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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
25 Mar 1997: Mokaba, Peter
POM Let me begin with the remarks you made this weekend at the Sharpeville rally regarding Mr de Klerk, where you called him a bald headed criminal with blood dripping from his hands. Could you explain the context in which you made that remark and why you made it and whether or not you think action will be taken against you in terms of the constitution as promulgating hate speech?
PM Well there is no hate speech. You see the National Party will never come out of their tendency to mobilise whites on the basis of race. That was the Human Rights Day and it took place in the context of TRC, the Truth & Reconciliation revelations, exhumation of people's remains who were our comrades who were killed by the security forces, murdered brutally and buried where their parents didn't even know. Now this is the system that De Klerk was head of. The system killed those people, those comrades, the blood of those comrades is on the hands of the people who actually managed and ran that system, so I have got no regrets about that. For him to claim that he didn't know is nonsense, it's really nonsense. I will come back to that.
Secondly, that system was declared by the international community as a crime against humanity. Now how do you run a criminal system without you being a criminal yourself? So I am convinced that he is and he was a criminal managing a criminal system in terms of not just my views but the views of the international community. There is nothing that we can do today that will change that interpretation of things and it is not only what the international community said but our own experience that apartheid was inhuman, apartheid was such a criminal system that we will never allow back into power. That's why I said he should never come back to power and I maintain that. For many other reasons too, not simply because he was an apartheid chief but because here he is saying that when he was the President of the country he was neglectful, he didn't know what was happening in his own ranks. People were dying all over, you could even see the bodies of people who were being killed, you could see the fires that were burning our country. He didn't know anything, he wants us to believe that. Now he's asking to be a President again so that we must see the same fires, so that people must die again and he must come back and say he didn't know anything about it. I am not withdrawing from what I said about him. It's not a hate speech, it is the truth. It's got nothing to do with the Afrikaner. He is not representing the Afrikaner at all.
We who stand for a non-racial South Africa are the ones who hold out hope for non-racial existence of people here including the future of the Afrikaner. It is us who will defend it whether or not they believe in us. At the moment they are prevented by the colour of their skin not to believe us, not to believe exactly what we can do. Despite the fact that we have given them a peaceful country, the most democratic constitution, they still believe the follies of old that say that people like us who are in power intend ill against the Afrikaner, which is nonsense, it's not true. That system of apartheid did not empower the Afrikaner, it actually impoverished a lot of them. It turned their language into a language that is not liked by anyone. It turned them into a people who were rejected by the whole world, that system of apartheid. It is this system that we have put in place that seeks to redeem them, that seeks to say to the world these are the people who have fought against the system but we have never declared any person, any individual, any human being as our enemy. That is why our struggle was not a terrorist struggle because our targets were not human beings, it was the system of apartheid at all times and for that we don't regret. So I am saying that we will not, I will not swallow my words, I will not retract that the system of apartheid was a holocaust, was nazism, was fascism, was a criminal system and De Klerk who headed it is now a liar to say he didn't even know what was happening there. He himself for heading such a criminal system was a criminal. Exactly.
POM Let me ask you about the Truth Commission for a moment and ask you two questions, and I will preface one with my observation from talking to just ordinary black people and white people. I find that white people are distancing themselves from the whole thing, saying these atrocities were awful but we never knew they were going on and we certainly would have had no part or condoned them if we had known what was going on so why should we feel guilty, we did nothing wrong. So they feel resentful that some kind of guilt is being implied to them as a whole. Among black people I find that families that I visited a couple of years ago who were quite benign and not in the least bit wanting any kind of revenge are now getting increasingly upset as one revelation after the next comes out, not just the murders but the manner in which they were carried out, the manner in which bodies were disposed of, people drinking beer, having a braai, and they are getting increasingly angry and saying these guys are going to walk, justice is not being done here. Where is the justice? One, would you comment on what I've said, and two, where is the justice in the Truth & Reconciliation Commission?
PM There is a lot of justice there. Let me say, for instance, to the ones who are saying that they are not guilty because they didn't know, but they cannot divest themselves of all responsibility towards what happened. The system of apartheid was put in place in their own name. Over the years they actually returned that same system to power. It became their way of life. They never stood up and said that blacks are human beings too, so for them to start saying that we did not know about these things and therefore we should not be asked to feel guilt, we are not asking them to feel guilty, they are guilty and it would do them good if that is where they are going to start because there will be no reconciliation until you admit your guilt, until you say indeed I did these wrong things and I regret having voted into power a system like the one that De Klerk was running that actually treated people like animals as they did. They should regret that. It's for them, it's not for us, it's not in favour of us, we're not asking them to do some kind of charity for us. They have to regret and claims that they were not part of it are not true, simply not true. They voted the white government into power, white supremacy with De Klerk policies of white supremacy, of apartheid, of keeping the blacks down and out. So I am saying to them that reconciliation will not be served by that kind of denial. We have to accept our past and know which are the right things that we can take from the past and which are the wrong things that we should never repeat in future.
POM It seems to me that there is no indication of this change in attitude so far, rather than that they are digging in their heels and saying this was a war against communism. The NP's second submission to the TRC which he gave in on Sunday, which was published yesterday, said this was not a crime against humanity, it wasn't nazism, this was a witch-hunt, the TRC is not even-handed, it's alienating whites, it's contributing to increasing racial polarisation rather than reconciliation. It was belligerent.
PM Exactly. That's why the fellows are incorrigible. It would be wrong for us to forgive them when they are behaving like that because all what they are saying now is to say that it was justifiable to treat blacks in the manner in which they treated them, to kill them, to dispose of the bodies in the manner that they did. They say that that was not a crime. They say that is not equal to the holocaust. They say that because the Jews are whites and blacks are of a dark skin, why are they saying that? Those are the types of things that are going to make us angry and these whites who claim that they don't know anything why do they, even in a democratic dispensation, why do they continue to vote into power these very same people, try and vote them into parliament again and they claim that they didn't know anything yet when we go to elections they go and vote the NP back into parliament. They can't run away from that. They are racists at heart, they are dyed in the wool racists and they have to be transformed, they have to be changed from that perspective of life. It is wrong, it is inhuman, it's criminal. They have to be changed and we are determined to change them, to begin to believe in the essence of being human irrespective of colour. That's exactly our determination. We will not be racist because they are racist. We are not going to fight them on the basis that they are white. No, we will not fight racism with racism. Racism whether in offence or defence is wrong. That is the politics of the ANC. Now with our black people naturally they have to be angry with these revelations that are coming to the fore now that this is how society was run, this is how - it was not just apartheid, it was not just the pass laws, it was not just the migratory laws, it was not just exclusion from jobs, from financial institutions, from other opportunity, it was not just that, it was not just the four-roomed house in rural areas, the squalor there in the squatter areas that we had to endure. The people have had to lose their lives in the most, most inhuman way. They are bound to get angry to see how other children lost their lives, to see how other people who belonged to them and because they belonged to them had to lose their lives.
POM But they also see their killers going to walk and very often when you look at them on television, and I've attended some of the hearings, and these guys show no remorse, they trot it out and are looking at their watch and saying - if I confess for another 20 minutes I'll be eligible for amnesty and I'm out of here.
PM That's true, that's true, but those are the pains of transition. Our cause is meant to ensure that the white people who are being born today and who are young today do not repeat the barbarity of their fathers today. It's not going to assist our society to say that we will not rebuke because development will only take place under conditions of peace. We cannot leave our past, we can only look back with lots of regret at what happened to our country which could today have become one of the most powerful nations of the world but has had to be delayed because of apartheid. So we can't live into our past, we can only live into the future and that is why it is important for us to take our bitterness in our stride and turn disadvantages into advantages so that our children, the next generation, does not have to live with the kind of bitterness that we have inherited directly from the system that actually was very inhuman to us. So we want to do that.
POM Where's the justice?
PM Justice? At the moment there is justice in the sense that we are saying the TRC will let those who did not know how their loved ones came to pass, know that information, because you have to know. If you don't know you will never be able to deal with these facts because you don't know them, you keep on wondering, your mind occupied with these things into the future. But secondly, we are saying that those that have committed these crimes need to be made to face their own victims and say to these victims we are sorry at this stage.
POM But many of them don't say we're sorry.
PM Many are saying so, they are not saying they are sorry, yes that is true. It is an element that needs to be repeated, the truth and reconciliation, that if that is not an element of amnesty they cannot get amnesty. But the compensation part will have to come for the victims. It is coming, it is just that at the moment it is preceded by the finding of guilt and so on and that is why you don't see the balance of people being compensated this way and others being prosecuted for their actions of the past. But I am saying it is a difficult process, it is a nation-building process. We have to go through it.
POM Most people that I talk to tell me that there is not an awful lot of money there for reparation so that there's not going to be an awful lot of monetary reparations. What other kind of reparation can be made? How do you put the value on a human life taken ten or fifteen years ago?
PM When we give money out for reparation it is simply because money is the only form of exchange that we have got. Remember we are not guilty for these particular crimes that these people have paid for. We are making the state to pay because they have lost more than whatever amount of money we can give them but we cannot sit back and say they don't receive anything because we will never be able to value properly what they have lost. It is a token of understanding, of condolence from our side as the state of identifying with them because we come out of them, from their own ranks, to say that these are the things that we suffered together. But of course the money that we give them, as I have said, will not remove the pain that they have had to endure, that they will still endure but I think the fact that the blood that our people have lost, the strife and the suffering that they have gone through, has not been in vain, that we now have a democratic system that should offer, if not this generation, the next generation the opportunity that they would never have had under the apartheid system. That should be compensation but it is also not enough I know, it can never be equated to life. That is why in struggle terms it is always called sacrifice. That is why in biblical terms with regard to Jesus it was also sacrifice so that others can live. That type of understanding, that type of movement of society from the dark eras to the new era has always been accompanied by this type of sacrifice.
POM Now the last time we talked you had mentioned the number of occasions on which allegations had been made against you for being a police informer or whatever and I would like to ask you two questions. One is taken from a little publication called Current Affairs that's edited by Richard Louw. He refers to an article, I think you mentioned it, by Gavin Evans in Leadership 1994 Vol. 13 which Evans he says identified himself as a covert member of and spy-catcher within the ANC during the 1980s. He said: -
"Of more importance, however, are his disclosures about Peter Mokaba former president of both the SA Youth League and ANC Youth League and now a deputy minister in Mandela's Cabinet. According to Evans: (i) an investigation into suspicions that Mokaba was a police spy by ANC underground structures included claims that Mokaba had tried to recruit a student to spy for the police and had arranged a false rendezvous for an activist who instead of finding an ANC contact at the meeting point discovered police waiting there; (ii) he was told by Sydney Mufamadi, now Mandela's Minister for Safety & Security, that Mokaba had been arrested by ANC security in Lusaka on the strength of the investigation and had confessed that he had worked for the police; (iii) Mokaba was, however, allowed to return home because in the words of an unidentified cabinet minister 'there are people at the top of the organisation who are scared their own links with the enemy might be exposed if anything is done'. The ANC's position when the information about Mokaba's alleged link with the police first leaked is interesting. It did not offer an unequivocal denial that he had been investigated and made a confession, preferring instead to describe him as 'a member in good standing'."
Could you just comment on all of that?
PM Let me first tell you that I have done a lot of investigations around this issue and firstly I have gone to every comrade who has been quoted in the article by Gavin Evans and all of them have denied the roles that he ascribed to them, all of them including Sydney, everybody. That is the first thing. Secondly, who is this student he is talking about? We don't know. And who is Gavin himself, Gavin Evans himself? He claims that he was a covert spy-catcher of the ANC. Evans is a young man who joined the ANC I think very, very late. There is no way in which he could have been put on a task like that to investigate a person like myself. I have always been top in the ANC - to come and be investigated by a minion like him? I don't know who used him but no-one wants to claim him in the ANC. Then thirdly, I have been with the President, and I told the President that, now that we're in government in addition to the ANC issuing statements to say we've got confidence in Peter and so on, I want to go to the bottom of this thing because I know where it comes from. I know where it comes from. I said to the President I am launching three activities. We are taking through the ANC this matter to the TRC for Gavin Evans to come and give to the TRC an account of what he says is true. The ANC denies that there has ever been any investigation, not that I would be worried if the ANC ever investigated any allegation against me. As an organisation, a movement in exile, we have had to investigate all of our comrades and all of us in order to verify our credentials. The ANC says this type of investigation, Joe Nhlanhla who is the head of the Department of Intelligence and Security, he's now the deputy minister.
POM The Deputy Minister of Intelligence?
PM Yes, Intelligence. He has always said, he released a statement to say his department has never been involved in the kinds of investigations that Gavin is referring to. Now the question is who then tasked Gavin to do that? Who did he work for because the ANC never tasked him to do that. Now what was the other question there?
POM He said that he was told by Sydney Mufamadi, it says that you were arrested by the ANC Security and that you had confessed that you had worked for the police but you were allowed to go home because 'there are people at the top of the organisation who were scared that their own links with the enemy might be exposed if anything is done'.
PM In the first place I have never been arrested. At no stage within the ANC have I ever been arrested. At no stage were allegations ever made to me that I could be a spy. I have never been made to answer that type of question by the ANC anywhere. And the ANC have said this to the youth leadership. When we met with them we said they must answer specifically three questions. Has there been any investigation against Peter? Has there been any confession from me? Has there been any way, did they ever put any such allegations to me in any manner? The ANC which was represented by Comrade Walter Sisulu, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa, Comrade Jacob Zuma, Comrade Joe Nhlanhla, Comrade Aziz Pahad and two other provincial people said neither the ANC as a whole nor its Department of Intelligence and Security had anything and has anything to do with this matter, it is part of the disinformation campaign carried out by the regime. That is why I am interested to know who did Evans work for and why should the white media believe Evans? Is it because he's white? The ANC at the highest leadership has denied these things, has rejected these things, but they still prefer to believe Evans. Is it because the ANC leaders are black and he is bloody white? It looks like they will believe him.
But not only that, the Goldstone Commission raided the CCB offices, headquarters, and found among the documents a plan, an operation by the enemy, by the apartheid operatives to launch a campaign to discredit me, calling me a spy, demonising me, using the media, and as the campaign document says, and also some of the members of his organisation, so the campaign document says, saying also that once he is demonised, discredited, then he will be eliminated, he will be assassinated and the murder would be put, the blame would be put on the ANC. Now while I'm interested in these dates is to establish whether this particular plan which was uncovered by the Goldstone Commission had anything to do with Gavin Evans, given the fact that the ANC intelligence structures say they do not know anything and instead what the ANC intelligence structures did was to give me a warning, a plan to assassinate me after Comrade Chris Hani which was to be preceded by these types of allegations. The question to me that I have asked is whether Gavin was part of the plot to actually see me assassinated. That's why I want him to go to the TRC, that's why we are taking his paper now to court. President Mandela has said to me take them to court and we are going to do just that, take them to court and show that there is a link between what the enemy was doing through the CCB and Ferdi Barnard and Gavin Evans, Ferdi Barnard who was the CCB operative. But in addition to that Colonel Niewoudt of the Military Intelligence actually confessed saying that this particular plot to demonise me, to call me a spy, to use the press and everybody, was offered by him and instead of De Klerk going to court to deny that he was an operative that De Klerk knew, De Klerk chose to settle out of court.
Now that is why I am saying when they say the white media in this country would never put value on anything that blacks say you can see it in this case. The word of a small boy who had no branch is the type of white person the ANC does not need because he is bringing no whites with him. We need whites who have got a constituency in their own area, who can convince the whites of the kind of policies that we have got. This one was a hobo, a reject from his community. Personally I don't know how he was recruited into the ANC and that is why I am insisting today that if he was a member I want him to appear before the Disciplinary Committee of the ANC and he must be disgraced there. I fear nothing because we can't be sitting here and saying all the time can he prove that I was ever arrested? I was never arrested, I never ever made a confession. He can never produce such confirmation. And who is he to be believed over and above what Mandela says, over and above what our own leaders say, the ANC, the intelligence structures of the ANC have said? And this is the type of role that we want the TRC to investigate, the role played by the press, the media, in violating our human rights during the apartheid era. They actually played a role.
POM So do you intend suing Leadership magazine?
PM Yes. The papers are already out. Mandela said sue them, let us take them to court. But not only that, let us take them to the TRC because we want that fellow to come back and say this is so because this whole campaign is directed towards getting people to lose confidence in the ANC government.
POM Now there was just in connection with that report in the paper last week that you had gone to the ANC to talk about allegations that you had been an informant. Was that an incorrect reporting?
PM No I had gone to the ANC.
POM This was last week.
PM Yes, to say to them that we can't leave this matter at the level of the statement, we have to investigate it. That's what I'm doing now. I said we have to investigate it because, you see, let me tell you the context of this. Gavin and some few whites and Indians who were not representative of their communities in our movement have always fought for the control of our organisation and struggle and I stood up against them and they could not win. My organisation, the South African Youth Congress, one of the most powerful youth movements this country has ever known, was not controlled by them at all, we did not even depend on their resources. They were fighting, both Indians and whites, against each other to control the blacks in the townships. I detested that because they saw our townships and black people as guinea pigs to test their barren ideas on and he belonged to that particular faction. He belonged to that particular faction, they have had to then try to discredit me. Unfortunately or fortunately for them in order to do that they have had to link up with the enemy to work against me so that I could be murdered and the ANC blamed.
But that is the context, that is why I said to the ANC we do not stop there, we are not going to stop at just a statement that expresses confidence in me. I want these buggers to be exposed for who they are and I want the CCB to indicate what was the link between them, because the ANC have said everything it has to say on this matter. So I went there to say I have seen your statement, I agree with your statement, you have said this all the time but I think we have now reached the head, we are now in government, I can't allow this nonsense to continue. It has to be investigated whoever is going to be discredited, whoever is going to be punished by this type of process I do not care as long as I am sure it will cleanse the ANC but let me tell you I will be here in the ANC and rise in the ANC irrespective of what these small white fellows who join us, who are rejects from their own communities, say.
POM OK, we'll leave it there before Muriel throws me out on my ear. Thanks very much.
PM All of these ones who depended on gossip and backbiting had no brains. If you can ask Gavin what was his brains, if he says he was a member of the ANC, spy-catcher, he actually thinks that the ANC as a black organisation would put him to be a spy-catcher against us simply because he's white? That's racist, how can he think that he can ever, ever be put against me to look into my activities. I have always been a leader in this movement and a cadre. I have got nothing to regret and I would never, never - anybody who could have put this person on to me would have made a grievous mistake because who is he? Fortunately the Department of Intelligence does not know him so he has to answer who actually trusts him.