This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - 19 August 1996
A. Introduction: On motivations, approach and mandate.
During the deliberations on the task and approach of the proposed Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, I suggested on behalf of the Freedom Front that we have, as an important part of the work of the Commission, an unlimited debate in Parliament that would serve the purpose of enabling us to distinguish the wood from the trees. I had hoped at the time that by making an effort to understand strategies that prevailed, the contextual evidence will help us all to have better insight not only into overall strategies, but also into those seemingly incomprehensible atrocities and violence that characterized the conflict, and now, in a way, present a problem to all when we are after truth and reconciliation.
In making this proposal I was particularly concerned about the important issue of accountability - again on both sides. I still maintain it is unfair that the operators be exposed as the chief perpetrators of atrocities and violence in general when the politicians and strategy managers hide behind their status and positions. The iniquity of our past was of a political nature first and mainly in that way a moral problem on individual level.
The masterminds behind this crucible of the past iniquities more than anybody else should account for their schemes even if that brings political embarrassment to their parties today. We must be serious about the lessons of the past, if they would be of any help for the future. One of our Afrikaner Leaders of the past is reported to have said at his death bed in exile: "Take what is good from the past and build your future on that." I want to submit that we have an even greater challenge today and that is to understand what was wrong in the past in order to construct a better future for all. But the future can be lost if we fail to switch over from the negativeness of the past to positive cornerstones to build on.
My proposal for such a comprehensive and intensive debate was not accepted. I am of course disappointed because I would even have wanted to extend my proposal to cover all other structures of Government including provincial and local Government and even to cover other civic and religious institutions. If that could have happened it certainly would have resulted in the best possible chances for mutual understanding and reconciliation. Nevertheless, I have decided to take the opportunity presented to me of making this submission. Of course I will have to do so within the limitations that have been imposed upon me and my Party by no choice of our own. I will attend to this issue in due time. At this stage I can simply state that our appearance here and the submission we make must be seen as a result of the policy of the Freedom Front to participate in a constructive way in the general reconstruction of society.
Our presentation will be constrained by the limitations put on us by situations created at a time when the NP Government was in power. Unfortunately the present Government has also failed to rectify a situation, that we must say, Mr. De Klerk more than anybody else must take responsibility for in the first place. But first let me add a few more general observations on the motivations and approach I will try to adopt in my presentation:
1. . I think our presentations should be strictly factual and informative, and not an effort to rationalize or to find excuses for the wrongs of the past. We should avoid simply accusing the other Parties of having committed the same things, which I think is not very helpful.
2.. It should also be factual in the sense of not deliberately ridiculing any person or groups or organization. We need to make whole, not to break down.
3. . Our presentations should certainly not degenerate into an effort to score political points for political Parties for that may result in further polarization rather than in reconciliation, or it may invite cynicism rather than trust from the public.
4. . My presentation will refer to what is called gross violation of human rights in general, but will certainly not be limited to that, for it will include the general violent situation and extreme political and ideological polarization that were underlying and conditioning the extreme violations of human rights.
5. . My political mandate is from Afrikaners. I will speak therefore as a political party Leader on behalf of those Afrikaners I represent. The Freedom Front was formed early 1994 (after 6 December 1993). There are certainly those who resent my participation in this forum. I am no longer mandated to speak on behalf of the Afrikaner Volksfront or of the CP. There are also those Afrikaners who call themselves "verlig" (enlightened) and of course the rest "verkramp" (stubborn). They may associate with the DP or the NP. But I will not speak on their behalf. The Freedom Front however today claims to represent most of those Afrikaners who see themselves as a distinct ethnic and cultural unit, which they want to protect, maintain and develop for the purpose of peaceful co-existence in a country we share as a living space with other South Africans.
It is important for my argumentation about the position of the Afrikaners to understand the internal differences of cultural loyalties within this community for they resulted in almost conflicting self-perceptions.
In the thirties and the forties of this century it was the then NP that consciously consolidated Afrikaner political power to achieve what was seen at the time as the recovery of Afrikaner national independence after the humiliating defeat by the turn of the century at the hand of British colonialist and imperialist forces. The revival of national consciousness and ethnic pride for Afrikaners were the achievements of the NP at the time. And for some decades they have relied on Afrikaner sentiments for support. They may well have fanned the fires of nationalism for that purpose.
But 40 years of governmental control took them away from the respectable notion of the original Afrikaner ideals of freedom from bondage, when they themselves assumed the characteristics of imperialist rule within South Africa. They introduced the era of white domination. In this way they indeed introduced racist categories. In this process they denied, on a racial basis, democratic rights to others.
And with the resistance that always is drawn by the denial of democratic rights, the NP had to adapt to stronger and more stringent measures of coercion and when these failed, they found themselves far removed from their traditional value systems and power-base.
Once they have forsaken the essential presuppositions of their original policy of apartheid in the sense of separate development they started slipping and they had to resort to unconventional devices, propaganda and group force in order to keep political control. Perhaps yes, like the British imperialists who really were after gold and diamonds, they were lead into this trap by materialistic advance and by the support and approval of big business concerns that controlled almost the entire South African business and who were the beneficiaries who really profited from the Apartheid system, which they publicly decried but silently used for their own enrichment.
Along this road then the NP has lost the core of the Afrikaner people, whom they have chosen to depict as "verkramp". For lack of a better word, let us call them after Prof. H.W. van der Merwe, the ethnic Afrikaners. They may have been ridiculed by many names and through persistent propaganda, but they have remained consistently true to the simple idea of freedom from bondage and to a system of cultural values which constituted their collective self-understanding which was produced by their traumatic history and by the love for this land.
It is on behalf of these ethnic Afrikaners that I want to talk when I venture a view on the past in the context of our common search for truth and reconciliation. For I am not suggesting that we don't have any problem with or even some liability for the past. We must, in honesty and in critical fashion, look back to ask ourselves: What went wrong or what went right or simply what happened that produced so much strife and pain?
And what can we all do to avoid a repetition of this trauma in the future? Naturally, we will do so in a broader context than only that of the extreme aspect of gross violation of human rights. I will try to do so by making a number of points instead of trying to construct a systematic whole.
B. Our own history - the moulds from which we came
I have already in the introduction hinted at that. But we need to be more precise to understand the collective motives of the Afrikaner.
Someone once said: It is not our problem to acknowledge the wrongs of the past without renouncing history itself. Every individual or every people is its own history. From this history we understand perceptions.
Centuries ago from war torn Europe and bitter religious strife they came from various cultures, languages and persuasions to this southern tip of Africa - not to colonise or to exchange their merchandise in the first or final place, but to become what was called free-burgers. They "trekked" in search of peace and in search of freedom - over the ocean into what was from their point of view a wild and untamed country - to find freedom from oppression.
And when the British took control over "the Cape" they trekked again - inland, into the unknown, but away from a culture they found oppressive.
And when Natal was annexed many moved back again over the rough mountains - to find a place of their own. And when the discovery of gold and diamonds brought the hated imperialist bulldog to grab their republics they fought a war - futile and hopeless but never the less - they fought for their own. The war left them both devastation and heroes.
Some tried to trek again - to South America, to the highlands of central Africa, to places unknown. But for most there was no further trek. But when the new rulers tried to force another culture, a superior one, a world language and a world culture down their throats, they built their own schools and defied the brutal policies of the conqueror. For decades they fought a new battle - against bitter poverty and cultural suppression. But from the agony and the tumult of the past, from heroic battles and bitter disappointments the Afrikaner people was moulded.
In the process of modernization and in the context particularly of the post war world of the last decades many Afrikaners have taken on the cosmopolitan strange ways of modern world culture and even of communication through the international language of English. It may well be that more will do so through sheer necessity in the new South Africa. Some will no longer detect the wry sounds of the language of the conqueror.
What I am trying to say however, is that we must not ignore the history that brought about a peculiar people in its own right. For make no mistake: What Prof. van der Merwe called ethnic Afrikaners is a reality. Their aspirations are legitimate and real. They want to be in control of their own destiny. Don't force them to become assimilated on an individual basis in a larger society. Let them remain part of the larger society but retain their own identity on the basis of self-determination. The link is a common patriotism. I suggest that it is a mistake to judge all Afrikaners from the point of view of perceived racism.
They are the product of their own history. And they can be accommodated as such in some of the many ways of self-determination without any detrimental effect on the larger society of the New South Africa.
But let me say now on behalf of these ethnic Afrikaners: We have certainly made a grave mistake when we allowed our political leaders and the NP particularly to ignore the need for a timely settlement with those other South Africans that shared the land and the desire for independence form outside control with us in this part of the world.
We may have redirected our quarrel with the British to our compatriots in South Africa. We had clashes with them in the former century when settlements took place.
But by and large in this century we have shared with them above all the hard work of building this country. In this effort the Afrikaners and the Africans worked together to produce a unique product in Africa - a well developed, sophisticated state of South Africa.
We have to recognise that this mistake on the part of the Afrikaner, when he took political control after a long struggle together with other groups precipitated the serious alienation and polarization that have characterized our society in recent years and have brought us into this urgent need for reconciliation. On hindsight it is a particularly sad fact because it brought about a severe setback in the state of development that the Afrikaners have taken a major part in over more than a century.
In this way we have perhaps invited a reactionary mode that developed in revolutionary warfare and inadvertedly helped to forge alliances between the ANC and world communism that we did not like and indeed caused further serious ideological alienation, that more directly inspired policies and security measures that are not really in line with the religious world view of the ethnic Afrikaner. So we take collective responsibility for the situation that developed and it is certainly not our intention to allocate the guilt for what developed, to others only. The Freedom Front however, from its inception harboured the priority of reconciliation. I am not naive enough to think that we will achieve reconciliation through this Commission or soon after it. At best maybe we can hope for some cornerstones in the foundation.
But I do believe that it can begin with a honest look into the past. What is even more important - I believe it will come through hard work and joint efforts in the future. Within this camp of Afrikaners we are trying to do just that. We have often warned against what we believe is a rather sick attitude of retrospection which may, at this early stage of transition, yield counterproductive results.
It remains however a sad fact that we have to admit that the historic struggle of the Afrikaner for freedom and self-realization did not bring about the sensitivity that was needed in order to understand the same motivations and concerns when they came from the black people. Perhaps the worst of our past was that we did not know each other. We lacked genuine communication. The Afrikaner did not realty hear the African. The African did not really hear the Afrikaner. We operated with caricatures. Believe me, there were many Afrikaners with only the best of intentions - even in the policy of differentiated development, which was thought to be in line with the international concept of trusteeship and with the nineteenth century ideal of nation states.
That however still leaves us with the question why and how it happened in the case of South Africa that the Afrikaner failed to acquire this much needed sensitivity, In the rest of my presentation I will try to give are Afrikaner's point of view on this question. t am afraid many people will suffice with a quick answer to that question. And indeed the bitter propaganda campaign against the Afrikaner has provided this quick answer. The Afrikaner is perceived to be irredeemably and inherently racist and that is supposed to be the reason.
If we believe, silently or openly that this is the case, then of course we are wasting our time in seeking reconciliation and we might as well leave the issue to go down in history like the arrogance that went with the English, the chauvinism that went with the Fascists and the ruthlessness that went with the Nazi's. People like to generalize and to attach then labels indiscriminately.
I am however of the opinion that explanations for that could be found in the historical process of the past decades, and that these reasons would also to some extent account for the acceleration of anger and the loss of restraint in the strategies and in the counter revolutionary actions. I will be brief and limit myself to the few more important ones. Remember I am trying to give you the ethnic Afrikaner's point of view.
C. Strategies of Violence
The strategy of violence and the escalation of violence in efforts aimed at solving political disputes have been major obstacles for the Afrikaner to find sympathy for the cause of the black man as put forward by their revolutionary organizations. The Afrikaners had their own violent struggle at war and some even tried a rebellion in the context of the first world war. But to the culture of the Afrikaner as a rule violent insurrection against the state was unacceptable - even in the dark days of suppression by the British. Even more so was the concept of revolutionary activity that included the strategy of terrorizing the civilian population through indiscriminate violent and/or intimidatory action.
Many Afrikaners believed in the idea of structural differentiation and few Afrikaners understood the need expressed by black political organizations to use violence as a strategy for change. They have never considered this as a legitimate strategy and they feared that lenience towards this strategy would open the gates to anarchy, alien ideological concepts and to a proliferation of violent acts that would in a society like the South African one, undermine all standards of civilized behaviour. For violence always begets more violence. Afrikaners believe that the spiral of violent behaviour in South Africa was introduced by the 1961 resolution to opt for a violent struggle. When hundreds of farmers, many of them old and defenceless, were killed in the last few years on lonely farms often in the most brutal way, Afrikaners tend to see a direct link with the 1961 decision to introduce the principle of violence.
If violence could be used to solve the political issue, why can it not also solve the problem of poverty or any other type of dispute or perceived disadvantage?
Of course, all Afrikaners were not consequential in their abhorrence from violence and many of them took the seemingly logical decision to meet violence with violence. But the point I want to make is that this decision to opt for a violent struggle more than anything else from the Afrikaner point of view inhibited the possibility of an early settlement between the peoples of South Africa. Escalation became a vicious spiral that dictated the battle. As the conflict proceeded the moodlor a settlement became more remote.
Of course on looking back one wonders where were the peacemakers at the time in 1961 and even in the subsequent years of strife. For each day that this futile feud continued was a mistake that on hindsight clearly has been shortsightedness on both sides of the battle line, which is perhaps not true of all battles in human history. At the time it was common knowledge that the decision to go for a violent struggle was not met with unanimity within ANC ranks and even caused respected supporters of the liberation camps to withdraw. So there were indeed the voices of reason and moderation that could have been exploited in favour of a settlement. On the part of the so-called establishment there have also been all along those who pleaded for changed policies and even for mediation.
The reasons why things went the way of radicalization and of fatal polarization will be a matter for historians to study. Whatever the justification for the decision may have been, the fact remains that once you have taken the way of violence it seems to be a way of no return. Violence seems to be a fire that invariably gets out of control.
From the vantage point of the Afrikaner community the ugly face of the violence that ensued obscured the idealism of liberation. This was what they saw - seemingly senseless violence without regard for life or property. The violence was said to have been directed against the state and the organs of the state.
But soon violence became a way of effecting propaganda. Particularly after the Kapwe Conference when a number of the old guard and more moderate leaders were ousted from the ANC leadership, there seemed to have been little distinction between military and civilian targets. Bombs were planted in restaurants, bars and public places. In this way a situation developed where complete isolation from one another caused uncontrollable escalation of violence.
The Afrikaners were even more appalled at what seemed to be a mentality of wanton violence when particularly the black community became the targets for violent action. Violence was not restricted to state structures and organs and to material destruction. It was applied to the minds of people for the sake of intimidating entire communities. Hundreds of black people were necklaced which is by all standards a most cruel way of execution.
What may be less visible but perhaps as cruel, is the violation of the minds of people and total disregard of the principle of human rights to life and convictions and to a fair trial and the total disregard of the idea of toleration involved in this perhaps worst form of violence. Not all town councillors or homeland politicians were puppets of the regime. But they had to pay the ultimate price - for not conforming. One can go on about the issue of violence and the counter-productive results it had on the Afrikaner community indefinitely. Let me suffice with one more point: The way the youth of the black people have been involved in the real acts of violent perpetration.
We have indeed produced a generation of people in which the minds may permanently be contaminated with the principle of violent behaviour as a means if achieving your goals in life.
On our side this strategy of violence produced a counter-strategy of violence. With the Afrikaner there prevailed the quite general concept of the role of the state. It must control violent behaviour with all the means at its disposal. We saw it as the duty of the state. So we let our children serve in the security forces, and many civilians served as part-time police constables. Again - the way the state dealt with violence was a violent way. So we produced more members of society that have used violence in the hope of controlling violence.
But within the collective mind of the ethnic Afrikaner, you will agree, there was a generally accepted justification for the use of violence to maintain stability, which they considered necessary for the maintenance of the rule of law.
So you end up with a situation where everyone believes he or she has a cause worthy of the use of violence to the point of killing human beings sharing with you the same space on this planet. And few think seriously about alternative options. Instead, you relentlessly categorize and demonize your opponent for the violence he or she is involved in. The media on both sides of the divide further served the purpose of polarisation through these respective strategies of violence.
D. Revolutionary Warfare
Revolutionary warfare as a matter of course was directly associated with the option of violence. Afrikaners believe that the "no other option but violence" was a mere excuse to introduce revolutionary warfare and this, on its part, caused the Afrikaner to conclude that the real controlling force behind the scene was subversion by international Communism. This resulted in and gave credibility to the concept of the total onslaught which again demanded equally total counter-strategies. In fact much of the escalation of violence and of the increased brutal nature of the violence that occurred could be attributed in my opinion to the introduction of an unconventional revolutionary war. And much of the unconventional methods used by the state in the late eighties, which today shock many of the former supporters of Government action against the revolutionaries, can be attributed to efforts on the part of the security forces to meet the challenge of the unconventional war (even unconventional in terms of the Geneva Convention) on the same terms. This kind of war had a dehumanizing effect on the participating forces, as has been the case also in many similar conflicts which occurred in the world and also in our own continent.
Many will today have doubts on whether the state is entitled to the type of unconventional methods it used when it found itself in the proverbial "back against the wall" situation. It certainly does not fit into the traditional Afrikaner idea of the state and the role of the state.
These practices of the state that seemed to have happened in the late eighties certainly eroded much of the moral high ground that most Afrikaners thought they enjoyed in the massive anti-revolutionary strategy and action. In fairness to the NP Government of the time, one must concede that some of these anti-revolutionary strategies have been developed and practised by the USA, the USSR, France, Britain and other international powers.
The politicians responsible for the authorization of these methods may find themselves as accountable as the security strategists themselves. The allocation of arbitrary powers that went with the state of emergency and the abuse of those powers must serve as a permanent warning for the future.
The NP Government over decades seemed to have disregarded the well-known fact that in a revolutionary war the political, economical and psychological components are of greater importance than the military one. The State and the politicians consistently failed to address these more important issues when it relied on its military capacity.
E. Communist Subversion
The apparent involvement of international communism within the South African crucible was a major inhibiting factor which determined Afrikaner reactions.
The close association between the ANC and the SACP in the milieu of international communism throughout the century caused serious concern with the Afrikaner, who saw the dialectical materialism and atheism of communist ideology as a threat to not only their political freedom, but above all to their religious beliefs and fundamental world view and view of man. This brought a religious dimension to the perception the Afrikaner had about his battle in Southern Africa. This ideo ogicalsiimension_introducedanelement of fanaticism to the Afrikaner's resistance against change and even the collapse of the Soviet Union has not put him at ease altogether, though this development had a very meaningful effect on the perception of the threat.
The atrocities committed by communist revolutionaries in many places of the world in their bid for power and the willingness on the part of the former communist powers to exploit grievances and support any revolutionary action by the supply of arms and the training in warfare made the Afrikaner-dominated Government extremely suspicious of the intentions of the ANCISACP alliance.
South Africa was not the only place in the world where a fanatical war was fought against a perceived communist threat. The misery that resulted from the introduction of communistic regimes in some parts of Africa served as a timely warning to the Afrikaner on what could happen in South Africa if the communist intervention went unchecked. We were aware of the internal battle for the soul of the ANC.
F. Destruction, Anarchy and Intimidation
The Afrikaner saw the strategies and policies of the liberation movements as destructive and anarchistic.
Perhaps their worst apprehensions came from the destabilization of society and from the intimidation of even black communities through horrendous strategies like the method of public necklacing, of live burning of human beings perceived to be collaborators, the practice of people's courts and the brutal killing of political opponents who have not followed the directives of the revolutionaries. The conscious and wilful inflicting of hardships on the people by the breakdown of the economy through the effective propagation of sanctions and other measures to us seemed cynical and counter-productive to the point that we despaired about the prospects of recovery. The normalisation of society to us seemed a remote reality. Of course the efforts on the part of the Government of the day to introduce socio-political reform and economic processes of recovery came too little too late and again was unilaterally decided and for the wrong reasons perhaps, but even so the revolutionary programme did not allow for that and the destructive politics of breaking down even what was for the benefit of the people (schools, community facilities, an economy that provided for jobs, etc.) continued unabatedly.
These things, perhaps worst of all, naturally reminded the Afrikaner about past atrocities north of them (Kenya, Congo, etc.) and about what they saw as a demise in quality of life that resulted from that type of liberation. And yet, as the rich and liberal moved to safer and more lucrative homes elsewhere on the globe, the Afrikaner braced himself to stay in Africa, to which he is indigenous. But don't blame him for being concerned and for not being able to show sensitivity at a moment when his world was turned upside down.
As a result of these things some ethnic Afrikaners considered the existing differences in culture too great and irreconcilable. To them the traumatic and often violent clashes on the international scene since the days of the Boxer rebellions just after the turn of the century signalled problems with any system that did not accommodate these differences in separate territorial and political structures. To many this was the strategic consideration for separation on ethnic lines in South Africa, which was indeed in their view emphasized and legitimized through destructive revolutionary ways of the ANC/SACP alliance.
G. Collapse of confidence and the development of dissent in Afrikaner politics
By the time of the late eighties, when the conflict seemed to have peaked, many of the conservative ethnic Afrikaner formations have been alienated from their own government to the point that they had no confidence in government. They were also not informed on and prepared for the planned political turn-about by Mr. De Klerk.
They were suspicious about the way President P.W. Botha was ousted from the Presidency.
And, for the Afrikaner even more confusing, was the way their churches, who have given moral and theological support for the policy of separate development over decades, now seem to have followed in the wake of the NP.
The result was even a split in the church. For the Afrikaners believed that the churches were being manipulated by the powerful forces associated with the NP. Yes, we were not ready for it - for the reasons, amongst others, that I have briefly described above. We felt betrayed and confused by Mr. De Klerk's overnight change from total war to being a dove of peace. Let me say it: we did not believe him and most important, we did not trust his negotiating capacity.
And frankly - the conservative ethnic Afrikaners were quite powerless against the mighty propaganda machine controlled by the NP who has created a "department of information" for that purpose and who without any sense of shame used the public media of Radio and Television and controlled the press for this purpose. Public money was used for that. They felt cheated in the referendum of 1992. You must remember that for decades their minds were controlled by systematic indoctrination by these potent powers of mass communication. They believed in the moral case for separate development built up over decades. And all of a sudden it was about turn with as much imagination and confidence as before.
So the ethnic Afrikaners saw their world tumble and the supposed moral fibre for the policies of the past disintegrate. Naturally they dug in their heels. Their political objective found expression in the idea of a separate and independent volkstaat through partition before the election of 1994. They wanted one safe haven without the instability, lawlessness and collapse of proper control they witnessed in large areas of South Africa. If necessary they would stall the election of 27 April to achieve this.
For they saw no hope in a united country and a united nation in the company of communists under these conditions. Their ideas of self-determination were scorned at in the negotiating forums. They witnessed the NP negotiators fold one after the other. They saw with disbelief how the NP tried vainly to match the concept of majority rule with their invention of power-sharing.
H. New strategies within the camp of ethnic Afrikaners
Up to August 1993 they have had no contact or communication with the ANC leadership. When through the process of bilateral negotiations they managed to get an agreement with the ANC negotiators that a referendum amongst Afrikaners would be held on the idea of self-determination and a volkstaat, the NP stalled the initiative. When in the end a memorandum of agreement was ready to be signed with the ANC it was the NP who objected to the validity of such a document.
Mr. Chairperson, I submit that it was quite reasonable that the ethnic Afrikaners felt threatened to the point that they felt the proverbial back against the wall. So we also came to the conclusion that many others in our South African situation came to: That we might have no option but to organize resistance to secure our own future. And we prepared for conflict - not anarchy, not a total war but a well-planned campaign of resistance and mass-action directed primarily against the NP Government but also against the ANC.
The ethnic Afrikaners do not suffer from the disease of political imperialism. We have no desire to govern over others.
But we resent being governed by others without our consent. In the circumstances we saw no other way out but to claim our own territory for a state which we would control. We wanted no more than self-determination. We had enough of a cult of ungovernability, of anarchy and irresponsible behaviour, of political uncertainty, of violence that seemed uncontrollable, of devious revolutionaries, of boycotts. We wanted for our people security in at least one area where we could through hard work, disciplined lifestyle and strict control live according to the commands of our own culture.
The strategy of the Afrikaner Volksfront at the time while I was active in that body, was threefold :
1. . The political mobilization of the Afrikaner people with the purpose of getting our volkstaat.
2. . Bilateral negotiations with political parties to defuse the conflict and obtain greater security for our people in the future.
3. . If necessary, passive and mass resistance as a support mechanism for the negotiations.
We are not a violent people. And we realized that the mood among some of our supporting groups was volatile and that, once the action is on, could very well become uncontrollable. The demonstration at Kemptonpark and the operation in Mbabato showed that.
We had to face up to the fact that what was being planned as a limited operation could in no time have developed in a very ugly way and could have indeed led to violence of a sort this country has not seen yet. So we stood at the crossroads of decision and the directorate at the time of the Volksfront had to give strategic guidance. In the end we saw little sense in more violence. We wanted, if possible, reconciliation of a stable sort that would lead to peace and progress.
Through the service of independent facilitators we met Mr. Mandela and subsequently Mr. Mbeki and a negotiating team, which led to the Accord we signed on 23 April 1994 (4 days before the election), the inclusion of Constitutional Principle XXXIV into Schedule IV of the Interim Constitution, and the establishment of the Volkstaatraad. This was the start of an honest drive to find the way of peaceful co-existence between major indigenous groups in this part of Africa.
These things were by no means all what we had hoped for to achieve before the election but they were sufficient to let us buy into the process and to let us relinquish whatever strategies of resistance may have existed.
Let met say again: The process of acquaintance, of consultation and negotiation with the ANC leadership gave us more hope for the future than we had experienced in relation to the NP Government at the time. A measure of trust was built up which was reflected in the Accord. But all the apprehensions we harboured, were by no means met. But we have chosen, not without risk and certain) ny of without serious dissent amongst our own people, the way of peace. For the cycle of violence had to be broken somewhere if we were to have a future at all.
We have chosen this way in the hope of achieving the same goals: peace for all, progress for the country and an acceptable form of self-determination for our people, which I have for the purpose of this presentation, called the ethnic Afrikaners. It was an act of faith, but we will remain responsible to our people for the results, which we have to deliver. If we fail, then we might well find ourselves in a position of political irrelevance and frustration.
Mr. Chairperson, I have tried to give you the perspectives on the past conflicts as perceived by the ethnic Afrikaner - subjective as that may perhaps seem to you. I have not given you all the answers you want, but perhaps you understand better why the Afrikaner has not been more sensitive once the political power within the limited regime came his way. Perhaps you will also better understand how it came that the Afrikaner was dragged into a conflict of a nature that is not in accordance with our religion.
I will not even try to find answers to all that we now learn has happened in particularly the later years of the conflict. I will not attempt to rationalize about what is generally called gross violation of human rights, or about unacceptable dehumanizing war-behaviour that seem to have occurred more often than we realized, even within State structures. I find little consolation in the fact that similar things seem to have happened, even within the liberation movements in the context of their struggle for human rights.
All one can say about these things is:
1.. They were wrong.
2. . They should serve as a perennial warning of possible human degeneration it the context of such a conflict.
3. . We need to do reparation to the victims - in as far as that is possible.
4. . We need a new start-together and on the firm base of constitutional regulation.
I. The objective reality of rapid social change
I am extremely cautious to think anyone at this moment in history can move into the objective field. So without trying to be philosophical about suffering, let me suffice by saying that we should also consider a historic process with profound dimensions that shaped in a most acute way in South Africa, but which was by no means limited to this land.
In the post war years we have in the international world often heard about distinctions between the First World and the Third World. I don't like these distinctions, because it could easily conceal a superiority complex that produces a form of racism.
Having said that though I do think we had in this past century within South Africa the manifestation of the most acute problems that the entire world grappled with during this same time. We had a meeting of cultures and civilizations of widely divergent natures in a process of rapid social change which was caused by the unprecedented development of a world society that did not allow for provincialism any more.
In this world wide process of cultural conflict within the space of one century a new world civilization has been growing. The growth pains included conflict of unprecedented nature.
What I am trying to say is that we had a continuously volatile reality in South Africa that needs to be defined not only in terms of politics, but also in terms of cultural, social and economic realities that invited conflict and also added to the intensity of this conflict.
Our submission now is therefore that the conflict of the past was wider than politics and that reconciliation consequently needs to be a more comprehensive exercise than a political one only.
We learned at the planning meeting recently that our friends in the DP have decided not to appear before the Commission, because they believe that they have not been involved in the conflicts of the past. With due respect to these good people in the DP - this is exactly the point I want to make.
Because they preached J.S. Mill, they apparently think they are beyond reproach for the wrongs of the past social, economic and cultural reality in South Africa of which they were part and parcel, whether they like it or not.
The reality in South Africa was more complex than that. The same is true of the world at large. When we talk of the First and the Third World we talk about dimensions that go beyond political theories to include cultural, social and particularly economical realities. So the Freedom Front submits that a rather complex problem will require a comprehensive remedy.
J. Recapitulation: In search of a remedy
Let me recapitulate our position on this comprehensive remedy in a few simple statements, which may also reflect in a more direct way on the work of the Commission.
1.. It is the expressed policy of the Freedom Front to work for reconciliation and to lead the Afrikaner people through this effort into a new and better future for all in South Africa. It is of course a Constitutional requirement expressed in the post amble of the Constitution 1993 on National Unity and Reconciliation. But to us it is also a regulating principle underlying the political policy and developmental activities of the Freedom Front. We have consciously chosen this way instead of a violent struggle to get what we want through peaceful means and lasting reconciliation.
The Freedom Front may at times have come over negatively regarding the setting up of this Commission and the allocation of the tasks to this Commission. One of the reasons why we had reservations was because of a perception on our part that after a limited number of sessions and hearings the Commission was expected to have arrived at the real truth, and that the disclosure of this truth would as a matter of course produce or at least enhance reconciliation. On the issue of truth we fear that the expectations may have been presumptions. On the issue of the facilitation of reconciliation we fear that there may be a certain naivety.
I want now to put our position clearly: If this Commission only succeed in initiating reconciliation, it would serve its purpose. We like however to think about reconciliation as a process of hard work and preserverence by all South Africans. Forgiveness has a place in human life. It has a very important place in resolving our past conflicts. But we need more, much more, over a long period of time. We need to build nothing less than mutual respect and cultural appreciation and overall tolerance. We have to cultivate respect for the rights of both individuals and communities, which to my mind is true nation-building.
We have to educate a new generation in a culture of democracy. We have to find a way or a working formula for segmented societies in Africa. We have to gain the respect of the whole world through the quality we build into our society. Reconciliation is re-building the structures of society in the entire South Africa.
2.. The Freedom Front has accepted that the offensive political policies of the past had to be replaced with non-racial governance. To this end we have participated in the Constitutional process in an effort to find a political solution that will in the best way possible address the aspirations and needs of all South Africans.
The Freedom Front has accepted that non-racial structures of government and society must be introduced.
We are part of that and we are committed to quality participation. But again we must signal a warning about a perception we think is general - that non-racial structures once they have been introduced, will per se be the final solution. We believe the fallacy of tokenism, for instance, is very real and will on the long run not be conducive to the building of true respect. Non-racial structures do not finally guarantee that racialism has been overcome. For racialism is essentially an attitude and it can be concealed in many ways.
We are also acutely aware of the fact that however strong our idealism for the introduction of non-racialism may be, the nature of the past conflicts and the slowness of society to adapt to new ways, will result in the racial divides of the past playing a role for some time in the immediate future. In this respect we want to emphasize the need for consultation and the dissemination of information which will, we believe, be necessary to strengthen the young budding democracy in South Africa.
Furthermore - non-racialism does not exclude a healthy sense of solidarity within distinct communities, i.e. communities with an established collective concept of cultural identity. Mature non-racialism in the one State of South Africa will also allow and even encourage cultural pride and identity, which is not a threat to the unity and integrity of the State.
In this respect we have consistently emphasized the need for the political accommodation of the ethnic Afrikaner in acceptable forms of self-determination. The introduction of a non-racial democracy even if we have accepted it, has in effect disempowered Afrikaner communities to the point that they no longer have control over their own community life. What we have done was to create an acute minority problem.
All over the world today such problems are being addressed by systems of community self-determination and the Freedom Front submits to you that effective reconciliation in South Africa will only become a reality if the ethnic Afrikaner will be allowed through Constitutional provisions and proposed institutional structures to implement meaningful forms of self-determination for their people. A strategy of brutal or subtle forced assimilation of the Afrikaner into one broad South African culture will alienate this community to the point that new conflicts for the future may shape. The accommodation of this community on the other hand will produce loyalty, commitment and a true patriotism.
The Freedom Front must at this point in time express to this Commission its concern on the slow progress we have made in this regard and report dissatisfaction of a serious nature within the ranks of the community of ethnic Afrikaners where cynicism is growing into a despairing attitude with many who have doubts on the prospects of exercising collective community rights in the future.
What we suggest therefore is that the political dispensation in the New South Africa must accommodate all reasonable aspirations of distinct groups within the single State of South Africa. That will, we believe, enhance reconciliation.
3. . Beyond ensuring strictly Constitutional governance, we suggest the Commission consider ways of the long term cultivation of a spirit of tolerance and restraint which is the result of a well established culture of democracy. We believe that strict and almost austere measures of control will be needed in the meantime to cope with a volatile situation that is the legacy of our past conflicts and revolutionary methods.
4. . Constitutional governance will also include a strictly independent judiciary and a judicial system, supported by an appropriate system of public protectors, particularly with reference to the security forces and all who are involved in the application of laws. We have to build confidence with the public.
5.. We believe that we all need to consider ways and means of eradicating intimidation, malicious propaganda and deliberate disinformation that has to a large extent sustained the conflicts of the past and inhibited understanding and restraint. We need both to ensure a free press and to encourage responsible and independent journalism.
6.. Of paramount importance in our view is the rebuilding of a wrecked economy. We have to recover a lot of lost ground which developed when ideological preferences were overriding to the point that they seem to have warranted the wrecking of the means of making a living for many people. It takes little time and effort to chop down a tree.
To plant, to water, to nurture a new tree as a replacement is another matter. The programme of affirmative action, necessary as it may be, has a possibility of manipulation that can be counterproductive if it goes uncontrolled. For it can inhibit development and the reconstruction of the economy at a time when this is of paramount importance, also for the disadvantaged.
The Freedom Front has stressed the need of rebuilding. We have at a stage even suggested an imaginative development plan comparable to the Marshall Aid Plan in Europe after World War II. We say again - Unless we can give hope to the poor, jobs to all and a challenge to all entrepreneurs, there is little hope of pulling through without a serious relapse.
7.. We have also involved ourselves in the concept of regional reconstruction in Southern Africa. So let met say it again - the conflicts of the past were not limited to South Africa.
The recovery of South Africa and the maintenance of the relative peace that have been shaping in the sub-continent go hand in hand. We need to think regionally also on the issue of reconciliation and the reconstruction of society. The destructive processes of the conflicts destabilized the whole region. We need enlarged minds to think beyond our borders to include the peoples of the region to which we all belong.
Perhaps we need a regional strategy of reconstruction before reconciliation will become a reality even within South Africa. There is a lot we can do in this respect.
Amnesty and Reconciliation
The Codicil referred to, suggests that the divisions and strife of the past which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge can now be addressed on a basis that there is a need for understanding, but not for vengeance, a need for reparation, but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu, but not for victimization. Amnesty is then prescribed in respect of acts, omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past and a firm cut-off date is suggested. Subsequent legislation, to which we objected, set this date for 6 December 1993.
I have explained to you, sir, that the Afrikaners we represent had a distinct bilateral (in the final stages trilateral) process of negotiations which led to an accord which was only signed on 23 April 1994. It has been a specific point of agreement in this accord that the issue of indemnity will be addressed. Sir, in spite of numerous efforts on our part at the highest level to have this matter resolved, it has not been achieved yet.
The Government has consistently refused to reconsider the cut-off date to accommodate Afrikaners in the same way as other South Africans in this mechanism for reconciliation. The President has given us his reasons for doing so, but this has not resolved our dilemma.
I have in my presentation made it very clear that we, in accordance with the Constitution and out of our own free will, consider reconciliation of a genuine nature as a pillar for the future of this land. Our entire policy is based on this pillar. It is for that reason that we are here with you today. We want to bring our part in the effort. Let there be no doubt in anybody's mind on our resolve in this matter.
We are however faced with a very serious dilemma in that we have been effectively excluded from the mechanism of Amnesty prescribed by the Constitution to advance reconciliation. Already prosecutions are on course and some of our people have already been jailed for offences of a political nature which can not even be remotely compared with offences committed by other South Africans for which they are eligible for indemnity, some even while serving in well-paid public jobs.
Some of our people had serious doubts on whether we had any business with your Commission, having been excluded from such a vital aspect of the quest for reconciliation. Of course we know that your Commission's terms of reference have been set by the legislation and that you can do little about it.
But we draw your attention to this discrepancy and essentially unjust situation, which clearly frustrate the end of reconciliation, which we believe is your main business. It certainly has undermined the faith our people are supposed to have shown in this Commission and their enthusiasm for the ideals set out in the Constitution on National Unity and Reconciliation is waning.
I would have liked to encourage the people I have received a mandate from to participate in your Commissions sessions, but I cannot do so without the sure knowledge that they will not incriminate themselves in doing so. I certainly would have preferred to be more direct and straight forward in this presentation.
But I could not do so without possibly incriminating either myself or my people.
I repeat what I have said in our first meeting with you - we will closely follow the proceedings of your Commission and also the legal proceedings instituted against our people. And of course we will keep up the discussions on this issue. But if nothing is done and this for us crucial matter is left unresolved, the
Freedom Front will have to take a very hard look at what options are left for the ethnic Afrikaners and at what role we have to play in the new political situation.
And I will certainly have to seriously reconsider my position as a leader that has given strategic guidance towards reconciliatory politics to the people who put faith in me. The present situation is unacceptable and certainly not helpful to the Commission in its work.
I am not pleading on behalf of Afrikaners only in this respect. What I suggest is a realistic inclusive and comprehensive exercise of ending a dispute and finding a basis for a new future. If that requires general amnesty, then let it be by way of a presidential act perhaps in connection with the adoption of the New Constitution.
Let me illustrate my point by referring to the situation in KwaZulu-Natal. The conflict there is not a new one. It relates to the problems of the past. Only recently there seems to have come up a very promising move towards reconciliation, which we all need to encourage. If however we are going to rigidly apply the cut-off date of 6 December 1993 for the purpose of amnesty, prosecutions of many people involved in the violent conflicts of a political nature - again on both sides of the divide - will have to follow which will certainly inhibit the effort for peace in the region. We need to find a solution which will put a stop to past conflicts - or they may be protracted the way it happened in countries like Angola and Mozambique.
Let me conclude with a brief word on reconciliation in the light of what has been said now on what would seem a sordid past.
The background of violence that we all share calls for some caution at this stage to talk glibly or even piously about reconciliation. It also in my opinion forbids naive expectations about true and genuine reconciliation at grass-roots level or about the ability of this Commission to bring about or facilitate reconciliation.
It is naive and even perhaps insensitive to expect from people that have really been hurt deeply to simply forgive because the truth has now been exposed. The contemplation on the strategies for violence and on the actual monstrous character that violence took on, caused me to believe that we ought to be more realistic and consider proper and appropriate individual and group therapeutic action. If we don't, we run the risk of merely having opened up the old wounds.
For the anger of the past, the grief and the underlying suspicions, the intolerance and the intransigence and everything else within the volatile field of human emotions that led people to do what they did and to persist with these actions and attitudes for some time - all these are still very close to us.
It is hard to simply switch off a revolution. How do you de-programme the violent attitudes in the minds of people? How do you now expect a generation of youths to change their ways? How do you get society governable again and how do you get civil society to accept the responsibilities that come with civil life? How do you cultivate respect and regard again for people that have been demonized beyond recognition? How do you invite respect for the state again? How do you rebuild a wrecked economy and recover the ground lost through the waste of cynical behaviour?
How do you develop a culture of democracy to replace undemocratic ways of the past which were considered necessary by both revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries? These questions and many more came to my mind.
I do hope that this Commission will show us a way. The fact that from Afrikaner's point of view there is a problem of credibility needs to be addressed immediately. I think there needs to be co-ordination between the Department of Justice and the Commission in order to address the perceptions of partiality in the process of granting indemnity. The arbitrarily set date of 6th December 1993 needs urgent revision - in the interest of not only Afrikaners, but other groups as well.
The Commission needs to come forward with a clearly defined comprehensive and long term programme of reconciliation and healing. The popular reference to your Commission as the Truth Commission may be indicative of an unbalance in popular perceptions on the task of the Commission. It should rather be seen as the Reconciliation Commission.
Reconciliation is perhaps the prime task of all in the future South Africa. But then it has to be inclusive. And it needs to be comprehensive and genuine.
Mr. Chairperson, we attach so much importance to this issue of reconciliation that we want to leave the suggestion to you that your Commission may need to consider to propose specific ways and means, including structures, that would co-ordinate and monitor this issue for the foreseeable future. I have once suggested that Parliament devotes one day every year in debating progress on this issue.
I now want to come with a further suggestion that we consider the creation of a unique office of an ombudsman for reconciliation, whose duties will be amongst others, to present an annual report to Parliament for debate. Such a person could enlist the support of all religious, civic and cultural organizations for this purpose of ensuring a better future.
I want to close the submission with a few conclusive requests:
1.. Let us reconsider the entire concept and the granting of Amnesty as a mechanism for reconciliation before the Commission completes its work with a view of ensuring the type of inclusive reconciliation what is what we all want. For we need a total new beginning.
2.. Let the Commission come up with suggestions based on the evidence it heard, on how to give body to a rather vague concept of reconciliation.
3.. Let the leadership of all political Parties take responsibility for ensuring particularly in the period of transition, the establishment of this type of lasting peace in South Africa when we will put away finally the conflicts of the past.
4.. Let us consider the establishment of an office of an ombudsman for reconciliation to ensure the continuation of this effort in the critical years