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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Case Against The Liberation Movements

by ANDREW DONALDSON

THE ANC contributed to the spiral of "black-on-black" violence that gripped the country from 1990 to 1994, and was responsible for killing and assaulting its political opponents in the IFP, the PAC and the Azanian Peoples' Organisation, as well as members of the South African Police.

This is one of the damning findings in the truth commission's final report that the ANC tried to suppress with its urgent court action on Thursday.

Finding that the organisation had committed gross human rights violations after its unbanning, the report notes: "While the commission accepts that the violent conflict which consumed the country in the post-1990 period was neither initiated by nor in the interests of the ANC, the ANC must nonetheless account for the many hundreds of people killed or injured by its members in the conflict."

Where the ANC has argued that its members were acting in self-defence, the commission says it believes that "proactive revenge attacks" were carried out by all parties concerned.

"This situation," the report states, "was exacerbated by high levels of political intolerance among all parties, including the ANC. Further, the commission contends that the leadership should have been aware of the consequences of training and arming members of SDUs (self-defence units) in a volatile situation in which they had little control over the actions of such members."

The commission's findings against the ANC in this regard are nowhere near as devastating as its findings against the IFP - the latter, the commission has determined, slaughtered three times as many of its opponents during the post-1990 period.

But they could very well be enough to compromise the ruling party's hopes of an election alliance with, among others, the IFP. At stake is the two-thirds majority the ANC wants to win at the polls next year.

Other findings of gross human rights violations against the ANC concern the attacks carried out by members of its armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, from 1961 to August 1990. These the ANC has accepted responsibility for.

They include the bombing in Church Street, Pretoria, the Amanzimtoti shopping centre bomb, the bombings in Durban of Magoo's Bar and the Esplanade, and the planting of land-mines in the northern and eastern Transvaal - all resulting in civilian casualties.

The commission finds: "Whatever the justification given by the ANC for such acts - misinterpretation of policy, poor surveillance, anger or differing interpretations of what constituted a 'legitimate military target' - the people who were killed or injured . . . are all victims of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the ANC.

"While it is accepted targeting civilians was not ANC policy, MK operatives nonetheless ended up killing fewer security force members than civilians."

The report also damns the ANC for the assassinations of informers, state witnesses in political trials and askaris. "The commission," it states, "does not condone the legitimisation of such individuals as military targets and finds that the extrajudicial killings of such individuals constituted gross violations of human rights."

The ANC, it continues, must also be held accountable for creating a climate, particularly in the '80s, in which human rights violations were committed by those civilians who regarded themselves as ANC supporters.

Other findings concern Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who is "accountable, politically and morally" for gross violations committed by herself and members of the Mandela United Football Club, and members of the ANC's military structures who, while running MK camps in exile, executed and tortured mutineers and inmates suspected of being apartheid agents.

The commission, which endorses the view that apartheid was a crime against humanity and that those opposed to it were involved in a legitimate cause, also notes that only the ANC, of all the parties in the armed struggle, was a signatory to the Geneva Convention, and made the most conscious effort to conduct its armed struggle within the framework of international humanitarian law.

While the report comments more extensively on the ANC than on other parties in the liberation movement, the commission stresses that this does not mean it found the ANC "more responsible for gross violations of human rights" than its allies.

"Instead," the commission says, "what it reflects is the far greater degree of openness to the commission of the ANC than the PAC . . . By contrast, the PAC offered very little by way of information on any of its activities, including exile abuses, and supplied no documentation."

What little the truth commission found on the PAC concerned violations committed by its then armed unit, Poqo, in the early '60s; its "random" attacks on white people after 1990; its execution of members branded traitors; particularly in Tanzania - who were branded as traitors; and the murder of those who opposed PAC policies.

The PAC's campaign of targeting civilians was, the truth commission states, not only a gross violation of human rights but also a violation of international humanitarian law. On this, the final report is particularly scathing:

"The commission notes but rejects the PAC's explanation that its killing of white farmers constituted acts of war for which it has no regrets and apologies. To the contrary, the commission finds PAC action directed towards both civilians and whites to have been a gross violation of human rights for which the PAC and Apla leadership are held to be morally and politically responsible and accountable."

Leaders, office-bearers and members of the United Democratic Front facilitated gross human rights abuses through campaigns and speeches that contributed to a climate in which members of its affiliated organisations believed they were morally justified in taking unlawful action against state structures and their members, and people suspected of being sympathetic to the state.

These actions included killing such people, often by necklacing, burning and destroying their homes and the violent enforcement of boycotts.

The commission notes that the UDF's political leadership has accepted responsibility for the actions of its members.

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.