About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Nov 1995: Buchner, Jac

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POM     Let me start first maybe with your general commentary on the political situation and obviously what I'm going to talk to you a lot about is the arrest of General Malan and the other Generals and how this whole thing with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is shaping up or not shaping up and what's been going on in KwaZulu/Natal and your name coming up in the de Kock trial where there was some allegation made that under a tree you plotted the demise of your deputy because he turned ANC. Nice stuff. Begin where you want.

JB     First of all the political overview, the changes are taking place in South Africa but unfortunately in my opinion the changes taking place are taking place together with added corruption, more corruption than we have ever had before and we seem to be spending loads of money and we don't seem to have an income. We are spending more than we are making at the moment. The country is in a very parlous situation at the moment financially and we are in the middle of a drought notwithstanding this lovely rain outside. Our dams are at extremely low levels, I think the Vaal dam is about 40% full which is critical. I know down in KwaZulu/Natal the dams are very low. Our own dams, close to us, the one is 14% and the other one is only 8% and the Bloemfontein dam outside Bloemfontein I think is also about 8% or 10%. Notwithstanding that the political changes are taking place.

POM     When you say there is more corruption than ever, what would you specifically point to?

JB     Well the spending of state money without seemingly to be accountable for this sort of thing. Notwithstanding the transparency that was promised we already had one case in Mpumalanga province where a man was alleged to have been earning about ten million or something like that in a very short while and it's all glossed over and swept under the carpet. Although there was an enquiry not much happened out of the enquiry. The same thing happened in the old Bophuthatswana, 70 million was agreed to in loans and things like this, so the gravy train definitely has taken off and is steaming ahead very rapidly. To indicate specific cases I think that will take quite some doing, so that could be put together but my biggest problem on this whole thing, on the change is, and I don't have any problem in these people being appointed to positions, most of them are black people and they have suffered for many years, but we have got a lot of incompetence especially in our civil service and posts are being created. I think the President in his own office has about eight or ten about Director General or senior Director posts which we never had in the previous government and this is all a drain on our financial resources plus the fact that being an ex-civil servant myself and retired you're never going to earn a big salary but when you retire you get your little golden handshake and you get a reasonable pension. Suddenly now all the uMkhonto weSizwe and ANC people, elderly ones, are put on a government pension, I'm thinking of Govan Mbeki, he served on Robben Island with President Mandela and he got his golden handshake and he's earning a pension equivalent to that of say a Major General and he never ever paid into any pension funds or anything like this, never ever. And there are large numbers of these people and that is putting a drain on state finances.

POM     So do you see state finance, government expenditure as increasing all the time?

JB     Yes it is definitely increasing in South Africa. There are many others, but by and large I think, well it's still the government of national unity, but the ANC is firmly ensconced in government and you can see by the appointment of people into various positions it can work and I spoke to a very senior police officer today and I asked him how things were going and he said he is still optimistic that we can still make a success of South Africa. So instead of trying to knock them down we must try and assist them.

     Although you just mentioned Magnus Malan and all that, well maybe first of all before I get to that I must just clear up the air with the de Kock trial. These allegations were made nearly two years ago and they have only surfaced in the court now. From the time that they were made until now there has been no investigation. The people to whom the allegations were made laughed it off as being really ridiculous. First of all I don't think at any stage my deputy considered changing sides and going to the ANC. He is still a very staunch member of the Zulu community. But it makes good political propaganda, it makes good newsprint. There was also an allegation that I was involved in gun running which also it died there, it never ever went any further than that, as being mere allegations. But, again, I say it is very nice propaganda material to hit the headlines. Now we come to Magnus Malan and company, now I'm not a betting man but I would think, I did study law through university, I did quite a bit of studying in law throughout my career, but if I was a betting man I would give about a million to one on a conviction on any one of those people at the top like Magnus Malan.

POM     That there will not be a conviction?

JB     That there will not be a conviction. I wouldn't give it so many odds if I say when the case will actually be finalised, but this is one of those cases that's going to last years because it's very convenient, and it's going to be very convenient to have it just before the local elections in KwaZulu/Natal.

POM     You just said if you were a betting man.

JB     That's right, that I would give very great odds about not getting a conviction on the one hand. On the other hand it's my firm belief that this case will not be finalised in the very near future. I know a bit about the case and what it is all about and it basically goes about the State Security Council as it was in the past, in the old government, the National Party government, used to give security briefings to all the homeland Chiefs and so on including Buthelezi and at some stage there was information to hand that Buthelezi's life was at risk, that he was going to be assassinated and that certain of the ANC cadres had been tasked to do this and apparently the State Security Council, I was not present, I think I was still stationed in Pretoria at the time, but the State Security Council sat, they just debated on this and one of the members was sent down to speak to Buthelezi, inform him of the threat and then it was decided to jack up his security which was just about non-existent at the time. In any case this all eventually led to certain people, I think about 200 of them, being trained in the Caprivi and once they had been trained a large number of them were found to be unfit, they were not taken up into the protection service, they were put into other tasks, some of them were dismissed, some of them absconded.

     What I am saying now, after this is now my own personal interpretation of what happened. A family was killed in KwaMakutha, I think it's in the papers all over, that was January 1987. Apparently, it all points to this, that some IFP were involved and some of the people used in the attack were some of these trainees in the Caprivi who had then been already dismissed from the protection services as being unsuitable. Now these people have been charged or are being used, some of them are being charged and some are being used as witnesses and one of the witnesses was a so-called Commissar of the group of 200 and he is going to give state evidence to say that he accompanied the 200 up to the Caprivi and that they had been trained and the type of training that had been done and so on.

POM     This is Luthuli?

JB     Luthuli, yes, who was also an ex-cadre of the ANC in years gone by. He has served many masters. Now be that as it may, Colonel Louis Botha who was then a confidant of Buthelezi was charged, now I do not know what they say that his involvement was but if you remember the Inkathagate, his name featured very prominently there. Now Botha and a Brigadier Moore of the army, who I don't know and never met, they were charged plus M Z Khumalo, the personal assistant to Buthelezi. They were the three main accused plus the actual killers. According to my informants the actual killers are these Caprivi trained people.

     Now suddenly the Attorney General of Natal who has been under severe pressure from all sides, including the ANC, to take steps and finalise a lot of things, suddenly just decided, well we charge people en masse. And again I say this is my interpretation, General Tienie Groenewald is being charged because he was apparently the middleman between the State Security Council and Buthelezi who informed him of the threat against his life and to whom Buthelezi apparently said, "Look, I need some protection", and then they arranged for the training. Magnus Malan, because he was Minister of Defence at the time, he's being charged. General Liebenberg and all the other army Generals are being charged because they were in charge of the army at the time, of the Defence Force, and okayed the training of the people up there. Now this apparently now is common cause, the murder, Malan and Groenewald and everybody had common cause to murder this Ntuli. Groenewald was no longer in the army, I think he was with the Bureau of Information at that stage when this killing happened. Most of the people, well they didn't even know who Peter Ntuli was. Now how they can have a nexus between what happened on the ground and Malan and Tienie Groenewald and so on I do not know.

     I also understand that the investigation team went to court and they named all the witnesses and they named me, that I am also a witness in this case. Now they haven't approached me but I understand they are going to approach me shortly because I wrote one or two letters explaining my disgust at what was happening, my name appearing in the paper, my picture on the front page, and I have never been subpoenaed, I've never been interviewed, I've never submitted a statement and yet every day they say I'm one of the witnesses in the case. So I understand now they want to come and see me and obtain a statement from me. But in January 1987 I think I was stationed in Pretoria somewhere, so that was even before I came to Pietermaritzburg. I do not know how they are going to try and connect me with all this.

     But that case definitely has - I'm not decrying the people being charged for murder, for Ntuli's murder, but as anybody conversant with the law will know, there must be some nexus between the actions of the accused in the dock and the murder scene and no court in any country, not even in a third world country can bring that connection from Magnus Malan. What they should have done if they really wanted to do it, they should have brought PW Botha as head of state and Buthelezi as head of KwaZulu as it was at the time and charged them because they have got exactly the same culpability as Magnus Malan and all those other people.

POM     I think your successor, General During, said he had reason to believe that hit squads did exist within the KwaZulu Police.

JB     That's right, yes.

POM     Composed of members of the KwaZulu Police and ...

JB     And these people who have subsequently been arrested.

POM     And the Caprivi people. Now how was that uncovered?

JB     I do not know because During, I don't think he mentioned the Caprivi people, I'm not sure.

POM     Sorry, I don't think he did.

JB     He didn't because he didn't know about it. The same as I didn't know about the Caprivi people because they had been trained in 1986. You see these are all events that preceded the murder. With During he had information that there were hit squads operating and I had actually told him of one instance that I knew of and those people have been charged, they appeared in court and they have been convicted by now already. It wasn't the whole of the KwaZulu Police, it was one or two isolated people. Again, it was not set up by Buthelezi or by myself, I never set up anything like that. It could have been people on the side, on the fringes that could have been involved in this thing, but it was definitely not a policy or from the senior ranks of the KwaZulu Police or the government.

POM     Do you think the KwaZulu Police have been and still are being subjected to a systematic campaign of propaganda? If one were to look at the broad image, the broad image would say this was a police force that was in collusion with the IFP to murder members of the ANC or to murder civil rights leaders or activists in the community or whatever and that there is still a concerted effort to keep that image alive.

JB     I do not believe so because although I have retired and I've kept out of the limelight and I've kept out of circulation, I do have discussions with three or four senior officers on a regular basis and then I've got a lot of friends in the lower ranks, Zulus, and that stigma has suddenly dropped away with the incorporation into the SAPS. We still have that the SAPS is now being accused of being biased in certain areas but we've got the forums going and we've got the community forums going and we've got the channels of complaint and basically nothing has changed except that they have stopped denigrating the KwaZulu Police because they are not KwaZulu Police any more. They have been incorporated into the SAPS. There is no more KwaZulu Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, all that has gone by the wayside, they have been incorporated. I think the denigration has stopped but there is still a lot of unhappiness on the ground between the community and the police. That will carry on for quite some time still.

POM     Did that not exist in your time?

JB     It existed then and it still exists now. It just depends on how the police do their job and we've had the police involved again in the removal of squatters, a thing that I refused to do when I was Commissioner there. I said it wasn't a police job to remove squatters. But we have had this even in Gauteng area where my daughter told me yesterday not to travel a certain road when they are removing squatters because there is always friction and there are always stones being thrown at motorists.

POM     It's kind of ironic that the present government is adopting the actions of the previous government.

JB     Exactly the same, and we've had quite a few instances where they are using the tactics that the previous government had used. You can't allow lawlessness in South Africa and we went through a stage of lawlessness. Our killings in KwaZulu/Natal are still the highest, they are still horrendous. I will not say which paper I read because then that newspaper then starts saying that I say they are a good newspaper, but Mondays we normally read over the weekend 40, 50, 60 people killed over the weekend. I was quite surprised the other day to see a little remark that only two of the murders could be ascribed to political violence and the rest were all what they call normal murders, not that murder is normal. But it just depends on where you are because even though you cannot tie a murder down to an immediate political scenario here on the ground it could be revenge for a murder that took place in the last ten or fifteen years. We still have a very long way to go in South Africa to get to a normal society as the western world knows it.

POM     Do you think that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, that if people, people will I suppose go before it to seek indemnity for prosecution for one thing or another, do you think that having to admit being indemnified essentially leaves them open to revenge killing?

JB     No, I've got to draw a distinction here first of all because the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to me, I think I've said this before to, I support it, I believe it's a very good thing, not the way it's going at the moment but I do believe it's a good thing and if it's going to be transparent I'm totally in favour of it. At the moment, of course, and for the foreseeable future it's going to be totally one-sided. It's going to be an investigation or clearing the air as far as the old government is concerned. The ANC does not figure in the Truth & Reconciliation. Most of them got temporary indemnity and they are insisting that that indemnity is total and, well, they are in the majority in the government so it will be total indemnity, so not one of them will have to explain any of their past actions, their illegal actions or their murders or their whatever they did. There are sins there, sabotages. I saw Danie Schutte and he said the other day there were 623 cases committed from 1975 I think until 1992 and there was Operation Vula after the settlement, there were many other acts committed but there will not be an investigation into that.

     The investigation will be mainly on the role of the security forces of South Africa and unfortunately for many people in South Africa I didn't believe in the history of South Africa that we would have, they are not traitors but more sell-outs, a lot of people doing it for self gain to the detriment of their fellow members. There are rumours and there are statements being made that cannot be substantiated five years later, ten years later. I would say if it was a case of murder or if it was a case or arson, even a case of housebreaking or whatever, even a common assault, if it can be proved, if there was a witness or two witnesses, fair enough, let's put it on the record. But I saw again in the de Kock trial and I saw again with Magnus Malan there are statements by people who said, "I heard that he had done this. I was not present I heard this." And this is being tendered as evidence and the Truth & Reconciliation is not a court case so there is going to be a lot of this thing saying, unsubstantiated hearsay, that "I heard this".

     Having said that I still believe that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is a good thing but it's not going to finish its task in 18 months. I saw the short list, 45 people on the short list, overwhelming ANC supporters, activists, members, it doesn't matter, but we will know at the beginning of December the last 13 to 17. I had a look at those names and I have a fair idea of who will be acceptable to President Mandela and I just hope that Bishop Tutu gets top post because I do believe then there will be credibility to it, it will lend credibility to it and there will be a lot of moderation in it too. There are a few radicals but I do not think they will outweigh the coolness and the calmness of a number of people that I have identified there that will give the Truth Commission a substantial basis or an acceptance in South Africa.

POM     You mentioned Colonel Botha and through happenstance I have been interviewing him since 1990 and in fact we've become quite good friends and after Inkathagate he said, "I can't talk about Inkathagate but I will tell you one thing, I have never, never in my professional life as a police officer ever done anything without the complete and absolute authority of my superiors." I'm going down to see him in Port Elizabeth next week and he says he has nothing to hide and he'll talk about the whole thing. My larger question would be this, is there a difference between say the state, the government or an organ of the government ordering the assassination of a specific individual, like saying Mr X is whatever, get rid of him or terminate him or whatever the terminology they use in these cases, and a murder committed by somebody who belongs to 'a liberation army' which is fighting for the freedom of their people for fundamental rights, in fact fighting against an oppressive government? If they were to kill a member of the security forces of that state is that at the same level of criminality as the state ordering the execution of somebody who is a very strong anti-apartheid activist in his or her community, or is there a moral distinction between the two in your mind?

JB     No there can't be any distinction, although Maggie Thatcher did say murder is murder is murder. First of all the actions of a liberation fighter who came into the country or wherever went and murdered a few people, threw a bomb or shot them or whatever for a specific reason or for no reason, some of them had their own agenda, now that is a criminal act. But for the state to - where I make the difference is where the army, a proper constituted body launches a pre-emptive strike as we had external operations, where they go and attack the enemy, that I can accept, but I cannot accept the state here in South Africa, the state or an organisation within the state, saying that man in Port Elizabeth or that man in Bloemfontein, or that man in Durban must be taken out and removed from society because if that happens ...

     We had discussions on this question quite often, young people ask what is your point of view on this sort of thing, where do you draw the line, where do you start? Because we start today with an activist, tomorrow we have a politician that's not acceptable, the next day we have a policeman that's not acceptable and it just escalates. So I say it is criminal for a liberation fighter to go out and murder somebody. Yes it's criminal. I say the same thing, it is criminal if the state or state organisation sends or puts a mark on somebody and says he must be taken out. That's criminal in exactly the same way.

POM     They're the same way. So in your mind even if the government one is citing is a repressive government that denies one the opportunity to the ballot box or whatever to look for your human rights and you use violence as a last resort against that government and in the act of using violence commit murder, you think that is the same as a murder ordered by that government of a specific individual?

JB     Well the government murder should actually be worse, but as I say murder is murder, a life is lost and there must be retribution. The person must be called on to answer for that murder because that's the only way to safeguard our community. You must be safe from the so-called liberation movements and you've got to be safe from your own government. It's going to be difficult to make a definite distinction about which one is the more criminal because just on the question of the liberation movements, already in 1977, 1978, 1979 when I spoke to the returned ANC cadres and the PAC ones too, but mostly the ANC ones, and some of them we knew would be going back into the field and that we didn't have a case against them and they had to be released and I personally spread the message, "Why fight the government because the government is ready for negotiation. Why not come in, pass the word on up the line and come back." All right I had no response from these people afterwards and if some of them are back in the country I would like to know whether they ever did pass the message back, but that was the message that was going out here, and yet they persisted.

POM     So in your mind government policy was from at least 1977, 1978 to look for a negotiated settlement?

JB     Oh yes. Not all in government. We had the doves and the hawks. There were still people, I think there are still people now today that want to fight to the bitter end but there were a lot of people that were sick and tired of this. The change came gradually and even some of these ANC chappies that have been out of the country for about ten years or so saw the changes when they came in because there was hardly any segregation, there was an easy mixing of the different races which was definitely not the norm in the sixties and the early seventies. By the eighties it was common cause in South Africa.

POM     How did you feel being the head of a police force that was recognised really only by the South African government, that didn't have any international recognition as being a legitimate state police force?

JB     I served nearly forty years in the police, I was a career policeman, and maybe in retrospect I didn't take a strong enough stance. I was a disciplined officer I believe, although I didn't agree with a lot of what my superiors had said and their attitude, especially politically, and I am surprised I got so far as I did, but I never queried a transfer or an order where I couldn't see anything wrong with it. When I was transferred to Pietermaritzburg I had been trying to get out of Pretoria for 13 years because it's a bad place to live in, for me it was, it was a total alien community, I jumped at the chance to go to Pietermaritzburg. Then the news reports started that I had been sent down there to solve the problems of KwaZulu/Natal or Natal, which I think was a lot of nonsense. It was just that I was more approachable to the press, they could approach me more easily than they did my predecessors. And then when I got the posting to KwaZulu I accepted it and I tried to make the best of it under the circumstances.

     In retrospect again if I could have changed it I don't think I would have gone there and I wouldn't have gone to Pietermaritzburg. I'm still a policeman at heart. I still believe in my policing ideals and I still believe that we could have a good South Africa and we could still have a good police force. It's just that I was posted to a place and I believe that I did a fantastic job in KwaZulu. I do not think I did anything wrong there. I do not think I did anything bad there. The level of training from being negligible when I arrived there, escalated and I think it's the highest incidence of in-service training that has ever been in any police force in southern Africa in the history, the highest incidence of in-service training, training and retraining and retraining and retraining. I believe I did a good job and I made the people in the KwaZulu Police better prepared and better equipped for their task.

POM     When you look now at the level of crime, again the impression given abroad was that during the apartheid years that South Africa was one massive state security machine with the best army on the continent who could vanquish anyone, with the most sophisticated police force, with the best intelligence services and that they could smell an ANC member coming down from Tanzania from 1500 meters and nab him at the border, and that they were just totally - and now they seem incapable of being able to catch a thief. It's like there are no police, there are no resources, they are the most poorly trained, they are underpaid, their morale is low, but these are for the most part the same police we're talking about. What's happened?

JB     We have had quite a number of interviews already now and I think I've used the words 'let us put it into perspective' quite often, and I don't want to be labelled with the perspective story but in the growing years of South Africa and I did an in-depth study of the ANC and I am a South African, I can't go anywhere else, I love my country. What they did in 1910, 1909, 1910 with the Act of Union was a travesty of justice for the black man, towards the black man, but throughout all those years the black man lived in his own area, in his own ethnic area, in his own rural area. Most of them were in the rural areas. The labour was brought to the mines and they went back again to their rural areas. Their wives stayed there, their Chiefs remained the same. And, not this government and not the British government, but throughout the years the blacks were under the rule of their Chiefs and Headmen and so on and they were living pastoral rural lives and they were quite happy with that, go off, earn money and come back again and the wives remain and the children go to school and the discipline was kept within the community and by the community. We had no need for a police force in South Africa in the black areas and with the establishment of a South African Police Force most of the police stations were in the white areas. I would think about 80%, 90% of them were in the white areas and your black policemen were only used to patrol your white areas mostly except for a few farm patrols and stuff like this. The black policeman was in your van, in your police vehicle, in your squad car as an interpreter, as an assistant and the policing was geared at looking after the white people and the rural black communities looked after themselves and we never had a problem.

     But then came - first of all we had poverty and rapid economic problems, we had an influx control law afterwards so the blacks couldn't come into the cities. Now suddenly all those things have gone. There is no influx control, thank God. There are no pass laws so people can come and go in South Africa as they want to. Now suddenly in the last ten, fifteen years you've had a migration to the cities, the rural areas are denuded except for the wives and the children that grow up there, but most of the families now, or the people who had worked on the Reef and in the city areas have brought their families as we had four years, three years ago, about a million people squatting as squatters around Durban. I don't know what the figures are up here but it's even more or worse than over there. Most of these squatter areas are funnily enough around our more affluent societies. If you have like you have in Durban, 800,000 or a million people living in slum conditions in close proximity to rich areas, affluent areas with no chance of job opportunities, there are no job opportunities, they have no money for bus fare, they have no travel money, they live from hand to mouth, they have to turn to crime and this is what has happened. It is virtually impossible with the police force you have at the moment to stop the thieving going on and most people when they go to the police station nowadays do not say to the policeman, "Look please try and find my wife's handbag or something". They say, "I'm just reporting this for insurance purposes".

     Security companies are booming at the moment. This type of lifestyle in a community where you have security guards at the gate with a big wall around it and cluster homes are the in thing to try and prevent this sort of thing. It won't stop. The car robberies, the car hijackings, I mean you see a little old lady driving along in an up-market car and she stops at a traffic light, it's so easy to tell her to get out and get in and you drive off and you've got half a million or three quarters of a million, or whatever. My daughter was telling me that actually now apparently they are tasked to find certain cars these car hijackers. They don't steal any type of car, they are tasked to get certain cars and they are all top of the range. Unless something is done, and there is definitely a desperate need by most of the people for work. My daughter has just moved in here now. There has been a queue of people here, please isn't there just a bit of work that they can do? So there is a desperate need for work and until we've sorted that out, the crime, unfortunately we'll just carry on. The police force at the moment is the same police force, as you said before, but I think if you look at the level of crime, the percentage rise in crime in the last ten years, I spoke to a detective on Friday and he said to me, I think he's had a 32% increase in the last year in theft cases, pilfering, theft, housebreaking. In theft cases a 32% increase.

POM     En route today we were talking to somebody I've talked with over the last four or five years, Derek Keys who was the former Minister for Finance, and he has this annual kind of talk about the economy and he has consistently said that the one thing this economy cannot do, that it can grow at 3%, it can grow at 5% but it cannot create jobs. Well without the creation of jobs are you not condemned to live this kind of life? But are the haves not condemned to live this kind of life?

JB     Well I do not believe that, I must believe what he says because he is much more into economics than I am, but I believe that in South Africa we have lost sight, we have become de-motivated. There is a vast potential in this country, we can't even feed ourselves at the moment and it's not through lack of resources, it's just lack of motivation. I sincerely believe that we can create jobs. We can do it if we start doing it on a small scale individually, as they say, stirring the rice and putting it in the pot on a small scale. This could lead to bigger things. We are importing goods from overseas that we can actually produce in South Africa but because our labour is so expensive, it has turned very expensive, where it's easier for me to import something from Taiwan, it's cheaper and I know I'm going to have it delivered next week. I must refer back to my family again, we've been shopping for two or three days in this area, you walk into a shop and you ask for something and the assistant says, sorry we haven't got it. There's no, please, what is it you want, can I get it for you, can I order it for you? We could have it here tomorrow, next week. They are not interested. It was like in the old days with our telephone system. They were quite happy to tell you that there was an 18 month waiting list or a three year waiting list for a telephone, but every telephone that you sell or install can generate money so you can install more telephones, but we don't think that way. I do not believe that we cannot create jobs here, we can. We have a fine country and we've got fine people.

POM     After the civilian government returned to power in Chile there was a national feeling that the truth about those who had disappeared should come to light, what happened to people who simply were taken from their houses in the middle of the night and were never heard of again, or picked up on the street and never heard of again, and there was one commission after another. In all of that time there has only been one conviction of a Colonel who when he was convicted was whisked by the military to a military hospital and they have essentially refused to surrender him to civilian authority and whenever the government makes noises about further investigations into the past they are gently, or sometimes un-gently reminded by the military that what happened in 1973 can happen just as quickly again. Therefore you have this kind of cautious relationship between the military and between the civilian government. Do you think that you could get to a similar situation here where the hierarchy in the army, where the professional hierarchy would say this is a prosecution of our colleagues, it's an indictment of our professionalism and essentially we're not about to tolerate a lot of it?

JB     I do not believe that we're in the same position because I actually have had some discussions with Chilean officers in years gone by, also Argentinean ones because they had the same problem, and I must say that in some cases it was reported about 3000, 6000 or 7000 totally disappeared that cannot be traced. I do not think the figures are so high in South Africa. The Chilean situation is different in that the military is strong but it's all the same people. In South Africa the military might be strong at the moment and at one stage in the seventies with the total onslaught years I once remarked, after driving through the Cape, that if the army wanted to take over the country they could do it the next morning or the next evening because they had a little enclave outside every town and village, a little army crew. The thing is they could do it but they can't maintain it for longer than a day or two because we haven't got a big enough army. Our army was in those days based on conscription with only about 7000 - 10,000 full time soldiers and you cannot control a country, you could possibly take the government, most of the senior people in government and incarcerate them suddenly overnight. I do not think that scenario would work in South Africa. First of all we are speaking of a large majority of the people who have been sidelined, they have been under stress, they have been ostracised. I am speaking of the black community which makes about 80% of our population. When we speak of the Defence Force and the military of South Africa we're speaking of a very small group which has now been totally integrated with uMkhonto weSizwe and APLA soldiers. There is no motivation among those, or there might be some of those officers that feel this way, but they haven't got the wherewithal among the masses, among the people to stage a coup.

     Again, people discuss these things, they ask me my opinion the same as you are doing now, and I turn round and I say if they try to do it now they have waited too long, they should have done it a long time ago. I believe that the army was geared up and en route to a coup somewhere in the seventies in South Africa but fortunately PW Botha then became Prime Minister and President and I think that settled it because then he took total control of the country. No there's no hope of such a thing in South Africa. First of all it would not get any support from the western world and it won't get any support from the majority of people. I do not believe that our black people are willing to go back into bondage again, so they won't get support.

POM     So finally whenever these investigators come to talk to you, you welcome them coming?

JB     Oh yes. My daughter once asked me, it was with the Harms Commission about three years ago, and she said to me, "Are you not worried?" I said to her, "Why must I be worried? I do not think I have done anything wrong." You mentioned Louis Botha just now, how he said he acted on command. At some stage I was in command but I have never murdered a man, I have never plotted the murder of a man or woman, of a person, I have never murdered a person, I have never ordered the murder of any person so I do believe I can go with a clear conscience and say, "Look what is the problem?" I would like to go before the Truth Commission once it's installed for the simple reason of all the negative publicity. I don't know whether the Truth Commission's appearances will be negatively published but maybe I can set the record straight. I have a large number of friends overseas and I have a large number of acquaintances in South Africa and you read a heading and they say, "Jac Buchner to be subpoenaed as a state witness", "Jac Buchner involved in plot to kill a person", and it's left there and it's never ever cleared. That's why I wrote a few nasty letters a few weeks ago and I do believe now that's why the investigators are coming to see me, hopefully.

POM     OK we'll leave it there. Always a pleasure talking to you.

JB     Thank you.

POM     We still haven't worked out which member of your family voted for which political party?

JB     Oh yes, I can tell you that both my wife and daughter, they were here, voted for the Democratic Party and now the local government elections we didn't have a vote down in KwaZulu, we're going to vote in March, but my daughter here voted Democratic Party and she said Tony Leon is the only politician in South Africa with guts and who is fighting for his beliefs. That's what she told me.

POM     OK. Thank you.

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