About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Executive Summary

[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.



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.


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.


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'.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.