Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
A20 ugust 1996
- THE HISTORICAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
3.1 The prehistory of colonialism, dispossession and segregation
3.2 The history of the ANC to 1960
3.3 Just struggle in the international context
3.4 Apartheid and human rights
3.5 Apartheid human rights violations in an international context
- THE NATIONAL PARTY, APARTHEID AND THE ANATOMY OF REPRESSION, 1948-1994
4.1 The post-1948 legislative programme of apartheid
4.2 The repressive apartheid security state, 1960-1974
4.3 The institutional violence and social consequences of apartheid
4.4 Judiciary and other forms of repression
4.5 Forced removals and forced incorporation
4.6 Mass repression by the regime in response to mass protests against apartheid
4.7 The height of apartheid repression
4.8 Apartheid and the destabilisation of Southern African countries in the 1980s
4.9 Covert action and state sanctioned gross violations of human rights in the negotiations era of the 1990s
- PHASES OF STRUGGLE AND ANC POLICY FOUNDATIONS, 1960-1994
5.1 New forms of struggle after Sharpeville and the banning of opposition groups (1960-1969)
5.2 A changing scenario and new challenges (1969-1979)
5.3 Towards “People`s War” and “People`s Power” (1979-1990)
5.4 The ANC and internal revolt: The role of the Mass Democratic Movement in the 1980s
- DID THE ANC PERPETRATE ANY GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS?
6.1 The approach, standards and conduct of the ANC in relation to human rights
6.2 Armed operations and civilian casualties
6.3 Excesses in relation to state agents
6.4 ANC members who died in exile
6.5 The Mass Democratic Movement and excesses in the mass revolt of the 1980s
- CONCLUSION: RECONCILIATION, REPARATIONS AND THE CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
7.1 The ANC`s own conduct
7.2 An approach to reparations
7.3 Lasting reconciliation
Questions which require the attention of the Commission
[This summary serves merely to identify the primary issues in the submission and should not detract from the matters raised in the main document]
The ANC supports the work of the TRC. By knowing what happened and why it happened, South Africa will be better placed to ensure that the evil deeds of the past are never repeated.
This submission aims to relate directly to matters within the TRC`s jurisdiction, while providing a context within which the points in the submission can be better understood. It is neither a definitive or comprehensive account of the period under review.
2. HISTORICAL CONTEXT
2.1 COLONIALISM AND RESISTANCE TO 1960
The process of colonial conquest lasted over two centuries, culminating in the formation of the racially-exclusive Union of South Africa. In 1948, the National Party came to power and between 1948 and 1960, legislation was introduced to give material meaning to previous racial segregation and discrimination, to limit civil liberties and to suppress political dissent.
Formed in 1912, South Africa`s oldest national political organisation, the African National Congress` core principles were to promote unity, counter racism and work towards equal rights for all South Africans.
In the early decades of its existence, the ANC was conspicuously committed to act within the law.
The Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, and the subsequent banning of the ANC signalled the beginning of a new era in South African history – an era in which repression and conflict were to reach their peak.
2.2 THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
The ANC was internationally recognised as a liberation movement. Various UN resolutions on liberation struggles are significant in that they:
- legitimise armed resistance to forcible denial of self-determination; and
- allow third states to assist the liberation movements in their struggle.
It was argued, and accepted, in the UN that the self-determination of the South African people had not taken place.
Thus, it would be morally wrong and legally incorrect to equate apartheid with the resistance against it. While the latter was rooted in the principles of human dignity and human rights, the former was an affront to humanity itself.
An examination of relevant international conventions, declarations, resolutions, judicial decisions and the practice of the United Nations and its organs and the practice of regional organisations and states yield affirmation of the following propositions of international law in relation to the apartheid regime:
- Gross and systematic violation of the provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, especially those provisions which must now be regarded as part of customary international law;
- Apartheid often produced outcomes similar to those of genocide – a practice now proscribed by the international community, leading to criminal sanctions;
- The policies of apartheid were a negation of the United Nations Charter and against humanity, thereby giving universal jurisdiction for its suppression and punishment, on general principles and by treaty.
The South African regime had no right to represent the people of South Africa, its illegitimacy arising from systematic breaches of peremptory rule of international law.
3. NATIONAL PARTY, APARTHEID AND REPRESSION
Apartheid was founded on, and represented an intensification of, the colonial system of subjugation of Africans, coloured and Indians.
To entrench and defend Afrikaner and white dominance, the NP set about to transform the judiciary, the army, the police, intelligence services, academia, the civil service, economic and labour relations and parastatals; and it increasingly relied on force.
Apartheid oppression and repression were therefore not an aberration of a well-intentioned undertaking that went horribly wrong. Neither were they, as we were later told, an attempt to stave off the `evil of communism`. The ideological underpinning and the programme of apartheid constituted a deliberate and systematic mission of a ruling clique that saw itself as the champion of a `super-race`.
3.1 APARTHEID REPRESSION
From the outset, the National Party introduced a combination of social and repressive laws to pursue its overall political and economic objectives.
During the 1960s the government`s transgression of human rights became more blatant. Central to the new authoritarianism were sweeping restrictions on political behaviour; an increase in the powers of the police and further subversion of the independence of the courts; and sweeping provisions for detention without trial that created conditions in which the use of torture during interrogation became widespread.
From its inception in the early 1960s, the security legislation and its implementation have generated widespread reports of mental and physical abuse of people held in detention. Individual officers abused their powers of interrogation; interrogation became torture; torture became routine.
3.2 INSTITUTIONAL VIOLENCE AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES
During the 1960s, concurrent with the new security legislation, the apartheid rulers embarked on radical new forms of social engineering designed to entrench white minority rule. Instances of such “bureaucratic terrorism” included:
- huge numbers of arrests for contravention of pass laws;
- large-scale forced removals and resettlements;
- the redefinition of all Africans as `citizens` of ethnic bantustans.
Basic apartheid measures systematically denied black South Africans `first generation` rights like the franchise, civil equality, freedom of movement and freedom of association. The social order underpinned by apartheid also ran roughshod over `second generation` rights, such as the right to education, health care, security and social welfare.
3.3 JUDICIAL REPRESSION
Whole sectors of South African society – the law courts, churches, media, education, business, sports and cultural sectors – both actively and indirectly reinforced apartheid exclusion, discrimination and the violation of human rights.
The South African judicial system was racially and ideologically biased in the interests of the apartheid system. Selected judges were in many cases put in charge of political trials and were responsible for the judicial murder of people fighting against apartheid. In many cases judges allowed evidence that was extracted under torture or duress.
Judicial commissions produced ideologically-oriented reports which promoted the goals of the apartheid state. Law societies and bar councils struck from the roll anti-apartheid activists convicted of political crimes.
The catalogue of legal discrimination and injustice that occurred under apartheid needs to be acknowledged if a human rights culture is to flourish in the new South African legal system.
3.4 MASS REPRESSION IN 1970s
In the early 1970s, spontaneous and organised mass resistance started to surface for the first time in a decade. The response of the regime was brute force. The actions of the regime in 1976/7 brought out in bold relief the government`s intention to deny human rights at all costs.
Notes taken by then Minister of Police Jimmy Kruger illustrate this:
“10.8.76 Unrest in Soweto still continues. The children of Soweto are well-trained. The pupils/students have established student councils. The basic danger is growing black consciousness, and the inability to prevent incidents, what with the military precision with which they act. The minister proposed that this movement must be broken and thinks that police should act a bit more drastically and heavy-handedly which will entail more deaths. Approved.”
3.5 TOTAL STRATEGY IN 1980s
The National Security Management System (NSMS) was instituted in 1979 as an attempt to ensure maximum coordination of practices already in use in line with the government`s `total strategy`.
This period saw the genesis of a trend towards increasingly sophisticated covert operations, continuing into the 1990s, which included illegal methods to suppress and disrupt the resistance movement. In addition to attempts to bolster the discredited bantustan and community councillor systems, there were renewed attempts to find or `create` credible alternatives to the ANC.
The State Security Council (SSC), which was at the apex of the NSMS, although technically a committee of the cabinet, usurped many of the cabinet`s executive functions. Ultimate control of the SSC and NSMS was vested in the Office of the State President. It controlled a totalitarian network which reached into every part of the country.
Repression during this period assumed both a formal and an informal nature. Formal repression included:
- Successive states of emergency, covering a large number of magisterial districts, were in operation from 1985 to 1989.
- Over 80,000 people were detained without trial, some for periods of up to two and a half years. This number included over 15,000 children and around 10,000 women.
- Over 10,000 detainees were tortured, assaulted or in some way abused.
- More than 70 detainees died in detention.
- Several newspapers and publications were banned, suspended or restricted.
- Many were sent to jail and others executed.
- Over 100 organisations were banned or restricted.
- Outdoor political meetings were banned, and numerous indoor meetings and funerals were broken up, banned or restricted.
In addition to these overt repressive measures, a whole range of covert activities were conducted by the state or its proxies.
One of the tactics used was that of counter-mobilisation. During 1985 and 1986, a range of front companies were set up in South Africa to orchestrate `black-on-black` violence, foster viable alternative `liberation movements` and spread NP propaganda. No fewer than 23 sub-projects were running in Namibia and South Africa in 1986, some of them with agents in the media.
Another tactic was the use of vigilantes and surrogates to perpetrate violence against democratic formations. During the course of 1985 various `vigilante` groups and bizarre criminal gangs suddenly appeared in townships all over the country. `Kitskonstabels` were introduced in late 1985, mostly to bolster unpopular community councillors.
Operation Marion, which involved the training of an offensive para-military unit of IFP supporters is currently the subject of the KwaMakutha massacre trial.
Plans were also being drawn up in mid-1986 for the formation of a `Xhosa Resistance Movement`, which would in nature – and even extent – be similar to Inkatha and would together with our security forces form a counter-revolutionary front.
Linked to this was the use of state-sanctioned `hit squads` in extra-legal terror and assassinations by the Civil Co-operation Bureau and Vlakplaas police unit.
The Human Rights Commission recorded around 100 assassinations and around 200 attempted assassinations of anti-apartheid figures inside and outside the country between 1974 and 1989.
The apartheid regime did not shrink from the use of poison in its attempts to murder its opponents. In 1977 agents attempted poisoned the food of some 500 MK cadres undergoing training at Catengue camp in Angola.
The cases of Siphiwo Mthimkulu, Frank Chikane, Thami Zulu, and an attempt to kill Dullah Omar are some of the better known examples of the use of this tactic.
Further, “Project B”, a top-secret, multi-million rand project run by the former SADF, included chemical and biological weapons projects, which was still operational as late as 1993.
It has been alleged by people close to these programmes that research on organophosphates and cancer-inducing agents were carried out, and even President Mandela was considered a target.
3.6 DESTABILISATION IN THE 1980s
Total Strategy included destabilisation in neighbouring countries. In a Commonwealth report of 1989 this destabilisation during the 1980s is described as having reached “holocaust” proportions. The report added that at the time the human cost was 1,500,000 dead through military and economic action, most of them children, while a further four million had been displaced from their homes. The economic cost to the six Frontline states was estimated to exceed 45 billion US dollars, not to mention the destruction of agriculture, industry, education and health care in countries like Mozambique and Angola.
Among the external destabilisation methods used by the apartheid state were:
- Armed action, ranging from sporadic commando raids into several neighbouring countries, to full-scale invasion as occurred in Angola.
- Hit squad raids to abduct or assassinate political opponents, mostly people connected to the ANC.
- The encouragement or even creation of surrogate anti-government forces through logistical support, intelligence and training, as in Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia.
- Economic pressures to create and maintain a dependency on the South African transport, harbour, custom and financial systems.
Through a number of cross-border raids, supposedly to attack `ANC bases`, the SADF showed callous disregard for the lives of civilians. These attacks were characterised by a “shoot first, and ask questions latter” approach.
3.7 COVERT ACTION AFTER 1990
State terrorism and covert operations by the apartheid government and security forces did not end with the unbanning of the ANC and other organisations in 1990, and the formal commencement of negotiations.
The consequences of these campaigns against the democratic opposition were far worse than anything experienced in the emergency years. Between 1990 and 1993, nearly 12,000 civilians were killed and 20,000 were injured in thousands of incidents, including several major massacres. The Human Rights Commission recorded the accelerating pace of assassinations of anti-apartheid figures: 28 in 1990, 60 in 1991 and 97 in 1992.
A top secret document dated 13 March 1990 stated that FW de Klerk was “briefed on a broad spectrum of sensitive projects” and had given his approval “in principle” on “the running of Stratkom projects”.
The document also states that “covert stratkom projects are controlled and managed by the secretary of the SSC. . . The Secretary of the SSC receives decisions and orders in this regard from the State President and passes them on to the departments concerned”.
Even if the structures were renamed, the security committees chaired by SAP and SADF officers from local to national level remained in place. As the official National Co-ordinating Mechanism manual notes: “the principle of the application of the full powers of the state in order to resist the revolutionary onslaught is still valid.”
There have to date been partial, yet telling revelations of the nature an extent of covert operations in the post-1990 phase. To name just a few examples:
The admission by Orde Boerevolk “hunger strikers” after their escape to the UK that they were Military Intelligence agents with a specific brief to destabilise black communities and the ANC.
The November 1992 Goldstone Commission raid on Pan Afrik Industrial Investment Consultants, a Directorate: Covert Collection front company, which provided partial glimpses of other operations, such as those aimed at subverting Self-Defence Units.
There are a few key operatives and commanders who know exactly how these networks functioned, and can help shed light on how extensive this network was; what has happened to it; and what capacity it still has for destabilisation.
FW de Klerk and the then ruling National Party have the responsibility to inform the nation about this machinery and whether part of it is still operational today.
4. PHASES OF STRUGGLE AND ANC POLICY FOUNDATION
4.1 NEW FORM OF STRUGGLE AFTER SHARPEVILLE
The ANC announced its adoption of armed struggle on December 16 1961. The MK manifesto explained that armed activity was necessary because of state violence and curtailment of extra-parliamentary politics.
From the beginning, MK emphasised the supremacy of politics over narrow military activity: in the choice of targets, attitude to civilians, attitude to the white community, and treatment of any captives.
However within its own ranks, debate would rage unceasingly – especially in periods of brutal actions by the regime against unarmed civilians – about the correctness of such restraint. But at all times, the principled approach of the movement would prevail.
4.2 NEW CHALLENGES 1969-79
The 1969 ANC Consultative Conference in Morogoro adopted a new programme, Strategy and Tactics of the ANC, which looked to eventual ANC `conquest of power` in South Africa and accepted the need for a protracted armed struggle.
Military struggle was seen as forming only part of, and being guided by, a broader political strategy to ensure that the battle against apartheid was fought on all possible fronts.
It was thus difficult to resist the temptation to spread such structures and armed actions in an opportunistic fashion. But, even under pressure the ANC asserted its political position: that the politics of the ANC should guide whoever carried out operations on the basis of its training and supplies.
It is from such contacts that arrangements were being made for Steve Biko to meet Oliver Tambo. This information was leaked by agents of the regime such as Craig Williamson, leading to Biko`s arrest and ultimate murder.
4.3 PEOPLE`S WAR AND KABWE
The crucial strategic emphasis which shaped the struggle from 1979 onwards was the necessity for an organised underground political presence to complement armed activities.
In line with this approach, the Revolutionary Council formed in 1969 was restructured to consolidate not only the supremacy of political leadership but also to ensure the task of mass mobilisation and underground organisation received the necessary emphasis.
A special operations group was formed with the mandate of undertaking high profile attacks such as the Sasolburg oil refinery, Koeberg, Voortrekkerhoogte.
At the same time operations by other MK units mounted steadily. One study estimated that 150 cases of armed action took place between 1976 and 1982, overwhelmingly concentrated on economic targets, the administrative machinery of apartheid, the police and SADF installations and personnel.
The tension between such intensification of struggle and the need to avoid a racial war remained with the movement until the last day of the armed struggle.
An instance of this was the debate within the national leadership during the 1981 anti-republic campaign on the choice of targets: when the leadership rejected a proposal to decimate the NP government leadership at a Bloemfontein rally.
At the Kabwe Conference in 1985 consensus was reached on a number of questions, including the approach to military action. Conference reaffirmed ANC policy with regard to targets considered legitimate. But the risk of civilians being caught in the crossfire when such operations took place could no longer be allowed to prevent the urgently needed all-round intensification of the armed struggle.
It was during the mid-1980s that certain attacks on targets with no apparent connection to the apartheid state took place. In some cases these attacks were the result of the `grey area` which had been a result of anger and/or misunderstanding of ANC policy.
The ANC took action to assert policy with regard to the avoidance of civilian targets, which had in some cases become confused with the need to intensify the struggle `at all costs`. The January 8th, 1987 statement said MK:
“must continue to distinguish itself from the apartheid death forces by the bravery of its combatants, its dedication to the cause of liberation and peace, and its refusal to act against civilians, both black and white.”
In late 1987 MK commanders were instructed by OR Tambo and the NEC to go to all forward areas and as far as possible also to meet with units operating inside the country to reassert ANC policy with regard to the avoidance of purely civilian targets. Failure to comply with these orders would be considered as violations of policy and action would be taken against offenders.
The ANC is immensely proud of the bravery, discipline and selfless sacrifices of its MK combatants. They were prepared to work under conditions in which, if captured, they faced the possibility of being tortured to death, abduction and secret execution, combined with intense pressure to become collaborators or be murdered. They also faced summary executions whether they surrendered or not, and hanging or extremely lengthy prison sentences should they come to trial.
Given these conditions it is remarkable that very few attacks by MK personnel violated ANC policy with regard to targets with no direct connection to the apartheid regime.
4.4 THE ANC AND INTERNAL REVOLT
While the ANC pursued its concerted campaign against apartheid from exile and the underground, the internal struggle became increasingly organised through the trade union movement and re-emerging mass-based political movements.
The formation of the United Democratic Front as a broad internal anti-apartheid umbrella body transformed the South African political landscape. Despite the identification of the UDF and later the Mass Democratic Movement with the ANC, they were essentially separate bodies, and not direct extensions of the ANC.
From 1985 until well after the unbanning of organisations, the apartheid system relied on naked terror and violence to destabilise and disrupt opposition to apartheid.
5. DID THE ANC PERPETRATE ANY HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
5.1 ANC APPROACH TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONDUCT
It was the policy of the ANC – ever since the formation of MK in 1961 – to avoid unnecessary loss of life. The ANC has never permitted random attacks on civilian targets.
Once MK camps were in existence, part of the training of every MK combatant was political and included an insistence that the enemy should not be defined simply in racial terms. When the ANC became a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war in 1977 it was reported to be the first liberation movement in the world to take this step.
However, the morality of the ANC, its objectives then and now, and standards it set itself dictate that we examine the conduct of struggle critically, and acknowledge where errors took place.
5.2 CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN ARMED OPERATIONS
The 1983 car bomb attack on SA Air Force headquarters in Pretoria is an example of this nature. Nineteen people were killed in the attack, of which at least eleven were SAAF officers. Over 200 people were injured, of which over 70 were members or employees of the armed forces.
Many of those injured may have not been military officers, but were employed by the SAAF, and had thereby directly associated themselves with apartheid military aggression. The location of the HQ of an arm of the SADF responsible for cross-border air raids in a concentrated civilian area was itself a violation of protocols of war.
The ANC`s limited use of landmines provides another example of this nature. Though it was easier said than done, Military Headquarters continued to stress policy regarding careful reconnaissance and avoidance of civilian targets.
While regretting all loss of life, the ANC notes that the apartheid regime had declared white border farms military zones, with white farmers integrated into the security system and provided with the tools of war, including automatic weapons.
The much publicised case of the car bomb explosion at the Magoos and Why Not bars in Durban on June 14 1986 provides another case in which civilian casualties occurred in the context of the intensification of the armed struggle.
The operation was carried out during a time of extreme political upheaval in the country, which culminated in the declaration of a nation-wide State of Emergency on June 12. The attack was carried out to commemorate the June 14 1985 raid on Gaberone, in which 12 people were killed (of which only five were ANC members and none was MK). The Magoo`s attack was also carried out to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the June 16 1976 uprising.
The Why Not bar was targeted because it was frequented by off-duty members of the Security Forces.
From around December 1985, and particularly during the period from April 1986 to September 1988, a number of attacks on civilian targets with no connection to the state occurred.
With regard to those attacks on `soft targets` for which MK personnel were responsible, the ANC does not seek to justify such attacks, but insists that the context in which they occurred is relevant.
The ANC has acknowledged that in a number of instances breaches in policy did occur, and deeply regrets civilian casualties. The leadership took steps to halt operations in conflict with policy.
The December 1985 blast in an Amanzimtoti shopping centre, in which five people were killed and over 40 people injured, provides a clear example of the manner in which the behaviour of the apartheid regime was a significant factor in provoking certain attacks which were in breach of policy.
Andrew Zondo, aged 19, admitted to placing a bomb in a rubbish bin in the Sanlam Centre in Amanzimtoti on 23 December 1985.
On December 20 1985, the Pretoria regime had launched a raid on Lesotho in which nine people were killed. In anger, Zondo left a bomb at the shopping centre.
Andrew Zondo spoke with unmistakably sincere regret for the deaths which had occurred. Those responsible for the Lesotho massacre received medals at a secret ceremony. Zondo was sentenced to death five times and refused leave to appeal.
In many cases which will come to the attention of the Commission, attacks on civilians and civilian targets for which the ANC or other mass democratic organisations were blamed were in fact the work of the state: “false flag operations“.
In 1981, the former commissioner of police, Johann van der Merwe, claimed that the SAP were aware of the ANC`s “dissatisfaction” with Griffith Mxenge`s handling of funds sent to him from abroad. The clear inference was that the ANC was responsible for the murder of Mxenge. The murders of Matthew Goniwe and his comrades were similarly ascribed to “UDF/Azapo conflict”.
In January 1989, Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok said the police suspected that “trained guerrillas” had been visiting Khotso House, following an explosion there. Former Vlakplaas operatives have subsequently claimed that they were responsible for the attack, and that Vlok in fact congratulated them for this action.
Certain attacks on civilians – including necklacings and attacks on a cinema and restaurants – were in fact carried out by agents of the apartheid state in their continuing attempts to damage the image of the ANC.
5.3 PEOPLE`S COMMITTEES AND SELF DEFENCE UNITS
In the mid-1980s the apartheid state went on a full-scale offensive. Communities began to take steps to defend themselves through establishing what were variously called defence committees, people`s militia or self-defence units. The ANC actively encouraged initiatives of this nature on the part of the people. The ANC discussion document titled Broad Guidelines on Organs of People`s Power envisaged the development of a system of `layers` of cadres organised into self-defence units, combat units and MK officers respectively. Each `layer` had a different function relative to the level of military training received and political control exercised by the ANC.
In so far as any excesses of those combat groups set up by, and SDUs linked to, the ANC, these should be understood in the context of MK operations.
On 6 August 1990, the ANC formally committed itself to a cessation of armed hostilities. Between late August and late September 1990, over 700 civilians had been massacred in attacks on homes, train commuters, and gatherings such as funeral vigils.
Resolutions at the ANC`s December 1990 Consultative Conference committed the ANC to assisting people in setting up accountable and non-partisan SDUs. After the 1991 ANC National Conference, some members of Military Headquarters were tasked to attend to the organisation, training and provision of weaponry to SDUs. It was, however, made clear that the overall control of SDUs was to remain with community structures and the MK cadres were to participate as members of the community.
By September 1991, mobile specialist hit-squads had started to take over the work previously done by large identifiable political groups. The second major thrust of the state offensive to prevent SDUs from defending their communities was to infiltrate and subvert them.
The notorious Phola Park SDU – which was headed by a police informer, `overthrew` the popularly-recognised Resident`s Committee and conducted a reign of terror in the area – was a prime example of the latter.
5.4 EXCESSES IN RELATION TO STATE AGENTS
The ANC set up a fully-fledged Security Department in 1969. At the beginning, the ANC was faced with the real constraint that it was operating from abroad, initially with weak underground structures within the country and a mass movement that was only starting to emerge.
Given these circumstances, the ANC wishes to submit that it conducted itself well: above all, by ensuring the survival of a liberation movement which, at the beginning, had everything stacked against it. Yet we do acknowledge that, in the context of this work, excesses did occur.
The 1976 mass exodus of youth coincided with an increase in the number of state agents sent to infiltrate the ranks of the ANC.
The first major instance of their work was the poisoning of food at the Catengue military training camp in Angola in September 1977, where close on 500 trainees were poisoned.
In 1979, the regime launched an air raid on the same camp, the timing and choice of targets indicating clearly that they had information about the outlay of, and routine in, the camp.
At the same time, a number of cases of cadres deployed within the country exposed the fact that there were some state agents within some commanding structures of MK.
In 1981, this started to take the form of overt agitation against the leadership, particularly in Lusaka, Zambia. In the camps, bizarre incidents of indiscipline by a minority of cadres had started to play themselves out.
In addition to attempting to murder cadres and passing on intelligence on military installations, this network and its various subsidiaries supplied information on the movements of leadership figures, carried out surveillance on ANC residences, sent the enemy information on the children studying at Mazimbu, committed various acts of sabotage and stirred up discontent.
This network was uncovered in 1981, and several of its members were executed after their cases had been heard by a Tribunal. It should also be emphasised that some of those arrested were either falsely implicated or had merely shown signs of ill-discipline rather than being state agents per se. Many of them were later released and apologies tendered for wrongful arrest.
Faced with this new situation and realising the dangers; and faced also with agents who refused to divulge strategic information though confronted with convincing prima facie evidence, excesses were committed.
These excesses are detailed in the Motsuenyane and Skweyiya Commission reports. From these reports and evidence led, it is clear that:
- Some of the details are accurate, and yet others are exaggerated or part of deliberate attempts to mislead the commissions.
- While the cadres responsible for the detention centres may be directly responsible for the excesses, the leadership of the Security Department did not take sufficient steps to correct the situation.
- When information to this effect reached senior organs of the ANC, lengthy meetings were held by the NEC to uncover the details and introduce corrective measures.
The ANC highly regrets the excesses that occurred. Further, we do acknowledge that the real threat we faced and the difficult condition under which we had to operate led to a drift in accountability and control away from established norms, resulting in situations in which some individuals within the Security Department started to behave as a law unto themselves.
Much has been said in public about the Morris Seabalo Centre, referred to also as Camp 32 or Quatro. The conditions in this detention centre, which are graphically illustrated in the commission reports, should be considered against the `norm` which existed in general in the camps, given that conditions in any guerrilla military establishment are very difficult and abnormal.
The ANC also had to deal with instances of mutiny. Like all other armies, MK had rules about dealing with mutineers.
The most serious one broke out in Pango in 1984. Those responsible used machine-guns and other heavy weapons to attack the command of the camp, killing members of the command and other soldiers. A military tribunal was set up by the NEC and two groups of mutineers were tried, seven of whom were given the death penalty.
A number of other soldier were executed after they were tried and convicted of raping and murdering local villagers. The full list of people executed during the years of exile is attached to the submission.
After the Kabwe Conference, where the ANC`s policy on the fair treatment of state agents was reaffirmed and clarified, ANC president Oliver Tambo decided to restructure the Security and Intelligence Department and bring in new personnel. A new leadership was appointed in 1987.
The leadership set about correcting many of the problems which remained within the department, and it actively and systematically investigated conditions in the detention centres and proposed corrective measures where problems remained.
The new leadership was also more rigorous in supervising the interrogation practices, and where violations were detected, remedial steps were immediately taken.
At the same time, the ANC`s intelligence network had so advanced that it was possible to get information from within security police structures about some of their agents in our ranks. This made the work of the ANC and MDM much easier; it reinforced the drive against undue pressure to obtain information.
In so far as cases of abuse are concerned, the ANC concurs with the findings of the Motsuenyane Commission that, although there were a number of such excesses, it was never established that there was any systematic policy of abuse.
Instead the report illustrates many consistent efforts by the leadership to establish mechanisms of accountability and oversight. To the extent that the Motsuenyane Commission found that some detainees were maltreated and recommended that the ANC should apologise for this violation of their human rights, the ANC does so without qualification.
5.5 ANC MEMBERS WHO DIED IN EXILE
Over the years, the ANC has sought meticulously to record deaths in exile, irrespective of the causes. The rigours of underground existence have not made this an easy task.
After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, a fulltime Bereaved Parents Committee was set up with the purpose of updating the list, making contacts with the families to inform them of the fate of their relatives.
No single death can be celebrated, whatever the circumstances. A single death is one too many; and the ANC would therefore wish to avoid comparing the number of deaths, among those who were or had been in exile, with the total number (amounting to tens of thousands) of those who were in its ranks over three decades.
5.6 THE UDF, MDM AND EXCESSES OF MASS REVOLT
Many participants in the mass uprisings of the 1980s did not fall within the formal structures and organisational discipline of the ANC, but believed they were acting with the broad parameters outlined by the ANC.
The UDF and MDM never shifted from their policy of non-violent forms of struggle.
However, given the situation in which they operated, it was impossible for the UDF/MDM to actually control all activities carried out in its name by people and groups who, while supporting the broad aims of these organisations, were not directly linked to the leadership and discipline of the organisations.
The use of extreme methods to neutralise the enemy, which included deterring and punishing collaborators, was perceived by many as an entirely justifiable act of self-defence. Such extreme methods, including the `necklace` method, were never the policy of the ANC or UDF/MDM.
6. CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
6.1 THE ANC`s OWN CONDUCT
The mass of the people led by the liberation movement waged a just struggle against apartheid which was designated by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.
This struggle was no different in broad principle from other decolonisation struggles in other parts of the world.
However, we do acknowledge that the fact of a just struggle on its own does not render us or anyone else immune from judgement on humane or other conduct. We have set out the conditions under which any such violations may have occurred. But we emphasise that none of such violations arose out of official policy or were in any case sanctioned by the leadership. There are instances where we could have acted more firmly and speedily to prevent or stop abuses; and for that the ANC accepts collective responsibility.
6.2 REPARATIONS AND RESTITUTION
An important role of the TRC is to ensure that justice prevails to the maximum extent possible. Justice is not only punishment or retribution.
It must be appreciated that there needs to be restoration, restitution and/or reparation within the framework of such resources that South Africa can afford. Provision could be made for:
- monetary awards, either by way of lump sum or monthly pension;
- other forms of material assistance and support;
- psychological support and provision of comfort and solidarity;
- steps to be taken to restore the dignity and honour as well as the good names of victim
- steps to be taken to ensure that South Africa remembers.
The list is not exhaustive.
6.3 RECONCILIATION AND NATION-BUILDING
Human rights violations originated with the system of colonialism and evolved over centuries. The doctrines of racial superiority, the pursuit of narrow interests and privileges for the white minority in general and Afrikaners in particular – all premised on the exclusion of the majority – “naturally” had to be buttressed by a repressive regime.
The system of apartheid and its violent consequences were systematic; they were deliberate; they were a matter of policy.
Therefore, the basic premise in correcting this historical injustice is for South Africans to pay allegiance to, to consolidate and defend, the democratic constitution and human rights culture that it espouses. It is for all citizens to promote and utilise to maximum effect the rights that we have attained, and ensure that open and accountable government becomes a matter of course in our body politic. It is for us to promote equal individual rights without regard to race, colour, religion, language and other differences; and at the same time ensure that equal collective rights pertaining to these issues are protected. And it is for us to work together to build a better life for all.
Combined with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all these efforts will afford us the confidence to say: Never Again! We appreciate the fact that the Commission is pursuing its work without fear or favour; and we hope that at the end of this process, South Africans will be the wiser, and better able to march to the future with confidence in one another and in their capacity to create a prosperous, peaceful and just society in which any violation of human rights will be fading memories of a past gone by, never to return.
The African National Congress welcomes the establishment of the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) and commits itself to assist in ensuring that the Commission realises its objectives.
The ANC campaigned actively for the TRC to be included in the Interim Constitution because we believe that such a Commission can play an important role in ensuring the psychological, intellectual and political well-being of the new democracy. Only by unveiling and acknowledging as far as possible the truth about the realities of one of the most odious and vicious political systems in twentieth century world politics can the millions whose basic human rights were legally trampled upon as a matter of course be accorded the kind of respect which they deserve, and the reparations which are possible. Only by confronting the past can there be genuine reconciliation, nation-building and unity in our country. Creating an official record of what happened could help in a cathartic way to heal South Africans psychologically. By knowing what happened and why it happened, South Africa will be better placed to ensure that the evil deeds of the past are never repeated.
The law defines the parameters within which the TRC is to pursue its investigations, hearings and recommendations. The ANC fully subscribes to this legal process. Our presentation therefore aims to relate directly to matters within the jurisdiction of the TRC, while at the same time providing a context in which points made in the submission can be more fully understood. In this sense therefore, this submission is neither a definitive nor comprehensive history of the period under review; it is rather a brief account addressing the specific issues relevant to the mandate of the TRC.
The ANC intends to make further submissions to the Commission as the need arises. ANC members will be forwarding amnesty applications to the Amnesty Committee, which will provide detailed information on the political objectives of relevant armed operations, the context in which such operations took place, and the lines of command governing operatives concerned.
The ANC respects the independence of the TRC and the integrity of the Commissioners, and will strive to ensure that the public shares this perspective. As an organisation, we commit ourselves to respect the final rulings of the TRC, confident that the objective will be to promote justice for all, as well as ensure socio-economic advancement, particularly to communities which have been systematically and unfairly disadvantaged in the past.
19th August, 1996
As part of the process of the transformation of our country, the ANC had to consider its approach to the difficult but critically important question of what the new South Africa should do with those among our citizens who were involved in gross human rights violations during the struggle for our emancipation.
The choices we had to make can be stated in a simple and straightforward manner.
We could have decided to hold our own Nuremberg Trials.
We could have decided that all that should be done should be to forgive everything that has happened in the past.
We, however reached the conclusion that neither of these would be the correct decision to take.
In considering the correctness or otherwise of this conclusion, the point needs to be borne in mind that we are in transition from an apartheid to a democratic society.
This is not a single event but a protracted process.
What this speaks to is an unjust cause on one side and a just cause on the other.
Inherent to the system of white minority domination in this and all other countries where it occurred, was the philosophy and practice of the use of force to ensure the perpetuation of the system.
Force and violence by the dominant against the dominated, the contraposition of power to powerlessness, the attribution of mystical possibilities of retribution to the governors who can visit their wrath on the third and fourth generations of those who hate them, the suspension of all social norms, to enable the state and servants of the state to resort to the unbridled use of violence – all this, and more besides, sustains the continuity of colonial rule.
To maintain its internal integrity, coherence and rationale, this system could not but integrate in its world vision the concept of humans with a right to govern and sub-humans privileged to be governed.
Among other things, this paradigm allows those who enjoy the right to govern the ethical framework which permits them to use maximum force against any sub-human who would dare question his or her duty to accept the sacred obligation to respect the need to be governed.
The simultaneous and interdependent legitimisation of the two inherently anti-human concepts of racial superiority and the colonial state as the concentrated expression of the unlimited right to the use of force, of necessity and according to the inherent logic of the system of apartheid, produced the gross violations of human rights by the apartheid state which are the subject of part of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It was as a result of the correct understanding of the nature of the system of apartheid that the United Nations characterised the system itself, and not merely its logical results, as a Crime Against Humanity.
With regard to the narrower context within which the TRC is considering this matter, the theoretical foundation of the enquiry would be the matter we have referred to, the legitimisation of the use of force in general but especially against those who would dare challenge the system.
This has two consequences.
One of these is the elevation of the state organs of repression above all other state structures, their exemption from all norms of common law consistent with limitations on the use of force, the conferring of powers on individuals to mete out violence as they deem fit and the consequent brutalisation of such individuals so that the perpetration of violence becomes their second nature.
The second of these consequences is the demonising by the state of those it seeks to destroy and against whom therefore, it permits the maximum use of force.
This would cover both individuals and institutions or organisations. It is necessitated by the need to encase the perpetrators of violence in the psychological armour which enables them to be free of all restraint as they carry out their deadly work.
During the period since the end of the wars of independence, the racist state activated its capacity to use force in direct response to its perception of the threat posed by the forces of resistance to the survival of the system of white minority domination.
As the offensive for the destruction of this system, became more serious and sustained so the features we have described above, increasingly resorted to force and the demonising of the genuine opponents of the system.These features increasingly came to the fore and assumed precedence in state policy and practice.
In reality, it would not be difficult for the Commission to proceed from the theoretical base indicated above to construct a picture of the structures, systems and practices put in place by the apartheid regime to confront the challenge it faced, some of whose results will be subject to review as human rights violations and applications for amnesty.
This would put in their place and context issues such as:
- the doctrine of “total strategy”,
- the National Security Management System and the recruitment of many South Africans form all walks of life as agents of this system of repression;
- the use of special forces as elite offensive counter insurgency forces;
- the formation of special murder squads such as the Vlakplaas Unit, the CCB, the Caprivi trainees;
- the birth of destabilisation units including vigilante groups such as the Witdoeke;
- the use of criminals to carry out assassinations and, in return, their protection which enabled them to continue with their “ordinary” criminal activities;
- the coercion or persuasion of all social institutions including business, the media and academic establishments and leading individuals within these, to serve the common cause of defending the established racist order;
- the conduct of “stratkom” operations to win hearts and minds to the cause of a pro-apartheid counter-insurgency campaigns, or to reach political objectives through the combination of covert violence and propaganda operations;
- the emergence of amoral ogres within our society who believed, among other things, that they were licensed to kill;
- the serious erosion of both private and public morality as a consequence of the spread and entrenchment of illegal activity by agents of the state, entailing the abdication of the fundamental responsibilities of the state: the protection of the legal system and a law-governed social order; and,
- on an even wider scale, the integration in the “strategic thinking” of the white minority regime of the use of the weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical and biological – and the actual production of these weapons.
We raise all these matters because they are directly relevant to the truth which the TRC is intended to discover and convey.
They are equally germane to the question of what will need to be done both now and in the aftermath of the work of the TRC, to ensure that our country and people are never again exposed to the threat of gross human rights violations.
Counterpoised to what we have been discussing is, of course, the movement for national liberation – the other antagonist in the conflict to which the forces of white minority rule responded in the manner described above.
National liberation movements are about the emancipation of people. They are formed to fight against oppression, for freedom. Where the oppressor must necessarily fight for the state control of the individual, the liberator struggles for the restoration of the democratic rights of the individual and the sovereignty of the nation.
These movements necessarily depend on the voluntary support of the population; they have no capacity to offer material rewards to their activists. They must therefore depend on the moral superiority of their cause, relying on this as the principal motive force which enables the movement to withstand all attempts at its suppression.
Respect for human life and the pursuit of happiness and liberty are fundamental to the philosophy and practice of any genuine national liberation movement.
Any objective study would show that the ANC, has evinced all the characteristics mentioned above, whatever the circumstances of the struggle.
In this context, it is necessary to focus attention on certain salient features which we believe are critical to the work of the TRC.
The first of these is that the ANC only decided to resort to organised violence once the oppressor regime had blocked all avenues of legal non-violent resistance.
The resort to violence was therefore a last rather than first resort, precisely because the protection of life itself is integral to the world view of the liberation movement and because the constituency of the liberation movement is, by definition, unarmed, as opposed to its opposition which, again by definition, is heavily armed.
The second of these considerations is that even when it used force, the liberation movement sought to do this in a limited way, in order to generate sufficient pressure on the oppressor regime and to create the conditions which would make a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the country possible.
When the strategic objective of the movement was stated as ” the armed seizure of power by the people”, the planning that took place to accomplish this objective was focussed on directing attacks against the repressive machinery of state, and not the civilian population which constituted the political base of the apartheid ruling group.
The third important point to make is that in the elaboration of its strategy, the liberation movement never sought to elevate the use of force above all other forms of resistance, but viewed the armed struggle as one of the “four pillars” of our global strategy.
Those four pillars were:
- the mobilising and organising of the masses of the people to engage in political struggle;
- the strengthening of the underground movement to ensure effective and continuous leadership of the democratic movement as a whole;
- the maintenance of the armed offensive to help tilt the balance in favour of the forces for democracy and non-racialism; and,
- the international isolation of apartheid South Africa, and the strengthening of international support for the South African democratic movement.
The result of this approach was that the armed struggle was never the sole nor the most important element in the strategy of the ANC.
Two consequences follow from this approach which, again, are relevant to the work of the TRC.
One of these is that the ANC always insisted on the primacy of politics over the use of force and therefore never accepted the notion that “power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.
A result of this fundamental attitude was that the ANC took a principled stand against the use of terrorism as an element in its armed struggle.
It was for this reason that the ANC avoided what would have been very easy targets – namely, attacks on white civilians such as could have been carried out at schools, churches, on civilian aircraft and diplomatic missions, etc.
Another of these consequences is that the ANC trained all its combatants as armed political activists and not as mere soldiers whose only responsibility was to understand and carry out orders from a superior command.
This was very importance because the actions of each combatant had to be aimed at winning the support of the people, Combatants had to be able to operate in circumstances in which they were cut off, not only from their commanders but from the leadership of the movement in general, and in which the circumstances in which they found themselves would change rapidly, calling for prompt decision making.
Two other matters critical to the work of the TRC are, first, the concept of a just war and the place of the struggle for national liberation in international law, and secondly, the boundaries of acceptable conduct within an irregular war – guerilla warfare.
Let us deal with the first of these.
The constitutional settlement expressed in the 1910 Act of Union resulted in the formalisation of the definition of the African majority as the colonised, with the colonial master being the state that would be constituted by the combined Boer-British white population.
Great Britain granted independence to white colonists, while conceding the right and the power to these colonialists to treat the indigenous population as colonial subjects.
This resulted in the adoption of the phrase “colonialism of a special type” to describe the political and socio-economic realities which persisted until the formation of a democratically elected government in 1994.
During the course of this century, international law finally recognised the right of nations to self-determination, up to and including independence.
With this, came the acknowledgement of the right of any people denied the right to self-determination to engage in struggle, including armed rebellion, to gain that right.
This correct development constituted the legal recognition and codification of a reality which had been established, among other such outstanding historical events as the American and the Haitian Wars of Independence.
The majority of the people of our country, oppressed as a colonised people, had as equal a right to self-determination and the right to engage in struggle to gain this right as did other colonised people.
We, like these other peoples, were therefore justified in engaging in a just war.
This is the first and fundamental condition that must be acknowledged and recognised in the context of any assessment of our armed struggle for liberation, such as the TRC may have to make as it works to discharge its mandate.
We have already stated the second element that bears on this issue – that the ANC only opted to exercise its right to resort to a just war when the apartheid regime closed all avenues to a peaceful resolution of the injustice represented by colonialism of a special type.
The position stated in the Manifesto of Umkhonto we Sizwe published in 1961 was correct, that in these circumstances, we had no choice but to submit or fight.
We chose to fight rather than submit and by submitting, contribute to the perpetuation of the apartheid crime against humanity.
The oppressor regime will argue that the legally constituted South African apartheid state enjoyed the rights that accrue to all states and that rebellion against the established order had to be suppressed by all legal means available to the state.
The issue however turns on the fundamental consideration that no legitimacy can attach to a jurisprudence elaborated to enforce a crime against humanity, as no notion of illegality can attach to the fact of insurrection against a crime against humanity.
The naked reality is that our country would not be free today if we had depended for our emancipation on legal parliamentary opposition, including the white, tri-cameral and bantustan processes.
The second matter that requires consideration is, as we have said, the concept of an irregular war.
In the period since the outbreak of the Second World War, there are many examples of such wars with which the TRC could familiarise itself.
Any objective study of the military features of such wars would show certain extraordinary circumstances which the TRC would need to understand in order to order to deal with the expression of this phenomenon in our own country.
We believe that it is important for the TRC to understand these circumstances because, without such understanding, it would be impossible for the Commission to properly consider the conduct of the campaign of armed resistance to the system of apartheid.
In this context, there are four matters on which we will make detailed presentations.
The first of these is that as a movement we made a determined and sustained effort to ensure that we conducted an irregular war as far as possible according to international conventions governing the humanitarian conduct of warfare.
The second is that, nevertheless, cadres of the movement had to deal with varied objective and subjective situations that were presented to them by particular circumstances, without the possibility of abiding by stipulated rules and norms.
If any resultant behaviour was inconsistent with these rules and norms, at no stage could it ever be suggested that these cadres or the movement as a whole had thereby fundamentally betrayed the humane character of the movement for national liberation.
The third is that this movement had to protect itself from destruction and defeat by a determined enemy that was prepared to use any means to ensure the destruction and defeat of the movement for national liberation.
As a movement, we therefore had to take the necessary measures to defend ourselves. Many of these defensive measures had to be carried out in emergency conditions requiring a succession of immediate decisions, without which the movement itself might be destroyed.
The fourth consideration is use of the enemy of “false flag” – operations seemingly originating from within the movement, but, in reality, carried out on the instructions of the enemy`s security forces in order to discredit the liberation movement.
In the end, the fundamental issue we would like to present to the TRC is that as a liberation movement, we engaged in a just war for national liberation.
The overwhelming majority of the actions carried out in the course of the just war of national liberation do not constitute “gross violations of human rights” as defined in the Act establishing and mandating the TRC.
Within this overall framework, there were particular actions carried out by cadres and supporters of our movement which we believe fall within the ambit of the work of the Commission, but must, nevertheless, be treated within the context we have described above.
The political and operational leadership of the movement accepts collective responsibility for all operations of its properly constituted offensive structures, including operations described in the preceding paragraph.
The ANC will therefore not be making any representation about those activities in its conduct of the struggle for national liberation which we deem to constitute legitimate actions carried out during a just and irregular war for national liberation.
With regard to those operations which we believe fall within the ambit of the work of the Commission, we will provide the Commission and the country with the necessary information, while encouraging those members and supporters of our movement where necessary to apply for amnesty.
In the context of what we have said above, it is necessary that we consider three questions relevant to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These are:
- in what ways can the Commission, through its work, contribute to the achievement of the goal of national reconciliation?
- in what ways can it contribute to the realisation of the goal that our country and people should never again be exposed to the danger of institutionalised gross violation of human rights?
- what are the practical ways by which the concept of “reparation” can be realised? and,
- what is the place of the individual, in all these processes, be they perpetrator or victim?
The most important issue in this regard is that the grief of particular individuals, important as it is to the affected individuals and the nation, is relevant also to the extent that it contributes to the achievement of the larger goal of national reconciliation.
National reconciliation will only have meaning if it addresses the historic conflict in our country between black and white.
Through centuries of this conflict, the names of the players have changed continuously, regardless of their colour and the causes they served.
What never changed was the character of the conflict, which was between the white colonising forces and a black liberation movement, based on a social system which elevated the white at the expense of the black.
National reconciliation has to be between black and white.
Without transformation to end the disparities of privilege and deprivation which are the legacy we have inherited from our colonial and apartheid past, but which continue to define the present, national reconciliation is impossible.
Whichever way the TRC interprets its mandate, it cannot avoid the conclusion that the ghost that needs to be laid to rest is – the ending of the domination of the black by the white, in all spheres of social existence.
If our society does not achieve this, racial conflict will continue. The goal of national reconciliation will not be achieved.
Clearly, this objective cannot be achieved by the TRC alone.
It also emphasises the obligation that rests on the Commission to make its own recommendations as to what the larger and varied society from which it is drawn might do, to contribute to the realisation of the goal of national reconciliation.
Protection from Gross Violations of Human rights
Systematic violations of human rights are a manifestation of a social system, rather than the exceptional faults of particular individuals.
To ensure that our country and people are never again exposed to such systematic violations of human rights as occurred under apartheid, it is necessary that we construct a constitutional, political and socio-economic order which inherently protects human rights, and has the means to defend itself against any tendency to limit or violate those rights.
The mandate for the construction of such a system of course rests with bodies other than the TRC. As a movement we are convinced that these institutions are carrying out their mandate .
But we also believe that the TRC has an important role to play in helping to ensure that the specialised institutions established by the apartheid regime to carry out a campaign of repression are completely dismantled.
We refer here not to normal state organs such as the police, the Defence Force and the intelligence services, but to other clandestine structures established under the National Security Management System, some of which continued to operate as part of the “third force”.
The exposure and destruction of these structures is important to ensure that they are stopped from actually or potentially engaging in any acts of destabilisation.
This is particularly important in light of the fact that persons who belong to these structures have been trained and motivated as anti-democratic operatives and, in many instances, will not have changed their ideological colours.
It is also important that the nation as a whole should be familiar with this machinery as part of the process of raising the level of national vigilance so that it is difficult for any government in future to create similar structures for use against the people of our country.
A crime against humanity, it is inevitable that the apartheid system will have had a detrimental effect on all black people in our country.
In this sense, all the oppressed people could correctly assert that they are entitled to reparation for harm caused to them by the apartheid system.
To come more narrowly to the issue of reparations as it relates to the TRC, it is important to bear in mind that millions of people were involved in the struggle for national liberation, whatever the particular form of their engagement.
To defeat this struggle, the apartheid regime carried out a widespread campaign of terror which affected hundreds of thousands of people to one degree or another.
What these masses sought by their engagement in struggle was not personal reward but the emancipation or our country.
Their greatest reward is the victory of the democratic cause and the reconstruction and development of the country in a manner that radically improves the quality of life of the people in as speedy a manner as possible.
The TRC will therefore have to look for ways and means in which to extend reparations to the people as a whole. A lot of creative thinking will have to go into this so that steps are taken which will inspire the people to accept that such reparation as is due is made.
Where reparations are made to individuals, whatever the form of such reparation, the point will have to be taken into account that the numbers of people entitled to such reparation are larger than anyone of us can imagine.
As the principles of equity will have to be observed in awarding these reparations, care should be taken that the new society does not assume obligations it cannot meet.
The Role of the Individual
Many individuals have appeared and will appear before the TRC both to apply for amnesty and to tell the truth about violations of human rights, as perpetrators and victims.
However we should bear in mind that any process which visualises all individual victims of the gross violation of human rights appearing before the Commission would have to take into account that this would require that the TRC sit for many years.
Consideration should therefore be given to how the hundreds of thousands or millions of affected individuals and families might be recognised, and how to draw the necessary lessons and examples from a wide variety of individual experiences, without it being necessary that everyone appears before the Commission.
We should not lose sight of the fact that one of the central objectives of the TRC is the achievement of national reconciliation.
An element of this is described as personal catharsis, and this should reinforce the achievement of the broader national goal which relates to the building of a democratic, peaceful and non-racial South Africa.
It is also important that, within its lifetime, the Commission should complete the amnesty process, to ensure that the democratic state is not left with the responsibility of instituting criminal investigations and the possible prosecution of people for actions that took place during the period covered in the mandate of the TRC.
If this were to happen to any significant degree, it would mean that the TRC had failed in its mission and had, by that failure, condemned our country to continuing conflict about events of the past rather than the reconciliation sought from the work of the TRC.
The ANC is ready to assist in the gathering of such information from individuals and families as might be relevant to the work of the TRC. We would do this to help ensure that the TRC process is as inclusive as possible.
At the same time we believe that it is important that the individual presentations should assist in dealing with the fundamental question of conflict among organised forces and between social systems, which is what the TRC must address if it is to discharge its responsibility to the nation.
The ANC is committed to doing everything in its power to help the TRC and the nation to know as much as is possible about the events of the period the TRC is mandated to investigate.
We believe that the TRC should conclude its work as quickly as possible so that we do indeed let bygones be bygones and allow the nation to forgive a past it nevertheless dare not forget.
3. The Historical and International Context
The approach of this submission is to identify the broad contours of gross violations of human rights during the apartheid era, with a particular focus on the period 1960 to 1993. Within this context, the concomitant responses of the ANC as the leading force in the struggle for democracy, freedom and human rights in South Africa will be explained. The forms of struggle embarked upon by the ANC were in response to the policies, laws and activities of the apartheid regime and at the same had an impact on them. In the final analysis, the reaction of a people to their subjugation will take forms dictated to by the conditions of that subjugation
The thirty years beginning with the Sharpeville shootings in March 1960 (followed by the banning of the ANC and other organisations and the State of Emergency) up to the first democratic elections in April 1994, constitute an identifiable historical period. It was during these three decades that apartheid policies were most expansively and aggressively pursued; that the South African state made a decisive shift towards more overtly authoritarian forms of social control and political repression; and that massive transgressions of basic human rights in South Africa became commonplace, bringing international notoriety to apartheid South Africa.
3.1 Colonialism, dispossession and segregation
It is necessary to emphasise that formal apartheid was preceded by a sustained period of dispossession, denial and subordination. The process of colonial conquest in South Africa lasted for over two centuries; from the destruction of Khoisan communities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through the bloody century of warfare in the present day Eastern Cape Province, to the military defeats further north in the late nineteenth century. A further crushing assertion of imperial might occurred in 1899-1902 with the subjugation of the Boer republics by British armies.
Modern South Africa was built on the foundations of conquered territories, captive peoples, scorched earth and shattered sovereignties. The “colour bar constitution” of 1910, which brought the Union of South Africa into existence, affirmed white interests at the expense of the black majority. It not only took away some of the rights enjoyed by black voters in the Cape, but also denied any political rights to black people in the other colonies, thus establishing the framework for all-pervasive discrimination and conflict in later years. Government legislated a distinctive form of industrialisation based upon the cheap labour of a disenfranchised majority. Segregation policies divided access to housing, jobs, education and welfare along racial lines.
The 1948 white election saw the accession to power of the National Party. The apartheid policies of the new regime codified, intensified and extended existing disparities between “racial groups” within the South African population. [Further details appear in Section 4.1 below.]
Between 1948 and 1960 curbs upon freedom of movement and on where people might live and work were sharply intensified; racial classification provided the basis for the provision of separate facilities in almost every walk of life; the permissible forms of political behaviour were narrowed. Many political and trade union leaders were banned and/or banished to remote areas under terms of the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, which denied them recourse to the courts. The arrest of 156 leaders of the Congress Alliance and the protracted Treason Trial was a further instance of the attempts by the state to outlaw the legitimate political demands of the disenfranchised majority.
But when one compares the 1950s with what followed, it is clear that in the 1960s there was a qualitative shift towards more repressive policies and practices by the National Party government. In the political arena, these policies and practices significantly intensified violations of basic human rights, abrogating the rule of law, criminalising a wide range of political activities, and vastly increasing the coercive powers of the state. At the same time, the overall administration of apartheid became increasingly disruptive of people`s lives and more devastating in its effects. [For details see sections 4.1 to 4.3 below.]
The specificity of the 1960s is important, for it was also in this decade that the African National Congress was proscribed by the government and consequently turned to underground forms of organisation, and adopted the armed struggle. This response by the ANC is dealt with more fully in Section 5.1 below. For the moment, it is useful to view the early history of the ANC within the context of the South Africa sketched above.
3.2 The history of the African National Congress to 1960
Founded in 1912, the ANC is the oldest national political organisation in South Africa. From the start the ANC`s core principles were to promote unity, counter racism and work towards equal rights for all South Africans.
Its formation was a direct response to the 1910 Act of Union which excluded black South Africans from citizenship rights, and constitutionally entrenched minority rule. At the time one of the early activists warned with great foresight:
“Equal Rights … is the motto that will yet float at the masthead of the new ship of state which has been launched under the Union, and no other will be permanently substituted while there is one black or coloured man of any consequence or self-respect in the country, or any white man who respects the traditions of free government – so help us God.”
Izwi Labantu, 16/02/1909; quoted in A. Odendaal, Vukani Bantu! The Beginnings of Black Protest Politics in South Africa to 1910 (David Phillip, Cape Town, 1984)
To protect the interests of the disenfranchised in the new South Africa of that time, the ANC formed itself as a “Native Parliament”. It consistently tried to promote the interests of Africans to oppose “by just means” the colour bar, and to call for “equitable representation” in Parliament and the extension of political and civil rights regardless of race. In a real sense its formation sowed the seeds which reached fruition with the creation of a united South African nation in 1994.
In the early decades of its existence, the ANC was conspicuously committed to act within the law; its methods strictly constitutional – petitions, legal suits, and deputations – even though its representations consistently fell on deaf ears.
Influenced by the international struggle against fascism, the growth of anti-colonial movements in other countries, the formation of the United Nations Organisation and both the intransigence of those in power in South Africa and a growing mood of resistance amongst the black majority, the ANC became more assertive in its demands from the Second World War onwards. The ANC`s historic Africans` Claims document of 1943 underlined support for the Atlantic Charter adopted by the Allies as a guide to the creation of a new post-war world order and included a Bill of Rights for South Africa which would ensure full citizenship rights for all – the first such document in our country`s history.
In 1949 the ANC adopted a Programme of Action which sought to realise the above objectives, using new methods of direct action such as boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience if necessary. In the Defiance Campaign of 1952 over 8,000 people were arrested for the deliberate contravention of apartheid laws. The Defiance Campaign won mass popular support for the movement and was followed by other protest campaigns in the 1950s – against Bantu Education, against the introduction of passes for women, against farm labour conditions, and against the destruction of Sophiatown.
The militancy that started to take root in this decade, was essentially in response to intensified oppression and repression introduced by the NP government. Instructively, the decade opened with the killing by police of 18 Africans on 1 May 1950. This trend was to continue, culminating in the 1960 Sharpeville massacre.
It is appropriate at this juncture to refer to an observation by former ANC President Oliver Tambo in 1983, which captures not only the essence of this period, but also brings out in bold relief the paradigm of debates in later years and even today:
“The ANC was non-violent for a whole decade in the face of violence against African civilians…No one refers to Africans as civilians and they have been victims of shootings all the time. Even children – they have been killed in the hundreds. Yet the word has not been used in all these years….But implicit in the practice of the South African regime is that when you shoot an African, you are not killing a civilian”.
In 1955, the ANC and its allies convened the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter – a powerful call for equal political and civil rights, as well as basic economic and social welfare provisions. Once again the ANC was the first to outline a clear alternative programme, based on non-racialism and universally accepted human rights principles, in opposition to the short-sighted and discriminatory policies of the National Party government.
Despite the new militancy of the 1950s, the ANC remained committed to non-violent, legal forms of struggle. Its dedication to political reform by persuasion rather than by violent means was most memorably, stated by Chief Albert Luthuli in 1952:
“In so far as gaining citizenship rights and opportunities for the unfettered development of the African people, who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently and modestly at a closed and barred door?”
Five years later, when he wrote to Prime Minister Strijdom, urging the calling of “a multi-racial convention to seek a solution to our pressing national problems”, he reiterated that the ANC
“has always sought to achieve its objectives by using non-violent methods. In its most militant activities it has never used nor attempted to use physical force. It has used non-violent means and ways recognised as legitimate in the civilised world, especially in the case of a people, such as we are, who find themselves denied all effective constitutional means of voicing themselves”.
If it is to be properly understood, the pattern of South African politics between 1960 and 1993, including the massive violations of human rights by the apartheid regime and the forms of struggle adopted by the liberation movement, need to be located within this historical context.
3.3 Just struggle in the international context
“Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”
– John F. Kennedy.
The African National Congress was internationally recognised as a liberation movement. It was accorded observer status by most international organisations including the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The traditional legal view of wars of national liberation was that they constitute a category of internal wars and as such are not subject to international legal regulation. However, from the early 1960s in a number of international legal fora, but more significantly in the United Nations General Assembly, a growing majority supported the view that struggles against colonialism and other forms of oppression in pursuance of the right to self-determination had an international character. The point of departure for most ex-colonial states in the UN was their recognition that this principle imposed an obligation on the colonising power, and established the right of all peoples to the exercise of self-determination. This trend culminated in General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV) of 1960 containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. However, the most important achievement in this respect is the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations, adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 2625 (XXV) in 1970. This Declaration which was adopted in the General Assembly by acclamation, i.e. unanimously without a dissenting vote, gave universal recognition to the legal and binding nature of the principle of self-determination.
In view of these developments, wars of national liberation could no longer be considered as internal wars since they were now regulated by international law. As concerns the legality of the use of force in the context of self-determination, the Declaration provides that:
“Every State has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives people… of their right to self-determination, freedom and independence. In their actions against, and resistance to, such forcible action in pursuit of the exercise of their right to self-determination, such people are entitled to seek and receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter.”
This provision had significant implications for cases of armed resistance.
Firstly, it clearly stated that the “forcible action” or use of force which is prohibited is that emanating from a government in denial of the right to self-determination.
Secondly, armed resistance to forcible denial of self-determination – by imposing or maintaining alien domination by force – is legitimate according to the Declaration. In other words, liberation movements have the right to go to war under the Charter.
Thirdly, the right of these movements to seek and receive support and assistance necessarily implies that they have a locus standi in international law and that third states can assist or even recognise them without this act constituting an intervention in the domestic affairs of the oppressor state.
Although South Africa was considered an independent state and not a colonial power in the strict sense of the word, it was argued and accepted in the United Nations that the self-determination of the South African people had not taken place because of their subjection to legalised racial discrimination by the government through the internal policy of apartheid. The ANC, frustrated in its efforts to achieve democracy peacefully, legitimately took up arms against the apartheid government.
Thus, it would be morally wrong and legally incorrect, for instance, to equate apartheid with the resistance against it. While the latter was rooted in the principles of human dignity and human rights, the former was an affront to humanity itself.
No issue before the United Nations has been more enduring than the discriminatory treatment officially accorded to black people in South Africa; in 1972 the Special Political Committee of the General Assembly devoted no fewer than 19 of its total 51 meetings to discussing apartheid. Between 1946-1948, the General Assembly passed no fewer than 215 resolutions dealing principally or exclusively with South Africa.
In 1965 the General Assembly also adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It declared that the doctrine of superiority based on racial discrimination was morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous. In the following year the Assembly took an additional step in its campaign against apartheid, when it affirmed
“its recognition of the legitimacy of the struggle of the people of South Africa for human rights and fundamental freedoms irrespective of race, colour or creed.”
At its twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth sessions the General Assembly adopted a series of Resolutions dealing with apartheid. Most important among the Resolutions was Resolution 2671 of 1970. Apart from declaring that the policies of apartheid were a negation of the Charter of the United Nations and constituted a crime against humanity, this resolution reaffirmed recognition of the legitimacy of the struggle of the people of South Africa to eliminate, by all the means at their disposal, apartheid and racial discrimination and to attain majority rule in the county as a whole, based on universal suffrage.
In 1973, the UN adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which also called on State Parties to adopt legislative, judicial and administrative measures to prosecute, bring to trial and punish persons responsible for the crime of apartheid.
As early as 1972 General Assembly Resolution 2852(XXV) on Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflicts had reaffirmed that:
“Persons participating in resistance movements and freedom fighters in Southern Africa and in territories under colonial and alien domination and foreign occupation who are struggling for their liberation and self-determination should, in case of arrest, be treated as prisoners of war in accordance with the principles of the Hague Conventions of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”
This was subsequently formalised by Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 which applied the totality of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to wars of national liberation, which was signed by the ANC in 1980. The implication of this was that members of the liberation movements were protected from South African criminal law except where their activities could be characterised as war crimes or crimes against humanity such as genocide. The South African government consistently refused to ratify this Protocol. [Refer to Section 3.5 on the international status of the apartheid regime .]
3.4 Apartheid and human rights
Apartheid was founded on, and represented an intensification of, the colonial system of subjugation of Africans, Coloureds and Indians. The leadership of the National Party based their principles and programmes on doctrines of racial superiority, some of them derived from Nazism, an ideology with which they had identified through the Ossewa Brandwag and other activities during the Second World War. From the crop of OB leaders and operatives emerged political leaders, judges and other exalted persons of the apartheid era. The statement by former Prime Minister BJ Vorster that what in Germany was National Socialism was known as Christian Nationalism in South Africa, succinctly captures the NP`s admiration of Nazism.
At the root of their doctrine was the single-minded pursuit of Afrikaner ethnic and white racial dominance, which placed these groups` rights and privileges above everything else. As such, individual interests and rights, let alone those of black people, were to be subsumed under this group mission. The constitutional order was adjusted and readjusted over the decades to pursue this objective: and even today, pursuit of exclusive group interests as pitted against the individual rights of all citizens, constitutes one of the real tensions in the country`s body politic.
To entrench and defend such Afrikaner dominance, the NP set about transforming the judiciary, the army, the police, intelligence services, academia, the civil service, the mass media, economic and labour relations and parastatals. A web of secret organisations, primary among which was the all-male, all-Afrikaner Broederbond, was used to maintain a firm grip on the levers of political and economic power.
Apartheid oppression and repression was therefore not an aberration of a well-intentioned undertaking that went horribly wrong. Neither was it, as we were later told, an attempt to stave off the “evil of communism”. Its ideological underpinning and the programmes set in motion constituted a deliberate and systematic mission of a ruling clique that saw itself as the champion of a “super-race”.
In order to maintain and reproduce a political and social order which is premised upon large-scale denial of human rights, far-reaching and vicious criminal, security and penal codes were necessary. Those who sought to defend the system increasingly relied upon intimidation, coercion and violence to curb and eliminate the opposition that apartheid inevitably engendered. The spectrum of intimidation, coercion and violence is one with which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is becoming familiar in all its gradations.
At the legal end of the spectrum are Acts of Parliament which defined large areas of political activism as sabotage and terrorism; placed the onus of proof on the accused; made offences retrospective; imposed harsh minimum sentences; equipped the police with sweeping powers and simultaneously subverted an already compromised judicial system. From there, the spectrum extends through psychological and physical abuse of detainees, including torture and death, the extra-legal harassment of individuals whose activities remained legal even within the context of the security laws, the sordid repertoire of “dirty tricks” conducted by statutory and clandestine organs of state, and ultimately to kidnappings, bombings, massacres and murders by hit-squads and “third force” agencies. An attempt will be made below to more systematically detail the repressive framework created under apartheid, and show how this changed in response to changing circumstances during the period under review.
3.5 Apartheid violations of human rights in an international context
The apartheid regime persistently tried to hide behind the idea that what it did to its population was simply a matter of domestic concern, and not the business of the international community. When this failed, the regime adopted a new approach, arguing that the legal and moral basis for international action did not exist and that the description of the apartheid regime as a pariah, an outcast, or an international outlaw was simply the result of a mischievous and malicious campaign by the Third World and its Communist allies.
In particular, the international community recognised that the workings of apartheid – killings, torture, mass removals, violation of basic rights such as freedom of movement, racial discrimination etc.- did not constitute a mere wrong but a crime against humanity, first identified at the Nuremberg Trials and subsequently applied to the apartheid structure under numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, forming part of the practice under international law which is one element of the development of international rules.
Although the apartheid regime was in de facto control of South Africa, it acted without a proper mandate. The defective or illegitimate status of the South Africa regime did not mean, however, that the regime was not accountable in international law for its violent and racist policies, for as the international Court has said:
“Physical control of territory, and not sovereignty or legitimacy is the basis of State liability affecting other States.”
The role of the Security Council in taking decisions binding on the international community was vital, in a legal sense. Since 1962, by increasing majorities, the General Assembly urged states to impose sanctions of various kinds and, since 1965, comprehensive sanctions. The Security Council, through the persistent use of the veto by certain permanent members, thwarted the opinion of the international community that any form of collaboration was, not only morally wrong because it provided aid and succour to apartheid, but was also contrary to the basic rules of international law .
Notwithstanding this, the Security Council unanimously passed resolution 556 in 1984, which encapsulated the legal and political basis for the illegitimacy of the apartheid regime. This resolution reiterated its condemnation of apartheid policy as a crime against humanity; demanded the dismantling of the bantustans, and demanded the immediate eradication of apartheid and the taking of the necessary steps towards the full exercise of the right to self-determination in an unfragmented South Africa.
In 1974 the General Assembly refused to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, in effect barring South Africa from participating in its work. No other state had faced this humiliation, including expulsion or suspension from nearly every inter-governmental and non-governmental international organisation. The reason for such disengagement from normal relations turned on the nature of the regime.
For not only was apartheid an egregious form of gross, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights, it also deprived the majority of the right to self-determination.
An examination of relevant international conventions, declarations, resolutions, judicial decisions and the practice of the United Nations and its organs, and the practice of regional organisations and states, yields affirmation of the following propositions of international law in relation to the apartheid regime:
- Gross and systematic violation of the provision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, especially those provisions which must now be regarded as part of customary international law;
- Control of the black population and their treatment resulted in policies akin to slavery, contrary to a peremptory norm of international law recognised by the World Court in the Barcelona Traction Co. case (1970);
- Apartheid often produced outcomes similar to those of genocide – a practice now proscribed by the international community, leading to criminal sanctions;
- The policies of apartheid were a negation of the United Nations Charter and a crime against humanity, thereby giving universal jurisdiction for its suppression and punishment, on general principles and by treaty;
- The policies and actions of the apartheid regime constituted a serious obstacle to the exercise of the right to self-determination by the oppressed people of South Africa; and the forcible denial of self-determination violated the Charter of the UN and constituted a crime against peace;
- The South African regime had no right to represent the people of South Africa; its illegitimacy arose from the systematic breaches of peremptory rule of international law.
International law was part of the armoury of opposition to apartheid. It validated activities and actions against apartheid and distinguished the correctness of the actions of resistance from the illegality of the regime.
While the ANC from its inception in 1912 articulated human rights for all South Africans in line with internationally accepted democratic norms, the trend on the part of white minority governments was towards a restriction of human rights.
Moreover, unlike the racist state, the ANC took special care after being compelled to take up arms in the 1960s to ensure that its conduct was in compliance with international conventions in situations of armed conflict. It argued, and this was widely accepted internationally, that the struggle against apartheid and white minority rule was comparable to other international struggles against tyranny, for example, the American War of Independence, the war against Nazism, and the numerous anti-colonial struggles in the 20th century.
International precedents support the notion that no equivalence can be made between the defensive violence of the disenfranchised majority and the institutional and overt or covert violence perpetrated in the name of apartheid; in everyday parlance, the violence of a victim fighting back cannot be equated with the malevolent aggression of the rapist.
4. The National Party, Apartheid and the Anatomy of Repression in South Africa, 1948-1994
Apartheid was premised on discrimination, denial and segregation in every area of South African life – social, political and economic. It grossly violated human rights in numerous ways, and on different levels. As time passed the system of human rights violations mutated into different forms, while retaining its essentially discriminatory and violent features. Below we try to highlight laws, policies, actions and the changing nature of apartheid, and show how these contributed to the gross violation of human rights during the period under review by the Commission.
4.1 The post-1948 legislative programme of apartheid
What the National Party did after 1948 was to make colonial segregation and discrimination more systematic, and more far-reaching, and more rigorously implemented and policed.
Thus the early years of National Party rule saw the passage of bedrock segregationist and discriminatory laws, including:
- The Population Registration Act (1950) which allocated all South Africans to a particular racial group, from which flowed differential privileges and prohibitions;
- The Group Areas Act (1950 and subsequent amendments) which gave the government power to proclaim residential and business areas for the sole use of particular race groups, which, together with forced removals constituted one of the most blatant violations of the property rights of black people since the early years of colonial domination;
- The Separate Amenities Act (1953) which wrote into law the principle that members of different races might not enjoy the same public amenities;
- The Bantu Education Act (1953) which redefined the content and purpose of African schooling and vested its direct control in the Department of Native (later Bantu) Affairs; as well as laws on Coloured and Indian education and on tertiary institutions.
Other early apartheid legislation introduced sharp new curbs over the urban residential rights and rights as urban workers of the African population:
- The Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act (1953) excluded African workers from the formal system of industrial relations;
- The Native Laws Amendment Act (1952) and Natives (Urban Areas) Amendment Act (1955) tightened the terms under which African men and women might legally live in urban areas;
- The Native Building Workers Act (1951) and Industrial Conciliation Act (1956) extended the operation of job colour bars, and passes to women.
- A further set of laws passed by the new National Party government sought to restrict legally permissible forms of political behaviour and protest:
- The Suppression of Communism Act (1950) not only proscribed the Communist Party of South Africa but created a series of offences under an extremely broad and vague definition of “communism”;
- The Criminal Law Amendment Act (1953) – a response to the 1952 Defiance Campaign – made it a criminal offence subject to heavy penalties to break any regulation “by way of protest, or in support of any campaign against any law”;
- The Public Safety Act (1953) which gave the Minister of Justice the power to declare a state of emergency during which the ordinary law of the country would be suspended;
- The Criminal Procedures Act (1955) which, among others, allowed the state to designate the location of trials anywhere in the country irrespective of the area of abode of the accused, and gave Attorneys-General the right to prevent the granting of bail.
- The Prohibition of Interdicts Act (1956) which denied Africans the right to lodge interdicts and stop actions that may cause harm.
These are just a few examples of the hundreds of laws that were put on the statute book to control the lives of black South Africans from the cradle to the grave. All these unjust laws also made it impossible to use the courts for redress against violations of human rights. Not infrequently, the whites-only parliament speedily passed amendments and new legislation to close legal loopholes, which further undermined human rights. This combination of social and repressive laws fitted the overall political and economic objectives of the apartheid government – taken together they reflected, cold deliberate, planning and calculation.
4.2 The repressive apartheid security state, 1960-1974
Yet, drastic as was the legislation of the 1950s, it is abundantly clear that in the 1960s the government became even more ruthlessly authoritarian. A battery of new laws were passed, transgressions of human rights became more blatant, and efforts at social engineering intensified dramatically, causing considerable social dislocation.
Central to the new authoritarianism were sweeping restrictions on political activity; increased the powers of the police, and further subversion of the independence of the courts; and sweeping provisions for detention without trial, creating conditions in which the use of torture during interrogation became widespread. Central to this shift was a barrage of security legislation, including:
- The Unlawful Organisations Act (1960) in the terms of which the ANC and PAC were declared unlawful in April 1960;
- The General Laws Amendment Act (1962, 1963, 1965) including the “Sabotage Act” which defined sabotage breathtakingly widely, so as to include tampering with property and the illegal possession of weapons and granted police the authority to detain people without charge and in solitary confinement for single or successive periods of 12 days (1962), 90 days (1963), or 180 days (1965);
- The Terrorism Act (1967) introduced the concept of indefinite detention without trial and provided startlingly broad definitions of “terrorism”;
- The Internal Security Act (1972, amended in 1976) consolidated the legislation detailed above, retained the major “offences”, provided for indefinite “preventive detention”, and further restricted the jurisdiction of the courts.
The pattern of this security legislation is clear. It curtailed the sphere of legitimate political opposition by enlarging the definition of “criminal” offences, which was in some instances applied retrospectively, and presumed the accused guilty until proven innocent. It expanded the powers of police and jailers. It violated the normal tenets of the rule of law by its widespread abrogation of individual rights and denial of due process. The security legislation increased the coercive powers of the state in the maintenance of what was a fundamentally unjust social and political order.
More than this: in permitting detention without trial and solitary confinement for indefinite periods, the security laws drew new zones of penal licence which rapidly became blurred. From its inception during the early 1960s, security legislation and its implementation have generated widespread allegations of physical and mental abuse of people held in detention. Individual officers abused their powers of interrogation; interrogation became torture; torture became routine. The methods of torture, both physical and psychological, were honed to a fine art – not as an aberration by a few sadistic individuals, but as a result of training and indoctrination of police officers, both inside the country and with the help of apartheid allies such as the colonial fascists in Mozambique and Angola, and the colonial administration in Algeria and elsewhere. Certain police officers who were torturers in the 1960s later rose to senior positions in the force, indicative of the degree of legitimacy accorded by the apartheid regime to this behaviour.
Survivors of torture continue to suffer for many years afterwards: as one victim put it recently,
“Twenty-six years have passed since I was among a group of seven women subjected to torture by mind breaking by the apartheid security police, and yet I often find myself back in the dungeon of solitary confinement ready to take (my) own life for no explicable reason. This all happens without any conscious thought on my part. I hate it when my mind brings those terrifying memories – but my mind just does it for me, it was orchestrated to destroy me…”
Many women detainees suffered sexual abuse and even rape at the hands of their captors.
A grim mountain of depositions and court evidence stands as record to abuses suffered by generations of detainees: at its apex are over sixty deaths – from Ngudle and Saloojee, to Timol, Haron, Biko, Aggett, Malatji and all the others.
The torment of prisoners and detainees did not end there: their families and friends were also frequently subjected to sustained harassment, surveillance, and mental torment which in some cases proved too much: there have been many tragic cases of spouses and relatives of prisoners breaking under this kind of pressure. Children of women detainees and prisoners in particular often suffered most: while some swelled the ranks of the liberation movement, others were thrown onto the streets to fend for themselves.
At the same time, the courts were obliged by means of law and other pressures to impose heavy sentences – at times on false allegations, as in the case of Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Khayingo and Zinakile Mkhaba, who were members of the Eastern Cape Regional Command of MK. They were hanged after being found guilty of sabotage and the murder of a member of MK who had turned state witness. Subsequently three other men – one of whom was found guilty of the actual execution – were also condemned to death for this murder.
4.3 The institutional violence and social consequences of apartheid
While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is tasked with identifying the harshest violations of human rights during the apartheid years, it cannot remove the specific cases it will be dealing with from this broader context where the dispossessed and disenfranchised masses faced violence, discrimination and the violation of their human rights on a daily basis during the colonial and apartheid eras. As the ANC argued in 1969:
“South Africa was conquered by force and is today ruled by force … When the gun is not in use, legal and administrative terror, fear, social and economic pressure, complacency and confusion generated by propaganda and “education” are the devices brought into play. (…) Behind these devices hovers force. Whether in reserve or in actual employment, force is ever present and this has been so since the white man came to Africa.”
During the 1960s, concurrent with the creation of the new “security state” and new legislation, the apartheid rulers embarked on radical new forms of social engineering designed to defend and entrench white minority rule, which had far-reaching consequences. A social order already distinctive for deep-seated, legalised inequalities premised upon racial classification now experienced new levels of what has been characterised in authoritarian societies as “bureaucratic terrorism”. In essence, bureaucratic terror in South Africa involved the use of state power against individuals and groups who are already economically subordinate, socially discriminated against, and politically without rights. Instances of the phenomenon included:
- huge numbers of arrests (in the 1960s hundreds of thousands annually) for contravention of pass laws;
- large-scale forced removals and resettlements, mainly to the Bantustans;
- the clearance of so-called “black spots” (pockets of land held in freehold by African farming communities);
- the endorsing out of urban areas of so-called “surplus people”;
- the redefinition of all Africans as “citizens” of ethnic homelands or Bantustans.
The implementation of basic apartheid measures (such as pass laws, influx control, urban areas restrictions, job reservation, separate amenities, and so on) meant that basic “first generation” human rights – such as the franchise, civil equality, freedom of movement or association – were denied systematically and massively. The brute bureaucratic reality of the apartheid era – an unthinking, everyday denial to individuals of their basic human dignity – is directly analogous to Hannah Arendt`s famous characterisation of the “banality of evil” in Nazi Germany.
Secondly, the social order underpinned by apartheid also rode roughshod over “second generation” human rights, such as the right to education, health care, housing, security and social welfare. The statistics of racially inscribed inequalities under apartheid are too well known to require detailed recapitulation: whether the measure is infant mortality, nutritional intake, life expectancy, literacy, domestic or per capita earnings, employment levels or property ownership, the findings are the same. Academic studies have shown that according to internationally accepted measurements South Africa has the unenviable distinction of having the most unequal distribution of income for any economy for which data is available. Apartheid and the callous denial of basic rights that went with it are directly responsible for the fact that as much as half of South Africa`s population lives below the “least generously drawn poverty line”.
The cumulative impact of apartheid laws and government actions between 1948 and the late 1960s was immense. They allocated political, social, economic and cultural rights to individuals on the basis of their race. They inhibited such basic rights as freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association for millions of South Africans – and they did so, ironically, at the precise juncture that these and related rights were recognised as basic human rights across the globe. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in the same year that the National Party won the whites-only general election on a platform embracing apartheid and swart gevaar.
In the final analysis all this rested on entrenching the dominance of, and accruing privileges for, the white minority in general and Afrikaners in particular. The group, and the group only, mattered: to improve its opulence, promote its languages, cultures, education and other amenities, at the expense of the black majority. In the inverse, the warping of white children`s minds, their psychological and physical brutalisation in the security forces, the fear psychosis and denial of independent thought within the white community – all these mattered not, as long as the National Party elite consolidated its power.
4.4 The judiciary and other forms of repression
Whole sectors of South African society – the law courts, churches, media, education, business, sports and cultural sectors – both actively and indirectly reinforced apartheid exclusion, discrimination and the violation of human rights. It is not possible to deal in a comprehensive way with the different forms of the institutionalised gross denial of human rights under apartheid here, but the shameful behaviour of the medical establishment in the events surrounding the death of Steve Biko, and the distortion of justice which systematically occurred in the South African law courts are just two examples.
Tens of thousands of black South Africans were funnelled through the apartheid courts, usually without legal representation and with racially and ideologically biased white, male judges and magistrates in charge, and turned into criminals in the process, compounding racial polarisation.
At the highest level there was clear support for apartheid, as many judges were political appointees. As the National Association of Democratic Lawyers have pointed out, selected judges were in many cases put in charge of political trials and were responsible for the judicial murder of people fighting against apartheid. In many cases these judges allowed evidence that was extracted under torture or duress. Judges condoned the barbaric practises of the apartheid security police and gave apartheid terrorism laws a veneer of legal respectability. Together with magistrates and prosecutors they were quick to defend or cover up police brutality and thereby facilitate the work of the apartheid security system, for example in routinely finding (as in the case of Joseph Mdluli) that people who had undoubtedly been tortured and injured had died after “falling off a chair” or “slipping down a staircase”.
Judicial commissions produced ideologically oriented reports which promoted the goals of the apartheid state or covered up its culpability in cases of gross human rights violations, e.g. the Schlebush Commission of the 1970s, the Kannemeyer Commission investigating the Uitenhage massacre in 1985, and the Harms Commission. Law societies and bar councils, which are supposed to be the watchdogs of law and legal standards, struck from the roll anti-apartheid activists convicted of crimes against the apartheid state, including Bram Fischer, Ntobeko Maqubela, Kader Hassim, M.D. Naidoo and Rowley Arenstein. In the 1980s, in particular, innocent people were charged with “public violence”, when in fact the violence arose from the police and not the public (as in the infamous Trojan Horse case in Cape Town).
In all of the state institutions referred to above, there were government appointees who, quite clearly, were carefully chosen to advance the cause of apartheid. If they were involved in education, they religiously invoked Bantu education, which subsequently led to the eruption in black schools in 1976. The Dutch Reformed Church, which provided “biblical” justification for apartheid, became known as the “National Party at prayer”. Courts of law meted out severe punishments to opponents of apartheid and proponents of democracy.
What chance would a black person have of acquittal if, for instance, he or she were an anti-apartheid activist appearing before Justice HHW de Villiers? This judge, who retired in 1961, wrote a book on the Rivonia trial. This is how he characterised the African population of South Africa:
“The Bantu is still at the stage where the Roman people were at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire when the populus shouted “Give us bread and the Circus!” (…) The primitive Bantu is still a killer. The Zulu war cry “bulala!” can still stir them into a frenzy of uncontrolled aggression and murder. They can so easily be persuaded to kill River and Paarl killings. One must always remember we have to do with a primitive people; even higher education does not eradicate their superstitious beliefs in a generation or two.”
The judge`s book was an argument for the death penalty in the Rivonia trial. Clearly, had he been on the bench, he would have sentenced President Mandela and his co-accused to death.
The catalogue of legal and institutional discrimination that occurred under apartheid goes on and on and needs acknowledgment if a human rights culture is to flourish in the new South African legal system. The ANC therefore supports the call for judges, magistrates and prosecutors involved in gross travesties of justice to appear before the TRC.
4.5 Forced removals and forced incorporation: A case study of the further violation of black people`s property rights and the institutional violence of apartheid
Grand apartheid had at its core a vision of a South Africa that belonged to whites and where black people either lived in bantustans or were temporary residents in urban areas, while working for whites.
Implementing this vision was a decades-long process that entailed large population removals as part of an elaborate social and geographical engineering exercise. The Surplus People Project, which has produced the most authoritative documentation of the history and scale of forced removals estimated that between 1960 and 1982 over 3.5 million South Africans were moved as part of this policy. Tens of thousands of other people lived for many years under constant threat of losing their homes, while yet others lost their South African citizenship as boundaries were redrawn to incorporate them into homelands that were earmarked for “independence.”
These processes resulted in untold human suffering and misery. Communities were broken up; families were separated and lost their homes and productive resources such as livestock, trees and farming implements. In many cases people were not compensated at all. Resistance to forced removals was met with severe repression by the state and resulted in people being killed and jailed.
The social dislocation caused by forced removals and the destruction of viable and cohesive communities has arguably been one of the most devastating consequences of apartheid.
In most cases communities were put in places far from their original homes and places of work. Jobs were lost, or people forced to become migrant workers in order to support their families. Conditions in resettlement camps were appalling. Often, people were dumped with little more than tents, tin toilets and trucked-in water. Poverty levels increased dramatically in these areas.
As a result of forced removal, many children and old people died from diseases related to malnutrition and poor living conditions.
The policy of forced removals was met with fierce resistance by the affected communities. In many cases long and expensive legal battles were fought. Most of these were lost as the legislation in terms of which removals took place was authoritarian and relied on the powers of administrative decree and did not allow for review, or recourse. Section 5 of the 1927 Black Administration Act for example, allowed the State President to order a community to move from any one place in South Africa to another within a specified period of time. Forced removals were implemented as a “normal” part of the running of government. Armed with an arsenal of authoritarian legislation and policy, and backed by the repressive arms of the state, civil servants carried out actions that destroyed lives, families and communities. In the process of each struggle against removal, the state used its repressive powers to a greater or lesser degree. In the forced removals and the resistance of the 1980`s, detention without trial, torture, and shootings became a feature of many struggles.
Forced removals began in earnest in the mid 1950s and continued for over three decades. In recognition of the suffering and loss experienced by victims of forced removals, the Interim Constitution grants a right of restitution to specified individuals and groups. But the Restitution Commission and Land Claims Court only focus on land loss. They do not provide redress for other forms of loss and suffering experienced by victims of forced removals, or recognition of the victims` pain and suffering.
The following cases serve to give some indication of the level of human rights violations that accompanied the removal process.
Bakubung – The Bakubung live in the North West Province. They resisted removal for many years. In the process members of the community were arrested and detained without trial. Some of these people were severely tortured. Others were charged with treason and at least three leaders of the community were killed.
Crossroads – The Coloured Labour Preference Policy in the Western Cape meant that strenuous attempts were made to prevent African people from settling permanently in the area. Poverty and unemployment in the Transkei resulted in large numbers of people migrating to the Cape in search of work. Large informal settlements such as Crossroads were established and housed this population. Crossroads was destroyed by the authorities many times. Shacks were bulldozed and people left homeless, often in the middle of the wet Cape winter. The final destruction of Crossroads took place in the 1980`s and was carried out by a combination of a vigilante force called the Witdoeke, the “kitskops” of the period, with the security forces standing by, and in some cases actively colluding with the attackers.
Langa (Uitenhage) – Langa was one of the oldest Port Elizabeth townships. Its location close to town meant that for many years its population was earmarked for removal to a new township further away from town. The community was well organised and resisted the removal. In June 1986, when the State of Emergency was declared, the township was removed. The use of emergency powers, including a gag on the press, was the only way that this could be carried out. In the early hours of the morning, the security forces cordoned off the township with barbed wire, any leadership figures who had not yet been detained were arrested, and the removal went ahead. In the process community members who tried to resist were brutally treated.
Mogopa – The Mogopa community was forcibly removed on February 14 1984 after a long period of resistance. The removal took place under Section 5 of the Black Administration Act. The farm was cordoned off and no outsiders were allowed into the area. The community was then ordered by the police to demolish their homes and pack their belongings. They were loaded onto trucks and had to sell their livestock at low prices. They were dumped at a place called Pachsdraai near the Botswana border. There, they were placed under the control of a discredited chief who had already allocated the arable land to the ten families who supported him. The Mogopa people fled Pachsdraai, rather than live in such misery. Their wanderings lasted almost ten years, before they finally managed to return to their homes. During this time, many old people died, a once prosperous community was reduced to poverty, and all that they had built up on their land was destroyed.
Mfengu – The Mfengu community was removed from their land in Tsitsikama to a barren dumping ground in the Ciskei at Keiskammahoek. Conditions were so bad, and the community so far from employment, that many old people and children died in the period following the removal. The leaders of the resistance to the removal were detained and harassed.
Driefontein – The community of Driefontein had its origins in a land purchase organised by Pixley Ka Seme in 1913. Over the years the landowners of Driefontein, the Council Board of Directors, built up their community, and also gave refuge to many evicted farm workers, who became tenants on the land. The community was identified as a “black spot” by the government and threatened with forced removal. This was strongly resisted by the entire community. Its leader Saul Mkhize was shot dead at a community meeting by a local policeman, Constable Nienaber. Despite the fact that this was witnessed by hundreds of people, the inquest into Saul`s death found that nobody was to blame for the incident.
Moutse – For many years the Moutse community near Groblersdal successfully resisted forced removals. The Government then tried to strip them of their South African citizenship by redrawing boundaries to incorporate the community into the KwaNdebele bantustan, whose Chief Minister had agreed to opt for homeland independence.
The Moutse community vowed not to accept this and to fight for their right to remain South African citizens. On the day that the incorporation was gazetted, the area was attacked by a group of vigilantes named Mbokodo. This group, acting in support of the KwaNdebele government, unleashed a reign of terror on the Moutse community, and on KwaNdebele residents opposing independence. Mbokodo was then incorporated into the police force through the municipal police (“kitskop”) system, and their violence and repression became institutionalised. During the two-year struggle many people were detained, tortured, maimed and killed. The homes of leaders of the resistance were constantly raided and their property destroyed. The names of particular policemen, as well as KwaNdebele politicians, feature over and over again in the statements of the victims. Despite this, cases were not followed up or investigated properly by the authorities.
Braklaagte and Leeufontein – As was the case with Moutse, the Braklaagte and Leeufontein communities, living 20km outside Zeerust were forcibly incorporated into Bophuthatswana. Due to their resistance community members experienced years of intense repression. The Braklaagte chief was deposed by Mangope and a more pliant person was put in his place. A mobile police station was set up in the village and the police based there conducted regular raids. Many youths were detained and taken to Motswedi police station at Lehurutse where they were viciously beaten and tortured. A number of people were shot dead during this period. A particularly cruel aspect of this period was the refusal by the Bophuthatswana police to allow funerals to go ahead. In one bizarre case, the police confiscated a coffin with the corpse in it and for over a week moved it from place to place to prevent the family from proceeding with the burial.
The Group Areas Act also destroyed and displaced Coloured and Indian communities: there were forced removals from areas such as District Six in Cape Town, Pageview and Fordsburg in Johannesburg, and Grey Street in Durban, to quote but a few examples. These removals were also accompanied by the seizure of property and the withdrawal of business licences; as well as the application of violence or the threat of it.
The above examples do not provide any of the details of human rights violations which accompanied forced removals. Nor do they reflect the countrywide spread of cases. It is clear that forced removals are in themselves a crime against humanity. People were removed from ancestral lands; dumped in the middle of nowhere; their community fabric destroyed; their places of worship vandalised, destroyed or left to stand in waste far away from the new settlements.
Those responsible for these crimes are the political leaders of the former regime and the civil servants who turned gross inhumanity into a bureaucratic system. The wholesale trampling upon first and second generation human rights of black South Africans reflected in this case study of forced removals happened on a massive scale at every level of South African society during the period being investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
4.6 Mass repression by the regime in the face of mass protest
The early 1970s witnessed a slowdown in the economy and increased privations among the black population. Spontaneous as well as organised mass resistance began to surface for the first time in a decade. The emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement, independent trade unions, and secondary school student organisations was accompanied by an upsurge of revolt in black tertiary institutions and workers` strikes.
These developments coincided and increasingly interacted with the reconstruction of an underground presence of the liberation movement. Regionally, the end of Portuguese fascism hastened the assumption of power by FRELIMO and the MPLA in Mozambique and Angola respectively; while in what was then Rhodesia, Smith`s illegal UDI regime was under increasing pressure from ZANU and ZAPU. Internationally, hostility to apartheid deepened. In 1973 the United Nations General Assembly declared apartheid “a crime against humanity”. Many states which did not support the resolution in 1973 adopted the same language after the revulsion engendered by the National Party`s ruthless suppression of the youth revolt in 1976, the murder of Steve Biko in 1977, and the new wave of bannings.
The apartheid regime had, in this period, expanded its joint operations with the Rhodesian and Portuguese colonial regimes; and in 1975 invaded newly-liberated Angola, in an effort to secure the last bastions of white domination and colonialism in the subcontinent.
Faced with internal mass upsurge, the response of the regime was brute force: detention, closure of institutions, brutal suppression of demonstrations and strikes; and, in 1976, cold-blooded shooting of unarmed pupils. The actions of the regime on 16 June 1976, and in the 18 months following this eruption, brought out in bold relief the determination of the apartheid regime to deny human rights at all costs.
Notes taken during a Cabinet meeting by Jimmy Kruger, at the time Minister of Police, reveal an extraordinary level of self-delusion, or the deliberate denial of reality in order to justify murder:
Unrest in Soweto still continues. The children of Soweto are well-trained. (…) The pupils/students have established student councils. The basic danger is a growing black consciousness, and the inability to prevent incidents, what with the military precision with which they act. The Minister proposes that this movement must be broken and thinks that police should perhaps act a bit more drastically and heavy-handedly which will entail more deaths.
As the decade came to a close, there was an attempt on the part of the state to employ a new approach grounded in “total strategy”, an explicit commitment to mobilise military, economic, physical and psychological resources in defence of the existing order. It brought senior police, Defence Force and intelligence officers directly into the formulation and implementation of government policy, through the State Security Council and the National Security Management System.
4.7 The height of apartheid repression: Counter-revolutionary strategy and tactics, the National Security Management System, States of Emergency, and the extra-legal terror of the 1980s
In 1977, PW Botha (at the time Minister of Defence) mapped out the terrain in which the NSMS would be operating when he introduced the Defence White Paper:
“The resolution of the conflict in the times in which we now live demands inter-dependent and co-ordinated action in all fields: military, psychological, economic, political, sociological, technological, diplomatic, ideological, cultural, etcetera. We are today involved in a war whether we like it or not. It is therefore essential that a total national strategy (is) formulated at the highest level.”
The National Security Management System (NSMS) was instituted in 1979 as the instrument to co-ordinate all state actions and implement reforms in line with “total strategy”. Over the years the government had built a large network of Security Police and upgraded the police force in general to deal with mass protest. BOSS, the civilian intelligence agency, expanded its operations. Torture, recruitment of activists, employment of agents provocateurs, propaganda against anti-apartheid forces, and the employment of vigilantes became the stock-in-trade. The NSMS aimed to achieve maximum efficiency and co-ordination of all these methods, and drew in the additional capacity of the SADF, particularly its intelligence wing.
The NSMS, and its later versions, were premised on the belief that it is possible to manage change through the redefinition of political, military and economic constructs in a manner to the advantage of those who hold the levers of state power. The underlying conceptual framework of the NSMS was that 80% of actions to contain the security threat should be political, and only 20% military; it was believed that the majority of people were politically neutral, and only a small radical elite of “agitators”, “communists” and “terrorists” existed, who should be killed. In this scenario, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the status quo. The apartheid state sought to create political stability through limited reforms to apartheid combined with a variety of measures to counter the influence of pro-democracy groups and the liberation movement; these ranged from setting up a range of “counter-organisations,” to attempts to brainwash or psychlogically influence target groups, to measures designed to defuse material grievances by upgrading infrastructure and the provision of services, particularly in those areas considered trouble spots or “oliekol” (oil spot) townships.
This period saw the genesis of the trend towards increasingly sophisticated covert operations, continuing into the 1990s, which included illegal methods (even by the regime`s own standards) to suppress and disrupt the resistance movement. In addition to attempts to bolster the discredited bantustan and community councillor systems in general, there were renewed attempts to find or create “credible” alternatives to the ANC.
Such initiatives included psychological pressure and misinformation directed at the leadership of Inkatha to drive them further away from the liberation movement. These methods drew on theories developed on the basis of experiences of other wars against national liberation movements, and from methods to destroy dissent adopted by other right-wing regimes, particularly in Latin America.
The NSMS became fully functional in the mid-1980s as the apartheid state attempted to destroy the mass popular resistance which had taken root by this time. As the crisis deepened, the intelligence services, particularly Military Intelligence, increasingly assumed political influence and even executive control over this shadow bureaucracy, which in some respects duplicated the existing administration and displaced its decision-making structures. The State Security Council (SSC), although technically a committee of the cabinet, usurped many of the cabinet`s executive functions. The SSC effectively ran the country as a super-cabinet without any such statutory power, giving credence to the notion that a creeping military coup was taking place in South Africa.
The 1980s saw successive States of Emergency in which all resources of the state were harnessed by the NSMS to smash new forms of popular resistance that had emerged. The leadership of the UDF and its affiliates was ruthlessly rounded up and restricted. Scores of thousands of people were detained without trial; and many more were shot dead, maimed, whipped, tear-gassed and baton-charged. Open political activity by legal anti-apartheid groups became virtually impossible.
Besides the more conventional forms of state harassment and repressive laws, anti-apartheid activists and organisations were increasingly subjected to new terror tactics: “vigilante” groups which sought out and murdered activists, or launched mass attacks on communities with the tacit or overt support of the SAP; pseudo-revolutionary groups which sowed confusion and death in communities; criminal gangs which appeared to operate above the law as long as most of their victims were pro-democracy activists; assaults, arson, slashed or over-inflated tyres, dead cats nailed to doors, bricks crashing through windows, bombed and burgled offices, kidnappings, increasing attacks on exiles and activists in neighbouring states, and the ever-present threat of death as mysterious “hit squads” stepped up their activities.
This extract from a paper titled Some Possibilities in Counter-Insurgency Operations, written in 1977 by SADF officer and writer on military affairs, Helmoed-Romer Heitman, is relevant; many tactics of this nature were adopted against the ANC:
“Operations can include the sabotage/doctoring of discovered arms or supply caches. The resultant difficulties will sap confidence and morale as well as creating distrust between the insurgency and its suppliers. (…) They could range from doctored foodstuffs, via mixing petrol with paraffin for lamps and tampering with medical supplies, to the placing of instant detonation fuses in, for example, every tenth hand grenade. The preference here would be the inflicting of illness or injury, not death, the former having the added advantage of sapping morale and straining logistics.
“The intelligence services can also create some havoc by the supplying of false information, particularly the type to create mistrust. Thus a leader of the insurgency could be made to appear as a police informer (..) Further, some extra-legal operations may prove beneficial both in eliminating certain key members of the insurgency and in sowing suspicion. Needless to say, such operations would need to be well-disguised.”
If resistance took on a mass character in the 1980s, so did repression and the deliberate flouting of human rights by the security forces and their masters.
4.7.1 The co-ordinating mechanism for repression in the 1980s: the NSMS
Ultimate control over the SSC and the NSMS was vested in the Office of the State President, who chaired the SSC.
The statutory functions of the SSC included advising the Government with regard to
“(i) the formulation of national policy and strategy in relation to the security of the Republic and the manner in which such policy or strategy shall be implemented and be executed;
(ii) a policy to combat any particular threat to the security of the Republic.”
The SSC was served by a Secretariat consisting of around 100 full-time staff seconded from various state departments. This Secretariat was divided into four branches: the Strategy branch, the Strategic Communications Branch, the National Intelligence Interpretation Branch, and an Administration Branch.
The activities of this SSC Secretariat, particularly the Strategic Communications Branch, are of particular importance to investigations into gross human rights abuses in the 1980s and 1990s. The Strategic Communications branch, according to a former SAP officer who was seconded to this structure, was tasked with working out a total package of strategy alternatives in response to requests coming from Ministries, government departments, or JMCs. Such strategies could include tactics such as assassinations, attacks on neighbouring countries, economic sabotage, campaigns of character defamation, setting up front companies, propaganda campaigns – in general, the entire gamut of what have come to be known as “dirty tricks” operations. Such plans would be passed up the chain of command to the SSC which would select the appropriate strategy. Implementation would be carried out at the level of the Strategic Communications Branch, or sent down the NSMS chain for implementation at other levels, and any group, institution or individual considered appropriate could be drawn in to implement such plans. Every government department had “stratkom” committees, at times called “nodal points” or “special services.”
Examples of work of this nature include the establishment of a network of state agents in the media, the diversion of trade union subscription payments into a private bank account, in order to disrupt the activities of the union and sow suspicion the members and the leadership, exploding a bomb outside a cinema showing a film about Steve Biko, followed by the use of agents in the media to implicate the AWB. Other operations were far more elaborate, crossed international borders and continued over an extended period of time. According to former SAP officer John Horak, who served on structures of this nature, stratkom operations, most simply expressed, aim to “rout the enemies of the government” and “give the government the space to do what it wants to do.” Stratkom operations rest on the “principle” that it is perceptions, rather than the truth, which matter.
At the level of the SSC the actual operational details of any project were not discussed, specifically in order to make it technically true for political officials to deny all knowledge of many of these covert actions.
Under the overall direction of the SSC, thirteen Interdepartmental Committees co-ordinated the activities of relevant government departments. At a regional and local level it co-ordinated the work of 10 Joint Management Centres (JMCs) the boundaries of which coincided with the 10 Regional SADF Commands (and one other JMC for the Walvis Bay military area); 60 sub-JMCs with their boundaries corresponding to those of the SAP Districts, and over 350 mini JMCs existing at municipal / SADF Commando area level.
This singular network of JMC structures was tasked with the co-ordination of “social upliftment”, security and intelligence-gathering functions. Every JMC structure consisted of four committees: welfare intelligence security and communications – more accurately, disinformation and propaganda. Government departments at all levels, parastatals, and business representatives were drawn into the network, and “community liaison forums” were set up in an attempt to extend the network to grassroots level.
The SSC therefore controlled a totalitarian national network which reached into every part of the country, identifying anti-apartheid activities, formulating a continuous national security profile, and making decisions on action at national and local levels which could then be implemented by the formal law enforcement structures backed by legislation, or by other structures acting covertly. As Max Coleman of the Human Rights Commission put it, “here we encounter, not acts of Parliament, no laws nor promulgated regulations, but centres of control receiving information, making decisions and issuing instructions. All without any constitutional status, but nevertheless supported by secret budgets and resources with no public accountability.”
With the declaration of the first State of Emergency, the National Joint Management Centre (NJMC), chaired by the Deputy Minister of Law and Order, took over as the nerve centre for macro co-ordination of all welfare and security policies. Located in the Office of the State President, the NJMC was tasked with the executive co-ordination of the implementation of SSC decisions, and managed the Emergency on a day-to-day basis. Roelf Meyer took over this post from Adriaan Vlok at the beginning of December 1985.
By mid-1986 the State Security Council and the NJMC formed the apex of state power. These committees and their subsidiary network of co-ordinated structures that made up the NSMS bordered on constituting a separate arm of government, and became the vanguard of state action.
4.7.2 Formal repression
Formal repression in the 1980s was based on repressive laws passed by the apartheid parliament and the existence of a massive law enforcement machinery. In addition over 32,000 SADF troops were deployed in 96 townships in 1985 to support the SAP.
Using laws like the Internal Security Act (No 74 of 1982), the 1953 Public Safety Act and the Public Safety Amendment Act (No 67 of 1986), as well as bantustan variations of these laws, the apartheid authorities were able to place severe restrictions on legitimate political and social activities and invade every corner of public and private life. For example:
- Successive States of Emergency, covering a large number of magisterial districts, were in operation from 1985 to 1989.
- Over 80,000 people, including over 1,500 children were detained without trial, some for periods of up to two and a half years.
- According to human rights groups, over 10,000 detainees were tortured, assaulted or suffered other forms of abuse.
- Over 70 detainees died in detention during this period.
- At least 3,000 people were banned restricted and placed under house arrest.
- Hundreds of activists had their passports withdrawn.
- Over 500 people were gagged by the Consolidated List; they could not be quoted, even once deceased.
- Several newspapers and publications were banned, suspended or restricted – over 35,000 books were banned for possession and distribution in South Africa between 1960 and 1991, and in some cases newspapers were prohibited even from printing blank spaces where material had been censored.
- Thousands of people were prosecuted in numerous political trials. Many were jailed and others executed, 7 people in just 1988/9, for example.
- Over 100 organisations were banned as unlawful, or restricted either fully or partially.
- Outdoor political gatherings were banned and literally thousands of indoor gatherings were banned. Funerals were restricted. Such gatherings were frequently dispersed by violent means on the grounds that they were illegal.
In addition, “legal” measures were at times used for political reasons to deliberately disrupt attempts to halt violence, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. On the eve of peace talks between the UDF and Inkatha in mid-1989, Adriaan Vlok tightened restrictions on key UDF negotiators – effectively placing them under house arrest – thereby disrupting the process. According to lawyers acting for the UDF and Cosatu at this time, this was the seventh occasion since November 1987 on which Vlok had acted at crucial moments to derail peace moves in the region.
4.7.3 Informal repression and counter-mobilisation: surrogates, “vigilantes”, hit squads, and “stratkom” operations
Under the States of Emergency in the 1980s, the government placed bans on every conceivable form of political protest, including work stayaways. In addition to these “lawful” repressive measures, a range of covert activities were conducted by the state or its proxies against the democratic opposition.
18.104.22.168 Theories of counter-revolutionary warfare
It is worth revisiting the theories of counter-revolutionary warfare which underpinned state violence and covert activities in the 1980s and 1990s. The counter-revolutionary warfare tactics implemented during the 1980s were adopted from the writings of various Western military strategists; one of the most favoured for his “practical” approach was the American Vietnam veteran, Col. JJ McCuen, whose recommendations for the implementation of counter-revolutionary warfare tactics were used as the basis for a handbook titled The Art of Counter-Revolutionary Warfare, which was distributed amongst state officials. In essence, the tactics adopted were “hard” security measures against political opponents of the state, combined with WHAM (“Winning Hearts and Minds”) tactics aimed at defusing political grievances and promoting right-wing ideologies among the general population. French theorist Andre Baufr`s maxim that “wars are not won on the battlefield, but in the minds of men” was a guiding principle.
The manual contained the following framework for the implementation of WHAM tactics:
In order to ensure that “radical” movements cannot root themselves amongst the people, the following steps are to be taken:
- “Annihilate” or “eliminate” the enemy
- Restore effective administration
- Implement a co-ordinated WHAM campaign consisting of the following components:
3.1 Civil education:
3.1.1 Create “a good working relationship with the masses” by “identifying problems locally…and implementing corrective measures”
3.1.2 Implement an extensive programme to train “loyal leaders” and the youth for local administration
3.2 Counter-organisation :
This, says the handbook, is the “main weapon against revolutionaries”. Government must “take the lead under all groups, classes, clubs, and societies with the organisation of social, career, sport, education, medical, religious, and military activities.” The population “must become involved and identify with the group`s activities.”
3.2.1 “Self-defence” – this is “the most important part of counter-organisation of the masses.”
The recruitment of “local militia” must be undertaken with the help of local leaders. These militia must be armed and form “the bridge between the administration and the masses”; they should “therefore be politically oriented”, ie. they should “influence/mobilise the masses.”
3.2.2 Security forces must be “extremely mobile and able to support self-defence units immediately.”
An effective intelligence system is vital, and government must have “a covert intelligence system with roots among the masses and all organisations.”
4.1 To manage this intelligence-gathering process, joint committees of “security forces and administrative and political institutions” must be established.
- Area Defence
This must be carried out by the military in close co-operation with the administration, and assist with the building of roads, dams, irrigation schemes, schools, churches, etc.
The theory of Low-Intensity Warfare (LIW) rests on much the same framework, but places far more stress on the use of proxy forces and propaganda. It is “low-intensity” warfare from the point of view of the regime engaged in a struggle against revolutionary or national liberation movements, in the sense that their direct involvement is minimised as far as possible. For those communities targeted in this manner, it is total war and terror at grassroots level.
The overall aim of LIW is the defeat of a national liberation movement, and this requires that a credible “moderate” alternative to such a movement be fostered or created. Examples of groups of this nature are provided by UNITA in Angola, and Renamo in Mozambique, which the Pretoria regime took over from the Rhodesian security forces at the end of the 1970s; attempts to build Inkatha into a political force to rival the ANC began in earnest in the 1980s. If it is not possible to build a credible alternative, then the emphasis in LIW strategy moves towards attempting to transform the liberation movement from within through massive destabilisation of its support base and a range of other measures aimed at so radically altering the political variables that the liberation movement becomes ineffectual, rather than by trying to defeat it in direct battle.
The aim was not just to restore law and order, at all costs, on the terms of the apartheid regime, but was considerably more sinister: it was about brainwashing and social engineering on all levels, an attempt to “recast the foundations of civil society so that political access points could at some future date be restructured in a way that (would) not threaten the system as a whole”, and to this end the state attempted to “radically restructure the moral, cultural, religious, political and material underpinnings of civil society in the black townships.”
22.214.171.124 Counter-mobilisation in action
Besides the case of Renamo, which was employed with devastating effect in the destabilisation campaign against the Mozambican government, the illegally occupied territory of Namibia served in important respects as a testing ground for certain counter-revolutionary tactics later applied in South Africa. By the mid-1970s, there was widespread, systematic and violent repression in place in this country, along with attempts to implement “hearts and minds” tactics. SADF members were deployed in schools, on agricultural projects, in training programmes, and a host of other civilian structures in the hope that assistance of this nature would defuse pro-SWAPO sentiment by addressing material grievances linked to poverty and lack of development. These tactics met with very little success, and were undermined by the systematic violence and terrorism visited against communities by easily identifiable members of the occupying force, such as (to give but one example) the practice of dragging the bodies of dead activists or members of SWAPO`s armed wing through villages behind military vehicles.
By 1980, the Pretoria regime had set in place a range of paramilitary units, some of which would later be replicated or redeployed in South Africa with devastating effect. Units called the Home Guards were initially set up to protect bantustan leaders and tribal chiefs considered assets by Pretoria; they were generally despised for committing atrocities against their own people. The Special Constables were also widely feared, and were responsible for many murders of civilians. And the first reports on a covert SAP counter-insurgency unit known as Koevoet (“crowbar”) surfaced in May 1980 along with a hit list of people to be assassinated by this unit. Koevoet had been established in 1978, and soon achieved notoriety for many murders and atrocities, particularly in the north of Namibia.
By around 1983 it was acknowledged that the relatively unsophisticated “hearts and minds” tactics adopted to date were not working, and that any suggestion of direct connections to the SADF were enough to guarantee the failure of projects of this nature. Far more elaborate, covert methods would have to be adopted to “counter-mobilise” the Namibian population against SWAPO.
To this end a unit code-named Etango was established, under the overall guidance of Dr. Louis Pasques. Etango included many of those SADF personnel, especially those linked to Military Intelligence Communications Operations units, and to the Directorate: Covert Collection, who would later surface in South Africa under the guise of “experts” working for Adult Education Consultants (AEC) and in fronts set up by the Directorate: Covert Collection. It appears that the primary aim of Etango was to establish a tribally based, conservative “Owambo movement” to counter SWAPO, while a similar project code-named Ezuva aimed to set up a “Kavango movement”. During 1985 and 1986, operatives linked to Etango moved into South Africa and began setting up a range of front companies in order to pursue similar objectives inside South Africa against the ANC through the use of “black-on-black” violence of various kinds, the fostering of viable alternative “liberation movements”, and spreading NP propaganda through a range of “Christian cultural” organisations particularly among the coloured community in the Western Cape.
A top secret memorandum dated 29/07/86, titled Extension of Counter-Mobilisation Strategy, sent from the Chief-of-Staff: Intelligence to the Head of the SADF, provides important information of relevance to the inquiries of the TRC. According to this memorandum, it was decided in 1985 to set up a front organisation to achieve the aims of Project Ancor, which had been approved by the Minister of Defence in the second half of 1985, and which included a wide range of covert projects. It has since emerged (in response to a question put to the Minister of Defence in Parliament) that the front organisation set up to carry out Project Ancor was the closed corporation Adult Education Consultants CC.
Project Kampong fell under Project Ancor, and was responsible for the “physical running of peoples` organisations and movements” – projects which attempted to manipulate civil society on a wide range of fronts. No fewer than 23 sub-projects in Namibia and South Africa were running in mid-1986, including Etango, Ezuva, the “Natal trade union” (a probable reference to the covertly-funded UWUSA), the Eagles Youth Club in the Free State, projects in KwaNdebele, Venda and QwaQwa, a project aimed at the “mobilisation of moderate Black leaders in South Africa”, a project aimed at mobilising traditional healers, several projects aimed at influencing coloured people and MPs, a research project at the University of Stellenbosch, and two projects misusing religion in an attempt to cultivate support for the regime.
The head of AEC, Dr Louis Pasques, was (and perhaps still is) a member of the Broederbond. A former Assistant Director of education, he was seconded to the office of PW Botha in 1985, and served on the SSC. Pasques had also been Inspector of the compulsory “Youth Preparedness” brainwashing programme introduced in white schools in 1970. Dr. JL van der Westhuizen was the other most senior official heading AEC. By 1986 there were regional offices of AEC in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Louis Trichardt, Nelspruit, Pinetown, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley and Cape Town. Each office was headed by a manager and divided into three sub-sections: administration, training, and projects. Most AEC affiliates had military training grounds at their disposal. Another network of fronts set up by Pasques fell under the South African Christian Cultural Organisation (Sacco.)
During 1986, work of this nature gathered momentum as the state battled to contain the growing popular revolt in the country. As the memorandum in question puts it, “counter-mobilisation” is a “critically important component of the counter-revolutionary strategy of the RSA”; and notes that the Minister of Defence had ordered that “counter-mobilisation activities inside South Africa must be drastically extended, and actions in SWA must also be intensified.” Such actions are described as “very probably the core on which will depend the continued existence of a free Western civilisation in South Africa.” (p 5). According to this memo, Etango and Ezuva had already grown into a “force to be reckoned with in SWA politics”. “If an election is to be won in SWA, a drastic increase in counter-mobilisation activities would be required”, says the memo (p. 2). Control of these fronts had by 1986 been transferred to the Administrator-General of Namibia, although the SADF still acted in an “executive capacity.”
Whilst we have focused on certain operations, there were many other fronts and projects which were covertly set up and financed with public funds. Project Vallex, running by 1987/8, was also specifically aimed at “removing the UDF from communities by means of violence using the colour-against-colour principle”; there were Projects Pippa, Kalmoes, Lambent, Lactone, Lion Life and Resource Corporation, and Project Christian Life Centre, to name just a few others. Extensive as Project Ancor and its sub-project Kampong were, their 1987/8 budgets are listed as falling under Main Project Orange, about which no information has yet come to light; it is hoped the Commission will discover the full nature and extent of the activities carried out under the auspices of Main Project Orange, as well all other covert operations of this nature.
126.96.36.199 Vigilantism, surrogates, and the role of Adult Education Consultants
From mid- to late 1985 onwards, during the period in which Roelf Meyer chaired the NJMC, Adult Education Consultants (AEC) set up or reinforced a range of paramilitary anti-ANC/UDF/Cosatu groups across the country. In addition, they ran various seminars designed to promote right-wing “Christian” values, particularly targeted at the Western Cape. It appears that in some cases “seminars” amounted to little more than attempted brainwashing and incitement to violence against the UDF and other progressive organisations.
In early 1985, and in an extraordinarily high number of cases in October and November 1985, various “vigilante” and, to a lesser extent, pseudo-revolutionary groups suddenly appeared in townships all over the country, from Pietersburg in the north to Cape Town in the south. The “vigilantes” were responsible for massive bloodshed and misery as they launched their onslaught against pro-democracy groups. Often drawn from conservative traditional groupings, the ranks of the desperately unemployed and even criminal gangs (such as the Three Million, and later, the AmaSinyora, the Black Cats, the Toasters, to name a few), the vigilantes intervened in local politics when called upon or paid to do so. In all cases they violently attacked members of pro-democracy groups, acted in support of unpopular local or regional authorities which the apartheid regime saw as being essential to the success of its limited reform programme, and were allowed to operate brazenly by the SAP, who either refused to intervene or actively supported such groups. It appears the “vigilantes” were largely playing the role of “self-defence” units as envisaged in McCuen`s blueprint. The Riot Squad (later renamed the Internal Stability Division) was particularly prominent in lending support to groups of this nature.
During the same period, in November 1985, Minister of Constitutional Development Chris Heunis announced that at least five thousand municipal police, also known as “kitskonstabels” (instant constables) would be trained over the next six months. Most were deployed to bolster unpopular community councillors – a re-run of the tactic used in Namibia in the early 1980s. A Black Sash report in 1988 on the municipal police noted that the “hidden agenda” of those deploying these officials was “revealed by the pattern of their abuses: they were intended to divide communities and disrupt organisations”, rather than restore law and order. Their efforts complemented those of a range of other groups involved in “informal” or extra-legal repression.
In contrast with earlier footage showing white police shooting protestors armed with bricks and stones, which had so negatively influenced the attitudes of overseas television audiences, the state was no longer perceived to be in the forefront of the violence – now it was “black-on-black violence”, a key propaganda term coined at this time and vigorously promoted.This was what was supposed to distinguish some of this violence from earlier clashes between the security forces and pro-democracy groups, (this violence was portrayed as the understandable backlash of conservative groups against the excesses of the youth or the “radical” policies of pro-democracy groups). In other cases, both antagonists were supposedly anti-apartheid movements,
A case study is provided by the AmaAfrika National Front or Project Henry, a group led by the self-styled “Reverend” Ebenezer Maqina, which adopted pseudo-radical “black consciousness” positions. This group was envisaged as forming the nucleus of “cultural front” organisations in the Eastern Cape, according to former AEC regional head Brig. Ben Conradie, who ran the project. Food parcels delivered by the Department of National Health and Population Development to the home of the regional AEC head were taken to Maqina for distribution among the needy. By March 1985, supporters of the AmaAfrika National Front, which was later linked to, and then expelled from, Azapo, were engaged in a bloody struggle with UDF supporters in townships in the Port Elizabeth area. Many civilians were killed; by June 1985 these areas were described as being like a war zone. The murders of Matthew Goniwe and his companions were ascribed to UDF/Azapo conflict by the propaganda machinery of the regime. Other vigilante Groups falling under the Eastern Cape branch of Adult Education Consultants were the Memesis and Kekanas, grouped around unpopular councillors.
In another key example from mid- 1986, the Witdoeke of the Western Cape destroyed KTC in co-operation with local JMC structures, with the Riot Squad playing a particularly important role in backing up the attackers. During the court case brought by residents in March 1988, Roelf Meyer issued a certificate in terms of the Internal Security Act blocking access to all JMC documents from May-June 1986 “in the interests of state security.”
From late 1985 onwards, plans for what was later know as Operation Marion were being laid. A top secret memo titled Report of the Work Group on a Security Structure for KwaZulu was made public by the prosecution in the trial of former Minister of Defence Magnus Malan and others; the manner in which the concept of counter-mobilisation was understood and implemented by the former apartheid regime is bluntly expressed. On the second page of this report it is stated that from the point of view of the SADF, the strategic objective of these activities were as follows:
“(4) To limit UDF/ANC intimidation amongst the black population by means of Inkatha. (Our emphasis)
“(5) To establish Inkatha as a more effective organisation against the ANC/UDF and related organisations on political, social and psychological terrains. (Our emphasis.)
“(6) To use Inkatha`s intelligence potential to maximum effect for the RSA.”
This memo noted that according to decisions taken at a SSC meeting on 03/02/86, the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning was tasked with “overall co-ordination of the project”, which underlines that Project Marion was not aimed solely at developing an offensive military capacity within Inkatha. The SSC had also decided that the successful implementation of the “paramilitary element” of this project “would pave the way for similar projects in other National States” (ie. bantustans.) In fact, by mid-1986 plans to set up a covertly run, anti-ANC “Xhosa Resistance Movement” in the Eastern Cape were in place.
It is clear that this Work Group was following the recommendations of McCuen and other theorists closely. The minutes show that it was proposed that a “paramilitary capacity” be established, consisting of six main elements; the first three are the most important. Firstly, a “counter-mobilisation capacity” to “neutralise the UDF in particular”. This would entail increasing Inkatha`s communications and propaganda capacity, and its “ability to organise the population with the KwaZulu culture (sic) as basis for mobilisation” through organisations based in various civil arenas: the youth, students, workers, women, sport, and culture are specifically mentioned.
Secondly, this paramilitary capacity should have “a defensive element, ie. a militia-type organisation” which would have a well-trained core group supported by part-time recruits who would have less specialised training. Members of these militia would be expected to recruit and train other units with assistance from the Department of Military Intelligence.
Thirdly, there should be a “small, full-time offensive element which can be used covertly against the UDF/ANC”; fourthly, assistance in the training of a group of loyal Inkatha members for the physical protection of senior Inkatha officials. It was envisaged that the same “offensive unit” would be used for both covert hit squad work and the protection of Inkatha officials (p.7). Other measures included the improvement of Inkatha`s intelligence capacity and extending the powers of the KZP.
It was proposed that the Directorate: Special Tasks be tasked with managing the paramilitary aspect of this project since this sector of the SADF ” has the most experience in handling similar tasks (externally)” (p.6). The Directorate: Special Tasks was that sector of Military Intelligence responsible for the Special Forces (“Recces”) and the covert support of “contra” groups in neighbouring states, particularly UNITA and Renamo: support for Renamo was code-named Operation Milia, with 5 Reconnaissance Regiment in Phalaborwa the main source of training and support for this proxy force.
The Task Group proposed that a front organisation be established by Chief-of-Staff: Intelligence to take on these responsibilities. The counter-mobilisation work would be done “by DMI in co-operation with Ultra Ed (Dr Pasque)”, says the memo (p 8.) Subsequent information made public by disaffected Inkatha official Mbongeni Khumalo has indicated that AEC`s regional office in Natal known as Creed Consultants were responsible for arranging the paramilitary aspects of this training as well as counter-mobilisation work in various sectors of of civil society in the region.
Operation Katzen: A “Xhosa Resistance Movement”
In mid-1986, in response to orders from PW Botha to stabilise this region, plans were drawn up for the formation of a unified Eastern Cape region as an eventually “independent” anti-ANC “Xhosaland”. This hare-brained scheme envisaged establishing a Xhosa Resistance Movement which would “operate under the cover of a front organisation.”
In a memo outlining the plan dated 13/06/86 from Brig. CP (“Joffel”) Van der Westhuizen (head of the Eastern Cape JMC at the time) to the Chief of the Army, it is stated (p.9):
“(4) (…) This XWB must in nature – and even extent – be similar to Inkatha and must together with our security forces form a counter-revolutionary front.
“(5) The co-option of existing (struggling) black resistance movements into the ranks of the XWB. This makes one think among others of the Kekanas of Cookhouse, Memesi of Somerset East, and Maqina`s Black Crisis Centre of Port Elizabeth.”
The memo states in point 19(d) “Covert, Xhosa-speaking forces (troops) must be assigned to the XWB so that the movement, especially in the beginning, can have teeth” (p 19.) By November 1986 the plan was being activated, and in February 1987 an attempt to “permanently remove” Lennox Sebe took place.
188.8.131.52 “Hit Squads” extra-legal terror and assassination
The successful implementation of WHAM tactics, according to the theories guiding the Pretoria regime, depended on “eliminating the enemy” and restoring effective administration. Units linked to the CCB and Vlakplaas tasked with “taking out” activists began operations in earnest during this period. Some information on a hit squad known as “Hammer”, operating in the Eastern Cape by the mid-1980s, has come to light. By June 1985, the United Democratic Front listed at least 27 people as missing and 12 victims of assassinations. These acts of terror were aimed precisely at those areas where resistance was strongest; anti-apartheid activists were forced to flee or go into hiding. The role of the NSMS in co-ordinating actions of this nature was revealed in the “death signal” dated 07/06/85 sent to the SSC from the head of the Eastern Cape JMC, “Joffel” van der Westhuizen, recommending the murders of the “Cradock Four” – Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlawuli.
In October 1985, senior officials met Chief Buthelezi and falsely claimed that there were plans to eliminate him. By early 1986 the plans for Operation Marion were in place, and the first group of trainees to be given training in offensive, “hit squad” tactics were secretly sent to the Caprivi strip later that year, with the regional AEC affiliate, Creed Consultants, in charge of co-ordinating this training.
The Human Rights Commission recorded around 100 assassinations and 200 attempted assassinations of anti-apartheid figures inside and outside the country between 1974 and 1989. Assassinations became a regular feature of South African political life, escalating sharply in the negotiations phase, before ending abruptly in 1993.
Assassinations were also a form of “armed propaganda”. The state had all the means at its disposal to detain, restrict or imprison those who opposed it, yet adopted deliberate terrorist tactics in choosing to assassinate certain activists. The message was clear: those who were deploying these units would stop at nothing to crush dissent, and the degree of collusion in covering the activities of such units by the highest reaches of political, judicial and security structures, as well as the magnitude of the lies broadcast by the propaganda machinery at the disposal of the state, served to project the desired image of an enemy so efficient, amoral and ruthless that it was virtually suicidal to oppose it.
The KwaMakutha Massacre
It is our contention that the KwaMakutha massacre of January 20th, 1987, provides one of the clearest examples of the manner in which all these earlier initiatives of the apartheid state were drawn together via the NSMS to co-ordinate action on the ground in accordance with its strategic interests, and the callous manner in which civilians were slaughtered to achieve such political objectives.
Twelve women and children were killed in this attack by men who had been secretly trained on the Caprivi Strip in line with Operation Marion. The attack was portrayed as the work of “ANC terrorists” by Pretoria`s propaganda machinery in an attempt to derail a crucial meeting between OR Tambo and George Schultz; this meeting was a major breakthrough for the ANC in its continuing efforts to convince the international community to refuse all support for the apartheid regime.
It is not reasonable to believe that the actual perpetrators of this massacre, or even higher command structures within the security forces, could have independently devised a strategic communications operation of this nature. This case provides a vital indicator of how easily the truth could be obscured unless the overall context in which violence took place is kept in firm focus: to only identify the specific agents of the KwaMakutha massacre and other similar atrocities will do nothing to expose the true perpetrators of violence of this nature, who co-ordinated political and military actions in support of the apartheid state through the NSMS, renamed the National Co-ordinating Mechanism under FW de Klerk in 1990.
184.108.40.206 Chemical War: use of poisoning
The apartheid regime did not shrink from the use of poison in its attempts to murder its opponents inside the country and abroad; over the years several anti-apartheid activists have died from poisoning, while others had narrow escapes from this fate. In addition, there is evidence that the former apartheid regime used chemical weapons in attacks in neighbouring states.
Poisoning was a method adopted by the Rhodesian security forces, particularly the Selous Scouts. In his book Serving Secretly Ken Flower described how Selous Scouts members would pose as ZANU guerillas, recruit activists and kit them out with uniforms impregnated with poison similar to that used on anti-apartheid activists some years later. These recruits would then be sent to training camps but would die a slow death in the bush before reaching their destinations. In other cases a river and water reservoir were poisoned, causing hundreds of deaths.
These methods were adopted by the Pretoria regime. In an incident in 1977 popularly known as “Black September”, SAP agents who had infiltrated MK attempted to wipe out some 500 MK cadres undergoing training at Catengue camp in Angola by poisoning their food.
In 1981, student activist Siphiwo Mthimkulu fell seriously ill shortly after his release from five months of detention. He had been well-fed while in detention. Doctors at Groote Schuur hospital discovered he had been poisoned with a rare substance known as thallium, which left him seriously ill and confined to a wheelchair. Mthimkulu sued the Minister of Law and Order, but shortly afterwards disappeared, along with his companion, Topsy Madaka; their car was found near the Lesotho border. Dirk Coetzee has said that he was ordered to kill Mthimkulu; although the order was withdrawn, Coetzee says he was later told by SAP officers that the activist had been abducted and eliminated.
Coetzee has also stated that he was given poison on more than one occasion by former SAP forensics chief Lothar Neethling; in one instance this was to get rid of an MK cadre, Selby Mavusu (“Vusi”) who had been among those captured during the 1981 raid on Matola, and who would not co-operate with his captors. Neethling sued two newspapers which published these allegations; in January 1991 Supreme Court judge Johan Kriegler dismissed his damages claims against these newspapers, and found he had attempted to mislead the court. Lothar Neethling appealed against this judgement and won his case.
In the same year, the Committee of South African War Resisters (COSAWR) reported that information had been received from a disaffected SADF soldier on the use of drugs (particularly scopolamine and morphine) to torture and gain information from detainees at a base in Oshakati, in northern Namibia. It was further alleged that the SA Medical Services had set up medical intelligence units under the guidance of Argentinean personnel who regularly visited the base. It was also reported that the SADF was preparing to use nerve gas or chemical weapons in the region in the near future. In another case involving Namibian activists, Irish national Donald Acheson, suspected of being involved in the murder of Anton Lubowski, testified that he had been told by the CCB to contaminate personal toiletries belonging to Gwen Lister, editor of the anti-apartheid newspaper The Namibian , with a slow-acting poison.
Luke Lukwezi, recruited by the SAP in 1985, was sent to infiltrate the ANC and commit acts of sabotage, pass on information, and poison cadres. He had been given a box of poison by his handlers, and in September 1986 poured most of this powder into soft porridge being prepared for cadres at Cherlston transit camp in Lusaka; about forty people had to be rushed to hospital. Another SAP agent, Fika Gwala, was responsible for poisoning four people, including Richard Khambule in Dakawa, Tanzania; he was arrested by the ANC in 1987.
In 1987, Leslie Lesia was arrested in Zimbabwe after he had been caught in Mozambique by the ANC; he had a small bottle of poison in his possession. He testified in court that he had been given poison by the SADF`s Department of Military Intelligence to use on ANC members and officials. A booby-trapped TV set he had imported into Zimbabwe blew up, killing the wife of an ANC official. In 1988, there was an attempt to distribute poisoned sugar among ANC officials in Mozambique.
The current Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, nearly fell victim to poisoning: Edward James Gordon, known as “Peaches”, testified to the Harms Commission that his CCB handlers had given him a powder with instructions to sprinkle this over Omar`s food to induce a heart attack. “Peaches” was subsequently assassinated.
Church officials were not exempt from such attacks – after an abortive attempt to poison Fr. John Osmers, he was maimed with a parcel bomb. In 1989, the Rev. Frank Chikane narrowly escaped death when he became violently and acutely ill on three occasions while on trips to Namibia and the USA. It was discovered that some of his clothing was impregnated with a poison of the organophosphate group – very similar to that used by the Selous Scouts. In the same year, ANC security department official Jackie Mabusa and a companion both died after drinking poisoned beer in a Lusaka nightclub.
Other ANC members who died of poisoning include Mandla Msibi, who died in 1982 in Swaziland, Samuel Phinda who died in Mozambique, and Themba Ngesi who died of poisoning in Mozambique in September 1986.
Thami Zulu died within a few days of his release from detention by the ANC`s security department. He had been held whilst an investigation was conducted to determine why such an extremely high number of cadres in units falling under his command were being captured or killed. A post-mortem showed that Thami Zulu had ingested Diazinon, an organophosphate pesticide, shortly before his death. Whilst there is no certainty as to whether Thami Zulu was acting on behalf of Pretoria, in two similar cases the suspicion exists that agents of the apartheid regime, probably linked to the Department of Military Intelligence, poisoned Francis Meli in 1992 and former ANC Chief Representative in London, Solly Smith, in 1993. Smith had confessed to being linked to apartheid intelligence services, and it is suspected he was murdered because he had indicated that he was prepared to talk about his activities.
The use of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases” is outlawed by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to which South Africa has been a signatory; and international law prohibits the use of napalm against civilians. In 1968 it was announced that the manufacture of napalm had begun, and this was used extensively in Namibia and Angola. There have also been reports on the use of demobilising gases in Namibia, and an investigation by the UNHCR and the World Health Organisation into the 1978 Kassinga Massacre in Namibia noted that a paralysing gas had been used to immobilise some of the victims before they were murdered.
There is evidence that Renamo was being supplied with poison gases. In 1983, when the Mozambican army captured a Renamo base at Tome, 40mm shells containing a toxic substance were found. As recently as January 16th, 1992, there was a chemical attack on Mozambican government troops which left at least 80 troops dead. Four commando companies were attacking Ngungwe, near Ressano Garcia, at the time one of the largest Renamo strongholds in Southern Mozambique. It is believed that Renamo was seeking to preserve an elite group of around two thousand troops who would remain outside a unified Mozambican defence force. In July of that year a report by British expert Dr JP Thompson produced a report commissioned by the United Nations, which found that the effects of the agent used were entirely consistent with a chemical warfare agent.
It has very recently been discovered that Project B, a top-secret, multi-million rand project run by the former SADF, included chemical and biological weapons projects; these were still being run with public funds as late as 1993. It has been alleged by people close to these programmes that these projects were not only defensive, but were part of the ongoing “dirty tricks” campaign to murder anti-apartheid activists; that research on organophosphates and cancer-inducing agents was carried out, and even President Mandela was considered a target.
It is hoped that the current investigations by the Office for Serious Economic Offences, along with evidence presented to or gathered by the Commission, will shed light on these and other cases of poisoning and chemical warfare, outlawed in international law.
4.8 Apartheid and the destabilisation of Southern African countries in the 1980s
What the apartheid government called “Total Strategy” at home had its counterpart of “destabilisation” in neighbouring countries. In 1989 a Commonwealth report described this as having reached “holocaust” proportions. The report added that at that time the human cost was 1,500,000 dead through military and economic action, most of them children, while a further four million had been displaced from their homes. The economic cost to the six Frontline States was estimated to exceed 45 billion US dollars, not to mention the destruction of agriculture, industry, education and health care in countries like Mozambique and Angola.
Amongst the external destabilisation methods used by the apartheid state were the following:
- Armed action, ranging from sporadic commando raids into several neighbouring countries, to full-scale invasion as occurred in Angola
- Hit squad raids to abduct or assassinate political opponents, usually people connected to the ANC
- The promotion, backing or even creation of surrogate anti-government forces through logistical support, intelligence and training as in Mozambique and Angola
- Political pressures to promote the instalment of governments well disposed towards apartheid South Africa
- Economic pressures to create and maintain dependency on South African transport, harbour, custom and financial systems.
The reverberations of this past are still being felt today, as in the recurrent conflicts in Angola and the results of poverty caused by shattered economic infrastructures in neighbouring states.
The conflict in Mozambique, was portrayed as a “civil war” between the Frelimo government and an indigenous “anti-communist resistance movement” by the apartheid regime. In fact, the conflict was a low intensity covert war waged by Pretoria through a surrogate force, which served as a pilot project for similar operations against other neighbouring states. The experience of utilising surrogate forces in neighbouring countries influenced and informed similar tactics in South Africa such as Operation Marion. The domestic equivalent of calling covert aggression against neighbouring states “civil war” was to describe vigilante assaults on anti-apartheid activists as “black-on-black violence”.
In both cases the role of the apartheid state was concealed; the deployment of force was cheap both in terms of security force casualties and resources; and the level of violence and brutality could be raised at a lower diplomatic and political cost than would have been the case if the regular armed forces of the state had been directly involved.
The Commission for Truth and Reconciliation is the first official inquiry into human rights abuses whose mandate covers events that occurred inside as well as outside the borders of South Africa. It is, therefore, imperative that the research and investigation arms of the TRC document in detail the full extent of South African destabilisation of the sub-continent during the apartheid years.
In addition, the ANC requests that:
- all murders of ANC cadres and leaders in neighbouring countries are listed;
- that those who authorised and carried out these killings are identified;
- that official documents referring to these operations of the apartheid state are made available.
Case study: Mozambique – questions requiring clarification:
We know that the former government supported Renamo`s campaign in Mozambique. Former Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, admitted in parliament on April 24 1985 (see Hansard column 4214) that such support was provided at least until the signing of the Nkomati Accord.
Information that emerged over the years suggested that this support was co-ordinated by the Department of Special Tasks 2 (DST 2) of the Chief-of-Staff-Intelligence of the SADF, through an operation codenamed “Mila”. DST 2 was said to have operated out of the Zanza building in Proes Street, Pretoria and to have been commanded by Colonel Cornelius Johannes van Niekerk. Van Niekerk reported to Colonel Cornelius Jacobus van Tonder. Both men are among the accused in the current trial of Magnus Malan and others. Roland Hunter was jailed for exposing SADF support for Renamo, including the payment of salaries to Renamo members, the supply of weapons and the issuing of operational orders. Given this close involvement, and the many horrific atrocities committed against civilians by Renamo during the war in Mozambique, we need to know: who authorised this support and when; what, if any, were the orders given in relation to the conduct expected from those who took part in the operations
The Gorongosa documents captured at Renamo headquarters in August 1985, the authenticity has never been denied, indicated that the SADF continued to supply weapons and provide support to Renamo even after the signing of the Nkomati Accord.
Among those specifically named in the Gorongosa documents as being involved in these activities after the signing of the Accord, in which the South African government committed itself to refraining from such activities, were Generals Constand Viljoen, Jannie Geldenhuys, P.J. van der Westhuizen, Kat Liebenberg, Colonels van Tonder, van Niekerk and Greyling, and a Major Phillips (who worked with Renamo in Malawi.) Who authorised this continued support for Renamo in violation of the Nkomati Accord? And since the Gorongosa documents belie claims that this support ended in March 1984, when, in fact, did such support for Renamo end?
There have been numerous eyewitness accounts of airdrops, sea-borne landings of arms and equipment, and the use of specialist saboteur teams to support Renamo operations, notably during a push in mid-1987 which resulted in the massacres of many hundreds of civilians at Homoine and Manjacaze in particularly brutal incidents. It is important to establish what role, if any, the SADF played in supporting these particular actions, and on whose orders they acted.
The Matola raid in January 1981 was the first of a series of attacks on residences dubbed “ANC bases”. This raid and others (in Mozambique and elsewhere) were characterised by a “shoot first, and cover up afterwards” approach, in which the aim appears to have been to kill everyone in the vicinity regardless of who they may have been. Since this modus operandi also applied to numerous operations inside South Africa, it is important to know what operational orders were given in these raids, by whom, and what rules of engagement, if any, applied.
It appears that raiders became indifferent as to whether they actually struck an ANC residence or a neighbour`s house, possibly to deliberately heighten tensions between the ANC and the host community. An example of innocent bystanders caught in such raids was the case of the Pateguane family: the parents were murdered in Maputo in 1988 in front of their children (who are now being cared for by Luis Bernado Honwana, the UNESCO representative in Johannesburg) when an SADF commando unit apparently went to the wrong flat. Who was responsible for the murder of the Pateguanes? What operational orders with regard to the avoidance of civilian casualties were in force?
The apartheid state embarked on a concerted drive to murder as many ANC-linked personnel as possible in neighbouring countries as well as in South Africa. We call on the Commission to establish who gave the orders for this assassination campaign, the circumstances of each individual case, how targets were selected, and who was in operational command of such attacks.
The cause of the plane crash in which President Samora Machel and members of his entourage were killed in October 1986 has still not been determined to everyone`s satisfaction. Allegations were made at the time that the plane had been diverted off course by a “false beam” device in South Africa. This matter was not resolved by the tri-partite official inquiry. The Mozambican government demanded that the investigating team continue its investigation to establish the source of the signal to which the plane responded, diverting it from its course, but this was refused by the South African authorities at the time. It is in the interests of the people of South Africa and Mozambique that the facts of this incident are established.
We have selected Mozambique as a case study but the same pattern of destabilisation, though taking different forms and in various degrees of intensity, occurred in other neighbouring states: Swaziland, Lesotho, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.
What role was played in these campaigns by other government departments not directly tasked with armed actions?
In an SABC television interview former Minister of Foreign Affairs Pik Botha responded to questions about a raid in Swaziland in December 1986, in which a 13-year-old Swazi child was killed, as follows:
- Did you know beforehand that the raid would take place?
- And you approved it?
- Yes, I accept full responsibility together with my colleagues.
- Do you now regret that it happened?
- I do not regret it. If the decision were to be made again, I would make the same decision, together with my colleagues
The above questions clearly only deal with a fragment of the overall history of the apartheid regime`s external destabilisation strategy. These are the kinds of questions we hope the TRC will ask, and answer, about the full range of cross-border destabilisation activities conducted between the early 1960s and 1993.
4.9 Covert action and state sanctioned gross violations of human rights in the negotiations era of the 1990s
State terrorism and covert operations did not end with the historic unbanning of the ANC and other organisations in 1990. Nor did they end once the formal commencement of negotiations for a new constitution had begun. While the ANC formally suspended armed actions in July 1990, the state covertly pursued a campaign of violence of unprecedented proportions which exploded on the Reef in August 1990. All the hallmarks of “total strategy”, were in eveidence combined with deliberate destabilisation, or Low-Intensity Warfare tactics, including intense propaganda campaigns – the same set of ideas or principles to be employed in efforts to defeat left-wing insurgents and national liberation movements in various parts of the world, and which the regime itself had used particularly in Mozambique. The violence against civilians in the post-1990 phase – during the so-called “peaceful transition” to democracy – was infinitely worse than anything experienced during the height of repression in the Emergency years of the mid-1980s.
A top secret document concerning plans to change the accounting procedures governing “sensitive defence activities” funded through the Special Defence Account, dated 13/03/90, was sent in March 1990 by the Chief of the Defence Force, General Jannie Geldenhuys, to the Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan; the document was co-signed by the Minister of Finance Barend du Plessis. It is stated in this memo that FW de Klerk was “briefed on a broad spectrum of sensitive projects” and had given his approval “in principle” on “the running of stratkom projects”; he had proposed establishing a central controlling body for such operations. This document also states that “covert stratkom projects are controlled and managed by the Secretary of the SSC. This includes the separation and allocation of areas to Departments. The Secretary of the SSC receives decisions and orders in this regard from the State President and passes them on to the departments concerned.” Project Marion was one of over forty covert projects being funded at this time from the Special Defence Account.
According to the Department of Defence, Project Kampong was managed by Military Intelligence until 01/04/1991, when it was taken over by the SA Army. These specific projects were only terminated at the end of October 1992; in the 1991/2 book year alone, over R21,5-million was covertly spent on these projects, aimed at countering the ANC. By this time it is believed that AEC had spent over R150-million and that various regional fronts would continue to be funded at an additional cost of R20-million until 1994. There is little doubt that other covert operations besides these also continued .
The violence was a calculated campaign with the objective of creating conditions which would assist the regime in weakening the hand of the liberation movement at the negotiations table, thereby manipulating the constitutional negotiations process to its advantage on various levels – in other words, an attempt to “manage” the transition to the advantage of the state. This so-called “senseless” violence against black civilians, often with no obvious political connections at all, exhibited certain operational features previously unknown in the country (particularly Renamo style violence on trains, drive-by shootings and massed attacks on township residents from hostels which had been deliberately converted into informal military barracks). This terror campaign against black civilians was ascribed to “political intolerance”, in much the same way that covertly directed violence was deliberately portrayed as “black-on-black” violence in the 1980s.
Operations included a variety of actions aimed at influencing the perceptions of the ANC leadership, keeping the leadership under maximum pressure by extending ANC resources to breaking point, preventing mass action, and creating covers for assassinations. Other operations had the objective of dividing, weakening and destroying the organisational capacity and the image of the ANC and its Alliance partners on all possible levels through the destabilisation of their support base, propaganda portraying the ANC as being the main instigator of violence, the assassination of key leaders, and so on.
Former SAP operative Paul Erasmus has stated that his unit was told during their 1990 stratkom training that a key objective was to reduce the ANC to “just another political party” by 1994. Apart from a range of other actions designed to achieve this objective, using violence to project Inkatha as formidable political player, on a par with the ANC,was a critically important aspect of this campaign. Inkatha supporters were cynically used as the cutting edge of the NP`s constitutional agenda, which was aimed not only at destabilising and weakening the ANC, but also at maintaining control of the negotiations process and producing a settlement that would have a semblance of change, but would leave the essence of the apartheid system intact.
These campaigns resulted in unprecedented bloodshed and misery, far worse than anything experienced at the height of state-sponsored violence in the Emergency years. As the ANC pointed out after the Boipatong Massacre, in the few short years in which De Klerk had been in power, more civilians had been murdered than in all the previous decades of apartheid rule.
Between July 1990 and the end of 1993, over 12,000 civilians were killed and at least 20,000 were injured in thousands of incidents, including scores of major massacres. Many were women and children – for example, between July 1992 and June 1993, 253 women and 58 children were killed, and 315 women and 211 children were injured; in the case of the Boipatong massacre, no fewer than 25 of the 46 dead were women and children, described by the Human Rights Commission in 1993 as “a clear example of deliberate intent.” The Human Rights Commission also recorded the accelerating pace of assassinations of anti-apartheid figures: 28 in 1990, to 60 in 1991, and 97 in 1992.
To date there have been partial yet telling revelations of the nature and extent of covert operations in the post 1990-phase. To give just a few key examples drawn from many cases, there was the “Inkathagate” expose in 1991, which brought to light the ongoing covert funding of Inkatha by the De Klerk regime, with one of the key objectives being to prevent the Inkatha leadership “throwing in their lot” with the ANC.
In 1991, disaffected Military Intelligence communications expert Nico Basson alleged he had been part of a wide-ranging covert operation aimed at preventing SWAPO achieving the two-thirds majority necessary to draft the Namibian constitution alone; in addition, Basson claimed, Operation Agree included components designed to covertly manipulate the outcomes of the transitions to democracy in Angola and South Africa. Subsequent events appear to support these allegations, which should be the subject of intensive investigation by the Commission.
The Orde Boerevolk provides another key example. After their escape to the UK, “hunger strikers” Henry Martin and Adriaan Maritz revealed that far from being radical white right-wingers, they were in fact working as agents of the Department of Military Intelligence with the specific brief of destabilising black communities in general and the ANC in particular: they had been responsible for the murder of Nick Cruise, an ANC-aligned computer technician, and the explosion of a bomb at a taxi rank in which many civilians had been injured. It is a matter of public record that one of the guns stolen by Orde Boerevolk leader “Pit Skiet” Rudolph in 1990 was used to murder Chris Hani. There have been press reports indicating that there are grounds for suspicion that Janus Waluz, convicted of this murder, was in some way linked to this network.
We call on the Commission to reopen investigations into the murder of Chris Hani, in the light of information which was not available at the time of the assassination, and which could come to light in the course of the hearings of the Commission or through applications for amnesty.
Agents posing as right-wingers connected to the Orde Boerevolk continued operations until the 1994 elections, the strategy being to absolve their handlers from certain heinous actions during a period in which the regime had committed itself to negotiations, and to exaggerate perceptions of the threat from the white and black extreme right in order to extract constitutional concessions from the ANC.
The November 1992 raid by the Goldstone Commission on Pan Afrik Industrial Investment Consultants (PAIIC), a front run by the Directorate: Covert Collection, succeeded in providing partial glimpses of other operations, such as those aimed at subverting Self-Defence Units, possibly falling under a more extensive operation code-named Project Echoes. Several senior DMI officers were suspended in the wake of this raid, and subsequent court action by one of them, Jan Anton Nieuwoudt, indicated that the Directorate: Covert Collection, and PAIIC, may have been involved in a range of covert actions considered crucial to the strategy of the De Klerk regime during the negotiations phase. It may also have taken over many functions of the CCB, including operations beyond the borders of South Africa. We call on the Commission to ensure that the nature and full extent of operations conducted behind the cover of this front are brought to light.
The final Goldstone Commission report referred to a “horrible network of criminal activity” involving SAP officials and elements within Inkatha and the KZP, and led to the suspension of top SAP officials. The trial of Eugene de Kock is beginning to shed more light on operations of this nature, which included the deliberate flooding of the country with arms, a grossly irresponsible tactic which has had a severe impact on the crime and security situation in the country to this day.
The ANC feels it is not reasonable to believe that extensive operations of this nature – which were all in line with the overall strategic objectives of the De Klerk administration – could take place without the knowledge of key officials at the highest level of the security and intelligence services, as well as the civilian administration, including those officials tasked with steering the negotiations process.
4.9.1 The vehicle: The National Co-ordinating Mechanism (NCM)
In 1990 the name of the NSMS was changed to the National Co-ordinating Mechanism (NCM). There have been attempts to propagate the idea that De Klerk abolished the NSMS; that it was stripped of its security and intelligence components, and became no more than an essential and benign co-ordinating structure. This is untrue, as even a cursory reading of the official Handleiding: Nasionale Koordineringsmeganisme (Manual: National Co-ordinating Mechanism) shows. In essence, the NCM remained the old NSMS. The security committees (veikoms) chaired by SAP or SADF officers from local to national level remained in place: as the official manual notes, “the principle of the application of the full powers of the state in order to resist the revolutionary onslaught is still valid” (p. 22). The NCM remained the vehicle for co-ordinating state action on political and other fronts, and structures tasked with strategic communications work remained in place at the highest levels of the NCM.
One of the most important structures within the “new” NCM was the Security Secretariat. According to the official Handbook, this structure replaced the former Secretariat of the State Security Council, and was “structurally integrated into the NIS”. It had three branches: Administrative Support, Strategy, and Strategic Communication. Among the functions listed for this Secretariat is “the co-ordination of strategic communication”, and “strategic documentation: remark: the functional responsibility for the strategic and stratkom functions remain with the line functionaries.” The Security Secretariat was represented on both the Joint Security Staff and the Security Committee, on which more detail appears below; and it also liaised with the State Security Council and the Cabinet Committee for Security Affairs.
A new structure called the Security Committee (national level) was established to replace the National Joint Management Centre (NJMC) and other committees, and was responsible for the “co-ordination of all security matters at national level, as well as reporting to the State Security Council (SSC) and the Cabinet Committee for Security Affairs.” In 1990 the Security Committee had nine members: Neil Barnard (Director-General of NIS) as chair, an unspecified representative of the SADF (probably the Chief of the SADF), the Commissioner of Police, the Directors-General of the Departments of Constitutional Development, Justice, Foreign Affairs, the Director-General of the Office of the State President, a secretary from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and the chief of the Security Secretariat.
One of the task groups retained from the NSMS was the Joint Security Staff (JSS), described as the “operational executive co-ordinator of the Security community”. The JSS was responsible for “the co-ordination of the planning, execution and monitoring of all joint security actions on national level, and ensuring that this takes place on regional and local levels”; among other duties with which the JSS was tasked was “the handling of Administration Total War (the State War Book.)” According to the NCM Handbook, this key structure was responsible only to the Security Committee, and also liaised with the Security Secretariat, other “interdepartmental security task groups”, and with the Joint and Local Co-ordinating Centres (the re-named Sub, and Mini-JMC`s) lower down the NCM hierarchy. In 1990 the JSS was chaired alternatively by the chief of the SAP Operations branch and the SADF`s Chief-of-Staff: Operations, and by April 1992 the Chief of the highly controversial, semi-autonomous Internal Stability Division (the re-named Riot Squad) took over as chair.
The official NCM handbook gives considerable detail for the procedure governing these “full meetings”, which highlights the leading role played by the Security Secretariat, which was “structurally integrated into the NIS”:
“The meeting is opened by a security briefing by the Security Secretariat and is (where necessary) supplemented by the other members; the need for joint actions are identified and the relevant functionary is tasked with the implementation; reporting on the functioning of the system (the NCM) on regional and local levels is done by the Executive; possible reports and/or recommendations to the Security Committee are considered.”
By the end of April 1992, as the government and the ANC were gearing up for the next round of negotiations in Codesa II, the so-called Third Force had spread a trail of blood and terror through many Reef townships. On April 23rd, 1992, a milestone judgement was delivered in the Trust Feeds massacre trial: SAP Captain Brian Mitchell, who had been the head of the local JMC at the time of the 1988 massacre of eleven people, was convicted of murder along with four “kitskonstabels.” On the same day, De Klerk stated in Parliament that the NIS, SAP and SADF had “terminated all special secret projects and were confining themselves only to the line function tasks entrusted to them by law”; he added that control was exercised over all secret projects by a Cabinet Committee, chaired by Barend Du Plessis, which “exercises control over the content of every special secret project, and overall control over covert expenditure in general.” Barend du Plessis resigned two days later as Minister of Finance, Transvaal leader of the NP, and as MP for Florida.
In the wake of former SAP official Paul Erasmus`s later revelations regarding the running of covert stratkom projects during the negotiations phase, the NP has admitted that Gerrit Viljoen and Kobie Coetsee were also members of this committee. This Committee cannot escape responsibility for their role in (at least) giving policy guidelines for special stratkom projects – their “control over the content” of such projects, to use De Klerk`s words.
In what was titled a Study Brief, dated 23rd April 1992, which was sent to Military Intelligence structures (and presumably to other arms of the security and intelligence services), recipients were informed that the Cabinet had decided (as of November 1991) to transfer responsibility for the management and administration of the National Co-ordinating Mechanism from the Cabinet Secretariat (formerly called the Welfare Secretariat) to the Department of Regional and Land Affairs, to which the Deputy Minister of Law and Order, Johan Scheepers, had been shifted. The provincial administrations, under the guidance of a structure called the NCM Secretariat which had been created by this time, were to take over the running of the 10 Joint Co-ordinating Centres. There were changes in other key structures, particularly the Joint Security Staff. The chair had been the SAP head of the Operational Branch, and was now replaced by Lt-General Johan Swart, the Chief of the Internal Stability Division (the Riot Squad was renamed the ISD at this time, in April 1992). Other permanent members of this key Task Group were the Chief of the Army (who acted as Deputy Chair), two representatives of the SAP`s Unrest Control and Prevention unit, a representative from the CIS (the re-named Security Branch), and other officials, including a representative of the “Chief Directorate Welfare Administration (NCM Secretariat.)”
What this information highlights is the need to examine closely the complex manner in which the former De Klerk administration attempted to manage change, and the role played by a range of state structures, not only the security forces.
Certain elements within the National Party government realised that their destabilisation campaign was becoming counter-productive, or feared that the real risk of the truth being exposed would carry unacceptably high political costs. However, powerful elements within senior government structures believed it should continue. What one observer described as “the mother of all covert operations” continued until South Africa`s first democratic government, elected in April 1994, began to assert its authority. Despite this, the “total onslaught” dirty tricks campaigns launched by the apartheid state during the 1980s and 1990s continue to impact directly on the day-to-day situation in South Africa, particularly in the province of KwaZulu/Natal.
To cite just two further examples of this nature, Dr Johan van der Westhuizen, who set up Adult Education Consultants with Louis Pasques, re-emerged in January 1994 as one of the founders of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). Louis Pasques himself received lucrative contracts from the De Klerk government`s Nutritional Development Programme, and by 1992 he had set up new consultancies, one of which purported to offer communication skills and training in “nation building” to governments in neighbouring states.
These concerns are more than a matter of passing interest but have direct relevance to the security of the democratic order today. Many of the operatives in such covert structures as AEC, the CCB, Vlakplaas and others were not only given golden handshakes, but “disappeared” with the infrastructure responsible for the violence in the post-1990 period.
The Goldstone Commission was told that AEC`s Creed Consultants was “privatising” its operations. It is strongly suspected that some of them are still in operation in KwaZulu/Natal; others are part of the criminal network; yet others are involved in taxi violence. Part of this network, which included journalists and “agents of influence” in a range of organisations and institutions, is most certainly still in operation; some of them continue to serve the interests of their previous masters, and it cannot be ruled out that others may be activated at some time in the future.
There are a few key political officials, operatives and commanders who know exactly how these networks functioned, and who can provide information on how extensive it was, on what has happened to it; and what capacity it still has for destabilisation. We urge the Commission to invite these individuals to give evidence on this grave matter. But above all, FW de Klerk has the responsibility to inform the nation about the activities of the covert repressive machinery that he headed when he took over from PW Botha.
The process of reconciliation requires answers about the activities not only of the State Security Council, but also all key structures falling immediately under it in the NSMS and NCM hierarchies.
We call on the Truth Commission to examine the minutes and other relevant records of all these structures from the time of their inception.
In the pre-1990 phase, key structures included the Working Group of the SSC, the Secretariat of the SSC with its Strategic Communications and other sub-committees, the Inter-Departmental Committees, the sectors in every government department tasked with stratkom work, the National Joint Management Centre, and the Joint Management Centres.
In the post-1990 NCM, key structures resorting under the SSC included the Cabinet Committee for Security Affairs, the Security Committee (national level), the Security Secretariat (and each of its sub-committees tasked with Strategy, Administration and Strategic Communications), the Joint Security Staff, and all sectors within the security and intelligence services, as well as civilian government departments, which were specifically tasked with covert operations and stratkom work.
We call on the Commission to determine who was responsible for developing guidelines which were implemented by these structures, and all other units tasked with operations geared towards manipulating the negotiations process in the favour of the NP. The Constitutional Development Service formed an important node of power in this regard, and was headed by former senior NIS officials. What role was played by the pre-eminent secret NP think-tank on strategic issues, the Afrikaner Broederbond?
5. The ANC: Stages of Struggle and Policy Foundations, 1960-1994
5.1 New forms of struggle after Sharpeville and the banning of democratic opposition (1960-69)
The African National Congress announced its adoption of armed struggle on December 16 1961. It is relevant to quote from the flyer distributed on that day, issued by Umkhonto we Sizwe, announcing that sabotage attacks had been carried out:
“Umkhonto we Sizwe will carry on the struggle for freedom and democracy by new methods, which are necessary to complement the actions of the established national liberation organisations. Umkhonto we Sizwe fully supports the national liberation movement, and our members, jointly and individually, place themselves under the overall political guidance of that movement.
It is, however, well known that the main national liberation organisations in this country have consistently followed a policy of non-violence. They have conducted themselves peaceably at all times…But the people`s patience is not endless.
The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom.
The government has interpreted the peacefulness of the movement as weakness; the people`s non-violent policies have been taken as a green light for government violence. Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation to use armed force against the people without any fear of reprisals. The methods of Umkhonto we Sizwe mark a break with that past…”
The manifesto explained that armed activity was necessary because of the ways in which legislation during the 1950s and especially since March 1960 had curtailed the legal space for non-violent, extra-parliamentary political protest. The manifesto held that within the previous eighteen months “virtual martial law” had been imposed: the reference was to the State of Emergency of March-August 1960 and the massive show of force in May 1961 against ANC efforts to organise a general strike. It asserted moral legitimacy for the resort to violence on the grounds of necessary defence: “The choice is not ours; it has been made by the Nationalist government.”
Significantly, the ANC was not the only organisation to conclude that the only choices were to submit or fight. Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was preceded by a Committee for National Liberation, subsequently calling itself the African Resistance Movement, which included members of the Liberal Party as well as individuals from splinter socialist groupings. The PAC launched Poqo. There were also attempts to set up armed units by elements which had broken away from the Unity Movement.
The Umkhonto we Sizwe manifesto, characterised by one scholar as “one of the most eloquent assertions of revolutionary morality in the period after the Second World War”, was firmly grounded in the historical realities of the day. The National Party government had drastically narrowed the arena of legal political activity available to the ANC; and then closed it by banning the organisation in April 1960. The use of police and army troops in May 1961 to defeat the planned national stay-away further emphasised that the politics of the 1950s – characterised by campaigns of non-violent mass mobilisation – would no longer be tolerated by the state. The impatience and mounting anger of many rank-and-file members of the ANC, particularly among the youth, exerted further pressure on the ANC leadership to turn to armed activity.
This statement by President OR Tambo, which makes it clear that the ANC was not only reacting to the closure of peaceful forms of demonstration but was also concerned to prevent undirected forms of mass violence, is relevant:
“Umkhonto we Sizwe was founded…in order to give coherence to the spontaneous revolutionary violence our people were beginning to assert in response to the repressive violence of the apartheid state. During the late 1950s, there had already been a number of armed uprisings in various parts of the country as the oppressed fought back to claim their rights, which were being ruthlessly suppressed by the Verwoerd regime. In the Northern Transvaal the peasants had risen against the imposition of the Bantustan system. In the Western Transvaal the rising of the peasants had been suppressed with great violence. (…) In the Transkei the imposition of the bantustan system had provoked the most sustained peasant uprising in six decades, and in many portions of that region the rule of the puppet chiefs and the regime had been superseded by popularly elected peasants committees. The struggle in the urban areas had also reached a high-water mark The massacres at Sharpeville and Langa in 1960, the slaughter of a peasant demonstration at Ngquza Hill in Pondoland in 1960…”
A statement issued by the NEC in 1963 explicitly referred to methods of struggle at that time, and warned of the dangers of believing that freedom could be achieved by “plunging the country into riots and terrorist acts”:
“Some (spontaneous actions of the people) result from Government provocation, the people`s patience becomes exhausted, and the masses become desperate in the absence of a strong militant organisation. In these circumstances people are likely to resort more and more to senseless and dangerous forms of action. If we embark on unplanned and misguided political actions, we are playing into the hands of the enemy.”
When MK was launched, its activities took the form of sabotage attacks on government installations, police stations, electric pylons and similar targets. At the same time, a different form of armed struggle was envisaged: rural-based guerrilla war. This was spelled out in Operation Mayibuye, a draft under discussion in the National High Command of MK. It envisaged guerrilla struggle being “sparked off” by military operations carried out by small groups of combatants, professionally trained outside South Africa. It was envisaged that such operations would serve to recruit thousands of internal auxiliaries. Attacks on strategic state targets would be complemented by urban sabotage and political agitation.
From the very beginning, Umkhonto we Sizwe emphasised that armed actions took place within a broader political context. Not only did this apply to the need for cadres to fully understand the basic policy positions of the ANC – the first port of call in all military training – but they were also taught to ensure that the moral high ground occupied by the liberation movement due to the justness of the cause must be maintained in the actual theatre of battle, in the choice of targets, attitude to civilians, and treatment of captives.
However, during all stages of the armed struggle, the ANC had to constantly contend with the tension between two tendencies: a strict adherence to these policies, and taking the easiest route of terrorist attacks against white civilians. It also had to assess the extent of public anger and the spontaneous actions by groups not falling under its discipline, and ensure that the anger of the people was channelled in such a way that it served the long-term political objective of attaining a democratic and non-racial society. Within its own ranks, debate on these issues would rage unceasingly, especially following the many brutal actions by the regime against unarmed civilians. The temptation to resort to indiscriminate attacks was always there: but at all times, the principled approach of the movement would prevail.
The arrests at Rivonia, and subsequent trials, ended the first phase of MK activity – the sabotage campaign between December 1961 and mid-1963. By mid-1965, not only MK but also the ANC had effectively been destroyed within South Africa. It was to be another eight years before there was significant reconstruction of an ANC underground, and eleven years before the resumption of armed activity inside South Africa. Immediately following this period, the major involvement of MK in armed activity took the form of a joint operation with ZAPU forces in then Rhodesia. The Wankie and Sipolilo Campaigns (1967-8) failed in their major objectives – to open a trail back into the country – but provided important lessons to the movement.
They also led to the new programme, Strategy and Tactics of the ANC, adopted at the Morogoro conference of 1969. This document, accepted the need for a protracted armed struggle before the “conquest of power” in South Africa by the ANC. Crucially, it asserted that successful development of armed struggle depended upon political mobilisation, an important precursor to theories of “people`s war” developed during the early 1980s within the ANC.
In the 1980s the overall approach of the ANC was summed up in what was called the “Four Pillars” of struggle: mass mobilisation, armed operations, underground organisation and international solidarity work.
The circumstances which led to the ANC`s decision to launch Umkhonto we Sizwe have been sketched broadly above.
With more specific reference to the ANC`s approach to the role of armed actions in the struggle for democracy, and which targets it considered legitimate, two continuous threads in all ANC policies and public statements on this issue have been that armed struggle is only one of a range of inter-related methods of struggle, with the political leadership at all times directing armed struggle; secondly, armed struggle would be waged in order to bring peace to the country: the apartheid regime had to be stopped, as quickly and effectively as possible, as it was bent on a path which would only result in racial war.
The MK Manifesto states:
“We of Umkhonto we Sizwe have always sought – as the liberation movement has sought – to achieve liberation without bloodshed and civil clash. We do so still. We hope – even at this late hour – that our first actions will awaken everyone to the disastrous situation to which the Nationalist policy is leading. We hope that we will bring the Government and its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both Government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate stage of civil war. We believe our actions to be a blow against the nationalist preparations for civil war and military rule.”
The same point was made by Nelson Mandela, first Commander-in-Chief of MK, during his trial in 1962:
“Government violence can do only one thing and that is to breed counter-violence. We have warned repeatedly that the Government, by resorting continually to violence will breed in this country counter-violence among the people, till ultimately, if there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the Government, ultimately the dispute between the Government and my people will finish up being settled by violence and force.”
As outlined above, preparations were made for the possible adoption of guerrilla warfare should the sabotage campaign fail in its objective, which was to get the government of the day to agree to negotiations in a National Convention. As Nelson Mandela put it in his 1964 statement from the dock, the leadership at that time believed four forms of violence were possible: “there is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution.” Sabotage was the first choice of MK as it did not involve loss of life, and would cause the least bitterness and division to develop among people. However, the leadership of Umkhonto assessed white response to their sabotage campaign with anxiety: “The whites and blacks were moving into separate camps, and the prospects of avoiding a civil war were made less.”
The draft document, Operation Mayibuye, made explicit reference to targets considered legitimate in Part V, titled “Detailed Plan of Implementation”. It was envisaged that various departments be set up with detailed terms of reference to submit plans to launch guerrilla warfare. The terms of reference for the Intelligence Department include the following sub-section:
“(e) Selection of targets to be tackled in initial phase of guerrilla operations with a view to causing maximum damage to the enemy as well as preventing quick deployment of reinforcements. In its study the Committee should bear in mind the following main targets:
- Strategic road, railways and other communications.
- power stations
- police stations, camps and military forces
- irredeemable Government stooges.”
As will be shown in the rest of this submission, this basic approach did not change over the years, even under extreme provocation.
5.2 A Changing Scenario and New Challenges (1969-79)
The Strategy and Tactics document adopted at the 1969 Morogoro Conference was the first comprehensive strategic guideline for the ANC in the period of armed struggle. A decision was made to shift the ANC`s approach from sending armed groups of cadres into the country to “spark off” guerrilla warfare, and instead emphasised that a period of political reconstruction of the ANC inside the country was necessary, as this would provide the only secure base for successful military organisation. It was necessary to first extend and consolidate an ANC underground machinery and to generally mobilise the people, especially the black working population, into active mass struggle around both local and national issues. Military struggle was seen as forming only part of, and being guided by, a broader political strategy to ensure that the battle against apartheid was fought on all possible fronts, involving not just an army but all those oppressed by apartheid:
“When we talk of revolutionary armed struggle, we are talking of political struggle by means which include the use of military force (…) It is important to emphasise this because our movement must reject all manifestations of militarism which separates armed people`s struggle from its political context. Reference has already been made to the danger of the thesis which regards the creation of military areas as the generator of mass resistance.”
On the question of the relationship between the political and the military, it was noted that from the very beginning: “our Movement has brooked no ambiguity concerning this. The primacy of the political leadership is unchallenged and supreme and all revolutionary formation and levels (whether armed or not) are subordinate to this leadership.”
(Strategy and Tactics, 1969.)
The perspective guiding the ANC at this time was that of classic guerrilla warfare, concentrated mainly in the rural areas, as this was where the enemy`s military structures were weakest; targets would include military bases, command posts and personnel.
Decisions taken at the Morogoro Conference resulted in changes to political and military structures. A new Revolutionary Council was formed. Over the next few years, the ANC began to implement some of the Morogoro recommendations. Procedures were set up to facilitate liaison between leadership and the rank and file, and the arduous task of infiltrating cadres back into the country and setting up a rudimentary underground organisation began.
Such re-entry was painfully difficult in the first half of the 1970s. The key problem was the absence of internal support structures for cadres attempting to infiltrate the country, there were no reception facilities for guerrillas, or reliable underground structures, whereas the state could call on a vast army of security personnel, government officials and informers.
By the middle of the decade, several factors tilted the advantage towards the ANC. Firstly, a new combativeness established itself amongst the people with the rise of Black Consciousness and the new independent trade unions. Secondly, the accession to power of MPLA in Angola and Frelimo in Mozambique shifted the regional balance of power. Thirdly, senior ANC organisers who had completed prison sentences began to rebuild ANC units in major urban centres. Fourthly, the centre of gravity of the exiled movement shifted to countries bordering on South Africa.
Again, in this period, when the movement was facing many difficulties in rooting its underground within the country, resisting the temptation to spread such structures and armed actions in an opportunistic fashion was a difficult challenge. One instance of this was when contact was made with members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), when a delegation of BCM leaders met with the ANC in the mid-1970s. They had come to appreciate the futility of student protest on its own as a means to liberate the country, and were seeking assistance to undertake armed actions.
Their submission was that they needed military training, and should then be allowed to operate independently within the country, with their own command structures. Given the difficulties the ANC experienced at this time, this was like a godsend. But the movement asserted its political position: that the politics of non-racialism and national liberation should guide whatever armed actions were undertaken, and that the politics of the ANC should guide whoever carried out operations on the basis of its training and supplies.
It was as a result of this interaction, over a long period, that the senior corps of BCM leadership started to co-ordinate their work with the ANC, and some of them became fully-fledged members of the underground. The brutality against Steve Biko in detention, leading to his murder in 1977, can partly be explained by the fact that he had made moves towards contact with the ANC, and was on the verge of a historic meeting with OR Tambo. Carl Edwards and Craig Williamson knew of the link between the ANC and Biko, and they are most likely to be responsible for his betrayal. But the murderers themselves should know better, and they should shed light on this matter before this Commission.
When Soweto erupted in 1976, thousands of young militants left the country and gravitated towards the ANC. Not only did the External Mission of the ANC double and redouble its membership; it also received one of the most precious assets that any exile force can receive – fresh links with organisations and individuals within the country.
During the years from 1976-1979 there was a marked escalation in armed actions: railway lines were sabotaged in many parts of the country, police stations in Soweto, Germiston and Daveyton were attacked, and Bantu Administration offices in Port Elizabeth were bombed. A number of notorious security police were executed, and for the first time battles between MK units and the police took place: the battle was slowly but surely being taken to the enemy. About 37 armed actions took place between the 1976 youth uprising and the end of 1978.
At that point – December 1978 – the ANC`s National Executive Committee and Revolutionary Council held an important meeting in Luanda. Far-reaching strategic decisions stemming from this meeting shaped the nature of the armed struggle over the next decade, and paved the way for the ANC`s resurgence within the country as the undisputed leader of the liberation forces.
5.3 Towards People`s War and People`s Power, 1979-90
The strategic emphasis which shaped struggle from 1979 onwards was the necessity for an organised underground political presence to complement armed activities. It was considered essential that ANC operatives should link up different forms of popular members from the generation of activists in youth and student bodies, in the trade unions, in township civics whose protest campaigns were redefining anti-apartheid politics. The “armed propaganda” of MK attacks would serve as a secondary means to deepen mass mobilisation.
The watershed 1978 Politico-Military Strategy Commission report under OR Tambo (also known as The Green Book/Theses on our Strategic Line), again stressed the primacy of political mobilisation:
“The armed struggle must be based on, and grow out of, mass political support and it must eventually involve all our people. All military activities must at every stage be guided by and determined by the need to generate political mobilisation, organisation and resistance, with the aim of progressively weakening the enemy`s grip on the reins of political, economic, social and military power, by a combination of political and military action.”
On the role of armed activity at that stage, the report stated that this served “to keep the perspective of people`s revolutionary violence as the ultimate weapon for the seizure of power”, and “to concentrate on armed propaganda actions whose immediate purpose is to support and stimulate political activity and organisation rather than to hit at the enemy”.
In line with this approach, the Revolutionary Council, formed in 1969 and chaired by OR Tambo, was restructured to consolidate not only the supremacy of political leadership but also to ensure that the task of mass mobilisation and underground organisation received the necessary emphasis. The senior organs formed in neighbouring countries consisted of senior leaders and specialists in the building of the political underground and mass mobilisation, as well as commanders of armed units. Within the country this translated into an effort to form Area Political Committees which would take ultimate responsibility for both political and military work in their areas of operation. Later, these were transformed into Area and Regional Politico-Military Committees.
A Special Operations group reporting directly to the President was formed with the mandate of undertaking high profile attacks on targets such as the Sasolburg oil refinery, Koeberg, and Voortrekkerhoogte – armed propaganda which would hit the South African economy hard and capture the imagination of the people.
In 1983 the Revolutionary Council was disbanded and the Politico-Military Council created, with a Military HQ and Political HQ falling under it. The detail of these structures is outlined in later sections; but their evolution again underlines the constant commitment on the part of the ANC to ensure that the armed struggle formed an integral part of the overall strategy of the movement, as defined in the “Four Pillars”.
At the same time operations by other MK units mounted steadily; one study estimated that 150 cases of armed action took place between 1976 and 1982, overwhelmingly concentrated on economic targets, the administrative machinery of apartheid, as well as police and SADF installations and personnel.
In contrast to this highly disciplined and restrained approach to the use of violence, the South African regime committed countless atrocities against civilians not only within the borders of South Africa, but also through their support for the terrorism of UNITA and Renamo. Cross-border raids were launched against what were portrayed as “ANC targets” in neighbouring states – such as the attack on Matola in 1981, the Maseru massacre of 1982, the raids on Gaberone in 1985, Lusaka in 1987 and attacks in Harare and Bulawayo, to quote a few examples. Many of those civilians killed in these operations were nationals of the host countries. No distinction whatsoever was made between “hard” and “soft” targets. Anger against the perpetrators of these atrocities mounted.
Again, the words of Oliver Tambo on the avoidance of civilian casualties in the conduct of armed struggle, come into focus:
“In 1980 we signed the Geneva protocols and said that if we captured any enemy soldiers we would treat them as prisoners of war. The fact is we are not against civilians. We do not include them in our definition of the enemy. The ANC was non-violent for a whole decade in the face of violence against African civilians. What do we mean by civilians? It really means white civilians. No one refers to Africans as civilians and they have been victims of shootings all the time. Even children. They have been killed in the hundreds. Yet the word has not been used in all these years. Now it is being used, especially after the Pretoria (SAAF HQ) bomb. But implicit in the practice of the South African regime is that when you shoot an African you are not killing a civilian. We don`t want to kill civilians. But some will be hit, quite accidentally and regrettably”.
In mid-1983 MHQ produced a discussion document, Planning for People`s War, which posed the question as to whether the time was ripe to move away from the 1979 approach towards people`s war, defined as a “war in which a liberation army becomes rooted among the people who progressively participate actively in the armed struggle both politically and militarily, including the possibility of engaging in partial or general uprising”. Among the conclusions were that the ANC should continue carrying out and even escalating those actions which had played an important role in stimulating political activity, mass resistance and mass organisation, but that “there should be more concentration on destroying enemy personnel”. The concept of potential future guerrilla zones inside the country was raised.
This document noted that the policy of arming the people:
“cannot mean that we begin now to distribute arms to whosoever wishes to receive them among the oppressed. In the first place, we have neither the capacity nor the means to do this on any meaningful scale. In the second place it would be completely wrong to engage in a policy of merely distributing weaponry to people, trusting to luck that they will use them on the side of the revolution.”
What does this discussion document signify? In the first instance, it reflects the continual debates that were taking place within the ranks of the liberation movement on how to respond to new situations as they emerged. Secondly, these debates essentially revolved around the tension between the restraint of the ANC in the face of the enemy`s brutality – whether we should adopt the easy route, and ease control over the usage of weapons. Thirdly, at each stage of struggle, people on the ground would respond with anger to repression, and start to take initiatives themselves which were not strictly in accordance with the strategy and tactics of the ANC.
In this context, in addition to the imperative of intensifying the struggle, the constant challenge facing the ANC was how to channel anger on the ground to ensure that the strategic perspective of a democratic and non-racial society would not be sacrificed on the altar of quick-fix, dramatic and misguided actions. The tension between such intensification of struggle, and the need to avoid a racial war that the MK Manifesto eloquently expressed at the time of the founding of the liberation army, remained with the movement to the last day of armed struggle.
Debates at the highest level of the ANC`s political structures during the 1981 anti-Republic Campaign provide an example. Reconnaissance units had been tasked to identify potential targets to register rejection of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the racist republic. One of our units had studied the government`s programme for the occasion, and reported on the fact that a mass celebration was to be held at Bloemfontein, in which PW Botha and his entire cabinet would be present. The sketches of the venue and details on where a car-bomb could be placed to decimate the leadership of the NP government were drawn up. The operation needed only the go-ahead from the national leadership. What could have been the most dramatic operation ever, reinforcing the mass upsurge at the time and weakening the apartheid ruling structure, was set aside after much debate. The leadership concluded that there would be too many civilian casualties, and that the obliteration of the NP cabinet could start to blur the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate targets.
This restrained approach contrasts sharply with the attitude of the regime itself, which considered all members of the ANC, whether they were MK cadres or not, inside and outside the country, as fair game; which tried on many occasions to assassinate Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani and other leaders; which had killed diplomatic Chief Representatives of the ANC and bombed their offices.
In line with the doctrine of Total Strategy, the Botha regime attempted to introduce limited constitutional reforms aimed at defusing growing popular resistance to apartheid rule. In this context, the ANC`s January 8th statement of 1984 explicitly identified targets as follows:
“the apartheid regime maintains an extensive administrative system through which it directs our lives. This system includes organs of central and provincial government, the army and the police, the judiciary, the bantustan administrations, the community councils, the local management and local affairs committees. It is these institutions of apartheid power that we must attack and demolish, as part of the struggle to put an end to racist minority rule in our country. Needless to say…we must select for attack those parts of the enemy administrative system which we have the power to destroy(…). We must hit the enemy where it is weakest. (…) Thus, through our efforts, the so-called Coloured Persons Representative Council ceased to exist; as a result of extensive mobilisation, the puppet South African Indian Council was brought in by an insignificant minority..”
“This year, Botha and Malan will be busy implementing the provisions of their apartheid constitution. (…) White South Africans alone should man the apartheid constitutional posts, which it alone has created, to its exclusive benefit. Those who elect to serve in these apartheid institutions must expect to face the wrath of the people.”
The Kabwe conference was held in June 1985 to assess developments since the Morogoro conference of 1969. The day before it opened, Pretoria attacked several homes in Gaberone, Botswana, killing 12 people including Botswana citizens. Not one shot was fired in self-defence; all those killed were unarmed.
From early September 1984, in response to attempts to increase rent and electricity levies by the new Black Local Authorities introduced by the Pretoria regime, an unprecedented united front of trade union, political, civic, youth and student organisations had mobilised against these moves; apartheid was in a state of general crisis, and the strategic initiative had unmistakably shifted towards forces for change. There was a growing sense that the country was approaching a crossroads.
At Kabwe consensus was reached on a number of major questions including the approach to military action. It was felt that the Strategy and Tactics document adopted at the Morogoro conference, which laid stress on the development of classical guerrilla warfare in the rural areas and designating a supportive role for urban warfare, was flawed. The primary perspective that emerged was that the ANC should step up the all-round political and military offensive sharply, and prepare for protracted people`s war. A general insurrection was seen as the logical culmination of this struggle, necessitating preparation to take decisive action at the right moment in order to seize power. This would entail building combat forces inside the country, ensuring that they link up at all times with the people and draw the masses into people`s war. It was decided that as many cadres as possible should be trained inside and outside the country and a detailed cadre policy was to be developed – a handing out of guns to anyone willing to shoot was never envisaged.
Conference reaffirmed ANC policy with regard to targets considered legitimate: SADF and SAP personnel and installations, and selected economic installations and infrastructure. But the risk of civilians being caught in the crossfire when such operations took place could no longer be allowed to prevent the urgently needed, all-round intensification of the armed struggle. The focus of armed operations had to shift towards striking directly at enemy personnel, and the struggle had to move out of the townships to the “white” areas.
President Tambo summed up the mood of the Conference. It represented, he said:
“…a turning point in the history of all the people of South Africa. Our Conference itself will be remembered by our people as a council-of-war that planned the seizure of power by these masses, the penultimate convention that gave the order for us to take our country through the terrible but cleansing fires of revolutionary war to a condition of peace, democracy and the fulfilment of our people who have already suffered far too much and far too long.”
And later in his address:
“The apartheid system is in a deep and permanent crisis from which it cannot extricate itself. (…) Despite massacres and murders that are carried out daily by Botha`s assassination squads, the masses of the people are engaged in a widespread struggle which the enemy cannot suppress and which is driving it ever deeper into crisis. Of decisive importance is the fact that this mass offensive is directed at the destruction of the apartheid state machinery, at making apartheid inoperative, at making our country ungovernable.”
The questions of ANC policy towards “soft targets” and “taking the struggle to white areas” arose in the context of the massive increase in confrontation taking place within the country at the time.
In a press conference after the Kabwe conference, President Tambo dealt with the issue as follows:
“I will summarise the position taken by the Conference in these terms: that the struggle must be intensified at all costs. Over the past nine to ten months at least – at the very least – there have been many soft targets hit by the enemy. Nearly five hundred people have now died in that period. That works out to about fifty per month – massacred, shot down, killed secretly. All those were very, very soft targets. They belong to the sphere of the intensification of the struggle. What we have seen in places like the Eastern Cape is what escalation means for everybody. The distinction between “hard” and “soft” targets is going to disappear in an intensified confrontation, in an escalating conflict. (…)
“The question of soft targets was quite out of place during World War II, to mention a big war. Ours will be a small one, but we are fighting the same kind of system. It was Hitler who attacked, it is the apartheid system here which attacked, and we are fighting that system, our own version of Nazism. I think the distinction between hard and soft targets is being erased by the development of the conflict. I am not saying that our Conference used the word “soft targets”. I am saying that Conference recognised that we are in it. It is happening every day. It happened two days before we started our Conference – a massacre in Gaberone. We did not complain that soft targets were being hit, because they have been hitting them, as I say, all the time. What we did was to re-commit ourselves to intensify the armed struggle until that kind of massacre, until the system which makes massacres and conflicts necessary, is abolished…”
The ANC`s understanding of the need to carry the struggle out of black areas is succinctly expressed in an article which appeared in the November 1985 issue of the ANC mouthpiece Sechaba. Although a personal opinion, this extract captures the essence of the debate in ANC ranks:
“An outstanding lesson of this determined popular resistance is that revolutionary activity whose scope does not extend beyond the black township is a misdirected blow. It does not hit the established order at its soft spots. The townships are not the weak links, rather they are ramparts of the status quo, like the Bantustans. No strategic or significant government or economic installations are in the townships. There are only administrative boards, community councils, minor police stations and magistrates` courts. There are no businesses under ASSOCOM, FCI or AHI, the destruction of whose businesses can make political heads roll. Township upheavals reach the attention of white households through television screens, the radio and newspapers. This is the way whites come to know of Beirut car bombs or Israeli invasions of Lebanon and the carnage that accompany them. There is no sense of immediacy. Soweto, New Brighton, Alexandra township and so on are as far from PE or Johannesburg as Beirut is (…) To shake the regime, Soweto must come to Johannesburg, New Brighton to Port Elizabeth. (…)
“The present mass action has by far outpaced armed struggle and armed propaganda. Armed propaganda at a time when the masses are stoning Casspir armoured vehicles is an anachronism.
“We have witnessed for a whole year sustained mass onslaughts against the enemy, that have reached fever pitch with every cruel blow that the bloodstained apartheid regime has unleashed… A critically urgent demand of the present situation is for the unarmed mass battles that have raged without cessation in the last year to be synchronised with co-ordinated, stunning armed blows against the enemy`s armed personnel and installations.”
By the end of 1985 an official ANC pamphlet titled Take the Struggle to the White Areas! was distributed inside the country. Targets were identified as “the racist army, police, death squads, agents and stooges in our midst”, and the call to “take the war to the white areas” is defined as follows:
- Strengthening our workers` organisations and engaging in united action in the factories, mines, farms and suburbs.
- Spreading the consumer boycott to all areas of the country.
- Organised and well-planned demonstrations in the white suburbs and central business districts.
- Forming underground units and combat groups in our places of work and taking such actions as sabotage in the factories, mines, farms and suburbs, and disrupting the enemy`s oil, energy, transport, communications and other vital systems.
- Systematic attack against the army and police and the so-called area defence units in the white areas.
- Well-planned raids on the armouries and dumps of the army, police, farmers and so on to secure arms for our units.
There was reference to the “special role” of “all anti-apartheid whites”.
“Let us all act in unity against a system that has brought so much suffering to so many, and that continues to drown thousands in blood.”
The period between 1985 and 1988 witnessed unprecedented violence, overwhelmingly directed at black civilians. As the regime fought to regain the strategic initiative it had lost, it employed unbridled terrorist violence and a range of overt and covert measures which are dealt with more fully elsewhere in this document.
MK attacks mounted steadily with most operations concentrated on targets as set out in ANC policy; there was an all-round intensification of efforts to destroy all organs of the apartheid state, to encourage the emergence of People`s War (summed up in the 1986 slogan “Every patriot a combatant, every combatant a patriot!”) and to promote the establishment of organs of people`s power. By the end of 1986, the regime had lost administrative control over large parts of the country.
It was during the mid-1980s that attacks on certain targets with no directly apparent connection to the apartheid state took place. In some cases these attacks resulted from the manner in which cadres interpreted the decision to sharply intensify the armed struggle, which would entail exercising less restraint, and the call to take the struggle to the white areas. Militant rhetoric in Sechaba articles reflected the mood of the times: “The attack on South African refugees in Botswana by the racist forces just before the conference emphasised the need for our movement to bleed the enemy.”
Most of those cadres who carried out bona fide operations of this nature had reason to believe that they were operating in accordance with the political will of the leadership of the ANC. But the apartheid regime was very quick to exploit this tactical shift with regard to intensification of the struggle and shift in focus of armed operations, combined with the misinterpretation of these decisions by some cadres, and carried out a number of “false flag” attacks on civilian targets with the sole objective of destroying the ANC`s claim to the moral high ground, considered strategically essential by the ANC leadership to the success of the national liberation struggle. The apartheid regime fought tooth and nail to destroy the ANC`s image and damage the steady growth of international solidarity with the struggle for democracy, portraying the liberation movement as no more than a gang of bloodthirsty and cowardly terrorists with no popular support.
The ANC leadership took action to assert policy with regard to the avoidance of civilian targets, which had in some cases become confused with the need to intensify the struggle “at all costs.” The January 8th, 1987 statement called on ANC supporters to:
“ensure that we build up our combat forces into a true People`s Army in its national and social composition, in its size, effectiveness and the nature of its operations.
“It must continue to distinguish itself from the apartheid death forces by the bravery of its combatants, its dedication to the cause of liberation and peace, and its refusal to act against civilians, both black and white. But the People`s Army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, must in all its elements, act boldly against the apartheid enemy and create the conditions when our superior forces will finally overrun and overthrow the apartheid regime of terror.”
This statement called on ANC cadres to mobilise the white population, which should fuse with and become part of the motive forces of the democratic revolution:
“Our white compatriots have to learn the truth that it is not democracy that threatens their future. Rather, it is racist tyranny which poses a dire peril to their very survival. (…) Black mothers have to live with the agony of burying their children every day. (…) Across the barricades, white mothers see their children transformed and perverted into mindless killers who will not stop at murdering the black unarmed (…) These black and white mothers must reach across the divide created by the common enemy of our people and form a human chain to stop the murderous rampage of the apartheid system.”
When attacks which did not accord with ANC policy started to become a trend in late 1987, MK commanders were instructed by OR Tambo and the NEC to go to all forward areas and as far as possible also meet with units operating inside the country to reassert ANC policy with regard to the avoidance of purely civilian targets. Failure to comply with these orders would be considered as violations of policy and action would be taken against offenders.
In August 1988 the NEC issued a statement specifically on the conduct of armed struggle in the country:
“The NEC further re-affirmed the centrality of the armed struggle in the national democratic revolution and the need to further escalate armed actions and transform our offensive into a generalised people`s war. (…,) However, the NEC also expressed concern at the recent spate of attacks on civilian targets. Some of these attacks have been carried out by cadres of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, inspired by anger at the regime`s campaign of terror against the oppressed and democratic forces, both within and outside South Africa. In certain instances operational circumstances resulted in unintended casualties.
“Yet it has come to our notice that agents of the Pretoria regime have been detailed to carry out a number of bomb attacks deliberately to sow confusion among the people of South Africa and the international community, and to discredit the African National Congress.
“The ANC hereby underscores that it is contrary to our policy to select targets whose sole objective is to strike at civilians. Our morality as revolutionaries dictates that we respect the values underpinning the humane conduct of war. Any other course of action would also play into the hands of the enemy.”
As we have indicated earlier the ANC`s approach to armed struggle was underpinned by the fact that this form of struggle was part of, and not parallel to, the other “pillars of struggle”: underground organisation, mass mobilisation and international solidarity. In addition, as the struggle intensified, it became clear that greater insecurity was starting to set in within the white community. Many individuals began to appreciate the inhumane and immoral nature of the apartheid system, and began to actively support the anti-apartheid cause. Resistance to forced conscription grew dramatically. Developments of this nature reinforced what had always been ANC policy: to mobilise as many South Africans as possible, from all backgrounds, against the system of apartheid.
The mass revolt and intensification of the armed struggle enhanced the ANC`s efforts to mobilise international support against apartheid; the Western powers which had viewed our struggle through the narrow and distorted lenses of East-West conflict, began to acknowledge the justness of our cause and the legitimacy of the ANC. The organisation itself had intensified its attempts to make contact with these governments, and these initiatives were begining to bear fruit. At last, what had long been acknowledged by Africa and other developing countries, by the governments of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and a few developed countries within the Commonwealth, was starting to take root within the governments of the major Western powers.
This range of developments, coupled with the ANC`s own firm policies, vindicated and reinforced the approach that the ANC had consistently maintained regarding conduct of struggle in general and armed struggle in particular.
The ANC is immensely proud of the bravery, discipline and selfless sacrifices of its MK combatants, many of whom laid down their lives in pursuit of freedom for all in South Africa. They worked in one of the most dangerous and difficult arenas of struggle for a non-racial and democratic South Africa. They were prepared to work under conditions in which, if captured or abducted, they faced the possibility of summary execution whether they surrendered or not. They faced being tortured to death, or coming under intense pressure to choose between death and collaboration. If brought to trial, they faced the death penalty or extremely lengthy prison sentences
At times, particularly during the mid-1980s, our cadres worked under conditions of blanket state terrorism against a largely unarmed and defenceless civilian population, and indiscriminate, merciless attacks on any available ANC target abroad. Given these conditions, and also taking into account that a general state of people`s war against apartheid was developing, it is remarkable that very few attacks by MK cadres violated ANC policy with regard to civilian targets.
Yet we do acknowledge that some incidents not entirely consistent with ANC policy did take place.
5.4 The ANC and internal mass revolt: The role of the Mass Democratic Movement in the 1980s
While the ANC pursued its concerted campaign against apartheid from exile and the underground, there were new internal political developments from the late 1970s onwards which reinforced the effectiveness of the organisation and slowly but surely helped shift the balance of power in favour of the disenfranchised majority in South Africa. The struggle became increasingly organised on three main fronts: the armed and underground struggle of the banned ANC, the rapidly expanding black trade union movement (membership jumped from 40,000 in 1975 to 247,000 in 1981 and to 1.5 million in 1985), and re-emerging legal, mass-based community and political movements. These strands of resistance on various fronts became increasingly interlinked in the 1980s, in the process enhancing the position of the ANC as the vanguard movement in the struggle for democracy in South Africa.
The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) as a broad internal anti-apartheid umbrella body transformed the South African political landscape. Not only did it bring with it an unprecedented level of popular mobilisation, but it also marked a maturing of ideological orientation away from the Black Consciousness movement of the 1970s towards the more broadly-based non-racial struggle propounded by the ANC.
Most UDF supporters backed the Freedom Charter, the guiding document of the ANC adopted in 1955, and while the UDF emphasised its autonomy for legal and tactical reasons it became recognised by friend and foe alike as part of the ANC “congress tradition”. Although it was illegal to identify openly with the ANC or express support for the armed struggle, the UDF stressed that it shared the broad aims espoused by the ANC. It opened a new front in the struggle for democracy that would complement and not, it emphasised, attempt to supersede the struggle of the respected exile movement. Imprisoned ANC leaders were made patrons of the UDF, and some joined the UDF in leadership positions on their release from prison. The UDF also appropriated many of the songs, slogans and symbols of the ANC.
Despite the identification of the UDF (and later, the Mass Democratic Movement) with the ANC, they were essentially separate bodies, not direct extensions of the ANC. While broad policy was often in line with ANC positions in exile and the underground, day-to-day activities and campaigns were based on local initiatives and conditions. The strength of the UDF was that it linked diverse organisations among youth, students, workers, township and village residents, took up bread-and-butter issues directly affecting the daily lives and living conditions of the people in the various sectors, and was able to organise successful non-violent mass campaigns around these concerns and grievances.
The mass struggles of the 1980s went through two main phases. The first was the legal, mass mobilisation on an ideological and organisational level to promote a non-racial alternative to apartheid and to discredit manoeuvres by the apartheid state to sell its sham tricameral “reform” programme, geared towards entrenching racial separation and privilege. The cross-section of groups which coalesced into the UDF succeeded spectacularly in their aim of creating an anti-apartheid platform for the democratic-minded majority, despite continual harassment and the closing of already limited legal avenues of expression by the state.
Then, on September 3, 1984, the day on which the racist tricameral system and the new executive state president of South Africa were inaugurated, the so-called Vaal uprisings broke out, ushering in a new phase of militancy and resistance in South Africa. Over the next few months urban revolt became endemic, spreading from the Witwatersrand to many other parts of the country. Spontaneous street clashes between township residents and the apartheid security forces superseded the organisational forms of response established by the recently-formed UDF.
Soon state authority collapsed completely in certain areas as angry crowds responded through direct action to economic hardships and the imposition of illegitimate black local councils as part of the new tricameral system. By mid-1985, in line with ANC strategy, which both influenced and was inspired by the popular revolt against apartheid, a situation of “ungovernability” existed in many areas. The distinction between legal forms of political activity and the underground struggle of the ANC was becoming blurred. Enthusiastic support for the ANC was expressed daily despite strict deterrent laws. The organisation could claim without contradiction at that stage that “the people are engaged in active struggle as a conscious revolutionary force, and accept the ANC as their vanguard movement”. By the end of the 1980s the ANC had effectively been unbanned by the people despite all the efforts to demonise and crush it.
Recognising that it was in danger of losing control, the apartheid government decided in July 1985 to proclaim a State of Emergency in 36 districts throughout the country. Virtual martial law descended over these areas. The apartheid rulers were acknowledging the collapse of apartheid reform, and their ever-increasing reliance on violence to maintain control.
The country was plunged into the dark abyss of hit squads and extra legal state terror, bannings, army occupations and further states of emergency – a history which we trust the TRC will piece together bit by bloody bit, so that the jigsaw puzzle of what happened can finally be completed.
6. Did the ANC Perpetuate any Gross Violations of Human Rights
6.1 The Approach, Standards and Conduct of the ANC in Relation to Human Rights
What considerations, during these years of intensified armed activity, did the ANC give to questions of morality and codes of military conduct? Civilian casualties are frequent and notorious consequences of irregular forms of military combat. There were instances in which the ANC`s own policies in this regard were contradicted or ignored: these are dealt with later in this submission. At the same time, the historical record is clear. It was ANC policy – ever since the formation of MK in 1961 – to avoid unnecessary loss of life. The ANC has never permitted random attacks on civilian targets. Unlike many other liberation movements as well as resistance movements in the Second World War, the ANC scrupulously sought to ensure that civilians were not targeted.
In its first sabotage campaign, in the early 1960s, the High Command of MK sought to ensure that attacks on government installations would not lead to loss of life. When MK units were first sent into action they were under strict instructions not to jeopardise the lives of civilians and did not carry arms. Subsequently, when armed guards were encountered at possible targets, regional committees were instructed to arm units but cadres were ordered to shoot only in self-defence. Once MK camps had been established, part of the training of every MK combatant was political and included the insistence that the enemy should not be defined simply in racial terms. When the ANC became a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war in 1977 it was the first liberation movement in the world to take this step. Adherence to the terms of the Convention confirmed the movement`s commitment to avoid attacks on civilians and the “humanitarian conduct” of war.
At the ANC`s Kabwe Conference in June 1985, this position was modified, but not abandoned. A resolution was adopted which acknowledged that there would be unavoidable civilian casualties as warfare escalated. The previous restraint in order to avoid such casualties, it was felt at Kabwe, should no longer be allowed to undermine the campaign to intensify the armed struggle against the regime.
It is worth noting that the armed struggle was conducted in circumstances which were never easy, and which at times seemed almost insurmountably difficult. The politics of exile is a notoriously testing terrain, pitted with insecurity and dependent upon the goodwill of others for resources. The main training camps and bases of MK were far distant from South African soil. Those countries which offered sanctuary to ANC and MK personnel were themselves hard-pressed, and the sanctuary frequently carried its own dangers. The efforts by the South African state to destroy the ANC and MK were unceasing, and massively financed. Besides military and police offensives against MK, methods included infiltration by state agents and spies; cross-border raids and kidnapping; pressure on the front-line states to expel ANC members; assassinations, torture and a wide repertoire of “dirty tricks”.
Despite all these difficulties, the ANC retained its commitment to internationally acceptable forms of combat; it never sanctioned “terrorism”, which could be defined as military attacks on civilians by armed groups or individuals. When some of its cadres transgressed this policy their actions were regretted and in some cases publicly repudiated. The ANC did not visit systematic violence and intimidation upon civilians; it did not use the military methods used in the defence of racism. When weighed in the scales of history, the ANC and the South African apartheid regime occupy opposite ends of the spectrum both in terms of policy and practical conduct.
Given the historical and political context provided above, it would seem natural to attempt to justify everything that happened within the context of struggle against apartheid as acceptable, and therefore not to be scrutinised in line with the mandate of the Commission. But the morality of the ANC, its objectives then and now, and the standards it set itself, dictate that we examine the conduct of struggle critically, and acknowledge where errors took place.
The logic of the Commission is that the truth should be acknowledged, no matter how painful, so as to ensure that conditions are created under which it is impossible for any terrible things from the past to recur. It is in this spirit that we approach this question.
6.2 Armed operations and civilian casualties
6.2.1 Political approach to armed struggle
As outlined in Section 5 above, the approach of the ANC to armed struggle hinged on its strategic objective of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.
To recapitulate. Firstly, armed struggle was forced on an organisation that had for many years espoused and practised peaceful methods of struggle. Secondly, it was part of the “four pillars” of struggle – as such, it had to be conducted in such a way as to reinforce rather than undermine these other “pillars”. Thirdly, from the beginning, a narrow definition of targets was made, and maximum restraint was exercised. Fourthly, there was pressure to pursue options such as attacks against white civilians, and there were intense debates on these issues, especially in response to state repression; but the movement again and again reasserted its basic principles. Lastly, structures set up to lead armed struggle were adapted to concrete conditions, and in each instance, to strengthen political control of the military campaign.
Given the ever-increasing militarisation of white South Africa from the late 1970s onwards, and the unbridled violence used against civilians by the former apartheid regimes, we submit that the ANC always exercised exceptional restraint in the conduct of armed struggle. Since the founding of MK in 1961, the ANC never deviated from its belief that it was not only morally wrong but strategically senseless to attack civilian targets.
6.2.2 The politico-military chain of command
After the setbacks of the capture of the MK High Command at Rivonia, and subsequent trials, the process of building ANC and MK structures in exile began. Senior leaders of the movement trained and lived in the camps with the recruits, and were charged with the task of ensuring that the political objectives of the ANC were understood by all cadres, as well as maintaining discipline during the training process. After the Wankie/Sipolilo Campaign with ZAPU in 1967/68, the Morogoro Conference was held in 1969, and the Revolutionary Council (RC) was established. Chaired by OR Tambo, the RC included both political and military leaders, and was tasked mainly with establishing an underground political presence in the country, as well as with infiltrating cadres into the country to carry out military operations.
By the mid-1970s, as Angola was liberated, the ANC was in the position to command its own camps and a General Headquarters was established in Luanda.
The General Staff – that is, MK Headquarters – divided South Africa into a number of operational areas which were controlled from two major fronts: the Eastern Front from Mozambique into Swaziland, and the Western Front from Zambia into Botswana.
By 1978 the first MK operations by units of the Transvaal Urban Machinery took place. These were aimed at police stations in the PWV area. At the same time attacks were launched from the Western Front, aimed at establishing guerrilla bases in the Western Transvaal.
At this time the ANC`s dilemma was that in order to be successful militarily, it had to establish a political base inside the country: yet a political base could not grow without military actions serving to reinforce people`s confidence and motivate them to become involved in political and other forms of resistance. There was a need to capture the imagination of the oppressed through demonstrating that the enemy was not invincible, and to gain international recognition of the armed struggle.
To this end, Special Operations was established in 1979. Reporting directly to the President, this unit was charged with the task of carrying out attacks on major installations. These were carried out in such a way as to avoid loss of life. For instance, thousands of people worked at the Sasol Oil Refinery plant; a massive civilian death toll could have resulted from this attack, but it was specifically carried out at a time when no loss of life would occur.
A new Military Headquarters (MHQ) was established in December 1982, bringing together and reorganising the old General Headquarters, operating from the Eastern and Western Fronts at HQ in Lusaka, along formal military lines.
In an attempt to co-ordinate the activities between the military front commands and the internal political committee structures, senior organs were set up in neighbouring countries, consisting of the political and military leadership in those areas.
A conference of all front commanders and commissars was held in Maputo in April 1983 to address the growing problem of a lack of effective co-ordination between the military and political aspects of the struggle. The Revolutionary Council was replaced by the Politico-Military Council (PMC), which became the most senior structure after the National Executive Committee. The PMC consisted of a Secretariat, an Internal Political Committee, Military HQ, and Intelligence (also known as NAT), consisting of Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence and Security sections.
The PMC was charged with implementing decisions of the NEC with regard to political and military aspects of the struggle, and with providing overall political-military leadership. It was chaired by OR Tambo, and consisted of a Secretary from the NEC, representatives of MHQ, the head of the Internal Political Committee and other NEC members in this committee, the heads of the Intelligence and Security structures, and the secretaries general of the ANC, SACP and SACTU. Several other NEC members also served on the PMC.
The earlier senior organs were replaced by Regional PMCs in order to create a link between the PMC and structures on the ground. Those RPMCs in what were known as the “forward areas” were given greater freedom regarding decisions to carry out operations. Whilst the PMC was aware of the number of units on the ground in the country, for security reasons information on the actual identities of operatives was not available to this structure; the RPMCs dealt with information of this nature. RPMCs were charged with co-ordinating political and military activities in their areas of responsibility inside South Africa, and where possible setting up Area PMCs inside the country. The role of Area PMCs was to provide local-level leadership with regard to political and military matters, the gathering of intelligence, and screening of recruits.
In 1984 Special Operations was moved to MHQ.
For several reasons, including intense military and diplomatic pressure by the Pretoria regime on neighbouring states, and the movement towards a political settlement in Namibia which resulted in the ANC being obliged to close down its military training camps in Angola, the work of MK in general and RPMCs in particular was seriously hampered. In 1986, the top-secret Operation Vula was initiated with the aim of creating a national politico-military leadership inside the country, led by senior NEC and MK leaders.
All these changes represented increasing assertion of political leadership over armed struggle.
In addition, the political maturity of cadres was taken into account when appointments were made to structures such as the RPMCs. And the process of training was seen as critical in equipping cadres with the political understanding necessary to ensure that they acted in accordance with ANC policy.
6.2.3 Training and codes of conduct
MK training always emphasised the need for personal initiative, and sought to develop the capacity of operatives to use their own discretion based on strict political considerations. Except for major operations, senior commanders provided guidelines and a framework within which operatives were expected to execute their missions: hence the strong emphasis always laid in MK training on political education and the insistence that at all times the ANC and MK should occupy the moral high ground – nothing which consciously or unconsciously undermined this vital factor could be allowed.
The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Code, which is attached to this submission, makes it clear that the political leadership was supreme, and “every commander, commissar, instructor and combatant must therefore be clearly acquainted with the policy with regard to all combat tasks and missions”. Over twenty punishable offences are listed, many relating directly to military discipline. Among these offences are the following:
- Rebellion or revolt against the army command or part of it, or attempts to commit such an act of rebellion or revolt.
- Conduct that weakens the people`s trust, confidence and faith in the ANC and Umkhonto.
- Assaults, rape, disorderly conduct, the use of insulting and/or obscene language, bullying and intimidation, whether against a comrade or a member of the public.
- Ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons in custody.
- Any act or speech that provokes tribal or regional animosities or spreads disunity by means of factionalism and/or racism.
We will now focus on categories of armed actions, particularly those which resulted in civilian casualties.
6.2.4 Conduct of war and civilian casualties
It has been established earlier in our submission that the ANC was fighting a just war, and that this was recognised in international law. The provisions of the Geneva Convention and subsequent protocols are relevant in this regard. The refusal on the part of former apartheid regimes to recognise that the ANC was waging an internationally recognised war, and their refusal to honour certain provisions of the Geneva Convention and Protocols, were directly relevant in certain cases in which there was unnecessary loss of civilian life.
After the December 1982 attack on Maseru in which 42 people were killed, including 12 BaSotho, Secretary General Alfred Nzo stated at a meeting on Heroes Day, December 16th:
“…Our popular army under the leadership of the ANC, heroic combatants such as Solomon Mahlangu, have not sought out white South Africa in its bedrooms, claiming that these bedrooms were military bases. We have not sought to attack the diplomatic missions of the apartheid regime as it has in our case when it assassinated Boy Mvemve in Zambia, Joe Gqabi in Zimbabwe, the Nyawoses in Swaziland, and now Zola Nqini in Lesotho – and bombed ANC offices here in London. We have done none of this because we are not terrorists. We are combatants for the emancipation of millions from racism, national oppression, super-exploitation, fascism and war. As such we shall continue to intensify the offensive against the Apartheid enemy of humanity on all fronts. In that offensive, the enemy will increasingly suffer the kind of losses in its personnel that it suffered during our attack on its Komatipoort garrison two weeks ago…”
The May 20, 1983 car bomb attack on South African Air Force (SAAF) Headquarters in Church Street, Pretoria, and the ANC`s use of landmines in areas which were designated as military zones provide examples of this nature.
In the attack on SAAF Headquarters just after 16h30, nineteen people were killed, of which at least eleven were SAAF officers. Over 200 people were injured, of which over seventy were members or employees of the armed forces. The car bomb was positioned precisely in front of the entrance to Air Force HQ, which took the direct impact of the explosion: many military personnel were killed. The toll may have been far higher as hundreds of military personnel would normally gather in the street to await transport only minutes after the bomb exploded. Both the cadres who set up the car bomb were killed in the blast; one was in the car at the time and the other standing across the road. MHQ believes that the remote trigger mechanism may have been affected by other signals in the area, or that the cadres made some kind of mistake.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this was overwhelmingly a military target. Many of those injured may have not been military officers but were employed by the SAAF, and had thereby directly associated themselves with apartheid military aggression.
The attack took place after a week in which the white Parliament had been debating the new tri-cameral constitution bill, from which black people were excluded. It also took place in the overall context of heightened military aggression by the apartheid state, most forcefully displayed in its raid on December 9, 1982, on Lesotho and the assassination of Ruth First in Maputo. In the Maseru attack no fewer than 42 people were massacred, many of them civilians. The ANC had decided that a highly visible attack against uniformed enemy personnel which the Pretoria regime could not cover up was necessary. Previously, no direct operations had been carried out against enemy personnel beyond a few skirmishes in which MK units had been involved in rural areas.
In a response to questions about the attack OR Tambo stated that “the policy of the ANC is to intensify the struggle, attack the enemy, avoiding civilians where possible.” In the past the ANC had concentrated on sabotage of installations, “but intensification involves not just sabotage but attacking the enemy forces”.
MK had very carefully weighed up the implications of launching an attack of this nature, had ensured that it must be an overwhelmingly military target, yet took no delight in the loss of life it entailed.
The regime promised to “avenge” the dead, “whatever their colour”; they attacked Maputo on May 23, 1983, hitting the Somopel jam and fruit juice factory and its creche, a storeroom in which the ANC had kept food and clothing, and three private homes. Only one of the dead, and none of the injured, were linked to the ANC. According to the Mozambican government, six civilians were killed and 40 injured. Two were children, and two were women – one of them pregnant. The British ambassador to Mozambique stated publicly that the targets hit by the Pretoria regime were unequivocally civilian after touring the area with other diplomats. The SADF claimed they had destroyed five “ANC bases”. A spokesperson stated that “the SADF does not accept blame for civilian deaths that may have occurred. It puts the responsibility on the Mozambique government as a result of their ties with the ANC”.
In some respects the attack on Air Force HQ – a decisive step towards waging urban guerrilla warfare – and the revenge raid on Maputo marked a turning point, a watershed on the path to intensifying conflict in the country.
The ANC`s limited use of landmines, beginning in late 1985, provides another example of this nature.
Operatives were under strict instructions to carry out reconnaissance properly so that military patrols were the primary targets of landmine operations. In one case, a Casspir armoured vehicle detonated a mine in Mamelodi township. In the border areas, where nearly all landmines were detonated, the precise targeting of military patrols was easier said than done. Nevertheless, MHQ continued to stress policy regarding careful reconnaissance and avoidance of civilian targets, although white farmers in these areas were not defined as civilians even by the apartheid state itself: they were its first line of defence.
While regretting all loss of life, the ANC believes that the use of landmines on white border farms was justified because the apartheid regime had declared them military zones, with white farmers integrated into the security system and provided with the tools of war including automatic weapons, which were only legally possessed by members of the apartheid armed forces.
In 1979 the Promotion of Density of Population in Designated Areas Act, No. 87, was passed in an attempt to stem the exodus of white farmers from border areas, and increase the number of farmers in these areas to serve as a barrier against the infiltration of guerrillas from neighbouring states. At least R100 million was made available over a period of five to six years for the provisions of loans to such farmers, and for the construction of strategic roads and airstrips in these areas.
The Act stipulated that loans be given on condition that farms were managed according to SADF directives, and that all white farmers in the areas should undergo military training, be members of the regional and area commandos, and make themselves available to the SADF and Department of National Security to carry out reconnaissance and intelligence tasks whenever called on to do so. All were linked to the Commando system of part-time SADF forces and the military radio network known as MARNET. Many farm buildings were constructed in such a way as to constitute a chain of defence strongholds along the borders ready to be used by the SADF whenever necessary. The Act stipulated that the SADF was empowered to enter any property in the designated area to demolish or erect military facilities or any other structure without the consent of the owner.
The SA Agricultural Union, the SADF, SAP, Departments of National Security and Transport all participated in the sub-committee appointed by the Steyn Commission to look into how the white farmer population could be included in the defence strategy of the apartheid regime. These were not merely defensive measures; Messina and Louis Trichardt, Alldays, Ellisras, Thabazimbi and Zeerust, Piet Retief and Amsterdam were all key towns in the regime`s military strategy to launch armed aggression against neighbouring countries.
In May 1983 regulations were introduced to tighten up the earlier legislation, and in late 1984 the 10km designated zone along the Zimbabwe and Botswana borders was increased to 50km. In addition, there was extensive deployment of military and police counter-insurgency units along the borders, and several operational bases were established.
To illustrate the ANC`s approach to these matters: in an article published in the May 1986 issue of Sechaba extreme aversion was expressed at:
“the extent to which the illegal regime is prepared to go in the militarisation of white areas and the white population in the border regions at whatever cost, even if it means putting the precious lives of young children at risk as targets of guerrilla attacks, is shown by the inclusion of white school children between the ages of 13 and 17 in military programmes (…)
“The contempt in which the regime holds the lives of both white adult civilians and children (not to mentions black lives) can perhaps be understood better if one recalls that the Geneva Protocol of 12th August 1949 states that:
” `The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.`
“Article 13 of the same document states that `civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Party unless and for such a time as they take a direct part in hostilities`.”
While regretting all loss of life in the course of the armed struggle, the ANC contends that with regard to landmine explosions in which some farm workers and farmers, and their relatives were killed or maimed, it is undeniable that it was the apartheid regime itself which took steps towards obliterating the distinction between the civilian and military spheres from the time of its adoption of its “total strategy” programme in 1977, and its later declaration of these areas as military zones.
The much-publicised case of the car bomb explosion at the Magoos and Why Not bars on June 14, 1986 provides another example of an operation in which civilians were victims in the context of the intensification of the armed struggle. Three civilians were killed, and 69 injured. Robert John McBride, an MK operative attached to Special Operations, was convicted of the attack and sentenced to death and 82 years imprisonment.
The operation was carried out during a time of extreme political upheaval in the country, which had culminated in the declaration of a nationwide State of Emergency on June 12; this granted virtually unlimited powers to the Security Forces, and granted them indemnity from prosecution for any actions carried out during this period. The attack was also carried out to commemorate the June 16, 1976 uprising, in which hundreds of schoolchildren were killed by the police. It commemorated the anniversary of the June 14 1985 raid on Gaberone, on the eve of the Kabwe Conference, in which 12 people were killed, including two young women who were citizens of Botswana, a six-year old child from Lesotho, a Somalian citizen, and eight South Africans of whom only five were members of the ANC and none were MK combatants.
This attack was in line with the ANC`s attempts to take the struggle out of the black ghettos and into the white areas: the Why Not bar was targeted precisely because it was frequented by off-duty members of the Security Forces.
Robert McBride was charged with “attempting to overthrow or endanger State authority in the Republic and/or to achieve, bring about or promote constitutional, political, social, industrial, and/or economic change in the Republic”. The court accepted that the motives of all those involved in this operation were political, not personal.
Robert McBride spent four years on Death Row before he was granted indemnity and released in 1992 along with the racist mass-murderer Barend Strydom, in a transparent attempt to create the impression in the minds of the public that the actions of these men were indistinguishable in moral terms. McBride took personal initiatives to approach the families of those who had been killed, to apologise for the deaths of their relatives. Yet he has been consistently targeted for a vicious and strident campaign by those who, to date, refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for, or collaboration in, the murders of thousands of unarmed civilians over the years.
6.2.5 Operational difficulties leading to unintended consequences:
At times, operations were derailed when cadres unexpectedly found themselves in situations for which there had been no planning whatsoever.
The Silverton Bank siege, in which two civilian women and three MK cadres were killed, provides an example of this problem. This incident also illustrates the manner in which the regime`s refusal to admit that it was involved in a state of war, and to accord MK cadres prisoner-of-war status – usually insisting on opening fire instead of taking captives – resulted in many unnecessary casualties.
On January 25, 1980 three MK cadres on their way to carry out a mission realised that they had been spotted and were being tailed by police. Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela tried to escape almost certain death by entering a bank; they moved all civilians present into one corner in an attempt to ensure that they would not be caught in the line of fire, and held them hostage in support of their demands. The Minister of Police refused to disclose these demands to the public but it was reported that they wanted to see the Prime Minister, the release of Nelson Mandela and James Mange, and an aircraft to fly to Maputo. A police unit stormed the bank and all three cadres and two civilian women, named Valerie Anderson and Anna de Klerk, were killed.
This was the only incident in which MK cadres, in contravention of ANC policy, seized hostages for political ends. The Pretoria regime sent out disinformation to the effect that the ANC had issued a statement in Lusaka saying that MK is involved in a “campaign to kill and seize hostages”. This was vigorously denied by the ANC, and interpreted as not only an attempt to smear the organisation but also to prepare the ground for attacks on ANC targets.
On April 14, 1980 nine ANC members – all of whom had left the country in 1976 to join the ANC – appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate`s court in connection with the Silverton Bank Siege, alleged plans to attack the Port Natal Administration Board, and an attack on January 4 on Soekmekaar police station in which no damage was caused and one policeman was slightly injured. They were charged with high treason, two counts of murder, and 21 of attempted murder. All pleaded not guilty, and also denied there were plans to attack the Port Natal Administration Board.
None of them was accused of being present at the Silverton siege but all nine were accused of murdering the two women (according to the “common purpose” doctrine). Benjamin Tau alone was also charged with conspiring with the three dead cadres to carry out the bank siege (although he had been in custody at the time), and of surveying the premises beforehand. Ikanyeng Molebatsi and Benjamin Tau were accused of conspiring with the Silverton trio to launch a rocket attack on petrol tanks at Watloo near Mamelodi, and also of planning to attack the Pretoria West and Villiera police stations.
Petrus Mashigo told the court that the attack on Soekmekaar police station had been intended as “armed propaganda” in protest against the forced removal of the community in the area. It was intended to show the ANC sympathised with the plight of the people and to demonstrate to police that what they were doing was wrong. Mashigo testified that during his training cadres were told not to use methods involving the killing of civilians, and that the ANC opposed methods such as the taking of hostages. Ikanyeng Molebatsi testified that they had decided against carrying out the attack on the Watloo tank farm because too many lives would be lost.
Benjamin Tau admitted he had infiltrated the country on a mission to attack the Watloo installations but denied he had reconnoitred the bank for attack; police had forced him to point at the bank and then photographed him. He said he would refuse to attack a bank because he knew it was against ANC policy.
Amid massive shows of public support, three cadres – Johnson Lubisi, Petrus Mashigo, and Naphtali Manana – were sentenced to death for the attack on the Soekmekaar police station, in which no one was killed; all were found guilty of high treason and those not sentenced to death received terms of 10 to 20 years.
Protest from a wide range of organisations and prominent personalities ensued, and there were calls on the Pretoria regime to recognise the men as prisoners of war. The UN Security Council sent an appeal “strongly urging” the SA government to avoid further aggravating the situation and to take into account “the concern expressed for the lives of these three young people”. Eventually their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Many other cadres were not as fortunate.
6.2.6 Operations at cadres` initiative in response to state brutality
From around December 1985, and particularly during the period from April 1986 to September 1988, a number of attacks on civilian targets (such as hotels and restaurants) with no connection to the state occurred. In some cases MK cadres were responsible for such attacks, but in other cases agents of the state carried out these actions in an attempt to damage the image of the ANC in the eyes of the local and international community.
With regard to those attacks on “soft targets” for which MK personnel were responsible, we do not seek to justify such attacks but insist that the context in which they occurred is relevant: the growing militarisation of every sphere of South African society and the massive, unbridled violence unleashed by the apartheid state against black civilians and anti-apartheid democrats in general.
The observation by then ANC President Tambo after the January 1981 attack on ANC homes in Matola captures such anger succinctly:
“…there have never been any ANC bases or camps in Mozambique. There are residences…and if the qualification to make a home a base is only that the people in it can use a gun, then let us be told now: because every white man in South Africa can use a gun and there are weapons in every white household. Are these bases too?”
We have acknowledged earlier in our submission that in a number of instances breaches in policy did occur, and deeply regret the loss of life caused by operations of this nature. The leadership did assert policy with regard to which targets were considered legitimate, and took steps to halt operations in conflict with policy. We contend that in the final analysis, the apartheid regime bears considerable responsibility for creating a situation of pervasive state terrorism, in which people tended to resort to increasingly violent and angry actions.
The case of the December 1985 blast in a shopping centre in Amanzimtoti in which five people were killed, including eight year old Corne Smit, and over 40 people injured, provides a clear example of the manner in which the behaviour of the apartheid regime was a significant factor in provoking certain attacks which were in breach of policy.
Andrew Sibusiso Zondo, aged 19, admitted to placing a bomb in a rubbish bin in the Sanlam Centre in Amanzimtoti on December 23, 1985. He said he had intended to blow up the South African Airways offices in the centre, and had not intended to kill anyone. He had attempted to telephone a warning from a public call box but this did not work.
Giving evidence, Zondo told the court that two incidents in 1981 marked a turning point in his life: an unprovoked police attack on a prayer service in KwaMashu during the schools boycotts, and the SADF raid on three ANC residences in Maputo on January 30, 1981, in which twelve people were killed. Of the attack on the KwaMashu gathering Zondo said: “We were doing nothing but we found ourselves the victims of the police. It made me ask myself why it had happened. From that day on, whenever I looked at police I would see them as the enemy.”
He was recruited into the ANC and finally decided to leave the country.
Andrew Zondo was trained in Angola between August 1983 and late 1985. Of his experience in the camp, he stated that there were people of all colours undergoing training at the camp, and “it was the best experience I had in my life. I began to feel like a human being. I was not a native or a kaffir”. His training, said Zondo, emphasised that he should not place civilians in danger.
After two years of training in Angola he returned to SA in late 1985. Of this period Zondo said: “Our work went very well. We were very careful about our targets. Our instructions were to avoid taking life and I insisted on this instruction. Sometimes the other comrades got impatient with me.”
On December 20, 1985, the Pretoria regime launched a raid on Lesotho in which nine people were killed; they denied all responsibility for these murders (in which weapons with silencers were used), claiming the attacks had been carried out by the “Lesotho Liberation Army”. Among the dead were Leon Meyer and Jackie Quinn, murdered in front of their infant daughter, Phoenix. Quinn was not only not a member of the ANC, but was not even a refugee – she travelled to South Africa regularly and could have been arrested with no difficulty at all.
Zondo said he went to Amanzimtoti “for a target…a government installation”. He checked the local police station but found he could not attack it on his own.
“Later in the day I found myself at the Sanlam Centre and went to the Toti Restaurant to buy something to eat. (…) While I was eating I saw people reading a newspaper which carried a picture of a woman shot in Lesotho, the mother of a nine-month old baby. I bought the newspaper myself.
“On returning home, I decided to go and put the mine in the centre. The decision I took that day was racial in character because I had seen that the area had a lot of white people. Before placing the mine I debated over it. But on Monday I decided to do it, racial as it was. I knew the people were innocent and had nothing to do with the government. I hoped it would not injure them, but I hoped it would bring the government to its senses.”
Andrew Zondo spoke with unmistakably sincere regret for the deaths which had occurred. Those responsible for the Lesotho massacre received medals at a secret ceremony. On April 6, 1986, he was sentenced to death five times, and refused leave to appeal. On being asked whether he had anything to say before sentence was passed, Zondo stood up straight and spoke clearly to the court: “I wish to say this to the people who might have lost their friends, and kids and families, I say that I am sorry. Next thing I wish that my country be friendly to its neighbouring countries.”
In an interview shortly after the Amanzimtoti blast, President Tambo said:
“Massacres have been perpetrated against civilians: Mamelodi, a massacre. Uitenhage, a massacre. Botswana, a massacre. Queenstown, a massacre… certainly, we are beginning see South Africans of all races (burying) their loved ones who have died in the South African situation. The whole of South Africa is beginning to bleed…If I had been approached by an ANC unit and asked whether they should go and plant a bomb at a supermarket I would have said, `Of course not`. But when our units are faced with what is happening all around them, it is understandable that some of them should say, `Well, I may have to face being disciplined, but I am going to do this`.”
6.2.7 Deliberate disinformation, leading to mistaken attacks
In a few cases deliberate disinformation resulted in attacks and assassinations in which dedicated cadres lost their lives. In one of the most painful examples of this nature, a state agent with the MK name of “Fear” ordered two cadres to execute Ben Langa on the grounds that Langa was an agent of the regime. These cadres – Clement Payi and Lucky Xulu – carried out their orders. This action resulted in serious disruption of underground and mass democratic structures in the area and intense distress to the Langa family – which was the obvious intention of Fear`s handlers. Once the facts were known to the leadership of the ANC, President Tambo personally met with the family to explain and apologise for this action.
Xulu and Payi were arrested and executed: a triple murder had been achieved by the apartheid regime without firing a single shot themselves.
6.2.8 “False flag” operations
In many cases which will come to the attention of the Commission, attacks on civilians and civilian targets for which the ANC or other mass democratic organisations were blamed were in fact the work of the apartheid regime – what it called “false flag operations”.
A few examples in this regard will suffice: in 1981 the former Commissioner of Police, Johann Coetzee, lied to the public when he claimed that the SAP were aware of the ANC`s “dissatisfaction” with Griffiths Mxenge`s handling of funds sent to him from organisations abroad, and were investigating allegations that he had misappropriated funds. The clear inference was that the ANC was responsible for the murder of Mxenge. This was carried out with perverted levels of brutality by members of the covert Vlakplaas unit, indicative of the extent to which the apartheid regime had dehumanised its own operatives. The similarly depraved murders of Matthew Goniwe and his comrades were ascribed to “UDF/Azapo conflict”.
The 1987 KwaMakutha massacre provides another key example of the callous manner in which civilians were slaughtered to achieve the political objectives of the apartheid regime. Twelve women and children were killed in this attack, portrayed as the work of “ANC terrorists” by Pretoria`s propaganda machinery. The ANC is convinced that this was part of an attempt to derail a crucial meeting between ANC President OR Tambo and US Secretary of State George Schultz – a meeting which was major breakthrough in the continuing efforts to convince the international community to refuse all support for the apartheid regime. Details on this matter have been the subject of the Durban Trial on the KwaMakutha massacre.
Former Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok lied to the public when he claimed the SAP suspected that “trained guerrillas” had been visiting the South African Council of Churches headquarters (known as Khotso House) and insinuated that this building had been used to store arms and explosives. Shirley Gunn was accused of being responsible for the destruction of the building by taking a car bomb onto the premises which had exploded prematurely. As the public is now aware, it has been asserted by former Vlakplaas operatives that this attack was undertaken by them, and that Vlok in fact secretly congratulated the perpetrators of this attack on church property.
The Trust Feed massacre, which resulted in the prosecution of police officers is another example of a “false flag” operation: one of many launched on ANC or IFP-supporting communities to precipitate or perpetuate conflict in the KwaZulu/Natal Province. This factor is relevant not only to the post-1990 period, but also to the pockets of violence enduring in the province.
Certain attacks on civilians – including “necklacings” and attacks on a cinema and restaurants – were in fact carried out by agents of the apartheid state in their continuing attempts to damage the image of the ANC. It is expected that further evidence in this regard will be presented to the Commission.
6.2.9 People`s Committees and Self-Defence Units (SDUs)
Over the years, much attention has been drawn to excesses and alleged excesses committed by People`s Committees and Self-Defence Units. In many instances, such criticism was based on genuine concern on the part of human rights activists and community leaders, who nevertheless acknowledge the critical role that such committees and units played in the face of the regime`s terror. In other instances, though, allegations regarding excesses were part of a deliberate propaganda campaign run by the regime and its sympathisers to discredit the ANC, immobilise these units, and conceal the state`s own destabilising activities (as in “false flag operations”). To understand the SDU phenomenon, it is necessary to distinguish between units which had direct links with the ANC and those which operated entirely outside the political ambit of the ANC.
220.127.116.11 Community self-defence initiatives (pre-1990)
As has been outlined earlier in our submission, in the mid-1980s the apartheid state went on a full-scale offensive to crush democratic organisations through a combination of formal and informal (i.e. covert and largely illegal) measures which included unleashing extreme violence on communities through surrogate “vigilante” groups.
Communities began to take measures to defend themselves through establishing what were variously called defence committees, people`s militia or self-defence units.
To quote one instance, in May 1986 residents of Diepkloof, Soweto, resolved to form people`s militia in response to a series of violent attacks on activists and their homes. On the weekend of May 2-3, 1986, six people attending a night vigil were murdered and thirteen seriously injured after being shot and hacked with pangas by about 40 men wearing balaclavas.
The Soweto Civic Association issued a statement expressing concern that:
“the police, the SADF, councillors and their henchmen have been seen at the scenes of petrol-bombings and other savage acts of brutality…we can no longer stand idly by while our wives, children and property are being attacked. We have no option but to defend ourselves and it is in this context that we support the resolution taken by residents to form self-defence units.”
During the height of violence in the Pietermaritzburg area in 1987, in which the state actively colluded with vigilantes, communities formed defence units in every street of their residential areas. Attempts to deal with the violence not only by means of armed defence but also through establishing political structures in the form of multi-party peace committees were set in motion.
Similar initiatives were taken in many other parts of the country – urban and rural.
18.104.22.168 SDUs in the context of “Peoples War”
Particularly from 1983 onwards, the ANC emphasised the need to destroy the administrative organs of the apartheid state as an essential element in the all-round struggle to overthrow the Pretoria regime. With regard to “ungovernability” and “people`s power”, it was made clear in many statements and discussion documents that the strategic objective of destroying apartheid-created organs of government was to pave the way for establishing popular democratic institutions. The aim was to work towards rendering the regime incapable of governing, and progressively replace repressive institutions and unelected authorities with structures serving the people.
The ANC actively encouraged initiatives of this nature on the part of the people. In an interview broadcast on Radio Freedom in June 1986, in which he assessed developments in the first six months of that year, President Tambo referred to combat groups and self-defence units “mushrooming” everywhere; and described these as important formations of the broad popular army. He called on the people to:
“multiply the formation of people`s defence militia everywhere so as to meet more effectively the assault by the enemy`s armed forces and the treacherous vigilantes and impis…which they employ. Our people`s army, strengthened by the emerging popular militia, must intensify and spread its armed actions across the country.”
An extract from the ANC discussion document titled Broad Guidelines on Organs of People`s Power provides insight into the ANC`s strategy at this time, and the manner in which the development of a People`s Army – consisting of “layers” of cadres organised into Self-Defence Units, Combat Units and MK officers – was conceived.
“The forms of armed actions and self-defence activity vary: the mass revolutionary violence of the people; units to protect leaders of people`s committees and democratic organisations; a system of patrolling the streets and warning signals; units to harass enemy patrols; attacks on enemy encampments; elimination of agents; procurement of weapons and so on.
“Each street should have a core of disciplined and trustworthy activists to supervise this work, to plan for action and to strategise. The core should have a tightly-knit structure…
“The Self-Defence Units and combat groups have to exercise initiative all the time: in all their actions including procurement of weapons. Secondly, these units are, above everything else, political units, guided by the politics of the democratic movement and in particular the vanguard formation, the ANC. Thirdly, the work they do should be systematic: they should have a thorough knowledge of the area in which they operate; know the enemy`s bases, plans and movement; undertake actions suitable for the political moment and their capacity. The guideline should be: Plan, Plan, and Act according to Plan!”
With regard to the more militarily advanced and smaller combat units, it was envisaged that these would be clandestine and consist only of “the most disciplined, security conscious and politically advanced cadres”, some whom would be drawn from the self-defence units. These combat units would link up with fully trained “professional” MK guerrillas or be established with their assistance, and would be formally structured along military lines. The idea was to continue upgrading the military skills of these combat groups so that they would in time mature into fully-fledged underground combat formations of MK.
The state took extreme measures to disrupt the formation of such units, as in the case of booby-trapped hand grenades given to COSAS activists in Duduza by an SAP agent posing as an MK soldier: several young people lost their lives as the grenades exploded prematurely, and maimed survivors were put on trial.
In so far as any excesses of those combat groups set up by, and SDU`s linked to, the ANC, these should be understood in the context of MK operations as outlined in earlier sections.
22.214.171.124 SDUs in the context of Low-Intensity Warfare (LIW) during the post-1990 negotiations phase
On August 6, 1990, the ANC formally committed itself to a cessation of armed hostilities. In the same month, Inkatha launched itself as a national political party; FW de Klerk repealed a century-old prohibition on the public carrying of so-called “traditional weapons”, and unprecedented violence against African communities broke out in Reef townships. Between late August and late September 1990, over 700 civilians had been massacred in attacks on homes, trains, and gatherings such as funeral vigils.
The ANC recognised this violence for what it was: another version of the “vigilantism” of the 1980s, a tactic aimed at strengthening the hand of the government at the negotiations table through forcing a progressively weakened ANC into a reactive position in which it would be held hostage to the violence, and forced to make constitutional concessions.
By the end of the year, grassroots demands for protection against the onslaught were intense. In November, the ANC Alliance published proposals for the formation of organised and disciplined self-defence units guided by political leadership in communities under attack with the aims of protecting civilians and ensuring law and order in areas plagued with violent crime.
These proposals, which were later compiled into a document titled For the Sake of our Lives!, emphasised that political means to deal with violence had to be sought and that campaigns to improve understanding between communities were “imperative”. Leadership figures who commented on the proposals reiterated the need to make every effort to win over hostile forces.
The need for avoiding party-political partisanship was strongly emphasised; if such units were set up as
“armies of any political grouping or individual, without proper consultation among the broadest possible range of organisations, would be a prescription for `Lebanonising` a conflict.”
It was also recognised that highly disciplined and organised structures were needed in order to guard against a repetition of past experiences in which people had attempted to set up “loosely-formed defence units” which had “degenerated into sectarian or personal power bases (For the Sake of Our Lives).
By the end of 1990, at the time the ANC held its Consultative Conference, pressure for the formation of SDUs had reached fever pitch: over 1,800 civilians had been killed in political violence since July. Resolutions were passed to assist people in setting up accountable and non-partisan SDUs and to establish peace committees with all political organisations, in order to “preclude all violent confrontation and conflict that emanates from the fact that people hold varying political views”.
By April 1991 there had been no respite from the violence: over 2,400 civilians had been slaughtered, and the ANC announced an ultimatum: unless certain actions were taken by the government to halt the bloodshed, it would withdraw from the negotiations process. Serious consideration was again given to the formal adoption of the programme outlined in For the Sake of Our Lives!. The July 1991 48th National Consultative Conference endorsed “without reservation” various peace initiatives in process at the time, and reasserted the right of people to self-defence: the incoming NEC was tasked with ensuring “that the self-defence programme is put into action without undue delays.”
President Nelson Mandela emphasised, at the 1991 National Conference of the ANC:
“Where [MK] can, it must, of course, make its expertise available to those communities that are engaged in the process of establishing self-defence units”.
Some members of MK Military HQ were tasked to attend to issues relating to the SDU`s, their organisation, training and the provision of weaponry. It was, however, made clear that the overall control of SDUs was to remain with community structures and MK cadres were to participate as members of the community. MK Command was to play a secondary role. Various clandestine units for the training and organisation of the various SDUs were set up; and some cadres were tasked to provide weaponry where possible.
The National Peace Accord recognised the legitimacy of self-defence structures in communities under attack. By around September 1991, when such units had been established in many areas affected by the violence, there was a shift in tactics by those responsible for this campaign. On the one hand, mobile specialist hit-squads increasingly took over the work previously done by large groups of men usually indentifiable by being aligned to Inkatha; the second major thrust of the state`s offensive to prevent SDUs from defending their communities was to infiltrate and subvert SDUs through a variety of methods. Before long there were two kinds of SDUs in existence: genuine community defence groups, and violent gangs presenting themselves as ANC-aligned SDUs.
The deliberate subversion of SDUs by the De Klerk regime in order to ensure that people could not mount sustained resistance to state-sponsored violence, and to discredit the ANC in the eyes of grassroots supporters and the international community is illustrated in the case of the notorious Phola Park SDU.
126.96.36.199 A case study: the Phola Park SDU and the Directorate: Covert Collection
The Phola Park Residents Committee was a democratically elected structure, led by Prince Mhlambi, who was also head of the ANC branch in this settlement. The Residents Committee took steps to set in motion various ambitious community development projects, which were disrupted in early 1992 when the Residents Committee was “overthrown” by an “SDU”, led by Mcungisi Ceba. Some of these new “leaders” claimed to be members of MK, and began a reign of terror.
Under Ceba and his small band of “comrades”, the Phola Park unit began launching random attacks against the police, passing motorists and former leaders of residents of the Phola Park. The most credible Phola Park leaders were exiled from the settlement: three were murdered, including Prince Mhlambi. Criminals moved into the settlement and joined the “SDU”. Violent confrontation between the Phola Park “SDU” and the police became the order of the day, and attempts by the ANC to normalise the situation were consistently frustrated by Ceba, who also always managed to evade arrest in the constant police raids on the settlement in search of MK cadres who were “perpetrating crimes against the police.” Just before the signing of the National Peace Accord in September 1992, members of the Phola Park “SDU” opened fire on a crowd of Inkatha members, killing sixteen people.
On November 11, 1992, the Goldstone Commission raided offices of the SADF`s Directorate: Covert Collection and seized various files. In a press statement released on 16/11/92, the Commission stated that it had found that Ferdi Barnard, a convicted murderer and former CCB member, was employed by the Directorate: Covert Collection (DCC), and had written up a project proposal in June 1991 for the task force he was to lead. His group was to “specialise solely on the activities of Umkhonto we Sizwe (“MK”)”, and concentrate on discrediting MK by involving cadres in criminal activities and syndicates. Where they could not be recruited, the unit would aim to ensure they were “criminally compromised. For that purpose use would be made, inter alia, of prostitutes, (…) and drug dealers.” Barnard`s plan was submitted to senior MI officials and approved.
On 17/11/92, the report on violence in the Thokoza area by a committee established by the Goldstone Commission was published. This report included an inquiry into the notorious Phola Park “SDU”. There were striking similarities between the DCC proposal to criminally compromise MK members and the activities of this “SDU”.
It was found that Ceba`s “SDU”, had been responsible for many criminal acts including the assassination of the highly regarded community leader Prince Mhlambi, and the attack on Inkatha members. Nearly all the actions of this “SDU” were criminal in nature.
The Commission found that Mncugi Ceba was a police informer and that the SAP “probably knew of the planned attack on hostel dwellers on 8 September”, after which many other residents died in attacks and counter-attacks set off by this massacre. An ANC member, Michael Phama, was convicted of the murders of the Inkatha marchers, but Ceba was not brought to trial.
The Goldstone Commission also found that there was no evidence at all that MK was in any way involved with the establishment and command of this “SDU”, and in no way knew about or sanctioned its criminal activities.
6.2.10 Managing the tension between ANC policy and mass pressures for retaliatory action
We should again emphasise that there were ongoing debates within the ranks of the ANC and MK about the narrow definition of legitimate targets. In some instances, views on these matters were aired publicly. As pointed out, this reflected the enduring tension between policy pursued since the formation of MK, and pressure from cadres and the masses for retaliatory action in response to state brutality. There were cases in which senior ANC figures made comments which could be described as creating a “grey area” with regard to which targets were considered legitimate. However, the movement remained steadfast to its principles.
It should also be emphasised that the fact that all ANC literature was banned by the regime made it difficult for the senior ANC leadership to get through to cadres and activists on the ground with regard to policy issues. Cadres were at all times subject to the mood and pressures from the people they lived amongst, and given the sometimes tenuous command and control links, policy could become diluted, or undermined.
Yet, senior MK commanders could testify to the fact that many targets were not attacked specifically because too many civilian casualties would occur. A unit which reconnoitred the Mobil Oil refinery in Durban in the late 1970s reported that it would be unwise to carry out an attack as the installation was too close to civilians living around the refinery, who would be endangered by gas exploding over their residential area.
The decision not to go ahead with an attack on PW Botha`s cabinet during the 1981 Republic Day celebrations in Bloemfontein referred to earlier provides another example. Before the attack on Koeberg was approved, the ANC went to the trouble of employing reliable nuclear experts in Europe to determine without any shadow of doubt that there would be no danger to civilians as a result of the explosions.
As indicated earlier, this steadfast commitment to policy was put to the test in the 80s during the high noon of state repression. As the “Burger War” (attacks on Wimpy Bars and supermarkets) seemed to become a trend, President Tambo ordered a special meeting of the PMC and the whole of MHQ to debate and restate policy on the issue of targets. While a number of such attacks may have originated from MK cadres, evidence has started to surface that some of them were in fact “false flag operations” of the state: and for the lives lost on the altar of discrediting the ANC, those responsible should account to this Commission.
In virtually all instances where there was a violation of policy by MK cadres, disciplinary action was taken. In some cases commanders and operatives were recalled from the country and sent back to training camps. In rare cases, cadres became undisciplined and flouted all the rules by attacking personal enemies or getting involved in violent conflict in public places such as shebeens. In one case an MK cadre killed two people in a Soweto shebeen; he is currently serving a life sentence and the ANC has not called for his release on political grounds.
The TRC should also note that in many of the instances, the cadres responsible for some of these actions were arrested, tortured and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. We submit that natural justice should be taken into account when matters pertaining to their cases are considered.
6.3 Excesses in relation to state agents
6.3.1 Context of security and intelligence operations
Security and intelligence structures of the ANC were established within the context of its adoption of underground forms of struggle. Any underground movement requires relevant mechanisms to protect those involved in it; to acquire information from the repressive state about its intentions and strategies; to carry out reconnaissance work for operations, and so on. At the same time it was crucial for the movement to ensure that its ranks were not infiltrated by agents of the regime, or at least, to minimise the damage that such infiltration would wreak.
During the 1950s it had become clear that the regime had begun to systematically infiltrate ANC structures in order to gather information, and also in order to deploy agents provocateurs tasked with undertaking actions that would discredit the ANC and create a basis for repressive actions against it. The acts of provocation during the Defiance Campaign in Port Elizabeth, and the so-called “Shisa-Shisa” gang in Kimberly during that period are examples of this approach. The use of agents became obvious too during the Treason Trial between 1956 and 1960.
This trend intensified in the early 1960s, as the intelligence and security arms of the regime were revamped with the formation of Republican Intelligence which later became BOSS, and the consolidation of the Security Branch of the SAP.
Such infiltrators were given various tasks. Often they were part of the regime`s covert intelligence gathering machinery – moles to keep the regime informed on ANC strategies, tactics, intentions and the activities of leaders. Operational intelligence would also be gathered also in order to locate leaders and to accumulate evidence to be used against them in trials. Later, such operational information would be used to prepare for assassinations, the capture and murder of operatives, attacks on homes or ANC installations, and so on.
At other times, infiltrators were able to influence the plans adopted by underground cells or MK units with disasterous consequences – such as the unwitting deployment of cadres along routes previously agreed to with their handlers in the apartheid security forces. In other cases, information on the location of arms caches was passed on; at times weapons would be booby-trapped and replaced in the caches, resulting in fatal injuries to those who later retrieved and attempted to use them.
Most casualties among leaders and activists both within and outside the country derived from such infiltration, be it the MK High Command in Rivonia, leaders of the Black Consciousness Movement and trade unions in the early 70s, and more massively after the 1976 uprising.
There were various methods of recruitment. Special indoctrination centres were used to train prospective infiltrators in the policies of the ANC, its mode of operation, and to prepare them for various missions, including ingratiating themselves with the leadership in order to be deployed in responsible positions; in other cases captured combatants, underground operatives or activists would, under brutal torture, be given the option of certain death or working for the regime. Psychological harassment was common, aimed at making cadres lose confidence in the leadership and the struggle. Blackmail was also used. In many cases, people facing probable conviction for criminal activities were offered the option of working for the regime instead of prison sentences.
Building on its small underground security and intelligence structures of the early 1960s, the ANC set up a fully-fledged Security Department in 1969, tasked with the physical protection of the ANC human and material resources and the screening of new recruits. As the mass revolt to take root within the country, these tasks were broadened to include protection of the MDM leadership, and gathering such information as would help to protect the people as a whole.
With the influx of new recruits in the wake of the June 16 1976 uprising, and the ANC`s realisation that the regime planned to thoroughly infiltrate the ANC, extra steps had to be taken to strengthen the ANC`s security structures and to devise ways of handling captured agents.
Attempt to re-educate culprits and win them over to the people`s cause formed the basis of the ANC`s policy with regard to captured infiltrators.
An elaborate and excruciating process followed, premised on the moral superiority of the anti-apartheid struggle. Compared to other struggles, including anti-colonial liberation wars and resistance movements during World War II, this was out of the ordinary – and in many instances would astound our allies and hosts.
At the beginning, the ANC was faced with the real constraint that it was operating from abroad, with weak underground structures within the country and a mass movement that was only starting to emerge. This was to change when the situation improved, and it became easier to screen new recruits, using the wide network that the ANC and the MDM had established within the country.
In contrast to these difficult conditions, the regime had at its disposal a well-resourced apparatus, budgeted to the tune of billions of Rands a year, and spread over at least three arms of the state: the police, the SADF and civilian intelligence. Later, when the National Security Management System was put into operation, the entire apparatus of the state was geared towards security and intelligence work – both operational and strategic – at the political, propaganda and narrow security levels. The basic paradigm of these machineries was to destroy everything connected to the ANC, and all structures sympathetic to the struggle against apartheid.
Given these circumstances, the ANC wishes to submit that it conducted itself well: above all, by ensuring the survival of a liberation movement which, at the beginning, had everything stacked against it; by returning from exile with a solid and united organisation; by foiling assassination plots which would have deprived the ANC, the MDM and the country as a whole of the crop of leaders who which not only led the all-round struggle of the past three decades, but also helped steer South Africa through the extremely difficult transition we have, as a nation, accomplished with such distinction.
Yet we do acknowledge that, in the context of this work, excesses occured. This section will outline the circumstances under which they happened, and the evolution of ANC policy to deal with problems of this nature. Part of this submission are the reports of the Stuart, Skweyiya and Motsuenyane Commissions, as well as the report of the inquest into the death of Thami Zulu. Given the thoroughness with which these commissions pursued their work, this section of our submission will not repeat the details of these reports, but will identify major landmarks of relevance to the specific brief of the commission.
6.3.2 Structures of accountability
The ANC`s National Executive Committee (NEC) is the most senior executive structure in the ANC, and as such was responsible for and establishing the overall political framework in which all ANC structures operate, including the Department of National Security and Intelligence.
The next most senior structure after the NEC was the National Working Committee, responsible for the day-to-day running of the ANC at NEC level. The Offices of the President, Secretary-General and Treasurer-General fell under the NEC and NWC. Under the President`s Office were the National Security Council, and after 1985, the Review Board and the Office of Justice. The National Security Council consisted of the President, the Secretary-General, the Treasurer General and the head of the Security and Intelligence Department. Military HQ, Political HQ and sections of the Department of National Security and Intelligence (also known as NAT) fell under the PMC.
NAT was headed by a Directorate composed of the heads of the various sub-sectors of this structure: Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Processing or the Central Intelligence Evaluation Sector, Security, and VIP Protection. The overall head of the Department was appointed by the President
Beneath the National PMC there were regional PMC`s co-ordinating the work of units inside the country, composed of political, military and security personnel. Security units reported to a regional NAT directorate.
In what were considered Military Zones such as Angola (and later Uganda), virtually all the structures pertaining to cadre settlements fell under the PMC. Camps fell under a Camp Commander, with the second-in-command being the Camp Commissar; next in seniority were the Chiefs-of-Staff, Ordnance, Logistics, with the Recording Officer (from NAT) and guards making up the rest of the camp administration.
Structures to improve the accountability of NAT and to address abuses which had arisen were introduced at the time of the Kabwe Conference in 1985. The Kabwe Conference agreed to adopt a Code of Conduct, which entailed setting in place a range of regulations to govern conduct within the ANC, and three new structures were established: the Officer of Justice; the National People`s Tribunal; and the National Review Committee, which are dealt with in more detail in section 188.8.131.52. It was decided to restructure the Department and define its role more clearly; its activities were confined to the screening and investigation of recruits, and the collection of intelligence. Reports on persons suspected of unlawful activities or of being agents had to be handed to the Officer of Justice, whose duties included ensuring that investigations were carried out fairly.
A Commission was appointed to examine problems in the Department, and make recommendations regarding the future leadership.
Secrecy is in the nature of the work of all intelligence organisations, with the “need-to-know” principle providing one of the first lines of defence in the protection of information. It is also in the nature of such work that this reality can lend itself to the abuse of power, particularly in periods of heightened offensive by the enemy. Recognising this, the changes introduced by the ANC in the leadership of this Department, along with the establishment of structures to deal with all cases of human rights abuses within the organisation, and to act as checks against any misuse of power by the Department, were in line with continuing attempts by the ANC to narrow the scope for abuse and to ensure that justice prevailed.
6.3.3 Stages of security operations and experiences
184.108.40.206 A new paradigm in the context of mass revolt and mass exodus (1976 -1980)
In the period before the watershed of June 1976, the underground structures of the ANC deliberately recruited cadres for training and deployment within the country. The new phase after the upheavels of 1976 saw the mass exodus of youth, seeking contact with the ANC driven by the desire to acquire the skills necessary to respond to the brutality of the regime with military force. It was critical for the ANC to set up the necessary structures to process all these new recruits: for ensuring proper deployment of cadres; for utilising information they passed on to the ANC, which could be used to build the underground; and to ensure that agents of the regime were weeded out.
Though many of the new arrivals were known to one another, the ANC did not have a sufficiently developed network within the country to cross-check information they provided. A contributing factor was the difficult situation in which the ANC had to operate incertain frontline states as an underground outfit with few resources. In most instances, it had to rely on the bona fides of the new recruits.
At times, the regime would demonstrate a callous disregard particularly for its black agents by sending them en masse into ANC structures in exile, without much preparation and with little chance of escaping the clearance net. This, however, was also part of a red herring approach, to conceal its better trained agents and keep the ANC`s security structures busy on inconsequential cases.
Some agents were exposed because they were known within the country. Others were naive and inconsistencies in their biographies which all recruits had to write were easily spotted. However, some were well-trained in the fields of political, military, and intelligence work. This included briefings on how to aim at being deployed in certain positions of strategic importance, how to rise within the ranks of the ANC, how to identify key moments at which agitation against the leadership could serve to undermine the ANC, how to gather information for necessary assassinations and other attacks, or to carry out such deeds themselves. A number of these agents were able to escape the clearance net, and were only discovered later.
The ANC`s approach to those who were discovered was based on its policies to convert them to liberation politics. Besides, these individuals stood out as pitiful “square pegs” who needed help rather than maltreatment. For their own protection and in order to ensure the safety of others, most of these agents were placed in safe houses, and, in terms of food and other supplies, treated no differently from the rest of the new recruits. However, there were some who had been briefed to link up with counter-revolutionary groups or agents already deployed in the host countries; these agents were processed in conjunction with host governments and then transferred to local prisons.
Before mid-1977, there was little visable activity by agents beyond a few attempts to carry out their missions and the escape of some who were able to report back to their handlers. After this tentative period, the network became highly active.In September 1977, food was poisoned at the Catengue military training camp in Angola, the only major training centre of MK. Nearly 500 trainees were affected and had it not been for the timely action of doctors, most would have died, or have been finished off in their weakened state by these agents. The perpetrators of this crime were discovered some years later.
In 1979, the regime launched an air raid on the same camp. The timing and choice of targets indicated clearly that they had precise information on the outlay of, and routine in, the camp. Fortunately, the ANC had prior knowledge of the regime`s intentions, and the camp had been evacuated.
UNITA and FNLA bandits began to target MK camps and convoys. Again some of these attacks indicated that they had inside information about the camps and movements of our units. Several casualties among cadres deployed within the country indicated that thee had to be agents within certain commanding structures of MK.
It was during this period that the Security and Intelligence Department was consolidated; new recruits were trained and deployed, and in 1979 , a formal detention centre was established at Camp 32 in Angola.
220.127.116.11 Covert operations intensify (1981 – 1985)
In 1981, efforts to destabilise the ANC began to take on the form of overt agitation against the leadership, particularly in Lusaka. In the camps, there was a rash of bizarre incidents of indiscipline by a minority of cadres – such as running dagga rings, the theft and sale of camp equipment and weapons, and the rape and murder of Angolan villagers. Attempts were made to deal with these developments politically, and to determine the root causes of the problems. At the time the ANC was not aware of the role of the regime`s network in these developments, and in any case, they were exploiting real grievances and difficulties.
The network was discovered with the arrest of a group of these agents in 1981; the leadership at HQ was shocked at the extent of infiltration, as their links in Lusaka, Angola, Tanzania and further afield was uncovered.
The “spy network”
In 1981, a cadre named Ndunga (codename “Joel Mahlatini”) was allegedly involved in dealing in dagga while posted at Pango Camp. The camp commander, whose MK name was Kenneth Mahamba, ordered cadres to beat him and authorised his detention in Camp 32, but Ndunga was certified dead on arrival at the detention centre. The ANC regional command instituted an investigation into this act of brutality; the findings were profoundly shocking.
Kenneth Mahamba had been recruited by the Security Police in 1976, and was linked to an extensive network of agents. Some of these agents had been groomed for deep and long-term penetration of the ANC, and had through exemplary behaviour attained highly responsible positions. Others had been given less complex but nevertheless highly damaging tasks by their SB handlers such as poisonings and sabotage of valuable equipment. Along with agents whose MK names were Thabo Mavuso, Rodgers Mayalo, Justice Tshabalala (a member of the ANC`s security department), Tommy Shenge (physical instructor at the camp), Pharoah Mogale, and Vusi Mayekiso, Kenneth Mahamba had been involved in the poisoning of cadres at Nova Catengue camp and passing on intelligence which led to the destruction of the camp in the 1979 aerial bombardment.
In addition to attempting to murder cadres and passing on intelligence on military installations, this network and its various subsidiaries supplied information on the movements of leadership figures; carried out surveillance on ANC residences; sent the enemy detailed information on the children studying at Mazimbu and committed various acts of sabotage. Some operatives had been tasked to deliberately encourage indiscipline and stir up discontent through tactics such as the promotion of tribalism in camps.
The network had included the key operative Thabo Mavuso, who had been the Commissar at Catengue camp. When he was sent back into the country he immediately reported to his handlers, and became the first Askari. Pharoah Mogale had been a political instructor at the camp, and was later deployed to the Youth Secretariat at HQ in Lusaka. Another operative was Oshkosh Khumalo, an immigration official who had been sending information on all cadres passing from Zambia to South Africa, leading to many arrests and murders. The network included Section Commander Escom Maluleka, a member of the ANC`s treasury department Balili Mpila and several other agents, including Angolan nationals, and operatives located in various neighbouring countries. Some members of the network had been transporting MK recruits from inside the country to forward areas. Others were working for foreign police and intelligence services which were co-operating with the apartheid regime. Several members of this network were executed after their cases had been heard by a Tribunal.
It must be emphasised that some cadres who were arrested at this time were either falsely implicated, or had merely shown signs of ill-discipline. Many of them were later released;. Apologies were tendered for wrongful arrest, and they were reintergrated into the exile community, and in some cases provided with opportunities to pursue academic studies.
18.104.22.168 Some incidents of abuse
The discovery of this network of agentsand the missions that they had been pursuing within the movement came as a shock: while infiltration had been expected, the sophisticated nature and the extent of the network was beyond what anyone had imagined. It was clear that the leadership and the movement as a whole, had escaped by the skin of its teeth.
It is within this context that the work of the Department of National Security and Intelligence intensified – it was a matter literally of life or death. But this department was largely staffed by young cadres; faced with this new situation and aware of the threat posed to the ANC, and at times having to deal with agents who refused to divulge information despite geing confronted with prima facie evidence, some of these cadres seriously abused detainees.
These excesses are detailed in the reports of the Motsuenyane and Skweyiya Commissions reports. These reports must read with the evidence that members of NAT submitted to both Commissions. It is clear that:
- some of the allegations of abuse are accurate, but others are exaggerated or entirely false, and represent deliberate attempts to mislead the Commissions;
- while certain cadres deployed as guards in detention centres may be directly responsible for these excesses in their zeal to deal with what they understood as the most critical threat in the history of the ANC, the leadership of NAT did not sufficiently intervene to correct the situation. The head of the Department at the time, Mzwai Piliso, accepted full responsibility for this in his evidence to the Motsuenyane Commission;
- when information on the conditions in detention centres reached senior organs of the ANC, lengthy meetings were held by the NEC to asses the situation and introduce corrective measures. The report of the Stuart Commission Report is relevant as was noted in the NEC statement in response to the release of the Motsuenyane Report.
“Violations of human rights must always be condemned, no matter by who, against whom. It is especially painful for us that the heroism of our combatants in exile should be tarnished by such unacceptable and tragic episodes as are revealed in the Motsuenyane Commission Report. Our movement has always held that the standard by which we judge ourselves has never been the same as the apartheid regime`s. We therefore appreciate the fact that the Commission has judged us by the highest standards, according to internationally accepted norms”.
The ANC deeply regrets the excesses that occurred. Further, we acknowledge that the real threat we faced and the difficult conditions under which we had to operate led to a drift in accountability and control away from established norms, resulting in situations in which some individuals within the NAT began to behave as a law unto themselves.
22.214.171.124 Detention – the case of the Morris Seabelo Centre:
There have been many allegations regarding conditions in the Morris Seabelo Centre, variously refereed to as Camp 32 or Quadro.
The government in Angola made it clear that it would prefer the ANC to manage its own centre, rather than be saddled with cases it could not process.
The conditions in this detention centre have been described in some detail in the reports of the Commissions which we have appended to our submission. Because these conditions have been described with no reference to the overall situation under which Mk had to operate in Angola, it is necessary to describe the situation in the training camps in more detail. These reminiscences of a former commander are relevant.
“Conditions in any military establishment are very difficult and abnormal. Countries that hosted MK were themselves underdeveloped without the necessary infrastructure for their own population, let alone guerrilla camps. Most of them, especially Angola, were under perpetual aggression from the apartheid regime. Poverty, disease, lack of facilities and other privations were the order of the day. MK camps were not immune from this; and they relied on food mainly from donors.
“Such supplies were never adequate. The main food supplies were beans, maize-meal, rice, flour, powdered eggs and canned food. More often than not, these supplies did not arrive at the same time to allow for a “wholesome meal”. For instance, for months on end only beans would be available, or only beans and powdered eggs – one meal a day would be cooked powdered eggs and beans, or just beans.
“Most of the camps were hundreds of kilometres away from Luanda and other ports. And attacks by anti-government bands would target precisely these supply lines. All cadres therefore experienced serious dietary problems.
“Hospitals, especially in Angola, were mainly situated in the cities. MK camps, all-in-all with a minimum of about 1 200 cadres at any one time, relied for many years on one qualified doctor and a few poorly-trained medical orderlies. This doctor, Nomava Ntshangase, was herself killed in a truck accident, under circumstances that remain mysterious to this day.
“Medical supplies depended on the donors, and much of these supplies were of no use in combating the diseases prevalent in the camps. Cadres fell victim to malaria and other tropical diseases, and a number died”.
It is under these conditions that all cadres lived for many years in MK camps in Angola. When the evidence on conditions in detention centres is considered, it must be weighed against this background.
However, to the extent that conditions in some of the detention centres might have been much worse than the norm, the ANC acknowledged, that things needed to be improved and steps were taken to do so.
126.96.36.199 Tension and dissatisfaction – dealing with mutiny
Several factors combined to produce dissatisfaction and tension among cadres in the camps: generally difficult conditions; the behaviour of some security personnel; and the slow pace of deployment of cadres within the country, given the different modus operandi of MK in comparison to other guerrilla struggles. In addition to these problems, MK combatants had been killed by bandits seeking to destabilise the Angolan government. Operations bordering on military campaigns had to be conducted to clear areas around MK camps.
These conditions resulted in protests in late 1983 and early 1984 in camps near the town of Cangandala, which were defused with no loss of life.But dissatisfaction continued amongst these cadres and others who had by this time been moved to Viana transit camp, and some refused to turn in their arms on arrival. This mutiny was put down with the assistance of Angolan government troops and resulted in the loss of two lives, an MK cadre known as “Babsy” and an Angolan soldier who was killed when an Armed Personnel Carrier was shot at by Dyasop, an MK cadre. Fortunately there was no further loss of life and the mutineers surrendered their arms. Like all other armies, MK had rules about dealing with mutineers, and this case was no exception. The leaders of this mutiny, popularly known as Mkatashinga, were arrested, many of them were later released.
A far more serious mutiny broke out in Pango in 1984. Those responsible used machine-guns and other heavy weapons to kill the camp commanders and other soldiers, this mutiny had to be be suppressed mercilessly. A military tribunal was set up by the NEC and two groups of mutineers were tried: seven of those who shot officers and other cadres were given the death penalty. None of the second group of eight were executed, despite the fact that one of the mutineers had hunted down wounded cadres the morning after the mutiny began, and finished them off: The ANC released him but he later murdered a Tanzanian citizen and was imprisoned in that country.
There were isolated cases in which recruits were executed after they were tried and convicted of crimes such as raping and murdering local villagers. For example, Thabo Makhubethe (travelling name Ruphus Maphalie) was found guilty of raping an Angolan woman. A military tribunal ordered that he be executed by firing squad – sentence was carried out in 1984 in Luanda. In another case, Josiah Malhobane (travelling name Shaka Dumakude) and Jeremiah Maleka (travelling name Zweni Mdingi) indulged in heavy drinking in Milange and neglected the important assignments they had been given. In a drunken state they randomly shot at shoppers at a local market, killing two Angolan women and seriously injuring another woman and child. They were sentenced to death by firing squad – sentence was carried out in 1989 at Milange.
The full list of people executed during the years of exile is attached to this submission.
188.8.131.52 Political leadership and the judicial system
From reports of the Regional Command in Angola, as well the security department, the NEC was appraised of the gravity of the security situation, and was advised on decisions that would have to be taken regarding those captured. The work that the security structures had accomplished was, however, not matched by an equal enthusiasm to ensure humane conduct by the people responsible for arrests and detention centres. The NEC emphasised the need for cadres in security structures to operate within the ambit of movement policy; some of them did visit the detention centres to ensure that this happened, but not enough was done to prevent the reoccurence of abuses.
However, when reports about dissatisfaction precipitating mutinies were received, and when decisions were required about appropriate sentences, the NEC acted swiftly. Senior NEC members were dispatched to ensure that the tribunals were conducted in a fair manner and that cases where execution was recommended were reviewed impartially.
The NEC realised that these reports reflected a more serious malaise; and a Commission of Inquiry headed by James Stuart which including senior non-NEC members such as Sizakhele Sigxashe, were tasked with investigating the causes of the mutinies and recommending measures to correct the situation.
The Commission Report, which is one of the appendices, acknowledged the problems and proposed political, administrative, logistical and other measures to rectify the situation. By the time the report was released, one of the recommendations – for a national conference of the movement – was already being organised, Issues raised by the Commission raised informed debate at the 1985 Kabwe Conference.
6.3.4 Post-Kabwe: Consolidation of ANC jurisprudence (1985 – 1987)
184.108.40.206 Debates on the treatment of captured agents
We have described the enduring tension between the ANC`s policy on legitimate targets, and pressure for retaliation in response to state brutality. There were similarly heated debates within the movement on the treatment of captured agents. On the one hand, there was ANC policy on the humane treatment of prisoners of war, ie accordance with the Geneva Protocols; on the other, there was the anger at the havoc certain agents had wrought. As a result of their activities, cadres had been arrested inside the country; leaders such as Joe Gqabi, Dulcie September and Cassius Make had been assassinated, along with many others in exile and inside the country; ANChouses had been attacked, cadres poisoned, and valuable equipment had been sabotaged.
The question would be posed over and over again, were we not being too lenient in keeping such agents in settlements, feeding them and “wasting” resources onguarding them? But as always, the movement eschewed emotional responses and sought to approach matters rationally, asserting the supremacy of the ANC`s politics and morality. While not enough was done in earlier years to ensure that these policies informed actual practice, humane norms governing the treatment of captured agents remained ANC policy.
At the Kabwe Conference, this matter came under intense scrutiny; and the result was not merely the reassertion of policy, but also the adoption of an elaborate Code of Conduct to ensure that the policies of the movement found clearer expression in actual practice. The Code set out standards for the treatment of detainees, emphasising that all its cadres, particularly those working in the field of security, should be trained accordingly, and that in its conduct, the movement should nurture “the embryo of the new justice system we envisage for a liberated South Africa”.
In Section C of the Code of Conduct, titled “Investigation”, sub-section (4) stipulates that “Torture or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of a detainee or of a person on trial is forbidden,” with this stipulation further reinforced by the regulations listed under Section D: “Procedure”, sub-section (8b), which states that “the Tribunal shall at all times be attentive to the necessity to ensure that any confession or admission is genuine and that its content can be relied upon, and should normally not make a finding of guilty without some external and substantial form of corroboration.”
In the section titled “Punishment” in the MK Code of Conduct , it is stipulated that “all members of the ANC and MK are required to respect the terms of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War in line with the formal acceptance by the ANC of these terms in 1981. Any violation of these terms shall be an offence. ( …) The purpose of punishment is to deter members from committing an offence, assist offenders to rehabilitate (…) Punishments shall be administered humanely and without undue harshness or cruelty.”
220.127.116.11 Structures for justice
The Code of Conduct called for the establishment of the post of Officer of Justice whose functions included ensuring that there was no abuse of persons in detention, that the goal of re-education prevailed, and that unreasonable delays in finishing investigations were avoided.
In addition, a Review Commission was consolidated, to ensure that sentences decided on by tribunals or any other structures would be examined by senior members of the NEC.
Despite the limited resources at the ANC`s disposal, lawyers within the movement were tasked to ensure that those who were tried had a proper defence. Not only was this process excruciatingly difficult for an underground movement given the conditions under which the ANC had to operate, it also generated tension between various structures and individuals within the movement – all in defence of normal practices of justice, and not seldom, in the service of agents responsible for heinous acts against the people.
But the NEC insisted that this was the right course, and temptations to violate or undermine the rules were discouraged.
18.104.22.168 Revamp of Security and Intelligence Department and new culture
President Tambo decided to restructure the Department and bring in new personnel. Between 1986-7 a provisional Directorate was formed under the supervision of the Sg, Alfred Nzo. This Provisional Sdirectorate was tasked with restructuring the department in order to ensure its practices were in line with the new structures for justice established after the Kabwe Conference , investingating the style of work within the department, and assessing its ability to respond to the changed circumstances of struggle within the country and in the international arena.
A new leadership of the department consisting of senior members of the NEC, was appointed in 1987. The Department was restructured into more clearly defined sub-sectors of Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Processing and Security. The new leadership set about correcting other problems within the department, It tightened supervision of interrogation practices, and acted immediately against unnacceptable methods; systematically investigated conditions in the detention centres, and proposed corrective measures where appropriate. Plans were drawn up for a new detention centre in Angola, but before work could begin the majority of ANC cadres, detainees and prisoners had to be transferred to Uganda and Tanzania, where conditions were better.
The Thami Zulu case
Among the cases that have received much publicity in this period is the recall and confinement of Thami Zulu and the issue of circumstances surrounding his death. The details are sufficiently covered in the report of the Commission which was tasked with investigating the case.(the report is one of the appendicies). In order to fully understand the actual meaning of this case, both to appreciate the past and identify current and future challenges, the following issues need to be underlined:
- Investigations into the extremely high casualty rate within Mk structures under his command were accepted as constituting sufficient ground for his recall; within the context of international military norms, commanders under similar circumstances have been subjected to far worse treatment.
- Thami Zulu was not confined to a detention centre. He spent most of his time in residences, although separated from the rest of the ANC community. At no time was he tortured or subject to any undue pressure.
- When he was released, Thami Zulu was ill Independent pathologists found he had contracted the HIV virus and was suffering from AIDS-related Complex, and possibly pulmonary TB.
- However, Thami Zulu died of poisoning after his release – and to this day, it is a matter of conjecture as to who administered this poison and why this was done. The Department of Intelligence and Security has reason to believe that an agent or agents of the regime were responsible.
As in other cases, such as those of Francis Meli and Solly Smith, the question has been asked whether poison was administered to stop him from exposing deeper networks, on his death-bed, embedded in the movement. We hope that the TRC process will help to uncover the real facts the case of Thami Zulu and other such complex cases.
22.214.171.124 A new capacity in the underground
In time underground structures of the ANC, including security and intelligence units, struck root within the country; assisted by the MDM network throughout the country, it was easier to follow up accusations, investigate suspicious tendencies, and seek advice from cadres on the ground.
Many of the agents captured in this period were known to underground and MDM structures before they left the country; and when challenged with irrefutable evidence, they would have no option but to admit their guilt.
In addition, the Security and Intelligence Department developed networks within the regime`s security structures, and valuable information on infiltration of the ANC and MDM was obtained in this manner. The ANC was able to identify the controllers activities of over 600 agents – in exile and deployed in internal ANC and MDM structures – from details of reports they had submitted to their handlers. Three cases illustrate this new intelligence capacity, and details of some of their reports (not necessarily accurate, but in the words of the agents or their handlers) are attached to this submission:
Maxwell Xulu (Report 1):
A former Treasurer-General of COSATU, his Security Police Source Number was PN645. He was controlled by Warrant Officers Brown and Twala of the Port Natal region. He submitted 23 reports, in which he is described as a “high level source holding a senior position in the labour movement” and having “high level contact with the leadership of the ANC in exile”. He had penetrated COSATU, MAWU, NUMSA, the ANC and the UDF. Confronted with this damning evidence, Xulu conceded his guilt and agreed to leave the trade union movement.
Keith McKenzie (Report 2):
A former operative in an underground MK unit, his Security Police Source Number was NT395. He was controlled by Lt. Momberg and Sgt. Goosen of the Northern Transvaal region. He is said to have submitted one report on contact he had with MK commanders in Botswana, and was characterised as a “high level source associated with leading members of the ANC MK Special Operations Group”. McKenzie was apprehended by the ANC, and confirmed the information contained in the report.
Joy Harnden (Report 6):
“A high level source placed in the white left of the UDF structures”, her Security Police Number was WWR 805, she was handled by Lt Palko of the Witwatersrand police. She is said to have submitted 6 reports. After making contact with underground structures in Maputo, she was put in touch with a unit inside the country. The leader of this unit was Iggy Mathebula, disappeared without trace after making contact with her. To this day, it is not known what happened to Iggy Mathebula, and we hope the TRC will discover the truth. The MDM was warned of her activities and she was excluded from their structures.
The moral of this information is that, besides the culture established in the revamped security structures of the ANC, it had become much easier to deal with accusations against individuals within the ANC, MDM and other organisations. Thus was no pressure to resort to harsh methods in order to establish the facts and extract information. Of course, there were other networks (apart from those indicated in the attached Security Branch reports) linked to Military Intelligence and the National Intelligence Service – and the TRC should help uncover these facts.
6.3.5 Some cases relevant to the post-1990 period
As the negotiations process opened, the ANC began to process captured agents for release and repatriation. A few years earlier, the ANC had sought to send some of these agents back to their handlers in exchange for cadres of the movement in state hands; but for propaganda reasons, and because they cared little for their own operatives, the regime had refused.
Of those released in 1990, several expressed remorse for their activities against the ANC and the struggle, and maintain friendly contact with the ANC. They have communicated their wish to be rehabilitated and fully reintegrated into society, and the ANC is doing all it can to assist. There are others who were wrongfully arrested. The ANC has apologised to them, and where possible has assisted them to re-establish themselves within the country; some are pursuing their studies. To them we once more apologise.
However, there are a number of agents who came back and were quickly reintegrated into the security apparatus of the regime. Two cases clearly demonstrate the character of these agents.
126.96.36.199 De Sousa – gang criminality and apartheid security
Joachim Jose Ribiero de Sousa was among the last group of detainees released by the ANC. He had been recruited by the NIS in the USA in 1983, where he was studying for a BSc degree. He reported on the activities of anti-apartheid groups in the USA, and after training in Pretoria passed on information on UDF campaigns against the tri-cameral Parliament. He also passed on information on ANC offices in New York, London, Lusaka and Harare. He was detained by ANC security in 1986.
De Sousa`s group returned to South Africa in August 1991, within three months of his release De Sousa had tried to murder his estranged wife; he invaded her home, knocked her unconscious and then shot her in the neck, and had tried to murder two of her women friends by firing shots through the door of the room in which they were hiding. De Sousa became involved in the underworld in Eersterust, and came into conflict with organised gangs; it was alleged he was running two armed gangs himself. In late 1991 he murdered Warren Hartze; a few weeks later he tried to murder four more people in two separate attacks on their homes.
De Sousa was arrested, and a Pretoria magistrate ruled that he should be held at a police station until his next appearance. Outraged Eersterust residents demanded to know why he was not being treated like other prisoners and remanded at Pretoria Central. He was released on bail in February 1992 pending a decision by the Attorney General on what charges should be brought against him. De Sousa and his heavily armed gang began a reign of terror in Eersterust. From June onwards, the place was described as being like a “war zone” with constant shootings.
By July 1992, de Sousa had survived no fewer than three attempts on his life, apparently by members of rival gangs. In one of these cases three men were arrested and sentenced to various terms of correctional service or supervision.
In September 1993 De Sousa was charged with one count of murder, seven counts of attempted murder, four of damage to property, and five or unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. The trial was postponed until February 1994 and De Sousa was released on R2,000.00 bail. . De Sousa was eventually sentenced to seventeen years imprisonment. But De Sousa never served his sentence: he was killed outside prison.
188.8.131.52 Patrick Dlongwana (aka Hlongwane) – a microcosm of the evolution of state security strategy in the 1980s and 90s
Patrick Dlongwana (police code number 446/8, later altered to OPJ 446/8) began his career of collaboration with the SAP in 1977. He passed on information about activists and anti-apartheid groups, and gave testimony for the state in cases against various activists, resulting in long prison sentences. In Port Elizabeth he was instructed to set up a “pseudo-revolutionary” group called “Roots” along with another SB agent masquerading as a PAC member. Activists at the time remember that Dlongwana always advocated militant and radical actions in the meetings of youth structures, and tried to incite violence. The real role of “Roots” was to disrupt the activities of grassroots anti-apartheid organisations, sow confusion and mount a disinformation campaign around certain prominent leaders, to violently disrupt PEBCO meetings and beat students boycotting classes. Dlongwana`s group wore balaclavas to hide their identities when engaging in this kind of violence.
Dlongwana has stated that after receiving technical training by Lt. Gideon Nieuwoudt and other officers of the PE Security Branch, he was sent to Lesotho in late 1982 to photograph houses in which ANC activists and refugees lived. He completed this mission, returned to South Africa, and in December participated in the bloody raid on Maseru in which 42 people were killed. During 1984 he was involved in petrol-bombing the homes of prominent Eastern Cape activists including Sipho Hashi; he murdered a COSAS member who called him a spy; and then worked with Thamsanqa Linda, who was running a vigilante group (Linda was known as “Project Tommy” by the regional AEC office which handled him.) When deployed on the East Rand, he assisted in disrupting trade union activities and in the tracking down and murder of an MK cadre. By late 1986 his usefulness to the SB was waning and he was cynically sent to join the ANC in Lusaka, where he was immediately picked up due to the notoriety had achieved inside the country. He made a full confession, available on videotape, which makes it clear that he was not subjected to duress. He was imprisoned by the ANC until early 1990.
On the return of Dlongwana`s group of detainees to South Africa, they were met at the airport by Inkatha`s Bruce Anderson, who told the media that “a campaign to expose the terror camps of the ANC and to prove the vulnerability South Africa would have if they elected an ANC government” would be launched. Dlongwana began to use the name Hlongwane, and immediately resumed his work for the apartheid regime by fronting for the Returned Exiles Committee (REC), largely co-ordinated by the SAP. Nico Basson, a former Military Intelligence communications expert who had been involved in the covert muti-million anti-SWAPO campaign before the elections in that country, had earlier made public details on a very similar campaign waged against SWAPO.
By late 1990 REC had cruelly sent out letters to many families falsely claiming that their children, relatives or friends had gone missing and had “probably been murdered by security members of the ANC.” Over the next three years, REC mounted a sustained and vigorous propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting the ANC through a combination of selective truth and totally false or grossly exaggerated allegations on conditions in its former detention centres.
As in the case of the earlier front “Roots”, Hlongwane was deployed as a stratkom tool to not only spread disinformation but also to serve as a cover for state-directed violence against the ANC which could be portrayed as the result of internal ANC disputes arising from the exile past.
In late 1992, on more than one occasion, he threatened to kill ANC leadership figures whom he falsely accused of being involved in the torture of former ANC prisoners, and by early 1993 a mysterious organisation calling itself the “SA Republican Army” (SARA) had appeared, claiming responsibility for massacres and murders in which it is strongly suspected that elements within the Internal Stability Division (ISD) units or other arms of the security forces may have been involved, including that of Reggie Hadebe. A few months later Hlongwane publicly stated SARA was the armed wing of RECOC. At no stage was he questioned by the police on his claims. Not long after this, he was working as a “junior unpaid information officer” for the National Party`s Soweto branch.
The International Freedom Foundation (IFF), a so-called international human rights organisation, set up a “commission of inquiry” into the allegations by certain former detainees. The IFF branch in South Africa at this time was headed by Russel Crystal, previously involved in stratkom projects such as the National Students Federation, set up to counter the influence of NUSAS. He was also a member of De Klerk`s President`s Council as late as November 1992. In 1991 the IFF had been exposed as being among those groups which had received covert funding by the apartheid regime, yet it continued to mount expensive propaganda blitzes and organise various costly anti-ANC stratkom operations overseas and in the country at taxpayers expense, and in total contravention of the terms of the National Peace Accord. In January 1993 the report of the IFF- sponsored Douglas Commission was published, purporting to present evidence establishing that the ANC had “put in place a systematic policy of depraved brutality and persecution against their own members in exile.”
In July 1995 disaffected Security Police operative Paul Erasmus revealed details of various stratkom operations which had been running under the De Klerk regime; among the documents he exposed was an “information note” dated 08/11/90 from Lt-Col. Alf Oosthuizen, chief of intelligence at SAP HQ in Pretoria, bearing what appears to be the signatures of Adriaan Vlok and General Johan van Der Merwe, on a planned media conference where two RECOC members would “reveal the ANC`s undemocratic policy, ethnic divisions in the organisation, and the existence of conditions(sic) in the Mbarara detention camp in Uganda. (…) RECOC as an organisation acts wholly independently, although this office co-ordinates its actions (..) the SAP involvement will in no way be revealed.” At the same time it came to light that the IFF was in fact a front fully funded by the state via SADF`s Military Intelligence since 1986.
There was a bizarre final twist: it emerged in October 1995, with the publication of the report by the Skweyiya Commission of inquiry into corruption in the former Bophutatswana, that R150,000 in taxpayer`s money had been channelled to Russel Crystal`s` Executive Research Associates for the publication of the Douglas Commission report via Lucas Mangope`s secret “National Security Fund.”
In retrospect, those who covertly ran and financed this anti-ANC propaganda campaign centred on the allegations of certain former detainees did achieve one positive result – although not one that they have welcomed: in its detailed response to the publication of the Motsuenyane Commission report, the ANC NEC called for the formation of a Truth Commission:
“In recent years, when there have been investigations into the abuse of rights that have happened in other national liberation struggles, like Chile or El Salvador, violations committed by the liberation forces have comprised only a minute proportion of the number of total transgressions by illegitimate and authoritarian regimes. There is no reason to believe that the situation in South Africa is any different. Only a broad national Truth Commission (…) to investigate the totality of human rights violations during the years of struggle, not only those committed by the liberation movement (will establish whether this is in fact true.) “
In so far as cases of abuse are concerned, the ANC concurs with the findings of the Motsuenyane Commission that, though there were a number of such excesses, it was never established that there was any systematic policy of abuse. Instead, the report illustrates consistent efforts by the leadership to establish mechanisms of accountability and oversight. The appointment of these various Commissions illustrates the ANC`s candid and responsible approach to issues of human rights promotion. To quote the Motsuenyane Commission Report:
“It would be wrong to ignore the historic significance of the investigation the ANC, through this Commission, has undertaken, a first in the annals of human rights enforcement. By its commitment to this inquiry, the ANC seeks to breathe life into the lofty principles proclaimed in the Freedom Charter – to render fundamental human rights the Golden Rule, to be applied in good times and bad, peace and war.”
To the extent that the Motsuenyane Commission found that some detainees were maltreated and recommended that the ANC should apologise for these violations of their human rights, the ANC does so without qualification, within the context of the standards it has set itself – standards it wishes our country to attain and maintain, now and in the future
6.4 ANC members who died in exile
Over the years the ANC sought to record all deaths of its members in exile, irrespective of the cause of death – whether they fell in battle, died of natural causes, accidents, were murdered by agents of the regime, or executed after being found guilty of serious crimes. In some cases cadres have disappeared, and have never been fully accounted for. There have been cases of cadres who were abducted by agents of the regime, and if not turned into collaborators through torture, secretly killed. Others were murdered once they had outlived their usefulness after being “turned”. Many such abductions took place under clandestine conditions as cadres were either en route to link up with the ANC in exile or on their way back into South Africa to engage in struggle.
Keeping such records has not been an easy task, given the rigours of underground existence, raids on homes and offices, and the destruction of records in the process. Many of the names recorded could be combat or travelling names, which our cadres assumed in exile. Sometimes they were
known by several such names, depending on the number of countries they traversed. This was in order to protect the families of cadres from harassment by the apartheid state, and for the safety of cadres themselves. Some of our cadres have taken their true identities to their graves.
It must also be noted that among the many people who left for exile there were those who never did make contact with the ANC: they either joined other organisations, acquired refugee status in various host countries, or disappeared.
After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 we tried to update our records. A full-time Bereaved Parents Committee was set up to take on this task by attempting to find more information on those who had died or disappeared. In addition this group was tasked with making contact with affected families nation-wide to inform them of the fate of their loved ones.
However it has not been possible to fill in all the gaps in the records, nor to contact all those families of those listed in our records of ANC members who died in this period. Some have not been traced because of forced removals, dislocation resulting from violence in regions such as KwaZulu Natal, and other problems. For this we express our regret.
For the information of the Commission and the people of South Africa, our record of those of our members who died in exile is attached to our submission.
We intend to continue filling in the gaps in our records; and we appeal to the Truth Commission and concerned families and individuals to assist in finishing this task.
6.5 The Mass Democratic Movement and human rights violations in the context of the mass revolt of the 1980
The emergence in the 1980s of the UDF and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) – a loosely constituted group of organisations established to give direction to the struggle after the UDF was effectively banned – introduced a qualitative change in the struggle against apartheid. These umbrella organisations, drawing together hundred of grassroots organisations, provided the ANC with important internal, legal allies which played a major role in the collapse of apartheid rule. As we submitted earlier, although the UDF/MDM were in broad agreement with the ANC on all major policy issues, they were separate entities and did not operate under the control of the ANC.
It is necessary to contextualise violations of human rights which occurred in the name of these organisations during the mass uprisings of the 1980s, when spontaneous resistance to apartheid broke out across the country. Many participants in this struggle did not fall within the formal structures and organisational discipline of the ANC, but believed they were acting within the broad parameters of struggle as outlined by the ANC.
Where activists of the democratic movement were involved in violence it was frequently in response to the violence of the state or its representatives. As harassment, detention, shootings and other acts of repression intensified, ordinary people took steps to defend themselves against the police, state-run “vigilante” groups, informers and other criminals.
The context in which violence took place
The generalised violent uprising resulted from the political intransigence and violence of the apartheid regime, together with intolerable economic conditions at local level. It was at this stage that the ANC called on oppressed South Africans to refuse to be governed by what was essentially an illegitimate and undemocratic regime [See section 5.3 above]. These mass-based struggles soon resulted in a situation in which the regime could no longer rule black South Africans in the same old way, but could only relate to them as an army of occupation. These struggles all contributed to making apartheid unworkable and forcing those in power to finally come to their senses and agree to a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
While the UDF and the Mass Democratic Movement campaigned actively against unjust laws to show up the illegitimacy of the South African government, and actively opposed apartheid-based structures of governance such as the councils, these organisations never shifted from their policy of non-violent forms of struggle.
The UDF was able to provide political leadership which helped contain and channel popular anger in ways which prevented a racial war.
But the state responded with increasingly repressive measures. Organisations were prevented from operating openly. Their activities were disrupted through overt violence or covert “dirty tricks” operations. Their literature and statements were censored or banned. Their leaders were banned, detained, forced into exile, or killed – often with extreme brutality which created intense anger. At times organisations were incapacitated and left without clear guidance through wholesale detention of their leadership, and other forms of harassment. The decentralised nature of the UDF as an umbrella organisation with hundreds of autonomous affiliates further precluded the possibility of asserting tight, centralised control over an accountable and disciplined membership. All these factors made it increasingly difficult to disseminate information on policy issues, ensure organisational discipline, and a non-violent approach in a situation of extreme provocation and blanket state terrorism against black civilians.
As with other forms of struggle, there were instances where individuals deliberately flouted ANC and UDF/MDM policy, at times out of anger.
By 1987 it had become virtually impossible for the UDF to function openly. After Murphy Morobe (UDF acting Publicity Secretary) emerged from a year in hiding to give a press interview, a journalist commented that Morobe had become “a public relations man who cannot be seen in public, representing a legal mass organisation that has to operate underground.”
Given this situation it was clearly impossible for the UDF/MDM to actually control all activities carried out in its name by people and groups who, while supporting the broad aims of these organisations, were not directly linked to the leadership and discipline of the organisations.
In advance of campaigns such as consumer boycotts and stayaways, the UDF/MDM issued statements calling for discipline and laying down guidelines. Yet at times assaults and attacks occurred despite these directives.
To give another example of difficulties of this nature, people began setting up Street Committees, People`s Courts and similar structures as an expression of their rejection of the apartheid system. These were rudimentary forms of popular government, emerging at first as a result of local initiatives and later with the encouragement of the ANC and MDM. However, while the motives guiding People`s Courts were in essence good – to counter criminal activities on a community basis – a lack of resources often meant that no thorough investigations were conducted; as a result, judgements were often made on the basis of inadequate information.
On a number of occasions both the ANC and UDF/MDM leadership condemned violations of human rights which occurred as a result of “peoples` courts”, “necklacing”, and other unacceptable practices, whilst recognising the context in which such actions took place. The most cursory research of the 1980s press and the archives of the UDF will confirm this fact.
In its attempts to suppress the mass uprising, the state relied on an extensive network of secret informers, and constantly attempted to turn activists into a fifth column within the mass democratic movement. In some cases these attempts were successful; such recruits passed on information on activists to their handlers in the security forces: this resulted in lengthy detentions, the smashing of organisations, and many murders of respected leadership figures and other activists. Other informers became state witnesses, schooled to give false evidence needed to convict activists of treason, terrorism and sedition under the Internal Security Act. Yet others were recruited into death squads, or deployed as agents provocateurs who incited or perpetrated violence and then claimed to have been instructed by the UDF and /or the ANC to do so.
In yet other cases, young activists who wanted to serve the cause of liberation by participating in the armed struggle were lured into fatal traps by agents of the regime posing as members of MK or the ANC, who gave them arms and ammunition and wrong instructions on how to use them, or booby-trapped grenades which killed or grossly maimed the users. These cynical killings were then attributed to the ANC`s armed wing. These and other heart-rending experiences gave rise to a culture of extreme intolerance among the youth in particular for informers and those suspected of being agents provocateurs. In a situation where the forces of law and order were deployed to attack rather than defend the people, it is not remotely surprising that activists turned towards meting out summary justice against suspected agents, and those who openly sided with the apartheid system, including members of the hated security forces.
The use of extreme methods to neutralise the enemy, which included deterring and punishing collaborators, was perceived by many as an entirely justifiable act of self-defence, and the use of harsh methods in situations of this nature are by no means unique to the struggle for liberation in South Africa. The tactics of the underground resistance in Europe in the struggle against Nazism provide but one comparison. In South Africa, a particularly harsh form of retaliation was the “necklace”.
“Necklacing” was never the policy of the ANC or UDF/MDM. The regime took every opportunity to use “necklacing” as a means to discredit the UDF and the ANC, at times in the same way that they sought to damage the image of the ANC by undertaking certain “false flag” operations for which MK was blamed: evidence is beginning to emerge that this gruesome form of reprisal may have been initiated by the state, and that on a number of occasions “necklacings” were the direct result of the work of agents provocateurs. The revelations of former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee and others have shown that the burning of the bodies of murdered activists was a common practice of this unit long before burning became a tool of popular retribution.
Recent revelations have implicated self-confessed Vlakplaas operative Joe Mamasela in the killing of Maki Skosana, the first recorded “necklace” victim in South Africa. She was involved in a relationship with him, not knowing that he was a police agent; the deaths and horrific injuries inflicted on youths by booby-trapped grenades supplied by Mamasela, resulted in intense anger in the community and it appears that activists believed that Maki was responsible for introducing the youths to him. An enraged crowd turned on her when she appeared at the funeral of some of those youths killed by the booby-trapped grenades.
“Necklacing” also reflected the objective conditions under which the intensifying mass struggle against apartheid took place: the majority of people were unarmed and still had to rely on the same weapons they could find in the 1970s; and as the mass revolt against apartheid spread, it was impossible for either the ANC or the UDF/ MDM to exercise control over all aspects of the manner in which people chose to fight apartheid.
The concern expressed by President Nelson Mandela in his statement from the dock in April 1964 proved prophetic:
“How many Sharpevilles would there be in the history of our country? And how many more Sharpevilles could the country stand without violence and terror becoming the order of the day? And what would happen to our people when that stage was reached?”
Young people in particular lived under conditions guaranteed to breed violence; as President Tambo put it in an address in 1987 to a conference focusing on the plight of children under apartheid,
“Children have suffered electric shocks, beatings by fists, sjamboks and rifle butts, sever deprivation of food and sleep, sexual abuse and attack, attempted strangulation, solitary confinement and being submerged in sewerage water or doused with petrol and threatened with”necklacing.” Members of the security forces carry out their duties with indiscriminate brutality and insensitivity. (…) The effects of arrest, detention and interrogation are deeply disturbing for any detainee but acutely traumatic for children. (…) These children are growing up virtually in a war situation. (…)
“Children are moulded by what society offers and teaches them. They put back into society what society gives them. The longer this situation is allowed to continue the more the children are going to think that violence is necessary for survival and have no regard for life.”
This extract from the memoirs of an MK commander, describing a visit to an MK training camp by Johnny Makathini, at the time the ANC`s representative at the United Nations, provides further insight into the tensions between ANC policies and mass participation in the struggle by youths who had grown up under conditions of state terrorism:
“Pango had become our main camp in the Quibaxe area. It was filled with young recruits from the township uprisings which continued to engulf South Africa. Many were in their teens. They were enthusiastic and militant. Johnny was fascinated by their accounts of the street fighting at home (…) At the same time he was not in agreement with some of the methods of “rough justice” being used against collaborators. One of these involved placing a tyre filled with petrol around a victim`s neck and setting it alight. It was called “the necklace.”
“While understanding the frustration and anger of the people, particularly with those seen as traitors and “sell-outs”, Tambo and the ANC leadership unreservedly condemned the practice of “necklacing.” Johnny argued with the youngsters about its cruelty and was surprised to find how vigorously they defended it.
“Give us guns and we will eliminate the izimpimpi (informers) nice and cleanly,” one young girl responded at our table (…) “Yes, comrade Makhathini, necklacing is cruel, but it`s helped us put the traitors to flight (…) What the izimpimpi have done to the people is even more gruesome.”
“Johnny relied on the moral argument but failed to convince the young comrades. (…) I knew that one had to get away from simply the moral argument which was regarded as academic by those who were daily on the receiving end of bloodshed and betrayal. “The trouble with necklacing”, I began, “is in its spontaneity and facelessness. Can you reallybe certain who has shouted out: “That one is an impimpi? It could be an agent provocateur who levels the accusation. It means that necklacing can easily become a method used by the security forces to sow confusion. It is the same with attacks on civilian or “soft” targets. It gives the enemy the opportunity to discredit us. That`s why we stress the need for disciplined operations, against clearly defined targets.” (…) The young girl remained sceptical…..”
Armed and Dangerous, Ronnie Kasrils; Heinemann, 1993 (pp 247-8)
The ANC has never sought to condone all cases of violence of this nature, nor to disregard the suffering of those targeted for such retribution. Yet we call on the Commission to consider the cases of those, accused of criminal activities such as “necklacing”, informers, criminals or “vigilantes” with a full understanding of the highly abnormal circumstances in which such acts took place, the level of state-sponsered violence afflicting communities during this period, and of the consequances flowing from the refusal by agencies of law and order to act impartially.
7. Conclusion: Reconciliation, Reparations and the Challenges for the Future
7.1 The ANC`s own conduct
We believe that the masses of the people and the liberation movement waged a just struggle against apartheid, designated by the UN as a crime against humanity. This struggle was no different from other decolonisation struggles in other parts of the world, and developed in response to the policies and practices of the apartheid regime – political, social, economic and judicial – which had as their starting point the perpetuation and defence of a system which was in and of itself a violation of human rights. This fact has been accepted by all who pay allegiance to the interim and final constitutions, which represent a collective attempt to move away from such a system.
However, we do acknowledge that the fact that the ANC waged a just war against apartheid does not render us or anyone else immune from judgement on our conduct in the course of the struggle. We have set out the conditions under which violations of policy occurred. But we emphasise that none of these violations reflected official policy, or were in way case sanctioned by the leadership. There are instances where we could have acted more firmly and speedily to prevent or stop abuses; and for this the ANC accepts collective responsibility.
From its inception, the ANC sought to pursue a path of struggle that would persuade the powers-that-be to come to the negotiations table and accord the majority of the people the rights they deserved. Even at the height of repression, it was the ANC that initiated the negotiations process which culminated in the system of non-racial democracy we are building today.
Over the years, the ANC established rules and organisational procedures to ensure disciplined conduct among its members. It also set the foundation for such conduct through systematic education of its members about the objectives of struggle and the fact that these goals were not only just and moral, but required all members to conduct themselves as true custodians of these objectives. This was as much a matter of survival and winning over the majority of South Africans to the ANC`s side, as it was simple moral logic.
To the extent that there may be questions on matters of detail, or the need for any elaboration on incidents perceived as gross violations of human rights referred to in this report, the ANC will make such additional input as is necessary. Where applicable, individual members will apply for amnesty.
7.2 An approach to reparations
An important role of the TRC is to ensure that justice prevails to the maximum extent possible. Justice is not only punishment. Justice is not revenge or retribution. Whether there is punishment or not, an important element of justice is restoration, restitution and reparation.
It must be appreciated that the new democratic state does not have the capacity or resources to fully compensate all those who have suffered. There are millions of families who have suffered under apartheid in so many ways who could justifiably say they should be compensated for the harm which apartheid has caused. There are others whose suffering stems from other causes who would be able to make similar claims. There needs to be restoration, restitution and/or reparation within the framework of such resources or capacity that South Africa can afford. And, in the final analysis, the creation of a democratic and prosperous society constitutes the primary form of reconciliation and reparations. The ANC submits that in making its recommendations, the Commission should take this fact into account.
Justice demands that the concerns of victims should take centre stage in the process of reconciliation. In this context all of us need to be creative in identifying ways in which the TRC, the South African government, the South African people and various local communities can together participate in a process of effecting restitution, restoration and/or reparation. Taking international experience and international human rights law as well as our situation into account and also taking into account the constraints imposed upon us, the ANC submits that the TRC should be able to make recommendations which would include the following actions:
- monetary awards, either by way of lump sum or monthly pension;
- other forms of material assistance and support;
- psychological support and provision of comfort and solidarity;
- steps to be taken to restore the dignity and honour as well as the good names of victims;
- efforts to ensure that the communities become involved in the process of reconciliation;
- steps be taken to ensure that South Africa remembers.
This list is not exhaustive and the ANC will seek an opportunity to address the Commission again in greater detail on the forms which restitution, restoration and/or reparation could take.
The ANC is also of the view that the TRC should have the power to intervene on an urgent basis at any time even if such intervention would be on the basis of interim recommendations for requests or even orders in circumstances which the Commission may deem appropriate. They would all be designed to alleviate the plights of victims, help to restore their dignity and honour, end the humiliation and make them feel that reconciliation and justice has not been at their expense.
7.3 Lasting reconciliation
In approaching the issue of reconciliation and nation-building, it is critical to appreciate that human rights violations originated with the system of colonialism and evolved over centuries. The doctrines of racial superiority, the pursuit of narrow interests and privileges for the white minority in general and Afrikaners in particular – all premised on the exclusion of the majority – “naturally” had to be buttressed by a repressive regime. Under any and all circumstances, oppression and exclusion results in the revolt of the slaves at first tentative then open – and the oppressive state thus resorts to force to maintain unjust rule.
The system of apartheid and its violent consequences were not an aberration by a few individuals or a well-intentioned policy that went wrong. It was systematic; it was deliberate; it was a matter of policy. Over the years, a system of government was built in which accountability had been thrown out of the window; where security considerations ruled the roost; and where the individual rights of all South Africans, and particularly the black community, were trampled upon.
Therefore, the basic premise in correcting this historical injustice is for South Africans to pay allegiance to, to consolidate and defend the democratic constitution and the human rights culture that it espouses. It is for all citizens to promote and utilise to maximum effect the rights that we have attained, and ensure that open and accountable government becomes a matter of course in our body politic. It is for us to promote equal individual rights without regard to race, colour, religion, language and other differences; and at the same time ensure that equal collective rights pertaining to these issues are protected. And it is for us to work together to build a better life for all.
Combined with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – charged with exposing the evil deeds that have been committed; investigating the reasons why they happened; and the restoration of the dignity of the victims and the humanity of the perpetrators – all these efforts will afford us the confidence and resolve to say: Never Again! We appreciate the fact that the TRC is pursuing its work without fear or favour; and we hope that at the end of this process, South Africans will be the wiser, and better able to march into the future with confidence in one another and in their capacity to create a prosperous, peaceful and just society in which any violation of human rights will be fading memories of a past gone by, never to return.
Questions which require the attention of the Commission
1.1 Arising from this submission there are many questions which need to be answered within the context of the hearings and investigations of the TRC. These questions are relevant not only to ensure that the country is fully appraised of past developments; but also to uncover any of the networks that may still be operational today and which are therefore a danger to the fledgeling democracy.
1.2 The questions relate only to some of the developments and serve as indicators of areas that need particular attention. From this submission, as well as others, numerous other questions will arise. The critical task is to determine political responsibility, operational commands and lines of accountability, as well as the individuals who carried out specific acts of gross violation of human rights.
1.3 It should be emphasised once more, as underlined in the submission, that the aim is not retribution, but to bring about justice, reconciliation and nation-building.
1.4 These question apply equally to the bantustan and other state structures, to the extent that some of their operations may have been independently executed.
2 STATE STRUCTURES AND LINES OF COMMAND
2.1 The basic question is: to what extent was each of the acts of gross violation of human rights sanctioned by the National Party (or bantustan) political leadership: the cabinet or structures to which executive powers were delegated! In this regard, the Commission will need to examine minutes and decisions of the cabinet in the period under review.
2.2 The Commission will also need to obtain documents outlining the structures, functions and decisions of the State Security Council, its predecessors and later versions, before and after 1990. It will also require evidence and input from minister(s)/deputy minister(s) who were directly responsible for these structures and the key officials in the hierarchy.
2.3 At the operational level, the following questions arise:
2.3.1 What is the full extent and nature of operations conducted by hit-squads linked to the CCB, Vlakplaas police unit, the Security Branch, JMCs, Military Intelligence and Directorate of Covert Collections, with particular reference to the gross violations of human rights such as assassinations and mass killings?
2.3.2 Who were the commanders and operatives of these structures, where are they currently located, and what has happened to the infrastructure they established or supervised?
2.3.3 What is the full extent and nature of operations conducted under the auspices of Adult Education Consultants and other such secret projects and front companies?
2.3.4 Who gave orders for the setting up of, and commanded operations of the vigilante groups, criminal gangs and hit squads identified in the submission?
2.3.5 Which of the armed actions were “false flag” operations, who gave the orders and who executed these operations?
2.3.6 To what extent were state structures involved in initiating or fanning violent conflict within the black community, including in particular between ANC and MDM structures or communities on the one hand, and such organisations as Inkatha and Azapo on the other?
3 AGENTS NETWORK
3.1 Which agents were deployed in the ANC, the MDM, Self-Defence Units and other community-based structures and in what way were they involved in the supply of information leading to, or in the actual execution of, gross violation of human rights?
3.2 Which of the agents who were brought back to the country by the ANC were reintegrated into the networks of the state and what activities were and are they involved in?
3.3 Which agents were placed or recruited in the mass media, collaborating in the cover up or dissemination of state propaganda relating to these gross violations of human rights, and are any of them still operational today? In particular, what network existed linking stratkom structures and the state broadcaster, the SABC, and who among them are still operational today?
3.4 Which of the extreme “right-wing” groups, such as Orde Boerevolk were linked to state structures and which of their operations were at the instigation of the state or its agents?
4 MURDERS AND ASSASSINATIONS
4.1 Who authorised and who executed each of the murders of anti-apartheid activists in detention over the period under review?
4.2 Who authorised, who commanded and who carried out the murders in demonstrations, strikes or the random killings in the townships and villages?
4.3 Who was in charge of the project to manufacture and allocate the poison used in the cases identified in the submission, including Thami Zulu, Francis Meli and Solly Smith; and who carried out these operations as well as others that may not yet have been exposed?
4.4 Who authorised, commanded and carried out the assassination of leaders and cadres of the ANC (names are attached to this report) as well as members of other anti-apartheid organisations both within and outside the country?
4.5 The previous National Party government and its substructures should avail information on the fate of cadres of the ANC and other anti-apartheid structures who were captured and have “disappeared” (Names of ANC cadres attached to this report). What was their fate and who ordered and carried out the operations?
4.6 Which of the judicial officers and medical personnel co-operated in these gross violations directly or by means of cover-ups?
5 EXTERNAL DESTABILISATION AND AGGRESSION
5.1 Who ordered and who executed raids on ANC houses and other targets outside South Africa, including the Matola raid of 1981, the Maseru massacre of 1982, the Gaberone and Lesotho raids in 1985, the raid on Lusaka in 1987 and so on?
5.2 Who was responsible for the political approval, planning and execution of the destabilisation campaign in Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and other neighbouring countries? In addition:
5.2.1 Who authorised and commanded the operations to assist Unita and Renamo; what forms did these actions take; and when were they terminated?
5.2.2 What are the true facts behind the crash of the plane which was carrying President Samora Machel and other Mozambican officials, and who was responsible for this action?
5.2.3 Who authorised and commanded the activities of Koevoet, 5 Reconnaissance Regiment, 32 Battalion and other such units; and what have been their activities since their re-deployment within the country?
5.3 Did the apartheid regime use chemical weapons in its operations in Angola, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries: who authorised this and who carried out the operations?