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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
04 Nov 1996: 'Focus' TV Programme on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission
(Max du Preez, Ziba Jiyane and Alex Boraine)
MDP The Truth Commission started it's KwaZulu/Natal hearing today here at the Jewish Club. Inkatha is not taking part in the proceedings. They say the commission is little more than a witch-hunt and that it is biased in favour of the ANC. TRC Chairman Desmond Tutu says the commission is absolutely even-handed, an essential for reconciliation. But let's hear the arguments from the two sides, from Dr Ziba Jiyane, Secretary General of the IFP, and Dr Alex Boraine, Deputy Chairperson of the Truth Commission.
Dr Jiyane, let's forget for a minute about the people on the Truth Commission. Do you accept the principle of the Truth Commission as a way to deal with the past and as a way to achieve reconciliation in our nation?
ZJ Yes, in fact as a principle we are not opposed to that. As you recall the President of the IFP was the first, and to my knowledge still the only leader, who publicly broke down in tears here in Durban at a prayer breakfast which we always have with all the executives of the KwaZulu government, and said there was a need for this catharsis, that people must really confess to what they have done so that there is a stop to it. And he was pilloried, ridiculed, it was said, well he has admitted, because, of course, according to other people all the violence in this country is because of the devil that Inkatha is and all the good is because of the agents that certain parties are paying.
MDP So if he is so enthusiastic about the principle why are you not here at the Jewish Club?
ZJ There is a fundamental question really, it's a good question. I think one of the papers, I won't mention which paper, I was surprised at its editorial, it put it very well that the problem with South Africa's reconciliation is that there was reconciliation between the whites and blacks in terms of the ANC and the National Party. Sadly enough there has not been reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC and more bloodshed and more lives have been lost between those two and that is the tragedy of Africa. You see in Angola, in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe more people died not between the blacks and the former colonisers but between among blacks themselves now competing for power. Here in South Africa even in the writing of the constitution Inkatha is not involved. In the setting of the TRC the ANC did not bother to involve Inkatha in setting it up because there has not been that fundamental process of reconciliation between the two main black organisations in the country, a source of trouble even in other African countries, which is quite a sad tragedy indeed.
MDP Right. Dr Boraine, your reaction to that?
AB I fundamentally agree that there is conflict in South Africa and tragically the conflict has continued beyond the election which was supposed to have united all of us with a newly elected democratic government and I certainly don't want to speak on behalf of the ANC, I am not a member of that party or any party. What I find difficult to accept is the view expressed that Inkatha had no opportunity to participate in the formation of the commission because Inkatha is a member, a very prominent member of the parliament, it was a Bill placed before parliament, there was a Select Committee where everybody had an opportunity and fought over clause after clause after clause. When it was finally agreed to it was passed overwhelmingly by a democratically elected government and Inkatha had an opportunity to participate and to make its views known, so I don't know why you suggest that they had no part in it.
ZJ Well it's true it was a Bill and it was debated and we participated in the debate of course, we were expressing our objections to it but we are not a majority in parliament. But we are more concerned not about whether or not the Bill was debated in parliament but about when the institution was actually being set up just as in the setting up of the Constitutional Court, a very important institution in terms of nation building in this country, the IFP, we expected as one of the three main parties and part of the government of national unity, to be at least consulted and comment on certain - but that wasn't to be the case, it wasn't the case.
MDP But if your enemy does something without consulting you that you like, why bother? If you like the Truth Commission -
ZJ No we don't like what happened.
MDP But you like the principle. I am trying to get to the bottom of your fundamental resistance to this thing. You like the idea, you did take part in the debate. What is so big a problem, as big a problem for you to stay away in this very, very important process?
ZJ Exactly. It's because the way the thing is set up, it is framed and even conceived, we are in disagreement with that. When I say we in principle think there has to be reconciliation, it doesn't mean that we agree that the manner in which this thing was set up is the right way. We think that it is fundamentally flawed. For example, something very basic in terms of fairness and justice, I mean the ANC, uMkhonto weSizwe people who we think have committed to us what are atrocities as far as we are concerned, they have forgiven themselves. The government of the day passed a law to forgive themselves and then they are prosecuting members of the IFP and then they are promoting members of uMkhonto weSizwe into Generals and all accolades. Now when the IFP and the ANC were fighting is it true really that only the IFP was doing the killing? Who has killed more than 400 leaders of the IFP? Who is still killing IFP leaders now? But you see this type of selective justice, the whole basis of it all is such that it must now authenticate and officially declare a history of South Africa which says they were the angels the ANC, and they were the devils the IFP.
MDP Is this what your commission is doing?
AB No, I think that's unfair. I think if you look at the track record of the commission I think it's come as a great surprise and shock even to many of its critics that the people who have appeared before the commission cover a very, very wide spectrum. There has been very strong criticism, for example, against the MK, publicly in the commission. There has been very strong criticism against the state which is perhaps not surprising. There has been criticism against the UDF. There has been very widespread criticism at every one of our hearings. Today, to give a classic example, here in Durban you will recall the Magoo Bar bombing which was committed by Robert McBride, it's on record, he was convicted, he was sentenced. There were two young women, sisters of one of the young people who died, who came and condemned that as an absolute outrage. Now that's what's happening in this commission. People across the board are coming and saying this is part of our history. So let's concede for a moment that it's an imperfect vessel, let's concede that all the consultation didn't take place, although I think it was widespread, why not judge the commission on what it's actually doing and I think anyone who watches that will have to agree that it's equal in its approach, that it's fair and that it's just.
ZJ Well it's easy for you, Dr Boraine, for whom I have a lot of respect, and many commissioners whom we respect, to say that because I think as persons of integrity it's quite logical what you are saying. But I think what you are missing is that there is a lot of pain, deep-seated pain and suffering. We, the people who belong to IFP, have lost so many of our loved ones. We know that even now what is happening in this country are things that we said would happen and are sadly happening. Just about a week ago about 23 of our people were shot using guns, guns that were transported from the Transkei, the Transkei that took the apartheid independence and punished us here in KZN because of our principled stand against apartheid, we didn't have an army to defend ourselves and we were killed. Those weapons are still here in KZN killing people but the weapons, the G3s that were given to the Amakosi to protect themselves, that's what the Minister of Safety & Security was concerned with. He has withdrawn them. We don't even hear him complaining that the large arms caches that are buried in the bowels of the land of KZN have not been traced. They are there, they are killing people, but it happens that the people who do the bleeding that's IFP largely. You see if you were in our position and you know that you've borne the brunt of this onslaught it's a different matter altogether. It's a matter of survival. We know that ordinary people, as you say, perhaps may find value in going somewhere where they can pour out their sorrows and perhaps with the hope that they could find solace in that, but a party, the IFP cannot be in the dock because that's what it has been all along. It's been accused world-wide, it is still being accused by the government of the day, it is treated as the villain. For us to go to an institution set up by this government which treats us - you know even here in KZN they behave as if we're not a legitimate government. Every turn we are challenged, at every turn we are challenged and yet we won democratically. Now when we are about to prove once and for all who is the majority then they say they must be postponed. They change the rules. The only rule in South Africa is that majority party must have its way, that's the only thing.
MDP Let's get Dr Boraine in here.
AB I think you make a very strong case for the commission. I think that if there is an independent body, and let's assume that you don't like all the commissioners and that you may feel that it's loaded, but there are enough people, I think even from your point of view surely, on that commission who are absolutely determined that the record is going to be a reflection of what has happened in South Africa and what is happening. Now if that is true, even if it's truth up to a point, then is it not sensible for the IFP to encourage its people to come to the commission and tell the nation what has happened? You see what I find quite tragic is that inevitably we are going to get people coming to the commission who are going to talk about atrocities by the police, by the security forces, in prison, detention, torture, and I don't think anyone is going to dispute the fact that that took place over thirty odd years of apartheid rule.
But some of those people are also going to talk about IFP and they are going to blame them. Now that's inevitable because they are taking the opportunity to say this is what happened to me, and I think you will agree that it's not only one side, that there are a whole range of parties and constituencies involved in the conflict. But if the IFP encourages these people, it's leadership even, or people who have been so badly hurt, and I agree with you there is deep-seated pain here, to come and tell the nation, because this is going on radio, on television, on every newspaper in the land, this would be a marvellous opportunity to say wait a minute, this is what's really happening and we want to share with you our pain and our horror and our anger. I would advise you to do that. This is the ideal opportunity.
ZJ Indeed, all that he has said I am in agreement with that. In fact we are in the process of setting up a task team or a committee that will look into assisting our people, first the prisoners, people who are in prison that were supposed to have been released, but it was said they should wait for amnesty, this thing, the TRC. So we also have told our members, the National Council - I mean we really agonised over this. We thought about it, debated it in the National Council and we felt that our version needed to be known and that our people needed to use this if they could and we should assist them. Contrary to newspaper reports that ordinary IFP members may be afraid to defy the party, no I am the Secretary General of the IFP and we are in the process. If we had the funds we would have set up that committee already to assist people and we would love to see our people coming here to tell their stories because we can't help them. I mean I am the Secretary General of the IFP, people come to my office and say, "I've lost my husband, I've lost my children, they have burnt my house, I don't know what to eat, I don't know where to sleep."
MDP But why aren't those people here on this stage in the Jewish Club in Durban?
ZJ I don't know.
AB It's the ideal opportunity.
ZJ I don't know. In our party I have said -
MDP Dr Jiyane, to be honest with you I've seen your statements and I've seen Dr Buthelezi's statements, my firm impression as I came here tonight was that you are against your members going, although I saw a little addendum here that says, "The IFP recognises and supports the rights of individual party members." But you know how political parties work. If members think you are against this, why should they come here, it would seem disloyal? Don't you think there's a bit of a problem there?
ZJ No, no, it's a practical thing. Do you think, for example, we don't want our prisoners to be released? We want them to be released because many of our prisoners were left behind when MK people and others were released. We were told, because we don't have money for lawyers as much as other parties, that this forum could help to get those people released. We would like to see them released and we would like to get - but as I say, we are in the process of setting up a structure to structurally help people access this. First of all I think where you can perhaps blame us -
MDP An alternative Truth Commission?
ZJ No, no, it's not. It's channelling people to the commission. I think where you can fairly blame us is that perhaps we haven't done our own education of the people to go pro-actively, to inform people you have to go and use that forum, perhaps because we as a party are not so convinced that the way it was set up and the way it works is the ideal. To that I would plead guilty. But to the charge that we have discouraged people, people are afraid, I think nothing could be further from the truth.
MDP Dr Jiyane, I think we are making progress here. Dr Boraine, we're going to take a quick break and when we come back we'll get deeper into this. Stay with us.
We're talking about the Inkatha Freedom Party and its resistance to the Truth Commission. We had some encouraging words from Dr Jiyane. Dr Boraine would you come in on that?
AB I am very encouraged and grateful for the comments. We have been under the impression, particularly perhaps wrongly listening to Senator Rabinowitz and Powell and people like that. Perhaps we should direct our attention to the Secretary General and as you know we are very anxious to talk with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi as well and he has indicated to us that he is willing to meet the Archbishop and myself and as soon as we get back to Cape Town we're going to renew that. The schedules of all three of us have been murderous so it hasn't been possible and we'd like to find a way in which to smooth the path because genuinely our door is wide open. There is nobody that we want to turn away and no-one can shock us by saying he was responsible or she was responsible or it was responsible, because we listen, we listen to everybody and we take into account the distress, the pain and anguish. What I think encourages me is that we did hear that there were some people during the hearings who went to our office in Durban who said that they were from the IFP and wished to make statements and you will understand that I immediately told them, yes of course we take statements from anyone who wants to make them. Tomorrow there is, I think, an IFP councillor, or certainly one who was and clearly set himself up as a supporter of the IFP, who was attacked and wishes to come and tell the story and he will be received with the same courtesy, the same openness as anyone else. I would encourage you, because however modest you may be -
ZJ I can say here on national television that we encourage our people to come to this forum and in fact we are in the process of setting up a committee to assist them, it's just the shortage of funds. But we would really love to help them. But, Dr Boraine, I think you can also admit it that if this commission which we say will help our members to appear before it, if it is for reconciliation as we believe it is meant to be, at least the three main parties should have been involved in the appointment process, in it's setting up, so that it is understood to be something - I mean like in the army, for example, in the army now they have absorbed, at least in principle, are going to absorb about 2000 of the SDUs which are understood to be trained people who were supporters of the KwaZulu government, which was the IFP. But that is the principle, they want the army to be seen to be the army of everybody. Why is it that in the setting up of the TRC, as was the case with the setting up of the Constitutional Court, that the IFP was not involved? I am not talking about the debate about the Bill.
AB I accept that. In actual fact the process went something like this: in terms of the Act the President had the right to appoint the commission and the chairperson and deputy chairperson. He decided that he would ask his law adviser to chair a small Selection Committee and that every organisation and every political party, and I actually saw these going out so accept my word that it did go to every single party and organisation, asking them to nominate people for the commission. 299 people were nominated. The small Selection Committee had on it a Member of Parliament of your party, of the National Party, of the Freedom Front, of the ANC, one each, and other people who I can't even remember. Now they then sent a list of names to the President after public hearings where everybody was examined and questioned and asked -
ZJ But before that point, you say one of our members was there, I think you are referring to Professor Ngubane?
AB That's right.
ZJ Was she there as Professor Ngubane or as a delegate, a representative of the IFP?
ZJ But that's exactly the issue. She reported back to the National Council that there was correspondence to her as the person and that when she was reporting this to the National Council it was not even official because it was not meant for the party. She herself was worried that this came to her as a person because if it had gone to the party I as Secretary General or the President -
AB Would have nominated someone else?
ZJ Well yes. But this was directed to her as a person.
AB Well I must admit I don't know the exact process but it happened in parliament and representatives from the various - now whether it was a Standing Committee that decided to do this I don't know. But the fact is that you did participate. She was there, she cross-examined me, which was great. I have got no problem with that at all, I welcomed that. She then was party to the list of names sent to the President and she was obviously representing her constituency. You can't separate the one from the other when in a public representative. The President then made the final decision.
ZJ You have to have mandates to the President. She didn't have the mandate.
AB Well she shouldn't have done it then but that's another point. But the President then took it to the Cabinet and the Cabinet approved the names of the 17 commissioners and, as you know, your own Chief is a very prominent member, senior member of the Cabinet. Now I'm not privy to Cabinet secrets that maybe he voted against it but I think his statement and the statement of Mr de Klerk afterwards was, "Well we didn't like everybody on the commission", which is fair, "But we can live with it." Now I think the process could have been improved, I'm sure it could have, I've got no doubt.
MDP Would you be prepared to forgive and forget that, in your view, this commission was born in sin?
ZJ No, no, no, but the commission is meant to bring about reconciliation, but yet in its formation it is exclusive when it is meant to bring about an inclusive situation. You see a contradiction there?
MDP Can't you see the TRC as bigger than the government? Now it's separate from the government. The government created it.
AB It's independent.
MDP But now is there something in that for you?
ZJ For our ordinary members yes.
MDP In the way that the Archbishop and Dr Boraine -
ZJ But not for the fundamental reconciliation that has not yet been started, that is the reconciliation that has cost more lives than any conflict in South Africa.
AB Let me say immediately -
ZJ I think the commission, that would be about the commission as it is set up.
AB Let me say, Max, that the commission never sees itself as the one vehicle in South Africa that's going to bring about the promised land. We're very aware of our limitations and our weaknesses. I think we're one small part. Obviously the negotiations, the face-to-face encounters of political leaders, the economic justice that we desperately need in this country, all of these form part of the process of reconciliation but I think that as far as personal healing and the beginnings of a new start, of actually facing the horrors of the past and not pretending that they didn't happen, admitting them, trying to bring about some measure of forgiveness to move forward in this terribly divided country and province, I think we are a small part and we can play a significant part in the healing.
ZJ Yes but you know what? As I say, as far as the fundamental conflict I think you fall far short. It's not your fault because you see, for example, for reconciliation to take place people must accept each other and there must be trust.
AB I agree.
ZJ And one of the fundamental problems, the IFP rightly believes the ANC has a programme to crush it. You see there was a promise made that there would be international mediation as soon as possible after the election, I'm not saying that we should debate that, but I'm just saying that one of the fundamental things which our President has said, how can you say there is reconciliation and trust in a country where an agreement is signed in broad daylight and it's simply not being kept. Even the honourable chairman of the commission said we were right on that. But the President, who is supposed to be initiating this process, has simply behaved as if he doesn't hear any more and doesn't do anything about it.
MDP Dr Jiyane, we're running out of time, but can I quickly ask you this: we watched the commission do its thing and have it's hearings now, this is the fourth week, did that make you feel better about the commission because you had some reservations before?
ZJ Well I don't want to say my own personal views. It will look like I am detracting from the importance of the commission.
MDP You've said enough. On that note gentlemen thank you very much. Let me just say this, the Tuesday Debate does not set out to achieve reconciliation but I think we are quite proud that we did get some way.