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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.



The TRC's primary finding was that the former National Party (NP) government had committed the 'predominant portion of gross violations' in the mandate period and had done so in collusion with the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The NP government, together with the IFP, had engaged in activities of a criminal nature, including the extra-judicial killing of its political opponents. The State Security Council established by the government had foreseen that calls to 'take out', 'wipe out', 'eradicate', or 'eliminate' activists would lead to their being killed, and was responsible for the violations that then resulted. Apartheid had been a crime against humanity, and the government-in the pursuit of power and privilege for a racial minority-had engaged in torture, the unjustified use of deadly force in controlling demonstrations, the deliberate mobilisation of one group against another, and the covert training, arming and funding of hit squads for deployment against its political opponents. These hit squads had included Inkatha supporters trained by the army in the Caprivi strip (in Namibia) in 1986.

The IFP had attacked and killed supporters of the ANC alliance as well as others who threatened its interests. Further, it had established a hit squad in Esikhawini township (in northern KwaZulu) to eliminate ANC supporters in the area. Prior to the April 1994 general election, it had developed self-protection units numbering between 5 000 and 8 000 men to give itself the military capacity forcibly to prevent the holding of 'elections which did not accommodate the IFP's desires for self determination'. It had thereby conspired to bring about further deaths and other gross violations.

The TRC found that 'little evidence existed of a centrally directed, coherent and formally constituted "third force"'. It held, however, that a 'network of security and ex-security force operatives, often acting in conjunction with right-wing elements and/or sectors of the IFP, had fomented and engaged in violence, including both random and targeted killings'. These networks functioned 'with the active collusion of senior security force personnel', while the former government failed to take sufficient steps to put an end to their activities.

The commission also held the African National Congress (ANC) and the former United Democratic Front (UDF) accountable for certain violations. In waging its armed struggle, the ANC's policy had been to avoid civilian deaths. However, some members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Umkhonto) had sometimes blurred the distinction between military and civilian targets-for example, in a bombing in 1983 in Church Street (Pretoria). There had also been instances, such as the Amanzimtoti bomb in 1985, when Umkhonto operatives, using their own discretion, had determined targets for attack 'outside official policy guidelines' and often 'in retaliation for raids by the former South African government into neighbouring countries'. Sometimes, Umkhonto operations (such as the Magoo's Bar bomb in Durban in 1986) had 'gone awry' for a variety of reasons, including poor intelligence and reconnaisance. The ANC's landmine campaign in rural areas had killed a number of civilians, but the government had earlier blurred the distinction between hard and soft targets in the border areas by declaring them military zones.

The ANC had also engaged in the extra-judicial killing of informers and askaris (Umkhonto cadres who had defected to the police). Further, it had created a climate in which people who were not 'direct members of the ANC or operating under its formal command' had believed that certain gross violations were legitimate because they fell 'within the broad parameters of a "people's war" as enunciated by the ANC'.

The ANC was also accountable for the torture and, on occasion, the execution of suspected 'enemy agents and mutineers' in its camps in exile. It was not the ANC's policy to engage in torture, but the organisation had not done enough to put an end to such abuses. Though it was also not the ANC's policy to attack and kill political opponents, in the early 1990s killings and assaults on its political opponents had occurred. 'Within the context of widespread state-sponsored or -directed violence and a climate of political intolerance', the self-defence units (SDUs) the ANC had established had also 'often taken the law into their own hands' and committed gross violations.

The commission acknowledged that 'it was not the policy of the UDF to attack and kill political opponents'. Such killings had nevertheless occurred 'in the context of widespread state-sponsored or -directed violence and a climate of political intolerance'. The UDF had facilitated violations through its campaigns, public statements, and speeches, and had helped 'to create a climate' in which its supporters believed 'they were morally justified in taking unlawful actions against state structures and persons perceived as supporters of the state'. Just as the former state was accountable for its use of language, so too was the UDF responsible for 'its slogans and songs that encouraged or eulogised violent actions'.

These factors had led to 'widespread excesses and gross violations', including necklace executions, attacks on black councillors and policemen, the burning and destruction of homes, and the violent enforcement of stayaways and boycotts. They had also promoted a 'climate of intolerance', resulting in conflict with Inkatha, the Azanian People's Organisation, and others. The UDF's leadership had failed to put a stop to these practices, even though they 'were frequently associated with official UDF campaigns'. In particular, it did not do enough to 'bring an end to the practice of necklacing'.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), while proclaiming that its objective was to conduct rural guerrilla warfare within the context of a protracted people's war, had primarily targeted civilians for killing. This targeting of civilians (including whites at random and white farmers in particular) was not only a gross violation of human rights but also a violation of international humanitarian law. The TRC rejected the PAC's explanation that these killings had been acts of war. It also held the PAC accountable for the extra-judicial killing of dissidents within its ranks and of supporters who were 'branded as informers or agents'.

As regards the white right wing, the commission found that the Afrikaner Volksfront and structures operating under its broad umbrella had been responsible, in 1993 and 1994, for gross violations against the ANC alliance, the NP, and the PAC. In seeking Afrikaner self-determination and the creation of a volkstaat, the Volksfront had incited violence and attempted to mobilise for an insurrection. Its members had committed random attacks on black people, colluded with elements in the security forces and/or the IFP in various ways, and established paramilitary groupings to threaten revolution and derail the democratic process.

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