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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

16 Oct 1997: Burton, Mary

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POM     Mary, it's been over a year since I last talked to you and many things have happened with the commission since then, both controversial and non-controversial. How do you assess its course from your personal point of view, because by the time anything I publish any remark that is attributed to you your report will have been published about two years beforehand so you're in a way a little bit freer to say what you individually think rather than what you might end up collectively thinking. In the last couple of days you've had the Generals, you've had senior officials, Pik Botha,  Roelf Meyer, Leon Wessels. What do you hear?

MB     Well it's true that we have heard various different points of view from the leaders of the past and we have also had some very big cases which have revealed the perpetrators in many of the well known incidents in our history.  I think we can say that we have made great strides in exposing some of the truths of the past in spite of the fact that some confessions that we would have liked to hear have not been made, or perhaps I should say rather than confessions, acknowledgements of responsibility. Nevertheless we have clearly identified patterns, chains of command and actual perpetrators in a way that I think has brought a great deal of satisfaction to victims and their families, a process not complete by any manner of means and it will really only be able to be judged when we finish our work. But I feel more optimistic now than I did before about our capacity to expose some of the things that were done. I'm not sure that the victims and their families yet feel that completely. I think it varies from individual to individual. Apart from the public hearings and the public statements, the sheer mass of statements that we have received and the follow up work done by our investigation unit is really putting together a very strong depiction of violations of human rights in the past and not only by the agents of the state, although the preponderance of the cases probably do come from one side and I think in a way, in numerical terms, that was to be expected, but I think the seriousness of those violations on all sides will be shown as part of the end story that we have to tell and that has a huge impact for our recommendations for the future. So that's one of the areas which is interesting me at the moment, how we are going to translate this huge mass of pain and suffering and violations of people's rights into something better for the future.

POM     I have the same problem after I've now accumulated 9000 hours of interview material during the last eight years here. It's like saying how do I find a way of creating a vehicle that makes it comprehensible and maintain a narrative that people can follow and understand?  A question that I have asked a number of people, not on the Truth Commission but outside of the Truth Commission, has been that it would appear to me that there is a kind of a dual standard operating in respect of PW Botha and De Klerk, that De Klerk, who I spoke to this morning, sees himself as the person who broke apartheid and ended it and yet the Truth Commission goes after him and tried to lay all the sins of the National Party on his shoulders whereas most of the gross violations of human rights that would have occurred, occurred during the period of PW Botha, yet he is being treated with almost kid gloves. You have the situation where Nelson Mandela, the President, says that PW Botha is a first rate gentleman, who rings him up on his birthday every year to congratulate him but the relationship now is severed with De Klerk. What are the dynamics? Do you understand what I am saying? Why De Klerk rather than Botha?

MB     It's not an easy question to answer. I think, as far as I understand it, the commission is still intent on getting PW Botha to speak to us. The subpoena has not been revoked, he is to be called to appear before us and he will be questioned hard. At the moment the reason he's not been called to these meetings where the State Security Council has been an issue is because of his recent operation. I do understand Mr de Klerk's feeling that he's been made to carry the brunt of it but after all he came to speak to us as the then leader of the National Party and I think what Archbishop Tutu and Dr Boraine expected then was that he would lead an admission of responsibility on behalf of the party, not just of himself as a person, and that it would have counted for a great deal if he had taken the stand which, for example, Leon Wessels has taken in the State Security Council hearings yesterday a more generous recognition that even if members of the Cabinet had not known the details they did have a responsibility to ask questions about what was going on. And it's interesting, FW de Klerk did make quite a generous apology for harm that had been caused, hurt that had been caused by apartheid, but it has been rather overlooked in the criticism about the omission of that taking of responsibility. I think I agree that PW Botha carries as much responsibility, if not more, for the period when he was President but the fact that he does not now speak as the leader of the party, which De Klerk did when he came before us, is I think perhaps one of reasons that that has been seen as different.   I don't believe that the commission intends to brush over PW Botha's responsibility. I can't speak for the personal relationships between Mandela and one or the other. I think Mandela has also made very warm remarks about De Klerk over the years, maybe not so recently.

POM     Contradictory. They have had a very ambivalent relationship to say the least.

MB     Yes. I think the same thing goes for Archbishop Tutu, that he has established a personal relationship with PW Botha in recent times, at the time of the death of his wife and so on, which I think is really more in the spirit of reconciliation than in the spirit of trying to hide responsibility for the past and I think the Archbishop would like to achieve the same thing with FW De Klerk. I think he has tried on various occasions, they are after all both Nobel Laureates and they carry this affinity so one hopes that perhaps some of the dust has settled, but this is a very traumatic process.

POM     I want to give you some comments from an interview I did over a year ago with Colin Jones who was the Rector at St. Georges. We were talking about truth and reconciliation and theology and the relationship between all these complicated things and I would just like your response to some of the issues that he raised that were of concern to him to see whether they are legitimate issues or PC issues or don't fall within the framework of what the commission actually was established for. The first thing he said was, "I think a lot of people are concerned by an over-emphasis on forgiveness rather than reconciliation. I myself have become increasingly concerned, particularly over the last few weeks (this was in March) during which we have had some really horrific testimony from security police who have been involved in killing of activists, the most gruesome elimination of activists in this country. One begins to wonder whether there isn't a kind of mad scramble for safety now on the part of people who have already got the luxury of hiding behind the fact that they were only acting on orders. I am afraid I find the most recent claims on the part of security police that they are suffering post-traumatic trauma absolutely mind boggling because it almost seems to be saying that these people are suffering as much or more than the victims, the real victims of apartheid and we must be very, very careful in this country that we don't confuse, that we don't suddenly find ourselves bleeding hearts over a regime which was absolutely evil. I would add my voice to the view that justice needs to be seen to be done and that the amnesty issue is the one I think that is going to find itself getting into deeper and deeper muddy waters because in the efforts to get at the truth that truth is somewhat watered down by a misdirected sympathy now being offered or being asked for by the perpetrators of the violence, of the atrocities." There are about eight issues there.

MB     Let me try and remember them all. Let's deal with the issue of forgiveness.

POM     Forgiveness versus reconciliation.

MB     Yes. I think perhaps it's true especially in some of our early public hearings that we so celebrated the capacity of a few people to forgive that it began to seem that we were somehow asking this of people. I think we moved away from that because we realised that it was not for us to do that. People reach forgiveness and that is for them to reach and it is a great example when they can articulate it publicly, but really there are some situations where forgiveness is perhaps not even appropriate, it's certainly not reachable, but that nevertheless there is a sense in which reconciliation comes from acknowledging what happened and understanding it better. So in that sense the process of our investigations, sometimes coupled with an amnesty application which identifies the person, it doesn't necessarily bring reconciliation but does create a climate without which reconciliation is impossible. If you are a victim and you don't understand why such a thing happened and you can't know who the perpetrator was or what motivated him or her, there is nothing to reconcile with. So all that one can say happens really is that the conditions in which reconciliation might happen can be created through the process of telling the truth.

POM     I may have asked you this before, it's something I have trouble with, how does one take the principles established at Nuremberg that individuals are responsible for their own behaviour and that to say I was following orders was not an acceptable defence, in contrast with legislated criteria that once you can show that you were following orders in fact you're not guilty. Under the TRC, Eichmann would have walked, he would have said I was following orders. Was there a political motive for the elimination of six million Jews? Yes indeed there was, here are all the papers, here are the orders, here's the paper trail, I was carrying out and doing what my superiors wanted me to do, I was doing it absolutely. They were prepared to say this man is evil and execute him. And here you have people who will say, yes we burned bodies, we burned children, had funeral pyres and show no remorse at all, saying we did it because that was our job and we were told to do it because we were protecting the state. And you say, OK that's full disclosure, you're telling the truth, it's political motivation and therefore there is proportionality between - the whole question of wanting to get into this debate must mind-boggle all of you. How do you answer the question?

MB     It is a very difficult, well it's an impossible question to answer because it doesn't create justice and so one has to acknowledge that justice is taking second place here.

POM     To which?

MB     To the process that we are engaged which we hope will create the possibility of reconciliation but which also is the cost that was paid for the political accommodation that we reached which led to the 1994 elections. So it's not only a question of the end objective of reconciliation but the fact that a decision had to be taken given the political situation and the reality of that time. It was that accommodation which led to our being able to have transition in government. If we had not had that we would not be where we are now.

POM     This is like a way of saying that if the nazis had been slightly more successful, i.e. negotiated a settlement, negotiated an end to it, that none of these gross violations, not just gross violations, tortuously horrendous violations of human rights, would have been examined in the same way. Yet we have 30, 40 years later, even the ongoing thing of who is accountable and if you were accountable under the Vichy government for carrying out acts that led to the deaths of people inadvertently or advertently, but you were just following exactly what you were being told to do according to the established political order of the day, how do you distinguish between what's inherently evil in a political order and must be treated differently?

MB     Well I find it difficult to make a comparison with the nazi situation because I don't think it is easy for us to measure the differences. The conditions, as you say, if Germany had won the war, what would the situation have been?

POM     Oh, I meant if there had been a negotiated settlement.

MB     Yes. But I think in terms of exposing and trying even the people who were guilty, the Nuremberg trials were - I've forgotten now the numbers, 16, 17, 18 major trials? We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of perpetrators, and I think probably in Germany too so many hundreds of people who carried out horrendous deeds in fact got off scot free and through this process they ought not because they will be identified. So there is a price that is being paid in that through all this process people are exposed and in a way a truer picture is portrayed than if we had identified handfuls of people and carried out trials. We also know that there is not the evidence to carry out successful trials here. There have been attempts in the past to try people and either for legal technicalities or for lack of sufficient evidence, because there were such successful cover-ups, a trial brought no justice either and brought no satisfaction to the families that had been involved. So there is a sense in which the amnesty process has brought more understanding, more awareness and identified perpetrators in a way which would never have happened if we had only pursued the legal route.

POM     This is what bothers me, and I'm probably covering old ground again, is that I talk almost continually to people about the TRC and most people, most whites, have turned off and most blacks aren't particularly interested, it's not a fact in their daily lives of how to survive. Whites are turned off, they either feel it's a witch-hunt or they're being unfairly treated and rather than creating a climate for reconciliation it's creating a climate for division.

MB     Well I think it's not surprising that white people should have that reaction. People deny guilt, they deny complicity. That doesn't mean to say that they don't have some - in fact that that is one of the methods which they find for dealing with it. I think there are many white people who are deeply troubled by it. They may admit it or they may not. What I really believe white people, and particularly Afrikaans speaking people, need at this moment is a leader who can articulate in some way that people can identify with an acknowledgement of responsibility which doesn't destroy their own sense of worth as people and enables them somehow to deal with what they are hearing and still live with it so that they don't have to be in denial. For me that's in a way the great pity about Mr De Klerk who I think missed an opportunity to do that and I don't know where it will come from. I know that at a meeting recently with young Afrikaans speaking people it was clearly said that there's nobody that we can respect, nobody who can take us out of the place where we are now, stuck in guilt and shame. And for Afrikaans speaking people who see themselves as a group, as an identifiable group of people, to be feeling in a way a nation's shame is a very hard place to be and I don't think that we will see regret or any attempt at reparation until those people have dealt with those feelings.

     As far as  black people are concerned I think there are a multiplicity of responses, I suppose there are for white people too. I hope that some of the recognition of the work will follow on the completion of it when reparations begin to be made, when during the first part of next year we can start working hard on major public events to talk about reconciliation and what it means to the country, how essential economic redistribution and opportunities for people are to the process of reconciliation. We can't do this work in a little holy vacuum. It has to be part of a major transformation and a commitment so that people begin to see some benefit from everything that they suffered. But it's a long hard road, there are no easy answers.

POM     I've other commissioners who said to me the great thing about the commission is that the one thing it can't deliver at the end of the road is reparation because there's no money, that what will be done will be token because we're now in a GEAR programme and we've got to maintain our macro-economic model and we can't start spending millions of dollars paying off the sins of the past or compensating people for them because we don't have the resources so people aren't going to get reparation.

MB     Die Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut, the Afrikaans Chamber of Commerce & Industry, has just published its submission that it is making to our business hearings and they have made a very interesting proposal. They pointed out that during the apartheid years the business sector contributed to what was a government fund - the Insurance Companies would no longer insure various different properties against riots for example and there was no risk cover for violence arising from political conflict, and so there was a risk fund established to help people whose businesses or vehicles or whatever were destroyed during times of violence and apparently that fund stands at something like R9 billion and they are proposing that it should be used for reparations and they are urging business to contribute to President Mandela's reparation fund. So it's an extremely interesting submission. They take very generous responsibility for the complicity of business in apartheid and I think it's one of the most helpful things that has been suggested. Now even that amount of money, and of course it's possible that the government had other plans for what they were going to do with that money, but even that amount of money spread amongst so many individuals might get rather thinly spread but in terms of an injection that could be given into some upliftment projects or - I really don't know, I haven't thought through exactly what benefits it could be used for, but it is a really practical suggestion coming presumably from hard-headed people who have given some thought to it.

POM     On my way from the airport two days ago, coming out of Shell House, grabbing a cab with a briefcase and the cab driver thought I obviously might be somebody of some import and he said, "You came out of Shell House?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Do you work for the government?" I said, "No." Then he said, "What's destroying this country is crime." He told me this most horrendous story of how he'd been abducted, taken in the boot of his own cab, taken out, there was a short conversation among his assailants whether to shoot him or not to shoot him and they decided instead they would tie his hands behind his back, tie his feet together, put some tape over his mouth, took him to an unused mine shaft, threw him in and he fell all the way down and the only thing, according to himself, that saved him from falling into the residual water that might have drowned him was that he hit a rock and the rock stopped him. He said, "I tried for four hours to get the tape off." He said, "What are you people doing to protect me? I don't want to hear about Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, I want to know what are you doing to stop people doing to people like me what they are doing." I felt embarrassed. I had no answer. The government is doing it's best, they've all sorts of programmes, but he's saying, "What are you doing?" There was an embarrassed silence.

MB     Crime is very, very serious. It has escalated very fast and become very visible very fast so people are very frightened. There is a lot that needs to be done. We need well motivated, honest policemen and women and one of the things that we at the commission have to do is make sure that when we produce a report it is highly critical of practices of the past but it doesn't destroy the morale of decent police in the service now. It is already a serious problem the morale of the members of the police. The government must put more money into policing and they are doing so and we need an injection of decent people into the police services. A number of the young people who are working in our various divisions are all saying as soon as the commission is over I'm going to go and study law or I'm going to go and work for human rights organisations, very committed to doing something to improve the situation. And I keep saying to all of them, please go and join the police. And, of course, it's not a chosen career at the moment for people, I shouldn't say that, for many people of integrity it would not be their first choice of career but it is essential that we get those people in.

POM     Colin Jones again, to quote: "We don't hear of a discussion in most polite circles, white polite circles, about the TRC, about the revelations. Certainly in this city I don't think that many people are appalled any longer, in this very liberal city of Cape Town, by what they are hearing because they choose not to hear it if they want to. I am concerned about the way in which we seem always in this country to bend over white-wards, to try and make white people feel OK and comfortable. We haven't begun to take seriously the pain of black people in this country. We play on the tremendous capacity of black people to absorb suffering and to forgive, the ubuntu thing. I think it's over-played quite frankly, I think we take advantage of this. People confess to their 'sins'." My interjection was, "But they do it with no act of contrition or no act of remorse." He says, "No consequences, no real consequences." And I say, "Some of them say, in fact they're saying I'm proud that I did it." He says, "Yes, they say I did it for my country. Issues of personal moral responsibility, the message that's going out in this country at the moment is that as long as you were following orders it's OK. Individual moral responsibility doesn't matter as long as you can justify it as an act of following orders. I think that when you do that you actually undermine the kind of democracy we're trying to establish."

MB     There's a lot in there too. Yes I think white people in this country seem to find it easy to excuse themselves for the past and find it hard to listen to what was done to keep them in their privileged positions during that period. I don't think it is entirely true that people have stood and said I was following orders. Many of them said, "I believed that I was defending the state but I no longer believe it", and that is an important step forward. People say, "With hindsight I know now that what I did was wrong."

POM     The chicken and the - if I'm guilty of something and my options are I can take my chances of not being prosecuted because the system is so slow and the resources are so scarce and therefore I can say I'll just sit it out and take my chances of there being a long legal drawn out process and if ever I am prosecuted for something if I don't apply for amnesty, why should I apply for amnesty and tell everybody what they want to hear, not that I'm sorry but I'll tell you every grisly detail of what you want to hear and I'm also looking at my watch and saying another ten minutes and I'll have disclosed the full truth, I will have shown that it was politically motivated and I can go home and say, good I'll have my amnesty. So I'm named, so what? My people won't regard me as having committed a crime anyway. Their attitudes won't change. They will probably say good for you. Judge Goldstone told me this that when he was heading the tribunal for war crimes in Bosnia that the more they named people, and they thought that the response from the Serbs in particular would have been to expose those persons and pull them out, that it had the very opposite effect. They were praised in their community, good for you, we stand right by you, you trashed the enemy, you got rid of the enemy, you eliminated the enemy, good for you. He said that rather than having this moral effect that should have got down on people being ashamed, in fact it was the lack of shame that was the thing that blew his mind. People took pride.

MB     And are you saying that that's happening here too?

POM     I don't know. I'm asking you.

MB     Well, I'm very close to the process, it's hard to judge, but I don't think so. I think that one thinks for example of the police operatives who are sending out very mixed signals in their submissions. The Generals are saying, "We didn't give such orders, we maintained strict adherence to the proper codes. If people did the wrong thing they were bad apples, we take no responsibility." The people at the lower levels are saying that when the government said eliminate somebody they meant kill and that's what we did. They are not saying they are proud of it. There are variations of people's degree of contrition and of recognition for what they did but when you hear for example Eugene de Kock making a public apology -

POM     But isn't it in his interests now that he's playing for amnesty, to play the game of getting amnesty, to be, if necessary, apologetic, to apologise if necessary. If your lawyer says it will help your case if you apologise, if you want to apologise to them it will help your case a little bit more than if you say I won't apologise, but what we're really talking about is a tactical move, not a move from the heart. We're talking about how do you get off.

MB     Who is the judge whenever anybody apologises whether it comes from the heart or not. The lawyer would in fact be advising them wrong because the Amnesty Committee is not influenced by whether people apologise or not but it certainly makes a difference if it's a public occasion and the atmosphere in the hall is no doubt much warmer if somebody seems to be making a heartfelt genuine apology. And there is to me a very interesting warm response when people do. I think I would perhaps be more cynical, take a more suspicious position. But there seems to be a chemistry, if you like, perhaps because it illustrates the difference, between that person and the person who makes no apology whatsoever. But I think one can go round and round this question of amnesty. Amnesty is what we've got to do. That was the settlement reached, it's what the law has laid down, it's what this commission is tasked with and we have to do the best we can with that. People will be given amnesty. Now what else has to happen to try and keep the balance? I think that is the task we are charged with. Reparation is part of it, acknowledgement of the past is part of it and we will only know in the end whether it was enough.

POM     I'm going to ask you a question which you probably won't want to answer but if you do answer it, it's again off the record for way beyond your report and all amnesties will be given. To me, I think, the classic case of this whole process is the Chris Hani case where there is vehement opposition within the ANC, the rank and file, that Clive Derby-Lewis could under any circumstances be awarded amnesty. And I have followed very closely, I used to interview him, but I didn't know, I have the moral question I want to ask you, but I used  to interview him up until the year he was arrested for the assassination of Chris Hani. George Bizos, Mandela's lawyer at Rivonia, the best, said tear him apart, look for inconsistencies, show a little lie here and show there's not full disclosure there, catch him out in inconsistencies. I would say that for the process to work he has to be given amnesty, that this is the acid test despite the build-up, despite the inconsistencies or whatever. And I would argue that not because - well a couple of things, number one because I think that in the interviews I have done with him this man clearly thought that in the interests of preserving white supremacy or whatever, he could believe that resorting to violence was the policy of his party. I've got that on tape, I've got the transcripts. The moral question is I keep those for myself, I don't submit them and say, here by the way, this is what he said to me two or three years ago, whether it would actually establish a prime facie case for his believing that he was acting out of a political motivation. Just what's your own opinion in this most difficult of all cases? No-one will ever hear it - just years from now.

MB     It is a very, very difficult case and I'm not sure that I have formed a final opinion, and that goes for many of the others as well. Like the members of the public I see what they said on television, I've watched George Bizos in action. For me in that case my question was, was the political objective one which really fits within the kind of work that we are doing? When we were originally established I thought we were looking at the tussle, the tussle between basically the liberation movements and the powerful white state. The death of Chris Hani was the year before the elections when to a great extent a great deal was already on track, a great deal of peace had already, not peace in the sense of how people experienced it but the settlement had been reached. So my anxiety is more about the period when it happened and what those political objectives really were. Do they, should they qualify for amnesty? However, the date does fall within our mandate period and the Amnesty Committee will have to really weigh up, and it is a very difficult decision, whether they should be, whether they are satisfied with the criteria.

     I think at the beginning of the process most of us thought that very few people would be given amnesty, it would be the exception rather than the rule. I think as the months have gone on and we've grappled with stories of the violations and the way in which so much of the conflict of the time was enmeshed that we probably think that most people will be given amnesty. The difficulty is almost where to refuse it rather than where to give it and if that is what turns out then I think possibly, and again in a spirit of reconciliation and inclusivity and so on, that the killers of Chris Hani may be given amnesty. Morally I find the whole thing, not just them, very difficult. There is no clear answer.

POM     What should I do with the tapes of my conversation with him? Say private and confidential or, say, act upon the ... of a human being, should I make them available to the TRC?

MB     I think if they were made to you in confidence you can't do that.

POM     It's like a confessional.  The other part of that question which would be my solution to dealing with the moral dilemma you're dealing with, was to say, to go to Derby-Lewis and say what we're going to do is we're going to give you amnesty but we're taking away your passport so you have a choice, you can accept amnesty and live in the country or you can stay in jail. The choice is yours.

MB     Well we don't have the power to do that.

POM     Just before I leave, and thank you for the time and everything else, you're going to in the end publish a report, it will be with a big splash, whatever, media and all the rest. It will be probably so large or so complex that the majority of the people are not going to read it anyway, certainly the majority of Africans are not going to read it. Since you're not establishing an historical record as such and if nobody really reads the final product or absorbs the final product what's the purpose of all this pain beyond a number of families being able to identify?

     I have this wonderful ongoing conversation with a man I've known for years, Joe Seremane and he said the TRC will not deal with his case. He got a response from the TRC that was like an ANC print-out. It said your brother was accused by such-and-such, Mr J, of handing over arms to such-and-such and such-and-such, there were no names. It was just like, this is why we killed him. And his point was that, "I don't care, I want to know who killed him, who tortured him, I want to know where he's buried so I can take his body and take it home. And I am treated not only indifferently by the ANC, I am back to (he spent years on Robben Island when Mandela was there), I am back to practising old habits that I watch myself. When I leave my office I arrange things on the table in a certain way so the following day I can check if it is the same. I'll go home by different routes. I vary my pattern. Some nights I don't go home at all." He said, "Is this the new South Africa that I have sacrificed myself for? I am getting no satisfaction from the TRC whatsoever in this particular case. I get a print-out which makes allegations by anonymous individuals against my brother which in itself is not a justification for him being tortured and killed. Different standards are applied. Whereas security policemen have to come forward and say we held him back by the arms, he couldn't breathe, we did it, this is how we did it, but that does not come out on the ANC side."

MB     I know Joe Seremane and I know that he's angry with the TRC. I don't know what he has been given by the TRC but it is true that it is very difficult sometimes to pursue the stories of the people who died in the ANC camps. They are very helpful where there is a clear cut case of an MK soldier who died in a combat incident and most of their records are not too bad, there are some that are problematic, just that they don't have enough information and that's very unsatisfactory for families, but there doesn't seem to be any wrong-doing. I have no idea what happened to Joe Seremane's brother. But the people who were in the camps because they were being disciplined in the confinement camps clearly had very, very terrible things done to them and we have barely scratched the surface. We have had some co-operation, we have some statements which together begin to form a picture but it's much harder. When you are working with police within the country, when you manage to crack a little bit there will be other police people who will substantiate a story, but when you're dealing with things that happened far away and people who had code names it's very, very hard to track and to expose people and it's not been easy to expose the stories. I hope that it still will be, the investigations are still going on but it is much harder work. Bodies outside the country are even more difficult to find than bodies inside the country and we haven't got anywhere near the end probably of finding bodies inside the country. So it is very difficult. It is very worrying if somebody like Joe Seremane is at risk for his public criticism.

POM     His family begged him not to go, begged him not to go. They said, they'll get you. Who are 'they'?

MB     Yes, very, very worrying. If that can be demonstrated we must publicise it. The claims of the final report, it will probably be a four volume publication which government archives will house, I am very keen that we should have a simpler version where people will be able to find their own names even if it's a three-line summary of what happened to them.

POM     It's like the Vietnam Wall.

MB     Yes, we've talked about Vietnam Walls, we've talked about the Argentine Memorial Wall for the Falklands, we've talked about a number of different things but a publication which every small town could have in its local library would be more acceptable than a wall in one place and, of course, they are not mutually exclusive either. We do need those things. We do need not to let this disappear. We've been criticised for trying to write an official history. That's not what we're trying to do but we are trying to leave a record in place so that future historians and researchers can work on the material. We will probably give some indication of certain areas that need more work where we have not been able to complete the whole process of an investigation either in an area where we felt there was much more to be told or on a topic and I hope in that way our data base will be a rich lode for future students of this past period to work on.

POM     I will leave it there. Thank you. I will be back again and again and again because these are issues that are not just dear to my heart but I am trying to work with people as to whether some kind of similar forum might work in Northern Ireland.

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.