
Hlengiwe Mkhize, national director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, a psychologist who specialises in treating people traumatised by violence;
Dumisa Ntsebeza, founder president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and now publicity secretary of the Black Lawyers Association;
Wendy Orr, deputy registrar of student affairs at the University of Cape Town who successfully filed an interdict against the former minister of law and order to prevent police from assaulting prisoners;
Mapule Ramashala, a clinical psychologist and medical researcher who recently returned to South Africa;
Faizel Randera, who has worked extensively with human rights lawyers, providing medical reports on people who suffered physical and psychological abuse;
Yasmin Sooka, national president of the World Conference of Religion and Peace, who was a member of the legal task force in the National Coordinating Committee for the Repatriation of South African exiles;
Glenda Wilschut, a social worker at the Western Cape Trauma Centre who has worked with victims of violence;
KM Mgojo, a Methodist minister from KwaZulu/Natal;
Denzil Potgieter, a member of the Cape Bar who has appeared in various civil and political rights matters. – Sapa
Details of the KwaMakhutha case
The allegations against Magnus Malan and 19 other in the KwaMakhutha massacre, constitute a weighty indictment of both the IFP and NP, writes a correspondent.
The indictment against former defence minister Magnus Malan and 19 others charged with the murder of 13 people at KwaMakhutha in January 1987 has been described as ‘overwhelming’ – both with regard to the volume of allegations and their implications.
‘What is clear from these allegations is that the KwaMakhutha massacre was not an isolated incident, but part of a broad offensive against communities in KwaZulu/Natal conducted by the IFP, with support of the former SADF and the National Party government,’ according to an ANC statement released on the day Malan and the others were formally charged.
The KwaMakhutha attack was allegedly carried out by a paramilitary force comprising Inkatha members and formed under the auspices of senior offices of the then SADF.
About 200 IFP supporters were allegedly trained by the SADF at a military base in the Caprivi Strip on the northern border of Namibia, then under South African occupation.
According to the indictment, IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi approached the SADF for assistance in October 1985 in getting ‘protection’ for himself and his followers.
The indictment quotes an address given by Buthelezi to the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly in May 1984, where he calls for the KwaZulu police to have an operational military wing: ‘In fact, I believe that we must prepare ourselves not only to defend property and life, but to go beyond that and prepare ourselves to hit back with devastating force at those who destroy our property and kill us.’
An ‘extraordinary’ meeting of the State Security Council in Cape Town was subsequently convened where a mandate was given to an inter-departmental Head Committee to assist Buthelezi in the creation of a security force for the former Kwazulu bantustan. A sub-committee of the Head Committee met in Ulundi in January 1986 and allegedly recommended:
- personal protection for Buthelezi and other Inkatha VIPs;
- an offensive paramilitary unit;
- a National Intelligence Service;
- Buthelezi be given the power to issue firearm licenses.
The sub-committee recommended that the impression be created that KwaZulu established the above within its legal competencies.
When the recommendations were reported to the State Security Council in February 1986, it was decided that Malan and minister Chris Heunis should have a meeting with Buthelezi, to evaluate his requirements and aims in respect of a para-military unit for KwaZulu, according to the indictment.
Several meetings followed between Buthelezi, current IFP deputy secretary general MZ Khumalo and high-ranking SADF officers, including some of the accused, resulting in the formation of a task group to oversee the process and comply with a request from Malan to detail plans of proposed aid to Buthelezi.
This aid came in the form a project code-named ‘Operation Marion’, which was placed under the control of the directorate of special tasks. At this point Operation Marion got underway with the recruitment of 200 IFP supporters who were take to the Nhlungwane camp in the western Caprivi ‘under the pretext that they could join the KwaZulu police if they met with certain requirements,’ according to the indictment.
After undergoing intensive training in offensive and defensive tactics, contra mobilisation and VIP protection, the recruits returned to Natal.
As training drew to a close instructors Andre Cloete and JP Opperman were apparently charged with running operation in Natal. Both men are now witnesses for the state.
‘Some time after their return to Natal accused number seven (MZ Khumalo) contacted Opperman and informed him that the trainees were getting restless and that the wanted to practice their training,’ the indictment says.
Permission for the men to plan operations, targeting ‘persons whose death would have a positive impact on the Inkatha Freedom Party’, was allegedly granted by accused number 12, former military Intelligence Officer Brigadier John More.
UDF activist Victor Ntuli, of house number 1886, KwaMakhutha was chosen from a list of potential targets.
Cloete and Opperman obtained AK47 rifles, magazines and ammunition which were distributed among members of the IFP group allegedly selected by Khumalo.
On 21 January 1987 the group travelled to KwaMakhutha in a white minibus and allegedly attacked the Ntuli home, killing 13 people. After the attack the weapons were returned to one of the accused.
KwaZulu/Natal Attorney General Tim McNally says in the indictment it is clear that not all the accused were at the scene of the massacre. However, ‘it is alleged that such crimes fall four-square within the scope and mandate of Operation Marion which those accused not present at the scene of the crime facilitated by planning, training, authorising, provisioning of weaponry and transport, funding or avoidance of detection’.
According to the ANC: ‘The indictment against Malan and others is also a weighty indictment against Buthelezi, the IFP, the National Party and many of its current leaders. The details of the indictment reveal the extent to which senior members of the then NP government were allegedly aware of the operation.’
NP leader FW de Klerk, other members of the security council and members of the NP cabinet at the time needed to reveal to the public what they knew of Operation Marion, the ANC said.
The general, the assistant and the weighty allegations
In his indictment against General Magnus Malan and 19 others, KwaZulu/Natal attorney general Tim McNally outlined the state’s case against each of the accused.
General Magnus Malan was Minister of Defence at the time of the KwaMakhutha massacre and a member of the State Security Council.The state has alleged that Malan:
- was presented Buthelezi’s requirements for para-military aid in December 1985;
- was mandated to assist Buthelezi in the creation of a security force for KwaZulu;
- received a report on proposed military aid, which included a covert offensive unit;
- instructed directorate of special tasks head Dries Putter to sell the ‘covert leg’ of the plan to Buthelezi.
Melchizedec Zakhele Khumalo was Buthelezi’s personal assistant and is currently deputy secretary general of the Inkatha Freedom Party. The state has alleged that Khumalo:
- was the liaison person between Inkatha and Operation Marion; o assisted with the recruitment of the 200 detainees;
- was responsible for the payment of the trainees’ salaries; o agreed that Victor Ntuli was the best target for killing; o was present throughout the briefing of the alleged killers and the mock attacks;
- was paid a salary and allowances by Military Intelligence.
New structure to drive RDP
A national council has been established to coordinate the input of the democratic movement into the process of reconstruction and development, writes Mziwakhe Hlangani.
An RDP National Council, which will bring together the democratic forces in government, parliament and organised formations outside government, has been established and is expected to be officially launched early next year.
Since last year’s election, the struggle against apartheid has shifted to the socio-economic front. The adoption by the government of national unity of the Reconstruction and Development Programme represents a victory for the democratic forces in this regard.
RDP Council coordinator Tebogo Phadu says the council calls for a holistic and integrated approach in the implementation of the RDP.
Building our structures cannot be divorced from this new challenge, which calls ‘upon us to shift our strategic focus from anti-apartheid resistance mode of struggle to a new developmental mode of struggle’.
RDP Council spokesperson David Makhura, says the mass democratic movement, students, teachers, Cosatu, SACP, ANC parliamentary study groups and senior government officials had identified two key challenges facing the democratic forces: improve the living conditions of all South Africans and rebuild mass organisations. These had to be tackled simultaneously, he said.
‘One can count a number of significant areas in education where there is delivery. New schools were being built where there were no schools at all. But the most critical thing we have not been able to deliver so far, has been a policy framework. There have been no legislation… which gives the national ministry the power to implement much more progressive, transformative policies,’ he says.
Judy Fortuin of the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network says one of the reasons her organisation is involved in the health sector of the RDP was because of its involvement in the mass democratic movement. Together with other stakeholders it had developed the ANC health plan. They had all drafted the base RDP document.
‘There was a tremendous investment from the network, together with the allies, in terms of the ownership of the contents of both those two crucial documents. This resulted in very handsome funding to pull together strategic documents and strategic thinking around transformation ideas in the health sector. What we in the progressive health sector began to feel, especially when the RDP green and white papers appeared, we noticed deviations from what was contained in the base document. We began to look around and [question] how are we going to respond to this collectively,’ she says.
‘We needed to regroup in some way. When the idea of this
extra-parliamentary organ was bandied around, this provided us again with a kind of focal point to begin to address the issue in terms of the political focus,’ she says.
The debate on the political direction of major policy documents could not be carried out in an open arena, says Fortuin. ‘There would be many risks, for instance, if we went into a non-aligned forum,’ she says.
The RDP Council was mooted more than a year ago, and attention was given to how the different sectors were going to be involved. ‘It was exactly what we needed because all along many of us have felt that the vacuum that had been created was proving to be problematic,’ Fortuin says.
The RDP council would allow the democratic movement to address programmes where there had been a diversion from the basic principles of the RDP. An issue which is ‘absolutely enshrined’ within the RDP was that there would be people-centred development and human resource development, says Fortuin.
In a number of projects, the school nutrition programme, for example, there was an absolute digression from that commitment. ‘We needed a rapid appraisal of the primary school nutrition programme and one of the things that came up very clearly was the communities,’ she says.
The character of the RDP council is mainly to engage in defending and advancing the social goals of the RDP. It will also seek to involve a diverse range of progressive formations such as trade unions, civics, students, teachers, church, cultural, sports, environmental and non-governmental organisations.
There are five areas in which the council will direct its activities. These include engaging in the policy setting processes to equalise power relations in society in terms of the command of resources and in determining participation in the society. Another goal is grassroots mass mobilisation linked to the involvement of the masses and the formation of structures at local level. This includes the need to build a new layer of leadership within the broad democratic movement.
Cosatu celebrates ten years
Cosatu celebrated its tenth anniversary in Durban on the first weekend of December. These are extracts from the speech of Cosatu’s general secretary Sam Shilowa.
In the immediate past, when outlining Cosatu’s vision and challenges, we used to talk about changes we wanted to see implemented when there was a transition to democracy. Now that we always talked about has arrived, we realise that the future isn’t what it used to be.
No other trade union movement has grown so quickly. However our mission to organise all South Africa’s workers into one union, one industry and into Cosatu is not yet over – there are still millions of who remain outside of our fold. We must today commit ourselves to reaching the two million member mark by December 1996.
From today onwards, our assertion that every member is an organiser must be turned into reality. Together with our organisers and shopstewards we have a responsibility to recruit more members into our unions. We must start with those who are working with us before moving outside the factory gate.
The recruitment drive must go hand in hand with the empowerment of women. We must take decisive step to ensure that women are integrated into our leadership. It is our collective responsibility to strengthen gender forums while at the same time integrating gender issues into the mainstream of our agenda.
We have made significant gains in the movement towards centralised bargaining. There are however still employers who resist collective bargaining. We intend to use our power and the new LRA to introduce the system of collective bargaining in every industry.
Our greatest challenge politically is the ability to defend, consolidate and deepen democracy. Having crushed the apartheid regime and its surrogates in the April 1994 elections, getting a second mandate to govern in the November local government elections, we must now turn our attention to KwaZulu/Natal and the metropolitan areas of Cape Town.
We want to declare here and now that we are ready to defeat the National Party, the IFP and their friends and prove to them that their hollow victories were a fluke. We must ensure that all our members regardless of which party they belong to, understand that apartheid-created parties are obstructing democracy and the implementation of the RDP.
In our everyday life we see poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, job losses and homelessness. Yet we are told to embrace capitalism and the free market. Yet we have yet to see the fruits of the free market in our country, the whole of southern Africa, Africa and Latin America. In our view it has failed dismally to provide basic necessities to our people. It is the free market for exploitation.
Democracy must mean more than the right to vote every couple of years. It needs to be accompanied by economic democracy so that workers become economic citizens of our country Cosatu is committed to rebuilding the South African economy to one that is capable to serve the needs of the people of our country. Such an economy must be able to provide jobs, houses, water, a living wage, training, a career path, an end to discrimination on the basis of race and gender. In short, we require the same so-called miracle that happened politically to happen in the economic sphere.
The RDP is a product of Cosatu and the alliance. We therefore cannot pay lip-service to implementation. We need to go to our communities and play our role – be it cleaning schools, repairs, identifying projects that will deliver basics to our people. We should applaud Kader Asmal for bringing water to our people. Support should be given to those who are in housing, land and the rest of infrastructure development. We should defend its implementation. Our contribution to the RDP should not only be limited to working on public holidays. We must think more of demands we should make to the employers.
We salute workers in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Britain, Sweden, Finland, Cuba, Zambia and others by the international trade union movement. Let’s not forget workers and societies elsewhere who are being terrorised by barbaric, heartless dictators. Let us build strong links with workers in all corners of the world.
As we toast and sing happy birthday to ourselves, let’s also remember those who died in the mines – Kinross, Vaal Reefs, Middelburg – at Thor Chemicals, in the shops and factories. Let us also remember Sam Ntambane, Neil Aggett, Andries Raditsela, Sam Ntuli, Phineas Sibiya, Simon Ngubane and scores of others who were killed by the apartheid regime. Your deaths have not been in vain. Because of you, Cosatu continues to grow.
One step closer to final constitution
The release of the working draft of the final constitution, takes South Africa a huge step closer to a new constitution, writes a correspondent.
South Africa’s constitution-writing process reached an important milestone last month with the release of the first full working draft of the final constitution.
The 63-page document, the culmination of 18 months’ work by the Constitutional Assembly (CA) and its committees, will be subject to intensive public scrutiny in the next few months.
All contributions dealing with the draft document will be fed back to the CA, the members of which will early next year begin a decisive round of negotiations to finalise the constitution for adoption by the 9 May deadline.
This date, marking the second anniversary of the inauguration of the national assembly, was set by the interim constitution.
The draft, written in plain language and stripped of the torturous ‘legalese’ which has traditionally been a hallmark of South African legislation, is divided into 15 chapters.
These are founding provisions, bill of rights, parliament, council of provinces, national executive, courts and administration of justice, state institutions supporting constitutional democracy, provinces, provincial and national legislative and executive competencies, local government, traditional authorities, public administration, security services, finance and general provisions.
The draft reflects inter-party agreements reached earlier this year on such matters as public administration and security services.
However, various options are listed for a number of issues still in contention. These include the important chapter on provincial powers, in which up to four options are given in the section dealing with a conflict between national and provincial laws.
The size of the national assembly (300 to 400 members) and the composition of the second house of parliament (called either the council of provinces or the senate) are among other matters still to be settled.
Other issues, including the preamble, national anthem and traditional authorities, are simply left open as ‘still under discussion’.
There is largely agreement that individuals and communities dispossessed of land after 19 June 1913, as a result of discriminatory laws or practices, have the right to restitution of that land or equitable redress.
Parties agree that everyone has the right to basic education, including adult basic education, in a state or state-aided institution, as well as the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, private educational institutions.
Parties agree on the rights of South Africans not to be subject to slavery, servitude or forced labour; to freedom of religion, belief and opinion; to an environment not harmful to their health or well-being; to have access to adequate housing, health care, food, water and social security; to use their language and participate in the cultural life of their own choice, as long as this does not violate anyone else’s rights; and to have access to the courts.
There is also agreement on conditions for the declaration of states of emergency and on children’s rights.
There is also general agreement among all parties on:
- parliament, its structure and powers;
- the powers and functions of the courts, including the Constitutional Court;
- institutions like the Public Protector, Human Rights Commission, Commission for Gender Equality, Auditor General and Electoral Commission;
- structure of provincial legislatures and executives;
- local government powers and functions;
- the defence force, police and intelligence services;
- financial provisions.
The working draft will soon be available in all 11 official languages. Its total print order is expected to be in the region of four million.
Anyone wanting to comment on the working draft, should send their contributions to:
The Executive Director
PO Box 1192
Cape Town 8000
Fax (021) 461-4339/461-4487
E-mail: [email protected]
The outstanding issues
While there is agreement among the parties in the Constitutional Assembly on a number of substantial issues in the constitution, there are a number of key differences which have yet to be resolved:
The working draft of the final constitution makes provision for either a deputy president or a prime minister.
One option on the cabinet, contained in the chapter dealing with the national executive, says a deputy president and ministers would be responsible for the functions of the executive assigned to them by the president.
A second option spells out in more detail what would be required of a prime minister: to assist the president in the execution of government functions, to be leader of government business in parliament, to coordinate the work of the cabinet and, in the absence of the president, to preside at cabinet meetings.
A third option says the cabinet will be composed in terms of ‘a system of government of national unity based on the interim constitution’.
Other sections of the chapter reflect inter-party agreement, including that at its first sitting after its election, and whenever necessary to fill a vacancy, ‘the national assembly must elect a woman or man from among its members to be the president’.
Provision is made for both the retention and abolition of the death penalty in the proposed Bill of Rights in the working draft.
In the clause on the right to life, the first option says ‘everyone has the right to life (and the death penalty is hereby abolished)’.
The second option says ‘everyone has the right to life, and the right not to be deprived of life except by execution of a court sentence following conviction for a crime for which the death penalty is prescribed’.
Options are also given in the clauses dealing with freedom of expression, economic activity, property, education and the rights of arrested, detained and accused persons.
A contentious issue in the property options is whether the state’s ability to pay compensation should be a criteria in deciding compensation amounts for expropriated property.
The chapter on provincial and national competencies in the working draft has numerous options, reflecting that this is one of the most crucial issues to be resolved before the constitution is finalised next year.
Where there is conflict between laws made by national government and those made by provincial government, the first option says that the national parliamentary act will prevail, where its provisions are necessary for:
- establishing acceptable standards of services rendered by the state, the maintenance of economic unity, or the determination of national economic policies;
- the maintenance of South Africa’s security; or
- the prevention of prejudice to the republic or any provinces caused by the provincial legislation.
The option further states that a parliamentary bill falling within the jurisdictional area of provincial functions listed in a schedule attached to the constitution, has to also be introduced in the second parliamentary house (called either a Council of Provinces or the Senate). It has to be approved by both houses.
Another option shifts the emphasis to the provinces. It says a provincial act will prevail over a parliamentary one affecting provinces except if the parliamentary act:
- deals with a matter which cannot be regulated effectively by provincial legislation;
- deals with a matter which must be regulated or coordinated by uniform management throughout the country;
- is necessary to set minimum standards for public services not provided by provincial legislation;
- is necessary for the maintenance of national economic unity or policies; environmental protection across provincial boundaries; the promotion of inter-provincial commerce; the protection of the common market in respect of the mobility of goods, services, capital or labour; or the maintenance of national security.
If the provincial act materially prejudices the economic health or security interests of another province or the country, the parliamentary act will prevail.
The working draft provides for either a Council of Provinces or a Senate as a second house of parliament to guard over provincial interests at national level. The Council of Provinces – which would encourage cooperation among provinces at a national level – would consist of delegates from the provincial legislatures and, perhaps local governments, directly elected to represent the interests of provincial (and perhaps local) government.
The Senate would be structured like the current one – each provincial legislature indirectly electing 10 people under proportional representation.
How the wild west was won
Despite a history of strong support for the ANC and good election results, the establishment of the new ANC North West province has been difficult, writes Mziwakhe Hlangani.
In the transformation of several different regions into a single province, the ANC North West province has witnessed major changes, disruptions, intra-organisational clashes and some positive developments.
North West ANC provincial secretary Ndleleni Duma says it has not been a smooth process: ‘the problems are still existing.’
Political change has advanced slowly over the past 18 months, given the nature of political, social and economic disparities between the old regions, some of which were formerly under the Bophuthatswana bantustan.
There are three components to the province: the former Western Transvaal region; sub-regions, like Taung and Kuruman, from the Northern Cape; and sub-regions, like Odi Moretele, which were incorporated from Gauteng and the former Bophuthatswana.
‘Communities in these respective areas should be made to feel part and parcel of that integration process. They must own it and the leadership should reflect the changes, and drive the restructuring process of the organisation. Until now there has not been serious problems since the last congress in November,’ Duma says.
He concedes that there are problems in areas around Taung and Kuruman. Sections of the ANC branches in these areas want to be part of the Northern Cape, while there are others who want to belong to the North West. There are ongoing discussions to resolve the problem in the two regions.
At the organisational level the ‘most pressing priority’ is building and strengthening organisational structures at provincial, local, and branch level.
The second priority is the participation of ordinary members in the activities of the organisation. ‘They should be empowered to participate, understand the constitution of the organisation, its objectives, policies and principles, because that is still a problem in this province,’ he says.
The ANC should set the agenda in terms of delivery. The promises that had been made to the disadvantaged communities must be fulfilled on time. ‘We must work closely with the provincial government, district councils and local councillors,’ Duma says.
Duma says the recent clashes between former ANC national executive committee member Rocky Malebane-Metsing and the provincial leadership showed that there were serious intra-organisational conflicts. ‘These problems manifested to such to an extent that there was mistrust among the comrades before the provincial conference. Even before his resignation, the evidence of the seriousness of the matter led to feelings that there were ANC members who were loyal to him during the same period when he was giving the organisation such serious problems. The debacle had created serious tensions in the province a few days before the provincial conference’, he said.
Though certain ANC members were supportive of the ‘Rocky faction’ they demonstrated they had no interest in leaving the organisation and defecting to his newly-formed party, Duma says.
In fact, the problems seem to have consolidated the membership of the ANC in that those who followed the Rocky ‘faction’ have re-dedicated themselves to the ANC, Duma says.
‘To a large extent, we are not heavily affected by the absorption of experienced ANC leadership into the national, provincial and the local governments,’provincial executive committee (PEC) member and organiser Abby Moseki says. He says there was an equal balance between ANC provincial leadership and ANC members deployed in the government.
Most of the PEC members deployed in government, because of their tight schedules, did not find time to work with branches. Consultation with branch leadership, assessing their problems and assisting at a branch level was therefore deeply affected.
Duma says an evaluation of branch level leadership would be ready in January, after a bosberaad of the provincial leadership. Branch executives would be elected at their respective general meetings between January and April.
Duma says regional executive committees have serious problems, since many don’t know what their powers are. From April next year to July regional conferences will be held in preparation for the provincial conference. There are 12 regions in the province, and 354 branches have officially launched in the 700 areas that are ANC strongholds.
Duma says the alliance with the SACP and Cosatu ‘is intact’. Despite numerous organisational problems, Duma stressed that the alliance should continue.
Organisational clashes within the alliance became evident during local government elections. They often became serious where there was bickering among alliance members over positions in the local elections.
The ANC provincial structure has also had problems in relating with Cosatu. Cosatu has not yet restructured to follow the new provincial boundaries. Cosatu still has three regions, while ANC and SACP structures have one provincial structure. One Cosatu region in the Northern Transvaal encompass Rustenburg, Odi Moretele and Brits.
Cosatu Western Transvaal region stretches from Vryberg to Vereeniging in the Gauteng province.
‘At provincial level we are working closely with the Cosatu Western Transvaal, which is based in Vereeniging. The relations are very good. Our regions and local branches where Cosatu structures exist meet in the alliance structures and there has not been tensions with Cosatu structures in these areas,” he says.
Duma concedes that ANC structures had not engaged in concerted campaigns to recruit new members. In areas originally reserved for afrikaner, coloured and Indian communities, like Potchestroom, the ANC lost in the local elections. One reason was that the organisational leadership was consolidating the ANC’s social base in the province, ensuring that the membership remained behind the organisation, Duma says. The province has also not planned any recruitment programmes since it has been pre-occupied with social programmes in preparation for the local government elections.
There has been tension reported between some traditional leaders and certain rural communities in the province. Duma recognizes that traditional leaders in the North West did not ‘escape the apartheid structure operations’. The apartheid regime had always wanted to co-opt them.
This was worsened by former bantustan president Mangope who ensured that all tribal chiefs were loyal to him. Those who resisted were dethroned. In their place Mangope installed his ‘lackeys who were not legitimate chiefs’. Most of those rejected by the communities were not legitimate chiefs.
‘The second element is around a conflict, as times change, between democracy and the traditional style of ruling,’ Duma says.
Duma says the provincial leadership has already outlined its plan to revive branches: ‘As we have been talking local government elections, at least 50 new branches have been launched. The numbers of people joining the ANC increased in the two months before the elections. The challenge is keeping those branches alive, with clear programmes of action.’
The ANC has to maintain its strong voice, if it is to been seen to be independent from the government, he says. This requires building a strong organisation at a local, regional, provincial and national level.
Legacy of strong ANC support
The ANC has historically enjoyed the support of the majority of the people in the North West province. There were important campaigns of the ANC in the 1940s and 1950s. In areas like Dinokaene – the scene of anti-pass campaigns – chiefs were vociferous activists of the ANC.
Dinokaene, Lehurutsi, Zeerust, Swaizenek and Wolmaraanstad were strong ANC and Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) areas.
In Ventersdorp, perceived to be the Afrikaner right-wing’s fortress, the SACP had enjoyed strong support since the early 40’s. People from those regions played a leading role in the struggle against apartheid. Many people in exile came from the Lehurutsi region, says North West provincial secretary Ndleleni Duma.
While former bantustan leader Lucas Mangope organised around tribal sentiments, communities in those areas supported the ANC’s struggle.
Duma says people have confidence in the present leadership, at national and provincial level: ‘There might be problems of not communicating sufficiently, to keep supporters abreast with developments. But communication problems are something we are dealing with very seriously.’
All the so-called conservative areas, says Duma, like Ventersdorp and Christiana, perceived to be CP and AWB strongholds, are controlled by the ANC.
There is no single opposition party organised like the ANC, from branch, regional, provincial to national level. ‘We have branches in almost every area. Even those areas where ANC has not officially formed branches, people in such areas support the ANC. Our strength is unparalleled,’ Duma says.
Building a community with bricks and mortar
Unable to find a place to hold meetings, an ANC branch near Hammanskraal decided to build a centre for themselves and their community. Phil Nzimande reports on the progress.
It has become normal for ANC provincial and regional structures to own or rent their offices. But when a branch starts to build its own offices without any assistance from higher ANC structures, that has to be applauded.
The ANC branch in Marokolong, a village outside Hammanskraal, was formed last year with the express aim of building the organisation and enhancing the community by teaching them about the history of ANC and its concerns.
The branch literally had to start operating with nothing, and they had no offices to work from. Eventually the branch came up with the idea of building its own offices. After discussions within the branch and with other community organisations it was agreed that a community centre should be built instead.
‘At first the community was suspicious. This was because in the past people were taking money from the people promising to use it for the development of some project. This in fact instilled some fear within the community,’ says ANC branch secretary Mike Lebese.
The local business community was also approached for assistance. ‘However, local business people were not used to helping the community in which they traded – that is, ploughing back some of their profits into the community,’ Lebese says.
Several meetings were held with the local business and some of the big businesses around Hammanskraal. Most of them were supportive and pledged their full support. ‘One businessman actually donated a building plan of the centre to the tune of R800, while others donated building materials like cement, bricks and sand,’ he says.
The land in which the centre is being built was donated by the local chief, NS Kekana, who also donated some building materials.
Members of the community finally agreed that each household would donate an amount of ten rands towards the building of the centre, and paying some allowance to builders to buy food while working. Those who could build volunteered their skills.
A campaign called ‘Donate a Brick’ was also launched to encourage members of the community to actively participate in the project. By this, it was expected that each member of the community would donate one brick to the centre.
‘To calm fears and suspicion in the community, a bank account was opened where the money was going to be deposited. This was done to ensure that even those who still had doubts about money disappearing were pleased,’ Lebese says.
Other political parties in the area at first tried to pour cold water on the idea. They thought that this was an ambitious project by the ANC meant specifically to catch votes. ‘However, this perception began to change when the actual building finally started. Some of them congratulated us, and pledged their support for the initiative,’ Lebese says.
The centre, which will cost R100,000, will perform a number of functions for the community. This includes serving as pensions payout point, water and electricity payment point and youth, education and cultural centre. It will also serve as a venue to hold meetings for community and other organisations, like burial societies and stokvels.
Some of the offices are actually going to be rented out to local business people and other organisations in order for the centre to be self-sufficient.
‘We had hoped to open the centre by mid-November. Due to problems like shortage of building materials, rain and vandalism, the process was delayed. However the centre should be finished and opened by the end of December,’ Lebese says.
SA throws weight behind Nigeria democracy movement
The campaign in South Africa for Nigerian democracy is gaining speed, writes a correspondent.
Pressure on the Nigerian military government to move quickly to democracy is mounting, with South African organisations and individuals joining the international movement for democracy in Nigeria. At the centre of the South African non-governmental effort is a broad coalition of organisations who have formed themselves into the South African Nigerian Democratic Support Group. The group was formed after the execution of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in early November, to register their protest at the execution and to support calls for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.
Members of the support group include the ANC, Cosatu, SACP, Business South Africa, Earthlife Africa, Congress of South African Writers, Lawyers for Human Rights, South African Football Association and National Olympic Committee of South Africa.
Announcing its formation, the group said: ‘We cannot stand idly by as the military government of General Abacha systematically undermines and erodes the fundamental and basic freedoms of the people of Nigeria. Our own past experience in our country reminds us that an extra day under a dictatorship is a day too long.’
Within a week of its formation, the group staged a high profile picket outside the Nigerian consulate in Johannesburg to express their disgust at the executions and to present demands to the Nigerian government:
The group demanded:
- an immediate end to all executions, specifically those of political detainees (among them Chief Abiola and Chief Abanya);
- the immediate release of all political detainees;
- the creation of a climate for free political activity, including the guarantee of freedom of speech and association.
‘We call on the world community to investigate, and implement, effective measures to pressurise the Abacha regime to comply with these demands immediately,’ the support group said in a memorandum handed to the Nigerian consul.
‘We, the people of South Africa, who know the price of the struggle for democracy, dedicate ourselves to work unceasingly together with democrats throughout the world, in order to achieve the above objectives. In doing so we will be lead by the needs and objectives of the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria,’ the memorandum said.
Speaking at the picket, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: ‘Abacha, you have already lost. there is now way your injustice and oppression can prevail forever.’
He called for sanctions unless General Abacha freed all political prisoners and detainees and began negotiations with legitimate leaders in the country. He said that soldiers did not belong in politics. Abacha should go back to his barracks, Tutu said.
The SA Nigerian Democratic Support Group also met with representatives of Shell South Africa to persuade the international oil company to use the influence it had in Nigeria to put pressure on the military government.
In a statement after the meeting, the group said some of its members had expressed disappointment that Shell had not demonstrated sufficient commitment to using its influence. The statement said that while the group had not committed itself to either an oil boycott of Nigeria or a boycott of Shell products in South Africa, they were strategies which some members of the group were seriously considering.
History of repression and oil
The history of Nigeria since independence is one of military might, corruption and oil, writes a correspondent.
In the 35 since Nigeria achieved independence from Britain in 1960, democratic rule has been the exception more than the rule. There has been a steady succession of military regimes, with brief interludes of civilian rule.
Nigerian society is dominated by extremely corrupt elites. These are largely comprador elites – elites that facilitate the activities of multinationals in their country, relying on bribes and kick-backs from these corporations. Millions of dollars earned by the Nigerian economy have been cached away in the private Swiss Bank accounts of the elite.
In June 1993 a military dictatorship under General Ibrahim Babangida bowed to popular pressure and called a presidential election. Chief Moshood Abiola, a multi-millionaire whom many Nigerians allege ‘bought’ the elections, was the winner. But even this extremely conservative result did not suit other factions of the ruling elite, and Babangida annulled the elections. Babangida was, in turn, ousted in November 1993 by the present military ruler, General Sani Abacha.
As the situation has deteriorated in Nigeria, so the Abacha regime has resorted to increasingly harsh measures. The Nigerian Trade Union federation has been dissolved and the trade union movement placed under the supervision of one of Abacha’s henchmen. In March this year Abiola was detained, along with a number of other prominent Nigerians, and accused of ‘plotting a coup’. Those detained include General Obasanjo, who played an active role in the anti-apartheid struggle, and who was the first and only Nigeria military ruler ever to hand over power to a democratically elected civilian government.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and Ogoniland
The Ogoni are a small minority group of about 500,000 people living in a region of the Rivers State in Nigeria. Ogoniland was historically very fertile and rich in fish resources. The Ogoni live in the midst of a major oil reserve, first discovered by Shell in 1958.
Shell operations in Nigeria are operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in a joint venture agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Almost 14 percent of Shell’s production, its greatest slice outside of the US, comes from Nigeria. Since Shell started operations in Nigeria, the Ogoni reserves have yielded some 30 billion US dollars in revenue. Very little of this has ever found its way back into the region, or into broader Nigerian development. Instead the profits have either gone to the Western oil companies, or to the small Nigerian comprador elite.
The Nigerian military regime is heavily reliant on oil revenues. Oil accounts for some 60 percent of all government revenues. The oil industry is now virtually the only industrial sector of the economy that has not collapsed.
Shell operations have caused tremendous environmental damage in Ogoniland. Between 1975 and 1991 there have been nearly 3,000 major oil spills. Gas flares, burning 24 hours a day, some for as long as 30 years, pollute the air and cause acid rain.
In the West, where oil companies have their headquarters, the siting of oil pipes is subject to very careful planning, Recently in the UK, for instance, a Shell pipeline required 17 different environmental studies before it could go ahead.
In Nigeria, Shell and other Western oil companies, route their pipelines straight over peasants farms and through villages. There is no consultation with the people, and no compensation for damage.
It was against this background of environmental destruction, that the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was launched in 1992 under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a world-renowned author. In January 1993, Mosop mobilised 300,000 Ogoni, staging a peaceful mass protest against Shell.
In response to the beating of a Shell worker, Shell closed down its operation in Ogoniland.
The true reason for the Shell shutdown, was its alarm at the growing mass mobilisation in Ogoniland against its destruction of the Ogoni people’s environment and livelihood. By shutting down, Shell put pressure on the Nigerian military, who depend on oil revenues for their own elite life-styles. By the end of January 1994 the oil companies estimated a loss of $200 million due to ‘unfavourable conditions in the areas of operation’. They called on the military to take action.
The Nigerian military got the hint. In the course of 1994 mass arrests, the whole-scale destruction of villages and the fanning of ‘inter-ethnic’ violence began. In a memorandum, dated 12 May 1994, and signed by Lieutenant Colonel Pail Okontimo of the Rivers State Internal Security Task team the strategy behind this ‘low intensity campaign’ against Mosop and the Ogoni people was made very clear: ‘Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.’ The memo also recommends the ‘wasting’ of Ogoni leaders.
It was in this context that Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were executed. Less than a week after the executions, Shell and other Western oil companies signed a R12 million deal with the Nigerian military for a liquified gas project.
Growing call for South African support
Nigerian opposition groups are turning to South Africa to provide support for their struggle against military rule. Steyn Speed reports.
Representatives of various Nigerian pro-democracy groups have been in South Africa recently to encourage the South African government and civil society to put its weight behind the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.
Organisations represented have included the Civil Liberties Organisation, Democratic Alternative, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People and the London-based Ogoni Foundation. They have called for South Africa to play a leading role in the international movement against Nigeria’s ruling military regime.
Among the formations which the pro-democracy groups have had contact with is the South Africa Nigeria Democratic Support Group – a coalition of 20 organisations, including the Tripartite Alliance, formed shortly after the execution of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa.
‘Of all the pressure so far put on the Nigerian military regime none has so far been as remarkable and penetrating as that of the people and government of South Africa,’ the pro-democracy groups said in a joint submission to the South African support group.
They said that while they were mindful of the limitations on South Africa, including the lack of international consensus on South Africa’s position, there were a number of things which South African’s could do. Support from South Africa, they said, should include:
- creating active and fast track diplomatic exchanges, parallel to official diplomatic exchanges, between the South African government and opposition within Nigeria;
- training support in community-based organisation and mobilisation; o material and financial assistance for community-based projects; o facilitating greater coordination among Nigeria’s pro-democracy groups.
Ogoni Foundation leader Lazarus Tamana said that while the struggle for democracy in Nigeria desperately needed moral and financial support, the only quick solution was an oil boycott. ‘If the western powers have got the will to do it [impose an oil boycott], they should do it now, and save people who are facing extinction in Nigeria,’ he said.
‘People should not be carried away by the notion that a boycott will hurt poor people. We are used to poverty, deprivation and hardship,’ he said.
This point was echoed by the submission of the pro-democracy groups: ‘There has been much talk about the implications of an oil embargo on Nigeria. The argument has centred around the need for research to find out its effect on the people of Nigeria. It is clear to us that what is largely at stake here is not really the interests of the 100 million Nigerians, but rather the variety of international commercial interests of countries and multinationals likely to be most affected.’
‘It does not take any form of research to find that the person on the street in Nigeria does not feel the impact of the nation’s oil wealth,’ the submission said.
The pro-democracy groups in Nigeria have singled out oil company Shell as a target of protest action, not only for their poor environmental track record, but for their role in propping up the military regime.
‘South Africans need to send a clear message to Shell that if they don’t use their influence to bring about change in Nigeria, they should be prepared for a consumer boycott,’ Tamana said.
The pro-democracy groups acknowledged that the movement for democracy in Nigeria was not as well coordinated as it should be and that more work had to be done on the ground. The opposition groups in Nigeria comprised a combination of human rights groups and political organisation, they said.
‘Opposition against military rule is as old as military regimes. The opposition is historically traced to the role of the labour movement, students the academia, professional bodies and, recently, human rights groups,’ they said.
‘While differences may exist on the strategies adopted by each organisation, there is consensus on the issues. Present efforts revolve around addressing the issue of military incursion in politics, tackling its consequences on the human rights of the populace and laying down an enduring democratic structure for the country.
‘Our strategy has been, first and foremost, to exhaust local remedies. On human rights abuses strenuous efforts have been made to use our local courts to redress these violations… There continues to exist programmes aimed at educating the citizens on the ideals of democracy and ills of military regimes. It is to the credit of the opposition groups in Nigeria that the level of political consciousness of the majority of our people has been raised from mere non-committal to active participation,’ they said.
Elders want military money for covert anti-democracy campaign
A group of Ogoni ‘elders’ have asked the Nigerian military regime for five million US dollars to run an international information campaign against Nigerian pro-democracy groups.
In a letter in Mayibuye’s possession, addressed to military ruler Sani Abacha, a representative of the elders says ‘we want to carry out the assignment with the credibility of bona fide Nigerian citizens of Ogoni descent seen as totally independent of government influence’.
The group have asked the military government for the money to ‘despatch a team of Ogoni elites’ to New York and London and to hire international public relations firms ‘to start a campaign to correct the present mis-information about the actions of government on the Ogoni incident’.
Part of their campaign would be to undermine the credibility of executed Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa: ‘We also intend to do a focus on the other side of Saro-Wiwa, highlighting his not too clean family, business and social life in the local and international media’.
Justifying the expense of their campaign, the ‘elders’ say: ‘It will be pertinent to note that the Ogoni people were not mobilised by mere promises alone; Saro-Wiwa spent colossal sums of money to sell himself and his bogus programmes.’
In the letter the ‘elder’ representative describes the military tribunal’s trial of Saro-Wiwa and his execution as ‘the due course of law’.
A litany of misinformation
The latest article in a series of unsubstantiated reports by a Rapport journalist has all the makings of a sinister propaganda campaign, argues ANC Secretary for Information Ronnie Mamoepa.
An article which appeared in Rapport on Sunday, 19 November, alleged that President Nelson Mandela had refused to make a statement on shootings around the ANC Headquarters on 28 March 1994.
This report is, at best, an instance of sloppy, biased journalism. Mounting evidence would suggest, however, that this report appears to be the latest volley in a sophisticated propaganda campaign being conducted against the ANC. Wittingly or not, Rapport is allowing itself to be a vehicle for this campaign.
The article, written by Rapport correspondent De Wet Potgieter and based on information from unknown sources, makes no attempt to verify the allegations with the Office of the President, the ANC or the Office of the Attorney-General.
The ANC categorically denies that President Mandela or any senior official of the ANC expressly or implicitly refused to cooperate with the police in the investigation of the shootings.
Senior officials of the ANC have submitted sworn statements to the police and firearms have been handed over for ballistic testing. The ANC’s legal team is currently working on President Mandela’s statement for submission to the office of the Attorney-General.
The Deputy Attorney-General’s office has categorically denied any knowledge of a refusal by President Mandela to cooperate with the investigation.
Given the facts of the case, why did De Wet Potgieter and Rapport insist on printing an article containing unsubstantiated allegations which it turns out are false, and which impair the dignity of the president and senior ANC officials?
It is difficult to accept that this article is not an integral part of a systematic propaganda campaign to vilify the ANC and its leaders, particularly given the pattern of anti-ANC vitriol that has characterised the writings of journalist De Wet Potgieter.
Recent revelations during the trial of former Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock implicate De Wet Potgieter in strategic communications operations run by the former government and intelligence services.
Giving evidence in De Kock’s trial in June this year, Major Kobus ‘Chappies’ Klopper claimed that De Wet Potgieter was a paid informant for the former Military Intelligence Directorate: Covert Collection.
Potgieter is yet to unequivocally deny these allegations. A major operational centre of the Directorate: Covert Collection was raided by the Goldstone Commission in November 1992, and documentary evidence of operations aimed at discrediting and criminally compromising the ANC and MK emerged.
In a profile of the late Joe Slovo, which was published in September 1993, Potgieter wrote that ‘Rapport learned this week from a very reliable source that Operation Vula, the underground movement of the SACP which was exposed a few years ago by the then Special Branch, and which aimed to establish underground structures in the country despite the peace negotiations, is still continuing’.
‘It is no longer known as Operation Vula but Operation Sunshine, and some of the key figures in the SACP which were earlier exposed as the brains behind the operation are still part of it.’
No attempt was made to verify these serious allegations. The Operation Sunshine story was to resurface several times, and in numerous forms, before the April 1994 elections. Key targets of this operation were, it was claimed, Inkatha and the white far right. Among the people who claimed to be in possession of detailed information on ‘Operation Sunshine’ were the IFP’s Ed Tillett and KwaMakhutha accused Tienie Groenewald.
The ANC repeatedly denied that any such military operation existed, and noted that it appeared this propaganda represented organised attempts to incite the white far right and influence the perceptions of our negotiators.
On 19 September 1993, just before the passing of the TEC Bill and amid mounting fear of organised violence from the far right, Potgieter claimed that ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare had linked up with nearly 500 members of the former SADF’s special forces, foreign mercenaries, ‘and a number of former MK members’ with the aim of providing support to the Afrikaner Volksfront, at the time led by the Committee of Generals.
On 12 December 1993, Potgieter reported that ‘Large-scale training of Zulu warriors by far-right instructors has been taking place for a considerable period of time in secret training camps in Northern Natal and the Eastern Free State. The training in guerilla warfare is in preparation for what the right-wingers call the ‘bloody battle’ between the ANC and Inkatha in the run up to the general election on April 27th this year.’ Leonard Veenendal of the so-called ‘Orde Boerevolk’ was introduced as a leading figure in this training, and ‘told Rapport that the Zulus had the same enemy as the Boerevolk and had seen how MK soldiers cold-bloodedly murdered innocent women and children in Natal and burned down their homes,’ according to Potgieter.
As pressure grew on the ANC to make constitutional concessions to Inkatha and the white far right before the April 1994 elections, Potgieter published other reports apparently aimed at creating as much fear and tension as possible about the threat from the right-wing. On 19 December Potgieter wrote that a ‘heavily armed’ Veenendal, now working closely with ‘Commandant’ Willem Ratte of the Pretoria Boerekommando, had led a ‘convoy’ to Kwesini Hostel on the East Rand to give food to the ‘beleaguered Zulus’ resident there. He was accompanied by Mwezi Twala of the Returned Exiles Committee.
The Returned Exiles Committee was involved, along with the military intelligence front the International Freedom Foundation, in setting up the Douglas Commission of Inquiry into ANC camps in Angola. The Returned Exiles Committee has since been exposed by Paul Erasmus as an SAP front organisation, and the Skweyiya Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the former Bophuthatswana has alleged that payments to Advocate Douglas were made from the Bophuthatswana state security council.
On 16 January, 1994, Potgieter wrote a detailed and dramatic story alleging that Veenendal, described now as ‘chief-of-staff’ of the ‘Orde Boerevolk’ had set up a secret military base and was involved in intensive training of large numbers of ‘Zulus’ in guerilla warfare and special military techniques ‘in preparation for the bloody war between Inkatha and the ANC in the run-up to the elections’.
Veenendal is quoted as saying his ‘movement’ supports the ‘striving for self-determination’ of the Zulu people. Potgieter wrote that ‘far right underground organisations are ready for action to offer military help should the TEC order the SADF to invade the region’ and stated that Veenendal ‘confirmed that serving members of the SANDF’ were part of the training corps of this grouping. Photographs showing a poster saying ‘MK = Mass Killers’ were printed with this story.
On 6 November 1994, Potgieter reported that deserters from the SADF’s Wallmansthal base ‘are part of a recruitment campaign by radical elements in the ANC for the underground operations of the so-called MK-APLA movement’. Readers were told that this so-called ‘Mkapla’ is made up of renegades from MK and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, and that their prime target would be IFP members. Potgieter claimed a senior ANC official was implicated in this matter, and that it was ‘no coincidence’ that the deserters proceeded to Durban as this was ‘part of the planning (by the ANC) to establish an underground force as counter to Inkatha in Natal in order to strengthen the ANC’s power base in this region’. As usual, no comment was solicited from the ANC or the SAPS, nor was any evidence presented to support these serious allegations.
On 19 March 1995, De Wet Potgieter reported that the behaviour of former MK members had created a ‘time bomb’ in various military bases where integration of the various armed formations was taking place: ‘It was a ticking time bomb which had to explode at some time… but no-one thought the boil would burst in such a gruesome and barbaric manner with the brutal rape on a military base of a defenceless father of three small children by a gang of MK members.’
A sub-headline proclaimed: ‘AIDS sword hangs over sergeant after brutal rape.’ A barrage of other allegations to the effect that the integration of MK members into the SANDF was destroying the force were added to this story. It subsequently emerged that there was not a shred of truth in these allegations. Neither Rapport nor Potgieter saw any reason to print an apology.
On 10 September 1995, Potgieter alleged that ‘the ANC is looking for as much justification as possible that soldiers of the SANDF are deployed in (KwaZulu Natal) since the SANDF is controlled at national level from Pretoria’, and that Inkatha was very concerned about the deployment of the SANDF because ‘most of them are former MK members and are part of the destabilisation campaign against Inkatha’. Potgieter also claimed that there was ‘concern in the ranks of the security forces about the large Zulu impi which simply disappeared with a large quantity of arms a few weeks ago’.
On 15 October 1995, in an article on the death of Muziwendoda Mdluli of the NIA, Potgieter alleged that ‘Zimbabwe is still openly offering military training to members of South Africa’s radical AZANLA movement. Young members of AZANLA are currently being extensively recruited in the country to go for training in Zimbabwe’.
Rapport and De Wet Potgieter need to explain the proliferation of false allegations, outright propaganda and disinformation, usually targeting former MK members, senior ANC leadership and now President Mandela, in many of his articles on the ANC – and their convenient correlation to claims by former security force members, the white right wing and the IFP.
The ANC would like to believe that this recent article falsely alleging that the president refused to make a statement regarding the 28 March shootings is no more than very poor journalism. The evidence cited above suggests a more sinister agenda, and reinforces the ANC’s belief, also expressed by President Mandela, that the 28 March shootings were not a bolt from the blue, and formed part of a systematic pattern of violence and covert activities aimed at weakening the ANC, and keeping maximum enmity alive between Inkatha and the ANC.
Rapport says sorry after official complaint
Sunday newspaper Rapport has retracted claims it made in an article on 19 November that ANC president Nelson Mandela had refused to make a statement about the shootings outside Shell House, after the ANC lodged a complaint with the Press Council.
Rapport said their report was incorrect and apologised. Rapport acknowledged that the attorney-general had met with the ANC’s legal representatives in September and had been informed that President Mandela would make a statement as soon as a copy of the president’s statements in parliament on the matter became available.
The complaint to the press council provided evidence to disprove the allegation made by Rapport in their earlier article. ‘The report was not only devoid of truth, but was also particularly malicious in its insinuation. After falsely asserting that the president had invoked his right to remain silent, the report added that this had raised questions in security circles because the right concerned was one usually afforded only to ‘witnesses which could incriminate themselves in the event that they were charged’,’ the complaint said.
According to the ANC’s complaint, despite the fact that is must have been clear to Rapport that its story had been false, it failed to publish a correction earlier: ‘It not only failed to do so, but compounded its scurrilous accusation by publishing a letter under the headline: ‘Ook hulle kan soos Mandela swygreg gebruik’ (They too like Mandela can use their right to remain silent). This headline tended to repeat and confirm the false accusation.’
The ANC complaint said Rapport had clearly been guilty of reprehensible violations of the press council’s code of conduct.
Benoni arrives in the new SA
The election of a black woman to the position of deputy mayor in Benoni, has brought the small Gauteng city into the new South Africa, writes Khensani Makhubela.
Benoni, viewed by many as one of the most conservative cities on the East Rand, seems to be catching up with the changes in the new South Africa. Vivienne Chauke, a former nurse, accountant, administrator and long-time ANC activist, has been elected Benoni’s deputy mayor, the first black woman to hold such a position.
The 38-year-old Chauke was born in Kwa-Thema, a township in Springs, and did her primary and secondary education in Ladysmith.
After completing her matric she went to do nursing at Masana Hospital in Bushbuckridge. She later found out that nursing was not as challenging as she had imagined, and she decided to study accounts and marketing with Damelin College. Chauke is a Direct Sales Executive for ICL, one of the largest computer companies in the country.
Chauke has no illusions about the hard work that her new position will require and the challenges she and the city of Benoni face. ‘I know exactly what my job requires and this is not a new thing to me. I have been doing this work before I even knew that one day I will find myself in this position,’ she says.
Chauke’s involvement with the community began many years ago. ‘I remember that about fifteen years ago, on a cold winter morning, I saw a long queue of senior citizens in Daveyton and I got interested. I wanted to find out what the queue was all about. I was very depressed to learn that they were queuing for their pension money. It touched me and that’s when I saw that something was wrong in this country,’ she recalls.
After the ‘senior citizen’ incident, Chauke began to frequent the Daveyton Interim Civic Committee meetings, so that she could be fully involved with the community. As someone who is creative and always ready to learn and listen, she was elected as an additional executive member of the committee in 1988.
‘I was never a politician and I never thought I would see myself this far in politics. But one could not help it. I had to be involved. Things in this country were just wrong.They involved the real basic issues like bread and butter, things like water, toilets and roads,’ Chauke says. ‘And that is part of my standard of living. Even if I could afford a better place to live, I felt that what affects people directly would one day affect me indirectly.’
She says her history classes at school about Nelson Mandela inspired her to care about people. ‘I used to admire Mandela a lot. My question was always how can this educated man worry about people and sacrifice his life for people he doesn’t even know. Then I thought to myself if a man of his calibre can stand up and fight for my rights, what would stop me from working for the community,’ says Chauke.
In the early 1990s violence worsened in the townships and made the work of the civic very difficult. She says she faced more problems because she was the only woman, and she was single and people hardly respected her or appreciated her hard work. ‘That did not disillusion me. In fact it made me work harder. I told myself that nothing will stand in my way and I will be there with everybody else who want to see this country into democracy,’ Chauke says. She says the team she was working with was very supportive and hard working and there was a lot of consultation on whatever they did.
After the 1994 elections the civic association was restructured and Chauke was elected the president – and it became more difficult for her. Again, culture interfered with her portfolio. Most men said they could not be led by a woman. ‘They never understood that as a woman I also have rights and I can lead men. I had to be in full control, because then people were very excited after the elections and they thought they could do what they wanted in the township or say what they wanted,’ she says.
Chauke got where she is through hard work, enthusiasm and determination. She was one person who was not afraid to go to Daveyton hostel and talk to the hostel dwellers and assure them that they were also part of the community. She was one of the first people in the community to have the support of the youth. Chauke got great respect from the youth and community at large and that was a great achievement for her.
‘When the local government [elections] came, people around my area hinted that they would like me to represent them, but I didn’t take it seriously because with these elections it meant that I would be taking a bigger responsibility. It is not just a question of being elected. It means that people should have trust in you,’ Chauke says.
‘The fact is people in my community trust me. In my ward we were four contestants and the other three were men. When they counted the results I didn’t believe it – I was in the lead with a very big gap. And these elections were very different from the national elections, in these elections you had to be elected directly by your community,’ she says.
She adds: ‘The struggle is not over yet. This is just the beginning. I have already asked the community to work hand in hand with me. The battle has to be fought by us all in order to achieve our goals’.
Chauke says by the time she finishes her term as Deputy Mayor she would have made a big difference in the city. She wants to bring all the citizens of Benoni together, as it is high time the past was left behind and the citizens became one big family.
Her next step will be to stop the youth from lingering around the shops, particularly those who have passed matric and with no money to further their studies. She feels that the youth should be empowered with skills. ‘Our youth should know exactly what they want to do before they finish school. In the past our youth were filled with theory. They would have to develop practical skills at a place of work,’ she says. Chauke’s other priority is senior citizens. She says they should never queue up again, they should get their money from the bank.
Chauke has started working on her strategic plan. ‘I want to change Benoni into a people’s city, not an individual’s city,’ she says.
Transparency should extend beyond government
The draft Open Democracy Bill is a breakthrough for transparent government. But, argues David Adams, it should be broader.
The issue of freedom of information is becoming a new area of contestation. The draft Open Democracy Bill, currently under discussion, is intended to allow the public access to increased levels of information on government. The recent Labour Relations Act requires some degree of information disclosure by the private sector within workplace forums and bargaining chambers. Yet, many people argue that it is not enough.
The main functions of the Open Democracy Bill are to:
- Grant a right of access by any person to information held by the government, subject to considerations like national security and privacy.
- Grant rights of privacy in relation to information held by both governmental and private institutions such as ‘credits bureaus’. In this case a person has the right to see records relating to themselves and can demand correction of any incorrect information.
- Require that meetings of more than two persons of important governmental bodies be opened to the public, subject to certain conditions.
- Provide some protection for ‘whistle blowers’ – government employees who reveal corruption and maladministration.
To enforce this, the bill provides for specialised Information Courts to be part on the Supreme Court and for an Open Democracy Commission to oversee the implementation of the Act. The Open Democracy Commission is also mandated to annually review ‘other laws having a bearing on accountability, responsiveness and openness of governmental bodies as well as other institutions and even organisations which exercise substantial influence over the nature of the South African society’.
One of the major problems with the bill is that it covers government bodies, but excludes the private sector. The bill has the potential to substantially empower business through the release of government information, but it does not encourage business to follow the same principles as government, such as transparency.
Labour organisations, however, have demanded that the principle of scrutiny of the private sector should be subjected to the bill’s disclosure codes. Many bodies in the private sector routinely take decisions which have a profound impact on public policy. In the Open Democracy Act Policy Proposals, which were circulated before the first draft of the bill, the need is identified for the act to cover all governmental bodies that have recently been privatised. These policy proposals were, however, not translated into the bill.
The main function of the Open Democracy Commission (ODC) is to oversee the implementation of the Act. The commission must also annually review the Act and other laws. However the ODC still needs to ensure that secrecy needs to be in the public interest rather than in the private interest, and that exemptions must not have the unintended consequence of shielding companies from providing information to organisations such as trade union movements and workers on a confidential basis, within, for example, workplace forums or bargaining chambers.
A handful of companies dominate the South African economy and they wield substantial public power. Large companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are required, in terms of the Companies Act, to release very little information. This would include their annual report with the chairperson’s and director’s reports and the company’s latest audited statements. Private companies are not compelled to release even this meagre information. Over many years a culture of secrecy has thus been nurtured in the private sector, often to the detriment of the communities companies serve.
In 1994 the King Commission, a private sector initiative, however, did start to rectify this culture of secretary. The commission, formed by the Institute of Directors, was to promote the highest standards of corporate governance in South Africa. To this end, it drew up a code of corporate practices for all companies listed on the JSE. This code of practices, however, were not intended to be enforceable, but were to be encouraged through companies’ self-regulation.
Although there was a wide spread acceptance of the King recommendations within the business community, few companies as yet have started to implement the regulations. The Open Democracy Act could begin to enforce these types of regulations.
In particular, labour organisations are demanding a preamble for the bill; that the main body of the bill should include within its jurisdiction privatised companies; and that the ODC should commit itself to finding appropriate mechanisms to regulate all bodies in the private sector that wield public power.
The bill still needs much scrutiny from all sectors of society, and, if it is going to work, the interests of all sectors of society need to be reflected in the bill.
Some remarks on the bill
‘The Bill needs to be simple, but we should be careful not to seek any major strengthening of its provisions, such as the inclusion of the private sector, which could be likely to arouse new opposition and cause the bill to be delayed.
‘Delays in turn will allow resistance to the bill to build up both within the civil service and government, and could result in it being shelved. Legislation such as this is a rarity, the kind of thing that happens only in the first flush of a new regime when idealism is still fresh. Better to seize this brief window of opportunity to get the basic bill passed – then those interests that want stronger provisions can push for amending the bill at a later date.’
Institute for the Advancement of Journalism Director
‘Section nine of the report considers the scope of the Act, and argues that since many private sector bodies exercise power of a size and extent similar to public sector bodies, they should likewise be subject to the same information disclosure obligations as those advocated for the state.
‘SACOB would argue that, insofar as government belongs to the people, they accordingly have a constitutional right to know how that institution handles the affairs with which they are charged. The same does not apply to private sector business and its activities. Business does not belong to the people and they do not have a consequential right to be informed.’
South African Chamber of Business
How government works
The importance of parliament’s committees
Parliament’s portfolio committees are now playing a more important role in the process of government. Khensani Makhubela explains how.
The portfolio committees in parliament are the main structures that political parties use to make policy. They deal with legislation which is tabled by the different ministries, and ensure the legislation is thoroughly considered and thoroughly assessed in the light of public opinion. Where necessary, amendments are made to ensure that the legislation is in line with the constitution and reflects the demands of the majority of the people.
The committees function on the basis of proportionality – the number of members a political party can have on a committee is in proportion to the percentage of votes it received in the elections.
Committee members are all members of parliament. Every member of the assembly must serve on a committee. The party decides which members should sit on which committees. Most MPs belong to about three committees on average.
At its first sitting, the committees elect one of the members to be the chairperson and one person to be the deputy chairperson. The committees consists of 15 to 25 members. The small parties are not represented on all committees, but on major issues they can give a report to the committee concerned.
The portfolio committees have expanded their work quite considerably from what it was in the old parliament, where parliamentary committees were simply rubber stamps for the ministers. In the past, very important legislation would easily be passed within a day or two without any consultation.
Now every piece of legislation is analysed in-depth. The committees emphasise the importance of parliament in the process of making legislation.
The committees are open to the public. On every piece of legislation the public is asked to make written submissions. On the basis of the merit of each submission, the committee may get people from the relevant organisation to give evidence on the legislation.
The committee members do not always sit in parliament. They go out sometimes to visit particular areas of relevance to their committee. In the case of the portfolio committee on correctional services, for example, the chairperson of the prison committee would visit prisons to make sure that they knows what the conditions in prisons are like.
There are fifty different standing committees. There are also temporary committees, called ad hoc committees, which deal with specific issues for a limited period of time. There is, for example, an ad hoc committee on abortion and sterilisation. After these committees have completed their work, they dissolve.
A member of the committee has to vacate their seat if they cease to be a member of the party which nominated them.
The standing committees sit whenever there is legislation. Because there are so many committees, and because parliament itself needs to sit, there are often clashes. This puts a lot of pressure on MPs and often affects the attendance in committees and in the assembly.
Taking parliament to the people
Constituency offices are being established across the country to bring MPs closer to the people they represent. Phil Nzimande visited a newly-launched office north of Johannesburg.
The North East Rand constituency office was launched on 7 October. Parliament and parliamentarians were being brought closer to the people, the 2,000 people who attended the launch were told. This constituency office includes MPs from about 15 parliamentary portfolio committees, and covers Kempton Park, Tembisa, Edenvale, Modderfontein and the Greater Midrand.
This is what ordinary people have access to – a vehicle to make direct input into the making of law and shaping the future of this country. The constituency offices will ensure a dynamic interaction between government and the people on the ground.
People also have access, through the constituency offices, to cabinet ministers. If, for example, there were any urgent matters to be attended to, parliamentarians in the constituency office would ensure that it was possible to discuss the matter with the relevant minister.
In this way people will be helping in the monitoring of the executive wing of government. ‘By this, people will be able to make the government to account for its actions,’ says ANC MP Wally Serote, the convenor of the North East Rand constituency office.
‘This office will also introduce to the people all the processes which we are engaged in in parliament in formulating legislation. We also thought that it was crucial that they and us should find a forum where we can together identify needs in the whole of the North East Rand. Having identified that, come up with recommendations, and say we think that if this were to happen there would be a qualitative change in the lives of people living in this area,’ says Serote.
Serote says his constituency is a typical articulation of a South African dilemma. Midrand has some of the most wealthy people in the country, but also some of the poorest, he says.
‘The big question that we must pose to ourselves is, what must we do so that these people live side by side. But more than that, that they know each other, and together they plot how to overcome this terrible disparity,’ Serote says.
Top on the agenda must be how to combat crime. ‘We have not as yet addressed the key question of crime in the North East Rand, as an area with a high rate of crime. This is one of the areas where the concept of SDUs, SPUs and task forces existed and functioned, which means some of the members of these units are still here. We have toyed with the idea of processing these units into police reservists. It is a concept that we are still exploring,’ Serote explains.
‘We must also formulate, together with the people, our short term, medium term and long term plan of the RDP, as to how it should unfold. We have generally laid a foundation that we can work from,’ he says.
This constituency office is staffed by five national MPs, Wally Serote, Thabang Makwetla, Limpho Hani, Fatima Hajaig and Indres Naidoo and three MPLs Leon Cohen, Amon Msane and Regina Dladla.
What needs clarification is the relationship between the national and provincial tiers of government. Serote says: ‘I don’t think the manner in which we handled the local government elections was the best that we could as MPs, MPLs and local government candidates. I think that to a large extent the ANC won on the basis of its past reputation. However, I think this gives us a challenge now – what is it that we must do to ensure that these three tiers of government function like clockwork.’
Another area where attention will be given is skills development: ‘What is it that we must do so that if there is no skills at local level, skills are imparted; if there is no expertise, if there is any need for those who are going to govern, this is made possible and accessible. I think this is a big challenge for all of us in this office.’
The office also needs to be accessible to all South Africans, irrespective of political affiliation. ‘Of course, we are in parliament because we are ANC members and we got there because it is believed by our people that we stand for ANC policies. Whenever we discuss with anybody, it will be on that basis and guided by the fact that we come from the background of the Government of National Unity,’ Serote says.
Would the establishment of the constituency office duplicate the work that ANC branches were doing? ‘The most important fact is that the office is open to every single South African who resides in this area. Of course we have to open lines [of communication with ANC structures], starting at branch level. We have started discussing this. It in this process that we are going to learn other things that we have to do,’ he says.
Serote says one of the challenges facing his constituency is to change the manner in which some of the areas look, including Tembisa, Phomolong and Ivory Park. ‘These places must become livable. People must have a sense of pride when they say they are going home. This is a major task,’ he says.
Infrastructure is also a problem. The types of roads, houses and lack of essential facilities make life unbearable for residents. This is an environment which is supposed to produce the new South African that we want, somebody who values where they come from. ‘Improving these terrible conditions will also be a very direct way of addressing the question of crime, to change the quality of the environment of people so that they feel and have a sense of belonging. Because if they have a sense of belonging they will also become stakeholders in change,’ Serote said.
To keep people interested in their environment, Serote says, the concept of establishing community art centres, encouraging arts and crafts and promoting of tourism is being brainstormed with some people in the area. ‘This is what we must do to ensure that something flourishes in the area, which imbues people with a sense of pride and hope, a sense of self-esteem. This is, I think, the direction that we are moving in,’ Serote says.
Between five and ten people a day visit the office with their problems and to seek advice. ‘However, some of the issues brought to us are the ones we cannot deal with. These include matters of health, lawyers and police. But I think it is important that people come, because this helps us to become aware of, and sensitive to, what is happening in the area,’ he says.
Plans are being made to divide the wards among MPs, MPLs and local councillors. ‘Instead of us sitting here, we should be going out there meeting with people. We also planning to open satellite offices, one in Tembisa and one in Midrand, so that these process is immediately accessible to ordinary people. Very soon we will be interviewing people who will be in charge of those offices. This is going to be a multi-pronged type of approach – while we expect that people come to the offices, we must also go to them,’ he says.
Will truth be enough to reconcile SA?
With the Truth Commissioners appointed and ready to begin their work, Khensani Makhubela spoke to some people in Johannesburg about what it would take to achieve reconciliation.
Themba Khanyile of Johannesburg is very positive about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He says that it is a very good idea to have such a body and people need it very much at this time.
‘In the past, many things were happening and they were hidden and now we want to know about them. All scandals should come out. We should know the truth about who killed who or who did what in the past,’ says Khanyile.
Khanyile says the perpetrators of apartheid should be punished in order that the past should not be repeated. ‘If people who committed crimes in the past are not punished it will mean that we will not be exemplary and reconciliation will be difficult,’ he says.
‘People from different cultures should come together and bring about reconciliation and again people should go out and talk to the victims of apartheid about reconciliation,’ Khanyile says.
Isabel Stocks agrees with Khanyile. She says all the perpetrators of apartheid should be punished and this will be important for the victims. ‘If the people who committed crime are let to go free then the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will not be important for the victims, South African citizens, as well as the people who set it up,’ Stocks says.
She says this body is very important because it is going to bring about reconciliation in the country. ‘It is going to be a slow process but we will get there,’ Stocks says.
‘The truth and reconciliation commission is not a bad idea, finally we are going to know the truth. We, as black people, suffered a lot under the former government and lots of things happened during those days and we did not know the perpetrators,’ says Sibusiso Sibeko. ‘Now at least we know about people like Malan and others,’ he says.
Sibeko says that this commission is not looking at revenge, but it is trying to reconcile the people of South Africa. ‘It is the truth that we want and the truth must come out and this will make it easy to forgive, although we have been hurt in the past,’ he says.
‘The process is very important to our youth. They should make a better South Africa and they should not get involved with the past. We need a healthy nation,’ says Sibeko.
Sipho Gamade says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a very good idea and it is going to heal many people. ‘We should sit down and tell the whole truth, which will make the victims feel much better. We know it is to forgive but it is very difficult to forget. But, with time and the truth, victims of apartheid will come to terms with a new life and a new South Africa,’ he says.
Gamade says that this body will help us learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes. He says victims should know the truth in order to reconcile with their enemies: ‘If there is no truth then reconciliation will be doomed.’
Francina Khumalo says this commission is ideal. ‘Reconciliation will be a problem because there is still hatred in this country. We should get to the root cause of the whole thing,’ she says.
‘It is unfortunate that there is nothing that can compensate me. A lot has happened in the past and it was very painful. This makes one helpless as one cannot come to terms with the present without thinking of the past, and this should never happen to our children,’ she says.
‘The perpetrators of apartheid should be brought to court and punished so that they do not repeat the mistakes of the past,’ says Pando Maluleke. ‘Reconciliation should not be forced on us. It should be an individual’s decision. How can one reconcile while he or she has been badly hurt and does not know the truth? We were hurt psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and physically.’
Maluleke says it will be a bit easier for everyone to reconcile if the victims of the past can know the truth, although it won’t be easy for them to forget. ‘It is also unfortunate that even if the victims can be compensated with all the wealth in the world it won’t bring back the loss. The loss is permanent,’ she says.
Lizzy Kgakathi says the truth and reconciliation commission is an excellent idea but she is eager to know what will happen to the perpetrators of the past.
‘Are the culprits just going to confess and be let go after they have told the truth? If I had a say I would say that they should be punished severely, so that they do not repeat the mistakes of the past,’ Kgakathi says. ‘I don’t think the victims will just want to hear the truth and at the same time see the people involved walking free in the streets. Everyone must pay for their sins.’
William Volmink says that he doesn’t see how people can be reconciled while real issues have not been approached. ‘People should just admit that they did wrong in private, not in public. After all we should not evoke the past. This commission is not a good idea at all, we can do very well without it.
‘Let bygones be bygones. Let’s start on a new slate, let’s leave the past behind. Although I feel that the victims should be compensated, the perpetrators should not be punished, because this is a mistake anyone could have made,’ he says.
‘We must get the truth from everyone who committed crimes in the past and this will make it easy for us to live in peace and harmony in the democratic South Africa. Reconciliation can only come after the truth has come out,’ says Judy du Plessis.
She says that people from different cultures should work together and bring about reconciliation.
Coco Philip says: ‘The truth is going to bring about reconciliation. How can one reconcile with someone you don’t know the truth about?’
‘The past cannot be forgotten and it cannot be buried. We can actually build the future out of the past, if we are all prepared to tell the truth. Then South Africa is finally going to be a peaceful country,’ says Philip.
The importance of public relations
This month David Adams looks at why organisations need public relations.
All organisations, including the ANC, need to relate to other organisations and people. A mass-based organisation needs members and supporters, while others need clients and sometimes even donors. Public relations is not something an organisation can choose to have or not to have. An organisation is seen by others in a certain way – it has an image. If the public relations function of an organisation is well-planned, properly implemented, monitored and evaluated, its image will be good. On the other hand, if an organisation ignores public relations or has public relations only when it remembers it, its image will be bad.
Public relations work is not an end in itself, it is only a way of helping your organisation achieve its aims and objectives, and it should be properly planned when you plan activities of your organisation. Some organisations believe that because they serve a particular need, they will get support for their organisation. However this is not always the case. A community would rather get good service from a commercial firm than bad service from a community-based organisation. Any group that does not believe an organisation is really concerned about its needs will look somewhere else.
Why are organisations unpopular?
The reasons why people don’t like or support an organisation are numerous:
- People can be totally against the principles and aims of an organisation. This includes people and groups who are against an organisation because they disagree with its objectives. Someone who believes in discriminatory actions against women, will definitely get strong opposition from people who don’t believe in it.
- People may agree with the aims of the organisation, but not the programme of action, tactics and methods that the organisation uses to promote its aims. People may support the principle of free education for all, but be against violent actions to achieve that aim.
- People may agree with the aims of the organisation, but will not like some of the leaders of that organisation. They might see the leadership as impolite, dishonest in their personal behaviour, disorganised or bad at public speaking.
- People may agree with the aims of the organisation but the leadership of the organisation may have been involved in corruption or some kind of scandal.
Look carefully at these reasons. There is very little that can be done by any organisation to win support from groups or individuals that are totally against its principles. But groups or individuals that support the objectives of an organisation and do not support the organisation because of the reasons discussed can be won over and can become active supporters. These group are often called ‘the undecided’. Much of an organisation’s public relations should be aimed at the ‘undecided’.
In most cases, your organisation can ignore groups and individuals who are against what you stand for. But sometimes you may have to include this group in your public relations efforts and try to change the attitude of people in this group from being strongly opposed to your organisation to be more understanding or sympathetic. Whether you spend time and money doing this depends on the needs of your organisation.
Remember, the more people there are who think positively about your organisation, the more people they are likely to influence to think the same way. An organisation can be unpopular because of what other organisations and people say about it. An organisation that competes with your organisation for support can have a public relations objective to undermine your organisation.
Some organisations use numerous tactics to undermine other organisations, including to:
- spread lies about other organisations;
- exaggerate or take a small detail of what another organisation said or did and make it into something big;
- make sure that mistakes made by competing organisations are made bigger and more serious by spreading the details of the mistake and trying to get the media to report on it;
- to take events, statements or details out of context. This is when something said or done in one situation is taken to mean something different by placing it in another situation. The meaning is usually changed to reflect badly on the organisation.
If these tactics are used against you, and they can be, the best way to deal with them is to give your side of the story on public platforms and to the media. If your organisation has made a mistake, the best way to deal with it is to be honest – admit to the mistake, and give details of how the mistake will be addressed.
You need to know which individuals and organisations are important to your organisation. Aim your public relations at those organisations and individuals that are important to you. Don’t waste time, money and effort on those that are not on your side.
There are two main groups that you need to think about when you plan your public relations. The first group includes the people and organisations that already support you and help you. Without them your organisation will not be able to survive. The second group includes organisations and individuals who can be won over to support your organisation. The more support you have, the stronger your organisation will be.
These are the organisations and people your organisation needs, if it is going to continue to exist at all. Depending on the type of organisation, this group includes members, supporters, clients, donors, committee members and organisations that share your aims and objectives. The kind and the size of the ‘publics’ an organisation relates to, are different for different types of organisations. A small sports club or an organisation that provides hearing aids for deaf people have different publics from a large trade union that has thousands of members from across the country.
A mass-based organisation or a large national trade union draws its support from many different groups. The groups have different cultures, languages, incomes, education, religious beliefs. Organisations with such large publics need to know each public, understand its prejudices and fears and what the best way is to reach it.
Mass-based organisations represent large numbers of people and claim to speak on their behalf. Organisations like these have close ties to the groups they represent. They need to be responsive to these groups or communities. They need to relate to the communities around them in a way that will bring more and more support from the communities to the organisation so that their claim to speak for the communities is true.
We call this group the ‘undecided’. These are the organisations and individuals who are not against your organisation, but they also do not actively support you. They are the ones you want to win over. They are the ones you can win over. They are a very important target for your public relations.
The ‘undecided’ are those people who are not against the aims, objectives and policies of your organisation, but may disagree with the tactics you are applying. If you target these groups in your public relations plans and approach them in the right way, they can be won over and become active supporters, making your organisation stronger and more successful.
Next year, we continue with the series on public relations.
On a road to somewhere
Bongani Madondo goes Down Adderley Street and ponders the direction of theatre in the post-apartheid South Africa.
‘Hey Kat, those are unforgettable days when I used to con my granny every cent that claws could grab. Jong man, it was sommer lekker, man.’
So said Rooi, a colourful streetkid to his friend Kat in Down Adderley Street at the Market Theatre recently, a two hander play written and directed by Itumeleng wa Lehulere.
Down Adderley Street is a satirical play taking a closer look at the timeless ‘streetkids issue’. It explores the streetkids’ hopelessness, their fun, daily survival and sarcastic prosperity in the rough streets of Cape Town, a city housing the parliament of the ‘rainbow’ South Africa.
Our boys, played by Phumla Runei and Keith wa Lehulera, articulating the harsh existence of streetkids are young and self-taught theatre practitioners. They bring into this an untapped raw performance leaving no doubt about their acting capabilities.
The play’s conception and ultimate run at the ‘alma mater’ of theatre in the country comes in a period where black theatre is embroiled in a fierce debate about its future. The question doing the rounds in theatre circles sounds like: ‘Is theatre an endangered art form? Is a pragmatic satirical stance of new wave black theatre the salvation?’
This play provides glances into both camps, the protest camp and the so-assumed new wave black theatre.
A dramatic arts lecturer at the University of Cape Town, Wa Lehulere addresses an issue that characterised black theatre in the early and late eighties – political marches, and a hatred between black communities and the police.
He brilliantly captures such a mood when one of his ‘boys’, suffering from nostalgia, relates to his bosom buddie how ‘lekker’ life was in Gugulethu in those stone-throwing and system-confronting years.
The playwright swiftly moves from sub-theme to sub-theme in his narration, hooking up a conversation between the boys’ present state and their past. This warrants a feather in his cap for re-introducing not an entirely new story telling format in satire, a format excellently perfected by Duma ka Ndlovu in his play Bergville Stories.
It is a style that needs an effort to grasp as it bounces back and forth, requiring undivided concentration from the audience to fully understand the entire play.
But for Wa Lehulere it works, for even the not-so-serious theatre lover cannot forget what happened in the black communities in the past 24 months, though with the event of the ‘new’ country and new theatre political speak, it seemed like a decade back.
The second and most interesting point is the play’s attitude to the government. What makes this a point of interest is that the new black theatre group draws their satirical inspiration by perennially tackling the present government, their staple food ultimately. This play too continues in the hilarious analogy of ‘how bad’ the country is today.
This is a line uttered by a dejected ‘father figure’ in the play who hilariously reprimands his naively ambitious son who dreams of surrounding himself with limousines, mansions, beautiful woman and other commodities of the new black elite.
The son, who is one of the two boys in the story, is told by his dad that: ‘I too, my son, dreamt of the same lifestyle. For only members of the gravy train travel in such fantasies and indeed live that lifestyle.’
It seems the term ‘gravy train’, people’s assumption and the gap between the leadership and the so-glorified ‘grassroots’ people will take time to erode in theatre.
Playwrights are saying theatre is a portrayal of real life. Any misgivings from business, government or the entertainment circles need to be exposed.
‘The need to take a critical look at the government in a comical sense seemed to clutter the ‘new wavers’s’ thoughts,’ says one highly regarded theatre practitioner and insider. ‘The trend seems to be, in the absence of a white scapegoat to scalp, the new black elite are sitting ducks for us to comically harass.’
This play jumps right into such debates, but, as the director mentioned after the show: ‘My intention is to offer the nation a laugh at yourself. Theatre is still intellectually controlled by whites. The majority of the audience who are revelling at how toothless the hyped ‘swart gevaar’ is.’
‘How we feared the worst, only to be fed with sweetened black theatre,’ shot a remark from one white patron. She probably was content – one of those who regard authentic township cooked theatre that address the real situation, hopes, achievements of the black communities as outdated protest theatre.
Much having been articulated from all the angles one notes that we are faced with a new ‘gevaar’ – the danger of relegating serious theatre. This means sending well-researched and humorous plays from the townships to the back burner, giving way to thematically-void satirical plays.
As a concerned performance arts critic, the present situation in the arts sphere leaves me cold. The rationale being, will playwrights a decade from now be able to point to a collection of plays that captured the true feeling of the country in the post independent South Africa?
Is the current theatre able to reproduce the magical sensation that Sarafina, Magic at 4:am, and Blame me on History did with intellectual accuracy while offering entertainment in the process?
The response of Adderley’s author and director: ‘the trend seems to be ‘let us laugh all the way to a brighter future, knocking down committed black leadership on our way to such future’.’
‘Prosperous feature for theatre? Judging by the present trend and popular belief from the influential media sector, I throw my sceptical dice about a prosperous feature for theatre in this country. That is unacceptable and black playwrights need to look beyond that thinking while not sucking up to the ruling class charm,’ he says when asked about his RDP-bashing line.
The play in question, though touching on the sentimental streetkids issue, fails to bring a new approach in addressing such a social malice. The director’s trump card is more his dedicated funny characters than his style, which is nothing new.
Some of the audience agreed that it took a calculated artistic risk for one to touch on this issue without bringing in street life’s accessories: prostitutes, hardened drug hustlers and shadow-lurking businessmen, cutting nocturnal business deals.
In drawing a line between inspirational entertainment and relevant art, the play scoops the entertainment element, while offering a stale style.
One questions the merits of the playwright’s style to Fugard, for they are stylistically and culturally poles apart. Wa Lehulere questions such comparisons: ‘What’s the fuss? Why am I not judged in the same stream as Zakes Mda,? Is it an effort to hail some of us as new black pioneers in the new country, for our assumed liberal approach?’
‘I feel less comfortable in being a hero to white audiences and unknown to communities that I come from,’ he says.
This play once again refocuses the attention on this discourse: not the relevancy or demerits of Shakespeare in our society, but when and by whom’s authority and expert consent will township-cooked theatre come of age.
Is it fair to judge any production from the townships as ‘community theatre’, denying it it’s right to national acclaim in the process? When will the government cease to be a sitting duck for playwrights who seem incapable of exploring other creative ventures?
Even satirical and hilarious work can do with a little creative fresh approach. It’s about time the country’s theatrical players indulge in an unexplored terrain without acting as artistic bull terriers. Ravaging the already torn government and the new black establishment.
Down Adderley Street finishes its run at the Market Theatre, and will now be going on a national tour.