This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
6. Did the ANC Perpetuate any Gross Violations of Human Rights
6.1 The Approach, Standards and Conduct of the ANC in Relation to Human Rights
What considerations, during these years of intensified armed activity, did the ANC give to questions of morality and codes of military conduct? Civilian casualties are frequent and notorious consequences of irregular forms of military combat. There were instances in which the ANC's own policies in this regard were contradicted or ignored: these are dealt with later in this submission. At the same time, the historical record is clear. It was ANC policy - ever since the formation of MK in 1961 - to avoid unnecessary loss of life. The ANC has never permitted random attacks on civilian targets. Unlike many other liberation movements as well as resistance movements in the Second World War, the ANC scrupulously sought to ensure that civilians were not targeted.
In its first sabotage campaign, in the early 1960s, the High Command of MK sought to ensure that attacks on government installations would not lead to loss of life. When MK units were first sent into action they were under strict instructions not to jeopardise the lives of civilians and did not carry arms. Subsequently, when armed guards were encountered at possible targets, regional committees were instructed to arm units but cadres were ordered to shoot only in self-defence. Once MK camps had been established, part of the training of every MK combatant was political and included the insistence that the enemy should not be defined simply in racial terms. When the ANC became a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war in 1977 it was the first liberation movement in the world to take this step. Adherence to the terms of the Convention confirmed the movement's commitment to avoid attacks on civilians and the "humanitarian conduct" of war.
At the ANC's Kabwe Conference in June 1985, this position was modified, but not abandoned. A resolution was adopted which acknowledged that there would be unavoidable civilian casualties as warfare escalated. The previous restraint in order to avoid such casualties, it was felt at Kabwe, should no longer be allowed to undermine the campaign to intensify the armed struggle against the regime.
It is worth noting that the armed struggle was conducted in circumstances which were never easy, and which at times seemed almost insurmountably difficult. The politics of exile is a notoriously testing terrain, pitted with insecurity and dependent upon the goodwill of others for resources. The main training camps and bases of MK were far distant from South African soil. Those countries which offered sanctuary to ANC and MK personnel were themselves hard-pressed, and the sanctuary frequently carried its own dangers. The efforts by the South African state to destroy the ANC and MK were unceasing, and massively financed. Besides military and police offensives against MK, methods included infiltration by state agents and spies; cross-border raids and kidnapping; pressure on the front-line states to expel ANC members; assassinations, torture and a wide repertoire of "dirty tricks".
Despite all these difficulties, the ANC retained its commitment to internationally acceptable forms of combat; it never sanctioned "terrorism", which could be defined as military attacks on civilians by armed groups or individuals. When some of its cadres transgressed this policy their actions were regretted and in some cases publicly repudiated. The ANC did not visit systematic violence and intimidation upon civilians; it did not use the military methods used in the defence of racism. When weighed in the scales of history, the ANC and the South African apartheid regime occupy opposite ends of the spectrum both in terms of policy and practical conduct.
Given the historical and political context provided above, it would seem natural to attempt to justify everything that happened within the context of struggle against apartheid as acceptable, and therefore not to be scrutinised in line with the mandate of the Commission. But the morality of the ANC, its objectives then and now, and the standards it set itself, dictate that we examine the conduct of struggle critically, and acknowledge where errors took place.
The logic of the Commission is that the truth should be acknowledged, no matter how painful, so as to ensure that conditions are created under which it is impossible for any terrible things from the past to recur. It is in this spirit that we approach this question.
6.2 Armed operations and civilian casualties
6.2.1 Political approach to armed struggle
As outlined in Section 5 above, the approach of the ANC to armed struggle hinged on its strategic objective of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.
To recapitulate. Firstly, armed struggle was forced on an organisation that had for many years espoused and practised peaceful methods of struggle. Secondly, it was part of the "four pillars" of struggle - as such, it had to be conducted in such a way as to reinforce rather than undermine these other "pillars". Thirdly, from the beginning, a narrow definition of targets was made, and maximum restraint was exercised. Fourthly, there was pressure to pursue options such as attacks against white civilians, and there were intense debates on these issues, especially in response to state repression; but the movement again and again reasserted its basic principles. Lastly, structures set up to lead armed struggle were adapted to concrete conditions, and in each instance, to strengthen political control of the military campaign.
Given the ever-increasing militarisation of white South Africa from the late 1970s onwards, and the unbridled violence used against civilians by the former apartheid regimes, we submit that the ANC always exercised exceptional restraint in the conduct of armed struggle. Since the founding of MK in 1961, the ANC never deviated from its belief that it was not only morally wrong but strategically senseless to attack civilian targets.
6.2.2 The politico-military chain of command
After the setbacks of the capture of the MK High Command at Rivonia, and subsequent trials, the process of building ANC and MK structures in exile began. Senior leaders of the movement trained and lived in the camps with the recruits, and were charged with the task of ensuring that the political objectives of the ANC were understood by all cadres, as well as maintaining discipline during the training process. After the Wankie/Sipolilo Campaign with ZAPU in 1967/68, the Morogoro Conference was held in 1969, and the Revolutionary Council (RC) was established. Chaired by OR Tambo, the RC included both political and military leaders, and was tasked mainly with establishing an underground political presence in the country, as well as with infiltrating cadres into the country to carry out military operations.
By the mid-1970s, as Angola was liberated, the ANC was in the position to command its own camps and a General Headquarters was established in Luanda.
The General Staff - that is, MK Headquarters - divided South Africa into a number of operational areas which were controlled from two major fronts: the Eastern Front from Mozambique into Swaziland, and the Western Front from Zambia into Botswana.
By 1978 the first MK operations by units of the Transvaal Urban Machinery took place. These were aimed at police stations in the PWV area. At the same time attacks were launched from the Western Front, aimed at establishing guerrilla bases in the Western Transvaal.
At this time the ANC's dilemma was that in order to be successful militarily, it had to establish a political base inside the country: yet a political base could not grow without military actions serving to reinforce people's confidence and motivate them to become involved in political and other forms of resistance. There was a need to capture the imagination of the oppressed through demonstrating that the enemy was not invincible, and to gain international recognition of the armed struggle.
To this end, Special Operations was established in 1979. Reporting directly to the President, this unit was charged with the task of carrying out attacks on major installations. These were carried out in such a way as to avoid loss of life. For instance, thousands of people worked at the Sasol Oil Refinery plant; a massive civilian death toll could have resulted from this attack, but it was specifically carried out at a time when no loss of life would occur.
A new Military Headquarters (MHQ) was established in December 1982, bringing together and reorganising the old General Headquarters, operating from the Eastern and Western Fronts at HQ in Lusaka, along formal military lines.
In an attempt to co-ordinate the activities between the military front commands and the internal political committee structures, senior organs were set up in neighbouring countries, consisting of the political and military leadership in those areas.
A conference of all front commanders and commissars was held in Maputo in April 1983 to address the growing problem of a lack of effective co-ordination between the military and political aspects of the struggle. The Revolutionary Council was replaced by the Politico-Military Council (PMC), which became the most senior structure after the National Executive Committee. The PMC consisted of a Secretariat, an Internal Political Committee, Military HQ, and Intelligence (also known as NAT), consisting of Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence and Security sections.
The PMC was charged with implementing decisions of the NEC with regard to political and military aspects of the struggle, and with providing overall political-military leadership. It was chaired by OR Tambo, and consisted of a Secretary from the NEC, representatives of MHQ, the head of the Internal Political Committee and other NEC members in this committee, the heads of the Intelligence and Security structures, and the secretaries general of the ANC, SACP and SACTU. Several other NEC members also served on the PMC.
The earlier senior organs were replaced by Regional PMCs in order to create a link between the PMC and structures on the ground. Those RPMCs in what were known as the "forward areas" were given greater freedom regarding decisions to carry out operations. Whilst the PMC was aware of the number of units on the ground in the country, for security reasons information on the actual identities of operatives was not available to this structure; the RPMCs dealt with information of this nature. RPMCs were charged with co-ordinating political and military activities in their areas of responsibility inside South Africa, and where possible setting up Area PMCs inside the country. The role of Area PMCs was to provide local-level leadership with regard to political and military matters, the gathering of intelligence, and screening of recruits.
In 1984 Special Operations was moved to MHQ.
For several reasons, including intense military and diplomatic pressure by the Pretoria regime on neighbouring states, and the movement towards a political settlement in Namibia which resulted in the ANC being obliged to close down its military training camps in Angola, the work of MK in general and RPMCs in particular was seriously hampered. In 1986, the top-secret Operation Vula was initiated with the aim of creating a national politico-military leadership inside the country, led by senior NEC and MK leaders.
All these changes represented increasing assertion of political leadership over armed struggle.
In addition, the political maturity of cadres was taken into account when appointments were made to structures such as the RPMCs. And the process of training was seen as critical in equipping cadres with the political understanding necessary to ensure that they acted in accordance with ANC policy.
6.2.3 Training and codes of conduct
MK training always emphasised the need for personal initiative, and sought to develop the capacity of operatives to use their own discretion based on strict political considerations. Except for major operations, senior commanders provided guidelines and a framework within which operatives were expected to execute their missions: hence the strong emphasis always laid in MK training on political education and the insistence that at all times the ANC and MK should occupy the moral high ground - nothing which consciously or unconsciously undermined this vital factor could be allowed.
The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Code, which is attached to this submission, makes it clear that the political leadership was supreme, and "every commander, commissar, instructor and combatant must therefore be clearly acquainted with the policy with regard to all combat tasks and missions". Over twenty punishable offences are listed, many relating directly to military discipline. Among these offences are the following:
Rebellion or revolt against the army command or part of it, or attempts to commit such an act of rebellion or revolt.
Conduct that weakens the people's trust, confidence and faith in the ANC and Umkhonto.
Assaults, rape, disorderly conduct, the use of insulting and/or obscene language, bullying and intimidation, whether against a comrade or a member of the public.
Ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons in custody.
Any act or speech that provokes tribal or regional animosities or spreads disunity by means of factionalism and/or racism.
We will now focus on categories of armed actions, particularly those which resulted in civilian casualties.
6.2.4 Conduct of war and civilian casualties
It has been established earlier in our submission that the ANC was fighting a just war, and that this was recognised in international law. The provisions of the Geneva Convention and subsequent protocols are relevant in this regard. The refusal on the part of former apartheid regimes to recognise that the ANC was waging an internationally recognised war, and their refusal to honour certain provisions of the Geneva Convention and Protocols, were directly relevant in certain cases in which there was unnecessary loss of civilian life.
After the December 1982 attack on Maseru in which 42 people were killed, including 12 BaSotho, Secretary General Alfred Nzo stated at a meeting on Heroes Day, December 16th:
The May 20, 1983 car bomb attack on South African Air Force (SAAF) Headquarters in Church Street, Pretoria, and the ANC's use of landmines in areas which were designated as military zones provide examples of this nature.
In the attack on SAAF Headquarters just after 16h30, nineteen people were killed, of which at least eleven were SAAF officers. Over 200 people were injured, of which over seventy were members or employees of the armed forces. The car bomb was positioned precisely in front of the entrance to Air Force HQ, which took the direct impact of the explosion: many military personnel were killed. The toll may have been far higher as hundreds of military personnel would normally gather in the street to await transport only minutes after the bomb exploded. Both the cadres who set up the car bomb were killed in the blast; one was in the car at the time and the other standing across the road. MHQ believes that the remote trigger mechanism may have been affected by other signals in the area, or that the cadres made some kind of mistake.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this was overwhelmingly a military target. Many of those injured may have not been military officers but were employed by the SAAF, and had thereby directly associated themselves with apartheid military aggression.
The attack took place after a week in which the white Parliament had been debating the new tri-cameral constitution bill, from which black people were excluded. It also took place in the overall context of heightened military aggression by the apartheid state, most forcefully displayed in its raid on December 9, 1982, on Lesotho and the assassination of Ruth First in Maputo. In the Maseru attack no fewer than 42 people were massacred, many of them civilians. The ANC had decided that a highly visible attack against uniformed enemy personnel which the Pretoria regime could not cover up was necessary. Previously, no direct operations had been carried out against enemy personnel beyond a few skirmishes in which MK units had been involved in rural areas.
In a response to questions about the attack OR Tambo stated that "the policy of the ANC is to intensify the struggle, attack the enemy, avoiding civilians where possible." In the past the ANC had concentrated on sabotage of installations, "but intensification involves not just sabotage but attacking the enemy forces".
MK had very carefully weighed up the implications of launching an attack of this nature, had ensured that it must be an overwhelmingly military target, yet took no delight in the loss of life it entailed.
The regime promised to "avenge" the dead, "whatever their colour"; they attacked Maputo on May 23, 1983, hitting the Somopel jam and fruit juice factory and its creche, a storeroom in which the ANC had kept food and clothing, and three private homes. Only one of the dead, and none of the injured, were linked to the ANC. According to the Mozambican government, six civilians were killed and 40 injured. Two were children, and two were women - one of them pregnant. The British ambassador to Mozambique stated publicly that the targets hit by the Pretoria regime were unequivocally civilian after touring the area with other diplomats. The SADF claimed they had destroyed five "ANC bases". A spokesperson stated that "the SADF does not accept blame for civilian deaths that may have occurred. It puts the responsibility on the Mozambique government as a result of their ties with the ANC".
In some respects the attack on Air Force HQ - a decisive step towards waging urban guerrilla warfare - and the revenge raid on Maputo marked a turning point, a watershed on the path to intensifying conflict in the country.
The ANC's limited use of landmines, beginning in late 1985, provides another example of this nature.
Operatives were under strict instructions to carry out reconnaissance properly so that military patrols were the primary targets of landmine operations. In one case, a Casspir armoured vehicle detonated a mine in Mamelodi township. In the border areas, where nearly all landmines were detonated, the precise targeting of military patrols was easier said than done. Nevertheless, MHQ continued to stress policy regarding careful reconnaissance and avoidance of civilian targets, although white farmers in these areas were not defined as civilians even by the apartheid state itself: they were its first line of defence.
While regretting all loss of life, the ANC believes that the use of landmines on white border farms was justified because the apartheid regime had declared them military zones, with white farmers integrated into the security system and provided with the tools of war including automatic weapons, which were only legally possessed by members of the apartheid armed forces.
In 1979 the Promotion of Density of Population in Designated Areas Act, No. 87, was passed in an attempt to stem the exodus of white farmers from border areas, and increase the number of farmers in these areas to serve as a barrier against the infiltration of guerrillas from neighbouring states. At least R100 million was made available over a period of five to six years for the provisions of loans to such farmers, and for the construction of strategic roads and airstrips in these areas.
The Act stipulated that loans be given on condition that farms were managed according to SADF directives, and that all white farmers in the areas should undergo military training, be members of the regional and area commandos, and make themselves available to the SADF and Department of National Security to carry out reconnaissance and intelligence tasks whenever called on to do so. All were linked to the Commando system of part-time SADF forces and the military radio network known as MARNET. Many farm buildings were constructed in such a way as to constitute a chain of defence strongholds along the borders ready to be used by the SADF whenever necessary. The Act stipulated that the SADF was empowered to enter any property in the designated area to demolish or erect military facilities or any other structure without the consent of the owner.
The SA Agricultural Union, the SADF, SAP, Departments of National Security and Transport all participated in the sub-committee appointed by the Steyn Commission to look into how the white farmer population could be included in the defence strategy of the apartheid regime. These were not merely defensive measures; Messina and Louis Trichardt, Alldays, Ellisras, Thabazimbi and Zeerust, Piet Retief and Amsterdam were all key towns in the regime's military strategy to launch armed aggression against neighbouring countries.
In May 1983 regulations were introduced to tighten up the earlier legislation, and in late 1984 the 10km designated zone along the Zimbabwe and Botswana borders was increased to 50km. In addition, there was extensive deployment of military and police counter-insurgency units along the borders, and several operational bases were established.
To illustrate the ANC's approach to these matters: in an article published in the May 1986 issue of Sechaba extreme aversion was expressed at:
While regretting all loss of life in the course of the armed struggle, the ANC contends that with regard to landmine explosions in which some farm workers and farmers, and their relatives were killed or maimed, it is undeniable that it was the apartheid regime itself which took steps towards obliterating the distinction between the civilian and military spheres from the time of its adoption of its "total strategy" programme in 1977, and its later declaration of these areas as military zones.
The much-publicised case of the car bomb explosion at the Magoos and Why Not bars on June 14, 1986 provides another example of an operation in which civilians were victims in the context of the intensification of the armed struggle. Three civilians were killed, and 69 injured. Robert John McBride, an MK operative attached to Special Operations, was convicted of the attack and sentenced to death and 82 years imprisonment.
The operation was carried out during a time of extreme political upheaval in the country, which had culminated in the declaration of a nationwide State of Emergency on June 12; this granted virtually unlimited powers to the Security Forces, and granted them indemnity from prosecution for any actions carried out during this period. The attack was also carried out to commemorate the June 16, 1976 uprising, in which hundreds of schoolchildren were killed by the police. It commemorated the anniversary of the June 14 1985 raid on Gaberone, on the eve of the Kabwe Conference, in which 12 people were killed, including two young women who were citizens of Botswana, a six-year old child from Lesotho, a Somalian citizen, and eight South Africans of whom only five were members of the ANC and none were MK combatants.
This attack was in line with the ANC's attempts to take the struggle out of the black ghettos and into the white areas: the Why Not bar was targeted precisely because it was frequented by off-duty members of the Security Forces.
Robert McBride was charged with "attempting to overthrow or endanger State authority in the Republic and/or to achieve, bring about or promote constitutional, political, social, industrial, and/or economic change in the Republic". The court accepted that the motives of all those involved in this operation were political, not personal.
Robert McBride spent four years on Death Row before he was granted indemnity and released in 1992 along with the racist mass-murderer Barend Strydom, in a transparent attempt to create the impression in the minds of the public that the actions of these men were indistinguishable in moral terms. McBride took personal initiatives to approach the families of those who had been killed, to apologise for the deaths of their relatives. Yet he has been consistently targeted for a vicious and strident campaign by those who, to date, refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for, or collaboration in, the murders of thousands of unarmed civilians over the years.
6.2.5 Operational difficulties leading to unintended consequences:
At times, operations were derailed when cadres unexpectedly found themselves in situations for which there had been no planning whatsoever.
The Silverton Bank siege, in which two civilian women and three MK cadres were killed, provides an example of this problem. This incident also illustrates the manner in which the regime's refusal to admit that it was involved in a state of war, and to accord MK cadres prisoner-of-war status - usually insisting on opening fire instead of taking captives - resulted in many unnecessary casualties.
On January 25, 1980 three MK cadres on their way to carry out a mission realised that they had been spotted and were being tailed by police. Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela tried to escape almost certain death by entering a bank; they moved all civilians present into one corner in an attempt to ensure that they would not be caught in the line of fire, and held them hostage in support of their demands. The Minister of Police refused to disclose these demands to the public but it was reported that they wanted to see the Prime Minister, the release of Nelson Mandela and James Mange, and an aircraft to fly to Maputo. A police unit stormed the bank and all three cadres and two civilian women, named Valerie Anderson and Anna de Klerk, were killed.
This was the only incident in which MK cadres, in contravention of ANC policy, seized hostages for political ends. The Pretoria regime sent out disinformation to the effect that the ANC had issued a statement in Lusaka saying that MK is involved in a "campaign to kill and seize hostages". This was vigorously denied by the ANC, and interpreted as not only an attempt to smear the organisation but also to prepare the ground for attacks on ANC targets.
On April 14, 1980 nine ANC members - all of whom had left the country in 1976 to join the ANC - appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate's court in connection with the Silverton Bank Siege, alleged plans to attack the Port Natal Administration Board, and an attack on January 4 on Soekmekaar police station in which no damage was caused and one policeman was slightly injured. They were charged with high treason, two counts of murder, and 21 of attempted murder. All pleaded not guilty, and also denied there were plans to attack the Port Natal Administration Board.
None of them was accused of being present at the Silverton siege but all nine were accused of murdering the two women (according to the "common purpose" doctrine). Benjamin Tau alone was also charged with conspiring with the three dead cadres to carry out the bank siege (although he had been in custody at the time), and of surveying the premises beforehand. Ikanyeng Molebatsi and Benjamin Tau were accused of conspiring with the Silverton trio to launch a rocket attack on petrol tanks at Watloo near Mamelodi, and also of planning to attack the Pretoria West and Villiera police stations.
Petrus Mashigo told the court that the attack on Soekmekaar police station had been intended as "armed propaganda" in protest against the forced removal of the community in the area. It was intended to show the ANC sympathised with the plight of the people and to demonstrate to police that what they were doing was wrong. Mashigo testified that during his training cadres were told not to use methods involving the killing of civilians, and that the ANC opposed methods such as the taking of hostages. Ikanyeng Molebatsi testified that they had decided against carrying out the attack on the Watloo tank farm because too many lives would be lost.
Benjamin Tau admitted he had infiltrated the country on a mission to attack the Watloo installations but denied he had reconnoitred the bank for attack; police had forced him to point at the bank and then photographed him. He said he would refuse to attack a bank because he knew it was against ANC policy.
Amid massive shows of public support, three cadres - Johnson Lubisi, Petrus Mashigo, and Naphtali Manana - were sentenced to death for the attack on the Soekmekaar police station, in which no one was killed; all were found guilty of high treason and those not sentenced to death received terms of 10 to 20 years.
Protest from a wide range of organisations and prominent personalities ensued, and there were calls on the Pretoria regime to recognise the men as prisoners of war. The UN Security Council sent an appeal "strongly urging" the SA government to avoid further aggravating the situation and to take into account "the concern expressed for the lives of these three young people". Eventually their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Many other cadres were not as fortunate.
6.2.6 Operations at cadres' initiative in response to state brutality
From around December 1985, and particularly during the period from April 1986 to September 1988, a number of attacks on civilian targets (such as hotels and restaurants) with no connection to the state occurred. In some cases MK cadres were responsible for such attacks, but in other cases agents of the state carried out these actions in an attempt to damage the image of the ANC in the eyes of the local and international community.
With regard to those attacks on "soft targets" for which MK personnel were responsible, we do not seek to justify such attacks but insist that the context in which they occurred is relevant: the growing militarisation of every sphere of South African society and the massive, unbridled violence unleashed by the apartheid state against black civilians and anti-apartheid democrats in general.
The observation by then ANC President Tambo after the January 1981 attack on ANC homes in Matola captures such anger succinctly:
We have acknowledged earlier in our submission that in a number of instances breaches in policy did occur, and deeply regret the loss of life caused by operations of this nature. The leadership did assert policy with regard to which targets were considered legitimate, and took steps to halt operations in conflict with policy. We contend that in the final analysis, the apartheid regime bears considerable responsibility for creating a situation of pervasive state terrorism, in which people tended to resort to increasingly violent and angry actions.
The case of the December 1985 blast in a shopping centre in Amanzimtoti in which five people were killed, including eight year old Corne Smit, and over 40 people injured, provides a clear example of the manner in which the behaviour of the apartheid regime was a significant factor in provoking certain attacks which were in breach of policy.
Andrew Sibusiso Zondo, aged 19, admitted to placing a bomb in a rubbish bin in the Sanlam Centre in Amanzimtoti on December 23, 1985. He said he had intended to blow up the South African Airways offices in the centre, and had not intended to kill anyone. He had attempted to telephone a warning from a public call box but this did not work.
Giving evidence, Zondo told the court that two incidents in 1981 marked a turning point in his life: an unprovoked police attack on a prayer service in KwaMashu during the schools boycotts, and the SADF raid on three ANC residences in Maputo on January 30, 1981, in which twelve people were killed. Of the attack on the KwaMashu gathering Zondo said: "We were doing nothing but we found ourselves the victims of the police. It made me ask myself why it had happened. From that day on, whenever I looked at police I would see them as the enemy."
He was recruited into the ANC and finally decided to leave the country.
Andrew Zondo was trained in Angola between August 1983 and late 1985. Of his experience in the camp, he stated that there were people of all colours undergoing training at the camp, and "it was the best experience I had in my life. I began to feel like a human being. I was not a native or a kaffir". His training, said Zondo, emphasised that he should not place civilians in danger.
After two years of training in Angola he returned to SA in late 1985. Of this period Zondo said: "Our work went very well. We were very careful about our targets. Our instructions were to avoid taking life and I insisted on this instruction. Sometimes the other comrades got impatient with me."
On December 20, 1985, the Pretoria regime launched a raid on Lesotho in which nine people were killed; they denied all responsibility for these murders (in which weapons with silencers were used), claiming the attacks had been carried out by the "Lesotho Liberation Army". Among the dead were Leon Meyer and Jackie Quinn, murdered in front of their infant daughter, Phoenix. Quinn was not only not a member of the ANC, but was not even a refugee - she travelled to South Africa regularly and could have been arrested with no difficulty at all.
Zondo said he went to Amanzimtoti "for a target...a government installation". He checked the local police station but found he could not attack it on his own.
Andrew Zondo spoke with unmistakably sincere regret for the deaths which had occurred. Those responsible for the Lesotho massacre received medals at a secret ceremony. On April 6, 1986, he was sentenced to death five times, and refused leave to appeal. On being asked whether he had anything to say before sentence was passed, Zondo stood up straight and spoke clearly to the court: "I wish to say this to the people who might have lost their friends, and kids and families, I say that I am sorry. Next thing I wish that my country be friendly to its neighbouring countries."
In an interview shortly after the Amanzimtoti blast, President Tambo said:
6.2.7 Deliberate disinformation, leading to mistaken attacks
In a few cases deliberate disinformation resulted in attacks and assassinations in which dedicated cadres lost their lives. In one of the most painful examples of this nature, a state agent with the MK name of "Fear" ordered two cadres to execute Ben Langa on the grounds that Langa was an agent of the regime. These cadres - Clement Payi and Lucky Xulu - carried out their orders. This action resulted in serious disruption of underground and mass democratic structures in the area and intense distress to the Langa family - which was the obvious intention of Fear's handlers. Once the facts were known to the leadership of the ANC, President Tambo personally met with the family to explain and apologise for this action.
Xulu and Payi were arrested and executed: a triple murder had been achieved by the apartheid regime without firing a single shot themselves.
6.2.8 "False flag" operations
In many cases which will come to the attention of the Commission, attacks on civilians and civilian targets for which the ANC or other mass democratic organisations were blamed were in fact the work of the apartheid regime - what it called "false flag operations".
A few examples in this regard will suffice: in 1981 the former Commissioner of Police, Johann Coetzee, lied to the public when he claimed that the SAP were aware of the ANC's "dissatisfaction" with Griffiths Mxenge's handling of funds sent to him from organisations abroad, and were investigating allegations that he had misappropriated funds. The clear inference was that the ANC was responsible for the murder of Mxenge. This was carried out with perverted levels of brutality by members of the covert Vlakplaas unit, indicative of the extent to which the apartheid regime had dehumanised its own operatives. The similarly depraved murders of Matthew Goniwe and his comrades were ascribed to "UDF/Azapo conflict".
The 1987 KwaMakutha massacre provides another key example of the callous manner in which civilians were slaughtered to achieve the political objectives of the apartheid regime. Twelve women and children were killed in this attack, portrayed as the work of "ANC terrorists" by Pretoria's propaganda machinery. The ANC is convinced that this was part of an attempt to derail a crucial meeting between ANC President OR Tambo and US Secretary of State George Schultz - a meeting which was major breakthrough in the continuing efforts to convince the international community to refuse all support for the apartheid regime. Details on this matter have been the subject of the Durban Trial on the KwaMakutha massacre.
Former Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok lied to the public when he claimed the SAP suspected that "trained guerrillas" had been visiting the South African Council of Churches headquarters (known as Khotso House) and insinuated that this building had been used to store arms and explosives. Shirley Gunn was accused of being responsible for the destruction of the building by taking a car bomb onto the premises which had exploded prematurely. As the public is now aware, it has been asserted by former Vlakplaas operatives that this attack was undertaken by them, and that Vlok in fact secretly congratulated the perpetrators of this attack on church property.
The Trust Feed massacre, which resulted in the prosecution of police officers is another example of a "false flag" operation: one of many launched on ANC or IFP-supporting communities to precipitate or perpetuate conflict in the KwaZulu/Natal Province. This factor is relevant not only to the post-1990 period, but also to the pockets of violence enduring in the province.
Certain attacks on civilians - including "necklacings" and attacks on a cinema and restaurants - were in fact carried out by agents of the apartheid state in their continuing attempts to damage the image of the ANC. It is expected that further evidence in this regard will be presented to the Commission.
6.2.9 People's Committees and Self-Defence Units (SDUs)
Over the years, much attention has been drawn to excesses and alleged excesses committed by People's Committees and Self-Defence Units. In many instances, such criticism was based on genuine concern on the part of human rights activists and community leaders, who nevertheless acknowledge the critical role that such committees and units played in the face of the regime's terror. In other instances, though, allegations regarding excesses were part of a deliberate propaganda campaign run by the regime and its sympathisers to discredit the ANC, immobilise these units, and conceal the state's own destabilising activities (as in "false flag operations"). To understand the SDU phenomenon, it is necessary to distinguish between units which had direct links with the ANC and those which operated entirely outside the political ambit of the ANC.
220.127.116.11 Community self-defence initiatives (pre-1990)
As has been outlined earlier in our submission, in the mid-1980s the apartheid state went on a full-scale offensive to crush democratic organisations through a combination of formal and informal (i.e. covert and largely illegal) measures which included unleashing extreme violence on communities through surrogate "vigilante" groups.
Communities began to take measures to defend themselves through establishing what were variously called defence committees, people's militia or self-defence units.
To quote one instance, in May 1986 residents of Diepkloof, Soweto, resolved to form people's militia in response to a series of violent attacks on activists and their homes. On the weekend of May 2-3, 1986, six people attending a night vigil were murdered and thirteen seriously injured after being shot and hacked with pangas by about 40 men wearing balaclavas.
The Soweto Civic Association issued a statement expressing concern that:
During the height of violence in the Pietermaritzburg area in 1987, in which the state actively colluded with vigilantes, communities formed defence units in every street of their residential areas. Attempts to deal with the violence not only by means of armed defence but also through establishing political structures in the form of multi-party peace committees were set in motion.
Similar initiatives were taken in many other parts of the country - urban and rural.
18.104.22.168 SDUs in the context of "Peoples War"
Particularly from 1983 onwards, the ANC emphasised the need to destroy the administrative organs of the apartheid state as an essential element in the all-round struggle to overthrow the Pretoria regime. With regard to "ungovernability" and "people's power", it was made clear in many statements and discussion documents that the strategic objective of destroying apartheid-created organs of government was to pave the way for establishing popular democratic institutions. The aim was to work towards rendering the regime incapable of governing, and progressively replace repressive institutions and unelected authorities with structures serving the people.
The ANC actively encouraged initiatives of this nature on the part of the people. In an interview broadcast on Radio Freedom in June 1986, in which he assessed developments in the first six months of that year, President Tambo referred to combat groups and self-defence units "mushrooming" everywhere; and described these as important formations of the broad popular army. He called on the people to:
An extract from the ANC discussion document titled Broad Guidelines on Organs of People's Power provides insight into the ANC's strategy at this time, and the manner in which the development of a People's Army - consisting of "layers" of cadres organised into Self-Defence Units, Combat Units and MK officers - was conceived.
With regard to the more militarily advanced and smaller combat units, it was envisaged that these would be clandestine and consist only of "the most disciplined, security conscious and politically advanced cadres", some whom would be drawn from the self-defence units. These combat units would link up with fully trained "professional" MK guerrillas or be established with their assistance, and would be formally structured along military lines. The idea was to continue upgrading the military skills of these combat groups so that they would in time mature into fully-fledged underground combat formations of MK.
The state took extreme measures to disrupt the formation of such units, as in the case of booby-trapped hand grenades given to COSAS activists in Duduza by an SAP agent posing as an MK soldier: several young people lost their lives as the grenades exploded prematurely, and maimed survivors were put on trial.
In so far as any excesses of those combat groups set up by, and SDU's linked to, the ANC, these should be understood in the context of MK operations as outlined in earlier sections.
22.214.171.124 SDUs in the context of Low-Intensity Warfare (LIW) during the post-1990 negotiations phase
On August 6, 1990, the ANC formally committed itself to a cessation of armed hostilities. In the same month, Inkatha launched itself as a national political party; FW de Klerk repealed a century-old prohibition on the public carrying of so-called "traditional weapons", and unprecedented violence against African communities broke out in Reef townships. Between late August and late September 1990, over 700 civilians had been massacred in attacks on homes, trains, and gatherings such as funeral vigils.
The ANC recognised this violence for what it was: another version of the "vigilantism" of the 1980s, a tactic aimed at strengthening the hand of the government at the negotiations table through forcing a progressively weakened ANC into a reactive position in which it would be held hostage to the violence, and forced to make constitutional concessions.
By the end of the year, grassroots demands for protection against the onslaught were intense. In November, the ANC Alliance published proposals for the formation of organised and disciplined self-defence units guided by political leadership in communities under attack with the aims of protecting civilians and ensuring law and order in areas plagued with violent crime.
These proposals, which were later compiled into a document titled For the Sake of our Lives!, emphasised that political means to deal with violence had to be sought and that campaigns to improve understanding between communities were "imperative". Leadership figures who commented on the proposals reiterated the need to make every effort to win over hostile forces.
The need for avoiding party-political partisanship was strongly emphasised; if such units were set up as
It was also recognised that highly disciplined and organised structures were needed in order to guard against a repetition of past experiences in which people had attempted to set up "loosely-formed defence units" which had "degenerated into sectarian or personal power bases (For the Sake of Our Lives).
By the end of 1990, at the time the ANC held its Consultative Conference, pressure for the formation of SDUs had reached fever pitch: over 1,800 civilians had been killed in political violence since July. Resolutions were passed to assist people in setting up accountable and non-partisan SDUs and to establish peace committees with all political organisations, in order to "preclude all violent confrontation and conflict that emanates from the fact that people hold varying political views".
By April 1991 there had been no respite from the violence: over 2,400 civilians had been slaughtered, and the ANC announced an ultimatum: unless certain actions were taken by the government to halt the bloodshed, it would withdraw from the negotiations process. Serious consideration was again given to the formal adoption of the programme outlined in For the Sake of Our Lives!. The July 1991 48th National Consultative Conference endorsed "without reservation" various peace initiatives in process at the time, and reasserted the right of people to self-defence: the incoming NEC was tasked with ensuring "that the self-defence programme is put into action without undue delays."
President Nelson Mandela emphasised, at the 1991 National Conference of the ANC:
Some members of MK Military HQ were tasked to attend to issues relating to the SDU's, their organisation, training and the provision of weaponry. It was, however, made clear that the overall control of SDUs was to remain with community structures and MK cadres were to participate as members of the community. MK Command was to play a secondary role. Various clandestine units for the training and organisation of the various SDUs were set up; and some cadres were tasked to provide weaponry where possible.
The National Peace Accord recognised the legitimacy of self-defence structures in communities under attack. By around September 1991, when such units had been established in many areas affected by the violence, there was a shift in tactics by those responsible for this campaign. On the one hand, mobile specialist hit-squads increasingly took over the work previously done by large groups of men usually indentifiable by being aligned to Inkatha; the second major thrust of the state's offensive to prevent SDUs from defending their communities was to infiltrate and subvert SDUs through a variety of methods. Before long there were two kinds of SDUs in existence: genuine community defence groups, and violent gangs presenting themselves as ANC-aligned SDUs.
The deliberate subversion of SDUs by the De Klerk regime in order to ensure that people could not mount sustained resistance to state-sponsored violence, and to discredit the ANC in the eyes of grassroots supporters and the international community is illustrated in the case of the notorious Phola Park SDU.
126.96.36.199 A case study: the Phola Park SDU and the Directorate: Covert Collection
The Phola Park Residents Committee was a democratically elected structure, led by Prince Mhlambi, who was also head of the ANC branch in this settlement. The Residents Committee took steps to set in motion various ambitious community development projects, which were disrupted in early 1992 when the Residents Committee was "overthrown" by an "SDU", led by Mcungisi Ceba. Some of these new "leaders" claimed to be members of MK, and began a reign of terror.
Under Ceba and his small band of "comrades", the Phola Park unit began launching random attacks against the police, passing motorists and former leaders of residents of the Phola Park. The most credible Phola Park leaders were exiled from the settlement: three were murdered, including Prince Mhlambi. Criminals moved into the settlement and joined the "SDU". Violent confrontation between the Phola Park "SDU" and the police became the order of the day, and attempts by the ANC to normalise the situation were consistently frustrated by Ceba, who also always managed to evade arrest in the constant police raids on the settlement in search of MK cadres who were "perpetrating crimes against the police." Just before the signing of the National Peace Accord in September 1992, members of the Phola Park "SDU" opened fire on a crowd of Inkatha members, killing sixteen people.
On November 11, 1992, the Goldstone Commission raided offices of the SADF's Directorate: Covert Collection and seized various files. In a press statement released on 16/11/92, the Commission stated that it had found that Ferdi Barnard, a convicted murderer and former CCB member, was employed by the Directorate: Covert Collection (DCC), and had written up a project proposal in June 1991 for the task force he was to lead. His group was to "specialise solely on the activities of Umkhonto we Sizwe ("MK")", and concentrate on discrediting MK by involving cadres in criminal activities and syndicates. Where they could not be recruited, the unit would aim to ensure they were "criminally compromised. For that purpose use would be made, inter alia, of prostitutes, (...) and drug dealers." Barnard's plan was submitted to senior MI officials and approved.
On 17/11/92, the report on violence in the Thokoza area by a committee established by the Goldstone Commission was published. This report included an inquiry into the notorious Phola Park "SDU". There were striking similarities between the DCC proposal to criminally compromise MK members and the activities of this "SDU".
It was found that Ceba's "SDU", had been responsible for many criminal acts including the assassination of the highly regarded community leader Prince Mhlambi, and the attack on Inkatha members. Nearly all the actions of this "SDU" were criminal in nature.
The Commission found that Mncugi Ceba was a police informer and that the SAP "probably knew of the planned attack on hostel dwellers on 8 September", after which many other residents died in attacks and counter-attacks set off by this massacre. An ANC member, Michael Phama, was convicted of the murders of the Inkatha marchers, but Ceba was not brought to trial.
The Goldstone Commission also found that there was no evidence at all that MK was in any way involved with the establishment and command of this "SDU", and in no way knew about or sanctioned its criminal activities.
6.2.10 Managing the tension between ANC policy and mass pressures for retaliatory action
We should again emphasise that there were ongoing debates within the ranks of the ANC and MK about the narrow definition of legitimate targets. In some instances, views on these matters were aired publicly. As pointed out, this reflected the enduring tension between policy pursued since the formation of MK, and pressure from cadres and the masses for retaliatory action in response to state brutality. There were cases in which senior ANC figures made comments which could be described as creating a "grey area" with regard to which targets were considered legitimate. However, the movement remained steadfast to its principles.
It should also be emphasised that the fact that all ANC literature was banned by the regime made it difficult for the senior ANC leadership to get through to cadres and activists on the ground with regard to policy issues. Cadres were at all times subject to the mood and pressures from the people they lived amongst, and given the sometimes tenuous command and control links, policy could become diluted, or undermined.
Yet, senior MK commanders could testify to the fact that many targets were not attacked specifically because too many civilian casualties would occur. A unit which reconnoitred the Mobil Oil refinery in Durban in the late 1970s reported that it would be unwise to carry out an attack as the installation was too close to civilians living around the refinery, who would be endangered by gas exploding over their residential area.
The decision not to go ahead with an attack on PW Botha's cabinet during the 1981 Republic Day celebrations in Bloemfontein referred to earlier provides another example. Before the attack on Koeberg was approved, the ANC went to the trouble of employing reliable nuclear experts in Europe to determine without any shadow of doubt that there would be no danger to civilians as a result of the explosions.
As indicated earlier, this steadfast commitment to policy was put to the test in the 80s during the high noon of state repression. As the "Burger War" (attacks on Wimpy Bars and supermarkets) seemed to become a trend, President Tambo ordered a special meeting of the PMC and the whole of MHQ to debate and restate policy on the issue of targets. While a number of such attacks may have originated from MK cadres, evidence has started to surface that some of them were in fact "false flag operations" of the state: and for the lives lost on the altar of discrediting the ANC, those responsible should account to this Commission.
In virtually all instances where there was a violation of policy by MK cadres, disciplinary action was taken. In some cases commanders and operatives were recalled from the country and sent back to training camps. In rare cases, cadres became undisciplined and flouted all the rules by attacking personal enemies or getting involved in violent conflict in public places such as shebeens. In one case an MK cadre killed two people in a Soweto shebeen; he is currently serving a life sentence and the ANC has not called for his release on political grounds.
The TRC should also note that in many of the instances, the cadres responsible for some of these actions were arrested, tortured and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. We submit that natural justice should be taken into account when matters pertaining to their cases are considered.
6.3 Excesses in relation to state agents
6.3.1 Context of security and intelligence operations
Security and intelligence structures of the ANC were established within the context of its adoption of underground forms of struggle. Any underground movement requires relevant mechanisms to protect those involved in it; to acquire information from the repressive state about its intentions and strategies; to carry out reconnaissance work for operations, and so on. At the same time it was crucial for the movement to ensure that its ranks were not infiltrated by agents of the regime, or at least, to minimise the damage that such infiltration would wreak.
During the 1950s it had become clear that the regime had begun to systematically infiltrate ANC structures in order to gather information, and also in order to deploy agents provocateurs tasked with undertaking actions that would discredit the ANC and create a basis for repressive actions against it. The acts of provocation during the Defiance Campaign in Port Elizabeth, and the so-called "Shisa-Shisa" gang in Kimberly during that period are examples of this approach. The use of agents became obvious too during the Treason Trial between 1956 and 1960.
This trend intensified in the early 1960s, as the intelligence and security arms of the regime were revamped with the formation of Republican Intelligence which later became BOSS, and the consolidation of the Security Branch of the SAP.
Such infiltrators were given various tasks. Often they were part of the regime's covert intelligence gathering machinery - moles to keep the regime informed on ANC strategies, tactics, intentions and the activities of leaders. Operational intelligence would also be gathered also in order to locate leaders and to accumulate evidence to be used against them in trials. Later, such operational information would be used to prepare for assassinations, the capture and murder of operatives, attacks on homes or ANC installations, and so on.
At other times, infiltrators were able to influence the plans adopted by underground cells or MK units with disasterous consequences - such as the unwitting deployment of cadres along routes previously agreed to with their handlers in the apartheid security forces. In other cases, information on the location of arms caches was passed on; at times weapons would be booby-trapped and replaced in the caches, resulting in fatal injuries to those who later retrieved and attempted to use them.
Most casualties among leaders and activists both within and outside the country derived from such infiltration, be it the MK High Command in Rivonia, leaders of the Black Consciousness Movement and trade unions in the early 70s, and more massively after the 1976 uprising.
There were various methods of recruitment. Special indoctrination centres were used to train prospective infiltrators in the policies of the ANC, its mode of operation, and to prepare them for various missions, including ingratiating themselves with the leadership in order to be deployed in responsible positions; in other cases captured combatants, underground operatives or activists would, under brutal torture, be given the option of certain death or working for the regime. Psychological harassment was common, aimed at making cadres lose confidence in the leadership and the struggle. Blackmail was also used. In many cases, people facing probable conviction for criminal activities were offered the option of working for the regime instead of prison sentences.
Building on its small underground security and intelligence structures of the early 1960s, the ANC set up a fully-fledged Security Department in 1969, tasked with the physical protection of the ANC human and material resources and the screening of new recruits. As the mass revolt to take root within the country, these tasks were broadened to include protection of the MDM leadership, and gathering such information as would help to protect the people as a whole.
With the influx of new recruits in the wake of the June 16 1976 uprising, and the ANC's realisation that the regime planned to thoroughly infiltrate the ANC, extra steps had to be taken to strengthen the ANC's security structures and to devise ways of handling captured agents.
Attempt to re-educate culprits and win them over to the people's cause formed the basis of the ANC's policy with regard to captured infiltrators.
An elaborate and excruciating process followed, premised on the moral superiority of the anti-apartheid struggle. Compared to other struggles, including anti-colonial liberation wars and resistance movements during World War II, this was out of the ordinary - and in many instances would astound our allies and hosts.
At the beginning, the ANC was faced with the real constraint that it was operating from abroad, with weak underground structures within the country and a mass movement that was only starting to emerge. This was to change when the situation improved, and it became easier to screen new recruits, using the wide network that the ANC and the MDM had established within the country.
In contrast to these difficult conditions, the regime had at its disposal a well-resourced apparatus, budgeted to the tune of billions of Rands a year, and spread over at least three arms of the state: the police, the SADF and civilian intelligence. Later, when the National Security Management System was put into operation, the entire apparatus of the state was geared towards security and intelligence work - both operational and strategic - at the political, propaganda and narrow security levels. The basic paradigm of these machineries was to destroy everything connected to the ANC, and all structures sympathetic to the struggle against apartheid.
Given these circumstances, the ANC wishes to submit that it conducted itself well: above all, by ensuring the survival of a liberation movement which, at the beginning, had everything stacked against it; by returning from exile with a solid and united organisation; by foiling assassination plots which would have deprived the ANC, the MDM and the country as a whole of the crop of leaders who which not only led the all-round struggle of the past three decades, but also helped steer South Africa through the extremely difficult transition we have, as a nation, accomplished with such distinction.
Yet we do acknowledge that, in the context of this work, excesses occured. This section will outline the circumstances under which they happened, and the evolution of ANC policy to deal with problems of this nature. Part of this submission are the reports of the Stuart, Skweyiya and Motsuenyane Commissions, as well as the report of the inquest into the death of Thami Zulu. Given the thoroughness with which these commissions pursued their work, this section of our submission will not repeat the details of these reports, but will identify major landmarks of relevance to the specific brief of the commission.
6.3.2 Structures of accountability
The ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) is the most senior executive structure in the ANC, and as such was responsible for and establishing the overall political framework in which all ANC structures operate, including the Department of National Security and Intelligence.
The next most senior structure after the NEC was the National Working Committee, responsible for the day-to-day running of the ANC at NEC level. The Offices of the President, Secretary-General and Treasurer-General fell under the NEC and NWC. Under the President's Office were the National Security Council, and after 1985, the Review Board and the Office of Justice. The National Security Council consisted of the President, the Secretary-General, the Treasurer General and the head of the Security and Intelligence Department. Military HQ, Political HQ and sections of the Department of National Security and Intelligence (also known as NAT) fell under the PMC.
NAT was headed by a Directorate composed of the heads of the various sub-sectors of this structure: Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Processing or the Central Intelligence Evaluation Sector, Security, and VIP Protection. The overall head of the Department was appointed by the President
Beneath the National PMC there were regional PMC's co-ordinating the work of units inside the country, composed of political, military and security personnel. Security units reported to a regional NAT directorate.
In what were considered Military Zones such as Angola (and later Uganda), virtually all the structures pertaining to cadre settlements fell under the PMC. Camps fell under a Camp Commander, with the second-in-command being the Camp Commissar; next in seniority were the Chiefs-of-Staff, Ordnance, Logistics, with the Recording Officer (from NAT) and guards making up the rest of the camp administration.
Structures to improve the accountability of NAT and to address abuses which had arisen were introduced at the time of the Kabwe Conference in 1985. The Kabwe Conference agreed to adopt a Code of Conduct, which entailed setting in place a range of regulations to govern conduct within the ANC, and three new structures were established: the Officer of Justice; the National People's Tribunal; and the National Review Committee, which are dealt with in more detail in section 188.8.131.52. It was decided to restructure the Department and define its role more clearly; its activities were confined to the screening and investigation of recruits, and the collection of intelligence. Reports on persons suspected of unlawful activities or of being agents had to be handed to the Officer of Justice, whose duties included ensuring that investigations were carried out fairly.
A Commission was appointed to examine problems in the Department, and make recommendations regarding the future leadership.
Secrecy is in the nature of the work of all intelligence organisations, with the "need-to-know" principle providing one of the first lines of defence in the protection of information. It is also in the nature of such work that this reality can lend itself to the abuse of power, particularly in periods of heightened offensive by the enemy. Recognising this, the changes introduced by the ANC in the leadership of this Department, along with the establishment of structures to deal with all cases of human rights abuses within the organisation, and to act as checks against any misuse of power by the Department, were in line with continuing attempts by the ANC to narrow the scope for abuse and to ensure that justice prevailed.
6.3.3 Stages of security operations and experiences
184.108.40.206 A new paradigm in the context of mass revolt and mass exodus (1976 -1980)
In the period before the watershed of June 1976, the underground structures of the ANC deliberately recruited cadres for training and deployment within the country. The new phase after the upheavels of 1976 saw the mass exodus of youth, seeking contact with the ANC driven by the desire to acquire the skills necessary to respond to the brutality of the regime with military force. It was critical for the ANC to set up the necessary structures to process all these new recruits: for ensuring proper deployment of cadres; for utilising information they passed on to the ANC, which could be used to build the underground; and to ensure that agents of the regime were weeded out.
Though many of the new arrivals were known to one another, the ANC did not have a sufficiently developed network within the country to cross-check information they provided. A contributing factor was the difficult situation in which the ANC had to operate incertain frontline states as an underground outfit with few resources. In most instances, it had to rely on the bona fides of the new recruits.
At times, the regime would demonstrate a callous disregard particularly for its black agents by sending them en masse into ANC structures in exile, without much preparation and with little chance of escaping the clearance net. This, however, was also part of a red herring approach, to conceal its better trained agents and keep the ANC's security structures busy on inconsequential cases.
Some agents were exposed because they were known within the country. Others were naive and inconsistencies in their biographies which all recruits had to write were easily spotted. However, some were well-trained in the fields of political, military, and intelligence work. This included briefings on how to aim at being deployed in certain positions of strategic importance, how to rise within the ranks of the ANC, how to identify key moments at which agitation against the leadership could serve to undermine the ANC, how to gather information for necessary assassinations and other attacks, or to carry out such deeds themselves. A number of these agents were able to escape the clearance net, and were only discovered later.
The ANC's approach to those who were discovered was based on its policies to convert them to liberation politics. Besides, these individuals stood out as pitiful "square pegs" who needed help rather than maltreatment. For their own protection and in order to ensure the safety of others, most of these agents were placed in safe houses, and, in terms of food and other supplies, treated no differently from the rest of the new recruits. However, there were some who had been briefed to link up with counter-revolutionary groups or agents already deployed in the host countries; these agents were processed in conjunction with host governments and then transferred to local prisons.
Before mid-1977, there was little visable activity by agents beyond a few attempts to carry out their missions and the escape of some who were able to report back to their handlers. After this tentative period, the network became highly active.In September 1977, food was poisoned at the Catengue military training camp in Angola, the only major training centre of MK. Nearly 500 trainees were affected and had it not been for the timely action of doctors, most would have died, or have been finished off in their weakened state by these agents. The perpetrators of this crime were discovered some years later.
In 1979, the regime launched an air raid on the same camp. The timing and choice of targets indicated clearly that they had precise information on the outlay of, and routine in, the camp. Fortunately, the ANC had prior knowledge of the regime's intentions, and the camp had been evacuated.
UNITA and FNLA bandits began to target MK camps and convoys. Again some of these attacks indicated that they had inside information about the camps and movements of our units. Several casualties among cadres deployed within the country indicated that thee had to be agents within certain commanding structures of MK.
It was during this period that the Security and Intelligence Department was consolidated; new recruits were trained and deployed, and in 1979 , a formal detention centre was established at Camp 32 in Angola.
220.127.116.11 Covert operations intensify (1981 - 1985)
In 1981, efforts to destabilise the ANC began to take on the form of overt agitation against the leadership, particularly in Lusaka. In the camps, there was a rash of bizarre incidents of indiscipline by a minority of cadres - such as running dagga rings, the theft and sale of camp equipment and weapons, and the rape and murder of Angolan villagers. Attempts were made to deal with these developments politically, and to determine the root causes of the problems. At the time the ANC was not aware of the role of the regime's network in these developments, and in any case, they were exploiting real grievances and difficulties.
The network was discovered with the arrest of a group of these agents in 1981; the leadership at HQ was shocked at the extent of infiltration, as their links in Lusaka, Angola, Tanzania and further afield was uncovered.
The "spy network"
In 1981, a cadre named Ndunga (codename "Joel Mahlatini") was allegedly involved in dealing in dagga while posted at Pango Camp. The camp commander, whose MK name was Kenneth Mahamba, ordered cadres to beat him and authorised his detention in Camp 32, but Ndunga was certified dead on arrival at the detention centre. The ANC regional command instituted an investigation into this act of brutality; the findings were profoundly shocking.
Kenneth Mahamba had been recruited by the Security Police in 1976, and was linked to an extensive network of agents. Some of these agents had been groomed for deep and long-term penetration of the ANC, and had through exemplary behaviour attained highly responsible positions. Others had been given less complex but nevertheless highly damaging tasks by their SB handlers such as poisonings and sabotage of valuable equipment. Along with agents whose MK names were Thabo Mavuso, Rodgers Mayalo, Justice Tshabalala (a member of the ANC's security department), Tommy Shenge (physical instructor at the camp), Pharoah Mogale, and Vusi Mayekiso, Kenneth Mahamba had been involved in the poisoning of cadres at Nova Catengue camp and passing on intelligence which led to the destruction of the camp in the 1979 aerial bombardment.
In addition to attempting to murder cadres and passing on intelligence on military installations, this network and its various subsidiaries supplied information on the movements of leadership figures; carried out surveillance on ANC residences; sent the enemy detailed information on the children studying at Mazimbu and committed various acts of sabotage. Some operatives had been tasked to deliberately encourage indiscipline and stir up discontent through tactics such as the promotion of tribalism in camps.
The network had included the key operative Thabo Mavuso, who had been the Commissar at Catengue camp. When he was sent back into the country he immediately reported to his handlers, and became the first Askari. Pharoah Mogale had been a political instructor at the camp, and was later deployed to the Youth Secretariat at HQ in Lusaka. Another operative was Oshkosh Khumalo, an immigration official who had been sending information on all cadres passing from Zambia to South Africa, leading to many arrests and murders. The network included Section Commander Escom Maluleka, a member of the ANC's treasury department Balili Mpila and several other agents, including Angolan nationals, and operatives located in various neighbouring countries. Some members of the network had been transporting MK recruits from inside the country to forward areas. Others were working for foreign police and intelligence services which were co-operating with the apartheid regime. Several members of this network were executed after their cases had been heard by a Tribunal.
It must be emphasised that some cadres who were arrested at this time were either falsely implicated, or had merely shown signs of ill-discipline. Many of them were later released;. Apologies were tendered for wrongful arrest, and they were reintergrated into the exile community, and in some cases provided with opportunities to pursue academic studies.
18.104.22.168 Some incidents of abuse
The discovery of this network of agentsand the missions that they had been pursuing within the movement came as a shock: while infiltration had been expected, the sophisticated nature and the extent of the network was beyond what anyone had imagined. It was clear that the leadership and the movement as a whole, had escaped by the skin of its teeth.
It is within this context that the work of the Department of National Security and Intelligence intensified - it was a matter literally of life or death. But this department was largely staffed by young cadres; faced with this new situation and aware of the threat posed to the ANC, and at times having to deal with agents who refused to divulge information despite geing confronted with prima facie evidence, some of these cadres seriously abused detainees.
These excesses are detailed in the reports of the Motsuenyane and Skweyiya Commissions reports. These reports must read with the evidence that members of NAT submitted to both Commissions. It is clear that:
some of the allegations of abuse are accurate, but others are exaggerated or entirely false, and represent deliberate attempts to mislead the Commissions;
while certain cadres deployed as guards in detention centres may be directly responsible for these excesses in their zeal to deal with what they understood as the most critical threat in the history of the ANC, the leadership of NAT did not sufficiently intervene to correct the situation. The head of the Department at the time, Mzwai Piliso, accepted full responsibility for this in his evidence to the Motsuenyane Commission;
when information on the conditions in detention centres reached senior organs of the ANC, lengthy meetings were held by the NEC to asses the situation and introduce corrective measures. The report of the Stuart Commission Report is relevant as was noted in the NEC statement in response to the release of the Motsuenyane Report.
The ANC deeply regrets the excesses that occurred. Further, we acknowledge that the real threat we faced and the difficult conditions under which we had to operate led to a drift in accountability and control away from established norms, resulting in situations in which some individuals within the NAT began to behave as a law unto themselves.
22.214.171.124 Detention - the case of the Morris Seabelo Centre:
There have been many allegations regarding conditions in the Morris Seabelo Centre, variously refereed to as Camp 32 or Quadro.
The government in Angola made it clear that it would prefer the ANC to manage its own centre, rather than be saddled with cases it could not process.
The conditions in this detention centre have been described in some detail in the reports of the Commissions which we have appended to our submission. Because these conditions have been described with no reference to the overall situation under which Mk had to operate in Angola, it is necessary to describe the situation in the training camps in more detail. These reminiscences of a former commander are relevant.
It is under these conditions that all cadres lived for many years in MK camps in Angola. When the evidence on conditions in detention centres is considered, it must be weighed against this background.
However, to the extent that conditions in some of the detention centres might have been much worse than the norm, the ANC acknowledged, that things needed to be improved and steps were taken to do so.
126.96.36.199 Tension and dissatisfaction - dealing with mutiny
Several factors combined to produce dissatisfaction and tension among cadres in the camps: generally difficult conditions; the behaviour of some security personnel; and the slow pace of deployment of cadres within the country, given the different modus operandi of MK in comparison to other guerrilla struggles. In addition to these problems, MK combatants had been killed by bandits seeking to destabilise the Angolan government. Operations bordering on military campaigns had to be conducted to clear areas around MK camps.
These conditions resulted in protests in late 1983 and early 1984 in camps near the town of Cangandala, which were defused with no loss of life.But dissatisfaction continued amongst these cadres and others who had by this time been moved to Viana transit camp, and some refused to turn in their arms on arrival. This mutiny was put down with the assistance of Angolan government troops and resulted in the loss of two lives, an MK cadre known as "Babsy" and an Angolan soldier who was killed when an Armed Personnel Carrier was shot at by Dyasop, an MK cadre. Fortunately there was no further loss of life and the mutineers surrendered their arms. Like all other armies, MK had rules about dealing with mutineers, and this case was no exception. The leaders of this mutiny, popularly known as Mkatashinga, were arrested, many of them were later released.
A far more serious mutiny broke out in Pango in 1984. Those responsible used machine-guns and other heavy weapons to kill the camp commanders and other soldiers, this mutiny had to be be suppressed mercilessly. A military tribunal was set up by the NEC and two groups of mutineers were tried: seven of those who shot officers and other cadres were given the death penalty. None of the second group of eight were executed, despite the fact that one of the mutineers had hunted down wounded cadres the morning after the mutiny began, and finished them off: The ANC released him but he later murdered a Tanzanian citizen and was imprisoned in that country.
There were isolated cases in which recruits were executed after they were tried and convicted of crimes such as raping and murdering local villagers. For example, Thabo Makhubethe (travelling name Ruphus Maphalie) was found guilty of raping an Angolan woman. A military tribunal ordered that he be executed by firing squad - sentence was carried out in 1984 in Luanda. In another case, Josiah Malhobane (travelling name Shaka Dumakude) and Jeremiah Maleka (travelling name Zweni Mdingi) indulged in heavy drinking in Milange and neglected the important assignments they had been given. In a drunken state they randomly shot at shoppers at a local market, killing two Angolan women and seriously injuring another woman and child. They were sentenced to death by firing squad - sentence was carried out in 1989 at Milange.
The full list of people executed during the years of exile is attached to this submission.
188.8.131.52 Political leadership and the judicial system
From reports of the Regional Command in Angola, as well the security department, the NEC was appraised of the gravity of the security situation, and was advised on decisions that would have to be taken regarding those captured. The work that the security structures had accomplished was, however, not matched by an equal enthusiasm to ensure humane conduct by the people responsible for arrests and detention centres. The NEC emphasised the need for cadres in security structures to operate within the ambit of movement policy; some of them did visit the detention centres to ensure that this happened, but not enough was done to prevent the reoccurence of abuses.
However, when reports about dissatisfaction precipitating mutinies were received, and when decisions were required about appropriate sentences, the NEC acted swiftly. Senior NEC members were dispatched to ensure that the tribunals were conducted in a fair manner and that cases where execution was recommended were reviewed impartially.
The NEC realised that these reports reflected a more serious malaise; and a Commission of Inquiry headed by James Stuart which including senior non-NEC members such as Sizakhele Sigxashe, were tasked with investigating the causes of the mutinies and recommending measures to correct the situation.
The Commission Report, which is one of the appendices, acknowledged the problems and proposed political, administrative, logistical and other measures to rectify the situation. By the time the report was released, one of the recommendations - for a national conference of the movement - was already being organised, Issues raised by the Commission raised informed debate at the 1985 Kabwe Conference.
6.3.4 Post-Kabwe: Consolidation of ANC jurisprudence (1985 - 1987)
184.108.40.206 Debates on the treatment of captured agents
We have described the enduring tension between the ANC's policy on legitimate targets, and pressure for retaliation in response to state brutality. There were similarly heated debates within the movement on the treatment of captured agents. On the one hand, there was ANC policy on the humane treatment of prisoners of war, ie accordance with the Geneva Protocols; on the other, there was the anger at the havoc certain agents had wrought. As a result of their activities, cadres had been arrested inside the country; leaders such as Joe Gqabi, Dulcie September and Cassius Make had been assassinated, along with many others in exile and inside the country; ANChouses had been attacked, cadres poisoned, and valuable equipment had been sabotaged.
The question would be posed over and over again, were we not being too lenient in keeping such agents in settlements, feeding them and "wasting" resources onguarding them? But as always, the movement eschewed emotional responses and sought to approach matters rationally, asserting the supremacy of the ANC's politics and morality. While not enough was done in earlier years to ensure that these policies informed actual practice, humane norms governing the treatment of captured agents remained ANC policy.
At the Kabwe Conference, this matter came under intense scrutiny; and the result was not merely the reassertion of policy, but also the adoption of an elaborate Code of Conduct to ensure that the policies of the movement found clearer expression in actual practice. The Code set out standards for the treatment of detainees, emphasising that all its cadres, particularly those working in the field of security, should be trained accordingly, and that in its conduct, the movement should nurture "the embryo of the new justice system we envisage for a liberated South Africa".
In Section C of the Code of Conduct, titled "Investigation", sub-section (4) stipulates that "Torture or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of a detainee or of a person on trial is forbidden," with this stipulation further reinforced by the regulations listed under Section D: "Procedure", sub-section (8b), which states that "the Tribunal shall at all times be attentive to the necessity to ensure that any confession or admission is genuine and that its content can be relied upon, and should normally not make a finding of guilty without some external and substantial form of corroboration."
In the section titled "Punishment" in the MK Code of Conduct , it is stipulated that "all members of the ANC and MK are required to respect the terms of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War in line with the formal acceptance by the ANC of these terms in 1981. Any violation of these terms shall be an offence. ( ...) The purpose of punishment is to deter members from committing an offence, assist offenders to rehabilitate (...) Punishments shall be administered humanely and without undue harshness or cruelty."
220.127.116.11 Structures for justice
The Code of Conduct called for the establishment of the post of Officer of Justice whose functions included ensuring that there was no abuse of persons in detention, that the goal of re-education prevailed, and that unreasonable delays in finishing investigations were avoided.
In addition, a Review Commission was consolidated, to ensure that sentences decided on by tribunals or any other structures would be examined by senior members of the NEC.
Despite the limited resources at the ANC's disposal, lawyers within the movement were tasked to ensure that those who were tried had a proper defence. Not only was this process excruciatingly difficult for an underground movement given the conditions under which the ANC had to operate, it also generated tension between various structures and individuals within the movement - all in defence of normal practices of justice, and not seldom, in the service of agents responsible for heinous acts against the people.
But the NEC insisted that this was the right course, and temptations to violate or undermine the rules were discouraged.
18.104.22.168 Revamp of Security and Intelligence Department and new culture
President Tambo decided to restructure the Department and bring in new personnel. Between 1986-7 a provisional Directorate was formed under the supervision of the Sg, Alfred Nzo. This Provisional Sdirectorate was tasked with restructuring the department in order to ensure its practices were in line with the new structures for justice established after the Kabwe Conference , investingating the style of work within the department, and assessing its ability to respond to the changed circumstances of struggle within the country and in the international arena.
A new leadership of the department consisting of senior members of the NEC, was appointed in 1987. The Department was restructured into more clearly defined sub-sectors of Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Processing and Security. The new leadership set about correcting other problems within the department, It tightened supervision of interrogation practices, and acted immediately against unnacceptable methods; systematically investigated conditions in the detention centres, and proposed corrective measures where appropriate. Plans were drawn up for a new detention centre in Angola, but before work could begin the majority of ANC cadres, detainees and prisoners had to be transferred to Uganda and Tanzania, where conditions were better.
The Thami Zulu case
Among the cases that have received much publicity in this period is the recall and confinement of Thami Zulu and the issue of circumstances surrounding his death. The details are sufficiently covered in the report of the Commission which was tasked with investigating the case.(the report is one of the appendicies). In order to fully understand the actual meaning of this case, both to appreciate the past and identify current and future challenges, the following issues need to be underlined:
Investigations into the extremely high casualty rate within Mk structures under his command were accepted as constituting sufficient ground for his recall; within the context of international military norms, commanders under similar circumstances have been subjected to far worse treatment.
Thami Zulu was not confined to a detention centre. He spent most of his time in residences, although separated from the rest of the ANC community. At no time was he tortured or subject to any undue pressure.
When he was released, Thami Zulu was ill Independent pathologists found he had contracted the HIV virus and was suffering from AIDS-related Complex, and possibly pulmonary TB.
However, Thami Zulu died of poisoning after his release - and to this day, it is a matter of conjecture as to who administered this poison and why this was done. The Department of Intelligence and Security has reason to believe that an agent or agents of the regime were responsible.
As in other cases, such as those of Francis Meli and Solly Smith, the question has been asked whether poison was administered to stop him from exposing deeper networks, on his death-bed, embedded in the movement. We hope that the TRC process will help to uncover the real facts the case of Thami Zulu and other such complex cases.
22.214.171.124 A new capacity in the underground
In time underground structures of the ANC, including security and intelligence units, struck root within the country; assisted by the MDM network throughout the country, it was easier to follow up accusations, investigate suspicious tendencies, and seek advice from cadres on the ground.
Many of the agents captured in this period were known to underground and MDM structures before they left the country; and when challenged with irrefutable evidence, they would have no option but to admit their guilt.
In addition, the Security and Intelligence Department developed networks within the regime's security structures, and valuable information on infiltration of the ANC and MDM was obtained in this manner. The ANC was able to identify the controllers activities of over 600 agents - in exile and deployed in internal ANC and MDM structures - from details of reports they had submitted to their handlers. Three cases illustrate this new intelligence capacity, and details of some of their reports (not necessarily accurate, but in the words of the agents or their handlers) are attached to this submission:
Maxwell Xulu (Report 1):
A former Treasurer-General of COSATU, his Security Police Source Number was PN645. He was controlled by Warrant Officers Brown and Twala of the Port Natal region. He submitted 23 reports, in which he is described as a "high level source holding a senior position in the labour movement" and having "high level contact with the leadership of the ANC in exile". He had penetrated COSATU, MAWU, NUMSA, the ANC and the UDF. Confronted with this damning evidence, Xulu conceded his guilt and agreed to leave the trade union movement.
Keith McKenzie (Report 2):
A former operative in an underground MK unit, his Security Police Source Number was NT395. He was controlled by Lt. Momberg and Sgt. Goosen of the Northern Transvaal region. He is said to have submitted one report on contact he had with MK commanders in Botswana, and was characterised as a "high level source associated with leading members of the ANC MK Special Operations Group". McKenzie was apprehended by the ANC, and confirmed the information contained in the report.
Joy Harnden (Report 6):
The moral of this information is that, besides the culture established in the revamped security structures of the ANC, it had become much easier to deal with accusations against individuals within the ANC, MDM and other organisations. Thus was no pressure to resort to harsh methods in order to establish the facts and extract information. Of course, there were other networks (apart from those indicated in the attached Security Branch reports) linked to Military Intelligence and the National Intelligence Service - and the TRC should help uncover these facts.
6.3.5 Some cases relevant to the post-1990 period
As the negotiations process opened, the ANC began to process captured agents for release and repatriation. A few years earlier, the ANC had sought to send some of these agents back to their handlers in exchange for cadres of the movement in state hands; but for propaganda reasons, and because they cared little for their own operatives, the regime had refused.
Of those released in 1990, several expressed remorse for their activities against the ANC and the struggle, and maintain friendly contact with the ANC. They have communicated their wish to be rehabilitated and fully reintegrated into society, and the ANC is doing all it can to assist. There are others who were wrongfully arrested. The ANC has apologised to them, and where possible has assisted them to re-establish themselves within the country; some are pursuing their studies. To them we once more apologise.
However, there are a number of agents who came back and were quickly reintegrated into the security apparatus of the regime. Two cases clearly demonstrate the character of these agents.
126.96.36.199 De Sousa - gang criminality and apartheid security
Joachim Jose Ribiero de Sousa was among the last group of detainees released by the ANC. He had been recruited by the NIS in the USA in 1983, where he was studying for a BSc degree. He reported on the activities of anti-apartheid groups in the USA, and after training in Pretoria passed on information on UDF campaigns against the tri-cameral Parliament. He also passed on information on ANC offices in New York, London, Lusaka and Harare. He was detained by ANC security in 1986.
De Sousa's group returned to South Africa in August 1991, within three months of his release De Sousa had tried to murder his estranged wife; he invaded her home, knocked her unconscious and then shot her in the neck, and had tried to murder two of her women friends by firing shots through the door of the room in which they were hiding. De Sousa became involved in the underworld in Eersterust, and came into conflict with organised gangs; it was alleged he was running two armed gangs himself. In late 1991 he murdered Warren Hartze; a few weeks later he tried to murder four more people in two separate attacks on their homes.
De Sousa was arrested, and a Pretoria magistrate ruled that he should be held at a police station until his next appearance. Outraged Eersterust residents demanded to know why he was not being treated like other prisoners and remanded at Pretoria Central. He was released on bail in February 1992 pending a decision by the Attorney General on what charges should be brought against him. De Sousa and his heavily armed gang began a reign of terror in Eersterust. From June onwards, the place was described as being like a "war zone" with constant shootings.
By July 1992, de Sousa had survived no fewer than three attempts on his life, apparently by members of rival gangs. In one of these cases three men were arrested and sentenced to various terms of correctional service or supervision.
In September 1993 De Sousa was charged with one count of murder, seven counts of attempted murder, four of damage to property, and five or unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. The trial was postponed until February 1994 and De Sousa was released on R2,000.00 bail. . De Sousa was eventually sentenced to seventeen years imprisonment. But De Sousa never served his sentence: he was killed outside prison.
188.8.131.52 Patrick Dlongwana (aka Hlongwane) - a microcosm of the evolution of state security strategy in the 1980s and 90s
Patrick Dlongwana (police code number 446/8, later altered to OPJ 446/8) began his career of collaboration with the SAP in 1977. He passed on information about activists and anti-apartheid groups, and gave testimony for the state in cases against various activists, resulting in long prison sentences. In Port Elizabeth he was instructed to set up a "pseudo-revolutionary" group called "Roots" along with another SB agent masquerading as a PAC member. Activists at the time remember that Dlongwana always advocated militant and radical actions in the meetings of youth structures, and tried to incite violence. The real role of "Roots" was to disrupt the activities of grassroots anti-apartheid organisations, sow confusion and mount a disinformation campaign around certain prominent leaders, to violently disrupt PEBCO meetings and beat students boycotting classes. Dlongwana's group wore balaclavas to hide their identities when engaging in this kind of violence.
Dlongwana has stated that after receiving technical training by Lt. Gideon Nieuwoudt and other officers of the PE Security Branch, he was sent to Lesotho in late 1982 to photograph houses in which ANC activists and refugees lived. He completed this mission, returned to South Africa, and in December participated in the bloody raid on Maseru in which 42 people were killed. During 1984 he was involved in petrol-bombing the homes of prominent Eastern Cape activists including Sipho Hashi; he murdered a COSAS member who called him a spy; and then worked with Thamsanqa Linda, who was running a vigilante group (Linda was known as "Project Tommy" by the regional AEC office which handled him.) When deployed on the East Rand, he assisted in disrupting trade union activities and in the tracking down and murder of an MK cadre. By late 1986 his usefulness to the SB was waning and he was cynically sent to join the ANC in Lusaka, where he was immediately picked up due to the notoriety had achieved inside the country. He made a full confession, available on videotape, which makes it clear that he was not subjected to duress. He was imprisoned by the ANC until early 1990.
On the return of Dlongwana's group of detainees to South Africa, they were met at the airport by Inkatha's Bruce Anderson, who told the media that "a campaign to expose the terror camps of the ANC and to prove the vulnerability South Africa would have if they elected an ANC government" would be launched. Dlongwana began to use the name Hlongwane, and immediately resumed his work for the apartheid regime by fronting for the Returned Exiles Committee (REC), largely co-ordinated by the SAP. Nico Basson, a former Military Intelligence communications expert who had been involved in the covert muti-million anti-SWAPO campaign before the elections in that country, had earlier made public details on a very similar campaign waged against SWAPO.
By late 1990 REC had cruelly sent out letters to many families falsely claiming that their children, relatives or friends had gone missing and had "probably been murdered by security members of the ANC." Over the next three years, REC mounted a sustained and vigorous propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting the ANC through a combination of selective truth and totally false or grossly exaggerated allegations on conditions in its former detention centres.
As in the case of the earlier front "Roots", Hlongwane was deployed as a stratkom tool to not only spread disinformation but also to serve as a cover for state-directed violence against the ANC which could be portrayed as the result of internal ANC disputes arising from the exile past.
In late 1992, on more than one occasion, he threatened to kill ANC leadership figures whom he falsely accused of being involved in the torture of former ANC prisoners, and by early 1993 a mysterious organisation calling itself the "SA Republican Army" (SARA) had appeared, claiming responsibility for massacres and murders in which it is strongly suspected that elements within the Internal Stability Division (ISD) units or other arms of the security forces may have been involved, including that of Reggie Hadebe. A few months later Hlongwane publicly stated SARA was the armed wing of RECOC. At no stage was he questioned by the police on his claims. Not long after this, he was working as a "junior unpaid information officer" for the National Party's Soweto branch.
The International Freedom Foundation (IFF), a so-called international human rights organisation, set up a "commission of inquiry" into the allegations by certain former detainees. The IFF branch in South Africa at this time was headed by Russel Crystal, previously involved in stratkom projects such as the National Students Federation, set up to counter the influence of NUSAS. He was also a member of De Klerk's President's Council as late as November 1992. In 1991 the IFF had been exposed as being among those groups which had received covert funding by the apartheid regime, yet it continued to mount expensive propaganda blitzes and organise various costly anti-ANC stratkom operations overseas and in the country at taxpayers expense, and in total contravention of the terms of the National Peace Accord. In January 1993 the report of the IFF- sponsored Douglas Commission was published, purporting to present evidence establishing that the ANC had "put in place a systematic policy of depraved brutality and persecution against their own members in exile."
In July 1995 disaffected Security Police operative Paul Erasmus revealed details of various stratkom operations which had been running under the De Klerk regime; among the documents he exposed was an "information note" dated 08/11/90 from Lt-Col. Alf Oosthuizen, chief of intelligence at SAP HQ in Pretoria, bearing what appears to be the signatures of Adriaan Vlok and General Johan van Der Merwe, on a planned media conference where two RECOC members would "reveal the ANC's undemocratic policy, ethnic divisions in the organisation, and the existence of conditions(sic) in the Mbarara detention camp in Uganda. (...) RECOC as an organisation acts wholly independently, although this office co-ordinates its actions (..) the SAP involvement will in no way be revealed." At the same time it came to light that the IFF was in fact a front fully funded by the state via SADF's Military Intelligence since 1986.
There was a bizarre final twist: it emerged in October 1995, with the publication of the report by the Skweyiya Commission of inquiry into corruption in the former Bophutatswana, that R150,000 in taxpayer's money had been channelled to Russel Crystal's' Executive Research Associates for the publication of the Douglas Commission report via Lucas Mangope's secret "National Security Fund."
In retrospect, those who covertly ran and financed this anti-ANC propaganda campaign centred on the allegations of certain former detainees did achieve one positive result - although not one that they have welcomed: in its detailed response to the publication of the Motsuenyane Commission report, the ANC NEC called for the formation of a Truth Commission:
In so far as cases of abuse are concerned, the ANC concurs with the findings of the Motsuenyane Commission that, though there were a number of such excesses, it was never established that there was any systematic policy of abuse. Instead, the report illustrates consistent efforts by the leadership to establish mechanisms of accountability and oversight. The appointment of these various Commissions illustrates the ANC's candid and responsible approach to issues of human rights promotion. To quote the Motsuenyane Commission Report:
To the extent that the Motsuenyane Commission found that some detainees were maltreated and recommended that the ANC should apologise for these violations of their human rights, the ANC does so without qualification, within the context of the standards it has set itself - standards it wishes our country to attain and maintain, now and in the future
6.4 ANC members who died in exile
Over the years the ANC sought to record all deaths of its members in exile, irrespective of the cause of death - whether they fell in battle, died of natural causes, accidents, were murdered by agents of the regime, or executed after being found guilty of serious crimes. In some cases cadres have disappeared, and have never been fully accounted for. There have been cases of cadres who were abducted by agents of the regime, and if not turned into collaborators through torture, secretly killed. Others were murdered once they had outlived their usefulness after being "turned". Many such abductions took place under clandestine conditions as cadres were either en route to link up with the ANC in exile or on their way back into South Africa to engage in struggle.
Keeping such records has not been an easy task, given the rigours of underground existence, raids on homes and offices, and the destruction of records in the process. Many of the names recorded could be combat or travelling names, which our cadres assumed in exile. Sometimes they were known by several such names, depending on the number of countries they traversed. This was in order to protect the families of cadres from harassment by the apartheid state, and for the safety of cadres themselves. Some of our cadres have taken their true identities to their graves.
It must also be noted that among the many people who left for exile there were those who never did make contact with the ANC: they either joined other organisations, acquired refugee status in various host countries, or disappeared.
After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 we tried to update our records. A full-time Bereaved Parents Committee was set up to take on this task by attempting to find more information on those who had died or disappeared. In addition this group was tasked with making contact with affected families nation-wide to inform them of the fate of their loved ones.
However it has not been possible to fill in all the gaps in the records, nor to contact all those families of those listed in our records of ANC members who died in this period. Some have not been traced because of forced removals, dislocation resulting from violence in regions such as KwaZulu Natal, and other problems. For this we express our regret.
For the information of the Commission and the people of South Africa, our record of those of our members who died in exile is attached to our submission.
We intend to continue filling in the gaps in our records; and we appeal to the Truth Commission and concerned families and individuals to assist in finishing this task.
6.5 The Mass Democratic Movement and human rights violations in the context of the mass revolt of the 1980
The emergence in the 1980s of the UDF and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) - a loosely constituted group of organisations established to give direction to the struggle after the UDF was effectively banned - introduced a qualitative change in the struggle against apartheid. These umbrella organisations, drawing together hundred of grassroots organisations, provided the ANC with important internal, legal allies which played a major role in the collapse of apartheid rule. As we submitted earlier, although the UDF/MDM were in broad agreement with the ANC on all major policy issues, they were separate entities and did not operate under the control of the ANC.
It is necessary to contextualise violations of human rights which occurred in the name of these organisations during the mass uprisings of the 1980s, when spontaneous resistance to apartheid broke out across the country. Many participants in this struggle did not fall within the formal structures and organisational discipline of the ANC, but believed they were acting within the broad parameters of struggle as outlined by the ANC.
Where activists of the democratic movement were involved in violence it was frequently in response to the violence of the state or its representatives. As harassment, detention, shootings and other acts of repression intensified, ordinary people took steps to defend themselves against the police, state-run "vigilante" groups, informers and other criminals.
The context in which violence took place
The generalised violent uprising resulted from the political intransigence and violence of the apartheid regime, together with intolerable economic conditions at local level. It was at this stage that the ANC called on oppressed South Africans to refuse to be governed by what was essentially an illegitimate and undemocratic regime [See section 5.3 above]. These mass-based struggles soon resulted in a situation in which the regime could no longer rule black South Africans in the same old way, but could only relate to them as an army of occupation. These struggles all contributed to making apartheid unworkable and forcing those in power to finally come to their senses and agree to a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
While the UDF and the Mass Democratic Movement campaigned actively against unjust laws to show up the illegitimacy of the South African government, and actively opposed apartheid-based structures of governance such as the councils, these organisations never shifted from their policy of non-violent forms of struggle.
The UDF was able to provide political leadership which helped contain and channel popular anger in ways which prevented a racial war.
But the state responded with increasingly repressive measures. Organisations were prevented from operating openly. Their activities were disrupted through overt violence or covert "dirty tricks" operations. Their literature and statements were censored or banned. Their leaders were banned, detained, forced into exile, or killed - often with extreme brutality which created intense anger. At times organisations were incapacitated and left without clear guidance through wholesale detention of their leadership, and other forms of harassment. The decentralised nature of the UDF as an umbrella organisation with hundreds of autonomous affiliates further precluded the possibility of asserting tight, centralised control over an accountable and disciplined membership. All these factors made it increasingly difficult to disseminate information on policy issues, ensure organisational discipline, and a non-violent approach in a situation of extreme provocation and blanket state terrorism against black civilians.
As with other forms of struggle, there were instances where individuals deliberately flouted ANC and UDF/MDM policy, at times out of anger.
By 1987 it had become virtually impossible for the UDF to function openly. After Murphy Morobe (UDF acting Publicity Secretary) emerged from a year in hiding to give a press interview, a journalist commented that Morobe had become "a public relations man who cannot be seen in public, representing a legal mass organisation that has to operate underground."
Given this situation it was clearly impossible for the UDF/MDM to actually control all activities carried out in its name by people and groups who, while supporting the broad aims of these organisations, were not directly linked to the leadership and discipline of the organisations.
In advance of campaigns such as consumer boycotts and stayaways, the UDF/MDM issued statements calling for discipline and laying down guidelines. Yet at times assaults and attacks occurred despite these directives.
To give another example of difficulties of this nature, people began setting up Street Committees, People's Courts and similar structures as an expression of their rejection of the apartheid system. These were rudimentary forms of popular government, emerging at first as a result of local initiatives and later with the encouragement of the ANC and MDM. However, while the motives guiding People's Courts were in essence good - to counter criminal activities on a community basis - a lack of resources often meant that no thorough investigations were conducted; as a result, judgements were often made on the basis of inadequate information.
On a number of occasions both the ANC and UDF/MDM leadership condemned violations of human rights which occurred as a result of "peoples' courts", "necklacing", and other unacceptable practices, whilst recognising the context in which such actions took place. The most cursory research of the 1980s press and the archives of the UDF will confirm this fact.
In its attempts to suppress the mass uprising, the state relied on an extensive network of secret informers, and constantly attempted to turn activists into a fifth column within the mass democratic movement. In some cases these attempts were successful; such recruits passed on information on activists to their handlers in the security forces: this resulted in lengthy detentions, the smashing of organisations, and many murders of respected leadership figures and other activists. Other informers became state witnesses, schooled to give false evidence needed to convict activists of treason, terrorism and sedition under the Internal Security Act. Yet others were recruited into death squads, or deployed as agents provocateurs who incited or perpetrated violence and then claimed to have been instructed by the UDF and /or the ANC to do so.
In yet other cases, young activists who wanted to serve the cause of liberation by participating in the armed struggle were lured into fatal traps by agents of the regime posing as members of MK or the ANC, who gave them arms and ammunition and wrong instructions on how to use them, or booby-trapped grenades which killed or grossly maimed the users. These cynical killings were then attributed to the ANC's armed wing. These and other heart-rending experiences gave rise to a culture of extreme intolerance among the youth in particular for informers and those suspected of being agents provocateurs. In a situation where the forces of law and order were deployed to attack rather than defend the people, it is not remotely surprising that activists turned towards meting out summary justice against suspected agents, and those who openly sided with the apartheid system, including members of the hated security forces.
The use of extreme methods to neutralise the enemy, which included deterring and punishing collaborators, was perceived by many as an entirely justifiable act of self-defence, and the use of harsh methods in situations of this nature are by no means unique to the struggle for liberation in South Africa. The tactics of the underground resistance in Europe in the struggle against Nazism provide but one comparison. In South Africa, a particularly harsh form of retaliation was the "necklace".
Recent revelations have implicated self-confessed Vlakplaas operative Joe Mamasela in the killing of Maki Skosana, the first recorded "necklace" victim in South Africa. She was involved in a relationship with him, not knowing that he was a police agent; the deaths and horrific injuries inflicted on youths by booby-trapped grenades supplied by Mamasela, resulted in intense anger in the community and it appears that activists believed that Maki was responsible for introducing the youths to him. An enraged crowd turned on her when she appeared at the funeral of some of those youths killed by the booby-trapped grenades.
The concern expressed by President Nelson Mandela in his statement from the dock in April 1964 proved prophetic:
Young people in particular lived under conditions guaranteed to breed violence; as President Tambo put it in an address in 1987 to a conference focusing on the plight of children under apartheid,
This extract from the memoirs of an MK commander, describing a visit to an MK training camp by Johnny Makathini, at the time the ANC's representative at the United Nations, provides further insight into the tensions between ANC policies and mass participation in the struggle by youths who had grown up under conditions of state terrorism:
Armed and Dangerous, Ronnie Kasrils; Heinemann, 1993 (pp 247-8)
The ANC has never sought to condone all cases of violence of this nature, nor to disregard the suffering of those targeted for such retribution. Yet we call on the Commission to consider the cases of those, accused of criminal activities such as "necklacing", informers, criminals or "vigilantes" with a full understanding of the highly abnormal circumstances in which such acts took place, the level of state-sponsered violence afflicting communities during this period, and of the consequances flowing from the refusal by agencies of law and order to act impartially.