This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Held At: Johannesburg
HEARING COMMENCES WITH A PRAYER
CHAIRPERSON: I welcome all of you very warmly this open session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This is the first time as it were, in a session of this kind I wanted to express congratulations to Max du Preez's team, TV team, and Antjie Samuels radio team on winning the Pringle Awards - richly deserved accolades.
I have just returned from the Seventh Assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was addressed, amongst others, by the President of Ethiopia, also by the Secretary General of the OAU and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa, and it was amazing in all of those addresses to hear how highly the TRC is regarded everywhere, and spoken of in glowing terms. Jesus Christ said something about a prophet being honoured except in his own country, and this seems to apply to the TRC. I hope those who regard the TRC as a witchhunt directed at one particular racial group will, after last week, when they heard the TRC called a farce by another political group come to change their tune.
This is an organ set up by all the parties that negotiated the transition from repression and injustice to democracy and freedom which they all approved, whose terms of reference they all accepted to establish as much of the truth about our past as was humanly possible. Looking at it, not with a jaundiced eye, the unbiased observer would say the TRC has not done too badly. It is not a perfect instrument but it is the best thing available for that task.
Just look at what has in fact been uncovered through the TRC; all about Steve Biko, the Cradock 4, the Pebco 3, Siphiwe Mthimkulu, the Ribeiros, truth that had remained concealed despite all the elaborate trials and inquests that had been held.
After the 'Makuta trial I said the TRC gave us the best chance of arriving at the truth. On that occasion I was attacked by some but I am glad to have been vindicated.
My own unshakeable belief is that we inhabit a moral universe that a lie could not forever prevail against the truth; that repression, evil and injustice would not have the last word. Again we were vindicated in this belief. Truth will out despite all the elaborate machinations of liars. Truth will out even for those who thought they were unassailable, sitting in impregnable fastnesses.
We hope this particular hearing on the State Security Council will go a long way to help establish the truth, the truth especially about accountability; the truth about where in fact does the buck eventually end. What was intended by some of the cryptic writings. We are certain that those appearing before us in this session are honourable men who won't engage in semantic obfuscations; who will tell the world this is what was intended. And we hope that the truth that surfaces is not in order to pillory anyone; is not in order to go forward to prosecution, it is to help in the process of healing, in the process of reconciliation in our land. We are certain that those going to testify before us will want to go down in history as having helped to heal a traumatised, a deeply divided and wounded people.
And so in welcoming Mr "Pik" Botha I want to introduce to you the panel. The names are - Ilan Lax is a member of our Human Rights Violations Committee and he is based in our KwaZulu Natal office in Durban. Dumisa Ntsebeza is a Commissioner and he heads up our Investigative Unit and he often hopes that I will be away so that he can act as Deputy-Chairperson of the Commission which he does splendidly well and he's based in our office in Cape Town. Yasmin Sooka is a Commissioner and she is Deputy-Chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is based here in our Gauteng office. Alex Boraine is Deputy-Chairperson of the Commission and with us is down in Cape Town. Wynand Malan is a Commissioner and a second Deputy-Chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is based here in Johannesburg. Richard Lyster is a Commissioner and he is a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and he is also in charge of our KwaZulu Natal region in the office in Durban.
We welcome you very warmly and give you the word. Glen Goosen is director of our Investigative Unit and Paul van Zyl is executive secretary of the Commission. John Daniel is Research, I just remember that I had to write a letter or something.
DR BORAINE: Mr Botha as is customary at these hearings we ask everyone appearing before us to take the oath and if you would like to take the oath or the affirmation, the oath - would you please stand.
R F BOTHA: (sworn states)
CHAIRPERSON: I will now hand over to Glen Goosen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Chairperson I understand that Mr Botha has prepared a statement and a submission, is going to present that to the panel at the outset before I ask any questions, so I would simply hand over to Mr Botha.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Mr Chairperson, that is correct. I actually arranged with a staff member of the TRC already yesterday morning I delivered the basic document that I had in mind consisting of 39 pages and the idea was that that document should be made available to the members of the Commission. The last part I brought with me here this morning. With your permission if I may just explain.
The Deputy Chairman invited me at the end of August to participate in these hearings. I immediately accepted and the TRC assisted me in then sending me a number of questions, the idea being at that time that that would set the ball rolling and give me some indication of the matters that you would be interested in.
Now the first 39 pages deal then, and is actually answering those questions put to me by the TRC, and the last part no.5, General Questions on the State Security Council, this is from my point of view perhaps the most important part of the questions. I would, with your permission, wish to read that statement in full because I believe it contains rather important views on my part.
CHAIRPERSON: Please go ahead, yes.
MR R F BOTHA: With your permission then may I just - I won't read the 39 pages ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
MR R F BOTHA: I tested myself and it takes me two and a half minutes to read one page, that means 39 times two and a half will keep us here perhaps for too long, but then with respect Chairperson, it was the TRC who submitted the questions to me and I wanted to do justice in my replies to those questions.
The first question that they put to me, or series of questions, not just one question, they have a subject and then a series of questions, that is added as Annexure A. I made that available also to the staff of the TRC yesterday so that if the media are interested then they have the advantage of those questions and they have the advantage now of my first document, the 39 pages.
Now I did not repeat the questions in my document because that would have been repetitive of the five pages, but the first series of questions centred around the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.
This group, as you know, was established in terms of a Commonwealth heads of government decision the previous year in 1985, and the co-chairpersons of the EPG, I will refer to the Eminent Persons Group as the EPG, were General Obasanja, a former Head of State of Nigeria and Mr Malcolm Fraser, a former Prime Minister of Australia.
Looking back, Mr Chairperson, 1985 stands out as a dark year in our history. The South West Africa issue was far from being resolved. South African troops were fighting in Angola. The high hopes raised by the 1984 Nkomati Accord between Mozambique and South Africa had dissipated.
In August 1985 President PW Botha had delivered what has become known as his Rubicon Speech in Durban. The world had been waiting for good news, important announcements on dismantling apartheid and releasing Mr Nelson Mandela. I myself drafted that part of the speech in which the phrase "today we have crossed the Rubicon" appeared. President Botha, however, retained the sentence but removed what had preceded it, namely the release of Nelson Mandela and the government's intention to dismantle apartheid. The effect of the speech on the world, and on many South Africans, was that of a bucket of iced water in the face.
Relations with our neighbouring states were characterised by animosity, suspicion, resentment and mistrust and there were acrimonious exchanges and cross-border military operations. Within South Africa bombs were exploding. Pressure for Mr Nelson Mandela's release mounted inexorably. Against the gloomy background of South Africa's situation in 1985 the Commonwealth took the initiative at a meeting of heads of government at Nassau in October of that year to appoint a group of eminent persons to see whether they could help us break out of this impasse, this looming threat of escalating conflict, not only internally in South Africa but also in the region as a whole. It was certainly a formidable task.
I will, because it is in my document, not burden you with the technical details, but I think it is essential that the Commission have that on record, so I will skip a number of pages.
The ANC leadership told the EPG that their immediate reaction to the setting-up of the group had been one of disappointment. According to the EPG report the hopes of the ANC had been raised by the debate in Nassau and the prospect of increased international pressure on the government through sanctions, instead the group had been established and in their view it would assist in relieving the pressures on the South African government which had been building up in the period before Nassau.
The EPG was nevertheless warmly welcomed as the ANC had a keen interest in hearing what the group felt it might be able to do. The ANC expressed great interest in the South African government's response to the EPG's mandate because only then would it be able to make it's own contribution. If the government was prepared to shift its ground and indicate its readiness for fundamental change this would impact on the ANC view. Their assessment was, however, that nothing had changed and nothing would change. If that proved to be the case then the conditions for negotiation did not exist.
The ANC placed much emphasis on the release of Mr Nelson Mandela, a crucial step which recognised that it was not possible for negotiations to take place in the absence of the peoples' authentic leaders. A prerequisite for talking to the government was that it should be through the peoples recognised leaders, not through the ones the government chose to identify. Without this essential first step the conflict would continue.
Allow me also to say here today Mr Chairperson, Dennis Worrall, our ambassador in London at the time, played a major role in preparing the EPG for their visit to South Africa. Both of us saw in the visit a real chance to make progress in ending the turmoil in our country.
I mention these matters because of their relevance to the EPG mission. General Obasanja and Mr Fraser arrived in South Africa on a preliminary visit a few days after I made a remark at an international press conference in Cape Town on 6 February 1986 to the effect that South Africa would have a black president and that I would be willing to serve under that president. General Obasanja arrived here on 17 February when the media of South Africa were still reporting on my black president remark. These two gentlemen had a meeting with me on the date they arrived, 17 February. Had it not been for my black president remark I would probably have been in a stronger position to influence the discussions more positively. As things turned out my room to manoeuvre was restricted as I hope you can imagine.
I could, however, give advice to General Obasanja on the sensitivities on both sides. He understood my position. A strong personal bond of friendship began to grow between us. We could say to each other whatever was in our minds, openly and without inhibition. During February until 13 March 1986 the EPG held meetings with South African leaders across the full spectrum of opinion, the government, the ANC and all other political parties, church leaders, business leaders, academics, women's organisations, even governments of South Africa's neighbouring states.
By 13 March the EPG had developed its possible negotiating concept which evolved out of their consultations and their judgement of what might be possible.
I will now skip parts of the report of the EPG. I have inserted it in the document for the sake of completion of the record. What is important is at that time I urged General Obasanja to explain to his colleagues that the South African position at that stage represented progress, maybe not enough but it did represent progress. After all I was not fired after my remark on 6 February.
What we needed was to start talks with the ANC. I negotiated the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique in 1983/84 which involved equally intractable obstacles in an atmosphere of severe suspicion and animosity. Written positions only changed, Mr Chairperson with respect, when you sit down with your opponent and ask him face-to-face what his words mean. General Obasanja agreed with me but said that he had difficulties with some members of the group. He reminded me that obduracy was not confined to certain members of the South African government.
The EPG, Mr Chairperson, this is very important, the EPG came closer to success than most people realise or at least suspected at the time. I saw in the EPG a real chance of achieving a breakthrough. This was a smaller and less emotional forum than the United Nations. It was able to draw closer to the protagonists. Also General Obasanja was not only an African leader but a realist. He had gone through severe and troubled times in his own country and he had been a witness of the havoc conflict brings. In my discussions with General Obasanja he displayed a ready willingness to understand the government's difficulties without surrendering the objectives of achieving a solution based on a full democracy which in effect meant one person one vote at the end of the day. He knew our history and had a deep understanding of the position of the Afrikaner. He accepted the Afrikaner's anti-colonial stands. He used to say, and I quote him -
"The Afrikaner is an inherent part of Africa. Consequently....."
he would continue...
"... other Africans should acknowledge this to a greater extent and by doing so diminish the Afrikaner's fear of being overwhelmed".
He has said, for instance -
"The Afrikaner mentally is reported to thrive in isolation and be prone to rigidity under pressure, yet my limited contact with the Afrikaner does not suggest that he is suicidal".
In the EPG report itself, I think this is important that I read this so that the country can also take note of this and also the Afrikaners, this is coming from the EPG report.
"Clearly a number of Afrikaners, including some who trace their roots back over 300 years to the original Dutch colony feel their whole future threatened and see no country which might match up to their fatherland. Some of them are turning to the misguided notion that their power to subdue blacks by using the full power of the security forces renders them sufficiently strong to resist fundamental change. They close their eyes to the simple fact, acknowledged by government and business alike, that both whites and blacks separately have it within their power to destroy the country.
In recent months the country has witnessed the emergence of growing and increasingly assertive extreme right-wing as Afrikanerdom begins to fragment under the cumulative weight of the pressures we have described. The phenomenon is not altogether surprising for two generations whites in South Africa have lived as beneficiaries of apartheid, in a system engineered by a political party which constantly asserted white supremacy. When they witness an apparent change in government theology with the rhetoric of total white control giving way of talk to power sharing a backlash of some description is inevitable, but just as the far right is a creation of the National Party, so too it must accept responsibility for dealing with it. The need for courageous leadership has never been greater. Certainly whatever the threat from the extreme right the government can still rely on carrying the majority of the white community if it takes bold decisions to bring peace and prosperity to the country as a whole.
We recognise, (that's the EPG), the huge difficulties of adjustment facing the white community. As the editor of one leading English daily put it recently, it will not be easy for many whites to settle down to what is their inevitable destiny in a multiracial country where the population is three-quarters black. Many whites genuinely entertain fears about their future in any new dispensation. We found a keen awareness of this among responsible black leaders, together with an acknowledgement of a need to allay them".
Mr Chairperson I would skip a number of pages now because I would like to get to the EPG's negotiating concept which was handed to me Minister J C Heunis, who was then Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning and he was the Chairperson of the Constitutional Committee, not me, at that time, and General Obasanja handed that to us on 12 March 1986. He explained in that document first of all to us their motives for drafting it, and then this is important, their concept in fact read as follows, it's not long but it's very important, because Mr Chairperson four years later this is what happened, four years later when the ANC and the National Party started their discussions they started it on the basis of this negotiating concept of General Obasanja. And this is how it read -
"The South African government has declared its commitment to dismantling the system of apartheid, to ending racial discrimination and to broad-based negotiations leading to new constitutional arrangements for power-sharing by all the people of South Africa. In the light of preliminary and as yet incomplete discussions with representatives of various organisations and groups within and outside South Africa we believe that in the context of specific and meaningful steps being taken towards ending apartheid the following additional action might ensure negotiations and a break in the cycle of violence".
And then they have, in the part of the government four requirements, no three, only three -
"A. Removal of the military from the townships. Providing for freedom of assembly and discussion, and suspension of detention without trial". That was (A).
"B. The release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and detainees.
C. The unbanning of the ANC, the PAC and the permitting of normal political activities".
On the part of the ANC and others the requirement was that they should enter into negotiations and suspend violence.
And then they added, the EPG in their negotiating concept -
"It is our view that simultaneous announcements incorporating these ideas might be negotiated if the government were to be interested in pursuing this broad approach".
And then they say -
"In the light of the government's indication to us that it (that's the government) -
1. is not in principle against the release of Nelson Mandela and similar prisoners;
2. is not opposed in principle to the unbanning of any organisations;
3. is prepared to enter into negotiations with the acknowledged leaders of the people of South Africa;
4. is committed to the removal of discrimination, not only from the statute books but also from South African society as a whole;
5. is committed to the ending of white domination;
6. will not prescribe who may represent black communities in negotiations on a new constitution for South Africa;
7. is prepared to negotiate on an open agenda the South African government may wish to give serious consideration to the approach outlined in this note".
I drafted these points 1 to 7. I was naturally pleased it was used prominently in the concept. On our side eyebrows were lifted, but luckily I was not shot down. I explained to my colleagues in the Cabinet that I could substantiate each of these points from statements made by some of them over the past year, even if they have been made in a different context, they still made the statements.
The possible negotiating concept of the EPG, Mr Chairperson, will in my opinion come to be regarded as one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from the seemingly interminable negotiating processes. Our discussions with the EPG floundered on the issue as to whether the ANC should merely suspend violence or instead terminate it. There were also a few other questions of concern to us but the main problem was that if suspending violence meant only discontinuing violence for as long as negotiations continued, then the threat of a resumption of violence would become a bargaining counter, in other words, we were afraid that the ANC would say keep talking or else violence again. Significantly this same issue again formed the major stumbling block in getting the negotiations going four years later. It was only eventually resolved at the end of 1990. The irony is that today few South Africans would even know what the fuss was about in such a way it is that history moves us past some of our most earnest issues.
On 19 May 1986 I formally responded to the EPG negotiating concept in a letter to General Obasanja and Mr Fraser. It was the culmination of intense debate and argumentation amongst my colleagues and myself. It was the best I could do. I expressed the government's concerns on the issues of violence and three other points, but I ended by saying -
"The South African government would welcome further discussions which could accommodate the government's concerns. I would like to thank you and your colleagues for the spirit in which we have been able to conduct our discussions".
On 5 June 1986 the co-chairman responded. They did not agree with the South African government's points of concern and reiterated their belief that their negotiating concept would assist in achieving negotiations in a non-violent atmosphere.
They concluded saying that in the absence both of movement on the part of government on the major points and a positive response to the concept as a whole they were unable to see merit in further discussions.
They came to this conclusion, that there was no prospect of setting in motion a dialogue with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government.
I like to believe that General Obasanja himself did not share this view. He was the kingpin in the driveshaft but also a member of a team. One day I shall ask him what he really thought at that time and I know that he will tell me. But that, Mr Chairperson, is not the only reason why I conveyed a personal message in 1995 to the President of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, appealing for clemency for my friend and his fellow Nigerians.
Or perhaps he will tell me one day, yes he had still thought there was a good prospect of getting talks off the ground. But Mr Chairperson, in the early morning of 19 May 1986 the South African security forces launched attacks on Harare, Lusaka and Gaberone. Each was a Commonwealth capital which the EPG had recently visited in the course of their search for a South African solution. Maybe General Obasanja will tell me it was just one provocation too much, if so, I will understand him. I felt very much the same.
On the other hand the EPG stated categorically, on their departure, that the raids were not the reason for the decision to discontinue the discussions.
Now how did it happen? Why did it happen? The ANC suspected that the government's design to get them to agree to the termination of all violence on their part was to gain time to consolidate its position internally and externally. The government, this is us, could then enter into protracted negotiations producing proposals which might seem reasonable and acceptable to the outside world but which robbed the ANC of a strong bargaining counter in exacting concessions from the government. In short the ANC believed that the government would not voluntarily relinquish power come what may.
The government in turn believed that the ANC's willingness to suspend violence was their strategy to get the talks going with total world support and then to make demands under the threat of a resumption of violence if their demands were not met. They would then exploit anti-apartheid world opinion to support a resumption of violence.
What I had in mind in making my ultimate appeal on 19 May to the EPG for further discussions on the issue of violence was to explore the feasibility of international or Commonwealth guarantee or pledge to the effect that the international community would expect both parties to implement their commitments in good faith and would monitor the process. I often attempted to do this on the issue of Namibia, on the issue of South Africa but the National Party was not ripe for the idea to get outsiders into this country to give that kind of guarantee because we had an over-exaggerated fear of interference in our internal affairs ever since Jan van Riebeeck landed at Cape Town.
"We couldn't cut the Gordian knot", as we say in Afrikaans, that "we couldn't cut the Gordian knot" was the greatest disappointment in my 17 year career as Minister of Foreign Affairs. So many hopes were raised by this mission, it could and would have saved South Africa a lot of pain, a lot of wounds, a lot of agony, nevertheless it was an important trial-run for the breakthrough that was to come four years later.
Against this broad background Mr Chairperson I will now proceed to reply to the more specific questions.
The raids on Harare, Gaberone and Lusaka on 19 May '86 were not discussed at any meeting where I was present. In the light of the importance the Department of Foreign Affairs and I attached to the EPG discussions, and the tremendous amount of work we invested in the effort we would certainly have opposed raids most strongly.
As regards the guidelines for cross-border activities approved by the Security Council on 21 October 1985 I should point out that these were guidelines. Where it is stated in the introduction that in all cases there should be the closest co-operation between the defence force and the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as other affected departments it meant no more than what is said. And this guideline was in any event subject to the proviso except in instances where immediate action was considered essential.
May I also point out that it was clearly stated that the responsibility for the military implementation of operations vested exclusively in the Chief of the Defence Force. The security forces considered the raids essential to prevent ANC activists from initiating and pursuing armed incursions into the country. They claimed that they had reliable and confirmed information that operatives would be staging murderous activities from places which were attacked by the security forces. The security forces believed that they were acting within the framework of the Defence Act and other relevant legislation mandating them to take the action which they took. From a legal and technical point of view my department and I could not assail or ward off the argument on the basis of illegal activities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and I in principle assessed a given cross-border action in the light of the predictable international consequences. In these matters, Mr Chairperson, a clear and consistent divergence of views existed between the security forces and Foreign Affairs.
The security establishment saw it as their prime objective to trace and stop dangerous operatives from pursuing sabotage and violence in the country. Foreign Affairs, although in principle opposed to violent pursuits by the ANC, the PAC and others, weighed the consequences of reprisals or pre-emptive strikes against the international consequences for the government.
In the few instances where Foreign Affairs acquiesced in cross-border raids it did so on the strength of convincing evidence produced by the security establishment to the effect that a pre-emptive strike was essential to save the lives of innocent South African citizens.
Cross-border activities against terrorists who cut the throats of elderly couples on farms, or who set off a bomb like the Pretoria bomb were generally supported by the vast majority of white voters including opposition parties and the media, but this support was limited to activities against proven targets. In some cases facts or circumstances surfaced after an attack which contradicted the claims made by the South African security forces.
CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me, I don't want to interrupt you, I just wonder with the time constraint whether - I don't want to push you because all of what you are doing is very important for us, whether you would be able, given a time line of 10H45, we want to break at 10H45 for tea, whether you would have managed to give a summary of the first 38 pages and your new seven page (...indistinct)
MR R F BOTHA: Yes, thank you Mr Chairperson, I am at page 15, I am almost halfway through the 39 which I think is not too bad ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, 39 steps, yes. Let's see you are going quite well, I just wanted you to be aware of sort of the objective to aim at. Thank you.
MR R F BOTHA: Yes. No of course I respect your sentiments Chairperson. May I just say that I worked two weeks on this and I would like to say it today but I will try and limit it.
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, no, I don't want to sort-of get into the way of your wonderful eloquence. Go ahead.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you, thank you Sir. Then the second series of questions which the TRC forwarded to me was on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In the first instance the questions centred around military assistance in 1979. Mr Chairperson I am not aware of any decision of the State Security Council to interfere militarily in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1979 or subsequently until their independence in the sense that we would send troops to participate in the conflict.
It was known at that time that the South African government assisted the Rhodesian government for a long time in many ways. My department and I were fully occupied with efforts to bring together the warring factions in Rhodesia for discussions on a settlement of the conflict.
My best witness, Mr Chairperson, as to the role we played is Mr Ian Smith himself, who recently published his memoirs and made no secret what he thought of my efforts. The discussions in the Security Council concerning the Rhodesian situation emanated from a realisation that the Rhodesian forces were losing the fight and that we should concentrate on strategies to put pressure on Mozambique to curtail its support for ZANLA guerrillas.
I believe it might be of assistance to the Commission if I briefly describe the South African position, vis a vis the Rhodesia conflict as from 1975 onwards, but as it is documented, it is there, I appeal to the Commission to read it, I know you have a lot of reading matter. I would skip then that page 16.
I then come to the point which really matters - you will see there how the British government approached us and that the only troops we had were a unit stationed at Beitbridge. The British government was fully aware of it. When Lord Soames arrived here towards the end of '79 he was aware of it, but Mr Mugabe complained bitterly about it and said he would pull out of the cease-fire if our troops remained at Beitbridge. Government's point of view was Beitbridge was an important link to the north and unless the British government would substitute our troops with British troops this important link to the north might be jeopardised.
The British government then came back and said no, the combined Rhodesian forces would be able to replace our troops and we then withdrew our troops or indicated we would, but then the British government came and asked us for quite a number of mine-resistant vehicles, helicopters and other equipment. Then we said to them, yes, we would consider it if the British government can guarantee us that we have an inalienable right to take them back. After a while they agreed to that.
So our equipment went there, the elections went well and this meeting to which the documentation refers Mr Chairperson, took place a few days before the Zimbabwe elections. And I can assure the Commission here today, I am already here with B, on the elimination of political figures, when I say this, and I will just read it to you to refresh your memory. This was in the agenda of the State Security Council at the meeting of 18 February 1980. Elections in Rhodesia took place 27, 28, 29 February. I am not aware of any programme of the South African Government to eliminate in the sense of killing any Rhodesia leader.
The relevant recommendation of the State Security Council, a meeting of 18 February is unfortunately susceptible, I admit to such an interpretation. It reads -
"The implication of elimination of political figures in Rhodesia must constantly be borne in mind and it's accepted that it's pointed out that the botched attempts to assassinate Mugabe was busy making a martyr of him, and after another attempt he became a hero".
Let me explain. The discussion which took place on 18 February, nine days before the election in Zimbabwe, all the other recommendations, as you will notice Mr Chairperson, clearly indicate the tenor of the discussion in the State Security Council which was to the effect that nothing should be done which would upset the course of peaceful democratic elections. Remember the British Governor was there; the British Intelligence Service was there; the American Intelligence Service was there, they might deny it, and I believe the Soviet Intelligence Service was there, and the French one and the German one, and even if you had no sense of proper conduct it would simply have been foolish for the South African government at that stage to try and upset the events there.
I can assure you that what happened there was, I think either Dr Neil Barnard or one of the Security personnel reported that elements in Rhodesia were endeavouring to kill Mr Mugabe, and what we then reacted to was, said look, tell those people they are playing with fire, it's in no-one's interest, least of all ours and if they carry on like this and succeed in killing him he will then become a hero and a martyr. That is, I guarantee you what happened that day in that discussion.
As regards the operations in Matabeleland I, in my document, took some trouble to indicate to the Commission how the era of - I call it the "era of charges and counter-charges" set in. Immediately after the elections in Rhodesia, end of February, Mr Mugabe made realistic, rational and reasonable statements, from our point of view, there's always another side, but from our point of view, and I gave a very positive report to the Cabinet on the future outlook of our relations with Zimbabwe.
But then as so often happens things happened which we in Foreign Affairs, never, never thought of, and this was one of those events, the killing on 18 August 1982, was a question put to me by the TRC on this issue, in which three members of the South African Defence Force were killed, and that Mr Chairperson brought the deteriorating relations between us and Zimbabwe almost to the boiling point.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and I learned of the killing of the three South African troops in Zimbabwe when Mr Mugabe made an announcement to that effect on 21 August 1982. My Director General obtained as much information as he could about the incident from our Trade Representative in Harare and then we sent a letter to the Chief of the Defence Force in which we told him look, we have now heard this has happened and this is going to be very bad for South Africa, we told him, it is quoted there, you can read it, in which we say -
"This incident will give renewed impetus to Mr Mugabe's constant allegations that South Africa is responsible for the sabotage attempts in Zimbabwe in the past two years. The Trade Representative is of the opinion that any hope or progress in bilateral relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe has now been defeated and that even if it could be proved that the incident took place in Mozambique the damage has already been done.
He is further of the opinion that South Africa's credibility has been further damaged by this incident and that attempts to reopen channels of communication with the Zimbabwean Government will be made very difficult by this".
And then we asked - "Please inform us, what is your information?"
And on 26 or 27 August General Constand Viljoen who was then the Chief of the South African Defence Force reacted to the press conference and admitted that the three men killed in Zimbabwe were troops of the Defence Force who went on an unauthorised mission to free political detainees.
And then General Viljoen, here it is, gives a whole explanation that - I think the man in charge was saying to the others it was a patrol, a unit of 17 men, three white, fourteen black, but many of them formerly served in the Rhodesian forces and this is what made it bad. It doesn't matter what we say, it might be quite correct that they were genuinely recruited, signed up in our Defence Force, but if you kill a troop dressed in a foreign uniform on your territory and on top of it you discover that that troop was formerly in your service, then Mr Chairperson, listen there is no way - we have not yet discovered people how to - to persuade people to believe that easily. So I do not know what the truth is.
But the other question that was put to me concerned then the return of their bodies. That was also a question put to me by the TRC and I thank the TRC for doing that, because I think you've opened up a matter that has never been resolved and might perhaps in the present atmosphere of better and good relations between the present government and the Zimbabwe Government be taken further and in that way perhaps help the relatives and family of the people concerned to come to rest with their anxiety. But the three persons killed were Sgt R T Beech, Sgt P D Barry and Sgt J A Wessels. And on 15 October the Defence Force wrote to us that -
"As a result of a misunderstanding the whole aspect of the repatriation of the remains has now also not taken place. It would be appreciated if, by means of your diplomatic channels, contact can be made with the Zimbabwean Government in order to effect the repatriation of the remains of these Defence Force members".
We forwarded the request to the Zimbabwean authorities, received no reaction.
And then Mr Chairperson, the records available to me do not disclose what transpired for the next years after these attempts to have the remains of the three soldiers returned to South Africa. I assumed that the relatives of the men continued with their efforts to have the remains returned to South Africa, but without success. But I did find a record that in February 1988 the parents of Sergeant Robert Beech approached the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist Sergeant Beech's parents who refused to accept that he was dead. The hope that he might be alive somehow, somewhere, lingered on in their hearts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross approached the Zimbabwean Government in the matter and the Red Cross reported to us on 7 February '89 as follows:
"Following one official written representation to the Zimbabwe Government and three reminders over the past seven months, it has to be assumed that the matter will not be given any attention".
Then on the internal conflict inside Zimbabwe, that question concerning a recommendation of the State Security Council, "to keep the pot at boiling point" - I am giving the facts of how the internal tension inside Zimbabwe, Mr Chairperson with respect, between ZANU PF and PF ZAPU. It means between Mr Mugabe and Mr Nkomo, our, with respect, it didn't really need much outside encouragement for that pot to boil, it was boiling. I don't want to dwell too long on this here today and give the impression that we are now you know dishing up Zimbabwe's past here, but with respect, if you read the records, the newspaper reports, there was internal turmoil and turbulence inside, and I suppose in that background it suited the South African government. The attitude being well at least there is this internal trouble for them so it suits us and "let us keep the pot boiling", "let us keep the pot boiling". I think that is what that sentence meant, no more, no less.
Mr Chairperson towards the end of 1981 it was clear to me that the prospects of improving relations with Zimbabwe were bleak. The chances were better to pursue a solution to the Namibian issue within the framework of UN Security Council resolution no.435. The Cuban presence in Angola, as I saw it then, was a matter of great distress to the USA. There was a possibility that the solution could be negotiated on a balance of interest between opposing forces on the basis of Namibia's independence and Cuban withdrawal from Angola. Mozambique also offered an opportunity to negotiate a better relationship despite the heavy obstacle posed by our assistance to Renamo.
Progress in the work involved in these objectives, however, was often hampered and on occasion almost brought to a standstill by preposterous events which I could not even accommodate within the ambit of my worst fears. One such an event was the attempt to overthrow the Seychelles Government in November 1981.
Early on the morning of 26 November 1981, and of course I am dealing here now with the response to TRC questions, early during that morning I was woken by a telephone call from the late Mr Louis le Grange, who was then the Minister of Law and Order, it was still dark. He told me that an Air India aircraft had been hijacked in the Seychelles and that the aircraft had been ordered by the hijackers to land at Durban. He thought that I would not mind being informed of the event so early in the morning as I would no doubt wish to prepare myself and my department for the expected international reaction.
I immediately asked him who the hijackers were. He said he did not know, but it was possible that at least some of them were South Africans. I asked him why on earth South Africans would hijack an aircraft in the Seychelles. He said he did not know. He was relaying to me information from the South African Police which came from the Air Control officials at either Johannesburg or Durban airport. At that stage I could not recall, Mr Chairperson, any event which stunned and jolted me more than the news conveyed to me by my colleague.
As he was talking a gut feeling took hold of me that there could only be one reason for hijackers to want the aircraft to land at Durban, they did something terribly wrong in the Seychelles and Durban offered them the best chance of escape or survival; that would mean South Africans were involved; and that would mean an international outcry; and that would mean the heat was on again on Foreign Affairs.
I responded to my colleague in a way in which he considered somewhat insulting. I told him that this "bugger-up" would once and for all establish South Africa as the haven for terrorists and pirates. A day or two later when the matter was discussed with the Prime Minister in Cape Town, immediately before a Cabinet meeting, I was then in Pretoria, the Prime Minister severely castigated me in the presence of my colleagues for my disgraceful behaviour towards a Cabinet colleague who was merely conveying to me news about the hijacked aircraft.
After the meeting and before the commencement of the Cabinet meeting I asked the Prime Minister whether, in the light of his remarks about my behaviour he would excuse me from attending the Cabinet meeting. His reaction was that if he wanted to fire me he would say so in clear, unambiguous terms, as he did not say so I should pull myself together like a man and carry on with my work.
I attended the Cabinet meeting. I assure you Mr Chairperson that the Seychelles coup was neither discussed nor approved by the South African Cabinet or the State Security Council. I then give you a very useful summary of the Attorney General of Natal, Advocate Reises(?), a summary of the basic facts.
Needless to say the incident created an international uproar resulting in extremely negative media reports all over the world. The UN Security Council appointed a commission of inquiry into the Seychelles coup. Generally there was a strong suspicion throughout the world that the South African government was involved in the coup in some way or another. In its report to the Security Council in June 1982 the Commission of Inquiry indicated that it had no concrete evidence that the South African authorities were implicated in the affair, however, it expressed the view that there was a strong presumption that the authorities were at least aware of the preparations.
It is possible that the matter would have been left at that, ironically, were it not for the evidence given by Colonel Hoare, it was a gentleman called Mike Hoare, shortly before the Security Council examined the Commission's report, to the effect that he, that is now this Colonel, had received assistance from the Department of Defence. In the event the Security Council decided to prolong the mandate of the Commission for submission to the Council by 15 August. So more problems for us. The mercenaries were found guilty on 27 July '82.
The supplementary report of the UN Commission of Inquiry was submitted to the Security Council towards the end of November. I am giving you the extracts from the reports findings and conclusions which were of relevance to South Africa and I won't read all of them, I will just read 78 -
"The Commission wishes to draw attention to the following which it considers as clearly established regarding South African involvement:
A. The arms, ammunition and other equipment were supplied by South African Defence Force personnel;
B. An army officer participated in preliminary discussions;
C. The government was generally aware of attempts by Seychelles exiles seeking support for attempts to overthrow the Government of Seychelles;
D. The National Intelligence Service was aware of Hoare's plans (that's Mike Hoare's plans), from the inception;
E. Members of the 2nd Reconnaissance Commando and a lead unit took part in the operation.
79. The Commission notes that while admitting certain facts the Prime Minister of South Africa in his statement of 29 July '82 said that neither the South African Government, the Cabinet nor the State Security Council were aware of the coup.
In the light of the facts as set out above the Commission must conclude that if responsible Ministers were not at least aware of what was going on this indicates both a remarkable lack of control by the South African Government over its own agencies and a lack of awareness that is hard to reconcile with the tight and effective control exercised by the security authorities in South Africa to which the Commission referred in its first report".
And then the Commission's recommendations, there was only really one that affected us, not really a tough one, it said -
"In the light of the conclusions it has reached on this issue the Commission considers that South Africa has a particular obligation to take all necessary steps to ensure that mercenary operations are not launched from its territory".
The point I want to make Mr Chairperson is, although the South African Government came off fairly lightly in the UN Security Council immense damage was done to the country internationally.
I was not, as regards the other questions of the TRC, I was not directly involved in the negotiations which led to the release of the six participants who were captured in the Seychelles operation but I strongly supported the idea of obtaining their release. I wanted to normalise relations with Seychelles again. I succeeded in doing it later when I personally, when I was personally received by President Rene.
But at that stage my recollection is that the National Intelligence Service and/or Defence Force, I cannot say which, were certainly involved in the attempts to obtain their release. I can remember that an amount was paid, yes, an amount was paid, but I can't tell you what the amount. The figure in my memory and I speak please under correction, is between three and six million dollars, but I stand to be corrected. It was not really my task Mr Chairperson.
I've been asked whether I knew what the reasons were for the State Security Council at its meeting of 20 December '82 accepting the recommendations submitted by Mr F W de Klerk that the foreigners released are acquitted after the trial not be deported. I vaguely remember, I remember the discussion but only vaguely, and I remember an argument was put forward to the effect that the persons concerned stood trial in South Africa, if they were acquitted further action then, in addition to the court action against them would be unfair and would amount to punishment meted out by the government. But I suggest, Mr President, that Mr de Klerk be asked to furnish you with that information.
Now I am at the subject, Assistance to Renamo, and I am giving here full details of my efforts to conclude the Nkomati Accord, which I considered, with respect, as one of the great events in my career. The signing of that accord on 16 March 1984 reverberated throughout the world and was acclaimed by all the governments that count in the world, including the Soviet Union's government and President Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, and our African governments, all of them. The surest indication to me that it was a major success was that the other day an ANC friend of mine said, you know Pik we considered that as one of the greatest setbacks, and that was to me one of the greatest achievements. It was not aimed at the ANC of course, I wanted the turmoil to end. I give you the facts there in the document that you have.
I explain to you about my meetings with President Samora Machel whom I often met. Often we had very long meetings and I will deal with that in the book I'm going to write Mr Chairperson, but on 16 September '85 President Machel informed me of a raid that his troops made in the area of Gorongoza and there they captured a diary, a diary kept by Mr Was, a secretary of Mr Dhlakama(?) who was the leader of Renamo, and the President then arranged for me to meet with his Ministers that same day.
I telephoned from Maputo that day the office of President Botha and asked for an appointment that very evening because I could see here was really big trouble coming, because the entries in that diary, if they were to be believed, and on what basis could you not believe, then it was bad stuff.
The entries in the diary in short - I can furnish all that information if it's required, but some of them are here, indicated that the Air Force undertook regular flights into Mozambique and delivered equipment and that this was done, apparently, also on the instructions of General Constand Viljoen and some of his officers.
The part that personally affected me Mr Chairperson was some rather derogatory remarks about me in the diary attributable to General Viljoen and his senior officers. It was not very pleasant to read how fellow South Africans talk about you in Mozambique to the henchmen of Dhlakama. But let's leave that, maybe Dr Viljoen or General Viljoen, he might get a doctor's degree soon or have one, can explain that position better than I can. As far as I am concerned I phoned, I met the President that evening and present was the Minister of Defence, the Chief of the Defence Force. The President at first said to me look that book is a fake. I said no, no go, it's not a fake, you can't fake a book like that, you can't fake a diary, not like that, because there are too many things that are true, too many things that are true and to which the man Was could not have been privy to. And then I asked for a Commission of Inquiry. The President said no, we can have a committee not a commission, and due to the fact that I promised President Samora Machel that I would be back in days to his Ministers, he was going on an overseas trip but he wanted me to meet his Ministers soon, we then agreed to appoint General Rogers who later I think became a colleague of some of the members of your present Commission here, and - an excellent man and then a Dr Gilleland, a Dr J Gilleland, I think he died about a year ago, but Dr Gilleland was, although he was Director General of one of the Houses of Parliament was also a civil aviation expert. They brought out a report Mr President, within a day, day and a half.
I arranged a meeting a Komatipoort on 19 May with a senior delegation from Mozambique. I gave them the report of our committee. I took with me Dr Gilleland who at length explained to them, and was ready to reply to their questions. I also then made use of the occasion to give them particulars of the presence of ANC activists and operatives in Maputo, in Mozambique who operated from Mozambique into South Africa. The Mozambique delegation thanked me for those particulars indicating that for the first time they have now received firm, firm - hard facts, they would go into that, etc.
As regards Mr Nel's position may I just say that he was never a member of the State Security Council. The Act establishing the State Security Council did not provide for the appointment of deputy ministers, but he was asked by Mr P W Botha to attend the meetings so that he could be kept fully informed of policy, of decisions as he was responsible for the information office. And as regards his unauthorised visit to Gorongoza when I asked him at that time why did you do it, his answer was that he knew I would have disapproved. So he was honest.
And on top of it he then said to me but look Mr Minister you asked me, because the Soviet Union approached us about two Russians that had disappeared in the bush, and I said to Louis Nel, look try to get to Dhlakama because maybe they are holding these Russians, but then when you get to the Russians please take with you a newspaper with the date on so that the two Russians hold the newspaper and then we photograph them with the newspaper, because that would then prove to the Russians that we really saw their men. And he said to me, Pik how did you expect me to be photographed with two Russians holding a South African newspaper without going to Dhlakama. So I said but Louis I did not authorise you to go behind my back in a military aircraft under those circumstances, and that he admitted.
Mr President, the part I am getting to now is of great importance, that is the last part. Sir, respectfully, if you would think that we rather take a break now I would appreciate it, but if you decide differently I am ready to go ahead.
CHAIRPERSON: I think we should probably break for tea.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Sir.
CHAIRPERSON: And then start at 11.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your very co-operative stance, we are most grateful.
CHAIRPERSON: We resume and you are getting on to a substantive part Mr Botha, the sort of last seven pages or something like that. Thank you very much.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Mr Chairperson. The..... (microphone giving trouble)
CHAIRPERSON: I think it just might be possible for you to start again Mr Botha, thank you.
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson thank you. I am afraid there is a noise here now.
CHAIRPERSON: I have to speak because they are now doing a radio commentary reporting and they would obviously always want to know what is happening, they can't see us. What is happening is that we are trying to sort out a difficulty with closed circuit television in the next room and we hope we can have it sorted out. Thank you very much. Third time lucky!
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you. I thank you Mr President. On the subject of analysing and construing State Security Council resolutions and documents it should be mentioned that we were relentlessly inundated with working documents, proposals, guidelines, assessments, predictions and memoranda drafted by a labyrinth of committees, subcommittees, joint management centres, assessment centres, working committee, task groups ad infinitum. In interpreting SSC minutes it should be kept in mind that the minutes as well as the documentation do not reflect the atmosphere in which a debate took place. They do not contain the differences between Ministers expressed in the discussion. A considerable number of the proposals and recommendations formulated as decisions were vague and of a general nature and some were naive and ingenuous and simply not capable of implementation in the light of the existing realities or the shortage of funds.
In annexure 2 to the document discussed under item 7 of the State Security Council meeting of 14 April 1986 a multitude of plans are set out to stem the deteriorating security situation. An analysis of the plans and the funds earmarked for the implementation will illustrate how unrealistic and naive some of the plans were. For instance under the heading Restoration of Law and Order the first objective is to dominate Duncan Village and Ndantsane, The tasks to achieve this are according to the document, I quote, roadblocks, patrols and reaction unit. The actions to be implemented are, day and night roadblocks, maintaining mobile reaction units similar to the South African Municipal Police system. This task is then to be done by 228 members of the Ciskei Police and Ciskei Defence Force.
Dominate, Mr Chairperson, may have a variety of meanings but all of them amount to the following - control, rule over, command, dictate, call the shots, lay down the law, be in the saddle, wear the crown, etc. In 1986 the situation in Ndantsane simply did not lend itself to be put in any of these categories by 228 members of the Ciskei Police Force and Defence Force. In German there is an expression "Traum Wirklichkeit", "dream and reality", which can be applied to many of the plans and tasks contained in the document under reference. At first sight the plans look impressive, I admit, on analysis they become words expressing a wish to do something to curb a deteriorating security situation. Then I give in the document which will be made available to you, some other examples of the objectives to be pursued.
The important one is the question put to me by the TRC and that concerns the words, to neutralise/ eliminate enemy leaders and the influence which they exercised. I have been asked to explain this and the meaning of this.
To achieve this objective in the document the following actions are proposed. I quote -
"Deceptive operations; payment for information R10 000.
Exploiting differences among the enemy; harassment actions; smash and grab actions; turn actions..."
I don't know what that is,
"...legal steps; arrests and prosecutions. Identifying the weak points and vulnerabilities of enemy leaders; banning and detention without trial".
These tasks are then entrusted to the South African Police, the South African Defence Force and the Department of Justice.
Under the heading Special remarks or guidelines it is stated-
"Linkage with the Security Forces is to be avoided; isolation in respect of contact with society is essential; judicial authority for South African Police and Minister for detention without trial is required; respectively 90 days and 180 days is requested urgently. (Amendments of the Public Safety Act".
It is fairly obvious Sir, Mr Chairperson, that the neutralisation/elimination of enemy leaders is to be brought about by detention without trial because the means to achieve this objective is clearly spelt out, namely the need to amend the Public Safety Act, to give the South African Police and Minister the power to detain persons without trial for 90 or 180 days.
I realise that the TRC is confronted by a dilemma in having to interpret the meaning or import of various words and phrases used in decisions of the Security Council dealing with action against terrorists. A variety of words were used, "elimineer" - eliminate; "neutraliseer" - neutralise; "uitwis" - obliterate or wipe out; "vernietig" - destroy; "opspoor en vernietig" - track down and destroy; "hou vas, breek" - break their grip; "bekamp" - fight against, curb, control; "stuit" -arrest, stem; "uit die saamelewing verwyder" - remove from society; "permanent uit die saamelewing verwyder" -remove permanently from society.
The context in which these words or phrases were used is important to determine the meaning. If the words neutralise, eliminate were used in reference to hot-pursuit, cross-border action or terrorist bases in neighbouring countries then obviously neutralise, eliminate would include the killing of the terrorists.
If the phrase neutralise, eliminate was used in respect of actions inside the country then neutralisation, elimination can indeed mean detention without trial. Removing from a person permanently from society can indeed mean detaining that person indefinitely.
The Deputy Attorney-General of Gauteng is reported to have said in the High Court on 6 October 1997, that's a few days ago, that the convicted murderer, Ben du Toit, should be permanently removed from society. As the death penalty does not apply in South Africa the Attorney General must have had in mind a prison sentence of long duration.
These words and phrases were part of the vocabulary commonly used throughout South Africa over many years, since the first murders and bomb attacks by terrorists commenced. The sentiments expressed in these words, and far more militant language were used in debates in Parliament, at public meetings, business lunches, Party conferences, social functions and in media reporting and editorial comment.
These words and phrases reflected the general reaction amongst the majority of white South Africans whenever a murder or bomb explosion by terrorists was announced. It was reasonable, therefore, that members of the security forces would have interpreted a phrase like wipe out the terrorists to include killing them, and unless the senior command structures of the security forces made sure that all ranks understood the distinction between a person who is directly engaged in the planning and execution of acts of violence threatening the lives of civilians on the one hand, and political opponents belonging to the same organisations as the terrorists on the other hand, lower ranks would probably not have made that distinction on their own. General Johan Coetzee, a former Commissioner of the South African Police, is reported to have said at a hearing of the TRC on 9 October that he had never sanctioned illegal Police activities. To plan and execute the killing of a political opponent of the government would certainly constitute an illegal activity. What is of importance in General Coetzee's statement is that he did not interpret any State Security Council decisions as a licence to kill political opponents, because if he did not issue such instructions he could not have got them from the - or rather it is indicative that he did not get them from the State Security Council.
A number of ex-members of the South African Police have, however, testified at other hearings that they received clearance for killing political opponents from their seniors. They said that they sincerely believed that such orders had come from the top, or that the top must have been aware of their actions, or at least acquiesced in their actions. The top included the Chief of Police, in certain cases the Minister of Police, and in some cases even the State Security Council and the Cabinet. I would, myself, be interested to receive a clarification of this concept from the top.
When I visited Mr Piet du Plessis in prison in Pretoria Mr Eugene de Kock's cell was opposite Mr du Plessis' cell and he used to make tea for us, and I had the opportunity to have lengthy discussions with him, and in the presence of Mr du Plessis he said to me that he once had an order to plant false dollar notes and diamonds on Mr du Plessis when he was still a minister. I then asked him, who gave you that order? And he said from the top. Neither Mr du Plessis or I have succeeded in finding out what that top means. We would very, very much like to know that.
I was on the hit list of both the Conservative Party, or members of the Conservative Party, and members of the ANC according to evidence given in the courts of this country. I think I would also like to know who gave those orders. But let us leave that aside for the moment.
I have to point out that the State Security Council, although it was established by an Act of Parliament only had an advisory function. The Prime Minister, and later the State President submitted all the more important proposals and decisions to the Cabinet meeting which followed the relevant State Security Council meeting. I am not aware of any State Security Council decision of substance which was not submitted to the Cabinet for approval and discussion. In my opinion the State Security Council could not take illegal decisions because as a body it was not entrusted with executive powers.
Specific tasks were allocated to specific ministers or general tasks were allocated to all the ministers, but always subject to the applicable legislative powers exercised by individual ministers and/or heads of their departments. If an individual minister felt that he was given an assignment in contravention of the provisions of any Act of Parliament, then it was the responsibility of that minister to raise the matter in the Cabinet or to take it up with the State President. In terms of the Republic of South African Constitution Act no.110 of 1983 the State President and all Cabinet ministers were required to make and subscribe an oath of office to respect and uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic of South Africa.
I can assure the TRC that I did not approve and would not have approved of any action which authorised the killing of political opponents of the government. Quite apart from the moral aspect of such a decision the Department of Foreign Affairs and I had to bear the brunt of international reaction to the death of persons like Steve Biko and all the others. Four of the five Directors General of Foreign Affairs who served under me are still alive, they were also members of the State Security Council, they attended more meetings of the Council than I did due to my frequent visits abroad, they will certainly be willing to testify before the TRC on the stand they and I took in respect of actions and events which stirred up world reaction against South Africa.
But I will go further today and say, that all my colleagues in the State Security Council, and in the Cabinet and in Parliament, and there are records of Parliament, are equally acquainted with the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and myself, on events which damaged our image abroad.
I say this here today to pay tribute to the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs who fought a lonely battle out in the corners of the world to curb our growing isolation and to avert the imposition of economic sanctions. They never received medals in grand parades, they just suffered quietly and endlessly, their story remains to be told.
The State Security Council, as well as the Cabinet and for that matter Parliament, operated in an atmosphere of tension and global isolation. It was believed that the ANC, the PAC and later the UDF would not be satisfied with any constitutional arrangements which did not unequivocally ensure universal suffrage. Universal suffrage was anathema not only to the National Party, but to the vast majority of the white voters and their institutions and even to a sizeable number of brown South Africans and citizens of Indian origin. Without expressing myself on the merits of the causes of the two sides it was a fact that the leaders on both sides were precluded from meeting and discussing a peaceful way out of the deadlock because each side rejected the political stand of the other out-of-hand and in principle. Each side believed it had the power and the means to sustain the struggle. On the part of the government the resolve to halt the enemy was real. In Angola where the enemy was identifiable successes were achieved. In South Africa we were fighting a losing battle, but no-one in government would admit it. I was certainly not lauded when I said at that international conference in Cape Town, that South Africa would have a black president.
The point I want to emphasise Mr President, is that neither the State Security Council, nor the Cabinet was a sinister structure, divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented. I want to emphasise the words divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented.
I cannot describe the state of affairs more aptly than Dr Nico Horan, a well-known church leader of Windhoek. In the column "Godsdiens aktueel" - religion topical, in Beeld of 2 October 1997, he described the relationship between the Afrikaans churches and the government as follows. I now quote Dr Horan -
"It is like someone who has been caught with his neighbour's wife, he does not confess his adultery but he does admit I got too close to her".
Dr Horan suggests that the churches ought to confess that they believed in apartheid from early times, long before the State made it a policy, apartheid had been practised in the churches. When the NP came to power the churches enthusiastically co-operated. The churches directed the coloured people to take their seats in the back of the church. Later they were driven out of the church. The churches assisted eagerly in the passing of apartheid legislation to deprive people of their vote. I agree with Dr Horan.
I have noticed that the Western and Southern Cape Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church decided recently to submit a presentation to the TRC in which the church will acknowledged inter alia the wrongs of the past. I appeal to the other synods of the church, as well as to the other Afrikaans churches to do the same. Confessing a sin and experiencing remorse for wrongs which one committed have a salutary healing effect on the individual and on a people. This is essentially a mental and spiritual venture. Entering into it cannot be made conditional on others doing the same. It does not work on the basis of a quid pro quo, it loses its efficacy the moment we say, yes, we confess, we know that we sinned but the ANC and the PAC and others also committed hideous transgressions, we will confess if they confess. In the realm of confession there is no room for negotiations or striking deals. It is a lonely cleansing process of the heart and the mind, and that is what Dr Nico Horan would wish us to do.
Mr Chairperson, although I warned the whites of this country many years ago that they should change; although I urged the NP Government in 1970 to subscribe to the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights; although I stated in 1974 at the United Nations that I could not defend apartheid; although I said in 1986 that South Africa would have a black president and that I would be willing to serve under him; although all this I realised that I could have done more to turn the tide of apartheid earlier.
I acknowledge that I could have done more in the State Security Council, in the Cabinet and in Parliament to ensure that political opponents were not killed or tortured by government institutions. I could have and should have done more to find out whether the accusations that government institutions were killing and torturing political opponents were true. Not one of us in the former government can say today that there were no suspicions on our part that members of the South African Police were engaged in irregular activities. The decisive question is not whether we as a Cabinet approved the killing of a specific political opponent, we did not do so. The question is whether we should have done more to ensure that it did not happen. I deeply regret this omission. May God forgive me.
In my public career I said many controversial things, I did not do it simply to be different. I had been a career diplomat for 18 years when I entered politics in 1970. I was a member of our legal team at the World Court where for more than five years we fought the world unremittingly. There I experienced that you gain nothing by winning the legal battle if you lose the moral battle. We could not win the political struggle, not against the world and not against the ANC because the policy of the National Party had no moral basis.
The whites of our country can now, for the first time, make their contribution without feelings of guilt. President Mandela made it clear that he welcomes and appreciates the contributions of the whites. Of course the levels of crime and violence are horrific. Of course things are said by individual members of the ANC that are distressing, but then it is the duty of all, black and white, brown and Asian, to enter into debate with each other and analyse our clashing standpoints within the framework of free speech and association and that we can now do today without the contamination of racial prejudices. We can debate on policy and premises that are no longer race or colour bound.
And we, the whites, should not lose perspective. There was a time when an NP minister said in public that Steve Biko's gruesome death left him cold. There was a time when it was seriously considered in the inner circles of the Party, that's the National Party, to clamp down on the so-called Oppenheimer Empire, when the Senate was packed to make the law stripping coloureds of their right to vote; when people of colour were reclassified in the most disgusting way to strip them of their fundamental rights; when a white man and a coloured or black woman that had sexual intercourse were sent to jail like criminals while a white man could cheat his wife every evening with another white woman without the law laying a single finger on them; when a black man went to the cafe around the corner without his pass to buy cigarettes for his "baas" was arrested, locked up and punished in court like a criminal; when a black professor of a university near the Limpopo river was travelling to Cape Town could not overnight in any hotel along the long way he had to travel; when a coloured person who had a doctorate, who spoke and wrote poetry in Afrikaans and was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church could not dine in a restaurant with fellow Afrikaners; when Indians were deprived of their property in cities and towns and were moved to the outskirts; when as a member of Parliament I had to battle for six months to a year to get a telephone for a voter when a voter who wanted to open a cafe had to obtain approval from 26 official institutions; when no farmer could sell his goods along the roadside - I do not want to create the impression that whites have to reproach themselves endlessly and condemn themselves to sit in sackcloth and ashes until Doomsday, we the whites, including the Afrikaner, in particular the Afrikaner, now have a more important role to play than ever before. Genuine remorse about the repressive past which we sustained and supported, will liberate us to play that role.
The country's gross domestic product, this country's, is equal to that of the 42 countries south of the Sahara. We have at our disposal modern institutions in almost every sphere of life. General Obasanja, to whom I've referred earlier, told me after his first visit to South Africa, and that was before the EPG visit, he said to me, I am suffering from shock, I did not know that there exists on our continent such a paradise. Africa can be proud of you. There is no other place on this continent like this one. We must preserve this country as a model for Africa. You are our hope for survival.
The whites and also the Afrikaner are necessary, together with all the other communities to ensure that this country survives and prospers. We have to get the past behind us. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki is right when he says a new Great Trek awaits us. I have hope for this country. I believe that new political movements will come into being where skin colour will play no role and where South Africans will be bound together by the principles which they support, only then will the liberation process of this country be completed.
Mr Chairperson I want to thank you and your fellow Commissioners for your patience and for the time given me to deliver this presentation.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I have to take some time to get my breath back because the last part of your presentation is a deeply moving one. Thank you very much. I am sure my colleagues and I will be wanting to say a great deal more than this in response to a contribution that I hope will reverberate in our country for the purpose of the healing of this country. I just want to say in a preliminary way thank you very, very much indeed for having made this contribution. Thank you for what you have done in the past for our country. Now I hand you over to - I don't know what they are saying, I mean they are sort-of sending secret signals which are a little - Glen Goosen please.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson thank you very much. Mr Botha from the side of the group who have been preparing some questions, some additional questions to direct to you, and I think possibly following on from the Chairperson's remarks, our appreciation for the detail with which you answered the questions that were originally sent to you. It certainly makes our task a bit easier.
I obviously do have the difficulty, given the statements that you have just made in the concluding part of your address to unfortunately bring you back to some of the earlier parts and deal in a sense with more mundane questions in relation to that, and you will forgive me for that.
The impression one gets in reading through the initial part of your submission and listening to it is that certainly in respect of actions which impacted upon the activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs and your Ministry in particular, that crucial decisions were being taken, policy decisions, or that policies were being implemented by the security forces without your knowledge, without you being consulted and without any regard to the consequences that such actions would have on the efforts made by the Department of Foreign Affairs in your Ministry in that regard.
And there is a sense when reading your submission that you, despite the fact that you were a senior member of Cabinet, that you were not a player in regard to those issues, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way at all, but that there were other Cabinet Ministers who were taking decisions without reference to you whatsoever. Would that be an accurate reflection of the dilemma that you faced?
MR R F BOTHA: It is not all that simple. First of all the TRC quoted that passage to me where it was policy that Foreign Affairs and other departments, as I indicated in my response, should as far as possible be consulted. Then there's a proviso, except when immediate action was required. In other words, when immediate action was required then the security forces need not, need not consult.
The fact of the matter is that there is a Defence Act, there's a Police Act, which gives certain powers, I don't know the Acts so well myself, but they do give powers to the Chief of the Defence Force; the Constitution gives certain powers to the Head of State when it comes to defence matters, and as I also indicated, in all fairness to the Defence Force they saw it as their task to guard the borders, the territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Affairs had a different style, culture and objective.
And I do not - yes you're right, I believe that not only the Defence Force, but a vast number of South Africans, due to this country's relative isolation, never really appreciated the implications of full-scale sanctions. I did. And that's why I made it my business, I knew that in the case of the former Rhodesia/Zimbabwe after the donor conferences and when the flags were lowered and the euphoria was over the markets that that country lost under Ian Smith were never regained, never. And the promises which the donors made were not fulfilled. And I saw clearly that if this country was going to be crippled economically it would be extremely difficult for us to revive any sort of economic growth because in a dramatic monumental change such as the one that we went through, and had to go through, you need a strong economic base to support it. That's why the, I think the Chinese of the People's Republic of China is doing it differently from the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union you had a dramatic constitutional change, but a very thin economic basis. In the People's Republic of China they first built up their economy and maybe then will change their constitution into a more democratic system.
But be that as it may I think we must keep in mind here that the Defence Force also had the rule, and for that matter the Police, but mostly the Defence Force, it was said in Afrikaans "moet weet", in other words certain actions were regarded of such a sensitive nature that only those few who are required to implement the action "moet weet daarvan", must be informed of it. And that is also not something you know restricted to our Defence Force. There is quite a brotherhood across the world amongst police forces and amongst defence forces, it's extremely interesting how after a war erstwhile enemies dine and wine together, but that's a different matter.
The point I want to make in response to your question, I think it would be unfair to imply that they did not want to consult with us. The fact of the matter it is true that I think my department and I were generally considered to be obstructionists, that we might try to block a given activity because of our fear for the outside world. I was called once by one of my colleagues, yes you are indeed the Foreign Minister, meaning I am the Minister for foreigners. But be that as it may, you see the Foreign Minister of South Africa in those days if he had any ambition to become the Prime Minister or President then he should have resigned his Foreign Minister portfolio immediately because you could not follow the two, you could not pursue the two. You could not try to become popular in terms of the caucus and at the same time do your job as Foreign Minister, that is clear.
But I want to really again, if I may Mr Chairperson, emphasise as I have done here with respect to the use of those phrases and words, I am not saying this in a critical sense but those were the phrases used at every National Party conference. A National Party conference had an agenda, we can dig it up for you. Far worse things were demanded of the government at these conferences. What I am trying to say there will never be an end to trying to find the root of this thing.
It was - I attended a business lunch in Johannesburg where I suggested many years ago to a number of well-to-do companies, I said, I asked them how many blacks have you got on your boards and not one of them had any. And then I didn't dictate, I didn't prescribe, I just said gentlemen with a view to the future don't you think it might be a good thing to start recruiting some black people to serve on your boards so that they can get training, training in business, in business management etc? And then one stood up and said to me, look you in the government will not be allowed to come and dictate to us in this country, this is the private sector not your government, we will appoint the people we consider to be necessary to make profits in our....
I am trying to answer your question really as best as I can, but at the same time want to warn that to take some of these lines and inscriptions, why not publish all of it, publish the lot so that the public, the newspapers, everyone can see the Cabinet minutes, the - why not, secrecy is now being created and I want to say to my friends in the TRC be careful not to lift a sentence out of context because you were not there, you were not at that meeting.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Botha perhaps I am going to come back to the question of the use of the words elimineer and neutraliseer at a slightly later point. But just to go back to the first part of your submission, you don't indicate in your submission whether you are of the view that the Minister of Defence and/or Mr Botha were aware, prior to launching the 19 May raids in relation to the EPG, whether they were in fact were - or is it your view that those raids were launched with their knowledge in the first place; and secondly whether those raids were launched deliberately to scupper the EPG efforts?
MR R F BOTHA: I don't know.
MR GOOSEN: On either of those questions you don't know?
MR R F BOTHA: No I don't know, I have my suspicions, but a suspicion is not a fact.
MR GOOSEN: Did you make enquiries in that regard as to what the reason for those raids were?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes of course I did, and I was told that they had - I've explained this to you here, I wish to draw your attention to documents I worked two weeks on which you ought to read, really with respect, and I did this out of respect for the TRC ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: I certainly did read them and I don't mean any disrespect to your documents, but the fact of the matter is the impression from your document, I mean we can - on page 14 you say -
"It's the prerogative of the Chief of the South African Defence Force to deal with military operations".
MR R F BOTHA: Of course it is.
MR GOOSEN: I accept that. Was it within the Chief of the South African Defence Force to order simultaneous air strikes on three capitals, it's never been done before, never done subsequently at precisely the time ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: The law allows him to do so ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: .... of the EPG ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson the - I'm speaking about the law and that's a law man, now what more can I do?
CHAIRPERSON: What I think I mean is the line that is being pursued is that you have a body that is in the country, and the substance of your presentation is that there was the possibility of a breakthrough in the way that you would have wanted it to be happening, and then it seems sort-of out of the blue something happens which clearly, and you yourself say so, it is one act too many to upset the international community. And I think what Glen is trying to find out is, whether the three strike, I mean the strike on three Commonwealth, Commonwealth capitals was a deliberate act seen as having the consequence of going to subvert the EPG and whatever it might in fact have achieved.
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson I think I have largely responded to it in my reply in the documentation submitted. I will read it again where I deal with this matter, where General Obasanja now and I are taking leave of each other.
"But in the early morning of 18 May 1986 the South African security forces launched attacks on Harare, Lusaka and Gaberone, each was a Commonwealth capital which the EPG had recently visited in the course of their search for a South African solution".
Then I say,
"If one day we meet again he will probably tell me it was just one provocation too much".
I say, I said to myself,
"If so I will understand him, I felt very much the same".
On the other hand the EPG stated, and it was published in our press, that the raids were not the reason for the decision to discontinue the discussions. And then later on I categorically stated, no, we were not consulted, if we were consulted in view of our - the importance we attached we would strongly have opposed. These are the only facts I know of. I cannot speculate on the possible motives.
I did enquire, of course I did enquire and I was told that there was an urgent need to stop an imminent attack from ANC activists or operatives from the three capitals, they were going to move southward and it was the duty of the Defence Force in terms of their tactics, in terms of their duty towards the country to stop these activists there and then and to prevent them from crossing the border and making other arrangements that would have resulted in the killing of South African civilians.
Now my department, the Department of Foreign Affairs had an overseas duty, three-quarters of the staff working for Foreign Affairs, five-sixths were abroad, I did not have a police service in this country or a defence force, I did not sit in at Chiefs of staff meetings, I sat with my ambassadors and people, I cannot say what went on in the minds of others. For that purpose I respectfully suggest that you ask the people who authorised the raids to explain that. I asked them about it as I said, and they gave me this explanation.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Dumisa Ntsebeza.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chairperson. Perhaps I need to say to you Mr Botha that you must take it as given, that there has been preparatory work for this session. That inasmuch as you spent two weeks to prepare for it those people across there have spent as much time to prepare for these hearings ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: I accept that.
MR NTSEBEZA: And that maybe we will get sooner to the end in resolving the questions that we must put if we, (a) answer the questions put, because there's a purpose for the questions; and be more direct to the questions, I mean in our answers.
We have heard you, I mean we have spent an hour listening to you, more than an hour and we accept your explanations, but we have a far more important duty than just to sit here accept a submission and say thank you to you. We have a task which goes far beyond just listening. We need to be able to say we are satisfied that what the words on paper say mean exactly what they say and I would rather ask you, appeal to you, that you should bear with those who put questions to you, that it's not an idle exercise. It's not an exercise that is intended to irritate you. It may be probing, it may be robust, but it is intended for you to be able to say I went to the Commission, I subjected myself even to their most probing questions, but I stood for what I believed in. So I think it is against that background that I think you should understand why they put the questions that they do. It's not as though they don't understand what you are saying (...indistinct).
I think mine is simply to say maybe now that you possibly understand what I have indicated that you should respond to their questions and try and reply to them to the best of your ability maybe by crisp short replies to questions that they put.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson. Mr Botha can I just clarify your evidence in this one. You indicated that you have suspicions that Mr Botha and Mr Malan knew about the raids prior to them being launched but you have no facts on which you can state that that is the case, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, yes.
MR GOOSEN: Okay. Mr Botha I am going to go through a few matters by way of clarification on your submission. You indicated in your, in the submission in respect of the military support or any military intervention in the former Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, that you have no, that you are not aware of any State Security Council decision in that regard. Part of the bundle of documents which were sent to you was a State Security Council meeting of the 13th of August 1979 where General Malan assures the State Security Council under an item headed "Assistance and co-operation Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. Purely defence force operations are what are contemplated". In addition there is a document that was also sent, the 26th of March 1979 which refers to "Military operations" and "Clandestine operations obviously had to continue". It's in the light of that, in preparing your submission, I assume that you had regard to those, and did you take those into account when you indicated that you didn't have knowledge of the State Security Council considering and/or authorising military interventions in the former Zimbabwe/Rhodesia?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes Mr Chairperson. As I say again I said I am not aware of any decision of the State Security Council to interfere militarily in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1979 or subsequently in the sense that we would send troops to participate in the conflict. That means the Security Council did not take a decision that a certain South African regiment or battalion in South African uniforms with South African flags, that is what is said here, and that is correct. But then I made it clear in the rest of my response that it is obvious that South Africans were being integrated in the Rhodesian forces and were fighting, or rather a part of the Rhodesian forces and the British government knew it and Mr Mugabe knew it. The only South African unit that was there as a unit in South African uniform was at Beitbridge and he objected to it and we withdrew that unit. But for the rest I do not know how many, but I know there were South African troops and they were integrated.
Now from a defence force point of view I take it, that from their point of view it's still their troops, but from the point of view of linking it, it is a bit more difficult if you are fighting under Rhodesian commanders or part of Rhodesian units in their uniforms but you come from South Africa. I take it this is what was meant by it.
CHAIRPERSON: Dr Boraine.
DR BORAINE: Mr Botha I hesitate to raise this because you haven't got it in front of you, I only received this fax yesterday, but in order to try and understand how decisions are taken and so on, this is a fax from Kevin Woods who is in the Chikurubi Maximum Prison and I think most of us have been contacted by him and his colleagues who were tried in Zimbabwe, found guilty, sentenced to death I think but then that was commuted to life imprisonment, we've been dealing with them, as many of the people have, probably including yourself, on compassionate grounds, and saying that in fairness if the orders originated from South Africa they should have the same chance of applying for amnesty as anyone else in a South African prison because it seems that they do have at least dual citizenship. They did have South African passports as well as Zimbabwean or Rhodesian passports. Now in this, where he tells me he has applied for amnesty and indicates that probably the Zimbabwean government would not recognise the decision of this TRC, nevertheless because of his family and his friends he wants to come clean. He wants to say this is what I did, this is why I did it and so on. And he says whilst going, and I am quoting now -
"Whilst going through some letters recently I came across one from Pik Botha...."
and I mean no disrespect, I am just quoting directly from that,
"....dated 25 July 1996".
and I don't expect you to remember this, I mean you write many letters. In this letter he makes direct reference to the "acts for which we are jailed as having been...."
and then he quotes you as saying -
"...official and authorised".
He is now - I immediately faxed him and said that I'd be grateful if he could send me a copy of that letter and he has promised to do so.
I think that this is the point that we have found so difficult to establish. For example nearby capitals are bombed, is it not reasonable to assume, at least to assume, that an act of such seriousness against a background of the work that you were doing and others probably, that it was at least reasonable to assume that one no Chief of the Defence Force could act like that without consultation, and that the consultation would reasonably have to be with the Head of State, if not with the Cabinet? Now it clearly wasn't discussed in Cabinet, it wasn't discussed in the State Security Council. But acts like these where people went into Zimbabwe to kill, because that's what they did, are now described, allegedly, in a letter as "official and authorised". Now of course what I want to know and the Commission wants to know, "official" in what sense? "Authorised" by whom, because the chain of command for us is very important?
We actually think that the security forces have a point when they constantly say they feel that they have been left holding the bag and the politicians have got off very lightly, and I quote them, and they say this many times to us, as you know. So by "official" and "authorised" a group of people going into a neighbouring country to destabilise, to kill, being found out, found guilty in a court of law, sentenced to death, serious stuff, what does that mean?
MR R F BOTHA: In practice when South African troops were captured and then taken prisoner I had to try and obtain their release which sometimes took a long time. In the case of Angola I succeeded twice, in the first instance to get those first seven troops out many years ago after our entering Angola, that was in 1976, '75. Odile Harrington was also one in Zimbabwe, we obtained her release, there were others from Zimbabwe, we obtained their release and then there was this group. I share your view for reasons of compassion I did my utmost to try and obtain their release or a further remission in their sentences over many years, over many years. Because the mother of Mr Woods is getting on in years now and I think it is a great wish on her part to see her son before she dies.
I cannot today here disclose all the methods that we've used already and what has already happened and who phoned whom about this matter, but I can assure you I've really done my best even after I was no longer Foreign Minister because you quote a date there, 19...?
DR BORAINE: The date of your letter, allegedly, according to Kevin Woods is 25th of July 1996.
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, it's quite correct, quite correct. He sent me, and they allowed it to pass through prison, a letter, and I knew that what I would be sending him would be read, so I purposely said of them that what they did was "authorised" so that when the Zimbabwean authorities read it I hopefully thought they would have a little bit of extra sympathy for them and know it here is a Minister from South Africa who confirms it. I am sure that was the case. I am sure on the basis of the evidence that came out they must have been, either in the employment of the defence force or somebody connected to the defence force must have given them that job to do. That's why I inserted those words.
DR BORAINE: In other words this was official and authorised ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: Well that was my interpretation.
DR BORAINE: Ja.
MR R F BOTHA: They went there, they planted a bomb, you can correct me if I am wrong, I think the bomb was aimed at the ANC or their offices but a Zimbabwe citizen got killed and the Zimbabwe government so far at one stage, we must be careful here, according to the Zimbabwean government they are all Zimbabweans but they have relatives of wives or children, family here, which Mr Mugabe understands, he understands it, he's very sympathetic, but on the other hand it's his citizens in a certain way. So this puts him in a very difficult position. If they were South Africans it might have been easier for the President of Zimbabwe to act here, but I don't want to say too much here. I know you will agree with me and I appreciate your interest, I thank you for it, I think we are working here for exactly the same purpose.
DR BORAINE: I certainly wouldn't want in any way to jeopardise any chances that they may have of release. Just in conclusion what I am really getting at is that whether it has been acknowledged in public before or not this was an official and authorised act but never discussed in your presence in the Cabinet or the State Security Council?
MR R F BOTHA: No an incident of this nature would not have, this is perhaps an example of the "moet weet", you can imagine - and please I speak under correction, I do not have the facts, I made the deduction on the basis of the evidence that was led during the court case in Zimbabwe of these people, I made that deduction. And I did discuss, I think, on one or two occasions the matter with my colleague of the defence force and I am on thin ice here when I must tell you I know for sure, I don't know for sure. All I know is that I was trying to get them out because of the appeals of their family here in South Africa and I wrote a letter which I considered that if the Zimbabwe authorities read my letter they would react sympathetically towards the prisoners.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Richard.
MR LYSTER: Thank you. Mr Botha the impression that one gets from your answer and from other answers that you have given, and from answers that have been given by other people who have appeared in similar forums as you are now appearing, is that you and they are not absolutely sure who in fact was running the country at that time or who was responsible for making vitally important decisions about this country and what it did and how it was perceived abroad. If one thinks of the example you have just given of this military incursion into Zimbabwe; if you think of the example that was given earlier on about the Seychelles and the clear involvement there of the National Intelligence Service as well as of Military Intelligence in that debacle and yet nobody in the State Security Council and Cabinet knew about it; if you think of the various projects of the Directorate of Special Tasks of Military Intelligence; the support to Renamo in Mozambique after the Nkomati Accord, there was evidence given about that last week by Mr Williamson in Cape Town that there was substantial assistance to Renamo after Nkomati; the support to Angola, to Unita in Angola; the support to the Lesotho Liberation Army where Military Intelligence set up a huge training camp in Natal where it trained over a thousand people to destabilise and overthrow the government of Lesotho. Another Directorate with Special Tasks operation was Operation Marion internally where people were trained by special forces to carry out certain actions in Natal. And one listens to all this evidence and it certainly leaves me with the impression that there were two parallel systems of government going on in this country, that there was the Cabinet and the State Security Council and that there was the military, there were special forces, there was a Directorate of Special Tasks, there was this shadowy - the highest possible level to which many people have referred and we just get the general impression, or certainly I do, is that the left hand very often didn't know what the right hand was doing, and that decisions, vital decisions were taken about this country, vital decisions were being taken not by the people who should have been taking those decisions. And that there were in effect two or more systems of government that were taking place at the same time. Do you want to comment on that?
MR R F BOTHA: I won't blame you for gaining that impression if you concentrate on the documentation of the State Security Council. The Cabinet was governing the country, there is not the slightest doubt about it. The decisions in respect of finance, economics, transport, housing, agriculture were far more important from time-to-time than these decisions. You had a budget, so many billion and then go and check it, so many billion would go into education, housing, health services etc, I need not tell you that. Now you have been concentrating it seems to me, very much, and I don't blame you, on the State Security Council documents, all the decisions were taken to Cabinet. You are not dealing with State Security Council decisions, you are dealing with Cabinet decisions, Cabinet, it can be proved not only factually but that is the constitutional position. So the Cabinet was governing. The State Security Council was a security committee. There was an economic committee of Cabinet; a constitutional committee of Cabinet; a welfare something, "maatskaplik" in Afrikaans, committee, and then security. And security was one of four entrusted to the Security Council and within the Security Council, according to the law that created it, certain Ministers were members and the Head of State, the President, the Prime Minister could coopt others, except he could not coopt deputy ministers, only ministers or certain heads of department.
And I sincerely believe that too much power is attributed to the State Security Council. The power was given by law to the Minister. The Minister of Defence is without any power. The State Security Council can't empower him, he is without any power unless a law of Parliament gives him that power. The same applies to the Minister of Police. These are the facts.
But now as I said if you were inundated with committees, with regional committees and the State Security Council had all these other departments in - we spent many, many times on identifying for instance that in a certain black township we get a call that there is only one tap of the water supply has broken and now it will be easier for the enemy to organise a demonstration, now can't we quickly put in pipes of water, you see. Overall in terms of a conference that the Minister of Finance must attend in Frankfurt tomorrow night where 80 German bankers will demand from us certain assurances regarding certain matters otherwise they don't roll over a six billion loan which can sink the country, against those decisions, with respect, paying ten thousand for informants by the Security Council, with respect Mr Chairperson. If there was no State Security Council you would have had more-or-less the same situation in this country.
And the Cabinet was the government, and the Cabinet had to report to the caucus, the caucus of the National Party had quite a lot of power, there is no question about it. Conferences, annual conferences of the party in the various provinces, they had power. They could make or break you. They elected the leaders or kicked them out. And the caucus elected the Head of State. That's where the power was.
But within the State Security Council were six, seven officials of government departments, the President, and with the duty that he must report to the Cabinet and that the Cabinet must then subscribe to the State Security Council decisions. I don't blame you for that impression, I don't blame you for that impression because the things that were newsworthy would be the Seychelles, for weeks on end it was Seychelles. An attack of that nature, blood that has flowed and then reactions at the United Nations, and this was what bothered me. If I then go to Upington or Pofadder and hold there a meeting in the midst of the Seychelles debacle then very few people at that meeting in question time would even refer to it, they would like to know from me when is the government going to put in that water pipe from the south because their cattle die. And people would say they need assistance for food for their sheep. If I tried to discuss with them the Seychelles there is a mask coming down, they were not interested.
CHAIRPERSON: Let me just give an opportunity to one or two other people who are I think wanting to follow-up. Yasmin Sooka and then Wynand Malan.
MS SOOKA: Mr Botha I think I am reminded of what you quote of the Eminent Persons Group at page 6 of your submission when you say that the South African government has perfected a specialised political vocabulary which was saying one thing means quite another, and I am struck as you talk about the separation that you are making between the politicians on the one hand and the role and activities of the military and the police. And I think the question that we have to answer next year, which we have to put in the public arena is, where does the buck stop? Where does political accountability lie for the killings that have taken place both inside our country and outside of our country? On page 43 of your own submission you talk about the suspicions that you had. On page 41 you say - "I did not approve, would not have approved or authorised the killing of political opponents of the government".
yet in the same breath you say Cabinet must take responsibility. Now I think we are all confused, who is responsible for the killings that took place the charge of which is our - the responsibility of our Commission to investigate and establish what happened in terms of gross human rights violations? And I think we are getting rather tired of the rhetoric. Forgive me for being blunt because you end so nicely by apologising, but I am confused and I would like to know where do we say the blame lies in the chain of command for the killings that took place? Please help me.
CHAIRPERSON: Wynand Malan.
MR MALAN: Chairperson I have less of a problem I think than Yasmin Sooka, but Mr Botha knows that I also come with a bit of a baggage to this Commission. I left the National Party at the end of '86, beginning of '87, advancing as my primary reason what I perceived to be license to the security establishment. You did say in your evidence this morning when Cabinet and the State Security Council are not the sinister organisations, you didn't expand on that. You also expanded fairly at length on the question of power when you referred to the caucus and to congresses and so on, but you ended that statement by saying that "the caucus elected the Head of State", and I am quoting you, "that is where the power was". Were you saying that the power was at the level of Head of State? That's question number one.
Then to sort of kick back adding on to the question of Yasmin, you see I also find it difficult to believe that things happened where people were assassinated, clearly also often in a planned manner or in similar ways and therefore co-ordinated in some way or another, I find it very difficult to believe that it would not have been sanctioned to certain people within the security establishment by at least a member or members of Cabinet. I find it very difficult to understand that.
Alternatively that a member or members acted as a shield between whoever was applying this unwritten or implied policy or whatever it was and their being found out. Now I really implore you to - you did say in your submission, I read it, responsibility lies with Cabinet, none of you can walk away from the position of saying you should not have done more. You should have questioned which you did not. And by omission you are responsible. I think that's how I read your presentation.
But there is something more than that. I mean either there was no nexus with any politician or there was a nexus, either as a shield or commissioning to at least some politicians, if not the whole of Cabinet, and I think I made it clear, I, with my baggage, find it very difficult to accept that the whole of Cabinet would have commissioned and sanctioned and shielded such a policy, something which in any event for yourself you have denied in your presentation. Please help me also in terms of saying something about the power.
CHAIRPERSON: Please switch on.....
MR R F BOTHA: ...the power of the government derived from the constitution and I think it is obvious if you look at the previous constitution you will find in that constitution that much power, too much in my opinion, was given to the Head of State. The convention was I remember years ago when we were divided in the Cabinet almost 50/50 on the issue of whether we should attack a place in Angola called Kasinga. I said no the UN was going to give us a lot of trouble. The Minister of Defence, who was then Mr P W Botha said it must be done because it had something to do with the movements of the moon because parachute troops had to be dropped. We were divided 50/50. And then it was said, I was then a young minister, the Cabinet decision is the Prime Minister's decision and the Prime Minister's decision is the Cabinet's decision. And I think I am correct in saying this because he who can fire has the power. If a given minister did not agree when we have sat in Cabinet and I think it's very much the procedure in most of the Anglo-Saxon countries a matter is now on the agenda, you see here of the Security Council, then it goes to the Cabinet in a similar manner and it's discussed, every minister has a right to participate in the discussion, even if it's not your particular portfolio that is affected or your budget that is affected, and then the Chairperson is then the Prime Minister, now the State President, at the end I suppose he looks, listens and he watches all the time, no voting but he watches and he makes up his mind more-or-less well now what is the feeling there. But you would not always necessarily accept his interpretation of what the majority in the Cabinet feel. At a given stage the conversation would end, the Chairperson would make a summary and say I've listened to all of you, I've given you each a chance to express your views, I now summarise the Cabinet's decision, but in fact it's his decision. He culls from, he takes from inputs from the individual ministers, you can also not say a word, it's your right, you can just keep quiet, but he then sums up. He then sums up and says this is the Cabinet decision. It is noted like that, and that's it.
So technically speaking or rather in practice it would depend on very much on the personality of that person who sits in that chair, his style, the way he behaves and his personality and character. If you have a kind of Chairperson there that wants to listen extensively to his Cabinet Ministers you will have long, prolonged discussions, each one would be listened to and you would have a tendency to postpone the matter until the next Cabinet meeting. If you have a different kind of personality who takes decisions there and then, wants to see them implemented etc, then you have shorter Cabinet meetings, but it's still within the constitution.
MR MALAN: May I just put a brief follow-up to that, my question really relates to this, if the power vested with the Head of State, as I quoted you, not Cabinet at that level, you didn't quote Cabinet, you said the Head of State, let me phrase it differently, with Cabinet decisions, the President's decision being the Cabinet's decision, ever taken outside of Cabinet meetings? In other words in your experience were decisions overridden or matters not brought to the Cabinet which was decided at the level of the Head of State? And do you know whether other people were involved in that?
MR R F BOTHA: I can only speak from experience. What you might get is for instance that the British Foreign Minister would phone me here at 10 o'clock in the evening and say to me look can we send a British ship on its way to - what are those islands in South America - Maldives, to take in food and fuel? Now you can't wait for a Cabinet meeting for this kind of thing, I would then phone the President or Head of State, first of all I'll phone the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Transport, I'll check all the Ministers that might have a possible say in a ship that must come into a port, into a harbour etc, and phone all of them, then the President and I'd say look I've consulted colleague A, B, C, D, they have no objection or three of them are alright but D says he's worried about this, so I bring this to your attention. He will then consider it, give me an answer and we'll take a decision that way. We will then report to the next Cabinet meeting and say sorry gentlemen, there were not ladies then in the Cabinet, but sorry, time was too short and the decision was taken. I am really just trying to explain yes, depending on the need to take a decision, you sometimes had to go about executive, you are dealing with executive decisions.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Can I get Glen to continue.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson I will try to follow on the panel's questions and see if I can rescue my original line of questioning.
Mr Botha I don't think that the question is intended to elicit a response at the level of a constitutional law outline of where power is and who can operate in Cabinet. Perhaps I can put it very bluntly and you can have a look at it from that point of view, we've had numerous hearings, people come forward, politicians, and say they never authorised anything unlawful. They didn't know about anything unlawful being authorised. And as far as they were concerned it was not policy to authorise unlawful actions. The substance of your submission is along similar lines. In your experience no unlawful actions authorised by State Security Council or the Cabinet and that you've indicated. We have operatives, police and military personnel, not just junior operatives but high-ranking members, brigadiers, colonels and so on who are applying for amnesty in droves indicating that they were acting in accordance with authority given to them. We have commissioners, former Commissioners of Police applying for amnesty, for unlawful actions authorised by, at least in one instance, by a Cabinet Minister and by the former Head of State. So clearly there were some unlawful actions that were authorised at that very highest level, former State President and Ministers of the Cabinet.
The question is how did that happen? Was it routine? And who was responsible for ensuring that that in fact occurred? Were all Cabinet Ministers, were all members of the State Security Council aware of it or were they not aware of it? And it's really a crisp question addressed to that issue that I am addressing to you.
MR R F BOTHA: I explained that if a Minister felt that an assignment given to him was unlawful either he then should accept responsibility for committing something illegal or unlawful or go and change his assignment. I have no evidence to indicate to me that on any occasion the Cabinet, who was the body that approved the State Security Council decisions, ever approved any unlawful act. It would in any case not have been recorded, in my opinion, if that was the case. And I would like to remind you that General Coetzee was a Commissioner of Police, according to his evidence, I wasn't here, but what I read in the papers was to the effect that he never gave unlawful instructions or illegal instructions to the police. I do not know whether colleagues acted illegally. That I can't tell you.
MR GOOSEN: No I accept that. General Coetzee may have stated one thing but there were other Commissioners of Police, General van der Merwe, for example, his evidence also stated something slightly different to that. But be that as it may.
In your experience was it Mr P W Botha's practice, following State Security Council meetings, before State Security Council meetings, prior to Cabinet meetings, after Cabinet meetings, whenever, to call individual Ministers in, or groups of Ministers in for that matter, in informal meetings where matters would have been discussed relating to the business of either State Security Council or Cabinet, in your experience?
MR R F BOTHA: That is, with respect, a practice all over the world where you have Cabinet.
MR GOOSEN: In - I take it that those, you would have been from time-to-time you too would have participated in such meetings?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes.
MR GOOSEN: The proceedings of those meetings would not be minuted, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, but at some stage I started to become suspicious that the conversations might be taped and from then onwards naturally I guarded my words. (Laughter)
MR GOOSEN: You were probably very wise. If it's reflected to you that a former Minister indicated that it was fairly routine that that should happen and that in at least one of those instances a decision was conveyed to that Minister that a certain unlawful action should be carried out, how would you respond to that?
MR R F BOTHA: If I am asked to commit it?
MR GOOSEN: If I had to tell you that a former Minister is on record with the TRC as indicating that such meetings were fairly routine and that in at least one of those instances what was conveyed to that Minister was that an unlawful action should be undertaken.
MR R F BOTHA: I don't know what I must comment on it beyond saying that a Minister should then take it up with the Head of State and confront him and say to him I am not prepared to commit something which will violate the oath that I have prescribed to.
MR GOOSEN: You indicate in your submission that you have suspicions that certain actions were unlawful actions were in fact being carried out by members of the security forces and you indicate that in the last portion of your submission. Do you have any suspicions that actions of an unlawful nature would have been authorised in informal meetings convened by the former President, Mr P W Botha?
MR R F BOTHA: I, Mr Chairperson, I am not prepared to conduct a conversation on the basis of suspicions. I have no evidence. I have no evidence whatsoever. When Franz Josef Strauss, the late Franz Josef Strauss was here he strongly advocated and told us in closed meetings you must release Mr Mandela as fast as possible. I then got Mr Franz Josef Strauss to convey that message to Mr P W Botha. The result of that was that we sent Mr Schlebusch to call in Germany with a letter saying to Kohl that maybe the government can decide parole conditions. Kohl wrote back and said forget it, Germany is not going to touch that at all. Now in a way that kind of conversation took place between me, the President and Schlebusch. We did not inform the other colleagues. In a way it is illegal because I can't, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, appoint a Parole Board. I can't make such an offer or even the President can't make such an offer, by law it is a given Minister, the man in charge of Correctional Services. So I respectfully submit that unless I am told, as I have done here now, to reveal the facts, now give me the facts and then I can make a judgement, but I appeal to you also don't put me in a position where without facts on a theoretical issue I must comment on sheer speculation.
MR GOOSEN: Alright, thank you Mr Botha I do appreciate the difficulty that you have. I won't pursue that.
Just to more specific matters the TRC has been informed that the bombing of the ANC offices in London was approved by government and we've also been informed, well one of the participants in that exercise has informed the TRC, is on record to the TRC, is indicating that the components for the manufacture of the bomb were in fact smuggled by the diplomatic bag to the South African Embassy in London. You were not aware of the plans to bomb the ANC offices in London prior to the bombing, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: That is not only correct, but may I actually thank Mr Goosen for raising this, that kind of thing upset my department and myself very much. We had special seals to seal our diplomatic bags. The practice, Mr Chairperson, was that once a week, depending on the aircraft flying to which capitals you would send a diplomatic pouch containing communications from my department to the staff and head of mission there, there was very strict control on what may go into that bag because in terms of international diplomatic practice if the government where your ambassador is, or you embassy is, ever find out that you have put in such a bag prohibited articles, these things are arranged in terms of international conventions, then that, in diplomatic practice, is one of the most serious violations that you can think of. And what is obvious to me here is that they even copied our seal, whoever did this, which is in my opinion a gross - a crime of gross proportions, of gross proportions because that means then that a diplomatic bag of South Africa can be used to put a bomb in it, and that bomb can explode in the aircraft. So they copied the leaden seal. It was a special seal with marks on it, they copied that, they stole it at the airport to do what they did, then they smuggled it into the embassy. And then, not on this occasion but a similar one, or maybe this one, when the British Government now finds out that one of your security people you always had in your embassy is either a military man or some funny ghost and when they find out that these people did something wrong there against diplomatic practice and etiquette that chap was not kicked out, they take the diplomatic list and they take one of my people and kick him out. And then I am forced again this side to kick a Brit out, tit-for-tat.
I can assure the Commission here today, I can assure the Commission here today that I would personally like to know who did those things. Who stole our bags and what did they send in those bags. And how did they copy that secret diplomatic seal.
MR GOOSEN: I am sure that during the course of the amnesty process some of those answers may be forthcoming, perhaps you can attend and put some of those questions.
In respect of the murder of Dulcie September in Paris, it's not a question that you knew beforehand, what steps in the aftermath of that did you take to establish whether there was any South African involvement in relation to that matter or not?
MR R F BOTHA: As in most other cases of a similar nature it came to us in Foreign Affairs as a severe shock, because an event of that nature can't happen, whether you liked Dulcie September or not doesn't matter, it is bad stuff, it is bad for South Africa, just bad, and it carries on for months. In a case like this all that we could do, we had no spying service of our own, is you enquire, I would on occasions like this perhaps call in the French Ambassador which I had the power to do and said look have you information, can you tell me what happened? Can you on your side make available to me perhaps sensitive information which I can't get from other sources? And for the rest you are dependent on those organisations that you have around us.
The only thing that I duplicated was when this suspicion grew that they were stealing our diplomatic bags and listening into our conversations I then created my own telephone technical division and sent them abroad so that they could check out telephones and not National Intelligence and also my ministerial phones and departmental phones were checked by my departmental technicians. That's as far as I could go.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much. I want to move Mr Botha now to the latter portion of your submission, just a few questions.
You at page 41, you indicate that words and phrases such as elimineer, neutraliseer, verwyder- wipe out, and words to that effect used in the State Security Council documents and that you've indicated also used at other fora, National Party congresses and so on, that it was reasonable that members of the security forces would have interpreted phrases like that to include killing people. If it was, do I take it then, that if it was reasonable for security force members to interpret phrases like that at the time to mean that they should kill, then those who formulated and used those words at the level of State Security Council, Cabinet and so on, would bear responsibility for that language use and would bear responsibility for the killing that in fact did ensure in consequence of the use of those phrases?
MR R F BOTHA: ...earlier that each Minister was assigned a task must surely after the Cabinet meeting, not the State Security Council meeting, the Cabinet meeting, the Security Council decisions were useless, of no validity until the Cabinet subscribed to them, then that Minister must call in his head of department or senior officers and say here we have a decision, can we implement it in terms of our law. If they can't then they must go back as they have done and said we now urgently require an amendment of the Public Safety Act. That's indicative of how you now deal with it in the implementation stage. I was just trying to say much more than and you quoted, if you read in the papers of those days that even the Sunday Times carry an editorial saying that these people have got to be stopped, eliminated, destroyed, and you read it, if a member of Parliament stands up and he says to say if at a conference the same is said, then the question arises surely throughout, yes that is an emotional reaction, that's how people feel, but when it comes to the implementation now we were all under the law and then in my opinion technically, technically, legally speaking that department of those who implement must ensure that they act within the law. You cannot take every Cabinet decision and say that if we are to build a school they can't go and steal the money to build it, that's illegal. They must build it because - it must have a budget, the money must have been approved and it must be legal.
What I did say in the end then was that I could see, I could see that we did not do enough to ensure, we did not follow up, because you've read in the paper that a man like Mr Webster is killed, or you read about somebody who jumped from a police headquarters or somewhere to his death and committed suicide, of course I enquired then. And I was then told look can't you wait for the post mortem. If you want to go and attend the post mortem, go and attend it, and very often with post mortems overseas observers asked my department could they come, and we supported it. But in the end a suspicion lingers in your mind, it lingers in your mind, there's a post mortem now, the report comes out Mr Chairperson, and in medical terms they say to us no the man died of this and this and this, then there's a magistrate with a finding, all legal, saying the death cannot be ascribed to any unnatural causes something, which means that nobody can be prosecuted as a result of his finding. Now where do you take it from there.
Now I said, I asked myself, I can't ask my colleagues, everyone must speak for himself, I said to myself, not for the sake of this meeting, but here, this man, should I not have done more? Should I not have done more? Should I not have resigned from the Cabinet? I struggled with this thought. I wanted to on occasion but then supporters would say hang in there man, if you are out there you can do nothing. If you are in there at least you can still change things, but I struggled with a moral, mental idea and which I admitted here today, I think I could have done more. I don't know about my colleagues, they must be - I can only speak for myself, and I regret that I didn't do more.
CHAIRPERSON: That should be your last question before lunch, yes, I don't mean it's the end of your questioning because I think we will come back after lunch at two, do you want to put - or should we adjourn now?
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson perhaps we could take the adjournment, that would be fine and we will pick up after lunch.
CHAIRPERSON: I was saying two, but the suggestion is that maybe we should resume at quarter to. You would be okay?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes no if you say so, I was not bargaining on such a long session quite frankly, but...
CHAIRPERSON: I am sure that we will have I mean finished by - maybe we have another 30 minutes or so. Okay. We resume at quarter to two. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: I am going to ask Glen to continue but I can assure you we are, the end is nigh. Yes Glen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Botha just to refer to page 43 of your submission and I will read it through as introduction to the question where you state that -
"Not one of us in the former government can say today that there were no suspicions on our part that members of the South African Police were engaged in irregular activities. The decisive question is not whether we as a Cabinet approved the killing of a specific political opponent, the question is whether we should have done more to ensure that it did not happen".
Is it not so, Mr Botha, that you and your Cabinet colleagues, at the very least by not acting on the suspicions you had but certainly by adopting and approving security policies formulated in language which has been described as at least ambiguous, in other instances unfortunate, but language which was widely used at the time, that in so doing you created a climate in which irregular or illegal activities by the security forces were sanctioned?
MR R F BOTHA: The result I suppose will be that such a climate was created but such a climate was not created intentionally, there is no question about it - this country was at war. There was a conflict. I tried at length to explain what newspapers reported in this country, what everybody said, you could go to a hairdresser, barber shop and hear what the people talk there and said but can't the police act more militantly. Have you heard about that farmer and his wife whose throats were cut last night near Zeerust in the most gruesome manner. This was the climate. And I admitted here today that I made a distinction and most people in this country made a distinction between people who crossed the borders secretly and killed other people innocently, and mere political opponents.
I can again just give you the assurance that we did not take decisions to kill political opponents. You will find it nowhere, in no record and in no discussion because that was not in our minds at all, and I made it clear that I would have been against that. That would have been the end of my career in the Cabinet and in the National Party.
What I said and I admitted is that when you read in the papers that there has been this and then again this, and again this, should we not have challenged them, should we not have done more. I fell morally, yes, despite what I did personally, it might not be important to you but to me it was important, what I did, and despite that I say I still think I could have done more. I can't take it further than that.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Botha.
CHAIRPERSON: Dr Boraine.
DR BORAINE: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Botha there are only two points I want to make in conclusion. The first I want to identify myself with the comments made by the Chairperson after your - the latter part of your presentation, and to say that it is my experience that what you have said, particularly on page 43, 44, is much more, substantially more than anyone else in the former government has ever done, and I would like to thank you for that.
I think what some of us are concerned about is that - the point you make on page 42 and the sentence which begins -
"I want to emphasise that neither the SSC nor the Cabinet was a sinister structure divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented".
In other words, and I think you've used quite a few words to explain and to say that there was a climate in the country, and frankly some of your supporters were asking you to even go way beyond what the security forces were doing in order to maintain the position of the government. Is something of your own sense, moral sense, that greater degree of leadership of the white voters, a phrase you use, to help them beyond the sense of wanting to crush the enemy and not taking seriously the fact that the vast majority of people in the country were unrepresented in Parliament, were oppressed, were denied, one of the areas, and perhaps you did this in many of your own statements regarding black presidents and so on, do you feel a sense that greater leadership could have been given, by yourself, by your colleagues, rather than following the sentiments of most white voters who were extremely negative and pretty bloodthirsty in relation to the conflict? That's the first part of the question.
The second follows on directly and that is we understand that you wrote a letter to, I think it was Roelf Meyer, you will correct me if I am wrong, with the intent that he should share this with the then President de Klerk, or he may have been Deputy-President at the time, suggesting or at least raising the possibility that members of your Cabinet, former Cabinet, should at least consider applying for amnesty. We understand that that was actually put and that this was turned away from. Why would you want to suggest that? Was it in relation to this vacuum of leadership at one stage or a sense of moral responsibility for things that you thought may be happening but didn't test out or what was in your mind when you wanted to suggest that the entire Cabinet should actually apply for amnesty?
MR R F BOTHA: Dr Boraine I will start with the last question first. Yes, this is correct. Apparently it became known that I wrote such a letter to Mr Roelf Meyer and then the press got hold of it and then you got hold of it. Be that as it may Mr Chairperson. Yes I remember that I saw, I can't lay my hand on it now, but it was my understanding towards the end of April, beginning of May this year that the leadership of the ANC had accepted joint and/or collective political responsibility for gross violations of human rights committed by members of certain sections of the ANC by applying for amnesty. This was my understanding. I read it over and over in reports. And although at that time it was not clear to me whether you could do that in terms of the existing legislation, because it was also my understanding that as the legislation provides you must specify a specific crime and indicate dates, you must be more specific about the events in respect of which you ask amnesty, and that such a rather vague, joint responsibility kind of application would probably not be entertained by the Amnesty Committee because it would not comply with the requirements of the law. My opinion then was be that as it may, that's not my job to find out what can legally be submitted to the Amnesty Committee and what not, but if the ANC did it then we should do it. Not on the basis of a quid pro quo but far beyond that.
It was of great importance to me that if we want reconciliation in this country, that was the driving force in my mind, then the leaders of these two parties who were at war with each other and who were enemies, if they could be seen to be acting on par then I was convinced that it would have an influence in the country, both for the followers of the National Party on the one hand and the followers of the ANC on the other. And that is, from my little bit of knowledge of life, the type of action which brings about reconciliation in the minds of people. You can change laws but it's difficult to change the hearts and minds of people. But this kind of action, when they read about it in the papers, say oh FW has done it, Thabo has done it, you see what I mean, then people are inclined to say well let's do it too. And it was from that point of view that I then wrote to Roelf a letter in time for the National Party Federal something, Federal "dagbestuur", Federal Management Committee or something, they were going to have this meeting say in Cape Town in a day or two, or they were busy with it, and I sent it in a great hurry. I dictated it by telephone but I have somewhere a written copy of it to ask Roelf to submit it there at that meeting as a proposal from my side. But it was apparently not approved. I am sorry that it wasn't because I saw it more in the light of a step to improve, to facilitate reconciliation in this country.
Then as far as the Deputy-Chairperson's first question is concerned yes you know if you find yourself in the situation in which we found ourselves then on many occasions the thought came to one's mind on how do you handle these situations because you struggle with your own conscience.
But then again really from the point of view of the people out there it was not easy. When Eugene Terre'Blanche broke up my meeting in Pietersburg by force, by force, and later the bill was sent by the Pietersburg Municipal Council to us because they said we hired the hall for the night, but Terre'Blanche and his men broke the windows and the doors but all right, I was told when I complained to a colleague he said to me but if you want blacks to be presidents what do you expect. In other words it's easy today to sit and look back you know, but when you're in it, when you're in it, that's the trouble. How do you persuade people? Or what do you do through example I tried my little bit, maybe I should have resigned then and formed my own party, call it a different name, I don't know. But it is very difficult.
All I know was it was a hard job going out there and telling the whites of this country look - the only reason why I could persuade them on occasion was that I adopted a rather aggressive attitude at the United Nations and was then portrayed here in this country as somebody who can stand up abroad and against the international community and against the UN and I can give them hell because of the lies that they tell, and a lot of it was exaggerations and it did not always help. It's easier to change a person if he's confronted with the truth. If half of it is only true then a person is inclined to say no he's talking nonsense I am not going to be influenced by what he said.
But alright, then at the same time in virtually all these events I in the same breath said, alright, just as I won't allow the United Nations to tell lies about you I am telling you now, here, here, you had better change, you can't go on like this. I went so far in one of my speeches Mr Chairperson, to say to a gathering in rural areas, I said even if the United Nations tomorrow turns around and passes resolutions to the effect that they praise PW Botha and they pass resolutions and they congratulate him on his policies, even then I will come back to you and say to you, you must change because there is something inherently wrong.
It's difficult to change people that's all I can say today.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Botha. Whilst there are things we would have hoped we could have had clarity, I mean you are telling us all that you know and there is no reason for us to question that, it just does seem to make it more true that there were maybe parallel lines of authority and that some of you were outside the loop at certain points. I don't want to dwell on that. It's just I mean that it probably is in the nature of what was happening at the time that there was deception and so forth happening because the thing was based on a lie. But what I wanted in fact to emphasise is what I said right at the beginning after your submission, that we haven't had anything quite as powerfully put and in a way as straightforward in some ways, and it requires a great deal of courage to have had to come out and to say the sort of things that you have said here. Very few people in your community have wanted to say that when you engage in the process of confessing you don't do it on the basis of a quid pro quo, saying it is something that I have to do whether the person on the other side does it or not that is their business. It's a business between themselves and their God.
I want to say to you that I believe that this has made one of the most impactful contributions. And I would just hope that there are those in your community listening and who would seek to take this really to heart, that - and this is what we seek to encourage. I believe that people in my community hearing what you say, despite all of the pain and anguish that they have undergone, when you come to them in that spirit very, very few of them would find it easy not to acquiesce. And nobody of your political stature coming out of that particular community has said the policy of the NP had no moral basis in such stark terms. In a way it is breathtaking.
And we want to, as a Commission that is mandated, you see the main task actually, apart from getting this is promoting reconciliation and unity, I just want to say that for myself and for my colleagues we are deeply appreciative of what you have said at the end of your submission, and your own appeals to the people in your community that their liberation is actually going to come when they face up to the truths, horrendous as they may be, of their past and that is how the ...(tape ends)...warmly and to say thank you very, very much for having had the courage to have to say as starkly, as clearly the things that you have said. Thank you very much.
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson I thank you most sincerely for your very warm words, and I wherever I go try to persuade my countrymen to appear before this Commission because it's a chance that all of us have, that's the way I see it, and people know my views on this. People asked me recently whether I was available for the National Party leadership position, I said yes on two conditions, the one is that we return to the Government of National Unity and the other one was that the Party should change it's attitude towards the TRC. I am glad that the young "umfaan" is apparently picking up fast and I hope he will succeed.
Mr Chairperson I wish you good luck. I don't want to be in your shoes. This is a very difficult task you face, and I say to you here personally and I say to you a great number of South Africans, including whites, pray for you and wish that your health will improve and that you will be with us for a very long time. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vlok I welcome you very warmly and thank you for accepting our invitation to assist us so that we could know the inner workings of the State Security Council and any other information that might assist us in establishing precisely the lines of accountability, of responsibility, the lines of authority and really just where the buck stops is what we are seeking to establish, and we are certain you would want to assist us in this very important task. And I welcome you and I presume what are your legal representatives as well. Would you please stand so that the Deputy Chair administers the oath or affirmation.
ADRIAAN VLOK: (sworn states)
CHAIRPERSON: The contraption in front of you, each time you are allowed to speak, moet hom nie aanskakel nou nie dan bring hy daai gedruis, ja. We have this submission before us, it's quite a lengthy submission, there are two possibilities, the one is that you will speak to it and lift the most important items relating to questions that have been put to you, which will probably be the better way so that we could look to being able finish this afternoon by say 4 o'clockish.
The other is because we don't want you to feel under any sort of pressure to say that you were not able to put your side of the story as well as you wanted to, that we would then have to carry over to tomorrow morning. In a sense it is up to you. We obviously want to be able to canvass every sort of possibility without undue pressure. So it is up to you to say whether you want to read every single word or that you are going to speak to it.
MR VLOK: Honourable Chairperson, and members of the Commission, thank you very much for the friendly words of welcome, I would prefer to read this part in total. It has been drafted with great care and there certain things which I'd like to place on record.
CHAIRPERSON: That is your right, and let us then continue.
MR VLOK: I'll read quite quickly. The interpreters are competent.
CHAIRPERSON: The submission is in Afrikaans and therefore you will need contraption that you put over your head to listen in a language that you would probably understand, something like Xhosa. (Laughter)
MR VISSER: Honourable Chairperson, I'm grateful for the opportunity to take part in this process and to have the opportunity to, from my perspective, make a possible contribution whereby the perspectives seen from the Government's side can perhaps be regarded with greater understanding. I'm unaware of the evidence which the Commission has already obtained and in which specific matters of the Commission would be interested in my case. For that reason I would try in regard to those aspects which the Commission has advised me about, to address those aspects on the supposition that the Commission would mention it to me if there are any other matters regarding which I can perhaps give further explanations.
I've been advised that the political and historic background of the revolutionary struggle has already been submitted for the Commission by other persons and bodies and it has been documented and submitted and there's been testimony on that. Accordingly I will limit my submission to only those aspects which are relevant and to clarify and further elaborate on my submission.
Please allow me by way of introduction to express the sentiment that I believe that this Commission has a task which it has to fulfil, which will be decisive for the future of this country and all its people. I believe that it is an almost superhuman task and that the Commission will not succeed in that task unless all participants come to the fore to give information regarding their knowledge and perspectives regarding matters which belong to the struggle of the past.
It is also on the basis of this conviction of mine that I have decided to take part in the process laid down by the National Unity and Reconciliation Act and to do so with enthusiasm and to also apply for amnesty for those matters in which I became involved in the heat of the battle. From information which has now been made available it appears that there are possibly matters in which I became unconsciously involved or for which I must take co-responsibility indirectly, and I am referring here to the illegal acts committed by certain policemen, who committed certain acts based on certain reasonable presumptions seen from their perspectives of what I said or did.
I've been advised that the merits of my amnesty application will serve before the Amnesty Committee in due course and that the current proceedings are not intended to address those matters which will be addressed by the Amnesty Committee.
Official capacity. - My part in the struggle of the past arose from the fact that during the relevant period I was a supporter and a member of the National Party and I served in the government as a Minister.
I'm receiving good advice here and you might be pleased to know that the next portion I'm going to skip.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes that's very good advice.
MR VLOK: Yes I have very good legal advice. And then I will start on page 4.2.3.
Upon my appointment as Deputy Minister and thereafter as Minister I did the following oath of office and this I would like to recite because this is very important. My former colleague, Pik Botha also referred to this.
"I, Adrian Johannes Vlok promise to be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and I undertake before God to be faithful to this promise. To in respect of my office as Minister to comply with this office with honour and dignity and to obey all the acts and laws of this country, to be a sincere and faithful adviser, and no matters which have been intrusted to me directly or indirectly to reveal these matters, and to fulfil my official capacities to the best of my abilities, so help me God".
As a professing Christian I regarded this oath as binding on my conscience and my entire conduct and I tried to fulfil it to the best of my abilities.
As far as the oath of secrecy is concerned, I clarified the matter with people who gave me instructions, that's the former State President's P W Botha and F W de Klerk and I am able to, as far as matters which have been entrusted to me, I am able to reveal these matters for the Commission in its search for truth.
My understanding and interpretation of the prescriptions, according to my official duties was that, apart from being the political head of the departments in which I was involved, I also had to perform all instructions given me by the State President, the State Security Council and the Cabinet and I performed my duties, my official duties, in my humble opinion, diligently and faithfully.
As far as the maintenance and obeying of the constitution, all other laws and statutes are concerned, I regarded it as my absolute duty to also perform these diligently. As Minister of Law and Order this meant for me that I, and the South African Police, were duty bound to obey and maintain the acts and laws of the country and see to it that law and order was maintained.
It was our duty to also carry out controversial acts and see to it that these were obeyed, and this duty relating to maintaining and carrying out the acts of the country, arose from the provisions of the Police Act. Section 5 of the Police Act provides, (a), for the maintaining of the internal security of the country and the maintaining of law and order, investigation into any offence or alleged offence and the prevention of crime.
My understanding of the course and scope of the conflict of past - Background. Although today it's become fashionable to negate this as rubbish, it's still an incontrovertible historical fact that the international Marxism and Communism for decades was seen as a serious threat for the free world and in my opinion also the South African system of values. South Africa in this regard, stood in a focal point and was a target for taking over by the imperialist Communist forces together with other countries such as for instance, Afghanistan. Successive National Party governments believed this view with which I also associated myself and many South Africans believed it, and I include myself in those.
The extremely delicate and dangerous situation was exacerbated dramatically by a South African domestic policy which was unacceptable for the rest of the anti-communist world, namely apartheid. South Africa was caught between two fires. On the one hand the acceptable combatting of communism and on the other hand the carrying out of apartheid. To crown it the mother organisations of the liberation movement, ANC-PAC were seen with justification as fronts and as tools of the Marxist-Communist threat against the country. It was later also unavoidably directly projected onto internal organisations such as the UDF, MDM, COSATU and others.
In this confusion of political rhetoric, propaganda, incitement and all kinds of talk form different quarters and camps, the security forces as the security arm of the government of the day were unavoidably involved, they had absolutely no choice and according to law, they were obliged to apply the country's laws, some of which were controversial.
As a member of Parliament and thereafter, as Deputy Minister of Defence and later as Minister of Law and Order, and having had greater access to information, this conviction of mine grew rather than decreased. I believed and I still believe that if the forces of Communism and Marxism, since the '50's were allowed to take over the control of South Africa our country would today be a destroyed, impoverished and backward country with an atheist communist ideology as the government policy. Chairperson, for me that was totally unacceptable and what I could do to prevent that, I regarded it as my duty to do. It is in fact my conviction that now political settlement, as we have seen happen in South Africa, would have been possible if the Communists had taken over the government by force. This view was shared by the majority of South Africans.
Those who could vote authorised the government for decades to act against this onslaught and those who did not have the vote, about seventy percent were the Christians, the yoke of apartheid rested very heavily and this yoke hurt more than the unknown and alleged yoke of Marxism and Communism.
Extremely efficient revolutionary propaganda succeeded in portraying Marxism and Communism as a better and more acceptable alternative for apartheid. The result that even the anti-Communist elements in the community weren't bothered by predictions of dangers which Marxism and Communism posed for the country.
Upon an objective and credible evaluation of history in South Africa during the seventies but in more particular, in the eighties the following incontrovertible facts must be taken into account.
South Africa was the target of an international revolutionary threat. This multi-dimensional threat manifested itself on all South African fields, namely economic, financial, there were sanctions and boycotts of all commodities; constitutional, for instance suspension of United Nations membership; diplomatic operations and action, etc, sport, boycotts, olympic games, rugby, cricket etc and in the church field we were kicked out of several religious organisations, security areas, weapons and other sanctions, as well as active armed action against the residents of the country. This was called the total onslaught and this last mentioned facet escalated to such an extent that it led to an unexplained bloody and merciless war.
At the forefront of this threat the ANC and other so- called liberation movements such as the PAC found themselves. The most enthusiastic and active supporters of the ANC, the PAC etc were, in my view, using this movement for their own selfish reasons and these were the Communist countries with undeniable Marxist, Leninist state ideologies and forms of eastern Europe and countries such North Vietnam, China and Cuba.
The South African government's counter-revolutionary strategy consisted of the following components. Security actions, actions by the security fraternity against all those who took part in the revolutionary onslaught and who hindered the successful implementation of the other two components. This component of the strategy were or in our view consisted of, made up about twenty percent of the government effort and put at best it was however only seen as temporary measures by us and it could never afford any permanent solution for the country's problems.
We saw our conduct largely as a so-called holding action whilst the authority had to deal with the other two components and make progress in that regard.
Good government for all South Africans - That meant the improvement of the conditions of life of all citizens on economic, financial, job opportunity etc, all those terrains and better health services, education etc.
Thirdly the political dimension - The finding of a constitutional dispensation which would be acceptable for the majority of South Africans by means of effective and imaginative negotiations. The security fraternity was of the view that these last mentioned two components ought to make up about eighty percent of the State's efforts and I gave my wholehearted support to this and I really tried to promote this.
Although security-directed actions and the so-called good government components were successful in the main, it became clear that the finding of a political solution was not progressing satisfactorily. Now Chairperson I'd like to say here that that put the security forces in an even more delicate and difficult position. Our actions against political activists were only temporary at best and they were unpopular and we could in no way continue with this indefinitely. Our position in the South African Police was untenable. Whilst the South African Police tried to maintain a law and order and tried to protect life and property, and while the negotiation attempts proceeded, we were seen by the broader community as a result of indoctrination, regarded as the enemy. It is true that security directed actions sometimes hampered negotiations and even scuppered it but it never was done as far as I know with that intent or from sheer malice.
It is however an incontrovertible fact that actions by the security fraternity over the years prevented the conversion of South into a Marxist/Communist state with all its horrible consequences. It's my honest and sincere conviction that the politicians of the day by the mid- eighties had already realised as I thought, that the revolutionary onslaught could not be averted simply by means of legal security actions and that the only real hope for peace was a negotiated political peace. And this was manifested by the introduction of a Tricameral Parliament as it was called as early as the 17th of September 1984, as a first step towards a negotiated evolutionary political resettlement and new dispensation in the country.
During this time the security fraternity by means of certain statements of General Magnus Malan and myself, exerted a lot of pressure for breakthroughs with the negotiating process. The counter revolutionary strategy was supported and promoted by the former chief leaders of the National Party and Heads of State, namely P W Botha and F W de Klerk.
And I want to say that Mr de Klerk was the most successful in this regard relating to the third component, namely the finding of a constitutional dispensation which would be acceptable for the majority of South Africans. As far as I was concerned, I was in total agreement with this strategy and propagated it constantly by means of speeches in Parliament and even in information which I gave up to the National Party caucus.
After 1983 and specifically after the introduction of the so-called Tricameral Parliament during September 1984 there was incredible violence and riots in the country, there were strikes, cases of arson, stone throwing, hand grenades, limpet mines and car bomb explosions and people were killed by the most abhorrent methods imaginable such as for instance the necklace method and all these things were the order of the day. The tragedy was that innocent South Africans were usually the victims of this.
Everything possible was done by the authorities to deal with this threat and if possible to prevent the loss of innocent lives. All peace-loving residents of the country from all communities exercised great pressure on the authorities and demanded protection. This superhuman task which had to be carried out under extremely difficult situations fell on the shoulders of the security fraternity. After exhaustive investigative investigation and analysis we came to the conclusion that most of the unrest and riot incidents took place within a framework which was known as the so-called revolutionary climate and this meant inter alia, indicated the existence of favourable circumstances in a community which can be based in a revolution or a protracted revolutionary war. And it also refers to the degree of support for revolutionary objectives and/or activities. It does not indicate a constant mentality or way of thinking but it can vary in intensity as a result of certain mobilisation actions.
One of the results of this struggle was a low intensity but extremely cruel and bloody war which was waged in our country for decades. In terms of the laws of the country, those people who opposed the government wanted to overthrow the government were regarded as terrorists and actions against them were authorised. The fact the opponents of the government committed acts of violence against innocent civilians and were guilty of certain criminal acts and in general brought about a condition of chaos and disorder led to the fact that my own conduct and those of the police were focused on combating this lawlessness.
The perspective that the opponents of the government were engaged in a freedom struggle was not a priority for us, it was not decisive for myself and the police in the carrying out of our daily tasks. We were rather focused on the unrest and violence which was taking place in the country in which we were trying to deal with and to defuse at all costs.
In an attempt to promote stability and relative peace the further instrument of the emergency regulations were introduced by the declaration of states of emergency and that was also made available to the security fraternity. At best this could only be preventative in the short term but it was clear from an early stage onwards that the revolutionary onslaught would not be stemmed by these means. These measures also did not enable the Security Police to, by means of legal conduct, to stop or combat the violence and unrest in the country and to normalise the situation. To put it in brief if the revolution with arrests, detention, banning orders and court interdicts and the application of other measures, if it could have been stopped by these means then it was a different matter.
Chairperson, I would like to also focus on the role of the churches and politics. It is indubitably so that the South African Police were in very close contact and there was a close link between the SAP and the government of the day and this was a result of the legal duties which the South African Police had to carry out as part of their task and the maintaining of the constitutional dispensation and the government was an important factor. The fact that most, the majority of policemen were Afrikaans-speaking Christians and conservative people who were supporters of the National Party and it's policies could perhaps be an explanation for many facets of the actions of policemen during the old era. I have very little doubt that illegal and unlawful conduct by policemen committed during the struggle were done on the basis of their education and the sense of their duty towards the government and the fact that there was very little acceptable criticism against apartheid which could have influenced them to question apartheid. The continued establishment of these convictions of policemen and of course other people, there were other factors at work as well and all other facets in society helped to make this possible. There was a plethora of various influences on a typical Afrikaans-speaking conservative Christian person, for instance, teachers at school, parents and the way they brought up their children, professors and teachers at university, preeminent people in society by means of statements and documents, the press, politicians in their statements and policies and the ministers in their churches. These statements are not made with the purpose of slinging mud or for blaming other people but now, with the benefit of hindsight, to state the reality as I saw it from my perspective.
Due to the conviction which was commonly accepted in the past that if the forces of Communism and Marxism were allowed to take over control of South Africa, our country today would be a destroyed, impoverished and backward land with an atheist communist ideology as the existing state policy, it is my view also not difficult to understand that certain churches in South Africa openly supported the National Party government.
There were also other factors and I would like to refer to these, strikes, marches and violence during which in those years was the order of the day since the mid eighties and these phenomena were the direct result of the activities of trade unions. There was legislation to try and stop these strikes in certain essential services and this was seen as absolutely essential. It is however significant that the current government is also looking at the reintroduction of this prohibition. Trade unions were politicised on the instructions of the ANC leadership to try and also politicise the masses and the end result was meant to cause the collapse of the country's economy and to make the country ungovernable and that would also be a very fertile breeding ground for a bloody revolution.
Fears resulting from intimidation and retributive actions by the revolutionaries was a palpable reality for black people who had to spend their nights in certain areas where the police were not allowed to enter in order to protect people and possessions. Attacks on members of the Security Police, especially South African Police, propagated by the ANC/SACP alliance and the PAC and were the order of the day. This further contributed to a decay in law and order to the detriment of all the people, in the country. The only way in which the police could act to maintain law and order worldwide is on the basis of information and intelligence gathering was one of the most important functions of the Security Branch of the South African Police. Intelligence-gathering in turn was greatly dependent on the cooperation of the public.
As a result of the campaigns of the ANC and the SACP Alliance, the public were politicised to such an extent that they saw the SAP as an enemy and for this reason it was extremely to obtain the cooperation of the public. Those who cooperated with the police as informers did this at the risk of their own life should he be found out or even if a person, often innocently, was suspected of acting as an informer.
As a result of this phenomenon which I've mentioned, court action became less and less of an option due to the obvious revelation which there would have to be of the identity of informers. Even in in camera proceedings it was in many cases easy for the accused to, by means of a process of elimination, work out who had given the information on the basis of which he was arraigned and had given it to the SAP.
For the promotion of the ANC/SACP Alliances attempts to win the support of the entire people, several emotional memorial projects and actions were launched which touched the black community very closely, such as work, financial and social matters. Conduct by the security forces in these circumstances to try and protect peoples' lives and property and to try and maintain law and order were then regarded by these people as insensitive and cruel and for the security forces really, this was a no-win situation.
My perspectives regarding the struggle and the conduct of the South African Police, due to the declared objective of the ANC/SACP Alliance and others to topple the previous government by means of violence and to destroy the constitutional dispensation, I, along with other and each member of the security fraternity, found ourselves in a position where we had to try to avert all onslaughts against the country and the government and at the same time to try and support the existing State structures and to normalise the situation. This attempt had to be completed in the midst of an uncontrolled situation created by the ANC/SACP Alliance and which was regarded by them as a peoples' war. I'm not going to read that definition, it is a well known definition and it has already been given to the Commission.
According to the ANC the revolutionary war was based on four pillars, namely the armed struggle by Umkhonto weSizwe, the mobilisation of the masses, the establishment and development of underground structures of the ANC and the international onslaught to isolate the Republic of South Africa. The revolutionary onslaught and threat further had as its objective to make the country ungovernable and black councillors, South African police as well as other members of the security forces and officers of the State to eradicate these people and eliminate them. Murder and intimidation were the order of the day in black residential areas. No-go areas arose and the ANC decided to establish their revolutionary bases in black residential areas from where they would launch attacks on white and black townships and residential areas.
I was opposed to a Marxist/Communist ideology and any undemocratic method to try and establish that in South Africa and I saw it as part of my duty to fight against such thoughts, actions, programmes or initiatives and to ensure that these objectives were not successful.
It's against this background and according to my views and that what was conveyed to me, and which influenced me in terms of the policy framework and the decisions of the National Party and the National Party government. It's against this background that I firmly believed that the actions in which I took part were correct and justifiable in terms of the existing legislation and views.
As political head of a section of the security forces I saw it as my task to oppose all the attacks which were planned by the revolutionary forces and to encourage and to motivate the security forces to oppose the enemy. In many such cases it also meant that violence had to be answered by means of violence in an attempt to protect the people, both black and white against the acts of terror, unrest and violence, especially when we realised that the normal police and juridical processes simply were not enough to counter the situation.
In these circumstances it was my view that the security forces at all times simply acted in reaction to the ANC/SACP Alliance and others attacks and activities. Even where the security forces acted in actions which could be seen as preemptive in normal circumstances it was still done in reaction to some kind of action or opposition or attack from the ANC/SACP Alliance and others. In the process what was looked at in the first place was also always legal action, it however it appears now that it was the unfortunate reality that since the early eighties there were often cases experienced by policemen on the ground that the legal options and actions simply give the necessary power to deal with situations on the ground. You read these days of incidents to which members of the Police refer and often it is said that they experienced a situation which they could not resolve in any legal way. The fact that our country's people ultimately came to learn of this dark part of our history, is due totally to the mechanism of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as established by the government.
In order to avert the onslaught I was aware of the establishment, maintenance and development of certain operational structures from where both overt and covert operations were launched. These operations included inter alia intelligence-gathering as well as actions which were launched to utilise such intelligence in proactive or reactive way. This type of operation or action sometimes were hot pursuit operations or cross-border operations and aimed at foreign trained terrorists, their associates, their bases, their underground structures, their supplies as well as their training and accommodation facilities. It however also included so-called strategic communication actions.
The operational structures to which reference is made in the aforegoing paragraphs was also from time to time utilised within the borders of the country to act in a proactive way in cases where it became known that such structures and staff and certain agents or informers were under threat as a result of security leaks or activities of traitors. What we were concerned with here was a life and death situation and in order to protect life and property, in certain cases the decision was made to act first and to strike first to avert this threat. However allow me to place the matter in the correct perspective. Although it becomes clearer day by day that the South African police sometimes acted illegally in the past, this was just as a matter of an exception. I believe that most policemen who found themselves in such a situation where he found himself obliged to act in an illegal way, probably did this by virtue of his position as a policemen and not from personal considerations. I further believe that probably most of these policemen acted in this way because they had a bona fides belief their conduct was in connection with the execution of their duty as policemen and for the protection and the maintenance of the constitutional dispensation to prevent the community as a result of intimidation and fear losing their confidence in the government and to protect the populace at large and in an effort to combat the unrest and violence and that they accordingly believe that they were acting within the limits of their authorisation. I really believe that very few such policemen acted for personal gain or simply out of malice or retribution. I know I didn't act with these motives, I repeat I know I didn't act from these motives, we were all victims of a system and of circumstances.
My perspective relating to the State Security Council. With reference to paragraph 1.a of my Section 29 notice, I would like to indicate that the request was phrased somewhat narrowly and that only some of the documents with relation to the State Security Council were placed at my disposal. I find myself in the unfortunate position that I've had no part in active politics for some years now and that I don't have relevant documentation of the State Security Council anymore. There may be certain aspects which would appear from documents of the SCR on which I could have made some kind of a significant or sensible comment if I still had access to all the SCR documents to refresh my memory. I fear that there could be a possibility that my evidence before the Commission on certain points could perhaps have indicated a different perspective if I had been in possession of these documents.
From the 17th of September 1984, I served as an additional member and from the 1st of December 1986, as a permanent member of the State Security Council. I'm advised that it isn't necessary that I need to explain in any way how the security structures operated or how they linked up with one another. It's only important to know that in the chain of command of the devolution of power, the SCR was an advisory committee of the cabinet under the chairpersonship of the executive state president. The duties of the SCR was to advise the government by the request of the state president regarding the following:
Section 5.a.1, the formulation of a national policy and strategy relating to the security of the republic and the way in which such policy or strategy has to be implemented or carried out.
Section 5.a.2, a combatting policy for any particular threat facing the Republic and, 5.b, to determine the intelligence priorities. That comes from Section 5 of the Security Information Act and the State Security Council Act, 64 of 1972 which was repealed by the Strategic Intelligence Act, 39 and 1994. Accordingly all safety related issues were related or were discussed at meetings of the SCR. There was usually oral information which we received from experts and certain recommendations were considered. I believe that I was correct, if I should say that the Commission would not succeed in finding a single unequivocal resolution to act illegally in any of the minutes of the SSC.
With these benefits of what I know now, I am in the position where I can say that the general statement should be qualified as follows:
Firstly there's the particular language which was used in this era during these meetings and expressions such as, eliminate, neutralise, take out, destroy, and similar expressions were used fairly commonly. My former colleague Pik Botha also referred to that and that is was how it was known in the vernacular. It is a fact that our country especially during the conflict of the past was plunged into a war psychosis where these words and expressions which were derived from the military became part of the vernacular, just as other expressions with the same import became part of the revolutionary language. At that stage there was nothing unnatural or unusual in the use of these expressions. It is however so as already said that with the benefit of hindsight, it is an undisputable fact that there wasn't necessary consideration of the perspectives in interpretations of other people who did not attend these meetings. With my knowledge and my insight into the mechanisms of the SAC I say that no decisions were taken by it to act illegally but at the same time, I know, or I know now that it would have been unavoidable that people who did not experience the spirit and intent of these meetings could very easily come to other conclusions and apparently they have indeed done so, especially the divisional commanders and their troops on the ground who were constantly reliant or were responsible for controlling uncontrollable situations and to normalise abnormal situations and on whom there was extreme pressure from amongst others, their commanding officers, politicians and society in general, these people would not easily have linked an innocent interpretation to these expressions. I've taken note of the evidence of Mr Williams and that he's of the view that the politicians deliberately gave instructions at the SAC which were vague and capable of different interpretations and a multiplicity of interpretations so there could be no relaying of blame to them. As far as I'm concerned, this was never the case.
Whilst I cannot testify as to what went in the thoughts and minds of other people, I must state it that I never gained the impression anybody proposed an instruction or issued an instruction with such a sinister objective. I realise with shock now, with shock and dismay that this language usage obviously and apparently gave rise to illegal actions by policemen whereby not only victims were prejudiced but from which also certain negative results came for policemen and their families. If it should be proved, I can't dismiss it as a reasonable interpretation of the words in question, and I must today, although I, at that particular time, 1986, I was merely a deputy minister, I must accept personal, moral and political responsibility for that.
A further qualification of my statement on paragraph 7.6 above is the fact that the SAC recommended so-called Stratcom conduct. It cannot be denied that certain Stratcom conduct, or the consequences thereof in certain circumstances could have been interpreted as unlawful or illegal. In this way I could have been part in an unconscious way of the taking of decisions which led to illegal conduct. A further aspect which I've already referred to obliquely and which deserves special mention is the issue of the way in which there was a briefing and information from the SAC and how it was conveyed to the men on the ground and how instructions were given in terms of this. It must be born in mind that the minutes of the SAC meetings were never freely available but were dealt with as most of these matters were during the conflict on a need to know basis.
As deputy minister as well as minister, during my whole period of office in the executive portfolios I was an incumbent of portfolios which were very closely linked to the focal point of the state's activities. I was always responsible for the sharp edge of the state's military power. There were deals with the protection and security people but also where it can hurt people. Meetings and speeches to motivate people was a daily task and daily occurrences and memoranda too many to remember found their way to my desk in a flood. During thousands of meetings, talks and discussions, speeches and motivational occasions with my subordinates over the years, there were many words, images, views and rhetoric used which was heard by the people present in different ways and could have been interpreted by them in different ways and it's acceptable, and when things happened normally there would be very little danger of a misinterpretation in the course of these discussions, meetings, speeches and instructions which came from me, there however can be no doubt that I possibly used words and expressions which the people under me could have interpreted as something other than what I had intended it to be, namely as an instruction to act illegally. The same goes to a certain extent for the apparent ratification of illegal action by policemen during the struggle.
I took part in the award of many awards and medals for people in cases where I have now learned illegal action took place. The fact is that I and probably also the police generals were totally unaware of the true facts. All that we had in front of us was a so-called citation or commendation which arose in each case for an award. And there are hundreds of cases on record where I visited places such as Vlakplaas and where I commended and encouraged the members to continue their good work without me knowing what they were really busy with as now would appear to be the case. In all these cases there could have been people and there were in fact such people who experienced these awards and commendations as encouragement and ratification of illegal actions which were carried out during operations by the members in their approved and authorised conduct in their task as policemen. Judging by reports of what policemen are saying in their amnesty applications it's clear that this in fact took place.
Chairperson I'm not going to run away from my responsibility, I'm not going to abandon the people on the ground and although I'm unaware of all the alleged so-called cases, although I'm unaware of all the cases so alleged, I will assume and accept the responsibility that if anything which I said or did could have been reasonably interpreted by a person who was my subordinate as an instruction to act in any illegal way, that responsibility I will accept and in this context I want to make an exception of Vlakplaas. I visited Vlakplaas twice, once to be briefed as to certain computers which the police had seized and the other was during an annual function during which I thanked the members for their work and I encouraged them for their work in the battle against revolutionary forces. Vlakplaas' members were waging a very dangerous war against terrorists. They fulfilled an extremely unpleasant and thankless task. They were very successful in their conduct against terrorism and it is unfortunate that some individuals became involved in crime which contaminated the other good work. I myself never knew anything about these crimes which now come to light, I would not have tolerated such a thing and I would have acted against them drastically. During my period as minister I acted against numerous members for lesser contraventions as which these members have now become involved in.
The question arises whether the politicians of the day should have been aware that the security forces were busy acting illegally and this question cannot be answered on behalf of anybody else and I will not even try to do that. However I will try to deal with this question on my own behalf. I was aware of cross-border operations, that is so. This matter is currently in a very delicate phase, that's my advice as far as the powers and functions of the Commission are concerned and the question of possible extradition and I am advised not to elaborate on this any further. As the Commission is aware I'm applying for amnesty for certain incidents. I'm advised that it is not appropriate to now enter the merits of those applications since the Amnesty Commission must deal with that according to law. In my view it would be dangerous to, on the basis of my knowledge of for instance certain political activists who died internally or within the borders of the country, from that to infer that certain politicians must have known or did know that it was the work of members of the security forces. To take a practical example relating to myself, if I become aware of a political activist who had died in an unnatural way, in for instance Mamelodi, I would have drafted a report. If a person presupposes that there were a whole number of such cases in the same area it could possibly be argued that I, as the then minister, should have become suspicious. However it didn't work quite like that. I can assure the Commission that on numerous occasions questions are put in Parliament which I caused to be further investigated and I received no information from lower hierarchy that my people were involved in that in any way. Today I have nothing to hide. I believe that I have made a full disclosure of everything, however I cannot accept the criticism that I should have been aware of more. Certain related aspects which appear from the documents which were put at my disposal and I'll deal with that very briefly as far as the Caprivi trainees are concerned, I had nothing to do with that.
The Third Force. At one stage during the heat of revolutionary battle, the idea rose to try and establish a third force, which third force would be tasked to investigate matters regarding the combatting of the revolutionary onslaught and to deal with that in order to free the hands of the South African Police for their actual task, namely the maintenance of law and order and prevention of crime. I was then a deputy minister and I was requested to investigate the viability of such a third force and to report to the SSC. I did that as would appear from the minutes of the SSC meeting of the 12th of May 1986. I'm not in possession of the Schedule 6 to which the minutes refer and I can't remember exactly what is contained therein, I can't remember what Option 4 referred to and what the considerable amendments to which the minutes refer but the final outcome of the whole idea of a third was that it was never put in practice, it was partly the problem of the demarcation of duties between powers between the South African Police and the proposed third force, the consequent overlapping and the necessary expenditures which such a third force would have necessitated.
Surrogate powers. I was told that Mr Craig Williamson testified before this Commission that the principle that your enemy's enemy is your friend led to the fact that so-called surrogate forces were supported by the government or were in fact established by the government. I must say in all sincerity that if that was the case, I was totally unaware of that. I'm not trying to say thereby that there were never situations in which one of two warring faction's interests did not correspond with that of the South African police, however in my view that is not the same as saying that the government or the South African Police supported such a faction in reality.
The non-compliance with the Nkomati Accord. I was told by Mr Craig Williamson testified that the RSA, after the treaty, still supported RENAMO, I am unaware of this matter and cannot comment on it in any way. Annexures A to I of the Section 29 notice, Chairperson I won't deal with that now, but the Commission is welcome to put questions to me in this regard.
And then Reconciliation and Forgiveness. As minister amongst others Law and Order, I took the oath to carry my official duties with diligence. My official duties entailed inter alia the protection of the people of South Africa and it inter alia included protecting them against people who wanted to commit acts of terror against them as well as protecting them against acts of intimidation and violence and unrest. Because the elements forgiveness and reconciliation are crucial aspects of the Commission's activities, I studied it very thoroughly and considered it and I took note of the views of the Commission as well as individual members of the Truth Commission.
Chairperson if I think back to the thousands of innocent people of our country who during my period of office as the responsible minister were injured and killed in the most gruesome cruel way imaginable, such as for instance bombs and necklace murders, then I had this feeling that I left them in the lurch and that I didn't give them the necessary protection that I didn't do enough. Words are not sufficient to convey my regret towards them in any meaningful way. Nevertheless I want to say that if there is anybody who believes that I could have done more in his personal case then I will accept that criticism unreservedly and I am saying i'm sorry.
That however brings me to the people who committed all these atrocities against innocent people. I reject categorically all allegations of purely criminal actions committed for personal reasons by any policemen. I never approved of this personally. I did everything in my power to bring those persons responsible to justice. During my time there were many policemen and women who were guilty of certain offences and I acted against them. The country and its people should be grateful to all those policemen and women who made the difference between years of anarchy and maintenance of law and order. The South African Police played its part in preventing the country exploding in a bloody revolution but our history has caused a lot of pain and suffering for all those involved, for women and children and, for parents and families. I however have one consolation and that is that I never acted for motives of personal malice or hatred against anybody. I did my duty as I saw it and I would like to add that in this process I was obliged inter alia to authorise the detention of many people. I also in many cases opposed their application for their release in courts. I believed that all the information contained in my affidavits were true and correct according to the fact and I did that not only because it was my duty but also because I was convinced of the fact that in so doing I was combatting violence and unrest and preventing loss of human life.
I would like to express my unqualified regret towards any person and or organisation which was innocently disadvantaged or prejudiced by my actions. In the cruel struggle for survival it was often the case that there was no mercy shown and unacceptable things were done and mistakes made. I also made mistakes and I'm sorry that my fellow South Africans had to suffer in the process as a result of my actions and I'd like to offer my unqualified and sincere apology to those people.
At the end of the conflict of the past were we stand now, just as in the case of the other war situations in history, I believe that the only lasting remains are the victims. We are all victims of the conflict of the past. Victims gain very little value from the fact that one side had the higher moral ground than the other. All that remains is the loss and sorrow. I know that the psychological and mental pain which the war caused will remain with some people till the day of their death and I would like to request that a great deal of sympathy be shown by the Commission to all these people.
Thank you for your patience Commissioner, thank you for listening.
CHAIRPERSON: I thank you very much, we have decided to adjourn for tea very briefly, we will resume at half past three.
CHAIRPERSON: ...tender handling of Glen Goosen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Vlok I'm going to ask the questions in English and you're welcome to answer the Afrikaans unless you've got a problem, please ask and I will endeavour to ask it in Afrikaans.
MR VLOK: You're more than welcome. I'll try to follow you.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok you indicate in the submission that you've made and it was also evidence that was tendered the course of the hearings held last week that in the period 1985-1986, there was a significant shift in the sense that the revolutionary forces as it were, not only shifted their strategy, intensified the onslaught against South Africa, but that in response to that the South African security forces and the South African police in particular, also had to intensify their counter-revolutionary activities. That that, that there was an upsurge in violence and a general realisation that the law alone would not contain the onslaught. Is that correct?
MR VLOK: In a certain sense that is correct that we acted in reaction to the escalating of the revolutionary onslaught against the country and against innocent citizens. We the police and the defence force and also our structures, we were geared to deal with the situation but it's not correct to say that we wanted to do certain things which were for instance illegal to deal with the situation. That time we believed that we could deal with the situation by just simply applying the laws of the land and the further steps taken by declaring the state of emergency. The first state of emergency was declared in I think 12 June 1985 or '86, yes it was '86, so we utilised all the legal instruments at the disposal of the state. The state, the police and the defence force used those.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok, you state at paragraph 6.9 on page 21 of your submission, in many such cases it meant that the violence was answered by violence in an attempt to protect the people, black and white, from acts of terror, especially when it was noticed that normal policing and normal juridical processes simply could no longer deal with the situation adequately. It was also necessary to engage in actions which at the time would fall outside of the ambit of what was lawful.
MR VLOK: If that was the impression created by that, I want to correct it immediately and I would try and tell you what I actually meant in that paragraph. I want to mention an example. In many cases we had marches and demonstrations where thousands of people gathered and then started rioting and the police simply had to deal with the situation. It happened in townships and in the central business districts of our cities and the police had strict instructions to use minimum violence and force and it escalated. The police were present and they used tear gas, they used rubber bullets and so it escalated, but that was the violence which I had in mind when I wrote that paragraph. There was no idea or intention that it should happen outside the confines of the law in an attempt to deal with the violence.
MR GOOSEN: Okay well then can I just refer you to two further passages, paragraph 6.13 where you refer to proactive in terms of the collection of information, proactive actions, and then paragraph 6.14 where you refer there at the bottom of that paragraph, what you were dealing with here was a life and death situation and in order to protect life and property, in certain cases a decision was made to strike the first blow to avert the threat. What exactly do you mean by that?
MR VLOK: In this case use was made of informers who gave us information. We beefed up our intelligence structures to gather intelligence, so we developed these structures and we were looking for more people to obtain information from and once we obtained the information we tried to, for instance obtain the information about terrorists present in Soweto and then we would send people to those places to try and arrest them but in these cases it often happened that the police went to a certain place, tried to arrest a person which according to our information was a terrorist, and that it ended in a shooting incident. And that's what I had in mind there. The attempt to act proactively, to try and arrest them and to apprehend them and if it wasn't possible to arrest them, then if there was a shooting, then they were often shot dead in an attempt to prevent them continuing with their actions.
MR GOOSEN: If you look at that section in the context of the whole paragraph you're indicating that it was also necessary to deploy certain operational structures inside the country was used within the borders of the country to act proactively in cases where it became known that such structures had staff or informers who were under threat as a result of leaks or the activities of traitors. The impression created there, and correct me if I'm wrong, was that in those circumstances where there was a significant threat to the, as it were, the intelligence capacity of the security forces, in particular because of lekasies of die bedruiwighede van veraaiers, that it was necessary in those circumstances, to proactively strike the first blow. Now would that proactive action then in your evidence be confined to lawful means in all instances?
MR VLOK: Yes in so far as it was possible to act within the guidelines of the law. That would be our first option, but as I said, it could be possible that certain actions followed which then led to a shooting and which led to the death of people but as far as I was concerned it was still legal and within the boundaries of the law.
MR GOOSEN: So I would be incorrect then to interpret the thrust of your testimony thus far to suggest that as part of the escalation of the conflict that it was recognised that at a certain point, not only lawful means but also unlawful means would need to be employed in combatting the onslaught against the country.
MR VLOK: No that's not what I'm trying to say. I tried to make it clear what our point of departure was, namely to act within the law and in these circumstances things went wrong and people were killed. That's what I explained. Actions taken outside of the boundaries of the law I tried to explain to you what that could be linked to and I also explained to you where the misunderstanding relating to terminology could have arisen from. I could have told you or have told you that STRATCOM projects and structures which acted in certain ways could have resulted in certain unlawful or illegal conduct but this did not mean that we went and sat down and decided that we would act illegally. We never made such a decision.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok would it be correct to describe you during your period of tenure as both the Deputy Minister and subsequently Minister, as a peoples' man. As a minister who was immediately concerned with and interested in the people who ultimately served under the command structures of the South African Police? The troops on the ground if you like? Is that correct?
MR VLOK: Mr Goosen is very friendly towards me in saying that. I'd like to thank him for that but the rest of the Committee perhaps, you know me and you know that my door was not only open for the people with whom we had to work. I wasn't only looking to motivate them, my door was open for anybody else. They could come to me and they often did. The Chairperson often came to visit me and I often recall those days when he came to visit me. So I tried to be accessible so that I could hear what people had to say to me so that I could see what I could do to resolve the problems which they brought to my attention.
MR GOOSEN: And would you say also that because of that approach that you in fact understood the circumstances under which policemen were required to operate, you understood the mind set that was predominant within the police force?
MR VLOK: I tried to understand their mindset. I wasn't always successful in that but I did try because I believed that if I could understand how their minds worked I could motivate them to do the job which needed to be done.
MR GOOSEN: In fact is it not so that you in the period in which you were a minister, you would attempt to spend a great deal of time, as much time as you possibly could with policemen and women on the ground and with commanders dealing with situations on the ground in order to gain an understanding of how they perceived the situation that they found themselves in.
MR VLOK: Yes I tried to do that but I must point out to you that the police operated within a certain structure and I didn't go and visit people or police stations or had contact with police men and women on the ground without it having been done through the proper channels. If I wanted to do any such a thing, if I wanted to meet with people, I followed the proper channels and if people wanted to visit me I was always accessible but if work was involved then it went through the official channels and my main task as I saw it, was to listen to what they had to say and I had to motivate them to do the job which they had to do.
MR GOOSEN: I want to just put a brief passage from the evidence that was tendered during the course of last week, tendered by Major Williamson describing to some extent the mind sets from the time. He said,
"As a result of the ever increasing revolutionary climate in the Republic during the '80's and especially after the so-called 1979 Simonstad Beraad, at which the security forces were told to take the gloves off in the fight against the revolutionary enemy, the security forces came under increasing pressure to perform. The South African Police and it's Security Branch in particular, were under special pressure. There was the increasing revolutionary pressure on one hand, political pressure to resolve the problems on the other and various other elements in the security forces, especially the defence force and military intelligence structures which wanted to play an ever increasing role in the conflict and in society. As a result there was pressure on all of us to perform. I would say that the pressure was probably most intense on the Security Branch divisional commanders, especially in hot spots such as the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Johannesburg. In this context results became far more important than legality. The 11th Commandment was well known, especially to those in the covert or the special force elements of the security forces. This was, Thou shalt not be found out. The psychological effect of fighting such a counter-revolutionary war should also not be underestimated, especially when this entailed long periods of covert operations either within or outside the Republic. The members of the security forces, especially those in covert units used against the revolutionary enemy, saw themselves as the elite front line troops in a critically important secret theatre of the overall war. Enemy successes such as killing of security force members, attacks on economic targets like SASOL or Koeberg and Civilian bombings produced recriminations, guilt, frustration and anger. Security force successes such as arrests with convictions, cross border raids cover killings or sabotage of the enemy produced praise, pride and relief from pressure."
Now would you agree with that description of the sort of context in which Security Police members would have been operating in the mid 1980's? And could you comment on the views expressed by Mr Williamson?
MR VLOK: That's a very long paragraph, it's the first time I've heard it but when he makes the point that there was pressure on the security forces to achieve and to perform, that is true, there was pressure from lots of different sides. We told them that we couldn't do anything with excuses, you simply have to perform because the Eastern Cape is in flames and you have to stop the further spreading of the riots. So yes there was pressure from various quarters on the security fraternity and you heard this morning how Mr Botha also said that there was pressure on the State Security Council exerted by the community at large and in this regard I must also tell you that the pressure didn't only come from one part of our society, the pressure on us and on the security forces came from all levels of society. There was pressure, stop these people, I want to send my children to school. There's problems at school, you must help. So there was pressure on all the different components. That is correct.
MR GOOSEN: And in the context of that pressure, pressure experienced by the security forces, I want to read a passage from the evidence of General van der Merwe at the same hearings last week where states that,
"All the powers were to avoid the ANC/SACP achieve their revolutionary aims and often with the approval of the previous government we had to move outside the boundaries of our law. That inevitably led to the fact that the capabilities of the SAP, especially the security forces, included illegal acts. People were involved in a life and death struggle in an attempt to counter this onslaught by the SACP/ANC and they consequently had a virtually impossible task to judge between legal and illegal actions".
Would you agree with those views?
MR VLOK: As I put it in my submission, there were cases where certain STRATCOM actions were involved and where we didn't give approval per se for such illegal actions, it simply ultimately amounted to an illegal action being committed.
MR GOOSEN: So I take it that from, seen firstly from the perspective of as it were the operatives, the lower ranking policemen and not those in either in management positions or senior command positions, that you would agree that in the pressure to perform, the interpretation of the instructions that they received, the directives that they received, that as Mr Williamson stated it,
"That the pressure to perform became more important than the legality of the actions that they in fact engaged in."
Would you agree with that perspective from the position of the people on the ground?
MR VLOK: I don't know how the man on the ground saw the position. I don't know how he could have said that the pressure was greater now, I can act illegally. Perhaps because of the greater pressure we exerted on them, they experienced greater pressure to act illegally and perhaps then that was also under that part of my submission where I say that I'm sorry or we are sorry that we pressurised them to such an extent that it led to people being killed and that policemen landed up in problem situations. So maybe I should include it under that heading. Once again it was a case of perceptions which we perhaps had a hand in creating because I said to the policemen and men on the ground, you have to achieve and perform, you have to solve this problem and this matter. So perhaps, if that led to that kind of pressure, I'm sorry.
MR GOOSEN: Given the fact that you did attempt as much as possible and probably more than most government ministers at the time, that you in fact did understand the circumstances under which policemen and women were operating, you did understand their mind sets, would you say that the formulation of policies or directives in language which would be capable of being misinterpreted in the circumstances that that was, with the benefit of hindsight for the moment, that that was not a reasonable action on the part of the policy formulators in the circumstances?
MR VLOK: If I have to look at it with the benefit of hindsight, then I have to say very honestly that that's not what we intended but if a policeman in Pofadder red that then he would have understood it to mean what it meant in the vernacular and I'm sorry that we didn't do our job properly to make sure that we didn't put those words in those documents. So I can say that that was a mistake, the fact that we didn't see to it that those things were not correct and not seeing to it that there was no room for misinterpretation.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you. Do you understand then Mr Vlok that you would say that the point at which those policies and directives in which that language was used, that you did not at that point foresee the possibility that there was scope for misinterpretation?
MR VLOK: No.
MR GOOSEN: Would you not regard it as something that should reasonably have been foreseen in the circumstances?
MR VLOK: With hindsight I would have said yes, but at that stage when we were busy trying to deal with the situation, and the use of this terminology was commonly used and we didn't see the matter in that light. But now with hindsight I would say yes, we should have seen to it.
MR GOOSEN: One last aspect on this. General van der Merwe, dealing with the use of language along those lines stated in response to a question that was asked by one of the panellists, "If you tell a soldier, eliminate your enemy, depending on the circumstances, he will understand that means killing. It is not the only meaning but it is specifically one meaning".
MR VLOK: I agree with him. It could be like that because it was military language used and perhaps they could have interpreted it in that way.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Dumisa Ntsebeza.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chair. Mr Vlok if I recall some of the evidence well that was led last week. And I think again it was from Craig Williamson. He seems to say that some of these memorandums or memoranda were prepared by people in the security forces, that the memoranda that came to serve before the State Security Council and the minutes that were subsequently drawn and they are the people who would couch whatever the resolution of whatever the recommendation is in the language that expressed itself in words like elimeneer and neutraliseer, vernietig and all those words, and he seemed to say by inference, that it is very disingenuous for any politician in that period of time to claim that they didn't understand that those words were so ambiguous that an environment could be created where the only interpretation that could be given to those words could be that they meant that people should be killed, and he said for instance, if the ministers and all the other politicians who received such memorandums had thought to question them, if you as Minister Vlok received a memorandum which comes from the Eastern Cape Joint Management System which says the leaders of the UDF must be eliminated, he says surely it was your prerogative to say, if this means arrest, let it be couched in those terms, because we don't want a situation arising afterwards that people will eliminate people in the sense of killing them, when in fact what was meant was that they should be arrested or be detained. What is your comment on that?
MR VLOK: May I say immediately that you are correct in saying that the submissions which we received and the documents which we received at the State Security Council and at Cabinet, were drafted by officials. The ministers didn't actually write or draft them and the officials at the State Security Council came largely from the security fraternities, soldiers, policemen and people from National Intelligence. So the language used there was not in the first instance the language used by the ministers, and secondly you are totally correct, that is what I tried to convey in my submission. I should have queried this. I sat there and I read it. I should have queried it and said, look you can't use the word eliminate and then you give a list of the tasks to be performed by the policemen. In Upington he must perform certain grab operations, etc etc and turn operations and it doesn't mean eliminate in other language. So you are entirely correct, we should have looked at that aspect and that is why I'm apologising that as a result of this misunderstanding, people actually died.
CHAIRPERSON: Glen Goosen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Vlok I think that the, I would accept your acceptance obviously of the responsibility that not sufficient action was taken at the time and that you should have queried it. Would you agree though that the State Security Council and the process of policy formation formed part of a broader system, the National Security Management System, that there were a whole range of structures that supported that process and that the use of that language was across the board within all of those structures and that it was, in fact represented if you like, the discourse of the National Security Management System, in dealing with those particular matters. Would you agree with that conception?
MR VLOK: Yes.
MR GOOSEN: And would you agree that in those circumstances, particularly where instructions and policies then are being conveyed down through the command structures. I think in your submission you concede that in conveying instructions down through the command structures, the possibility for misinterpretation grew as it were, and further down the command structure one gets the possibility for misinterpretation does grow.
MR VLOK: Yes Mr Goosen is correct.
MR GOOSEN: In the circumstances would you not say that that discourse engaged in by the policy formulators engaged in at State Security Council level, that that created a culture in which unlawful actions could be justified down the command structure precisely because of the ambiguity of that language?
MR VLOK: I have to say quite honestly I don't think it would have created a culture but it created the opportunity in certain instances and as far as I'm concerned, one instance is one instance too many where this kind of misinterpretation and misunderstanding happened and that is we today have a situation where people out there died as a result of this kind of thing and that policemen and their families and their families are in trouble because we didn't take a good look at this. But I can't agree that it actually created a culture of illegal action.
MR GOOSEN: Perhaps just to emphasise the point further, General van der Merwe again, at the hearings last week said in regard to this matter, he said,
"If you look at the contents of this document or most documents it becomes clear that it means that certain activities had to follow on this. But if you keep in mind that those documents were put in to a system, the Joint Operations System, where members of from the Defence Force served on that, people from grass roots levels and many of those members were involved in a struggle for life and death every day, from that viewpoint you would regard it, and yes it could have meant to kill people".
So in those circumstances that the language created the opportunity for unlawful actions to be embarked upon by members of the security forces. You would agree with that?
MR VLOK: Yes it's possible.
MR GOOSEN: You would agree that in the circumstances in which one's dealing with an intensified political struggle, where there is pressure being applied from the level of the politicians, that something needs to be done about the situation, and you've indicated that, that by so creating the opportunity they's also served the interests of the political authorities precisely because it created that opportunity for also unlawful actions to be embarked upon?
MR VLOK: As I've tried to explain, it was never the intention on the part of the political authorities to use those words, I told you where they came from, our omission was that we didn't actually go and look at those things and correct it, but it's true that as it flowed down the structures, right down to the ground it could have created or increased the opportunities for people acting outside the boundaries of the law.
MR VLOK: But I think the thrust of my question was really the fact that people could utilise the opportunity to act outside of the law in dealing with the onslaught. Did that fact not also serve the interests, the overall interests that the State Security Council and politicians would have sought to achieve in combatting the revolutionary onslaught?
MR VLOK: Although it wasn't so intended, it could have had that consequence.
MR VLOK: Just to maybe pursue that a bit further Mr Vlok. It's difficult to ask you questions that make a concession, I'm expecting that you're not going to given the experience at certain points in these hearings ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: Let me try my little question. What do you actually mean by onwettig? My understanding of what you seem to mean is onwettig is only when a gross violation and especially, ie a killing at that happens. When you say we did not sanction onwettige optrede, but then you say well there were some and you seem to speak only in terms of killings, what was illegal?
MR VLOK: By illegal, I meant not only the killing of people, I also referred to other illegal actions such as those for which I'm asking for amnesty and you know what those are.
CHAIRPERSON: I would have thought, I mean well that is helpful except that I wonder whether when you and some of your colleagues speak of say, disinformation, you didn't regard that as onwettig. I mean if you told a lie about me and the general white community believed it, that was not illegal.
MR VLOK: I'd like to say that I included that under STRATCOM conduct and operations which could have led to illegal actions and if that prejudiced you then I think you had a case for laying a complaint against the particular policeman of for instance crimen injuria and you also had a civil claim against such a person. It was illegal and unlawful.
MR MALAN: If you say that the Chairperson would have had a claim against the policeman involved, don't you think then he would also have a claim against the State as such and the question then is, is the political authority not primarily responsible then?
MR VLOK: I agree with you. Perhaps I should refer to my amnesty application. I can only agree with you that it's not only against the policeman but also against the people who gave him these instructions and who authorised these actions, namely the State.
CHAIRPERSON: Yasmin Sooka.
MS SOOKA: Then if we take what you say further. All the politicians should have applied for amnesty in these cases where killings were the result or gross human rights violations were the result of these kinds of actions.
MR VLOK: I listened to what my former colleague Pik Botha said here this morning. Somebody asked him about the letter which he wrote to Mr de Klerk. I agree with Pik Botha that that was the correct way to do it. But to apply for amnesty is a personal matter and I thought hard and long about my amnesty application, I struggled with it, I really questioned whether I should do it. A lot of people in the community from which I come would say it's a disgrace, but I ultimately decided no, I must do what is right. So it's for each minister, each politician to make his own decision on that point. But personally I support the idea of Pik who says that we should have lodged this application as he did, or as he explained it.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Vlok I can understand the concession you've made on indicating that with the benefit of hindsight, and I think to be frank, in the light of some of the testimony as well that has emerged at TRC hearings and amnesty hearings where you've in fact had scores of policemen who've said we did the following. We in fact did eliminate people. So from your perspective, yes I can understand with the benefit of hindsight one can accept the responsibility for that and I think that has been indicated and is appreciated. The question really goes to whether in every circumstance in which words like destroy, remove from society, neutralise, eliminate, what was intended at the time that those words were used is purely of innocent, had an innocent meaning that was attached to it. Innocent in the sense that it did not mean, uittewis, did not mean, to kill. I asked the question in light of your own submission in, in fact at paragraph 6.4 where you're talking about the revolutionary threat and you say the revolutionary threat further had as it's objective to make the Republic ungovernable and to destroy and obliterate black councillors, members of the South African Police and other members of the security forces and officials of the state, meaning that these people were being targeted to be killed. You're using the discourse uittewis here in your own submission to mean kill. Are you saying that in every instance in which that language is used at the level of the State Security Council, it did in fact have an innocent meaning, it did not connote that people should be killed?
MR VLOK: Yes I have to say to you that as far as my knowledge goes, during my time on the State Security Council, never at any occasion was there the intention to kill people when those words were used and I've given you the proof of that by saying that it says obliterate in the document but it meant something different to the man on the ground but as you said, somebody could have misinterpreted it, somebody didn't have all the information and didn't have the benefit of sitting in on our meetings could have misinterpreted it, but we never intended when we used those words that people should be wiped out. As far as that paragraph is concerned I want to say that that terminology was commonly used in documents used which we gathered during radio broadcasts and documents which we received pertaining to our opponents.
MR GOOSEN: But you utilised the discourse as well, I mean you accept the fact that in your own submission as well you do utilise the discourse uittewis means to kill.
MR VLOK: Yes but I really have to say that the use of those words in 1986, I don't know whether they were used thereafter, but it never bothered us then and we didn't regard it as a quid pro quo, they're going to obliterate us and we're going to wipe them out. That was never our intention.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok, through the period from 1985 onwards, 1985 into 1986, many people were in fact eliminated in South Africa, opponents of the government, members of community based organisations, members of the ANC as well were in fact eliminated. And there are a number of instances which are fairly well known, the killings of the Cradock Four in the Eastern Cape, the disappearance of the Pebco Three, the killings of the Ribeiro's and so on and so forth, the assassination on Piet Ntuli and many others. When it appeared to you that opponents of the government then, broadly or possibly participants in the revolutionary onslaught were in fact being eliminated, did you not regard that perhaps operatives on the ground within the security forces were in fact interpreting the instructions being given literally?
MR VLOK: That was not my experience because what happened in practice, let's take the case of Piet Ntuli, I'm actually hesitant to refer to specific cases, but I will refer to that one case, the one of Piet Ntuli. I don't know whether anybody's applied for amnesty in that regard but on my table as minister there was an information, there was a note stating that he was dead and there was information that the ANC had said that the should be eliminated and he was blown up. Now what must a minister do? You sit there and you receive this information. The case of for instance, the Cradock Four, Goniwe and I can refer to that as well. We asked questions about it. I answered questions in Parliament but what did I receive? Information which was submitted to me and I deal with it on that basis as it's submitted to me. And that case for instance there was an inquest and the inquest also brought out a certain finding. So you must understand the mechanism of the Department, how things worked there. In the Department you had a case of a line being drawn. There was a line of command and if I wanted something done, if I had a query, if I had to answer a questioning Parliament, you then give it to the commissioner. He would then convey it to further people down in the line of command and then the response is then conveyed back to you. There was no way in which I would speak to a constable and said, now what did you do in this black township? That's not the way it happened and they didn't talk to me about that. So a minister was in actually an unenviable position. He's sitting in his office, he has to react on information which is given to him, and that was the situation as I've sketched it to you in these two cases. I had many queries and I got many responses and answers back. Memoranda from people containing certain information and there was testimony. You know that people applied for amnesty about certain cases where people admitted that they gave me the wrong information, so that's what happened there, but once again, I must say that I have understanding for that because for security reasons and other reasons, and Pik Botha also referred to that this morning, the concept of need to know figured very very strongly in the system of the State Security Council and the Cabinet.
In one of the minutes which was given to me there was a paragraph in which the former State President makes reference to the fact that people must ensure that there is security in respect of documents and information conveyed to other people. So the need to know concept figured very very strongly and I didn't tell them everything which I knew and I will accept that the man on the ground who did certain things also decided that he wasn't going to tell anybody higher up. I got the impression that that was also the evidence of General van der Merwe the other day before the Commission when he said that he couldn't tell the minister because he didn't himself know and if he had known, it was his decision whether he would tell the minister or not.
So we were in an unviable situation. I don't want to complain about it. That's why I said I will assume responsibility and I will not run away from my responsibility.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok you will appreciate the difficulty that we may have in these circumstances. Firstly we have from the level of the State Security Council, ministers and senior members on the police, exhortations to combat the revolutionary onslaught, applying pressure on commanders on the ground, responding to political pressure from the community out there that's affected by the actions of revolutionaries. Recognising the limitations of the legal system, hence the necessity to expand the state of emergency and try to expand the laws which allow for detention for prolonged periods and so on and so forth. An ever increasing call on more ammunition from the legal system as it were. All of that pressure applied, the desperate need, the recognition that there's a life and death struggle that one is waging here. Policies formulated which are misinterpreted in consequence of systematic misinterpretation, enemies of the state are dealt with broadly in accordance with the objectives defined by the politicians in the first place, that firm action be taken, that the revolutionaries be stopped in their tracks and on the one hand, the politicians can say we didn't give that order because they didn't give that order, it's nowhere stated that we said so should be killed, we said so and so should be eliminated but we meant that that person should be detained. And then never having any real knowledge about or real appreciation of the effects of that misinterpretation. It places the politicians, would you agree in the lucky, enviable situation, that they can formulate an approach to a problem but not bear the immediate consequences of that policy in the way in which it's carried out?
MR VLOK: I wouldn't describe my position here today as lucky or fortunate but I want to say this. This document in which eliminate and take out and so on appears, this document comes from eleven years ago and eleven years ago we didn't think that we would sit here today and have to explain the use of those words. There was no way in which we could foresee that. We couldn't have put those words in there in those days, bearing in mind that one day in the future we would have to explain the use of those words. So we simply didn't think in that way.
So I'm saying to you that that was a mistake that was made and as a politician, and that's why I'm saying that's it's not a particularly fortunate situation to come and accept the responsibility for other peoples' actions but I was the responsible minister and that's why I'm saying what I said.
And then Chairperson we tried very hard and placed pressure on the security forces to normalise the situation so that we could achieve a permanent settlement. We tried so hard, we detained people and people were eliminated in the process, but in the process of detaining people, you must remember we detained thousands of people and you will recall Chairperson, you were also involved in the hunger strikes which we had to deal with, you will recall how we struggled to get them out and deal with the situation to prevent another person dying in prison as a result of a hunger strike. And though we had sympathy with those people, you know what my views were on that. So I really have to say to you that ten years ago there was no way that we could have foreseen us having to appear before that Truth Commission and to explain the use of these words and that we left ourselves a little back avenue just to slip out. That's why I'm saying it was bona fides mistake which we made and we have to live with it.
CHAIRPERSON: Ilan Lax.
MR LAX: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Vlok, I just have one problem with this whole line really. That is if people gave an instruction that someone should be eliminated meaning they should be detained, and that was what was in peoples' minds one understands and I see you nodding which implies you're sort of agree with me on that. When the person then pitched up dead instead of being detained, what did you do? Didn't you say but I said they should be detained, not killed and what did you do about it? It's in that sense that one's asking these questions.
MR VLOK: I can understand what the problem is. I can see and understand the Commission's problem in that you say you used words like these and people died as a result. Now I can't take it any further than saying that's what we intended, we never gave a direct instruction, that was ten years ago, we couldn't have foreseen that we would have to come and explain these words and phrases. The fact of the matter is things went awry and if you're saying that you say that a person was arrested and he then died, well things were never linked up in that way. We gave a general instruction that for instance the position in the Eastern Cape should be normalised and there are thousands of people involved in the Eastern Cape and in the process somebody died and you would then receive a report on that person. But you never brought those two together, I never saw the lists of people detained in the Eastern Cape.
CHAIRPERSON: Alex Boraine.
MR BORAINE: Thank you. Mr Vlok let me try and sum it up this way. We've heard from a number of people, very senior people who had hugh responsibilities, state presidents, ministers, generals, some, not all, who've said that really and truly we never gave instructions, it was never discussed, we didn't know about this illegal method to oppose the enemy. On the other hand we're getting a lot of people, many more who are operatives who say of course they knew, referring to the generals or to the politicians. They just chose to close their eyes. One person said it so strongly that even a lawyer tried to intervene because he said the reaction of generals, he was talking about now, not politicians, just makes me sick, makes me voel naar, not angry I just feel sick at the whole thing, they've dumped us, they've dumped us. Now the same people in many instances were getting medals, getting praised, getting rewarded for the good work that they had done. We question the politicians again and the generals and what they're really saying, and what you seem to be saying, but correct me if I'm wrong, that they led us up the garden path. We didn't know that they were doing these things, they misunderstood us, ja we may have used the language but really that's not what we meant, so in other words they defied you as minister, they defied the generals if the generals are to be believed, and these captains and colonels and brigadiers and a few others killed many many people, because I mean you know some of them come and talk about forty, fifty, sixty people in one amnesty application and so on. So they're actually, either they defied you as minister and government and were a law unto themselves, or there were just a few instances which I think has now been disproved, it's no longer a handful of operatives or a few bad apples. Just too many, I mean we can't cope as an amnesty committee, that's how bad it's been. And in Vlakplaas, to sum it up, and I'm nearly done, there seemed to be a pattern of taking people into custody, sometimes holding them in legitimate jails but sometimes taking them out of jails, now I'm talking about testimony before the Commission, not our ideas, their confessions if you like, as signing them out as being let free but actually being taken immediately back into custody, taken to a safe house, there questioned, there tortured according to them and then when they didn't get the results of that vital information which you referred to early which was so important, they killed them.
Now it's our experience that this is widespread, that we go to small towns as a Commission, not big cities and huge townships or the whole of the Eastern Cape, and without exception people talk about torture, not as an accident or I was carried away or, but almost as part of a systematic approach. That's what we're getting and what we're finding so difficult to understand is, how it is that senior people in charge with daily intelligence reports I understand, or let's call it weekly if I'm wrong on that, but certainly an enormous amount of intelligence, these things are happening, people in the community are saying, we know who did this, it was the police who did it or it was the security police, they now have been proved right, but you didn't know that and the generals, some of them didn't know it. What was going on, I mean were they running the show or did you really know and preferred not to know?
MR VLOK: Dr Boraine is formulating it as beautifully as it was formulated in parliament and it's difficult to answer this question, but I'll try and put it this way. He's now also referring to something which Mr Goosen touched on and that is that you become involved in or what he's describing is a situation on the ground, operational situation which you become involved in on the ground.
Now let me start with the minister in this situation. He's not aware of all these events or incidents and he never gets to hear of them unless perhaps there's a report in the newspaper in which it is reported that something's happened. His communication line or channel is to ask the Commissioner of Police what is the situation, please give me a report, give me the facts? And we have now heard that the Commissioner has said, but I was also not informed, I also received simply what was sent through the channels to me, there was simply no other system. We had no other way in which we could find out what the true facts were and in all the reports which found it's way to my desk over all the years regarding actions against people, detentions of people etc, there wasn't a single case in which it was said that we tortured the man he gave us the information. Never ever from these quarters did we receive the information that people were tortured before information was obtained, so I couldn't know about it. These disappearances, I ask what has happened to these people, there were many excuses. For instances this person was taken out of the country, the ANC saw him as a traitor and could have perhaps have part of STRATCOM's operations. So that is the kind of information which found it's way to the minister and that which found it's way to the generals table, well I'm not aware of what that was, but I accept that often the full and true facts also didn't reach him but in the line of command, he decided what he would then give to the minister and the minister was dependent on that. That's why I'm saying today that there could have been these cases where these things actually happened of which I was not aware and I'm very sorry about that and I'm apologising for that, it was a mistake, we could have done better, we could have implemented better systems to ensure that it didn't happen. I will concede that wholeheartedly, we could have asked more questions, we could have dug deeper and perhaps said that the commissioners shouldn't just inform me, there should be other systems to obtain the necessary information. I think that's what's happening in the country at the moment, that there are other channels and independent bodies to do certain investigations but in the old South Africa, that's not the way it worked, it was a mistake and it left the door open for doing the kinds of things for which we have to account for today and I'm sorry for that.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson could I follow that up?
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much.
MR VLOK: Chairperson it's not fair, he has had a rest now he's going to ask me tricky questions.
MR GOOSEN: You will be pleased to know that it's a ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: I will allow Wynand also but you could put your question and then let's allow Wynand.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok, Mr de Klerk in his submission and when he presented evidence at the Commission, in the National Party submission, I'm not quoting it exactly but this is the effect of what he said, he said the test to be applied if responsibility is going to attach in a particular set of circumstances, is whether there is an effective mechanism in place to prevent abuse. Now as I understand the answer that you've just given, that you recognise and you accept that there wasn't an effective mechanism in place to prevent abuse because of the limited communication that a minister would be subject to in the circumstances. And then do I understand that it is because there was no effective mechanism to prevent abuse that you in effect now accept overall political and moral responsibility for the abuses that occur?
MR VLOK: That is correct and I accept responsibility because I was the political head of the department and I'm not going to run away from my responsibilities, not towards the people out there who actually put me in that position, who had trust and confidence in me and I will accept the responsibility also vis a vis the good people, the ninety nine percent of good people who had to deal with the violence. I'm not going to deny responsibility vis a vis them but I want to get back to what Mr Goosen said what Mr de Klerk said. I don't know exactly what he said but I would like to give you and example in respect of the abuse of funds.
In the police there was an internal auditor who had to audit all the funds used from the Secret Fund. Now what more did I have to do, there was a man who I thought was independent and who actually audited the way the money was used? I didn't tell anybody to steal money. If I had that knowledge I would have charged him for theft but as far as other actions were concerned, what did we have in the police? We had the Detective Branch, the Security Branch and so on, but we didn't have independent monitors such as we have now, it's been established since then. But we didn't have it in those days, he was simply dependent on the people in the structure and in the system, and if there was somebody in the system who was actually abusing it, then you were lost.
MR MALAN: ..the question and I also want to go back to Mr F W de Klerk's testimony. He tried to give us a model of where responsibility lies and he came up with the idea of bona fides and over zealous actions and the mala fides conduct, but he said, that that is what has to be tested on the level of the applicant, if I understood him correctly. Now you come here today and it sounds quite laudable to say that as far as your own constituents are concerned you're not going to run away, you're going to assume responsibility and you are accepting that they perhaps have the bona fides belief that it was policy and that it was expected of them to kill people and to act unlawfully as a result of misinterpretations and misunderstandings regarding words and terminology and you'd like to protect them. So it actually sounds like a sort of an umbrella which you are offering them. But at the same time I'm saying that not for one moment there was any document and in which it was said that a person was killed and we killed him. They always say that the ANC took him away or it happened in the course of another conflict and so on. Now Mr Vlok, I want to ask you if you really believe that they thought, believed that it was policy, why didn't they have the confidence in you to report to you in terms of the way they carried out their duties. Not in one single case, according to you, can you recall where it came to your knowledge that the operatives at a lower level or the general level or whatever had killed people by means of illegal action and reported that to you? Now you are shocked to hear that that happened. Why do you want to protect them if they didn't have the trust and confidence in you at the time if they had the bona fide belief that that was policy at the time?
MR VLOK: May I say at the outset that I did not assume responsibility only in respect of policemen. My submission also refers to the victims because I've also expressed my apology and my sorrow as regards the victims and people who died during these actions and that's on record and I would like to express that again, reiterate that. I also didn't come and say all these things because I want to help them in respect of their amnesty applications. If that is a natural consequence of what I've said and that is good and well but I also said that it has to be proved, or if it is proved in that person's amnesty application that that person misinterpreted a certain document or language, then it's for the Amnesty Committee to decide whether he should receive amnesty, but this man, policeman or whatever would never have told me that he had killed somebody because it wasn't policy. If he had told me I killed a man, I would have said to him, but who gave you the right, why did you do that? Then we would have stopped him and then we would have said but what on earth are you doing? It's only being revealed now and that's why I'm saying what I'm saying now. The news and these revelations are only coming to the for now and I simply couldn't believe my eyes and my ears as to what these people were saying that they had gained the impression that they were authorised to do certain things and they are saying that they gained the impression from documents which are no longer in our possession. So it wasn't policy, so the policeman on the ground couldn't have said it was in line with your policy. If they had done that then we would have stopped it there and then.
MR MALAN: Mr Vlok maybe you're not understanding me correctly. During Mr Goosen's questioning of you you conceded, in fact confirmed the fact that lots of these people would have been under the impression that their illegal conduct was within the policy framework.
MR VISSER: That is not correct Mr Chairman. Mr Vlok's evidence was quite clear that he concedes if he is asked to say that they might have been. He did never say that they were and this is the basis of the question and that is why the witness answered the question in the way in which he did.
MR MALAN: Thank you, if that interpretation is Mr Vlok's interpretation then I will accept that. Can I then just repeat the question from a different vantage point?
Would you then say that if the vast majority accepted it as policy they would also have reported to you quite openly.
MR VLOK: Yes Chairperson.
MR MALAN: But the fact that you never received such a report means that in your view and judgement the vast majority, perhaps an exception here and there which will be tested during amnesty application, that the vast majority were under the impression that they could not have done that, is that what you're saying?
MR VLOK: The vast majority of policemen out there were of the view that they shouldn't do that.
MR MALAN: Chairperson may I ask one more question? Mr Vlok, in your submission on page 9 paragraph 37.3.1, you refer to the counter revolutionary strategy with the three components and you say that, the very last sentence, bottom of the page, "Our conduct was regarded largely as so-called holding action whilst the authorities had to make progress with the other two components".
Is that correct?
MR VLOK: Yes.
MR MALAN: Mr Vlok I want to ask you, because you also said that you were the man on the ground's man, the policeman's man. Did you see yourself as part of the authority, a member of the authority or as the advocate for the policeman on the ground and as his friend, or where was your first responsibility? Was it a cabinet responsibility which also made the other two tasks your responsibility?
MR VLOK: Chairperson I wore two hats, that of minister sitting in Cabinet who was part of the executive or authority, but I also wore the hat of the political head of the police and I was of the view, maybe I was wrong, but if I was close to the policeman on the ground it would have been easier for me to lead them in the direction where they were supposed to go, but at the same time, I also promoted their cause in cabinet and that is why we exerted pressure as far as this third leg is concerned, that we wanted to make progress with this third component. Mr Malan, my friend will know how we had discussions on this third component, he wasn't happy with our progress, it wasn't proceeding fast enough and I agreed with him, so I wore two hats.
MR MALAN: A last short question. You also heard Mr Pik Botha referring this morning to where the power was vested and I also asked to follow up question and he said that it vested with the executive head, namely the state president, the elected head and that is where power vested. Now I want to ask you, is your concept of authority in fact a cabinet responsibility or is it in your view also so that power is seated to a large extent with the president than with the cabinet?
MR VLOK: I don't want to disagree with my friend but if I heard properly he said that the power seated invested with the president and the cabinet. I'm sorry if I misunderstood it but that's how I heard it and that is what I agree with, that is where the power is vested.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Yasmin and the Ilan.
MS SOOKA: I think that we appreciate the sort of frankness with which you're dealing with your submission, but the real difficulty for me lies in where we put this or let this responsibility lie and it's too easy to say the president and the cabinet and then to go on to say but we didn't sanction anything that was unlawful. The way in which you say, the kind of discourse that was used could give rise to this misinterpretation, the lower down the ranks you go. It's too disingenuous and I think I'm grappling with trying to understand whether anybody who lived in South Africa during that period, could not really have known about the manner in which the police were being implicated in the deaths of thousands of activists. The newspapers were talking about it, the courts were dealing with people where detention was being used to extract confessions out of people and the police were said to be responsible for that. There were visits from so many different delegations, from international delegations into this country, newspapers talked about it. There were people dying in detention from Steve Biko down, right up until present day, there way Neil Aggett, there was the murder of David Webster and at the end of the day the police and the military were being implicated. Now surely at a political level, there must have been some discussion. You yourself could not have failed to realise that the state of affairs in the police was rotten to put it lightly. Now how do you expect us to sit here and I really want to believe you because I appreciate the frankness with which you are disclosing the kind of detail you do, but I sit with this difficulty as an ordinary South African. How could you say that you did not know? Surely the coincidences became too much for you where at some level you should have said, we need to do something about this. Where, and you see what really frightens me is from the submissions that we're hearing, the politicians begin to distance themselves from this security portfolio of the police and the military. So who was in charge of this country and where did the decision-making and the responsibility lie? Help me please because I really want to know what could have happened, why didn't you say, this is rotten and we need to do something about it?
MR VLOK: I have great appreciation for your view in this regard and more specifically about the distancing of certain people from the security establishment, I know that I experienced that first hand but in all honesty I must tell you that I when I looked at these things said, I can't run away from my responsibility. The other colleagues in the cabinet and also looked at these words, it's for them to decide whether they want to accept joint responsibility, I can't do it for them, I can't do it for them, I can understand your concerns and with hindsight and upon reflection, I must state it that I think we made a mistake, we should have established commissions and independent monitors far sooner than we did, but you must remember that each one of these cases which you mentioned where activists were killed and people fell out of windows and people who died in certain circumstances, in all those cases, the existing system actually did launch an investigation. The police for instance would investigate and they would then take the evidence further to the inquest court and certain findings were made. Now I agree with you. We should have actually looked at these things more closely and we omitted to do that sooner than we should have. It was only when Mr de Klerk appeared on the scene when he appointed Judge Goldstone to actually launch these investigations and a lot of things arose out of that commission and that is what is good as far as I'm concerned for the future that we should make sure that there are bodies and watchdogs who will ensure that these things don't happen again in future, but I have a great deal of understanding for your concern and for your worry as to how one can explain this.
I can only say on my behalf it was a mistake. I will accept responsibility for that as far as I am able to do so. I don't know what other people are going to do.
MR LAX: Chairperson it's really a follow-up question, and Yasmin's covered the thrust of it. It just goes slightly further than that because it says that in essence there were people who were monitoring the situation. They were the very people you were silencing. They were the very people you were detaining and putting in jail. They were the people who were saying to you, this is what's going on in your country. People like Peter Kirchoff in Pietermaritzburg for example who when he was in detention they phoned his wife up and they said, your husband's had a heart attack. He hadn't fortunately. It's people like that who had the guts to stand up and say this is what's going on in the country and you signed those orders detaining them. I saw them with my own eyes. So that's what we really struggle with. Was it that you just ended up believing the propaganda and the situations that were being put to you to the extent where you objectively all these other people who were telling you that this is what was going on in your own country you just didn't believe?
MR VLOK: We just have to look at the angle and the perspective which we had on Mr Kirchoff. We said that Mr Kirchoff was a member of the UDF. I don't know if that was in fact so, but let us use an example. Now what was the UDF? It was a front organisation for the ANC and they wanted to take over the country. And then we're right back to stage 1. We didn't listen to what those people were telling us and that's the tragedy that we didn't open our ears and listen to our fellow South Africans much sooner. We didn't hear them.
CHAIRPERSON: I am going to suggest, I don't know these men or, I mean that panel over there wanted to, they said they have a few more questions which I think cannot be canvassed this evening, we had hoped we're going to finish but I think that we are on to very important and serious matters and I would therefore ask that you would be willing to return tomorrow. I think everything aside, the fact that you are able to say this is how you operated, you know I mean that you heard, I was looking here and you have put it down in one of the pages here where you say, we didn't hear or we were not aware of the fact that those people on the other side were fighting for freedom and I think we've got to express appreciation for that kind of candour. And in your answer to the questions, we can't go beyond what you're saying. I mean that you were in a particular milieu and if Kirchoff or whoever spoke, you didn't actually listen to his words, it was he belonged to that group and that group was in turn, it is part of the communist onslaught and so you dismissed them. And I think I mean that for us as we seek to prepare a report, you have to say how do you ensure that we don't have people in government who can have blind spots and I don't know what you say about ear spots, where you can't hear. Because we mustn't feel, or people who are now in charge of the country must not think that it is peculiar that to you, we must know that it can happen to any human being and that is part of the purpose of this Commission. We've got to know and this is why I say theology is very important, theology speaks about something called original sin, that it is possible, in fact probable, that people will be subverted by power and it doesn't matter whether they are black or white or whatever and whatever their ideals. And so we must all have an incredible kind of modesty and ways to express just on this issue an appreciation for what you have just said and the thrust of some of your answers. I think I mean that we are grateful for that candour.
We will resume at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning, you thank very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Order please. Let us just have a moment of silence please.
HEARING COMMENCES WITH A PRAYER
CHAIRPERSON: Good morning. Welcome again to this second day of the session on the State Security Council. Let me introduce, because the panel has changed, one person in it has changed but I will introduce the whole panel assuming that people didn't know that we have the same panel. At the extreme right is Dr Fazel Randera, who is a Commissioner, a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee, but is also the boss man in charge of this Gauteng region. Fazel I just wanted to say thank you to you and your colleagues here for the preparations that you have made and Patrick Kelly and the staff who are ensuring that this thing goes smoothly. We just wanted to say thank you very much for your help in that regard.
Wynand Malan is a Commissioner and a deputy-chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is based in our office here; Dr Alex Boraine, deputy-chairperson of the Commission we are based in our headquarters in Cape Town; Yasmin Sooka a Commissioner and deputy-chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee based here; Dumisa Ntsebeza, he is a Commissioner and head of our Investigative Unit, based in Cape Town; Ilan Lax is a member of our Human Rights Violations Committee based in KwaZulu Natal; and then John Daniel, researcher and Paul van Zyl is executive secretary of the Commission, and Glen Goosen director of our Investigative Unit and chief questioner, I nearly said inquisitor, questioner; Nikki Rousseau, a researcher. And then our wonderful people in the booth there, they are our translators who are always doing a superb job of work. There you are.
Right you are. We are continuing, and thank you very much for coming. We re-welcome you. Glen. I learn I have to remind you that you are still under oath even if you slept over it. Thank you very much.
ADRIAAN VLOK: (s.u.o.)
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Vlok, for the benefit of yesterday evening I have obviously considered your submission, the evidence that you have given thus far. In essence you base your acceptance of responsibility on the fact that you concede negligence in respect of certain actions performed by you and your Cabinet colleagues. You deny any intention to authorise unlawful action. You concede that operatives could have misinterpreted instructions. From the scores of amnesty applications that we've received we glean that those applicants believed that authorisation was in fact granted. The two positions fit neatly.
Now what I intend doing in the course of the questions that I will pose to you today is to explore the credibility of that scheme. I want to begin with some passages from your submission yesterday and refer you to page 34 of that submission, paragraph 8.3. You are dealing there with what is termed "surrogate forces" and I would like to read it to you.
"I was told that Mr Craig Williamson, who testified before the Commission, that the principle of your enemy's enemy is your friend, and that it led to so-called surrogate forces being established by the government or supported by the government.
I must honestly say that if that was indeed the case I was unaware of it. By this I am not trying to say that there were never situations where one of two warring factions' interests did not correspond with that of the South African Police. However, in my view that is not the same as saying that the government or the South African Police indeed supported such a faction".
I want to refer you to some of the documentation that was made available to you and in particular it's an extract from the State Security Council meeting and the document which is appended to that, it was on the 25th of August 1986, at that stage you were a member of the State Security Council and agenda item 4 dealing with "strategy for the combatting of the ANC", and that is the document which is appended to that. Page 3 of that document, Item G, there is a portion which says -
"In respect of the potential for friction between the ANC and similar organisations such as the PAC, AZAPO and all forms of factional activities and the battle for leadership, to exploit this for own benefit".
And then a bit further down -
"As far as the existence or establishment or development..."
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman could we be referred to the exact document that Mr Goosen is referring to? They have been marked by somebody from A to I. I am not...
MR GOOSEN: It's K.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman we only received A to I ...(intervention)
Microphone not switched on
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman it's been pointed out to us that it's part of Annexure E. And what paragraph are you referring to?
MR GOOSEN: I am sorry about the confusion. It is on page 3 of the document, of the Annexure to the minutes. It's paragraph G. Do you have it?
"To exploit for own gain the potential for friction between the ANC and other organisations such as the PAC and AZAPO and any form of friction between these fractions.
In respect of the existence or the development of moderate black groupings, parties, individuals etc, which could act as a counter for the ANC to support that".
Could you comment on that outline, that strategy outline which was adopted and approved by the State Security Council on the 25th of August 1986 in the light of your statement at page 34 of your submission.
MR VLOK: Chairperson, let me point out firstly that Mr Goosen has now said that I admitted that I was negligent and that I never had the intention to allow certain things. I want to say that, as I have explained it in my submission yesterday, I didn't have the intention to say that I was negligent, I said I didn't know, and the words used there, those words, I did not think would cause problems later on. I just want to rectify that so there will be no misunderstanding.
Then as far as the surrogate forces are concerned, I want to say that if I read paragraph G and I look at what Mr Goosen has read from my submission to the Committee then in respect of the potential for friction between the ANC and other similar organisations such as the PAC, AZAPO and any form of factionalism and the battle for leadership to exploit this for own benefit and gain that doesn't mean that in respect of any of those factions, whether it was the PAC or the ANC or AZAPO that we would have supported them to do that.
And you know that there was a struggle, there was a battle in the Eastern Cape, there were great differences between members of the PAC and members of the ANC. On one occasion I attended a meeting there where there was unrest and trouble between the supporters of the two different parties and we actually had to pull the two different groups apart. They were very, very angry. So by that I didn't mean to say that we were supporting one of these factions in this regard.
And then as far as the further aspect is concerned, in respect of the establishment or development of black moderate groupings, parties and individuals which can act as a counterfoil to the ANC, now these are political groupings, these aren't surrogate forces which we tried to establish or promote to act as a counter to the ANC.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you. Can I refer you then to another document which was also sent to you. I will try to identify it, I don't know which annexure it's turned out to be, the document is headed South African Defence Force input - guidelines for the revolutionary warfare. It has attached to it in landscape format a number of different columns with summaries of various strategies.
MR VISSER: It appears to be G.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you. Can I refer you to the fourth page under Objectives 3.
"Mobilise, organise and motivate those masses who are well disposed towards us to counter the revolutionaries in their actions".
Do you have that? You have that. That's the main "objective" which is set out there.
"Organise, motivate to actively oppose sub-objective -
(a) moderate blacks must be assisted to organise themselves politically in support of an evolutionary development in the active combatting of revolutionaries.
(b) counter-revolutionary organisations must be developed on ethnic lines in order to prevent the political vacuum being exploited by the radicals to establish their own organisation.
(c) the politicisation of the school-going youth, especially the black youth, must be countered and opposed, inter alia by supporting conservative youth organisations and establishing such organisations and to launch a youth development programme".
And then (e) over the page -
"Black parents must be organised and supported to promote parental authority and to oppose, in a fearless manner, the radicals and revolutionaries and;
(f) community organisations must, where necessary, be established for all sections of the community and population and the society must be encouraged to become involved in community activities".
Could you comment, and given your previous answer on those policy proposals which were submitted through to the Security Council, considered by them as part of an input into the development of a strategy, counter-revolutionary strategy?
MR VLOK: I would like to say immediately that if I look at some of these points read to me by Mr Goosen, such as for instance (e) where black parents must be organised and supported and that community organisations must, where necessary, be established for all population groups, that sounds to me as if it forms part of the plan of the current government to mobilise parents to help children. But that is just in passing.
Once again I want to emphasise that the emphasis in this guideline or objectives was once again the political organisation of these people and for that we used Stratcom actions to mobilise them, and to encourage them to, as a community and as parents, to become involved in the education of their children. As far as I was concerned it did not relate to the establishment of any so-called surrogate forces.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok can I ask you why it would be necessary in respect of some of these that they needed to be done covertly? Secondly, why would it be necessary to mobilise on an ethnic basis, specifically?
MR VLOK: Mobilisation on an ethnic basis you will remember was the policy of the day. It was ethnically organised, schools were ethnically organised, the communities lived according to ethnic patterns and that was the policy of separate development or apartheid which applied during those days, and that's why it was done on this basis.
Secondly, why it had to be done covertly is because if parents became aware that the authorities became actively involved in the organising of these organisations, of these organisations as we have now referred to, then it just would never actually take place. It wouldn't be successful. So to achieve success it was essential that it be done in a covert way.
MR GOOSEN: Is it not so that ...(intervention)
MR VLOK: I said overt, I meant covert.
MR GOOSEN: Is it not so Mr Vlok that contra-mobilisation in all its components is a critical component of counter-revolutionary strategy and that that strategy was in fact employed by the State Security Council?
MR VLOK: Mass mobilisation, counter-mobilisation that forms part of a counter-revolutionary strategy, but what does it actually mean. It doesn't mean to establish certain forces, it means to organise the community politically speaking and that is what we are trying to do and to apply. It had no other meaning.
MR GOOSEN: And is it not so that that political organisation based in communities, assisted covertly by State departments, State structures, that that was based primarily on tensions existing, either between organisations or within communities, is that not correct?
MR VLOK: I am not following your question exactly where you referred to these political organisations which we established, whether they exploited it. I am not quite sure what you have in mind. Would you please clarify it.
MR GOOSEN: The capacity to organise and establish an organisation in any one particular community would depend, would you not agree, on the exploiting of existing tensions such as there may have been in that community, would that be correct?
MR VLOK: Yes a political party uses the existing differences, differences between people and ideologies and views within a community, so that the political parties which we tried to establish they would have exploited the differences in policy, they would have used that.
MR GOOSEN: Would you just give me briefly before I move on to some specific instances what you would define as a political organisation in the circumstances that would then enjoy support as part of the strategy?
MR VLOK: A political party in the normal acceptable sense of the term political party which has a certain policy and canvasses members and gains support for its political policy.
MR GOOSEN: Could you give a concrete example of that?
MR VLOK: I can't think of any political party which we established and which was successful ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: But were there so many that you tried to establish?
MR VLOK: Yes but they weren't successful. I can't give you a name of a political organisation which I can recall now and which we established in this regard.
MR GOOSEN: Would you define the AmaAfrica movement based in Uitenhage, in Cape Town as a political organisation that enjoyed support from the security forces?
MR VLOK: AmaAfrica was one of those groupings in the Eastern Cape which acted in such a way that I had to go and make peace between them and another grouping at a meeting, but whether we established them I don't know.
MR GOOSEN: You see Mr Vlok from the period 1984 right through the remainder of the 1980's one thing that is fairly clear is that in townships right across the country vigilante organisations emerged and were involved in significant clashes with other community organisations in townships across the country.
You mentioned yourself the conflict between the UDF and AZAPO for example in the Eastern Cape.
You were aware of the conflict between AmaAfrica in the Eastern Cape, in Uitenhage and the UDF.
In Somerset East and in Cookhouse protection was provided at the police station for members of the Kekani's and the Memese's, two factions that were involved in clashes with the UDF.
In Worcester similar incidents occurred. In Cape Town there is significant evidence, also heard by this Commission, about direct support for the so-called Witdoeke in KTC in Cape Town in 1986, support which was in fact submitted to you and discussed at the level of the State Security Council.
Can you comment on those particular instances?
MR VLOK: Mr Goosen is now referring to something which I can't comment on, things which happened in Cookhouse and Worcester and so on, it's ten years, no, thirteen years ago, I really can't recall and those documents weren't placed at my disposal.
But what I do know something of is the Witdoeke case. That case actually went to court and there was a court case which I think took two years to complete, but as far as my knowledge goes there was never any proof, beyond all reasonable doubt that the police had supported the Witdoeke. The ultimate outcome of this case was that we had settled out of court and I felt quite pleased about the settlement because we - I am actually saying this against my friends, the legal fraternity, we thought we should rather use the money which we would have spent on legal fees and court fees, we should rather use that money in the community and community organisations made a contribution and a trust fund was established of a couple of million rand so that the people who actually suffered damage, or suffered during the Witdoeke unrest that they could recoup something of that which they lost. That is what I can comment on.
There were many allegations, but as far as I know it was never proved in a court of law, beyond reasonable doubt that the police had supported the Witdoeke.
MR GOOSEN: Is it not so Mr Vlok that in relation to the KTC matter specifically, since you raise the question of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, in terms of Section 6 of the Internal Security Act you in fact signed a certificate which precluded certain evidence being made available to that court?
MR VLOK: Mr Goosen will understand that at this stage I really can't recall whether I signed such a document or not, the document precluding certain evidence from being submitted to court.
MR GOOSEN: Well I put it to you that you in fact did. Mr Vlok the statement that you make, the third paragraph under paragraph 8.3,
"It is, however, in my view not the same as saying that the government or the SAP actually supported such a faction".
Would you agree with me in the light of the clear instances suggesting that it was in fact a component of policy of the former government to provide "real support" to factions and/or organisations to serve as a foil against the revolutionary forces, that that statement that you have made in your submission is in fact not correct?
MR VLOK: Let me say that Mr Goosen has now referred to the documentation which I apparently signed, now if you want me to give any kind of considered comment on that then maybe you should give me those documents and I can get back to the Committee on that.
Secondly, he has referred to the sentence -
"...that is however not the same as saying the government or the SAP gave real support to those factions".
I want to deny that there was a policy, policy from the authorities to actually go and support these people. Plans were submitted such as the one that you actually read in which it possibly could have been done and that could have been accepted as part of a plan, but it appears here under surrogate forces that the government had a policy to actually support surrogate forces, of that I have no knowledge and I don't think such a thing ever happened in my time.
MR GOOSEN: But you go further in that paragraph, you don't only deal with surrogate forces, you deal with factions, you deal with clearly the question as to whether in principle the State supported opposing factions or not and it is a matter of policy that - it is a fact that it was policy to support opposing factions for very specific purposes, not so?
MR VLOK: Can we just untangle this. Once again I said that there was no policy that people who were involved in surrogate forces or that that got any government support. As far as other factions, as Mr Goosen pointed out in this Defence Force document, to organise politically, perhaps if you then want to see that as policy as the document says, perhaps then it can be accepted that funds were made available for purposes of establishing political organisations. But those are then political organisations and not surrogate forces.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok as Minister of Law and Order were you conscious of the fact that in response to conflict situations in and amongst communities that government spokespeople consistently referred to that as so-called black-on-black violence?
MR VLOK: The term or phrase black-on-black violence was indeed used, that is so. But it is true that in our country we had black-on-black violence, that is true.
MR GOOSEN: Is it your testimony that as far as you are concerned it was not at any point the policy of government or the security forces to foster so-called black-on-black violence in communities?
MR VLOK: Not as far as I am aware, it was not policy as far as my knowledge goes and it was never propagated or encouraged by myself and I want to put it like that, it did take place, it's unfortunate that it took place and at the moment it is still happening. Let us be very honest with one another. What is happening in KwaZulu Natal it's a tragedy and it's mainly this type of situation once again repeating itself and the fact that the government was involved in this I have no knowledge of that and I deny that I was involved in that in any way.
MR GOOSEN: Do I take it then that you are suggesting that where support was in fact provided to different factions within a particular community and where in consequence of that support conflict in that community was fostered, black-on-black violence was fostered, that that again would be a misinterpretation of the intentions of the State Security Council?
MR VLOK: If we are talking about political factions, and it seems to me that that is what Mr Goosen has in mind, it is true that there was conflict between political parties but there were also clashes amongst and between white political factions which we had nothing to do with. The National Party, the AWB, the CP etc they were also engaged in a political battle and we had a war of words sometimes, but we also had battled, struggled with each other in other ways. In the black community, for instance we might have helped to establish a political party, I can't even recall whether there were any that were successful and if they had conflict amongst each other and if things went wrong that does not mean that we had foreseen that. Perhaps we should have. But we had tried to establish a political organisation which could assist in counter-mobilisation on a political level, to find a different political solution in South Africa.
MR GOOSEN: If support was provided by members of the police to the Witdoeke in KTC in 1986, and I think the Commission has heard substantial evidence in that regard, let's assume for the moment that support was provided, either in the form of not taking action against the Witdoeke when they launched attacks on other members of the community or by actively supporting them, providing of funds and other forms of support, would you say that the policemen that were involved in rendering that support that they were misinterpreting the policy of the State Security Council in regard to contra-mobilisation?
MR VLOK: But with respect Mr Goosen is now submitting to me speculation that if it can be proved that the police had helped the Witdoeke, and Mr Goosen then continues by saying that we'd heard evidence, I told you that this Witdoeke case I think spent two or three years in the Cape Supreme Court and as far as I am aware it was never proved that the South African Police had indeed supported the Witdoeke as Mr Goosen now alleges. So if he puts it to me in that way I must say that is speculation because it was never proved. So I can't answer the question.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok with respect you can answer the question and it's not too far-fetched speculation. The question is, if it were to be established, if it were to be established that policemen were in fact supporting the Witdoeke in KTC then, on the basis of your testimony today, you would say that those people must have misinterpreted the policy guidelines set out by the State Security Council in respect of contra-mobilisation, is that correct or not?
MR VLOK: But with respect Mr Chairperson Mr Goosen wants me to react to speculation and to make a statement. I have explained to you what the facts were in the Witdoeke case and that's as far as I can go.
MR GOOSEN: But with respect Mr Vlok significant portions of your presentation yesterday is based on speculation. You say if a policemen interpreted what I said to mean that I gave an instruction to kill well I can understand it because perhaps I must accept responsibility for that. That's exactly what I am asking you to do to address the question. You've done it repeatedly in your submission.
MR VLOK: I also added that if it is proved in their amnesty applications that they misunderstood it like that, so if Mr Goosen would give me that proof, and it's been tested then I can perhaps have a look at it and then I can answer the question.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok no, you commented on what would be a - whether a particular interpretation would be acceptable or not without and prior to proof. I am asking you to do exactly the same in respect of this particular situation.
MR VISSER: Mr Chairman I foresee a misunderstanding here. Perhaps if I may be allowed just to advise my client I think we might be able to move along. I think he doesn't understand the question correctly Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: I thought it was a very straightforward question, I mean you understand the words, but that is what lawyers are paid for, make us understand things that are straightforward. Thank you very much. (General laughter)
MR VISSER: Thank you for assuming that I am getting paid Mr Chairman. (Laughter)
Thank you Mr Chairman.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Chairperson. I have always known that you are a fair man, I have received good advice and I can tell Mr Goosen, if it is proved, and this is speculation, but if you can give me the proof, if it can be proved that they helped then I would say, or I can say that they acted outside the scope of their powers and then we will have to go and look at their demarcated areas, their powers and competencies and I cannot say anything more about that.
MR GOOSEN: Does it flow from that that in all circumstances in which members of the security forces, in particular the Police, were involved in the provision of support, support used in the broad sense, either by not acting or by acting in favour of one particular - that in all circumstances in which that occurred those policemen would have been acting outside of the scope of the authorisation provided by the policy in respect of contra-mobilisation?
MR VLOK: It was a policeman's duty and responsibility to act whenever there was a situation of law and order that had to be maintained. If somebody broke the law then he had to act, and if they didn't do that then they actually contravened their own rules. That's the first point.
If they were given guidelines such as for instance the plan drafted for counter-mobilisation action, and there must have been detailed plans, and they went outside the boundaries of those approved plans and according to which they had to work, then they also acted outside their authority and powers but I am not aware of that.
MR GOOSEN: And then that would have been based on a misinterpretation of the policy guidelines of the State Security Council?
MR VLOK: I don't know what actually went through his mind when he did that. He stood there and he thought well perhaps those people who are fighting are my friends I mustn't do anything. That's wrong, he should have acted. If he exceeded his authority and acted in that way then that was also wrong.
MR GOOSEN: So in respect of KTC specifically did you or did you not know that members of the South African Police acted in support of the Witdoeke in KTC?
MR VLOK: There have been many allegations about Witdoeke and KTC. The case also went to court for three years and I never saw any proof and our settlement agreement was also, without any - done on the basis that there was no acknowledgement of guilt. On that basis it was done.
MR GOOSEN: But Mr Vlok that's not really answering the question. You see you can adopt a posture which says I will wait for someone else to prove the case. You are entitled for example in a court of law to plead not guilty even though you know that you are guilty, but I am asking you did you know or did you not know that the South African Police supported Witdoeke in KTC?
MR VLOK: When the Witdoeke unrest took place I was deputy minister, I became Minister afterwards, and at no stage I had any knowledge of any assistance by the South African Police to the Witdoeke.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok I want to move to another aspect, sort of picking up on where we were yesterday. I want to refer you to page 11 of your submission. Let me say at the outset that as I understand your submission you say that with the benefit of hindsight you accept that certain unlawful actions were committed by members of the Police and that they may have believed that they had the necessary authorisation for that. That's the general thrust of it. Yesterday I did ask you questions as to whether it was ever the position that unlawful actions were ever countenanced as part of the arsenal to use in counter-revolutionary efforts and you indicated that that was not the case. Now I want to refer you to a few paragraphs in your submission, paragraph 3.7.7. you indicate there -
"It is my sincere conviction that the politicians of the day had already, by the mid-eighties, come to realise as I thought, that the revolutionary onslaught would not be averted simply by making use of legal security action and that the only real hope for peace was a negotiated political peace. This was manifested by the introduction and establishment of the tricameral Parliament on 17 September 1984".
If I understand you correctly what you are saying in that paragraph is there was recognition that security force action was insufficient to deal with the revolutionary onslaught, and what was also needed in addition to security force action was a process of political settlement if you like. Can I ask you then, why do you use the words "merely by making use of legal security action"?
MR VLOK: That is exactly what it says, by making use of legal security operations and actions. If we wanted to stem the revolutionary onslaught, other than by a political solution, we would have had to use extra legal methods. It meant nothing more and I didn't intend to convey anything more than that.
MR GOOSEN: So there's not suggestion there, if I understand you correctly that you are distinguishing between legal security action and illegal security action?
MR VLOK: That is correct. No security action could have actually countered the situation, a political solution had to be sought.
MR GOOSEN: Can I refer you at page 14 to paragraph 3.7.11. You say -
"In an attempt to promote stability in relative peace the further instrument of emergency regulations was established by the announcement of a state of emergency, and that was put at the disposal of the security fraternity, but at best it could only be preventative in the short term. But it was already clear at a very early stage that the revolutionary onslaught would not be stemmed by this alone.
These measures also did not enable the security forces to by means of a legal and lawful action to prevent the violence and unrest on the ground and to normalise the situation.
To put it briefly if the revolution could have been stemmed or stopped by means of arrests, legal action, detentions, bannings and court actions then that would have been a different story".
Do I take that to mean solely that beyond these actions, "arrests, detentions, bannings and court actions" that what you are saying was required is a political solution .....(tape ends)
MR VLOK: ..the explanation which I gave as to the view of the security forces, we used all the tools and instruments in our hands to act legally against revolutionaries. But that by itself was not sufficient. We had to seek a different and another solution and that is why we pressed for a political settlement to solve the problem.
MR GOOSEN: So there's no suggestion there that there is also the option of unlawful security police action?
MR VLOK: I want to deny vehemently that there is any such suggestion to be read into this that we would also have used illegal action to resolve the situation.
MR GOOSEN: Then at page 18, paragraph 5.7 you say -
"As a result of the already mentioned phenomenon court actions became less and less of an option due to the necessary disclosure of the identities of informers which it often caused even during in camera proceedings in many cases it was easy for the accused to work out by a process of elimination who had conveyed the information to the South African Police as a result of which he was arraigned".
Again there do I take it that you're saying that those were just the problems experienced with proceeding to deal with matters in court, that there is no suggestion implicit in that that other non or unlawful means would have to be resorted to in these circumstances?
MR VLOK: That is correct. We experienced increasing problems to find witnesses who were willing to testify in court and once again this does not imply that we simply had to turn to illegal actions. The emphasis is once again on seeking of a political solution and then you solve the entire problem.
MR GOOSEN: Then just to refer you to paragraph 6.15 on page 22 of your submission, and it's a summary of what really appears beforehand, I'll just read that.
"Allow me, however, to place the case in the correct perspective. Although it became clearer with each passing day that the South African Police had sometimes in the past acted illegally this only happened as a matter of exception".
That's correct, that is your position?
MR VLOK: That's correct.
MR GOOSEN: That where unlawful actions were carried out these were exceptions to the rule?
MR VLOK: That's correct.
MR GOOSEN: And never authorised, may have been misinterpreted but never specifically authorised that unlawful actions should take place? I am not talking about authorised at a lower level, I am talking about authorised at the highest level, State Security Council and so on.
MR VLOK: Yes, but I must add the rider - I explained yesterday what could have happened as a result of Stratcom actions and that was authorised by us. So I must be very honest with you it was authorised by us that certain Stratcom actions could be executed and if that gave rise to these things then, as I said yesterday, I must accept the responsibility for that. I may just say that I am applying for amnesty for some of these incidents in which I was involved personally and for those in which I was not involved I put it in my amnesty application that the Committee must actually assist me because I don't know where these things could have taken place.
MR GOOSEN: But it is essence your position that unlawful actions carried out by the Police were "exceptions"?
MR VLOK: With this proviso that I have just given you.
MR GOOSEN: Yes, accepted. Now Mr Vlok the Truth Commission has received amnesty applications from two former Commissioners of Police; the heads of the Security Police; the head of C Sections, D Sections, right through the period from 1980 through to 1990, early 1990's; has received amnesty applications from security policemen based at Security Police headquarters, branch levels within the divisional branches, local security branch members, I might be open to correction, all but one of the commanders of the Vlakplaas Unit from 1979 through until when it was disbanded in 1992, scores and scores of security policemen have applied for amnesty in respect of unlawful activity. Is it your view that all of those instances reflect "exceptions"?
MR VLOK: It is difficult to actually say scores, I don't know how many there were, but I want to say this and this links up with a comment somebody made yesterday relating to the large numbers of policemen involved in these things, I tried to make enquiries as to how many policemen had applied for amnesty and my information was that it wasn't more than a 150. You will know how many actually applied. But these things to which Mr Goosen is now referring took place over decades. There were more than 100,000 policemen in the force who actually worked with these things and who could have been involved in illegal actions, and 150 actually applying for amnesty let me say this, one person killed or one death is one death too many. That is my view of death as a result of a policeman's action, and one illegal action is one too many. That is my view and nobody should doubt that.
But if I say to you that 150 policemen possibly applied for amnesty out of a total of more than 100,000 then that is a percentage of ,05 or ,01 I am not quite sure, but I think then I am justified in saying that that happened purely by exception, and I have to state that once again so that there's no misunderstanding that one exception as far as I am concerned was one exception too many.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok the amnesty applications relate to incidents which date back to the early 1970's right through to the 1990's concern unlawful activities involving torture, assaults, murders, bombings and a range of other activities. In respect of amnesty applications where people seek amnesty for torture the indication that they state in their amnesty application that torture and assaults on detainees were systematic, right across the board. How do you account for the fact that right across the country, across all sections and particularly the Security Police, there is a systematic misinterpretation of policy directives emanating from the State Security Council and senior echelons of government?
MR VLOK: I am in a difficult position here, it's difficult to answer for what they did. I think they will all appear before you or before the Amnesty Committee and they will have to explain why they did what they did. I never knew that they were torturing these people and I never approved it because there was never any report which appeared on my desk saying that we tortured Mr X and he gave us certain information, or that we killed somebody and we went and buried him. That's why I said yesterday in my submission I am sorry that this happened, I now realise what happened and I can't close my eyes for the reality. You and Mr Goosen have more information at your disposal about these things than I ever had and what was always said to me was there was certain information obtained, I just got a little information note or memo and never was there knowledge contained in that that anybody had been tortured or killed.
I said yesterday that we should have done more to try and prevent it, we didn't do enough and I can say no more than that.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok I can - we'll come to the question about information in due course. The thrust of my question is simply this. It's your position that certain policy directives were issued, approaches to combat the revolution were approved, those could have been misinterpreted, it was never intended that certain unlawful actions should flow from it, but what we see is systematic pattern of unlawful activity, systematic misinterpretation right across the board, unlawful activities being carried out. How can you account for the fact that policemen, senior policemen, commissioners of police right the way down to divisional level can systemically misinterpret instructions?
MR VLOK: I want to reiterate, Mr Goosen is in a better position to say that it was systematic. I don't know. In my time it wasn't obvious, it wasn't put before me and I will accept what he says, I am not disputing this. All I can say is that I never approved it and it was never brought to my attention that there was evidence about these things. And where there were cases where these things were revealed people were actually taken to court, they were charged and justice took its course, and that is still my position to this day, that I didn't approve it, I didn't know that they were actually engaged in these activities and when we found it out, when and where we found it out we charged people. That's why I said, if these things happened I am sorry that it happened and I must accept the responsibility for that because I was the political head.
CHAIRPERSON: Just wait - Dr Boraine.
DR BORAINE: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Vlok you have answered that you certainly never gave any orders or instructions, if some of these things were happening and were systematic, we've got many, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of victims, survivors who testified before the Commission, and let me say immediately these are untested allegations, accept that, but when they come from all over the country and they repeat, and many of them are very simple people, of incidences which happened to them or to their family or to their friends or to their loved ones, together with - and a lot of people were very sceptical when those first hearings were held, now to back that up we've got scores, let me just put it no higher than that, of applications from people who worked in the security forces and often their application deals with many and not one incident.
I recall, certainly inside and outside of Parliament, allegations made on the basis of complaints received in one's normal work that torture was taking place in prisons, churches, civil rights groups, yes, even some opposition politicians were approached by families who said, you know, they've come back there's blood all over their shirt, or they are hurt or they are wounded or they are dead, many, many people's voices were raised, many books were written, many articles were written, now as a responsible Minister, and I don't want to single out you alone because there were many other people and you were only there for a specific period of time, but you are here before us and they are not at the moment, if, if - you must have heard some of this. You must have, because you were there and I was there in part, did you ever set up an investigation saying this is absolutely forbidden, unacceptable and therefore I am going to have a judicial commission to investigate allegations of torture which appear to be systematic. In other words they just weren't freak occurrences they seemed to be happening all over the country. Did you ever do that?
MR VLOK: Let me say immediately we often heard of this, often heard allegations in this regard relating to this type of conduct, people had been tortured, those allegations were made daily in the courts, daily in criminal cases these allegations were made where people charged with a certain offence said I was tortured to actually extract this confession from me, but the system worked in such a way that in those specific cases the court dealt with it there and then. So I just want to say that we heard it, we weren't deaf, we actually heard those allegations and I was worried at the time when I was there, but what did we do about it? In each case we requested a report. We wanted to know what the exact facts were and I answered questions in Parliament. But once again we received the report from the department because let us not forget that these allegations made were made primarily by people from a certain quarter and we saw them as the opposition. We actually still referred to them as the enemy in those days, the enemy was saying this, that and the other.
And yesterday I told you that we were inundated with propaganda from those quarters and we said here's something which doesn't look quite right, let us investigate it internally and a report would be drafted in the department and it would be conveyed back to me, to the Minister. I would have a look at it, and I talked about it often in Parliament. My former colleague often attacked us on this, he would often say that he had certain information and he believed that it was correct.
I want to say that this information which has been revealed, and I am glad you said that it was untested, this information may be true but it's very disturbing to me that it actually happened, that it possibly happened. These things are now being revealed, things which we never knew about, but at that stage we heard these allegations, we were concerned about it and we requested reports on it and we received reports on these matters. Inquests were held in cases where people died and we also received those inquest reports. So it wasn't as if we just left the matters, we actually dealt with them, we tried to deal with it. I admitted yesterday that I don't think we did enough in those days to actually see to it that those things don't happen.
And I want to add I was involved in certain occasions when two former commissioners of police actually spoke to people, and this is now General Johan Coetzee and Johan van der Merwe, both of those emphasised the fact that allegations and rumours were made public that we were assaulting people and torturing people and they told them directly that is not on, it mustn't happen, because it's unnecessary. Operate within the law. And I can testify to being present when two of them on different occasions said that those allegations are being made and that is not acceptable to us. Now these things happened on the ground and once again I am saying how was that to be conveyed to me? It could only have been conveyed to me by these two commissioners. Nobody else told me from those quarters, it came from different quarters as well as I said to Mr Lax yesterday, but those people, the last mentioned group, we actually regarded as the enemy and we didn't really listen to them.
DR BORAINE: Chairperson just a - thank you very much. A couple of comments. One, I referred to the testimonies before the Commission from victim/survivors as untested allegations, I think it's very different when people actually come and acknowledge and stand under oath and say I did this. So the one may well be corroborating the other, not in every instance I accept. But the other comment is, what seems to have been happening then, that despite many voices whom you assumed was just being propagandistic or being anti-government or enemies or whatever, despite that, actions were taken, looked at and one can only conclude that at the very highest level and right down the line people were lying to you because clearly now they are coming to say they did do this, not we are saying it, not the Commission, not even the victims, the people themselves describe as you have read in the newspapers and watched on television, heard on radio, in graphic terms of the most horrendous torture and killings. Now that was going on then, it wasn't going on now. So the only explanation I can draw from what you have said to me now and to the Commission is that all these people who were responsible and who now admit that were lying to you.
MR VLOK: That is correct. The group of people who were involved in this kind of thing, you must remember we need to have the right perspective, they didn't inform me about it. It's as simple as that.
CHAIRPERSON: I don't want to let him miss out but just hold on to your line. Dumisa you had one - are you letting us pass. Let us pass. Wynand.
MR MALAN: It's extremely important for me that we should find an explanation somewhere as to how these things happened. Now let us assume, and I am not saying that we are going to make a finding on it, but let's just assume that you never received a report on your desk which said we did this and that, that you never received that, but you heard many, received many complaints, allegations and charges all of which indicated that a certain thing had been done. You know that the public perception of people, even if it was amongst the opposition or the enemy, was such that many questions were asked about the security forces and management of security forces, I am talking about National Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Security Police, because the fingers pointed to those quarters, you are saying there were no commissions of inquiry, you asked for reports and you received reports.
Now in the light of that background would it be unreasonable to say that in those days and under that government, I am specifically referring to Mr P W Botha's government, that there was an atmosphere and a culture of - or perhaps I can illustrate it best with a quote, one of your former colleagues made it during an interview, he said -
"P W created an atmosphere within which he showed little concern about the activities of the security forces and he certainly expected no-one in Cabinet to do so".
I am giving you this quote, but my question is actually this - is it not true that it was actually an untouchable element? We don't touch it, we don't investigate it, these are professional people who know what they are doing and they are responsible for safety and security, wasn't there a culture like that which applied in those days? This is a scenario which I am drawing up from information and experience of those times. I'd like your comment.
MR VLOK: Chairperson I hear what Commissioner Malan said about this possibility, and I must say quite honestly that during my time in Cabinet I can't say in all honesty that we were untouchable, at no stage.
MR MALAN: I am sorry that is not my allegation. Forget about the word untouchable, but the expectation was that there would be no interference by politicians in the work of the security forces, that is actually the charge.
MR VLOK: No Chairperson Mr Botha did not create that culture or atmosphere. Yes, he was on the side of the security fraternity because he believed that they would maintain order and that they would prop up the governing party whilst the negotiations were taking place, so I can't deny that he was strongly in favour of the security forces, and that he also held his hand over them. That I can't deny. But there was never an opportunity for any of us, or to say that there was never an opportunity for any of us to ask questions about National Intelligence, Security Police etc, that certainly was not demonstrated by him. On the contrary he asked very trenchant questions about what was happening and he said you must look at this and that because it's not fair and not right. That is my experience of Mr P W Botha as President.
MR MALAN: I have a third question. Can you recall, or was it your experience that some of your colleagues in Cabinet, in the caucus, ever shared their concerns with you regarding the public perception, did they ever say to you look what is actually happening? Were you ever challenged by any of your colleagues or did you ever challenge the President and say look there have to be investigations, something is seriously amiss?
MR VLOK: I have to be very honest in saying that I was never confronted by any colleague who said that look on this point we need serious investigation. Colleagues did voice their serious concerns about police conduct, I can perhaps mention Pik Botha's name. On certain occasions he said to me the conduct of the police in this and that case really damaged our image abroad. That he would say to me. Colleague Chris Heunis, former colleague Chris Heunis and later Dr Gerrit Viljoen also on occasions said to me the conduct of the police in detaining people has seriously damaged or made more difficult the process of negotiations, and then we would have a discussion on that. But they did not come to me and say look there are certain rumours that there is something serious amiss, no that did not happen.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. Yasmin.
MS SOOKA: I just want to check with you in terms of the response you made to Dr Boraine, would you say that at the very top, at the rank of generals, there could be less likelihood of a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of what policy was?
MR VLOK: At the State Security Council meeting usually there would be present the commissioner ...(intervention)
MS SOOKA: But there would be less likelihood of a misinterpretation between the two of you.
MR VLOK: Ja ...(intervention)
MS SOOKA: You see why I ask this question ...(intervention)
MR VISSER: Why can't the witness just respond to the question Mr Chairman, with respect.
CHAIRPERSON: Give him a chance. Continue.
MR VLOK: I want to say that the system operated in such a way that it was usually only the Commissioner who had sitting at the State Security Council meetings. Sometimes some of the other people, if you look at the minutes, you will see that it was only the Commissioner who was present there, so he knew what the agenda was and what was discussed, but the other generals, the other members of the top structure, the generals and the brigadiers they also weren't present, so they would also not have been able to hear the discussion, so they could also have misinterpreted those words.
MS SOOKA: It's just that it's quite clear that right at the top rank, they've applied for amnesty, now I go back to the question which Mr Malan put to you yesterday, surely there should have been sufficient trust between you and the top-ranking generals for them not to lie to you? But it's very clear now, from what you've said, that they must have lied.
MR VLOK: It's not only clear from what I've said, one of these people who are applying for amnesty for a specific incident in which he admits that the Minister wasn't informed and you know which case I am referring to. I don't want to mention names. So it's not only my perception, it wasn't only my admission to say that I wasn't informed about everything. They are saying it themselves that they didn't inform me on everything.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Glen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Perhaps just to follow-up on that element, do I understand you correctly Mr Vlok that the first line of misinterpretation then would have been at the level of the Commissioner of the Police, and that the further and subsequent misinterpretations would flow from that because the Commissioner of Police is responsible for conveying the decisions taken at the level of State Security Council through to the operational structures?
MR VLOK: The first line of misinterpretation, if you are saying that it went from me to him, well it didn't work that way. The documents which we discussed and which we looked at, the documents of the State Security Council, well the Commissioner of Police was a member of that Council so he heard the discussions, so he couldn't have misinterpreted my words or instructions. He must have done it in turn down the line of command.
MR GOOSEN: Yes, but that's the point. I mean you are saying that everyone that participated in discussions at the level of the State Security Council could not have misinterpreted, okay, they didn't misinterpret, the intention was clear, everyone then immediately below that level now I take it you are saying below the level of Commissioner, immediately below the level of Commissioner, responsible for implementation, the first line of misinterpretation, that's where responsibility lies, is that correct?
MR VLOK: No, no, let us be very specific, let us look at the specific case. Did the Commissioner attend that meeting? Did he know what the discussion was about? If he wasn't there then that was a possibility that he could have misinterpreted it. If he was there then he formed part of the discussion and then he knew what the intention was.
MR GOOSEN: The effect of that is this extraordinary fire-wall between you, as the Minister, and the politicians and paid functionaries of the department, commissioners, there is an epic gap between what is understood by the police as an operational structure and the politicians. So we've got to go to determine whether the Commissioner was there or not, if the Commissioner was not there possibly he misinterpreted the instruction, that accounts for a whole spate of unlawful activity that then flows in consequence of that. Why is there this unbreachable wall between the politicians and the operatives responsible on the ground?
MR VLOK: With respect I don't see that there was a wall between us but we functioned within a certain system. You had the Minister and then the next person in line was the Commissioner and the Commissioner attended certain of the meetings and documentation was drafted by people and decisions were taken and certain words were used and this was then conveyed to the people lower down. And I have already said to you that the command structure from the operative on the ground as far as up to me, that went through the channels, the sergeant, the warrant officer, the lieutenant, the captain, the major and then the colonel, the brigadier and the general. That was the chain of command. There was no other way in which the operative on the ground could have sent me any kind of information. He couldn't have phoned me and said look this is what we did. It just simply didn't work that way.
So I can't agree with you that there was a wall, but in this chain of command certain misinterpretations of what we intended at the top, that did take place. It wasn't a wall, but there was a structure and a channel that was followed.
MR GOOSEN: And the schema of your submission maintains that the persons responsible, in real terms, you accept moral responsibility and you accept responsibility for the misinterpretation, I understand that, and you do that as an individual, but in essence the people responsible for leading the South African Police down a wrong path, are those people outside of the sphere of responsibility of the politicians. That's in effect what you are saying, not so?
MR VLOK: No, I think Mr Goosen has lost me somewhere along the way because that's not what I said. I said that we at the top took certain decisions and we used terminology without actually really thinking about it and that worked its way through to the people on the ground and they misinterpreted it, and for that I accept responsibility. I should have seen to it that those misinterpretations couldn't arise. I can't go further than that.
But I have to say to you that there was this structure and there was a certain chain of command which operated both ways. So the instructions which I received and which I conveyed to the Commissioner and which he then conveyed all the way down to the man on the ground, in the same way as I have to take responsibility for that, and I am applying for amnesty, so each individual must take responsibility for the way he misinterpreted certain words and he must adduce proof to the Amnesty Committee, and then there's no point of dispute between us, then we actually agree.
I simply raised as a possibility that I must accept as the responsible Minister that we used terminology which was capable of misinterpretation but they still have to prove that that in fact happened.
MR GOOSEN: But the misunderstanding then arises because of the system that you had, you are saying that you and your Cabinet colleagues could never have misunderstood what was intended, you could never have and you didn't. The people who did misunderstand were those who were not party to the State Security Council decision-making. Everybody outside that system, those are the people who made the mistake, is that correct?
MR VLOK: We who were in the Cabinet could also have misunderstood but then we didn't have any excuses because we actually sat there. We heard the discussion. But the operative on the ground in Pofadder who had to actually carry out these instructions he had no idea what we discussed, so I think he has a reason for saying look that's the way I understood it, because that is the normal meaning of the word.
MR GOOSEN: You can then on the basis of your scheme as to how one understands responsibility here, you have two people pointing at one another and responsibility falls somewhere in-between, not so?
MR VLOK: I am not following the question.
MR GOOSEN: The very simple reason that the persons who made the mistakes are not the politicians, not the people responsible for formulating the policy, everybody else made the mistake.
MR VLOK: I don't agree with you at all. Yesterday I admitted that we made mistakes. Pik Botha also said the same, he admitted making mistakes. I really must say, Chairperson, Mr Goosen and I are not understanding each other properly because I in fact admitted that we made mistakes.
MR GOOSEN: Yes the mistakes that you admitted to Mr Vlok were mistakes in not doing sufficient, not taking sufficient steps, not now with the benefit of hindsight, with the benefit of hindsight you can turn back and you can see what happened and you can say well we were mistaken. That's the mistake you admit to. You don't admit to making any mistake at the point at which you formulated the policy.
MR VLOK: With respect I admitted that formulation was an error, I said that. And I said that as a result of the use of certain words that certain Stratcom actions which flowed from that were perhaps illegal and I admitted that. So with respect I have to say it's not only the people on the ground who made mistakes, I also made mistakes. We as politicians also made mistakes, I can't speak on anybody else's behalf, I am speaking personally and I can say yes, I made mistakes, I admitted it and for the mistake that I made I am now asking for amnesty.
MR GOOSEN: But you never intended, you never intended that unlawful action should occur ...(intervention)
MR VLOK: That's right.
MR GOOSEN: Every unlawful action that occurred was as a result of a mistake.
MR VLOK: Not every one ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: ...a misunderstanding.
MR VLOK: Not every one. I tried to explain the exception that one of the Stratcom actions from which certain things could flow we perhaps thought it was an illegal instruction but we foresaw that certain illegal things could flow from that. So you mustn't see it in its nicely rounded off finality ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: Give me an example of the Stratcom action then - approved ...(intervention)
MR VLOK: The Chairperson gave me an example yesterday, we distributed a pamphlet about somebody who lived in a certain town and we told lies about him and the community became angry with him and they burnt down his house. That is an example. And I've accepted responsibility for that.
CHAIRPERSON: Could I just ask one tiny question, one small question. When you accept, I think, moral responsibility, what does that mean? Does that mean - no I shouldn't put - I shouldn't make it a leading question, here is a policeman who has misunderstood your instruction and killed somebody and acted bona fide and you say you accept responsibility, what does that mean?
MR VLOK: I am actually sorry that you didn't ask a leading question because then you would have helped me because our Ministers are the people who actually deal with morality so now I am a little bit in trouble. But as I understand it I can't run away from those occasions where somebody, as a result of my action, as a result of misunderstanding my words, committed an offence. I am morally obliged to stand by him and to say I accept moral and political responsibility.
CHAIRPERSON: What would that mean? Sorry, I am just, I mean being slow thinkers ...(intervention)
MR VLOK: Normally a politician...
CHAIRPERSON: ....in a court of law what status would that statement have? I mean here is a person who has committed a murder because they have misunderstood your instructions and you say I, not he, I take moral responsibility, what does that mean?
MR VLOK: Actually I can't answer that, I don't know what it would mean in a court of law. I must be very honest. But here we are busy with reconciliation in the Commission and reconciliation is based on morality and on moral values, I have to say to you that for me it means that I can't distance myself from these people, that I must accept joint responsibility, political and moral responsibility.
MR GOOSEN: Would it not be so that in circumstances where you foresaw that unlawful actions might be, might flow from policies approved by you or instructions given by you that you would in fact bear criminal liability in the event of those unlawful actions occurring?
MR VLOK: I don't know. You would have to go and look at the specific incident to see whether those things actually arose. In general it may be so but I don't know.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok we were speaking earlier about - protection I think wasn't the word that was used, but the culture of, if you like, impunity, and you indicated that that was not the case, there was no culture of impunity created. Is it not so that senior structures of the police, operational structures of the police over almost a thirty year period totally dominated by members that come from the Security Police? I can give you specific examples that since General van den Berg was head of the Police only one of the Commissioners in that time, from then through to now, well not in the current period of course, through until the early 1990's only one of those Commissioners was not a head of the Security Police.
MR VLOK: I can't remember exactly who the commissioners of police were but the period for which I accept responsibility, it was General Coetzee, he was at the Security Branch before he became commissioner. After him came General de Witt, he was the commissioner, he wasn't a member of the Security Branch and after him came General van der Merwe. So in my time two out of three were involved previously in the Security Branch. But at the appointment of a Commissioner of Police in which I was involved on two occasions, the fact that they came from the security establishment and from the security police, that did not play a role in his appointment. What did play a role was, I was asked, is this man a government supporter, and as I said yesterday, I think that 99 or perhaps 95 percent of the policemen, and amongst those the security policemen who were involved more in politics, were supporters of the previous government and that played a role, that was taken into consideration.
MR GOOSEN: It's extraordinary that over almost a 30 year period, only one commissioner, Commissioner De Witt did not come from a Security Police background.
MR VLOK: Yes but I have to point out that I don't know who the previous commissioners were over a period of 30 years. I can only refer to the five year period for which I took responsibility.
MR GOOSEN: In the period in which you were a minister, first deputy and then subsequently minister, is it not so, I accept you wont comment on the period prior to that, is it not so that the security police within the police enjoyed a special position.
MR VLOK: We never had the feeling that the security police were the cream of the crop as far as the police force were concerned. All components of the force were important in my view but it is true that the people who went to the security police were selected people. If we look at the reality once again, whom were they working with and whom were they working against? I want to stress that we should not take current situation's into consideration but look back at how things were then. The clever people worked there such as also in the Fraud Branch, people who had to investigate moneys stolen etc, at the Detective Branch there were intelligent people but it's a fact that the security police had to deal with very intelligent people, so these were hand picked people who went there and who did that work but they weren't only hand picked and selected people, because those people also did the kind of jobs that normal policemen did. They had to infiltrate certain organisations and adapt to the milieu in which they were working. So you had people from all walks of life and levels within the Security Branch. It may be that there might have been such a perception in the force that this was the elite and they were the cream, but in my book this was not the case.
MR GOOSEN: Is it not so that the security police within the police structure, in fact had licence to engage in systematic unlawful activity?
MR VLOK: No I deny that vehemently. No member of the South African Police had licence to act illegally.
MR GOOSEN: You see Mr Vlok you indicate that unlawful actions were specifically authorised in some instances, we're not going to go into the details of those, you've indicated that you've applied for amnesty in relation to those, we won't deal with that. And you've indicated that unlawful action may have been in consequence of a misinterpretation and you also accept that unlawful action may have been ratified ex post factor in a sense, sanctioned if you like, you don't use the word sanctioned. Let me refer you to page 29 of your submission, the third paragraph where you say circumstances where there might have been a misinterpretation of things that you might have said. And then you say,
"The same goes to some extent as far as the apparent ratification of illegal actions by policemen during the struggle is concerned", and you go on to talk about awards an commendations that in certain circumstances where you visited units and made awards and gave various talks, that you accept may have been interpreted by those people as ratification of unlawful actions that they had engaged in and which gave to them receiving some of those awards. Is it not so that ratification also stems from another source, namely the covering up of the involvement of security force members in unlawful activity by senior police officers? Do you agree with that?
MR VLOK: No I would like to point out that in my submission the key word as far as the stratification is concerned, the word apparent, I had apparently or ostensibly ratified it and the person gained the impression that I ratified it. I never ratified it as such, he never told me that he'd done x, y an z and I said yes I've approved. So that is the key word ostensible and I've explained how it happened.
MR GOOSEN: But you are now with the benefit of hindsight, you are aware that there are instances in which the involvement of security police members in unlawful activity was in fact covered up by senior members of the police including at the very highest level in the police. Is that not correct?
MR VLOK: If you refer to the specific case which I have in mind, yes I don't know of a general cover-up attempt by anybody, but in that specific case there was, or the correct information was not conveyed to me and in that respect, for that incident, I must agree.
MR GOOSEN: No we know, i'm not going to get into the detail of it but there is an amnesty application relating to the disappearance of a particular individual where a very senior member of the police service is in fact involved, knew the circumstances, knew that the security forces were involved in unlawful activity and in fact ensured that the security police members involved should not be brought to book. But you would also be aware of other instances that have arisen in consequence of amnesty applications that was in fact the case, not so?
MR VLOK: No I'm not aware of that. I don't know what is stated in these amnesty applications, I just gathered what I did from the media, I can't refer to specific incidents because I don't have the information and that is why I had to speak quite generally because it may be, as Mr Goosen has said, that there were such cases but I have no knowledge of the detail.
MR GOOSEN: I'm not going to get into the detail of it but I mean that particular instance involved not just the disappearance but it involved questions around torture as well, not so?
MR VLOK: No the only case which I have in mind is that one case of a person who disappeared and where certain information was submitted to me which now appears not to have been correct. I don't know about any further information.
MR GOOSEN: Covering up, when we talk about covering up, we're talking about the appointment of a police investigator whose principle function is in fact not to investigate, to make sure that there is insufficient evidence available to establish that security force members who were involved with the unlawful activity are ever brought to book. That's what we mean when we talk about a covering up, you would agree with that?
MR VLOK: No the investigations which took place in these cases where there were allegations against a member of South African police were not done by somebody from the same section as the policeman under suspicion. In other words if there were allegations against a policeman in the Security Branch, then the Detective Branch would be given the instruction to investigate and not the Security Branch.
MR GOOSEN: No I just wanted to make sure that we understand one another when we talk about a covering up. You know that we're talking about a situation in which unlawful activity is committed, security police members are responsible for doing that. In order to ensure that that never sees the light of day the investigation of that matter is so conducted that that never emerges. Correct?
Do you agree that one other element in relation to covering up and preventing unlawful activities coming to light would be the provision of disinformation. Do you agree with that?
MR VLOK: Yes that is correct. It did happen. I was involved in those things in conveying incorrect information but it can be that I appointed somebody to do certain investigation into an incident and that the investigating officer went to talk to the people and that they gave him the incorrect information. That he wasn't necessarily involved in the cover up. He simply bona fide investigated and then submitted the evidence to me. So it could have worked both ways.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok would you agree with me that in circumstances in which very senior members of the police at the level of the commissioner or possibly a general or whatever is involved in deliberate exercise of either misleading by providing false information or by ensuring that information that is available about the involvement of police in unlawful activity never sees the light of day. That by doing so those senior police members send a message to the people with whom they work and under them. That where it is in the interests of protecting or where it is necessary to protect the interests of the security police, covering up of the involvement of security police will occur in specific instances. Do you agree with that message?
MR VLOK: Once again we have to place it in the correct context. The circle within which the conduct of a senior officer where he cooperated with somebody to cover up, you see it wasn't the entire police force who were aware of that, it was a small group of people in respect of those people who knew it could have been that the conduct of that police officer created the impression amongst them that yes, let's go for it, let's do whatever we want to. But that was a small circle of people. Now it's too late, we're only hearing about some of these things now it's too late now.
MR GOOSEN: Just by way or wrapping up this particular portion, we know Mr Vlok the following things. That there was an all out war against communism. There was a rapid escalation of the conflict in the '80's, it was perceived as a total onslaught. There was a counter revolutionary strategy formulated, part of that was that we need to deal with the revolutionaries, we can't necessarily rely only on the legal mechanisms available. You understood the mind of the policeman on the ground, you set out to do that, you knew that those people, those policemen were under enormous pressure. In fact you applied some of that pressure.
Against that background we've seen the formulation of policy in the use of certain language. You've made a number of concessions in regard to that. You've said there was never any unlawful intent on the part of members of the State Security Council or the cabinet. You can understand with hindsight that there could have been misinterpretations. That politicians erred because they didn't do enough, they didn't put in place proper safeguards.
Now here's the TRC's problem and we've been trying to explore it this morning as well. No politician involved at the level of State Security Council has yet conceded that there was ever an intention to engage in unlawful activity or to authorise it. But we know that countless killings, countless eliminations in fact occurred in the country right across the board. We know that scores of policemen were involved in systematic unlawful activity around the country. We know that those generals, brigadiers, colonels and so on, who were systematically misinterpreting or that they were systematically interpreting instructions. And the question is this Mr Vlok, perhaps you can assist the Commission. Where did those generals, those brigadiers and colonels, where did they coordinate their systematic misinterpretation of State policy, was there a structure other than the State Security Council, other than the Cabinet, whether in the police or outside of the police. Was there some place there systematic unlawful activity on the part of police members, particularly security police members, was sanctioned, was authorised? You yourself, you indicate the words that were used, the language used was innocent, it was never intended that these words should mean kill, yet in your own submission you use words like uittewis to mean kill. Would you have us, have the Commission believe that these exhortations that you never authorised unlawful means, that all unlawful means was a function of a systematic mistake on the part of the police and the security force members? I want to suggest to you, it's my view, not the panel's view, I want to suggest to you that that scheme is simply implausible.
MR VISSER: With great respect Mr Chairman may I be allowed to say something here. I don't know what the question is here because it's been a very very long introduction, but the point I do wish to draw your attention to is the perception that there was only one basis upon which policemen on the ground acted unlawfully was that it was a misinterpretation, was not this witnesses presentation, it comes from Mr Goosen. I see Mr Malan is nodding his head in agreement. With respect there may be many other instances where policemen who are going to before the Amnesty Committee may tell the Amnesty Committee that we did this because we thought for other reasons than this interpretation that we were authorised to do what to do what we did. I'm just putting the correct perspective so that in fairness to the witness a crisp question may be asked of him which he can understand on the basis of his evidence, with respect. I don't want to object, I just want to be helpful Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: I again, I mean being just an ordinary lay person, what I have understood is what he has tried to put forward actually, that Mr Vlok was in charge of all the police. He was a member at some point of the State Security Council which was advising Cabinet about how you have to handle revolutionaries and this council used language, amongst other things, used certain language, eliminate, neutralise etc etc which at the primary level did not mean what it appears most people thought it meant and so when that goes down the line, you ask there were unlawful actions, there are some that Mr Vlok concedes were approved, but most of the unlawful activity in the police force which has now come to light, which shocks him, his major submission is that that did not happen because of direct instructions, direct orders, it must have been.
MR VISSER: That's the point Mr Chairman, he says it may have been. That's exactly the difference, it may have been. It's not must have been, it's may have been.
CHAIRPERSON: We are accepting that. I mean that if it happened as it has happened, it was not because of the instruction, the order and his major contention is that it would be a misunderstanding of the language and the order.
MR VISSER: You're quite correct Mr Chairman, the only difference is in the end the question is, he says it may have been, there by leaving the option that there may have been other grounds as well. That's the point. I'm not objecting to the question, I just wanted to put it in the right...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: I'm saying let him ask his question and you can adjust it by saying it may have been.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Vlok I'm not going to go through the preliminary section which is a summary of the import of your evidence. The effect of it is simply this, it would have been in order when you use words, you want the Commission to believe that when you use words, certain times when politicians and the senior members of the police in fact used words which meant that people should be dealt with, should be killed, maak 'n plan and so on and so forth, that in order to arrive at a conclusion that those meant kill, they had to be misinterpreted in order to arrive at that conclusion.
MR VLOK: Mr Goosen has now used an example of where words used such as should be killed. I didn't in my submission say that those words were ever used, with respect, I'm saying that that did not take place. If you would allow me I must get back to Mr Goosen's long question which he in fact didn't put because there he said something which I have to react to if you'll allow me. When he said that no politician has thus far admitted that the Cabinet or State Security Council ever had the intention and gave it direct instructions to kill people, now I want to say to you that in the State Security Council and the Cabinet, those instructions were never given. I realize you have a problem but you have to realize one thing that is the truth, it was never said, that order was never given, not in the days that I was there, so the Commission must just bear in mind that possibility. I understand why Mr Goosen is pressurising to try and resolve this, it's his job, I understand that but he has to consider as a possible option that the truth is that it was never said there.
Now I've actually opened the door for something else which I wanted to add, he asked where did these discussions take place and where did these decisions take place, where were they taken? There were no such discussions elsewhere as far as I was aware, there was no such thing, there wasn't an inner core in the police or an outer group who took decisions to kill these people. That is simply not the way it was but as Mr Visser said with justification, and bear in mind I don't know what reasons will be advanced by people who apply for amnesty, I simply came to you to say that I'm of a view that these things could have happened as a result of this and that is what I submitted to you in all honesty to help you to try and resolve these problems.
CHAIRPERSON: Let me say as someone coming from the black community. I didn't have to discuss with anyone in the black community what their views were of the police. Most people took it as read that they didn't exist to protect you, not us. They were not your friends. When you went into a police station, I mean even an archbishop, you went in and the way they dealt with you indicated you were a cypher and so-called ordinary people and in my theory there are no ordinary people, everybody is a special person but the so-called ordinary people, not educated. When you asked them what is your experience of the police, the universal answer was one that gave an image of the police who were trampling on whatever dignity people had, trampled on whatever rights they had, not as an aberration. You go to Ventersdorp, they do to you in Ventersdorp what they do to you in Newlands near Sophiatown. And what is for us a problem and I mean I'm not, again I've said many times, we're not here taking to pillory anybody, we're just trying to find out if something is universal in a phenomenon, and it isn't ordered from above, how does it become so systematic? This is what we are asking you. Can you help us? These unlawful actions that happened not in one place but in our experience as black people particularly, it was happening all over. If you got int trouble with the police you're going to be clobbered and we took that as part of the natural - this is what is happening in this country. It was not your policy, it was not the policy of the State Security Council, it was not the policy of the Cabinet, but it was happening and the question that we are trying to find an answer for is, how does an aberration become such a universal phenomenon? Who is the master mind behind this thing and the effort that is being set out is, what may be you're saying there were misunderstandings of genuine instructions, legitimate instructions, or you say that is one or the possibilities. If a misunderstanding, how does it come to be so universalised and whatever other cause for this, why is it so universal. It isn't an aberration, clearly where we were told at one time that it was bad eggs in the police force, but you found this as a general thing, and all we are trying to find out is can you help us to determine that if it doesn't come from the top echelons, where does it actually emanate from?
MR VLOK: I would like to thank you for what you've just said. I tried to say something on this regard on page 11 of my submission where I said that the position was untenable. I don't really know where it came from but for decades, 1948 that's where it started and a policy was introduced, the policy of apartheid and this had many ramifications. And one of the consequences was that a black man had to carry a pass to just go out an buy bread and the police actually apply that law. And the police did so and they did so in a way which didn't win them any friends and in the days that I was still involved in politics, that 17 million black people were charged in those years for pass law offences. 17 million people who all had families. So we certainly weren't winning friends as a result of the laws which we had to apply.
Now how it came about that policemen actually thought that black people were inferior, that I can't explain. I can only refer and explain about the time that I was there. I did my best to get the police to accept the fact that they had to protect blacks in a similar and equal footing as whites and that we had to treat them with the same dignity as we treated white people. Chairperson I don't want to call you as a witness, I think you'll be an excellent witness, but you know what my conduct towards you and other black people was in the past. In the police I became unpopular because I said, let us rather go in with a smile than with a whip and a sjambok. I took those sjamboks out of the police, I said no you simply don't beat people like that, you don't beat people if it's not necessary. So I have sympathy for what you're trying to say and what the Commission is trying to achieve. I know what your task is but isn't it perhaps the fact, isn't it vested in the fact that for many years we had a policy in our country, not only from '48 onwards, but before that too, that we had a policy which stated that certain people were inferior and that this led to all these consequences and ramifications which you are struggling with today. You are trying to place them in a proper perspective so that reconciliation in our country can be achieved.
CHAIRPERSON: You were going to round off.... (some technical recording interruption).. Well maybe then let us - you are a marathon runner, maybe let's go for tea and we'll have to have a very short tea and may be come back at half past.
CHAIRPERSON: I'll ask Glen Goosen who is intending now to I think wrap up things. But there may be one or two questions from the panel. Alex Boraine.
MR BORAINE: Thank you Chairperson, just one quick question, in the debate just before the recess for tea, we were talking about there may have been misinterpretations and that would explain some of the deeds that were committed. I want to ask you, is it your view that there may have been some security police who acted not because they misunderstood but mala fides?
MR VLOK: Yes it's possible.
MR BORAINE: It's quite a serious question because you see if people apply for amnesty, and you're not commenting on any of that, and they are acting mala fides this may influence and affect their application and I just wanted to get it on record that it may be that one of the reasons for some of the atrocities committed was on the basis or mala fides.
MR VLOK: It may have happened like that.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, any other - Ilan lax.
MR LAX: Thank you Chairperson, one of the striking features of some of the evidence we heard last week was the sense that in essence there was a total split in the vision if you like in perspective between those people in control of the security apparatus and the operatives who essentially saw anybody who was trying to make the country ungovernable, who was fighting their system as not being a citizen, as not being a person who had any real rights so to speak. These were Soviet dominated puppets and the one person who most succinctly captured that essence was Craig Williamson and I must say that in my time as a national serviceman, when we had propaganda lectures that is precisely the line that we were given, precisely the line, this is the enemy, these are not our people, these are foreign invaders wanting to take over the country and I want to suggest to you that that's one of the fundamental reasons why the experience that the Archbishop spoke about as being the experience of the majority happened.
So on the one hand there's this juncture, there's this experience, this outlook of the people you are fighting or you were fighting at that time, were not South Africans and yet on the other hand you purported to act on behalf of the majority of the people of the country and by creating this enemy that wasn't human, that wasn't - that's how a lot of these atrocities took place. They didn't regard them as people, they didn't regard them as citizens, they did not regard them as anybody they had a duty to protect or to respect or to provide dignity or humanity to.
MR VLOK: I'd like to comment on that because I agree with Commissioner Lax. That is what happened. There was indoctrination, there was propaganda, propaganda waged from our side and directed at national servicemen and amongst the police. We made many speeches, we as politicians and many people made speeches in that regard, but the correct perspective is also this. There wasn't only indoctrination and propaganda from the one side, there was also the same from the other side, propaganda against the police. So many of your fellow South Africans had been indoctrinated to hate the police and to see them as the enemy and that is where we stand today, and I think we must acknowledge that this is what happened and that it's unfortunate that it happened and that it should become part of history and we shouldn't repeat this in future.
MR LAX: Just one follow-up that I wanted to put to you, that lessons characterises that split. We had a seven day war hearing on Tuesday, the so called Seven Day War in Pietermaritzburg an event hearing where we heard evidence and submissions from the defence force personnel involved,the police personnel involved and so on. Just briefly to give you a background, that was the situation that took place in March 1990 in the greater Pietermaritzburg area, primarily in the African areas on the perimeter of the established Pietermaritzburg, Edendale valley area, roughly between 20 and 40 thousand people became refugees as a result of that ten day episode and there was a hugh amount of money donated for funds to try and help those people afterwards, and I think you may have been involved in that at that time. The crucial issue I'm getting to is the person who was in charge of the police in that jurisdiction at that time, when he'd finished his submission I asked him a question and I said to him look if this had been a white suburb and not a black suburb, it surely wouldn't have happened that way, you would have mobilised 3 SAI, you would have mobilised every possible troop around, helicopters, whatever, it wouldn't have happened. In the end he had to admit that that was so and that's the disjuncture I'm talking about. The fact that it was a black area meant that black on black violence could happen and they did the minimal amount necessary. Had it been a white area it would have been a completely different response, and he conceded that. Any comments from you because it was at that time?
MR VLOK: As Commissioner Lax put it, that is the way it is and I will accept that he conceded that or this person conceded that point. But form our side there were many cases on which many people exerted great pressure on us and said that we weren't protecting them in their white areas, so I want to say that it cut both ways, but I would concede, I would readily concede that from the police side we did not do enough to protect the black civilians in our country. I said that in my submission, in many cases we couldn't even go into their areas. It's one of the things which I said, which I apologised for and said I am sorry that I hadn't protected people properly and I included all South Africans when I said that. So that kind of thing is possible, yes that is true.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chairperson. I'm sure you have come to realize that there is a very big problem that we grapple with in trying to understand how it could have been possible for a person in a position as yours to have been unaware that these things were happening in a manner that showed a pattern and I think that's part of what the Archbishop has been saying. And it's not as though there were no voices that were indicating the prevalence, not just instants, just the prevalence of gross violations of human rights in various forms. We have been emphasising killing here but they took form in various shapes, torture, deaths in detention, disappearances. Now the voices that came with these allegations, were not only the people who were making these allegations in court, they were people in the community, the ministerial fraternity, there were also lawyers who represented people at the receiving end of the legal system and the laws. There were pronouncements, even if it were muted pronouncements by the alternative media, and in the context of particularly the things that were revealed in the Harms Commission, all of which now have been authenticated. There were confessions under oath by people who said we did these things, Dirk Coetzee, Nofamela, Chikalanga and all those. Now the question has been asked, should these not have been sufficient indications to you to say why is it so that year in an year out in parliament and outside parliament we continue to have these allegations. Now I've heard all the replies you have given and in trying to understand those replies, is it not in fact the way to understand what you are saying to say, we were in a South Africa engendered by apartheid culture, locked in a situation where a minister like you was informed by this us verses them syndrome, that apartheid engendered a culture where all you were prepared to listen to was what came from people you identified as your people. And this permeated all of society. You had a law and a legal system. If others were saying the laws were draconian, they were the laws, they were there, you could detain people indefinitely. You has police officers who you had to believe if they gave you a version that's the version you were prepared to accept. You had judicial system. If Steve Biko is alleged to have been killed in prison, unlawfully, there was a magistrate who was going to conduct an inquest. If the Cradock Four even in the revelation that there was a signal note that was sent out, if there is a judge and there's a need for a judge to be appointed, well a judge was appointed and he came with a verdict. If there were allegations of torture, well you had a system that says district surgeons must visit these people in prison and we are not going to believe other alternative doctors like Doctor Wendy Orr when the district surgeons by and large were saying there is no evidence of this torture. You had your media, if the other media is saying these things are happening, you are not going to believe the Vrye Weekblad.
Now are you trying to say this is the reality, that was your reality. Your reality was narrowed by a system that had engendered a culture that led you to believe only that section of the South African community which you wanted to believe?
MR VLOK: I have listened carefully to what Commissioner Ntsebeza has said. I must say I can only speak for myself. Those of you on the Commission who know me would know that I've listened to other people as well. I didn't only listen to what emanated from the System but we did have a system within which all the things that you've mentioned were investigated. It wasn't just covered and put on the shelf, it was actually investigated. Allegations for instance of torture. He mentioned something which I didn't even think of. District surgeons who were involved in giving evidence. Myself as minister, when there was an investigation by a competent magistrate and there was evidence given by the police officers who had investigated the case, so all the surrounding circumstances and the evidence were submitted and a finding was made. Then for me as minister it would have been extremely difficult to say I don't accept your findings, they were the experts. So I can deal with each and every case of death in detention etc. We don't have to talk about it, we know what happened there. There was evidence, the evidence which was submitted at the time now appears not to have been the truth. So if he says that that was the system, that's true, but it's not only the system which applies in an apartheid country, that system exists in other countries as well but its the operatives within that system, if they are not honourable, they're not always honourable and act correctly in what they submit and in the information they convey to the upper hierarchy, then this kind of thing happens. Each and every case of death in detention was investigated, there were reports it was done publicly. I want to repeat, what can a minister or the authority or the government that receives these reports, what can it do to say well somebody somewhere along the line lower has told a lie. I concede it we could have done more. We should have scrutinised the system perhaps. We should perhaps have put different systems in place as our current government is busy doing. It's actually establishing different structures to look at these things. But even in the case of the current government that has been in power for three years, we see and hear virtually daily reports of people who are abusing tax payers money and misappropriating it. We see that on a daily basis, even with those systems in place.
So I must say that it wasn't only in our time that things happened regarding which the government didn't know about or couldn't control, even if it had systems in place. I think the systems we have today are the best in the world. I've compared it to other systems in the world and yet there are still people who see certain loopholes and who misappropriate money and commit certain abuses, so whilst I'm conceding that we could have done more, you must accept that there was a system in place and it was often abused. But we also have to remember that we were engaged in war and that makes it even more difficult to really do what you ought to do. And we tended to say, look all these voices that we're hearing and people saying things, somebody referred to the turbulent priest, those are the words that we used. And we made a mistake, we should have listened to people like that and let's be quite honest, that is how it worked and we should have listened more to these credible an honourable people from society but we were waging a war, we had all been indoctrinated not to listen to each other.
I told Commissioner Lax yesterday, I didn't listen to his friend down there because he was speaking from the enemy camp, so to speak and that I concede was a mistake, but it wasn't a mistake committed on one side of the spectrum only, it was a mistake made by everybody and the Commission I think is on the right road to ensure that this never happens again.
MS SOOKA: Mr Vlok, I think that one of the difficulties we sit with and it is one of our tasks which is to look forward in a sense, and you have referred to the fact that it's because of reconciliation that you're also actually here and you're being so frank. But there are a number of other role players besides the police and the military and it's very unfortunate in a sense that these hearings tend to focus on that group of people. We of course try to have sectional hearings which allow us to focus on other sectors of civil society but I'm struck by what Mr Pik Botha said yesterday when he says, "I do not want to create the impression that whites have to reproach themselves endlessly and condemn themselves to sit in sack cloths and ashes until doomsday. We whites including the Afrikaner now have more important role to play than ever before. But he goes on to say that genuine remorse about the repressive past which we have sustained and supported will liberate us to play that role. I think that that's one of the issues which the Commission really has to grapple with. How do we engender that genuine remorse, because on gets the feeling that the actions or the responsibility are confined to a small group and what you really want to create for reconciliation to take place is that feeling must spread across the community. Do you have any ideas in regard to that?
MR VLOK: That is an extremely important contribution which Commissioner Sooka has just made because she's one hundred percent correct. The impression which exists amongst many South Africans out there is that the focus is only on a small group of people and the focus is on the police and the defence force that were involved in the struggle and who committed all these dirty deeds. I agree with her one hundred percent, we must involve the entire community, the whole of society because we as ministers and as government, we didn't land up in parliament of our own accord, we were elected and for the group of people who did have the franchise that was a democratic process, but not everybody had the vote. We were democratically elected. So we submitted to the voters who did have the vote. We submitted policy and guidelines in terms of which and on the basis of which they elected us, so they were all jointly responsible. But I can't speak on their behalf. I can only speak on my own behalf.
So I'm glad you take that view and don't focus only on a small group of people. Let us involve everybody. I think that in the Commission there is enough ingenuity to actually achieve that so that you involve a larger group of people. I think you might encounter problems, I don't want to get involved in the fights that there were and allegations of bias against the Commission. I am here because I want to be here and because I believe that we should be here and that this is the place and the forum to actually address the issues and to exchange ideas and to see how we can move forward, because the fact of the matter is that there is a perception amongst many of my people out there that we were the thugs and the main thugs were the police and the defence force and the Commission has it in their hands to actually remove that perception.
I think you've already started along that way and I think you are a very good example of saying, look I'm not busy with a vendetta, I'm don't want to prosecute and persecute people and destroy their lives but the Commission does have that task and that's why I'm here and I want to plead for my people arising from what Commissioner Sooka has said, and I want to say let us allow them to feel that they can also come to this Commission and they can also come and unburden themselves before this Commission. People who were not necessarily involved in the security forces but who applied certain aspects of apartheid which hurt people. Let them also come and say what is in their hearts.
I can't give an explanation as to why everybody involved in apartheid did exactly what they did, but the tendency is that now there is nobody today who will admit that they actually supported apartheid. But the fact is they elected us. We were there. And it's right and proper that I sit here today because I was the responsible man, and I think we should all come here and say that was our view, these were our motives, but you as a Commission, it's in your hands to actually instill the necessary confidence in those people to come here and testify. Thank you.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson. I don't have any further questions to ask. I could just indicate though to Mr Vlok that in respect of the questions asked about KTC you indicated that I should, if I did have further information, make it available to you, it wasn't made available to you initially because we didn't anticipate the range of questions, but I will make available to you an extract of the meeting of the State Security Council on the 14th of April. I think you have already got a portion of that perhaps in which the proposal from the Western Province JMC is that covert organisational support be provided to the Witdoeke, as well as a signal message which emanate from the Western Province JMC to the Secretariat of the State Security Council indicating a specific request for financial support to be provided to the Witdoeke. I make it available to you for your consideration.
MR VLOK: Thank you very much for making it available to me. I would like to actually read these documents and we can perhaps communicate with you further. Perhaps you can just then ask me what the situation is and I will answer you.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vlok I want to express appreciation for, first of all your willingness to come voluntarily and, secondly, for your attitude. I mean we haven't got all the answers that we would have wanted to have got from you but we have heard some submissions that you have made which are very significant and I would hope that people would get to realise that in a sense this is our last chance of being able to deal with all the horrors of the past which were committed not by one side, I mean you are aware and I hope other people are aware that this Commission is fairly robust in its dealings with everybody. Everybody gets annoyed with us when we get robust that way, I mean that is why we are called a farce by some people, and I would think that that is an indication of our deep commitment. I, as the Chairperson of this Commission, ought in a way to have got people accepting that there are things that I would not tolerate as the Chairperson, that has been my commitment to this country. I mean a partial truth or a truth that satisfies only one side will be useless. I mean it will make this Commission a farce, you know, because this Commission, apart from finding out the truth has been given the task of making a contribution to national unity and reconciliation. And so I would hope people would begin to accept that we are really very serious about this. It's a very great privilege that has been given to us to preside over the process of seeking to heal our nation, because we are a great nation, have the potential to be one of the greatest nations.
As I said yesterday people are still amazed when they look at what is happening in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because they say, I mean this never happened anywhere what you are doing.
And we appreciate your coming and we appreciate some of the points that you have made and it's never easy to concede as you have done on a number of occasions and I want to say that that is something that is very noteworthy, whilst other people might say well perhaps you were not pushed hard enough I think that we have got a great deal out of the two days session that we have had with you and I want to express our appreciation and hope that you will, in the circles in which you move, tell them that this Commission is not some kind of an insect. This Commission was so composed that it can make a contribution to the healing of this land and to achieve reconciliation of all its people.
MR VLOK: Chairperson may I conclude with a short sentence. I just want to say thank you very much. In the first place I want to say I still have an amnesty application pending and there are also certain things, perhaps things which you are not interested in but things relating to apartheid which I still have to say during my amnesty application.
The second point is you say that perhaps some people will say that you didn't push me enough, I based myself on one foundation only and namely, the truth. Nobody can push me any further than that. Mr Goosen pushed me quite hard but he cannot actually derail me from the truth.
And I want to say thank you very much to you, Chairperson. I have known you for many years and I know that you are a unique person. I think you are an extremely gifted person and I think our country is extremely fortunate to have somebody like yourself to do this work which we are now busy doing. This morning when you opened the proceedings with prayer I thought back to how we actually had discussions regarding major problems in the past and that in each and every occasion your request was, can I pray for us before we actually start this meeting, and this morning you did exactly the same. Chairperson if that is the way we are going to move in future, under your leadership, then we will actually achieve success and we will achieve a wonderful nation and a country. Thank you very much to you personally.
I'd like to thank the Commissioners as well, the Commissioners and their staff. You have treated me well and you asked good questions, I don't have any problems, I even want to thank Mr Goosen. (Laughter). If we get together like this again I would request that we finish my testimony on one day so that he doesn't have a chance to actually re-group overnight and then bowl another couple of curved balls the next day. (Laughter). And I want to add if there's any help that I can give you, I am accessible, my door is open to you and my advisors would help you at any stage.
I want to thank the Interpreters. They are still hard at work interpreting. I want to thank the media. They sat here for two days, they are doing their job well and the country has to know what is actually going on and they are doing that, they are telling the country what is going on and they are doing it well. Good luck to all of you.
CHAIRPERSON: When is the election!! (Laughter)
MR VLOK: No I am finished. Thank you.
they are doing their job well and the country has to know what is actually going on and they are doing that, they are telling the country what is going on and they are doing it well. Good luck to all of you.
CHAIRPERSON: When is the election!! (Laughter)
MR VLOK: No I am finished. Thank you.
MR VLOK IS EXCUSED
DR BORAINE: Mr Wessels do you wish to take the oath or the affirmation?
MR WESSELS: The affirmation.
LEON WESSELS: (affirms)
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
MR WESSELS: Thank you Mr Chairman. Mr Chairman we come from different backgrounds and we come from different launching pads. I have listened to the witnesses that have appeared before you since yesterday morning. The document I had prepared I had made available to your staff yesterday morning because I knew given the evidence that you were about to receive I would be tempted to change it. I have not changed my document, this is how I felt yesterday and I stand by my statement and you will just have to bear with me, I hope, as I present it to you now.
May I further say that I had, listening to Mr Botha and Mr Vlok yesterday, I had the privilege of working with both of them for three and a half years, 18 months with Mr Vlok, which was a privilege, two years with Mr Botha, which was also a privilege and my colleague right next to me and I have seen many sunsets and many sunrises in battle, and I am pleased to be associated with him from this position.
I, however, will say what I have to say off my own bat and I don't hold any of them accountable for what I am saying. I say that for my own account.
I do remember, Mr Chairman, Abraham Tiro. Many years ago I took a resolution never to forget his tragic death. In life he introduced me to the realities of South Africa. In his death his memory never allowed me to forget the tragedies of South Africa.
I remember Mr Chairman the first time we met. You were kind enough to make mention of an area that we share, those were the days of isolating Botha in his laager, making this country ungovernable. We are not afraid to inherit a wasteland. Those were the days of states of emergency, emergency regulations and the steps taken under those regulations that we thought were necessary to save life and property. I remember saying to you then, during that encounter Mr Chairman, that the political climate was such at the time that many people would not understand the fact that we were even speaking to each other. To the government and National Party establishment you were a sanctions activist and a political trouble-maker.
I proudly remember, Sir, that I was appointed to this position, and I take it it was because of this position that I am here today, by Mr Botha as Deputy Minister of Law and Order. I think kindly of him and believe that he deserves credit for major initiatives. Those were the days of the Homburg hats, I hated that, but I loved my work. I remember Sir, proud soldiers and policemen now on their knees in front of the Amnesty Committee, I cannot condone those violent unlawful acts, but nor can I condemn the persons. I cannot disown them. We were on the same side and fought for the same cause, namely law and order as we saw it, and also to ensure that this country would not be made ungovernable. Power was not be wrested from us in a revolutionary manner. I cannot disown any of those men and women who were on our side.
I do not believe that individually or collectively I ever took a decision that cannot stand the test of daylight here today. Every decision was taken within the ambit of the law as it was known then. The law may be criticised today and I will certainly agree and concede that that law will not stand the test of constitutional scrutiny at this juncture. However, that was the law of the land.
I further do not believe that the political defence of I did not know. I want to delete the WE and I want to delete the US. I said I speak of my own bat. I further do not believe that the political defence of I did not know is available to me, because in many respects I believe I did not want to know. I am afraid I am deleting and amending that sentence to that effect.
In my own way I had my suspicions of things that had caused discomfort in official circles, but because I did not have the facts to substantiate my suspicions or I had lacked the courage to shout from the rooftops, I have to confess that I only whispered in the corridors. That I believe is the accusation that people may level at many of us. That US is not deleted. We simply did not, and I did not confront the reports of injustices head-on. It may be blunt but I have to say it. Since the days of the Biko tragedy right up to the days of hostel activities, hostel atrocities in the late, late eighties, as we went up to the record of understanding the National Party did not have an inquisitive mindset. The National Party did not have an enquiring mind about these matters. We have to applaud, and we have to give credit to Mr F W de Klerk for the actions he had taken to appoint the Harms Commission and to appoint the Goldstone Commission. I simply believe that it is a pity that there is not a collective political and moral acceptance of responsibility forthcoming from the quarters from which I emanate.
It became clear from evidence before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that even sharply probing judges had been wilfully misled in many cases by key security forces personnel. Not surprisingly some individuals had done the same to gullible politicians not excessively keen to ask pointed questions. Eugene de Kock's recent claim in his amnesty bid I submit is correct, namely, that any National Party politician or supporter, I may add, at the time who believed that we held power because of persuasion and not through coercion was out of touch of reality to put it mildly.
With the benefit of hindsight I now believe that we had failed the security forces because we did not offer this country a viable constitutional vision to end the conflict. And secondly, that the relationship between the security forces and the National Party politicians, as a collective, in general, was not an open transparent one, and therefore we did not manage the security forces Intelligence services properly. If we had managed them properly you would not have had to listen to evidence on the one hand they, believing that they acted with authority, us telling you that we did not grant the authority which they believed that they had had. But that has been the subject of a long debate and will continue to be debated in front of your Commission.
The observation made by the Commonwealth group of Eminent Persons in their report on page 65 dated the 7th of June 1986, I repeat June 1986, I submit is correct. "We are left with the impression of a divided government, yet even the more enlightened Ministers whom we met seemed to be out of touch with the mood in the black townships. The rising tide of anger and impatience within them and the extent of black mobilisation and so of course are the great generality of white South Africans, only some ten percent of whom we were told have ever seen conditions in a township. Put in the simple way the blacks have had enough of apartheid. They are no longer prepared to submit to its oppression, discrimination and exploitation.
They can no longer stomach being treated as aliens in their own country. They have confidence, not merely in the justice of their cause but in the inevitability of their victory.
Unlike the earlier periods of unrest and government attempts to stamp out protests there has been during the last 18 months no outflow of black refugees from South Africa. The strength of black convictions is now matched by a readiness to die for those convictions. They will therefore sustain their struggle whatever the cost. The campaign against collaborators and the ruthless elimination of agents of white authority will continue. More and more black townships will be rendered ungovernable and the process of creating popular structures of self-government within them will gather momentum. The number of street and area committees will increase and their functions will progressively".
So far the quote of the Eminent Persons Group. Those were the very reasons why it was imperative to launch constitutional negotiations and bring it to finality. To many of us this became a dream of which we never lost sight. Some of us, on both sides of the political divide, however, still had to learn and others are still learning the Chris Hani truism once expressed to me - "We concede the fact that we never broke the back of the South African Defence Force and South African Police, but you must concede the fact that you never broke the spirit of liberation in the townships".
To my mind this was the basis of the political settlement.
When the epilogue of the interim constitution was finally accepted at a very late stage in the negotiation process which gave South Africa its new democratic dispensation many of us gave a sigh of relief. The relief we felt was for the fact that we could have the full truth out in the open without vengeance. A country has to know its history. We hurt one another and the time has come for healing.
I believe had it not been for that milestone judgment of Justice Mahomed in the Azapo case brought against the State President we would not have had the situation which we have today as Justice Mahomed had said in that judgment that we were moving away from the shame of the past to the hope of the future, and that that epilogue had granted him the opportunity to make the judgment which he did, and that is why we are all here, and that is why we had felt the relief at that particular moment in December 1993.
With the National Party government the question of amnesty and the inevitability of a Commission probing the past was never the subject of penetrating debate where one and all expressed their expectations or anxieties openly. Everybody had played their cards close to the chest and discussions in this regard were inconclusive, often resulting in lobby discussions. This always left me with a feeling of discontent.
I don't feel as if I am in the dock today, and I don't feel as if I am being charged with anything which I had done, criminally or otherwise. I don't believe that I am pleading for my innocence here today. I participate in these proceedings gladly, openly, but that particular paragraph does make me a little bit angry in the sense that I would have loved to have seen the State Security Council, as it functioned on which I served as a coopted member under the Chairpersonship of Mr P W Botha today, deal with the accusations that we have to answer here.
And I believe that it is a pity that, excuse me for saying this about two great men of this country, namely Mr Botha and Mr de Klerk, that they have had their squabbles with one another that we are not today standing here in front of you as a coordinated team of the Security Council.
And that is the next point I make, namely, that the National Management System has had as its prime function the coordination of State activities, and yet listening to the evidence of all of us our actions, we are not here as a coordinated team under the chairmanship of our leaders, the leaders being Mr Botha who was the Chairperson of that State Security Council and the leader of the National Party Mr de Klerk at that time. And you will recall and I remember that Mr de Klerk had said at his appearance where I was present, that he had done his utmost to consult and to coordinate, but the facts speak differently. The facts speak that the officials are talking in one direction, we are talking in another direction and the leaders, the Chairpersons of this, the Chairperson of the Security Council and Mr de Klerk who inherited the leadership did not successfully mould all of us into one team as we are. But I continue to speak of my own bat.
I believe that there is a direct link between the National Management System, the Harare Declaration, Mr de Klerk's February speech, the agreed constitutional principles that formed the basis of our constitution and the signing ceremony of our constitution on the 10th of December 1996 in Sharpeville.
The National Management system was a holding operation to ensure that negotiations are launched and that the constitutional order was changed through the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun. That was paramount in our minds. It was foremost in our minds.
The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group in its document on page 42 says it all -
"No serious person we met was interested in a fight to the finish. All favoured negotiations and peaceful solutions".
General Viljoen in evidence before you said that this was a dirty war, and in many respects it was. People were forced to drink cooking oil; people were forced to eat raw fish and raw meat; and on the other hand there were men with balaclavas from nowhere assaulting innocent citizens and those answers have not yet been found to my satisfaction or to my mind how that all came about.
The Harare Declaration, to continue in this thread, proposed steps to create a climate for constitutional negotiations. In the words of an ANC discussion partner, partners, they had to deal with the fact that it was not viable to storm Pretoria with smoking guns and in this way take over power.
The door for constitutional principles to form the basis for the final constitution and to facilitate the transitional process was opened in this document. I regret that typing error. On the 2nd of February speech was a statesman's response to his constituency's aspirations that the conflict and political stalemate should be ended.
I want to add that if there ever was a civilian in our ranks that was Mr F W de Klerk. I know people accuse him of many things but I will be untrue if I don't publicly state that in our ranks the civilian was F W de Klerk, always, always warning and saying don't allow yourselves to be militarised.
That was F W de Klerk. The first one to disband the National Management System was F W de Klerk because he had always felt uneasy with that system.
The signing ceremony of the final Constitution on the 10th of December 1996 in Sharpeville was symbolic, but it also signalled the fact that after 48 years, to that day, namely the 10th of December 1948, South Africa was now in step with the universal declaration of human rights.
I conclude by saying I am both an African and an Afrikaner. I am a liberated Afrikaner. I am also a proud Afrikaner. Liberated Afrikaners took the reform bit firmly between their teeth when it was necessary. Both our hearts and our minds have been changed. We love this country. We have been liberated from the baggage of an immoral system of government. Afrikaners can now resume their journey, galloping into the future, constructively criticise and participate in the affairs of State. Afrikaners can now hold the government accountable and support it where their actions merit it, campaign for a Volkstaat if they so wish, argue for the respect and recognition of Afrikaans without the baggage of the past.
I can think of no reason why Afrikaans-speaking South Africans and their children, or any other Afrikaner, from the cradle to the grave should bear the burden of apartheid. With the framework of the Constitution we will strive for our place and we will fight for Afrikaans. It is right that the book of the past should be opened and must be interpreted, but then we must also close them. We dare not forget what has happened here, and I am not saying we should close the books and forget, but we should stop holding each other hostage in regard to the past and then bully each other mentally. In this way we will never build a country.
We have reached the end of a journey on a road marked by pitfalls, political doubts and obstacles. However, the journey always carried forward, the road often became one of tight hairpin bends because I was afraid of negotiating the evils on bareback. I am now more than ever convinced that apartheid was a terrible mistake that blighted our land. South Africans did not listen to the laughing and the crying of each other. I am sorry that I have been so hard of hearing for such a long time.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I think it may be sensible for us to take a break for lunch and return at quarter to two. Thank you very much both of you young men. Thank you, thank you, it is very deeply moving and we want to digest it and those people over there are looking forward to grilling you. We invite you to come for lunch with us.
CHAIRPERSON: Glen. I don't know which of the twins you want.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson thank you very much. I am going to address my initial lines of questioning until I indicate otherwise to Mr Meyer, so I don't know whether Mr Wessels wants to remain seated there in the firing line as it were, no you are welcome to but - well whichever. Thank you very much.
Mr Meyer in reading your statement is it correct, do I understand it correctly that you base your acceptance of political responsibility on the fact that with hindsight, with the benefit of hindsight you recognise that at the time perhaps more stringent steps should have been taken to curb the transgressions which were recurring and that in essence the basis for responsibility that you accept is that of omissions on your part as you explain and perhaps persons other than yourself as well, is that correct?
MR MEYER: Chairperson I don't think I have to add anything to what I have actually stated there in the written paragraph in this regard. Obviously it deals with the obvious question, what did our guys at the time do about the situation? And I think one had to ask yourself that question and that is my response to that.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much.
MR MEYER: ...specifically, I am sorry to the wording that is contained there in paragraph 4.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you. If one has regard to paragraph 3 of your submission, for a moment I want to leave aside the first bullet point there because that deals, as you have indicated with where there were specific instructions in that instance, regarding the other two aspects on which responsibility and accountability should be apportioned is it correct that there are really two options here? The one is that unlawful actions which were not specifically authorised, which were bona fide on the one hand and there were those that were mala fide in the sense that people abused their opportunities and so on, is that correct, that's the schema?
MR MEYER: I am trying to make the distinguishing there between bullets two and three. On the one side I am suggesting that as far as bullet two is concerned there were transgressions that could have been made on the impression that the person might have had that he or she was authorised by implication or that their actions would have carried the blessing of the government. I think that is the one category.
And then I am also saying that it could have also happened as a result of over-eagerness on the side of the person that he or she had gone too far as a result of that over-eagerness and interpreted the mandate beyond what was actually a reasonable sort of mandate. But the distinction between that and the third bullet to my mind lies in the fact that the third bullet deals with some cases that have become known, cases that have already served before the court, where to my mind it deals with situations where the person acted on his or her own agenda. There is a clear distinction, to my mind, between the two.
I am not saying the first one, that is the second bullet for that matter, necessarily presents one with a clear answer, and therefore I refer to it as a grey area. And also in my discussions with Professor Villa-Vicencio and Ms Rousseau, I think it was indicated that there is this grey area in regard to interpreting where was the limits of implied, an implied mandate or not, but I covered that all under bullet two.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you. I take it then that on the basis of that distinction, that schema as it were, you've set out that you would then accept that there may well be instances in which the unlawful killing of a political opponent was as a result of a bona fide action on the part of a security force member, is that correct?
MR MEYER: I guess the question of bona fide actions in this regard is relevant. I've also looked into the submission of General Malan in that regard, in regard to this subject of bona fides, and in general it seems to me one can concur with all that.
MR GOOSEN: So you would accept that in this schema of responsibility and accountability that it would have been possibly reasonable for a member of the security forces to have unlawfully killed a political opponent of government, correct?
MR MEYER: I tend to think immediately of the most recent example that has come to knowledge in terms of testimony last week regarding the Ribeiro case, and I think that is the kind of case in point. But what I am suggesting here in an overall picture is that there are three dimensions, and I don't want to, don't have to go over it again, but this grey area remains grey and one will have to probably go into the facts regarding each and every case separately because in some cases it might be quite easy to determine whether there was an implied mandate. In other cases there might have been no link but that the person who acted still acted on that belief.
MR GOOSEN: But in principle you would accept that there may be circumstances, and yes we will have to go into each particular set of facts in say an amnesty hearing, but in principle on this schema you would accept that it may be reasonable for a member of the security forces to have unlawfully killed a political opponent or a person perceived as a revolutionary or a supporter of a revolutionary cause at that time, is that correct?
MR MEYER: I think the implication of what I am saying here from that one can make that deduction, but as to the implications that you are suggesting I am not quite sure whether one has worked through all the consequences as far as that is concerned.
MR GOOSEN: Does that not then also imply that the level of political responsibility that it is necessary to accept political responsibility for the creation of a climate in which it may have been reasonable for members of the security forces to have unlawfully killed political opponents of the government?
MR MEYER: My suggestion would be that the climate was there in any event. I don't think it was necessarily created by the political or military or police chiefs at the point. I think the climate was there and it's for that reason important that one keeps in mind the nature of the conflict to my mind, and that is why I also referred to that in paragraph 5 in a broader sense. There was on the one side daily activities - I can remember during the time I was responsible in the position that I am dealing here with, mainly '87, that there were reports on a daily basis of different acts of terrorism, or the killing of people from necklacing, or the planting of bombs and so forth, and of course that created one side of the picture. We had an on-going situation of action leading to reaction, and reaction leading to further action.
So I am suggesting that the climate was there and it might not necessarily have been related even to a specific occasion where one could deduct a specific implied mandate. But the general circumstances might have implied that.
MR GOOSEN: I accept that a climate may be there but would you not accept that political leadership, I mean we are dealing here now with State Security policy and for that reason not concentrating on organs of the State and the people that were involved in that, but that politicians, senior leadership of the security forces sustained a particular climate, a climate which rendered it reasonable for members of the security forces to act unlawfully, including the killing of political opponents of the State in certain circumstances.
MR MEYER: I would be hesitant to make any specific deduction in that regard. I want to again emphasise what I have stated there in paragraph 2 that I am not aware of any specific such situation and that it definitely didn't happen in these organs of State. What happened of course amongst individuals and what happened in line function departments I can't witness for.
MR GOOSEN: But we are talking about the creation of a framework, a policy framework, an approach to the resolution of the problem and that that included statements and policies which when interpreted by the people who were required to implement those policies and reasonably interpreted that they could establish their authorisation for unlawful actions. In those circumstances do you not accept that political responsibility would have to attach?
MR MEYER: I am trying to put forward a framework here within which, well for which I am trying to be helpful in trying to find a way forward because truly these questions come up on an on-going basis. I mean just this morning one heard them but I can imagine that the Commission itself is on an on-going basis confronted with these questions and I am trying to put forward a framework that hopefully can be helpful in analysing the situation, but I don't have the detailed information available to make conclusions of that and therefore I think one has to, if this kind of framework is being adopted one will have to go to the details and ascertain. And it's also for that reason under bullet 2 that I suggest it remains a grey area and I don't think it's possible to make a single conclusion on that.
MR GOOSEN: I too am trying to deal at the level of the framework because I think that that's where we are. What I am trying to establish is whether in the framework that you are putting forward you accept that the policies, the full ambit of counter-revolutionary policies and approaches adopted by the State Security Council, the Cabinet, whether that framework reasonably interpreted by an operative on the ground could be interpreted to mean that that person has authorisation to commit unlawful acts on behalf of the security forces?
MR MEYER: Well I guess that is where the concept of an implied mandate can come in, and it's for that reason that I am suggesting that there is a moral responsibility. But to the extent of which there is such a possibility I can't judge because that is not within the framework of my knowledge.
MR GOOSEN: Perhaps just to put the question in this way maybe we can deal with it then conceptually. In your view how could a person, or is it possible that a person could have reasonably interpreted and acted bona fide in that interpretation, in killing a political opponent?
And is it possible for you to give an example in which you would regard such action as a reasonable interpretation of events or a bona fide action on the part of the member of the security forces?
MR MEYER: I can't think of a good example, it's not one that I would have reached that conclusion on before but in relation to what has been testified, and this is not necessarily in a political context, but in a relationship between the official concerned and his minor, is what became clear through the Ribeiro case. But I don't have other examples that I can think of immediately.
MR GOOSEN: On that basis then, I mean we can, I don't particularly want to do it, but we can run through a number of instances that we now know were - involved the killing of political opponents of the former government and we can list many of those and we can ask whether in each one of those instances you would regard that as possibly a reasonable interpretation of State policy in that regard, but we can leave that aside for the moment. The question then is if, if it is possible in the schema that there could have been a reasonable interpretation which permitted the commission of an unlawful act, is it not then necessary that political responsibility should be accepted not only on the basis of omission but on the basis of commission, the creation of circumstances in which operatives on the ground could reasonably interpret policy to authorise the unlawful killing of a political opponent?
MR MEYER: I won't necessarily come to that conclusion because I believe there is testimony before the Commission from at least some of those that were politically responsible that would definitely indicate that they have not given such instructions or that if it was implied that they have given such instructions on the basis of a commission, then it's not a correct version, it's not the truth.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Meyer I am not talking here about commission in respect of a specific instance, I am talking about commission on the part of members of participants in organs of State such as the State Security Council and Cabinet, commission, collective commission of the creation of a climate in which it was reasonable for a security force member to kill a political opponent.
MR MEYER: I don't think one can say that it would have gone beyond the possibility of what I have been stating there in bullet two, I don't think so.
MR GOOSEN: So do I understand that you say you would not agree that political responsibility should be assumed then on the basis that a set of circumstances were created by the State Security Council in which operatives could act unlawfully?
MR MEYER: As far as the State Security Council is concerned, as far as my knowledge is concerned, definitely not.
MR GOOSEN: Would the same apply in respect of statements made, positions adopted by politicians serving in the State Security Council or in the Cabinet in respect of what needs to be done in order to combat the revolutionary onslaught?
MR MEYER: Again I don't have knowledge of that kind whatsoever.
MR GOOSEN: I think you would agree that you served in a senior position on the State Security Council from 1986, as a member of the State Security Council, you certainly were party to discussions which occurred at that level.
You also were as a serving politician in the country at the time must surely be aware of a significant number of statements in which politicians made it very clear, very clear that a revolutionary onslaught and revolutionaries in particular had to be combated with all means at the disposal of the State, and that every possible effort should be made to crush the revolutionary onslaught, not so?
MR MEYER: Well I think it's like Pik Botha was saying yesterday, I've read through his testimony and I guess it's like he has indicated in that, that there were probably statements of a general political nature that might have created different impressions but it all depends on how people who have received those messages have interpreted it within the scope of their authority.
MR GOOSEN: That's precisely the point. I mean the fact of the matter is we know from a whole spate of amnesty applications that they were in fact interpreted to authorise killings. What I am asking you is if you can comment as to whether you regard that as reasonable interpretation? If you do regard it as a reasonable interpretation should you not accept political responsibility for that?
MR MEYER: It all depends again on what - one will have to go into each case and determine what consequences the person who pronounced might have foreseen or not. Even looking at some of the documentation that you have made available to me there are obviously different interpretations that one can reduce from every single such pronouncement, if I am right.
MR GOOSEN: But if the interpretation is that we have a general authorisation for acceptance of, I mean you indicated, you say that individuals under the impression that they were authorised by implication, now you accept that that could happen. What I am asking you is whether in the circumstances in which there was an impression that they were authorised by implication whether that would have been reasonable or not? If it is reasonable does it not follow that at a political level responsibility should attach?
MR MEYER: I guess the question is actually what one could have adduced from the person who made the pronouncement, what he could have foreseen in terms of consequences, of the consequences or not. And again I think one has to go back to every single case. I don't think - well let me put it emphatically,
I am saying to you that from my knowledge that could not have been the conclusion reached in terms of the activities of the organs of State that I was involved in.
MR GOOSEN: We are not talking here about specific authorisation, we are talking about the adoption of a set of policy guidelines which you acknowledge would be interpreted by the people who acted. So the question is, you acknowledge that they were interpreted, the question is in those circumstances would it be reasonable, in principle is it reasonable for a person to have interpreted those policies to authorise the unlawful killing of a political opponent? And we get back to that point.
If it is not reasonable, under no circumstances could it be reasonable, yes, then political responsibility would only have to attach on an individual who made a particular pronouncement, but if in principle, if in principle it is possible for the interpretation to be reasonable, State policy, then at that level political responsibility must attach, surely?
MR MEYER: In the way that you have described it my answer would be no.
MR GOOSEN: Now in circumstances where to the Minister of Defence would make a statement to the effect that every effort should be made, terrorists should be wiped out, those who come across the border carrying their limpet mines and so on that they must be tracked down, whether they are inside the country or outside of the country they must be annihilated, them and their supporters or their "meelopers", now in those circumstances would you not agree that that generates a climate in which susceptible to reasonable interpretation, that unlawful actions are authorised? I am not asking that you should condemn the Minster of Defence, he made such a statement, we can get the full quote for you - that's a summary of it. I am not asking you to condemn a former Minister of Defence, I am asking you in principle, in terms of the climate created.
MR MEYER: But I guess you are now back with the individual again. You are back with the individual now, or the individual case or the line functionary now again. The previous question was about a general atmosphere as far as what was created by the State as such. I mean you are now referring to an individual Minister and my answer in that regard would be to go to the facts of each and every single case because that is what I am suggesting in bullet two. I don't think it would be correct to assume that - No let me frame it differently. I am not trying to address the individual cases in my submission here, because to my mind that will have to be analysed on the merit of each case.
MR GOOSEN: So there is in your schema no scope for collective responsibility other than on the basis of omissions, is that correct?
MR MEYER: My reference there is I think quite clear, namely that under bullet two I am saying that there has to be an acceptability, to my mind, on the side of the previous government of a responsibility, a moral responsibility which led to the circumstances.
MR GOOSEN: But Mr Meyer that's precisely the point, what is the basis of that moral and political responsibility is it founded upon an acceptance that State policies were susceptible to a reasonable interpretation that unlawful actions were authorised or not?
MR MEYER: Is the question not really what moral responsibility means?
MR GOOSEN: Let's look at - let's leave moral responsibility, let's look at political responsibility because you refer to political responsibility, what is the basis of that political responsibility?
MR MEYER: I am not sure whether I have all the information available on that or all the knowledge available on that, but it seems to me in the context what it's being used here for is to say well if this would have happened to a person in the political position whilst he or she is still in office that could have resulted in the resignation or the sacking of that particular person as a political act, and I think that is the kind of meaning that could be attached to it.
MR GOOSEN: And would that be confined then purely to line functional departments rather than any sense of collective responsibility?
MR MEYER: I think what is being suggested here and it is something that I understand it also came up otherwise before the Commission is the question of a consideration of a collective moral responsibility because none of those members are still in Cabinet at this stage, so politically they could not be sacked in any event or resign, but it's accepting a moral responsibility in terms of what the Cabinet then as it were had to take responsibility for.
MR GOOSEN: So the question as to whether State policy directives were susceptible to reasonable misinterpretation that they authorised unlawful actions that would not feature at all in the scheme of political responsibility which we'll have to attach in respect of those individual matters? You've indicated that, when I asked you what the basis for the acceptance of political responsibility was you'd say well if the line function or the department, the person who made the statement, if that person could, on the basis of those statements be dismissed, politically dismissed for being in breach of the policy in regard to that matter, then and only then would political responsibility attach. That is as I understand your answer to the question. Is that correct or not?
MR MEYER: I think there must be some differentiation between political and other forms of responsibility. I am trying to define what political responsibility in this regard would mean. Obviously it is different from criminal responsibility or accountability. But I am trying to put forward again a framework in that regard. I can't give judgement on specific cases.
CHAIRPERSON: Ilan I thought you....
MR LAX: Chairperson I want to just deal with the practicality for example and this relates to a point in time before your time Mr Meyer on the SSC. We know that the SSC authorised at times raids into neighbouring states for example and that people were killed in those raids. Not only were those people foreign citizens but there were South Africans and innocent foreign citizens killed in some of those raids. We can take one instance the Maseru raid in December 1985 for example. That raid was authorised almost implicitly if you like by the SSC so we are led to understand, now does that make them collectively responsible say in line with your first bullet? And if not does that make them responsible in line with your second bullet?
It doesn't include you personally because you weren't there at that time, but at the same time you are in a position to have been there at a different time and pass judgement and give us your view of the matter.
MR MEYER: I guess it's quite difficult. One will have to go into what exactly that decision I guess, that resolution if there was one, amounts to, if one looks at the wording what it amounts to and so forth, one might be able to come to a conclusion. I find myself a little bit in difficulty there because I can't speak of first-hand information or knowledge.
MR LAX: You can take it from me that there was a resolution on December the 20th, 1985, that those sorts of raids, that particular raid should be conducted and it was so conducted. We heard last week of other raids and Pik yesterday spoke about a raid that he didn't even know about that interfered with his own working. This is a specific instance where we know that the decision was authorised. You can take it from me, I am not misleading you, it's gospel. (Laughter) In a vernacular sort of sense.
MR MEYER: But I guess there would be an argument and I am testing now because I am not quite sure, but there might be an argument about cross-
border raids and authorising that. If I remember correctly General Malan also addressed that in his submission to you, and there is a different position in regard to cross-border raids than to what happened internally. I am sort of asking.
MR LAX: Well you see we haven't focused much on cross-border raids because individuals that have come before us last week for example were all in one way or another involved in some of the cross-border raids, and because of the whole extradition issue not being resolved they didn't deal with it and so we didn't talk a great deal about it at that point but you are not involved and therefore there's an ample opportunity to deal with it.
MR MEYER: It would be unfair to make me either the advocate or the judge in a case like this.
CHAIRPERSON: Wynand Malan wants to say something.
MR MALAN: I want to, I am thinking back of the time, '85 when it was quoted, one of the concepts that was often discussed is the concept of collective responsibility, Cabinet responsibility. On that basis I want to rephrase the question in a frame that I think will be sitting more comfortable in your mind because it's a frame that has been addressed, within which it has been addressed before.
If at the level of Cabinet or then for that matter State Security Council, whatever body, a decision is taken and implementation of that decision follows don't you accept total responsibility for that decision and its consequences? Isn't that really the question? Whether it is political or moral or criminal that's something else, the test is on the outside, it's not your test and frankly this is a bit of a problem that I experience with the line of questioning because I find that a construction is asked from the witness which is more one of a legal, technical or philosophical one whereas what I think is important is whether responsibility is accepted.
Now if that responsibility so is accepted in the plain proposition that I put would it not also be true that if, whether that is by negligence or omission or whatever reason, that whatever you did or was done in such a meeting or body, that those who were part of it is by definition saddled with the responsibility? Again whatever kind of responsibility that is, political, moral, criminal, whatever, but the test is not for you to decide, the test is on the outside.
My question to you is, are you trying to duck some of the things that you did or are you saying whatever I did I accept responsibility, the construction that follows is something that is on the outside of me? Would you be prepared to go with such a proposition?
MR MEYER: I think that is what I tried to put here in a framework, exactly that, but I have the impression that some of the questions indicate that I must interpret what individuals might have had in mind in terms of consequences and so forth and that I can't make a deduction on. So I would go along with an interpretation that you have constructed because I think that is essentially what I am trying to say in bullet two.
MR MALAN: And if - sorry Chairperson just for the - and if any construction would be put to whatever was done which would be construed as criminal liability and prosecutions following in a court of law then you will be quite comfortable with accepting the process as the process again?
MR MEYER: Indeed.
MR WESSELS: Mr Chairman may I just establish something?
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, you have a right to speak. (Laughter)
MR WESSELS: Thank you. I'd just like to establish, if we play rugby the reserve bench cannot come into play unless he is authorised. If this is a wrestling contest I mean you come in regardless of what the referee says and then he calls you to order. Now Mr Goosen indicated that I am on the reserve bench right now ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: We are playing rugby....
MR WESSELS: Right, then I remain silent.
CHAIRPERSON: It seems to me that you are likely to ask much the same sort of questions, this particular question, and if you feel I mean that there is a contribution you can make why not make it now. The only thing is that you see I mean you keep giving him a chance to work out, if you are going to ask him the same questions so he's working out no, they don't like this answer maybe I am going to try that answer. Alright, do you think you should......
MR GOOSEN: I think Mr Chairperson the idea is simply to - I've been operating on the basis of the framework presented in the submission and I am simply interrogating that and I think obviously Mr Wessels' submission, whilst it may overlap with in some respects it's formulated in a different way and I want to deal with him separately.
Mr Meyer I am not asking you to comment on individual interpretations and I will take issue with Commissioner Malan about the external construction of this, it's not a philosophical debate. You put forward a schema which is the basis upon which accountability and responsibility should be adjudged.
Central to that second bullet point is a recognition on your part that individuals may have been under the impression that they were authorised by implication. Now yes, accept that when you deal with a specific instance we are going to have to determine whether in that particular instance it was, whether that person in fact was under that impression, was not acting on some other motive. We are not talking about the motive of the person here.
We are talking about whether it is possible, as a matter of principle, whether it was possible for security police operatives or security force operatives to reasonably interpret State Security Council and Cabinet National Party policy statements and so on, to authorise unlawful activity, whether it was reasonable? Whether you accept, as a matter of principle that it was reasonable? If you say no, well then the consequence attaches to that in terms of the schema that you've raised. But if you say yes, another consequence attaches. I want to know whether you accept that in principle it was reasonable that such misinterpretations could occur or not?
MR MALAN: Chairperson may I just - look really I am not sure that I understand the question. If the question is could have then that's something, but was is a different question then we need to look at the facts.
MR GOOSEN: The question was could have.
MR MEYER: I was just going to say as one of the possibilities for consideration surely, and that certainly then depends on the specific circumstances, if you say could have.
MR GOOSEN: Then in those instances where it is established that it was a misinterpretation, okay, do you accept that collective political responsibility attaches?
MR MEYER: Of a moral and political nature, yes.
MR GOOSEN: Okay. Thank you. We are going to move on to another element of your presentation. I want to deal with paragraph 5. Let me just check something.
Perhaps the panel want to pick up on any questions whilst I am doing the - if the panel wants to pick up on a question to save time.
CHAIRPERSON: He has been very disciplined and was waiting to be guided by you.
MR GOOSEN: That makes a change Mr Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Are you ready.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson. Mr Meyer, can I refer you to the document which was also provided to you, that's the Concept National Strategy, the Revolutionary War, Strategy No. 44.
You indicate that part of the total counter Revolutionary Strategy was that a tremendous amount of effort was put into utilising the force of the state in a counter mobilisation plan. In the document, reference is made to at Page 4 of the document. The existence of the anti-revolutionary group loss such as Inkatha or ZZC or the...(intervention)
MR MEYER: Can you just help me with the exact reference, I am on Page 4 and I don't see this.
MR GOOSEN: I beg your pardon it is Page 4, it's 8B. Paragraph 8B on Page 4 of the document. The paragraph there reads anti-resistance of anti-revolutionary groups such as Inkatha, ZZC as well as the Ethnic Factor in the South African Society, makes the preparation for a coherent revolutionary onslaught difficult and states that it is one of the factors to take into account.
And then under Objectives, 6 at the top, there is reference to Groups and individuals to mobilise them and to protect themselves and to assist the Revolutionary actions.
Do I take it that that doelstelling is a reference to the fact that grouping such as Inkatha and or the ZCC and perhaps other anti-revolutionary groups could be mobilised to resist revolutionary activities and to protect themselves against those revolutionary activities.
MR MEYER: Thank you, it is kind of fun to go through all these old documents and to refresh one's mind. Thank you for making this available.
If one looks at the first paragraph that you quoted on Page 4, 8B, I think it refers to what they call Analysis of Capacity under Paragraph 7 you have Analysis of the, what one can say the Revolutionary elements, analysis of the capacities of radical organisations and under Paragraph 8 you there see an analysis of, let us call it the strong points inside of the South African government society and then 8B, is then mentioned as a strong point because there were allegedly certain anti-revolutionary groups that could have been helpful and could have assisted in combating revolution and if you follow that up and look the schedule, I think you will find the answer there in the quest for looking at what the specific actions were that arose from those and if you look at this document it is a schedule, it is unfortunately not numbered.
The schedule says objectives and overall conduct and actions against the revolutionary war and if you go to paragraph 6 thereof, I think the last two pages of that, you there find more or less an indication of the kind of actions proposed and contemplated, in order to strengthen and secure society and to help society to resist the revolutionary onslaught. I think that's the context in which it must be seen.
MR GOOSEN: If we go to paragraph 8 on that Annexure where the Delstelling and the Oorhof se optrede are then set out in columns and what corresponds with the objective to mobilise groups and groupings to encourage them to resist which then go through onto the following page. No. 2 there,
Counter Revolutionary Organisations must be developed along ethnic lines in order to prevent the political vacuum being exploited by the radical elements and one of the actions under 4, black parents must be organised and supported in order to prepare parental authority and to counter the manipulation of the youth by the radical elements.
You were present when I raised some questions in regard to these matters to Mr Vlok, would you say that it was on the basis of these, this policy's framework, this approach to contra-mobilisation that it was policy of the government and the Security forces then, because it falls under Safety, to manipulate differences that occurred within communities, exploit tensions that existed within the communities, to specifically organise and prompt the establishment of organisations based on an ethnic basis and to utilise through that support, those organisations, to engage in active resistance against efforts by revolutionary organisations as defined at the time within communities in which those organisations were organising.
MR MEYER: No, that is never how I understood it, in terms of this particular context. I think what one can deduct from what is stated here under for instance 8.2 Paragraph 8.2 is that it was very much in the frame of thinking of the constitutional solution at that stage that we needed a democratic solution based on Group Rights and that was all in that framework.
If you look at the original statement, Objectives as defined in the introduction to the document. I can't find it exactly now, but I can recall reading through it, it was stated there that the purpose is to develop - oh, here it is, can I read it Mr Chairperson, it is Paragraph 9 of the main document Page 5.
To neutralise the revolutionary war against the republics of the democratic dispensation can be developed here in which all the groupings of the population can take part in the government of the country without threatening each other's rights, because it was quite clearly the overall intention with the stated goal. That was part of the Constitutional thinking at the time that a democratic solution should be arrived on a basis of group or ethnic rights and I think that one should see that therefore also in Paragraph 8.2 later on in a context of what was intended there, but I can't recall any experience where this was a specific intention to play of one group against another on the basis of putting them to a fight.
MR GOOSEN: Then can I refer you to the other document which was provided to you which was tabled at the GVS Werkgroup on the 24th January 1987 Strategic considerations in respect of the initiation of the counter mobilisation in South Africa and I refer you to Page 11 of that document where it says at the top the Following measures may be considered, encouraged, distrust ethic and tribal defences and all other divisive factors amongst the enemy, discredit them and their helpers internally and outside the country and as individuals under these organisations. How does that maatreel fit in with the notion that you have just explained in regard to the . . .
MR MEYER: I also noted that and can I make a general observation whilst the first document that you have referred to is clearly something that reached the level of the State Security Council, sort of neatly packaged and made sense in terms of what the Councillor have approved by then and what let us say these apparatus were busy with.
The second document which to my mind and I have read through it, I came to no other conclusion that it was drafted by an individual and probably didn't go beyond the first level of discussions if it did, because there are so many contradictions in that document itself, that one can only come to the conclusion as the person himself said in the very last part of the paragraph of that document, Paragraph 20. "Many more loose ideas may be proposed" and I think that describes the whole document. It is a document of loose ideas and I can't imagine that that was every approved, I can't recall this document quite frankly and I can't remember that I have ever seen it and I can't recall that it was every discussed in my presence. I tried to find out what might have been the status of that document but it seems nobody know. It was apparently referred to a Working Group for discussion in January 1987. The point that I am concluding on is to say that for instance in Paragraph D that you have just read out, does not fall, what is intended there is, what is put forward there as a loose thought, definitely did not fall in the ambit of what we were busy with in the Joint Management Centre at that stage. I can't recall any specific occasion where something like that was executed or planned by the Management Centre.
MR GOOSEN: So I take it from that that you would say in respect of the first document that the Over arching conduct and actions and objectives would not be susceptible of an interpretation that ethnic conflict divisions in a community should be manipulated and utilised in order to organise active resistance against enemy organisations I include in enemy organisations the UDF. It is not susceptible of that interpretation.
MR MEYER: It might have been but I am saying that it was not part of what I was involved in or know about as far as the official operations of the Joint Management Centre is concerned.
CHAIRPERSON: Now, I accepted that you are saying on the basis of the document that that was not authorised, I accept that but you are saying, is it conceivable that in the implementation of this the contra-mobilisation efforts as set out here in this document, the first document referred to, could have been interpreted to mean something closer to the Paragraph D that I refer to in the second document?
MR MEYER: I would say that, Paragraph 8 in the original, the first document, I would say definitely had not as far as the official operations is concerned, if that is the right word, have been considered or applied. Let me take you to one specific example which relates to the point thereunder 8.4 which you have also referred to of the first document. There it is stated under Remarks "Contaminated youth or youthful military elements must be removed from society and must be rehabilitated according to acceptable practices" in that regard by the then Department of Education and Training, they established some training institutions for that purpose where rehabilitation could take place, I think whether they were successful or not, that is not the point but that was how it was done and operated, but I can't recall any successful or even an attempt of operation under 8.2.
MR GOOSEN: So it was never policy for example, that members of the Security Forces would provide with overt or covert support to anti-revolutionary groupings as were defined, anti-revolutionary groupings inside the country in accordance with this policy. That was never policy.
MR MEYER: I can't say that there were no covert activities of that kind, I can't say that because I won't know and I can't say that it was impossible as far as that is.
CHAIRPERSON: Where such coverts support was in fact rendered it was outside of the ambit of approved policy guidelines from that the level of the State Security Council, not so?
MR MEYER: No, all that I can say is that it could be interpreted in such a way by a specific line function department. I won't know, but that is not impossible.
CHAIRPERSON: I accept that you wouldn't know, but it would be a misinterpretation by that line function department to render that sort of support because that is not what was envisaged.
MR MEYER: I don't think that was envisaged, no.
CHAIRPERSON: It is not a question of whether you don't think it was envisaged, from what you have indicated that was not envisaged so therefore if a line function department engaged in such kind of action it would be a misinterpretation, correct?
MR MEYER: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: Would you say that it would be a reasonable misinterpretation or not?
MR MEYER: I said to you what I understand of A2 was and how it was interpreted to my mind by the both the State Security Council and all its subsidiaries and I think one can say within the overall policy framework at that stage it would have been an unreasonable interpretation.
MR GOOSEN: So in respect of say the support for the Witdoeke in KTC June of 1986 in Cape Town, support rendered by members of the Security forces, attempts by the Joint Management Centre in the Western Cape to secure even financial support from the Secretariat of the State Security Council in order to support certain activities of the Witdoeke that that would all be, fall into the realm of an unreasonable misinterpretation of what was envisaged in respect of counter mobilisation of contra mobilisation policies as approved by the State Security Council. Is that correct?
MR MEYER: I think so, yes.
CHAIRPERSON: And presumably on that basis you would say that then no political responsibility could ever attach in respect of the actions by the Security force members and all the participants in the meetings of the Joint Management Centre in respect of that covert support to the Witdoeke?
MR MEYER: . . . but think so, we must just remember that this strategy 44 came into being on the 1st December 1986 according to the document whilst those alleged activities if I remember correctly what you said this morning took place at an earlier stage so one would not necessarily bring it in line with what is stated here in this strategy because the one came after the other.
CHAIRPERSON: But presumably if it wasn't authorised at the point November 1986 when this comprehensive plan is put in place, there was no policy prior to that to provide that support from the, level of the State Security Council.
MR MEYER: I won't know from my own knowledge, one would have to go through the documentation and maybe you and I will be proved incorrect, but as far as my own knowledge is concerned, I won't know.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Meyer, thank you very much, I have no further questions.
CHAIRPERSON: Are there any questions from the panel? Yasmin.
MS SOOKA: Mr Meyer at Page 2, I think paragraph 4 of your own submission, you say the fact the term regarding deficiencies in the system in use at the time, the fact that so many transgressions took place over a lengthy period is an indication in itself that more vigilant actions was called for and with hindsight and looking at the embarrassing facts now emerging one can argue that more stringent steps should have been taken to curb the possibilities of transgressions taking place and of you go on to take responsibility, but I think the question does face us here is, given the policy of the counter revolutionary strategy the fact that the security establishment was so powerful, how was it, given what so many politicians have come forward to us to say that they didn't actually know or else they would have taken steps to curb that. How was it possible for the kind of things that did happen to take place and where do we actually say "Where is this gap" I think that is my question, I have heard from the politicians and I am sorry to be asking so many questions in one. But the real difficulty that faces us is where would one say the blame actually lies, you have got the politicians on the top, you have got the State Security Council, you have got the Generals, but somewhere in-between, something went wrong, and I think we would like your view on what it is that did go wrong, because we actually go, you fall short here of taking criminal responsibility or and I think one could actually question that, the whole concept of criteria, the liability of putting in to place things like Vlakplaas, the CCB where you must have a sense that things can go horribly wrong.
Now, I think that is what we would like to get an answer on.
MR MEYER: I guess nobody had the answer, maybe, and let me try to put forward this, from one's own view in that regard. Maybe it is just a question that things have developed over a period of time in such a way that in the end we were all part of a frame of mind, politicians, officials, people in minor positions even that believed that there was an enemy that had to be wiped out, the belief that there was not a just cause on the side of the majority of South Africans and the belief that for protection of the minority that was the right thing and the only thing to do. Maybe it was, it was in the end fear that dictated, that is why I refer to my submission to the fact that one had to look at the total spectrum both dimensions of the conflict because that in itself tells something about the demands and the fears that had developed at the time and in that context, it is probably not possible to even put at a specific point or a specific place the blame, it was just overall, that is the feeling that one had today if you look back at it. So during this period, let us say the mid-'80's in general, we probably have reached a stage when in any event the climate was of such a nature that it was not sort of the in thing to raise questions. I listened to the questions this morning and I was surprised in that regard, but it was, it was not the in thing to ask questions, if you hear on a daily basis, especially within government circles that people are being killed as a result of an act of terrorism or necklacing is taking place on a daily basis, that bombs are going off and things like that, you fall into a frame of mind that you stop asking questions because it is not the right sort of thing to do at that moment and I think that is the context that one has to put yourself back into for the sake of creating an understanding.
Looking back now, it is easy to make judgement and say "How the hell could this happen" but then it was different and I am not trying to excuse ourselves, I am trying to find out myself why, why could we let this happen, some amongst us were bold and did take the necessary action, some were as bold as to break out of the mould at that stage because they were driven to do so. All that we can say is fortunately we all, we all arrived at a point fortunately, we gained better insight.
MS SOOKA: And I think we maybe, one needs to say that we are not sitting in judgement but we want to understand and for the same . . .(indistinct) the answer.
CHAIRPERSON: The remarkable answer, I just wondered whether I could take it just a little further, I mean take your construction further, in a way it is a breathtaking response to say publicly and this is one of the incredible things about this country, you know, and sometimes we become blasé and take it for granted, but I don't know that anywhere else in the world would you get someone who has been in government come before a Commission of this kind and say what you have said just now, you know both of you are saying, yes, well we got to a point where we were as we where and that gives the opportunity for all of us to say, now we are actually are human and we have got weaknesses, but your weakness paradoxically is a strength because it is ultimately really a strong person, a big person, who can say, you know, I am sorry but this is where I was and it almost seems like being, you know, like nit-picking but I wonder whether you would be willing to say that given all the things you say that happened in those years, I mean all the bombardment about the kind of facts and that you didn't want to ask questions and I agree with Yasmin that, well we have a kind of small judicial thing judging facts and so on, but in that setting it clearly seems possible and I think that is what happened, that people said in order to achieve this goal, I mean that we will resist this total onslaught, anything goes, I mean that no holes barred, and that is where we are now and we are trying now to say what happened how do you overcome it. I don't know. Well I, you see you are nodding and it is not coming into the dingus, I see you shaking your head, maybe you have to say something. I mean it is almost superfluous because I think that that is the consequence of what you said, that I mean we were in that kind of a situation and no holes barred.
MR MEYER: I think you've said it, I think essentially, unfortunately that is to what a great extent happened. Maybe it was because it was not necessarily Security ...(inaudible - recording deteriorates) all of it, it was across the spectrum. And of course the misreading of the situation now is so clear, the whole idea of looking for an answer through counter-mobilisation or counter- strategy in itself was wrong, it missed the point. I can recall we ourselves at that stage, including myself, said yes the answer is political, we were almost taught to say the answer is 80% political and 20% security. But that in itself was a complete misreading of the situation, because the political answers that we sought were not the real answers and that in itself created even more misunderstanding, I think, because the frustration that misreading of the real answer must have caused on the other side, so to speak, on the side of those that wanted to achieve liberation must have caused more and more frustration because it was as if they could not break through with their messages.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
MR GOOSEN: I have no questions for Mr Meyer, for Mr Wessels, yes a few.
CHAIRPERSON: I am not sure, I mean, Roelf you don't have to go because the Chairperson sometimes says some things at the end.
MR MEYER: I will wait for my partner.
CHAIRPERSON: Alright, thank you.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Wessels, one of the disadvantages of being a reserve in a rugby match is that you possibly only come on right at the very end.
MR WESSELS: That doesn't matter, as long as you know how long the game is going to last, are we continuing tomorrow. (Laughter)
MR GOOSEN: No, we won't be long, I assure you.
MR WESSELS: No, I am not difficult, are we staying until 4.00pm or 3.30, I just want to know how to place myself in answering the questions.
CHAIRPERSON: I had hoped for about 3.30 but what do you think?
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson, I think we will be finished by 3.30. I don't have a great deal to ask Mr Wessels. Thank you.
I think Mr Wessels perhaps it picks up on the point that Mr Meyer has just made, the issue that we have just been speaking about. In reference to the portion in your statement on Page 2 where you state
"That I further do not believe the political defence I did not know is available to me, because in many respects I believe I did not want to know".
and I really just want to ask if you can elaborate on that and if you can explain and what it is you wish to convey, in perhaps more detail.
MR WESSELS: Well, I appreciate the remarks made by the Chair and by Roelf and I endorse those sentiments, each and every one of them. I cannot shy away from the fact that I am a National Party, that I was a National Party politician, I was elected on the National Party political ticket, I had endorsed each and every of those policies. The policy simply was since the days of Mr John Vorster that . . . (indistinct) the highest law of the land would be the security of the land, that had to do with the first detentions of people 90 days, 80 days. 16 years later, I was in Parliament, I was debating the Rabie Commission and the framework, the launching pad was still the highest law of the land, is the security of the land. Now amongst that framework, amongst that frame of mind we had put legislation on the statute book. Numbers of them. Security legislation, the Terrorism Act, within them were embodied, sections, clauses which allowed policemen to question, to hold indefinitely people in detention. Subsequent to that we had in terms of Public Safety act we called for states of emergency, we on the basis of that you need to centralise authority in the hands of the executive, did exactly that, now because we did that, I simply cannot see how I can ...(inaudible) back and say sorry I did not know, it was foreseen that under those circumstances people would be detained, people would be tortured, everybody in this country knew people were tortured, they were tortured, you read it in the alternative Press, anybody who had access to the Townships, my sources of information was the Chairman of ...(recording deteriorates and disappears)
MR WESSELS: Chairman of this Commission sitting next to him Wynand Malan, Alex Boraine, we did battle on many occasions in Parliament in the face of attacks by Helen Suzman, Boraine and others simply saying the Security forces were a law unto themselves and we argued, vehemently opposed that, we said you are misreading the situation, it is not true and yet it all happened right there under our noses, so I don't believe I can stand up and say, sorry, I didn't know.
MR GOOSEN: Does it flow from that then that you would accept that it is not directed at you personally, but at in those circumstances, the context that you sketch that senior government officials subject to exactly the same context that you were subject to in effect chose not to know and accordingly chose to create a climate of impunity for Security force members to act.
MR WESSELS: I take it I am also permitted to ask a question for you to further particulars, are we saying when you refer to officials, government officials, could you just explain to me what are you talking of, are you talking of politicians or officials of state, non-elected officials?
MR GOOSEN: Let's stop at the politicians for the moment.
MR WESSELS: I have no question in my mind, I have no doubt in my mind but whatsoever, that that was the policy that you had to know what you had to know. In other words what you did not have to know did not concern you. Let me give you a simple example, for the better, for the better, I was interviewed recently by a gentleman called Jonathan Malanski, he is busy with his doctorate at the London School of Economics, he is busy with research in this country at this particular juncture. He questioned me about a resolution taken at the State Security Council dealing with the release of Mr Nelson Mandela. I believe it was taken in June 1988 and it is minuted as follows that a document was circulated and the document was then drawn in or drawn back and was then destroyed and he asked me what had happened there, because directly or indirectly my name appears in and around that document.
The fact of the matter is the following: That the ..(inaudible)
Werkgroup the executive of the working group was charged to work a strategy, to establish a strategy to try and facilitate the release of President Nelson Mandela. Now in that discussion it was clear that everybody was not pulling, pushing all the information that they had, it was clear in my mind that Mr Kobie Coetzee, Dr Neil Barnard, Mr Fanie van der Merwe were engaged in their own strategy over and above what we were busy with, that was none of my business.
Dr Neil Barnard was not obliged to report to me neither was Mr Fanie van der Merwe, neither was Mr Kobie Coetzee. It was none of my business, I did not want to know they were reporting to Mr P W Botha on that issue and that was how it functioned. My job was to manage the state of emergency and all the information I had to have to manage the state of emergency I was entitled to and over and above that I was not entitled to that. I operated as a Deputy Minister and function under regulated or (help my met die - Engels man) regulations, delegated powers and regulations, over and above that it was not my line function. I was not in the authority to detain people or to release people, and in that sense I didn't know and I did not want to know, because I was charged to do something else, to manage the state of emergency and the national management system and I did that. And therefore I am saying in conclusion there was such a policy, Mr Pik Botha mentioned it yesterday as well, that was a statement of fact.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Wessels, you have also had the benefit of being present for the last two days, you weren't present at the previous hearings, but in essence some of the testimony that we have heard has been to the effect that there were certain policy guidelines formulated and there was obviously never any intention that that should mean, that unlawful action should flow from it.
Unlawful actions did flow from those policy frameworks were in consequence of misinterpretations and we have had discussion about how to interpret the word elimineer and so on and so forth. I don't want to get into a semantic debate about it.
The Security forces fought a war in the country and in certain respects they fought a dirty war and that is evident from a number of the amnesty applications, the benefit of having fought that war including the dirty aspects was that the revolution as envisaged did not occur, the revolutionaries did not wrest power from the National Party government as it was. Is it not too much to expect that the Commission should accept that this benefit, that benefit was merely the happy result of a set of mistaken interpretations, a coincidence?
MR WESSELS: I must tell you I will not try to duck the answer, to duck the question but I have difficulty in fully comprehend that and I won't blame you for the way you formulated it, I will, maybe I am not on top of the question, but the following occurred.
It was a dirty war on all sides. I sat in discussions where I was defending, so to speak, people who were allies of the government, I am referring to councillors, and no, I am not arguing the legitimacy, the non-
legitimacy of the fact, they were councillors and what had been done to them and I had listened to arguments where they had told me in the presence of others what they thought of our policies. None of them were supporters of apartheid, and yet they were subjected to but fierce intimidation. Serious intimidation. And I sat alongside South African policemen being accused by them for not protecting them. So that was the predicament, that was the cleftstick, John Citizen found himself in.
I have somebody who has just been decorated for reporting on the work of this Commission and somebody I hold in high esteem who had first educated me about this predicament, John Citizen being called upon to not disclose the whereabouts of an infiltrator, a revolutionary, being forced to remain silent by those people who wanted him to play a specific role, and yet on the same side also being the subject of attacks by the security forces for not disclosing that particular event, that was the difficulty.
But let me not run away from the issue, the issue is the following, the Chappies Klopper whom I happen to know, Chappies Klopper told me who he, why and how he and others had attacked the house of Ivor Jenkins, and I said, why did you do that, and I speak very good Afrikaans, just like Markgraaf, I have a very good repertoire of Afrikaans words to explain my anger, I was really the hell in, and I asked him, why did you do that? And he said well we did it because we thought they were giving you a hard time, not me personally, the government. How and why did he believe that? Because we had been making those speeches, the speeches Mr Pik Botha had referred to yesterday, National Party rallies. If you wanted to have an applause from the gathering, then you must see how we try and mobilise people and how we stir them up at meetings, we will really speak to them and get them to react, we will climb every mountain in this country.....used by us and the Chappies Kloppers' of the world interpreted what we were saying, he thought it was just, it was legitimate to instil the fear of hell into Ivor Jenkins and others by attacking his house and shooting his house and never ever did I or anybody give such, never did I, let me speak for myself, did I give such an instruction, never ever, and that is what I said, can I condone that, but I cannot shy away from the fact, that those men and woman and I were on the same side and that was the difficulty we're in.
That is why I am not sure, I mean we run glibly over this, I am not sure whether the people of South Africa and I say this with respect, the Commissioners and others appreciate that silent feeling of relief when the epilogue was agreed to. There are people who are picking it up, but that epilogue was not agreed to at the World Trade Centre in November of 1993, but it, we had to go the extra mile, we had to go to the Cape of Good Hope Centre in December of 1993 to Cape Town, that is how difficult it was to get that in, that is why I said I will be continuing tomorrow, I have a lot to say Mr Chairman - now I am not biased against this Commission, I think my conduct, my interaction with you displays that, but I implore you, don't squander the opportunity that we negotiated for you, in the epilogue, to ensure that this County will be at peace with itself after you have done your job.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson, I have no further questions, thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much, both of you, we have had an extraordinary two days. We were very deeply frustrated that especially the military had not come forward for us to be able to know more about what had happened, why it had happened, and I mean, we had thought that this hearing was going to provide us with some of the answers that we were looking for about accountability and so on. I think we have gone beyond that. We are still going to have to try and establish, I mean we have got researchers and these people who are going to be trying to establish facts and we are still going to have our meeting with Mr P W Botha. You indicated earlier that you believed that it was important that your leaders should have been here to help you to become a team.
But I think that anyone listening to yourselves is not going to go away with, well, they were fussing over this, they were fussing over that, it is that you have come out and stood, well almost naked, figuratively, and it is a very humbling thing, it is a very humbling thing for us in the Commission, it is very humbling, because some of the things that have happened in the two years that we have been together, have been quite extraordinary, and we regard what has happened in these two days in different ways, but especially the remarkable candour that you have displayed is something that I think doesn't happen, it's not happened anywhere else. I said when we sit here sometimes we forget, I mean, that you were the government, you were running the show and now you are coming to give account to us who many of us were regarded in that dispensation as really nothing or worse, I mean, enemies to be neutralised. And I just want to give thanks, I want to give thanks for our country, for our people, I want to give thanks that you two young men should have, I mean, the honesty that you have demonstrated is, it doesn't come easily to anyone of us, I think and it must be at some cost to yourselves, but we want to give thanks and believe, I mean we believe fervently that the contribution that you have made in the past, but the contribution that you have made today is going to be one that has a remarkable impact.
It is going to help give a momentum to this process of seeking to heal our country, because we have been committed to the fact that we want to finish this thing quickly. The country can't keep sitting and sort of scratching open the wounds, that's had to be done, but it is a phase that must pass so that we can actually get down to the business of holding hands and saying I want to make this country a great country.
The pain sometimes is that this could have happened so much earlier, you know, but then, there is a wonderful little piece in the Bible which says,
"In the fullness of time, something happens in the fullness of time" we might be impatient and say "why didn't it happen at that time? But the circumstances were not ripe for it to happen. And I just hope you are aware that you have helped, I think, to pour balm on the wounds of very many by what you two and to some extent the other two people have done, and I want to say thank you.
I want to thank my colleagues and our team over there and yourselves over there and all of you that, now I understand a little bit actually why the world looks on and marvels that you can sit there and that I can laugh with you when you can laugh with me, as they say, but it can't be, and it is, it is happening and the miracle that they spoke of in 1994, I think God wants it to persist in part for the sake of the world, because if we can do it here with God's help and God's blessing and the prayers of so many around the world and there is hope for Rwanda, Sierra Leone and all of those places. I want to pray.
God you are good and you do some extraordinary things in this Land.
We thank you for the privilege of being fellow-workers with you. We thank you for those who have come forward yesterday and today and for the things that have happened and we pray that these and others similar to this will contribute to the healing of this traumatised of this wounded people, thank you God. Amen.
MR MEYER/MR WESSELS
SECURITY HEARING TRC/GAUTENG