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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

20 Aug 2000: Goldstone, Richard

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POM     Hello, Richard, how are you?

RG     Fine, how are you? I hope you don't mind doing this on the phone but this coming week is just the worst of our year. We've got a meeting of the Kosovo Commission, it's the last meeting of the commission this coming weekend, and two appeals this week and two next week so I'm just drowning at the moment.

POM     Yes. Did you have a nice time travelling?

RG     Oh very good indeed. I enjoy teaching and travelling and we had a lovely time.

POM     You just do too many things.

RG     I enjoyed it, I enjoy it all so I don't complain. I taught for four weeks and that was fun.

POM     Where did you do the teaching?

RG     A week in Sienna, three weeks in and then four days at Oxford. Nice places.

POM     Was the weather in England nice?

RG     No it wasn't bad. We had a lovely day in the Cotswolds. It was sunny, it was partly sunny anyway.

POM     I hope this is our last 'interview' as such.

RG     How is the work? Have you started writing?

POM     I began writing and in one way I've put an awful lot of stuff together and in another way I've put nothing together in the sense that I have some 18,000 hours of material.

RG     That's a hell of a lot.

POM     So now I'm getting it all on CD Roms and developing cross-referencing systems. I've now made an arrangement with my publisher that I will do one book that will go to about 700 pages that will try to be, I won't say a summarisation, but a reflection on my own experience in relation to SA over ten years and SA's relationship to me as we both changed. Then the other will be a number of University Presses are interested in a series of volumes over five years that will edit down all the interviews and I will publish them with commentary and with putting them in their reference or in their context of the time of when they were done. So I've enough work to keep me going for at least ten years.

RG     It's a wonderful feeling I'm sure.

POM     As long as Ireland keeps quiet and Cyril does his business over there.

RG     I've written a short book which will be on the bookshelves of the United States at the beginning of next month.

POM     I look forward to that. Are you coming over for - ?

RG     I'm coming over for a launch on 17th October but it will be on the bookshelves already for some time.

POM     Where are you coming for the launch?

RG     New York. It was part of a series called 'The Castle Lectures at Yale' and they produced a sort of series of not more than 150 pages. John Castle is the benefactor just having a launch party in New York.

POM     What does the series deal with?

RG     It's a series where international scholars to come and talk about maybe issues to do with ethics and morality and so on.

POM     Wonderful. So will you be in the States for?

RG     No I'll be in New York for about eight days. I'll be there also to hand over the Kosovo Commission Report to Kofi Annan.

POM     Well in that case I'd better get on with it. What I want to talk about is I've been doing a lot of work on Boipatong. I was writing about it and then issues arose that began to make me think and then I began to look at different reports, including the TRC's report, on what supposedly happened there. I was faced with a lot of contradictions and had trouble reconciling, so I've been interviewing the people who were involved in the investigations of Boipatong itself to see how they went about their investigations and what kinds of information they used as evidence and how they drew conclusions. So in a way you're the starting point and I'd like to talk about some of the things that came up during your commission and the way the developments and investigations took place.

RG     Firstly it's a long time ago and my memory is not wonderful on detail, but have you had a look at the evidence that was led?

POM     That I haven't but I've talked to Ria Campbell and Andre Titus at HURISA. In fact I was there the day before you were at their board meeting and I left a little message for you, I don't know whether you got it.

RG     No, I don't think so.

POM     I said tell the judge that I hope he is making leeway on his article. I said no more than that. They didn't know what I was talking about. But I will be going back there because Andre is putting everything, as I said, on a CD Rom that would be available by the middle of October. But I just found him extraordinarily interesting in terms of his technical ability to cross-reference material and make it accessible to others, so I will be going back there and spending some time there.

RG     Everything I know, everything I knew, arose from that evidence. There were no enquiries outside of that.

POM     That's what I want to ask you about so maybe you'll get an idea where I'm going if I start asking the questions and if you've forgotten the answers just say go look it up or it's in the records, so that I'm not detaining you.

RG     But in fact you will see from the material there were in fact two hearings, one was what we called a preliminary hearing, it was very soon after and then later there was the sort of full enquiry but no report was ever issued on it.

POM     That's right, yes.

RG     And I think you know the reason for that.

POM     Let me move to the investigation that was conducted by Major Christo Davidson. He was assigned to look into whether or not there was complicity among the police in the massacre. And I've talked to him already, I've interviewed him once and I will interview him again. It's a bit difficult to understand in a number of ways. I want to know, was he assigned to the commission to carry out an investigation?

RG     If you hadn't mentioned his name I wouldn't have even remembered it. I can't place him at all so he must have been assigned by the police. He certainly wasn't a member of the commission staff.

POM     Assigned by the police. So he was part of an internal police investigation?

RG     He must have been.

POM     Yes, OK. He was under the command of and would have reported to General van der Merwe, the Police Commissioner?

RG     I presume so. I really don't remember.

POM     Did he make his findings of - ?

RG     We would have had nothing that wasn't put on record.

POM     Yes, but would he make his findings of his investigation available to you as a matter of course?

RG     He wouldn't have. If anything he would have come formally to the commission, not informally. I've just got no recollection of that at all.

POM     Then the question arises because he infers - and that is that to what extent did you rely on Davidson's findings that there was no evidence of police complicity?

RG     We wouldn't have relied on that more than the sort of galaxy of information that we got.

POM     So it was on the basis of other information that you independently put together that you reached the conclusion that there wasn't sufficient evidence to warrant a finding that there was police complicity?

RG     But we never made that finding. We didn't issue a report after the main hearing.

POM     OK. So what did you say with regard to police complicity?

RG     I don't think we said anything. My recollection is we had the preliminary investigation that justified, obviously, a full enquiry. That's the one that I think four of us sat on, including Chief Justice Proful Bhagwati from India, and we never brought out a report because it became sub judice because of the Supreme Court's criminal trial against some of the perpetrators, alleged perpetrators.

POM     Yes. Were you not sceptical of any SAP report into alleged SAP complicity in the massacre that was carried out by a member of the SAP who was not only a member of the SAP but a member of the Security Branch?

RG     I would have been absolutely sceptical.

POM     So you would have taken his conclusions, and he testified that the security police had not been involved in any way in the massacre, you would have taken that with a good deal of scepticism?

RG     Absolutely.

POM     I want to put that in the context which I'll come back to, is that on the 11th August 1992 when you began some enquiry he testified that the security forces had not been involved in any way in the massacre and then he testified, because he had tape recordings of 13 hours of radio transmissions between police officers in the area before, during and after the attack, but they had been accidentally erased. Now two questions: (i) how could he have reached the conclusion that the police were in no way involved in the massacre if he didn't know what had been on the tapes?

RG     I agree, it was very difficult because the primary evidence was gone. It was obviously one of the problems the commission would have been faced with if it had had to have brought out a report.

POM     So that even added more scepticism to his saying that his investigations indicated there was no police involvement? Then going on to say, "But 13 hours of radio transmissions between - "

RG     But certainly our commission as a matter of course wouldn't have taken his conclusions at face value, save to the extent that it was supported by independent evidence. That's the procedure that any sensible commission would have done.

POM     When he said to you before the commission that 13 hours of radio transmissions had been erased accidentally, or whatever, was that the first time that you heard that those tapes had been erased?

RG     Again, Padraig, I've got no doubt and what I do recall is that we tried to follow up the erasure of those tapes to the best of our ability and I think that that was one of the issues that Waddington looked into. Have you seen Waddington?

POM     I saw Waddington but he didn't mention because his report was completed on 20th July.

RG     But he had already found that there was absolute chaos in that office.

POM     He didn't say anything in his report.

RG     That may well be correct.

POM     He does in fact say in the report at one point, "That this enquiry has uncovered no information - ", that was by 20th July.

RG     That's right.

POM     " - that suggests any complicity on the part of the SAP." In fact the only person he singles out for any kind of praise is Davidson. He said, "It is also pleasing to note that a star that shines brightly to the credit of the SAP is the investigation of allegation made against the SAP under Major Davidson. This investigation is thorough, well-manned by a team of 12 detectives, well-led and properly structured."

RG     As I recall it, I don't recall that any hard evidence ever emerged of complicity by the police. It was just one of those unsatisfactory investigations but it wasn't proved one way or the other. Certainly I recall very distinctly that there was no evidence to establish complicity.

POM     You would not have known before 11th August when you opened your official investigation that these tapes had been tampered with in some way?

RG     No.

POM     I'm going to read to you, this is from a report by David Beresford and maybe the simplest way to do it would be to read a sentence and then you could comment, yes, no, correct, incorrect or whatever. He wrote this on 4th November 1992 for The Guardian.

RG     Oh the London Guardian?

POM     That's right. He begins: -

     "A difference of opinion has blown up between the British government and the Goldstone Commission investigating South Africa's political violence over the finding, with  the finding on intelligence that police probably tampered with crucial evidence relating to the Boipatong massacre. The dispute concerns tape recordings of the police at the time of the massacre in which the original sound was found to have been recorded over. The SA police claimed it was accidental but British analysts, believed to be experts working with one of the intelligence agencies, says that it appears to have been deliberate. Judge Goldstone issued a statement yesterday", that would have been on 3rd November 1992, "in which he dismissed the expert evidence from Britain as being speculation. However, at the last moment he inserted into the statement an addendum from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office reiterating the British conclusion that the erasures may not have been accidental."

     Why would they have inserted that after you had issued the first statement? You said you had submitted a copy of a draft statement on the issue to the Foreign Office.

RG     It's ringing all sorts of bells in my memory.

POM     Let me maybe go back.

RG     Honestly, to the extent that it's not recorded in the enquiry I really have got so little independent recollection of it. It was eight years ago and I really don't have that sort of memory.

POM     Let me just read the statement and say go have a look at HURISA's document.

RG     Can I just ask you one question? Was the enquiry still going on at that point?

POM     Yes. It was on 4th, this is after you had sent the tapes off to the British to be examined and then they came back with their report.

RG     I remember they refused to give reasons and details and so on.

POM     "The SA police told the Goldstone Commission that it had erased the tapes by mistake by turning the cassettes over once they were finished, not realising that this would wipe out earlier recordings. Judge Goldstone sent the tapes to a local electronics firm to try to have them unscrambled but he took them back before the analysis was finished after it was discovered that the company had links with security forces. He then asked Britain for help and the tapes were sent to London for analysis. Last week the British Embassy in Pretoria gave him the experts' report which confirmed the tapes had been over-recorded. It was added, 'The technical evidence suggests that this may have been done deliberately and thoroughly in order to obscure the contents.' It said it was impossible to recover the lost data. In a statement yesterday the judge says the Embassy told him that, 'The British experts were unwilling to furnish further information and in particular the reasons for the suggestion contained in their report and that hence they would not be prepared to give evidence in support of their conclusions.' The judge said no conclusion could be drawn from the British report because it was speculative and unsupported by evidence. He said it had been established that contrary to British conclusions sections of the recordings could be heard and understood. Judge Goldstone submitted a copy of a draft press statement on the issue to the Foreign Office and on Monday received their addendum. The addendum said some of the material superimposed on the tapes was unintelligible but much of it was not distinguishable without the aid of technical analysis. Technical assistance revealed that some of the material superimposed on the tapes was recorded at a non-standard speed, the equivalent to between a quarter and one third of the normal recording speed. In addition some of the super-imposed material was recorded backwards. These factors have led the experts to conclude that this superimposition of materials on the tape may not have been accidental."

     My question was, they added that after you brought it to their attention that you had been able to make out some of the materials on the tape?

RG     Really I've got no recollection as to how we ascertained that, whether it was from the company we first sent it to. I remember, I think we withdrew it from that company, I think it was the Mail & Guardian that alleged, that brought to my attention that there was a connection.

POM     That's between them and the security forces, yes. That's when you sent it on to London.

RG     That's correct.

POM     But in a way it seems, and I don't have, I have to maybe have a look, maybe their report is among the materials, if it is just say it is and I'll go and look it up.

RG     I'm afraid I've just got no recollection.

POM     OK. If I asked you what credence did you give to Davidson's conclusions that there was no evidence of police involvement, did you regard it as inconclusive or not persuasive?

RG     Absolutely. It certainly wouldn't have been regarded as inconclusive but I don't think it ever came to the point of really having to because once we didn't have to put together a report there was no reason for the men sitting on that commission to really analyse it that closely and come to any final conclusion.

POM     Did it ever strike you as slightly odd that he could have carried out a whole investigation into whether or not there was police complicity and come to the firm conclusion that there wasn't within such a short space of time?

RG     That was the sort of report that really was the sort of usual report that we got. It would have been unusual for an internal police report to come up with a cognitive finding the other way. I always had a healthy scepticism for that sort of investigation and that sort of report.

POM     At least what Waddington said about evidence of police complicity given your own, I won't say finding, but again belief that police weren't involved given the information before you

RG     Well I don't think, my recollection of it was that there was no evidence one way or the other. It was not, certainly to the best of my recollection I came to no even prima facie conclusion that the police were involved or that they weren't involved. It wasn't established one way or the other and certainly their conduct with the case wouldn't have been sufficient, in my view, to establish complicity.

POM     Given Judge Smit's trial at which 17 of the residents of KwaMadala Hostel were convicted, in his judgment he said there had been no police involvement, and that was after a trial that lasted a year and hundreds of witnesses were called, were you surprised by the absolute certainty?

RG     Firstly, I never read that judgment. I was already in The Hague and I had passed on to a different world. I never looked at the judgement. I would have known about it from press reports.

POM     Did you read the TRC's findings?

RG     No I haven't. What have they found on the matter?

POM     They say directly that: -

     "The Commission finds that KwaMadala Hostel residents together with the police planned and carried out an attack on the community of Boipatong and the surrounding informal squatter settlements, Slovo Park on 17th June 1992."

RG     Did they have evidence of police involvement?

POM     They never carried out any investigation. That's what I found out, they never carried out any investigation.

RG     Then how did they come to that conclusion?

POM     They just came to it. It's extraordinary. I've talked to all the investigators and they essentially took a statement that had been issued by the Human Rights Commission on police action a couple of days after the massacre and repeated it verbatim in its report and then reached these conclusions. One of their investigators to whom I have talked said there was never an investigation into Boipatong at all and that has shocked me because you have the situation that they made that findings even in view of the fact that the 17 or 14 of the men who were convicted of the crime have applied for amnesty and all have said there was no police complicity. So they're kind of in a double jeopardy.

RG     Absolutely. [A comment off the record, I wouldn't like to be quoted, I don't want to be publicly quoted as criticising the TRC, but it seems that if the conclusion that you've read to me from the report is correct they shouldn't have given amnesty. It would follow that there wasn't a complete disclosure.

POM     That's right, yes.

RG     It can't be both ways.

POM     But, again this would be off the record, I was shocked to find that. I regarded Boipatong as one of the turning points.]

RG     It was a crucial turning point. It was the reason the ANC broke off the negotiations.

POM     Yes, and to find that in the five volumes of the TRC's findings there's something like 2000 words devoted to Boipatong.

RG     There was absolutely no probability of police involvement, certainly at an official level and it wouldn't have surprised me if there had been but equally it wouldn't have surprised me if there hadn't been. There were so many possibilities, (a) whether police were involved at all, if they were involved at what level, whether they were policeman off duty who were involved in it for political reasons. There were just so many possible scenarios. That was really part of our frustration in the area of the commission generally but in virtually all of the incidents of violence we investigated, but there were contradictory probabilities pointing in different directions as to who the perpetrators were. There were people on many sides who would have liked to have derailed negotiations for very contradictory reasons.

POM     It says, again, they say very bluntly: - "The Commission finds that the police were responsible for destroying crucial evidence in that they erased tapes of transactions in the control room of the ISU." There was never any investigation into that. They relied simply on what had been in your commission and what the Brits had supplied to you.  "The commission finds the SAP colluded with the KwaMadala residents in planning the attack." Again there was no investigation, they never talked to anybody in the KwaMadala Hostel, they never talked to anybody in Boipatong. The only time they talked to people, the victims or families of the victims in Boipatong, was when the applications for amnesty were made but not when the investigation of the Boipatong massacre as separate from the amnesty applications that had been carried out.

     I'm just, I suppose, a little disillusioned in the sense that if it is true, and I'm seeing Charles Villa-Vicenzio soon, but I've talked with probably no-one Piers Pigou, he was one of the primary investigators for -

RG     I don't know him. I've heard the name.

POM     He covered investigations in the Vaal Triangle.

RG     Have you spoke to Dumisa Ntsabeza? He was the member of the commission who headed the investigation bit. He's in the Cape Town bar. He's been an Acting Judge on a few occasions.

POM     Please spell his name for me.

RG     His first name is DUMISA NTSABEZA that's more or less what it is.

POM     He's now at?

RG     At the Cape Town Bar and he was the truth commissioner who I in fact had an investigation into because there was some allegation that he was involved in the Heidelburg shooting and I cleared him at a hearing that I held at the request of Mandela when he was President, after I got back, that was in 1997.

POM     He would have been in charge of?

RG     He was in charge of the whole investigation section. I don't know how much investigation he was personally involved in. He was the commissioner in charge of that whole section of the Truth Commission. And Alex Boraine I am sure can help you.

POM     Is Alex back or is he still in the States?

RG     He's here.

POM     He's in Cape Town?

RG     That's right.

POM     I would probably be able to get him at home.

RG     Have you got his phone number?

POM     I've got it some place. I know I used to have it but I don't know where I have it now. Is it the same house that he lived in before?

RG     Yes the same house.

POM     Then I can trace it down, I have it some place. What is he doing?

RG     He's spending six months a year teaching at NYU Law School, that's his main occupation, he's got a three year contract and he's about to bring out his book on the Truth Commission. I'm speaking at the launch in Johannesburg on 10th October. It's a fascinating book, a  300-page book on the Truth Commission.

POM     That will be the fourth book by commissioners.

RG     No second, there's one already out by Wendy Orr.

POM     That's right, and Charles Villa-Vicenzio wrote one too didn't he?

RG     That's a series of essays for which I wrote the introduction to the book. That was a series of essays, it wasn't a chronological story of the Truth Commission as Alex Boraine has done.

     [There's one interesting thing, again it's completely off the record, that surprised me. I read Alex's book and I've given a very favourable blurb for Oxford University Press who is publishing it, but it interested me that in the whole book there's not a reference to the Goldstone Commission. Interesting isn't it?

POM     Incredible. That's incredible. I wouldn't find it interesting, I would find it unbelievable.

RG     There you are. It wasn't for me to comment on it. Certainly from a public point of view it doesn't detract from the book but I found that well I found it fascinating.]

POM     I look forward to it. It's being launched in Johannesburg?

RG     In Cape Town I think on 4th October.

POM     I must make a point of being here then.

RG     And Johannesburg on 10th October. If you're in Johannesburg, will you be here on 3rd October?

POM     Well I hope so.

RG     Because my book is being launched at Wits.

POM     OK.

RG     The Wits University Press have got permission from the Yale Press to publish my book in paperback and that's being launched on 3rd October and if you can be there I will be more than happy for them to invite you to come to the opening.

POM     Oh please do.

RG     And obviously if you want to bring somebody. It's going to be on the campus but if you speak to me beforehand or if you want to give me an address now where I can send the invitation?

POM     I can't give you an address now because I don't know where I will be.

RG     Well give me an address. You can give it to my secretary.

POM     Why don't I just do that. So you're the 3rd and he's the 10th and he's in Cape Town on the 4th. Wonderful.

RG     The 4th, I'm speaking from memory, I think that's right, I'm not 100% sure but the 10th certainly is definitely the date here. Mine will be at about 5.30 on 3rd. I'm probably going to ask, well I'm not sure who I'll ask, somebody will speak.

POM     I will look forward to that.

RG     You'll be here all the time until then?

POM     I might go back for two weeks in between but then again I might wait till after that and go back later in October.

RG     I'm frustrated not having any copies of my book. They sent me two copies.

POM     They sent you two?

RG     There are some on the way. I gave one to my daughter.

POM     Well that's a lot for your efforts.

RG     My book generally, the two main chapters, there's one on the Goldstone Commission, it's anecdote, the whole book's anecdotal, it's not heavy, it's for the man on the street.

POM     That will sell.

RG     And the other big chunk of it, the longest chapter is on my experiences in The Hague. I think you'll find it interesting.

POM     I will be there if I am here, Richard, and I will talk to your secretary and I have to talk to you beforehand.

RG     If we need to get together, after the end of this month I'm not going to be quite under such pressure, if you want to come and have a chat.

POM     Social, a social occasion.

RG     That would be terrific.

POM     OK, thanks very much. Bye-bye.

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.