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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

5. Conclusion

For years, much emphasis has been placed on the unacceptable treatment meted out to certain agents and suspected agents in Camp 32, particularly in the period from 1981 - 1984. By its own actions to halt these excesses, through the range of measures we have described in our various submissions, the ANC has shown clearly that the leadership never considered such practices acceptable. This commitment to the protection of the fundamental human rights of all has carried through into the policies adopted by the new government, and in the legislation which now governs the functioning of the intelligence and security services of this country.

The considerable achievements of NAT must also be taken into account when assessing its role in the conflict of the past. On a number of occasions, the Department uncovered enemy plans timeously, preventing attacks on our camps and residences. Although Nova Katengue camp was destroyed, the Department was able to protect cadres by receiving advance warning of the plans of the enemy.

The extent to which the regime had managed to penetrate the ANC was timeously discovered in 1981, as described elsewhere in our submissions. Without doubt the greatest achievement of this Department was the protection of the Movement, particularly its leadership core, which has been responsible for the transition to democracy and peace in this country - although there were some very painful failures, particularly in the cases of Chris Hani, Joe Gqabi, Cassius Make, Dulcie September, Morris Seabelo and other leaders and cadres who fell victim to the assassins and raiding parties of the apartheid regime, which carried out massacres in every Front Line State.

There was no limit to the lengths to which the apartheid regime was prepared to go in its attempts to destroy the ANC. There were many attempts on the lives of leadership figures, and they lived under constant threat. For example, OR Tambo had to be constantly moved from safe house to safe house by the Department. The same measures were taken for the protection of Nelson Mandela during the negotiations phase. Despite certain failures and regrettable incidents at Camp 32, we submit that this Department contributed substantially to creating the conditions under which it was possible to begin building the new democratic order.



1. The Morris Seabelo Rehabilitation Centre (Camp 32 or Quatro.) 

1.1. Background to the establishment of Camp 32  

Before a decision was taken to establish a rehabilitation centre in an isolated place, the ANC leadership embarked on a political campaign of appealing to those who had agreed to work for their enemy through being blackmailed or because of poverty and other reasons to come forward and confess, so that they could be pardoned. The President himself took part in this campaign, which met with considerable success: several people came forward and confessed.

Prior to the establishment of Camp 32, agents would be kept in the military camps established in Angola. Negotiations were carried out with the Angolan authorities and it was arranged that the ANC could move these agents to local jails. However, th is arrangement also proved inadequate, because some of the agents managed to escape back to South Africa. This caused deep concern to the Angolan authorities. Given the fact that Angola was just emerging from a protracted war in which South Africa ha d played a central role, there was the potential danger that these escaped agents could give vital information about Angola to Pretoria.

Because of these factors, the Angolan authorities granted the ANC the use of a deserted farm to set up a facility under its control. Camp 32 was the only place at which prisoners were held for any significant period of time, besides the government facility in Uganda to which the occupants of Camp 32 were sent in 1989.

1.2. Conditions on the farm and in our training camps in Angola  

The farm was situated 200 km north of Luanda between two MK training camps, Pango and Quibaxe. Because of the condition of the road, and due to the war situation, it took a full four hours to travel the 200km by car. The only available transport was shared between the three camps.

None of the three camps had running water. Water had to be fetched from nearby streams; in the case of Camp 32, the nearest stream was 4 km away.

In the late 70's and early 80's food supplies in all ANC centres in Angola were at times inadequate, as we relied heavily on donations from sympathetic countries. These supplies arrived by ship irregularly and had to be transported to the camps; Unita bandits specifically targeted these supply lines. Supplies were shared equally amongst those in the camps, including the prisoners. Efforts were made - with mixed success - to improve conditions by growing vegetables and keeping poultry and pigs. Clothing was exchanged with local people for fresh supplies.

Inadequate medical care was a problem for all members of the ANC in Angola. Malaria was endemic. We had to rely mainly on medical orderlies who were locally trained. Serious cases had to be referred to hospitals in Luanda, which were ill-equipped because of the war. Adding to all these problems there was a serious shortage of transport, which affected all three camps.

1.3. Conditions in Camp 32 and steps to deal with these problems 

The dilapidated buildings on the farm were adapted to suit a prison building. It had no windows but there were ventilation vents. One large room was converted to a cell that could accommodate about 15 people; six other rooms were converted to accommodate between 5 - 10 people and another room was converted to host 4-6 single cells. Inmates used plastic containers as toilets when they were in their cells, and emptied these in the mornings.

The ANC's faith that there would never be a large number of people who would have to be confined proved to be misplaced. The problem of overcrowding at Camp 32 got steadily worse over the years, but was addressed in 1987 when a programme of reviewing cases and granting pardons began, as described elsewhere in our submissions.

Difficulties with transport, food, water and medical supplies were general in the region, and common to all camps. The camp did have a truck, but when it broke down it was not replaced. In the absence of transport, inmates had to push a water tank to the nearest source of water, a river about 3km away. The camp had no doctor, but relied on some Medical Orderlies who were not equipped to deal with complex medical problems. Overcrowding, and the unhealthy conditions in the cells, created conditions for disease and did result in some deaths, although most deaths occurred because of malaria.

There were ongoing attempts to improve conditions at Camp 32. A tractor was obtained to alleviate the problem of fetching wood and water. A generator was obtained, as well as a television set and sports equipment. More medical orderlies were trained. Ventilation was improved, and plans drawn up for the building of a modern facility (this plan was submitted to the Motsuenyane Commission.)

1.4. Administration and Staffing at Camp 32  

The camp was under the command of the Commander; his deputy was the Camp Commissar. The rest of the administration consisted of the Chief-of-Staff, Chief of Logistics, Chief of Ordnance, and the Chief Recording Officer. Commanders of Camp 32 were, successively, Sizwe Mkhonto, Morris Seabelo, Afrika Nkwe (for a few months only), Mzwandile Damoyi, and William Masango.

The Staff consisted of the Staff Commander and Staff Commissar, the Communication Officer, a medical orderly, drivers, and Recording Officers.

The next layer of the administration was a platoon of guards led by a Platoon Commander and Platoon Commissar. The platoon was divided into Sections, each with its Section Commander and Section Commissar.

Camp 32 was staffed by members of NAT. The reasons for this anomaly arose out of the non-existence of a defined structure -viz. military police or at best, qualified prison warders, to take on responsibility for this Centre.

1.5. Day-to-day life in Camp 32  

On arrival, detainees would be put in isolation cells until their cases had been cleared. They would be issued with uniforms different from other people in the camp. Those in isolation were exempted from participating in any camp activities. The only people with whom they would have contact with would be their interrogators. As soon as the investigation had been completed, they would be integrated with other inmates in communal cells. Each communal cell had a commander and a commissar who saw to the discipline and general welfare of his cell mates.

Relations between guards and prisoners 

Being deployed in the camp for guard duties did not mean that the cadre concerned was cut off from all other opportunities, but there was a general perception that once deployed in this capacity, one's chances of ever taking on other duties in the Movement were slim. Cadres tended to regard the inmates as being the cause of their being what they saw as "grounded", and this resentment contributed directly to certain cases of abuse of prisoners. The situation was not made any easier given the fact that some of the inmates would taunt the guards - one of the most common insults was that the guards, fearing to go to the front areas and tackle the forces of the regime, had pleaded with NAT to be deployed at the rehabilitation centre where life was relatively easier and less dangerous. This infuriated some guards.

Contrary to the general perception created by deliberate disinformation, prisoners often got better food than the guards. This was because it was envisaged that those who were already irretrievably lost in serving the regime's cause could in future be used in a prisoner exchange programme, thereby freeing some of our captured combatants. When there was a food crisis, this policy also aggravated relations between guards and inmates.

Programmes followed at RC's 

At the RC, the suspects followed a programme which included political education and manual chores around their 'residence'. During these periods within the camp, armed guards would be deployed about them. The guards were not informed of the reasons for the detention of the inmates. Only the recording officers knew this as part of their investigations. This is also why prisoners were given names different to their real and MK names - to protect their identities. Usually these names were meaningless or made reference to the offence they had committed (e.g. Dyasop was called "APC" because he had thrown a grenade into an Armed Personnel Carrier of the Angolan army, killing an Angolan soldier.) The only knowledge the guards had was that they were guarding what were called imidlwembe (traitors), as the camp was known to be a security camp.

Daily routine 

05:30hrs: General wake up call. Except for those that were responsible for preparing breakfast, inmates did not necessarily have to follow this programme (wake up call).

05:30 - 06:00 hrs: Morning sport. (Inmates excluded)

06:00 - 07:30 hrs: Inmates individually empty their pots and wash themselves under armed supervision. Those who sought medical assistance or consultation with medical orderlies utilised this time.

07:30 - 08:30hrs : Breakfast for all in the camp. It was common practise during meals for Commissars to read and analyse the news in the communal dining hall. Those still in solitary confinement would be visited later by the Commissar.

08:30 - 13:00hrs : Daily duties, including the fetching of water and wood for the camp plus the general cleaning of the camp.

13:00 - 14:30hrs: Lunch. Programme and arrangements similar to breakfast period.

14:30 - 17:00hrs: Unless unforeseen circumstances had arisen (e.g. insufficient water in the camp or firewood), this time was used for leisure. Those who wished to study could use this time for visiting the library. Others chose to occupy themselves with indoor games and political discussions.

17:30 - 18:30hrs: Leisure time. Consultations by inmates with the medical orderlies could also take place during this period.

18:30 - 19:30hrs: Supper.

19:30 - 20:30hrs: Cultural rehearsal.

20:30 - 22:00hrs: Leisure

22:00hrs : Curfew.

Weekend Programme The programme was similar to the weekly routine except that inmates began their day at

06:30hrs. 08:00hrs: Breakfast was then inmates would do their washing. Commissars would join them for discussions.

10:00hrs: Sports (football or volley ball) and indoor games. It was not uncommon in Angola and also in Uganda for the guards to challenge the inmates to a soccer match.

13:00 -14:30hrs: Lunch

14:30-16:30hrs: Leisure or indoor games.

18:30 - 20:00hrs: Supper.

20:00 - 22:00hrs: Leisure.

22:30hrs: Curfew.

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.