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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Issues with TRC Findings

Appendix:

Examples of TRC findings which seem scarcely to be based on either 'factual and forensic' evidence or on a proper weighing of the probabilities:

* In dealing with deaths at Sebokeng in March 1990, the TRC said (at one point in its report) that the police had shot 13 people dead. In various other places, however, it put the death toll at 17, 'at least 13', and eight. Judge Richard Goldstone had earlier investigated the shootings, however, and found that the police had killed five people.

* Referring to another incident in Sebokeng, the TRC said the army shot dead 15 people in September 1990. Judge E H Stafford, in the course of a judicial inquest, had earlier found that the army had killed four. (The TRC seems to have based its conclusion on a simple but misdirected subtraction. The IFP, according to Stafford, had killed 38 people earlier that day in an attack on a Sebokeng hostel. The TRC said the IFP killed 23, and then apparently attributed the balance of the IFP-initiated deaths (15) to the army.)

* The TRC said three gunmen killed 23 hostel residents of Tokoza township in September 1991. The Goldstone commission, established to probe public violence from 1991 to 1994, had earlier found the death toll to be 18. The TRC said 42 people died in revenge attacks in Katlehong, Tembisa, and Johannesburg in the next two days. Goldstone had found that effective security force action had prevented retaliatory attacks in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

* On occasion, the TRC misrepresented what courts and commissions had said. According to the TRC, Goldstone had expressly found that this September 1991 attack on hostel residents in Tokoza had been planned and carried out by a police informer, Mr Mncugi Ceba. Goldstone made no such finding. He noted that Ceba was a police informer, but he never found Ceba responsible for the attack. In fact, he made it clear that his commission could not and would not name any individual as culpable without sufficient evidence.

* The TRC ignored other aspects of Goldstone's findings on this incident. Goldstone found that a four-pronged ambush of hostel residents had been carried out by a self-defence unit (SDU) in the Phola Park informal settlement. The TRC implied that the three gunmen responsible for most of the killings were the sole attackers. It ignored evidence assembled by Goldstone that at least three units (of three men each) had been involved. The TRC, moreover, implied that the police initiated the attack to derail the peace process. Goldstone, however, had made it clear that it was the SDU that had planned and executed the ambush.

* Sometimes the TRC paid no attention to a conflicting judicial ruling. It stated, for example, that the Shell House shootings of eight IFP supporters outside the ANC's national headquarters in Johannesburg in March 1994 had taken place in response to an IFP offensive against the building. Yet Judge Bob Nugent, in an earlier judicial inquest, had found that no such attack had taken place, or had even been threatened. Nugent had also found that allegations of an actual or impending attack had been fabricated after the event to justify shootings that were entirely unwarranted. The TRC made no reference to the inquest. It cited no evidence or reasons to support its description of the incident.

* The TRC did much the same as regards the assassination of Chief Mhlabunzima Maphumulo (a former president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa). Chief Maphumulo was gunned down in the driveway of his home in February 1992. An alleged 'hit-squad' operative claimed that the murder had been planned by the Pietermaritzburg police, and that the assassins were paid R5 000 each. Judge N S Page, in conducting a judicial inquest, found this witness unreliable. Page also dismissed the testimony of a further alleged 'hit-squad' member as 'appalling' and 'even worse'. The TRC, however, ignored all this and found that Chief Maphumulo had been 'targeted for attack in a planned hit-squad operation'. Again, it disregarded Page's judgement, and cited neither evidence nor reasons to support its own contrary conclusion.

* Sometimes the TRC noted earlier court or commission rulings, but then repudiated them in any event. In the context of the Trust Feed massacre of 11 people in December 1988, the TRC noted that a local policeman, Sergeant Neville Rose, had been charged with murder in 1992. (He had been tried together with Captain Brian Mitchell and four special constables, all five of whom had been convicted of murder for the killings). Rose was accused, among other things, of having helped to spirit the special constables out of Trust Feed following the massacre. The evidence against him was dismissed by Judge Andrew Wilson as unreliable, and Rose was acquitted on all counts. The TRC recorded the acquittal. It then proceeded to find Rose an accessory to the Trust Feed killings. It cited no new evidence of Rose's wrongdoing, and gave no reasons for discounting Wilson's judgement.

* The TRC did much the same as regards the Boipatong massacre of 45 people in June 1992. The Goldstone commission had mounted brief investigations and found no evidence of police involvement. Later, some 30 IFP supporters went on trial for murder before Judge J M C Smit. All denied their guilt, and blamed the police instead. Police culpability became the key issue in the trial. Three accomplices and some 120 residents of Boipatong who testified before the court all denied that the police had been involved. Two residents who did claim police complicity were conclusively discredited. Smit ruled that the police had played no part in the killings. The TRC quoted the Goldstone and Smit findings. It then proceeded to find that the police had not only helped to plan the massacre, but had taken part in it as well. Again, the commission cited no new evidence, and gave no reasons for repudiating the earlier rulings.

* A similar phenomenon is evident as regards train violence on the Reef in the early 1990s. The Goldstone commission had earlier conducted two inquiries into attacks on commuter trains and stations. It found 'no evidence that any organisation actively encouraged the perpetration of violence on trains'. It said there was no reason for believing that hostel residents (generally taken to be IFP supporters) were mainly responsible for the attacks. On the contrary, it was clear that attacks emanated from both hostels and surrounding townships (generally believed to house ANC supporters). It stated that 'train violence could not be separated from the ongoing violence in the townships', in which both the ANC and IFP had played a part.

* The TRC referred to Goldstone's inquiries, and then proceeded largely to disregard them. According to the TRC, though train violence was not official IFP policy,'both local and regional IFP leadership were centrally involved in the authorisation and planning of train violence' in which, it continued, some 570 people had died in more than 600 attacks. The TRC based this conclusion on vague or hearsay allegations regarding ten specific incidents, as well as some more general accusations that 'special forces' and 'Vlakplaas' had orchestrated the attacks. It failed properly to describe the evidence on which it relied. It failed to explain why this evidence sufficed for its finding that 'the IFP, the SAP, and the SADF were responsible for the killings that took place during train violence attacks'. It also failed to explain why it was right, and Goldstone wrong.

The earlier judicial rulings cited might, of course, have been incorrect. Judges are not infallible and that is precisely why legal systems generally provide for appeals. These rulings in issue, however, followed detailed and intensive investigations and were based on evidence that had been tested under cross-examination and further corroborated. If the TRC was satisfied that the earlier rulings were wrong - and its own findings correct - why did it not explain its reasons for its conclusions? Why did it not identify the evidence on which it relied? Why did it sometimes misrepresent what judges had said? Why did it simply ignore key judgements? Why did it make basic, and unexplained, errors of fact as well?

The TRC report itself provides no answers to these questions. Nor does Slye attempt in any way to do so. He simply asserts that I have 'failed to provide any reason to assume' that the commission did not meet the standard of proof on a balance of probabilities. This accusation, as this appendix amply demonstrates, is as false and unfounded as the rest of his critique.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.