About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Chapter 1: Foreword and Context of Institutional and Special Hearings


1. An important debate with which the Commission had to wrestle was, as has been fully discussed in the chapter on The Mandate, how to paint the backdrop against which such human rights violations occurred. Without some sense of the "antecedents, circumstances, factors and context" within which gross violations of human rights occurred, it is almost impossible to understand how, over the years, people who considered themselves ordinary, decent and God-fearing found themselves turning a blind eye to a system which impoverished, oppressed and violated the lives and very existence of so many of their fellow citizens.

2. It is an old question: one that is asked of any country that undertakes acts so foul that the world openly condemns it. It is a question that has been answered in different ways, for such is the nature of historical debate. However, what is clear is that apartheid could only have happened if large numbers of enfranchised, relatively privileged South Africans either condoned or simply allowed it to continue.

3. How did so many people, working within so many influential sectors and institutions, react to what was happening around them? Did they know it was happening? If they did not know, or did not believe it was happening, from where did they derive their ignorance or their misunderstanding? Why is it only with hindsight that so many privileged members of society are able to see that what they lived through was a kind of madness and, for those at the receiving end of the system, a kind of hell?

4. One of the things one needs to remember is that the greater majority of South Africans knew only one system of government (although the foundation for apartheid was, as mentioned elsewhere, laid much earlier). This means that those who were born, went to school, took jobs and raised families knew only one society the apartheid society. To those who reaped its benefits, it was an extremely comfortable society. But what is important is that they knew no other. It was a closed world, surrounded by fences, prohibitions and some terrible assumptions about their fellow countrymen and women.

5. There were those, of course, from the heart of the privileged community who not only did know what was happening, but condemned it. In the process, they themselves became victims of government action. But, significantly for this argument, their credibility was frequently also questioned by those around them, and their simple humanitarian responses often resulted in rejection by members of their own communities. Part of the explanation lies in the state's demonisation of its opponents and, quite probably, in a wish to avoid the obligations that knowledge implied. Yet the question remains, if some knew, why did others not know and believe?


6. It was in search for the beginning of an answer to these questions that the Commission decided to host a number of hearings on the role of some of the influential sectors of the apartheid society. Clearly, there were time restraints, requiring the Commission to limit its focus. A number of institutions were identified: the media, business, prisons, the faith community, the legal system and the health sector. All these sectors had, over the years, come under attack for what was seen by some as their complicity with the apartheid system. What the Commission sought to find out was how these institutions saw themselves and how, brought together with those who had opposed them, a part of the enigma of the South African evil could be unravelled.

7. It was considered extremely important that both 'sides' should be present and able to speak at the hearings of their perceptions and experiences. Sometimes the Commission was successful in obtaining the participation of all role-players, and sometimes it was not. Some refused the invitation of the Commission.

8. Often the hearings revealed just how far apart the opposing views were. But there were some heartening moments. There were signs that the hearings triggered a kind of self-analysis, a mood of introspection that may lead to a deeper realisation of the need for commitment to a new society and a culture of human rights.

9. At the end of each chapter, there is a set of findings the Commission made after the hearings and, in the chapter on Recommendations in the last volume of this report, the Commission gave serious though to ways to ensure the transformation of society.


10. The last three chapters in this volume are of a different kind. They focus on three areas that, the Commission felt, warranted individual attention.

11. The Commission decided to host a hearing on compulsory military service. It was a difficult decision and one that followed a great deal of debate. It was clear that conscripts could not as a rule be described as victims of gross violations of human rights as defined in the Act. Some of the evidence that emerged at the hearing, however, showed that they were victims of another kind victims of a system they found themselves obliged to defend.

12. The chapter on children and youth describes the devastating effects of apartheid on young people in South Africa. It also pays tribute to the extraordinary heroism of generations of young people who risked their education, their safety and often their lives for a better society. Many of them today are greatly the poorer for their sacrifice. Many others did not live beyond their teens and became victims of the system against which they struggled.

13. The chapter on women reports on a series of hearings that were held at which women were given the opportunity to speak on their own behalf. It was discovered early in the life of the Commission that the majority of women who came forward to testify did so on behalf of others and seldom on their own account. It was also felt necessary to give women the opportunity, amongst members of their own sex, to speak of the particular violations experienced by women and, also, the particular way in which women experience violations.

14. The following chapters do no more than summarise the events that took place at the hearings. The full transcripts are to be found in the National Archives. However, beyond the documents, the Commission hopes that the legacy of these hearings will be to stimulate further debate, further discussion and further exploration of the difficult and complex issues that underpinned apartheid.


15. Every attempt has been made to check and re-check the names of people who approached the Commission, made statements or are otherwise quoted. Inconsistent spellings emerged in the transcripts, in statements and frequently the same name was spelt in a variety of different ways. Where there are errors, despite all efforts to ensure that names are correctly spelt, the Commission apologises.

16. In addition, the Commission decided, for the purposes of its report, that the titles of Mr and Ms would be used throughout. This is not to fail to acknowledge that some women might still prefer to be addressed as Mrs or Miss or even Mama and does not constitute a social or political comment on their right to do so. It was simply a decision that was taken in order to ensure uniformity and, of course, to eliminate error where the marital status of the person was unknown.


17. The journey between 1960 and 1994 was a long and terrible one, wasteful of human life and of human potential. Yet, it was a path that everyone travelled.

18. Today, South Africans have embarked on another journey. Some travel joyfully into the future. Others still carry their baggage, uncertain of whether or how to dispose of it. Thus, although it is a collective journey, it is also an individual journey. A journey that depends on our ability to examine with honesty and with humility the role we have played in the past and, more importantly, what role we can as individuals and as institutions play in the future.

19. The Commission hopes that the hearings reported on in this volume may provide some guidance on a way forward.


Submissions to the Commission

The Commission received numerous formal submissions, written statements and opinions during its existence. At the time of reporting, the Records Management Department of the Commission was making every effort to record this material.

Amnesty investigations were, however, still underway at the time of reporting. In addition, the cataloguing of some material from the Commission's regional offices was incomplete and some documentation, used in the writing of the Commission's report, had not yet been lodged in the Records Management Department.

The inventory that follows lists submissions made to the Commission and lodged in the Records Management Department at the time of going to press. The documentation originates either from unsolicited representations made to the Commission or in response to requests for submissions relating to Commission hearings. It does not include documentation accessed by the Commission from the National Archives, the civilian intelligence services, the archives of security forces or other documentation used for research and investigative purposes.

The complete inventory of all documentation accessed by the Commission will become available in due course.

Category and name

Armed Forces and Police:

     African National Congress

     Azanian Peoples' Liberation Army

     Barnard, L D

     De Haas, M

     Foundation for Equality before the Law: Stadler, H D

     Hechter, J

     Liebenberg, W R

     Malan, M A de M

     Ministry of Defence

     Molebeleli, T

     National Intelligence Agency

     Odendal, C A J

     Schoon, W F

     South African National Defence Force

     South African Police Service

     Van der Merwe, J V

     Williamson, C M

Business and Labour:

     Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut

     Anglo American Corporation of South Africa Ltd

     Anti-Apartheid Movement

     Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR)

     Avalon Cinemas South Africa (Pty) Ltd

     Ball, C

     Bernstein, A

     Black Management Forum

     BMW South Africa

     Brown, G D

     Building Industries Federation of South Africa

     Bulk Commodities International

     Centre for Policy Studies

     Chamber of Mines

     Coleman, A

     Congress of South African Trade Unions

     Consultative Business Movement

     Crawford-Browne, T

     De Castro-Moura, M M

     Development Bank of Southern Africa

     Economic Advisory Council: Warren Clewlow


     Ex-Ford Workers Committee

     Federated Mining and Allied Industries Workers Union

     Flynn, L

     Food and General Workers Union

     Foundation of African Business and Consumer Services

     Fourie, R

     Genkor Limited

     German Chamber of Commerce and Industry

     Groenendijk, C

     Hulett Aluminium (Pty) Ltd

     Investor Victims Association

     Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry

     Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry

     Juergensen, B

     Jumuna, N

     Land and Agricultural Bank of South Africa

     Loyson, M

     Mercedes-Benz S A

     Mkhwanazi, D

     Muller, K M

     Nampak Limited

     Narrandes, C

     National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry

     National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa

     National Business Initiative for Growth, Development & Democracy

     National Campaign on the Apartheid Debt

     National Small Business Council

     Old Mutual

     Padayachi, N

     Phaswana, F

     Rakgahla and Associates

     Reichenberg and Co.

     Rembrandt Group Ltd

     Reynecke Inc. for Financial Research Foundation

     Rosholt, A M

     Rubenstein Finance Company

     Rupert, E A

     South African Breweries

     South African Motor Industry Employers' Association

     South African Reserve Bank


     Shell South Africa

     Simkins, C

     Soller and Manning

     South African Black Technical and Allied Careers Organisation

     South African Chamber of Business

     South African Communist Party

     South African Democratic Teachers' Union

     South African Federated Chamber of Industries

     Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa

     Terreblanche, S

     Textile and Clothing Industry

     Textile Federation

     The Centre for Conflict Resolution

     The Land and Agricultural Bank

     The Tongaat-Hulett Group Ltd

     Toyota S A


     Tucker, R S K

     Tyacke, E and Lowry, D

     Van Niekerk, P

     Van Zyl, J

     Wiehahn, N

     Zimema, P M

Children and Youth:

     Human Rights Committee

     Junior Rapportryerbeweging

     Justice Goldstone, R J - several submissions

     KwaZulu-Natal Programme for Survivors of Violence

     National Children and Violence Trust

     National Children's Rights Committee

     Ndlozi, G

     Nkomo, M N

     Reynolds, P and Dawes, A

     Smith, T S J


     American Association for the Advancement of Science

     Amnesty International

     Baragwanath Hospital

     Centre for Psychosocial and Traumatic Stress

     Citizens' Commission on Human Rights South Africa

     Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa

     Dental Association of South Africa

     Department of Health

     Department of Psychiatry, Tygerberg Hospital

     Fanner, M

     Greater Johannesburg Welfare, Social Service and Development Forum

     Groote Schuur Hospital Region

     Independent Mediation Service of South Africa

     Independent Medico-Legal Unit:

          Main submission

          Maller, R

          Colvin, M

          Reid, S and Giddy, J

          Lasich, A J

          Akoojee, S B

          Nel, J P

          Organisation for Approriate Social Services for South Africa

     Health Psychology Unit, Centre for Peace Action, University of South Africa

     Holomisa, B

     Islamic Medical Association South Africa

     Jeppe, C

     Johannesburg Child Psychotherapy Group

     Johannesburg Welfare Society

     Khulumani Support Group

     Kistnasamy, M B

     Klatzow, D J

     Lasich, A J

     Medical Research Council

     Medical Association of South Africa

     Medical University of South Africa

     Mohare, D E

     National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Maryland, USA

     National Traditional Healers Association of Southern Africa

     Organisation For Appropriate Social Services for South Africa

     Pillay, S R

     Professional Board for Occupational Therapy

     Progressive Doctors' Group

     Psychology Association of South Africa

     Rataemane, S

     Respiratory Clinic

     Society of Psychiatrists of South Africa

     Soobiah, R

     South African Academy of Family Practice/Primary Care

     South African Council for the Aged

     South African Medical and Dental Council

     South African Medical and Dental Practitioners Association

     South African Medical Service

     South African Medical Students Association

     South African Nursing Council

     South African Pharmacy Council

     University of Cape Town: Dept of Community Health

     University of Cape Town: Dept of Medicine

     University of Cape Town: Dept of Pharmacology

     University of Cape Town: Dept of Primary Health Care

     University of Natal: Medical School

     University of Pretoria

     University of the Witwatersrand

     University of the Western Cape - Centre for Student Counselling

     Van Speyk, V

     Vegetarian Society of South Africa

     Vitus, L

     Witwatersrand Mental Health Society

     World Federation for Mental Health


     Bothma, K

     Chaskalson, A; Langa, P; Mahomed, I; Corbett, M M; Van Heerden, H J O

     Coetzee, L F

     Grundlingh, L and Smit, R

     Hain, P

     Hendrickse, M A

     Joubert, A J M

     Kitson, D

     Kleyn, J J G C

     Lategan, B

     Madlala-Routledge, N

     Mokhele, T

     Pepinsky, H E

     Skoulariki, P

     Southall, R and Wood, G

     Van Hees, S

     Zeiss, R K R

Law and Human Rights:

     Ackermann, L W H

     Addison, G

     Aitchison, J J W

     Amnesty International

     Anonymous - Afrikaans letter from a mother re: conscript

     Anonymous - re: Conscripts

     Anti-Apartheid Movement

     Association of Law Societies of the RSA

     Black Lawyers Association

     Botha, C

     Bozalek, L J

     British Rights Watch

     Cachalia, F

     Cameron, E

     Campus Law Clinic

     Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

     Chatsworth Child and Family Welfare Society

     Coetzee-Andrew, M

     Commission for Gender Equality; South African Human Rights Commission and South African NGO Coalition

     Community Law Centre; Development Action Group; Legal Resources Centre; Black Sash;

      NGO National Coalition; National Land Committee; National Literacy Co-operative: Peoples' Dialogue;

      Urban Sector Network

     Corbett, M M

     CURAMUS: Botha, J H

     Deegan, J

     D'Oliveira, J A v S

     De Ridder, T

     De Vries, A P

     Department of Justice

     Die Afrikanerbond

     Du Plooy, N

     Dyzenhaus, David

     Eloff, C F

     Expatriates of Hambanathi

     Forsyth-Winberg, T D

     Friedman, G

     General Council of the Bar of South Africa

     Goldblatt, B and Meintjes, S

     Goldstein, E L

     Goldstone, R J

     Govender, K

     Graaf, M

     Harms, L T C

     Hart, O D

     Hattingh, J

     Hemson, D

     Human Rights Committee

     Human Rights Watch (South Africa Desk)

     International Association of Democratic Lawyers

     Jana, P

     Joffe, M M

     Joubert, C P

     Jurgens, J W


     Keys, Liza

     Khumalo, J A M

     Kriek, J J


     Land and Agriculture Policy Centre

     Langa, P N

     Langeveld, L J

     Ledgerwood, T

     Legal Resources Centre

     Lichtenberg, E K W

     Liebenberg, I

     Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic of Yale Law School, Lawyers Committee for Human

      Rights and others

     Magistrates' Commission

     McBride, P and Ekambaram, S

     McNally, T P

     Melamet, D A

     Minnaar, A

     Moll, P G

     Mtetwa, C J

     Nathan, L

     National Association of Democratic Lawyers

     National Association of Independent Lawyers

     National Association of Law Societies in South Africa

     National Literacy Co-operation and other educational stakeholders

     National Police and Public Civil Rights Union

     Nel, C D H O

     Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa

     Network of Independent Monitors, Port Shepstone

     Olivier, Pierre J J

     Omar, A M - Minister of Justice

     Practical Ministries

     Rasefate, R E

     Rautenbach, E D

     Ravele, F H

     Richard, A

     Roberts, L J

     Rossouw, D J

     Sandager, A

     Sarkin, J and Varney, H

     Satchwell, K

     Schwartzman, I

     Selikowitz, S

     Simelane, B Q P

     Skosana, J B

     Smalberger, J W; Howie, C T; Marais, R M; Scott, D G

     Society of University Teachers of Law

     Sole, S

     South African Council for Town and Regional Planners

     South African Medical Services Care for the Disabled

     South African National Council for Child and Family Welfare

     South African Police Service

     South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights

     South African Veterans Association: Tucker, P and Van Niekerk, M

     Steele, R

     Steiner, C

     Torr, D

     Travers, G N

     Tshishonga, M M

     Tswana Renaissance Movement

     University of Potchefstroom

     University of the Witwatersrand

     University of Venda

     Urban Monitoring and Awareness Committee

     Van Zyl, D H

     Von Lieres und Wilkau, K P C O

     White, C S

     Wright, G F


     Africa Muslim Party

     African National Congress

     Alternative Media in the Cape: Badat, S; Fisher, R; Issel, J; Jackson, D; Jaffer, M; Patel, L; Seria, R

      and Williams, M

     Barker, M

     Bekker, Jo-Ann

     Bird, E and Garda, Z

     Bothma, P

     Broadcast Monitoring Project

     Bussiek, H and C

     De Beer, A S

     Dickson, P J

     Du Plessis, T

     Du Preez, M

     Etherington, G

     Evans, G

     Forbes, D

     Forum of Black Journalists

     Freedom of Expression Institute:

      Main Submission

      Kable, J

      Martin, K

      Moorhead, K

      Naum, J

      Nix, J

     Gardiner, W

     Gerber, A

     Hancock, R S

     Harris, K

     Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa

     Jacobs, S

     Jaffer, Z

     Khathide, B

     Killeen, P S

     Klaaste, A

     Kramer, P S

     Kruger, F and Harris, L

     Loewe, M

     Maluleke, E

     Marincowitz, A

     Mathiane, N

     Matisonn, J

     Mayet, Z

     McMillan, J O

     McPherson, J L

     Media Institute of Southern Africa

     Media Monitoring Project

     Media Workers' Association of South Africa

     Mokwena, L

     Moyle, D

     Muller, K M

     Nasionale Pers:

          Adams, S

          Adema, S

          Alfonso, T

          Bezuidenhout, C N

          Boezak, E

          Booyens, J M

          Botha, A

          Botha, L

          Bothma, J P

          Botma, G J

          Brynard, K

          Burger, A

          Caldecott, R

          Church, R J

          Claassen, G

          Coetzee, A

          Coetzee, C

          Coetzee, S

          Cornelissen, A S

          De Beer, B

          De Beer, E

          De Lange, L

          De Meyer, J

          De Waal, E

          De Waal, E J

          Du Preez, L

          Els, J

          Engelbrecht, T

          Erasmus, E

          Eybers, J

          Fillies, A

          Fourie, C

          Fourie, R

          Gouws, A

          Grobler, M

          Hudson, M

          Keiser, G

          May, J

          Olivier, V

          Potgieter, De Wet

          Pretorius, W

          Prinsloo, A

          Rossouw, A

          Schafer, M

          Slabber, C

          Swartz, M

          Van der Merwe, L

          Van der Stad, M

          Van Rooyen, A

          Van Wyk, M

          Waldner, M

     Nuttal, J

     Orpen, B

     Pakendorf, H

     Patten, J

     Pogrund, B

     Pretorius, J

     Procter, J

     Qwelane, D J

     Rogers, P M

     Scholtz, L

     Smith, M

     South African Communist Party

     South African National Defence Force

     South African Union of Journalists

     Sparks, A

     Stanbridge, R

     Steward, A

     Subramoney, M

     Terreblanche, S

     Times Media Ltd

     Turner, N

     Van Deventer, J H

     Van Druten, R

     Viljoen, C

     Viviers, J C

     Watts, R

     Weekly Mail and Guardian

     Will, R G

     Woods, D

Political Parties:

     African Christian Democratic Party

     African National Congress

     Democratic Party

     Inkatha Freedom Party

     National Party

     Pan Africanist Congress

     United Democratic Front



     Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa

     Baptist Convention of South Africa

     Baptist Union of South Africa

     Belydendekring van Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerke

     Catholic Church

     Church of England in South Africa

     Church of the Province of Southern Africa

     Dharma Centre

     Dutch Reformed Church, Stellenbosch Circuit

     Dutch Reformed Church, Western and Southern Cape

     Dutch Reformed Church: Swanepoel, F

     Evangelical Alliance of South Africa

     GESHER (Jewish Movement for Social Action)

     Ibandla Lama Nazareth

     Institute for Contextual Theory

     International Federation of Christian Churches

     Jamiatul Ulama, Transvaal: Bham, E I

     Jewish Religious Community

     Mathews, C

     Methodist Church of Southern Africa

     Moravian Church in South Africa

     Morgan, L

     Muslim Judicial Council

     Muslim Youth Movement: Nisaar Dawood

     National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is

     Nuttall, M

     Old Apostolic Church

     Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys

     Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa

     Ramakrishna Institute of Spirituality and Hinduism

     Reformed Presbyterian Church of South Africa

     Research Institute on Christianity in South Africa

     South African Council of Churches

     South African Council of Churches: Tema, E M

     South African Hindu Maha Sabha

     Sundberg, L

     United Congregational Church of Southern Africa

     United Methodist Church of South Africa: Nkosinathi Madikizela

     Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa

     Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa Messina Congregation

     World Conference on Religion and Peace - South African Chapter

     Zion Christian Church

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.