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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Cable 2

USA CABLE No. 2

1.     Blanked out

2.     SUMMARY:  FM "Pik" Botha briefed ambassadors July 24 on South African communist party (SACP) activities since May 2-4 Groote Schuur talks which have culminated in many arrests on charges related to smuggling and illegal possession of lethal weapons.  Botha gave ambassadors background information on secret May 19-20 SACP politburo meeting concerning tactics for "seizure/transfer" of state power, reading extensively from selected computer printouts of meeting's opening remarks, speeches, discussion and minutes – all captured at various SACP "safe houses" around the  country.  Not all aliases used at the meeting are yet known (they will shortly be), but the SAG had established that SACP head Joe Slovo and prominent ANC member Jacob Zuma took part.  None of the eight SACP/PB members is among those detained to date who were taken in on illegal possession of arms charges.

3.     FM Botha said the SAG was convinced that Nelson Mandela and most of the ANC senior leadership were unaware of the SACP meeting, tactics or plans.  Botha expressed the SAG's serious concern, nonetheless, about the effect of these developments on Mandela and the negotiations.  He therefore appealed to ambassadors and the ANC to sever ties with the SACP, or at least distance themselves from these actions.  He also expressed the hope that foreign governments would publicly condemn the SACP's latest actions.

4.     At hastily convened meeting in the Union Buildings seat of government, FM Pik Botha briefed ambassadors for nearly an hour on July 24 colncerning the spate of arrests at the weekend on arms charges.  Referring to President De Klerk's July 23 statement and the May 4 Groote Schuur minute, which "all of your governments strongly supported" – he said it had been agreed that there would be no "secret agendas or plans and that joint efforts would be made to reduce intimidation and violence.  For its part, the SAG had agreed to grant temporary immunity to persons subject to prosecution on return to South Africa, and the parliament had passed legislation granting the State President special authority in this regard.

5.     Moreover, the SAG had accepted the joint working group's findings and the ANC's need for more time to reach its decision on the document owing to Mandela's six-week foreign travels.  Botha said if the SAG were not satisfied that Mandela was totally unaware of the illegal SACP activities leading to the arrests, it would have cancelled the August 6 talks which SAF findings jeopardize nevertheless.

SACP POLITBURO MEETING

6.     As to the facts, Botha said the SACP's politburo had met secretly at Tongaat in Natal, May 19-20 – a sort of "mini-summit".  He read extensively from several of a "vast number" of documents the SAP had captured at "Safe Houses" in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, each of which was equipped with computers to avoid use of phones.  (Codes were found in the drawers, he said, which made it easy to get printouts.)  Thrust of messages was that SACP should devise strategy to "firmly occupy the legal space" opened up for the party with "undiminished defiance and enhanced capacity of the liberation struggle to engulf the regime with forces it is unable to control" to "counter the dirty tricks of the state which are being marshaled against us to obliterate our vision of a socialist state."

MINUTES OF THE MEETING

7.     These reveal that aliases were used throughout and that some of participants were in the country illegally.  Highlighted were the armed struggle and the need to enlarge the liberation army at township, village, and factory level, taking advantage of the withdrawal of troops from the townships as well as in the Bantustans where possibilities exist to build a people's army with a "revolutionary content".  "While a ceasefire happens naturally, we must be on the attack at the local level.  Those who don't sign the ceasefire can continue to fight".  Finally, "whatever is written in a constitution or bill of rights can only be realized when power is in our hands.

8.     Botha then made summary comments on the documents he had read.  First of all, he said, the SAG believes that only SACP members attended the Tongaat meeting.  Yet all are also ANC members.  Those attending the meeting were members of one of Oliver Tambo's "President's Committee".  This one formed to wage the (armed) struggle.  Botha explained that the SACP/PB has only 8 members and the Central Committee 20 members – but those at the Tongaat meeting didn't inform the Central Committee.  It is quite clear to the SAG that Mandela knew nothing of the SACP meeting or tactics; especially re the arms caches.  (He said a September delivery would consist of ground to air missiles, launchers, 500 gram and two kilo limpet mines and AK-47's.  Elaborate plans were underway to equip cars and trucks with secret compartments to transport these and other weapons across borders.)

9.     FM Botha expressed the hope that foreign governments would react "as in the past", i.e. to say publicly that this kind of activity runs against the spirit and letter of Groote Schuur.  The SAG has no secret agenda or plans to reinstall apartheid if negotiations fail, he said, but had made clear that the process is irreversible.  The remaining pillars of apartheid, including the Group Areas Act and the Land Acts would receive highest priority in the next parliamentary session.  In sum, the SAG had entered the negotiations process with an open mind and wants to "regain the moral high ground and international respectability".  SAG is not prepared, however, to turn power over "to anarchy or a communist clique".  Botha summarized that the SACP had

(a)     held a secret meeting;

(b)     smuggled persons illegally into the country at a time when the SAG was liberally granting immunity and permitting mass rallies and other normal political activity;  and

(c)     was making plans for assassination squads, importation of arms, etc.

10.     FM Botha repeated his assurance that this was exclusively a communist meeting about which Mandela "knew nothing".  Botha appealed to ambassadors to "help us to get the ANC our of this corner".  Someone, he said, must talk to the ANC to sever its ties to the SACP or at least "put some distance" between itself and the SACP.  The events of the past few days, he opined, are more embarrassing to the ANC than to the SAG.  On the basis of these facts, Botha hoped friendly governments would criticize these SACP actions.

11.     In the question/answer period, Botha made the following additional points:

-     The SACP appears to be pursuing a two-prong pincer tactic of (a) being prepared should talks fail, and (b) putting pressure on the SAG to make the country ungovernable.

-     Known participants at the secret SACP meeting were Joe Slovo, Mac Maharaj, Ronnie Kasrils, and Jacob Zuma.  Botha expressed "great disappointment" at Zuma whom the SAG had found to be the "most understanding" participant at the Groote Schuur talks.  Botha said he would talk to the Soviets about Mac Maharaj and Ronnie Kasrils' recent trip to India via Moscow.

-     Botha discounted any connection between MK leader Chris Hani's statements last week in the Transkei on the armed struggle and the SACP actions.  "We believe every organization needs a trouble shooter, and Hani is the ANC's to test how the government will react".  Botha said he did not thus take Hani's statements seriously.

-     There is "no way" the SAG could allow Slovo to be included at the next talks on August 6 if he is implicated in the smuggling of persons into the country and setting up hit squads.  The SAG would soon know who all 8 politburo members are and none would be permitted at the SAG/ANC talks.

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.