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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Chapter 1: Foreword and Context of Institutional and Special Hearings


1. An important debate with which the Commission had to wrestle was, as has been fully discussed in the chapter on The Mandate, how to paint the backdrop against which such human rights violations occurred. Without some sense of the "antecedents, circumstances, factors and context" within which gross violations of human rights occurred, it is almost impossible to understand how, over the years, people who considered themselves ordinary, decent and God-fearing found themselves turning a blind eye to a system which impoverished, oppressed and violated the lives and very existence of so many of their fellow citizens.

2. It is an old question: one that is asked of any country that undertakes acts so foul that the world openly condemns it. It is a question that has been answered in different ways, for such is the nature of historical debate. However, what is clear is that apartheid could only have happened if large numbers of enfranchised, relatively privileged South Africans either condoned or simply allowed it to continue.

3. How did so many people, working within so many influential sectors and institutions, react to what was happening around them? Did they know it was happening? If they did not know, or did not believe it was happening, from where did they derive their ignorance or their misunderstanding? Why is it only with hindsight that so many privileged members of society are able to see that what they lived through was a kind of madness and, for those at the receiving end of the system, a kind of hell?

4. One of the things one needs to remember is that the greater majority of South Africans knew only one system of government (although the foundation for apartheid was, as mentioned elsewhere, laid much earlier). This means that those who were born, went to school, took jobs and raised families knew only one society the apartheid society. To those who reaped its benefits, it was an extremely comfortable society. But what is important is that they knew no other. It was a closed world, surrounded by fences, prohibitions and some terrible assumptions about their fellow countrymen and women.

5. There were those, of course, from the heart of the privileged community who not only did know what was happening, but condemned it. In the process, they themselves became victims of government action. But, significantly for this argument, their credibility was frequently also questioned by those around them, and their simple humanitarian responses often resulted in rejection by members of their own communities. Part of the explanation lies in the state's demonisation of its opponents and, quite probably, in a wish to avoid the obligations that knowledge implied. Yet the question remains, if some knew, why did others not know and believe?


6. It was in search for the beginning of an answer to these questions that the Commission decided to host a number of hearings on the role of some of the influential sectors of the apartheid society. Clearly, there were time restraints, requiring the Commission to limit its focus. A number of institutions were identified: the media, business, prisons, the faith community, the legal system and the health sector. All these sectors had, over the years, come under attack for what was seen by some as their complicity with the apartheid system. What the Commission sought to find out was how these institutions saw themselves and how, brought together with those who had opposed them, a part of the enigma of the South African evil could be unravelled.

7. It was considered extremely important that both 'sides' should be present and able to speak at the hearings of their perceptions and experiences. Sometimes the Commission was successful in obtaining the participation of all role-players, and sometimes it was not. Some refused the invitation of the Commission.

8. Often the hearings revealed just how far apart the opposing views were. But there were some heartening moments. There were signs that the hearings triggered a kind of self-analysis, a mood of introspection that may lead to a deeper realisation of the need for commitment to a new society and a culture of human rights.

9. At the end of each chapter, there is a set of findings the Commission made after the hearings and, in the chapter on Recommendations in the last volume of this report, the Commission gave serious though to ways to ensure the transformation of society.


10. The last three chapters in this volume are of a different kind. They focus on three areas that, the Commission felt, warranted individual attention.

11. The Commission decided to host a hearing on compulsory military service. It was a difficult decision and one that followed a great deal of debate. It was clear that conscripts could not as a rule be described as victims of gross violations of human rights as defined in the Act. Some of the evidence that emerged at the hearing, however, showed that they were victims of another kind victims of a system they found themselves obliged to defend.

12. The chapter on children and youth describes the devastating effects of apartheid on young people in South Africa. It also pays tribute to the extraordinary heroism of generations of young people who risked their education, their safety and often their lives for a better society. Many of them today are greatly the poorer for their sacrifice. Many others did not live beyond their teens and became victims of the system against which they struggled.

13. The chapter on women reports on a series of hearings that were held at which women were given the opportunity to speak on their own behalf. It was discovered early in the life of the Commission that the majority of women who came forward to testify did so on behalf of others and seldom on their own account. It was also felt necessary to give women the opportunity, amongst members of their own sex, to speak of the particular violations experienced by women and, also, the particular way in which women experience violations.

14. The following chapters do no more than summarise the events that took place at the hearings. The full transcripts are to be found in the National Archives. However, beyond the documents, the Commission hopes that the legacy of these hearings will be to stimulate further debate, further discussion and further exploration of the difficult and complex issues that underpinned apartheid.


15. Every attempt has been made to check and re-check the names of people who approached the Commission, made statements or are otherwise quoted. Inconsistent spellings emerged in the transcripts, in statements and frequently the same name was spelt in a variety of different ways. Where there are errors, despite all efforts to ensure that names are correctly spelt, the Commission apologises.

16. In addition, the Commission decided, for the purposes of its report, that the titles of Mr and Ms would be used throughout. This is not to fail to acknowledge that some women might still prefer to be addressed as Mrs or Miss or even Mama and does not constitute a social or political comment on their right to do so. It was simply a decision that was taken in order to ensure uniformity and, of course, to eliminate error where the marital status of the person was unknown.


17. The journey between 1960 and 1994 was a long and terrible one, wasteful of human life and of human potential. Yet, it was a path that everyone travelled.

18. Today, South Africans have embarked on another journey. Some travel joyfully into the future. Others still carry their baggage, uncertain of whether or how to dispose of it. Thus, although it is a collective journey, it is also an individual journey. A journey that depends on our ability to examine with honesty and with humility the role we have played in the past and, more importantly, what role we can as individuals and as institutions play in the future.

19. The Commission hopes that the hearings reported on in this volume may provide some guidance on a way forward.


Submissions to the Commission

The Commission received numerous formal submissions, written statements and opinions during its existence. At the time of reporting, the Records Management Department of the Commission was making every effort to record this material.

Amnesty investigations were, however, still underway at the time of reporting. In addition, the cataloguing of some material from the Commission's regional offices was incomplete and some documentation, used in the writing of the Commission's report, had not yet been lodged in the Records Management Department.

The inventory that follows lists submissions made to the Commission and lodged in the Records Management Department at the time of going to press. The documentation originates either from unsolicited representations made to the Commission or in response to requests for submissions relating to Commission hearings. It does not include documentation accessed by the Commission from the National Archives, the civilian intelligence services, the archives of security forces or other documentation used for research and investigative purposes.

The complete inventory of all documentation accessed by the Commission will become available in due course.

Category and name

Armed Forces and Police:

. African National Congress

. Azanian Peoples' Liberation Army

. Barnard, L D

. De Haas, M

. Foundation for Equality before the Law: Stadler, H D

. Hechter, J

. Liebenberg, W R

. Malan, M A de M

. Ministry of Defence

. Molebeleli, T

. National Intelligence Agency

. Odendal, C A J

. Schoon, W F

. South African National Defence Force

. South African Police Service

. Van der Merwe, J V

. Williamson, C M

Business and Labour:

. Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut

. Anglo American Corporation of South Africa Ltd

. Anti-Apartheid Movement

. Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR)

. Avalon Cinemas South Africa (Pty) Ltd

. Ball, C

. Bernstein, A

. Black Management Forum

. BMW South Africa

. Brown, G D

. Building Industries Federation of South Africa

. Bulk Commodities International

. Centre for Policy Studies

. Chamber of Mines

. Coleman, A

. Congress of South African Trade Unions

. Consultative Business Movement

. Crawford-Browne, T

. De Castro-Moura, M M

. Development Bank of Southern Africa

. Economic Advisory Council: Warren Clewlow

. Eskom

. Ex-Ford Workers Committee

. Federated Mining and Allied Industries Workers Union

. Flynn, L

. Food and General Workers Union

. Foundation of African Business and Consumer Services

. Fourie, R

. Genkor Limited

. German Chamber of Commerce and Industry

. Groenendijk, C

. Hulett Aluminium (Pty) Ltd

. Investor Victims Association

. Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry

. Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry

. Juergensen, B

. Jumuna, N

. Land and Agricultural Bank of South Africa

. Loyson, M

. Mercedes-Benz S A

. Mkhwanazi, D

. Muller, K M

. Nampak Limited

. Narrandes, C

. National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry

. National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa

. National Business Initiative for Growth, Development & Democracy

. National Campaign on the Apartheid Debt

. National Small Business Council

. Old Mutual

. Padayachi, N

. Phaswana, F

. Rakgahla and Associates

. Reichenberg and Co.

. Rembrandt Group Ltd

. Reynecke Inc. for Financial Research Foundation

. Rosholt, A M

. Rubenstein Finance Company

. Rupert, E A

. South African Breweries

. South African Motor Industry Employers' Association

. South African Reserve Bank

. Sanlam

. Shell South Africa

. Simkins, C

. Soller and Manning

. South African Black Technical and Allied Careers Organisation

. South African Chamber of Business

. South African Communist Party

. South African Democratic Teachers' Union

. South African Federated Chamber of Industries

. Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa

. Terreblanche, S

. Textile and Clothing Industry

. Textile Federation

. The Centre for Conflict Resolution

. The Land and Agricultural Bank

. The Tongaat-Hulett Group Ltd

. Toyota S A

. Transnet

. Tucker, R S K

. Tyacke, E and Lowry, D

. Van Niekerk, P

. Van Zyl, J

. Wiehahn, N

. Zimema, P M

Children and Youth:

. Human Rights Committee

. Junior Rapportryerbeweging

. Justice Goldstone, R J - several submissions

. KwaZulu-Natal Programme for Survivors of Violence

. National Children and Violence Trust

. National Children's Rights Committee

. Ndlozi, G

. Nkomo, M N

. Reynolds, P and Dawes, A

. Smith, T S J


. American Association for the Advancement of Science

. Amnesty International

. Baragwanath Hospital

. Centre for Psychosocial and Traumatic Stress

. Citizens' Commission on Human Rights South Africa

. Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa

. Dental Association of South Africa

. Department of Health

. Department of Psychiatry, Tygerberg Hospital

. Fanner, M

. Greater Johannesburg Welfare, Social Service and Development Forum

. Groote Schuur Hospital Region

. Independent Mediation Service of South Africa

. Independent Medico-Legal Unit:

. . Main submission

. . Maller, R

. . Colvin, M

. . Reid, S and Giddy, J

. . Lasich, A J

. . Akoojee, S B

. . Nel, J P

. . Organisation for Approriate Social Services for South Africa

. Health Psychology Unit, Centre for Peace Action, University of South Africa

. Holomisa, B

. Islamic Medical Association South Africa

. Jeppe, C

. Johannesburg Child Psychotherapy Group

. Johannesburg Welfare Society

. Khulumani Support Group

. Kistnasamy, M B

. Klatzow, D J

. Lasich, A J

. Medical Research Council

. Medical Association of South Africa

. Medical University of South Africa

. Mohare, D E

. National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Maryland, USA

. National Traditional Healers Association of Southern Africa

. Organisation For Appropriate Social Services for South Africa

. Pillay, S R

. Professional Board for Occupational Therapy

. Progressive Doctors' Group

. Psychology Association of South Africa

. Rataemane, S

. Respiratory Clinic

. Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa

. Soobiah, R

. South African Academy of Family Practice/Primary Care

. South African Council for the Aged

. South African Medical and Dental Council

. South African Medical and Dental Practitioners Association

. South African Medical Service

. South African Medical Students Association

. South African Nursing Council

. South African Pharmacy Council

. University of Cape Town: Dept of Community Health

. University of Cape Town: Dept of Medicine

. University of Cape Town: Dept of Pharmacology

. University of Cape Town: Dept of Primary Health Care

. University of Natal: Medical School

. University of Pretoria

. University of the Witwatersrand

. University of the Western Cape - Centre for Student Counselling

. Van Speyk, V

. Vegetarian Society of South Africa

. Vitus, L

. Witwatersrand Mental Health Society

. World Federation for Mental Health


. Bothma, K

. Chaskalson, A; Langa, P; Mahomed, I; Corbett, M M; Van Heerden, H J O

. Coetzee, L F

. Grundlingh, L and Smit, R

. Hain, P

. Hendrickse, M A

. Joubert, A J M

. Kitson, D

. Kleyn, J J G C

. Lategan, B

. Madlala-Routledge, N

. Mokhele, T

. Pepinsky, H E

. Skoulariki, P

. Southall, R and Wood, G

. Van Hees, S

. Zeiss, R K R

Law and Human Rights:

. Ackermann, L W H

. Addison, G

. Aitchison, J J W

. Amnesty International

. Anonymous - Afrikaans letter from a mother re: conscript

. Anonymous - re: Conscripts

. Anti-Apartheid Movement

. Association of Law Societies of the RSA

. Black Lawyers Association

. Botha, C

. Bozalek, L J

. British Rights Watch

. Cachalia, F

. Cameron, E

. Campus Law Clinic

. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

. Chatsworth Child and Family Welfare Society

. Coetzee-Andrew, M

. Commission for Gender Equality; South African Human Rights Commission and South African NGO Coalition

. Community Law Centre; Development Action Group; Legal Resources Centre; Black Sash;

. NGO National Coalition; National Land Committee; National Literacy Co-operative: Peoples' Dialogue;

. Urban Sector Network

. Corbett, M M

. CURAMUS: Botha, J H

. Deegan, J

. D'Oliveira, J A v S

. De Ridder, T

. De Vries, A P

. Department of Justice

. Die Afrikanerbond

. Du Plooy, N

. Dyzenhaus, David

. Eloff, C F

. Expatriates of Hambanathi

. Forsyth-Winberg, T D

. Friedman, G

. General Council of the Bar of South Africa

. Goldblatt, B and Meintjes, S

. Goldstein, E L

. Goldstone, R J

. Govender, K

. Graaf, M

. Harms, L T C

. Hart, O D

. Hattingh, J

. Hemson, D

. Human Rights Committee

. Human Rights Watch (South Africa Desk)

. International Association of Democratic Lawyers

. Jana, P

. Joffe, M M

. Joubert, C P

. Jurgens, J W


. Keys, Liza

. Khumalo, J A M

. Kriek, J J

. Laka

. Land and Agriculture Policy Centre

. Langa, P N

. Langeveld, L J

. Ledgerwood, T

. Legal Resources Centre

. Lichtenberg, E K W

. Liebenberg, I

. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic of Yale Law School, Lawyers Committee for Human

. Rights and others

. Magistrates' Commission

. McBride, P and Ekambaram, S

. McNally, T P

. Melamet, D A

. Minnaar, A

. Moll, P G

. Mtetwa, C J

. Nathan, L

. National Association of Democratic Lawyers

. National Association of Independent Lawyers

. National Association of Law Societies in South Africa

. National Literacy Co-operation and other educational stakeholders

. National Police and Public Civil Rights Union

. Nel, C D H O

. Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa

. Network of Independent Monitors, Port Shepstone

. Olivier, Pierre J J

. Omar, A M - Minister of Justice

. Practical Ministries

. Rasefate, R E

. Rautenbach, E D

. Ravele, F H

. Richard, A

. Roberts, L J

. Rossouw, D J

. Sandager, A

. Sarkin, J and Varney, H

. Satchwell, K

. Schwartzman, I

. Selikowitz, S

. Simelane, B Q P

. Skosana, J B

. Smalberger, J W; Howie, C T; Marais, R M; Scott, D G

. Society of University Teachers of Law

. Sole, S

. South African Council for Town and Regional Planners

. South African Medical Services Care for the Disabled

. South African National Council for Child and Family Welfare

. South African Police Service

. South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights

. South African Veterans Association: Tucker, P and Van Niekerk, M

. Steele, R

. Steiner, C

. Torr, D

. Travers, G N

. Tshishonga, M M

. Tswana Renaissance Movement

. University of Potchefstroom

. University of the Witwatersrand

. University of Venda

. Urban Monitoring and Awareness Committee

. Van Zyl, D H

. Von Lieres und Wilkau, K P C O

. White, C S

. Wright, G F


. Africa Muslim Party

. African National Congress

. Alternative Media in the Cape: Badat, S; Fisher, R; Issel, J; Jackson, D; Jaffer, M; Patel, L; Seria, R

. and Williams, M

. Barker, M

. Bekker, Jo-Ann

. Bird, E and Garda, Z

. Bothma, P

. Broadcast Monitoring Project

. Bussiek, H and C

. De Beer, A S

. Dickson, P J

. Du Plessis, T

. Du Preez, M

. Etherington, G

. Evans, G

. Forbes, D

. Forum of Black Journalists

. Freedom of Expression Institute:

. Main Submission

. Kable, J

. Martin, K

. Moorhead, K

. Naum, J

. Nix, J

. Gardiner, W

. Gerber, A

. Hancock, R S

. Harris, K

. Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa

. Jacobs, S

. Jaffer, Z

. Khathide, B

. Killeen, P S

. Klaaste, A

. Kramer, P S

. Kruger, F and Harris, L

. Loewe, M

. Maluleke, E

. Marincowitz, A

. Mathiane, N

. Matisonn, J

. Mayet, Z

. McMillan, J O

. McPherson, J L

. Media Institute of Southern Africa

. Media Monitoring Project

. Media Workers' Association of South Africa

. Mokwena, L

. Moyle, D

. Muller, K M

. Nasionale Pers:

. . Adams, S

. . Adema, S

. . Alfonso, T

. . Bezuidenhout, C N

. . Boezak, E

. . Booyens, J M

. . Botha, A

. . Botha, L

. . Bothma, J P

. . Botma, G J

. . Brynard, K

. . Burger, A

. . Caldecott, R

. . Church, R J

. . Claassen, G

. . Coetzee, A

. . Coetzee, C

. . Coetzee, S

. . Cornelissen, A S

. . De Beer, B

. . De Beer, E

. . De Lange, L

. . De Meyer, J

. . De Waal, E

. . De Waal, E J

. . Du Preez, L

. . Els, J

. . Engelbrecht, T

. . Erasmus, E

. . Eybers, J

. . Fillies, A

. . Fourie, C

. . Fourie, R

. . Gouws, A

. . Grobler, M

. . Hudson, M

. . Keiser, G

. . May, J

. . Olivier, V

. . Potgieter, De Wet

. . Pretorius, W

. . Prinsloo, A

. . Rossouw, A

. . Schafer, M

. . Slabber, C

. . Swartz, M

. . Van der Merwe, L

. . Van der Stad, M

. . Van Rooyen, A

. . Van Wyk, M

. . Waldner, M

. Nuttal, J

. Orpen, B

. Pakendorf, H

. Patten, J

. Pogrund, B

. Pretorius, J

. Procter, J

. Qwelane, D J

. Rogers, P M

. Scholtz, L

. Smith, M

. South African Communist Party

. South African National Defence Force

. South African Union of Journalists

. Sparks, A

. Stanbridge, R

. Steward, A

. Subramoney, M

. Terreblanche, S

. Times Media Ltd

. Turner, N

. Van Deventer, J H

. Van Druten, R

. Viljoen, C

. Viviers, J C

. Watts, R

. Weekly Mail and Guardian

. Will, R G

. Woods, D

Political Parties:

. African Christian Democratic Party

. African National Congress

. Democratic Party

. Inkatha Freedom Party

. National Party

. Pan Africanist Congress

. United Democratic Front

. Vryheidsfront


. Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa

. Baptist Convention of South Africa

. Baptist Union of South Africa

. Belydendekring van Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerke

. Catholic Church

. Church of England in South Africa

. Church of the Province of Southern Africa

. Dharma Centre

. Dutch Reformed Church, Stellenbosch Circuit

. Dutch Reformed Church, Western and Southern Cape

. Dutch Reformed Church: Swanepoel, F

. Evangelical Alliance of South Africa

. GESHER (Jewish Movement for Social Action)

. Ibandla Lama Nazareth

. Institute for Contextual Theory

. International Federation of Christian Churches

. Jamiatul Ulama, Transvaal: Bham, E I

. Jewish Religious Community

. Mathews, C

. Methodist Church of Southern Africa

. Moravian Church in South Africa

. Morgan, L

. Muslim Judicial Council

. Muslim Youth Movement: Nisaar Dawood

. National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is

. Nuttall, M

. Old Apostolic Church

. Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys

. Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa

. Ramakrishna Institute of Spirituality and Hinduism

. Reformed Presbyterian Church of South Africa

. Research Institute on Christianity in South Africa

. South African Council of Churches

. South African Council of Churches: Tema, E M

. South African Hindu Maha Sabha

. Sundberg, L

. United Congregational Church of Southern Africa

. United Methodist Church of South Africa: Nkosinathi Madikizela

. Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa

. Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa Messina Congregation

. World Conference on Religion and Peace - South African Chapter

. Zion Christian Church

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.