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Type Armed Forces Hearings
Starting Date 08 October 1997
Location Cape Town
Names Major General Mortimer; Dr. Khoza Mgojo; Klopper;
Boraine : Major General Mortimer Iíd like to thank you on behalf of the Commission for your presence here today and also for the marathon performance. Itís taken a great deal of work to put this together and you must be feeling quite tired. I have to hasten to add however that you are not done yet. As we have agreed there would be some questions. I want to make a preliminary remark and then I am going to ask my colleagues if they have any questions and they will put them to you. First I want to thank you again for emphasising the role and responsibility of the politicians in the sense that the National Security Council hierarchy within a party was really always responsible for final policy which had to be carried out by the old SADF. I thank you also describing the nature of the conflict as it was perceived by the SADF and indeed by the politicians of the day. Thank you too for the professional description of the armed forces in all its various branches, a variety of services and activities that it has performed and of course many of those are performed to this day. I have to tell you however that my overall impression is that this submission is breathtaking in its one-sidedness. I find it almost unbelievable that in 80 pages there can be no acknowledgement or acceptance that the SADF in implementing a policy of apartheid could bear no responsibility for a single death. I find it impossible to believe that those who were involved did not know of the deaths of women and children and innocent civilians in the conduct of that as you described it war. I find it impossible to believe that those who compiled this report did not know for example that the Goniwe inquest found that the SADF as an institution was responsibile for the deaths of Goniwe and the other three. I donít know why that wasnít included in the submission in an acknowledgement that there is no one in this country who is not part of the problem and part of the solution. Am I to understand that the compilers of this report and those whom you consulted believe that at no single time in any act or omission by the SADF and its structures that there was nothing of an unlawful nature throughout its work. In all its cross border raids was there no mistake made, was there no unnecessary taking of life. We have had to listen over many months to many who have spoken to us as victims and told us of offences committed by both the police and the SADF in their activities. Am I to understand that throughout this whole period there was no one in the chain of command who ever questioned the policy of then government; that there was no opposition; there was no disagreement but it simply blindly carried out its order no matter what those orders may lead to and finally am I and this Commission are we to understand because there is no expression of this that there was not a single moment where people in high command, the level of generals for example, never asked the question as to why there was such deep seated opposition to the system of apartheid in South Africa over and above the fact that it was a communist plot to overtake South Africa and destroy our civilisation. You see you have gone into great detail and we accept every word of that as your presentation. No problems about that whatsoever. Of the atrocities committed by the ANC, by the PAC, by the right-wing but the army is a knight in shining armour simply doing its job. You see we had hoped as a Commission that as some of the political parties have told us of the mistakes that were made, the wrong policies that were followed, the deaths that followed, the conflict. I am not saying itís satisfactory, I am not saying itís complete but I think perhaps wrongly we assumed that there would be a very serious stock-taking and a confiding and a sharing of not one side but of all sides. I must express as I say my deep disappointment that this was not done. I appreciate very deeply your expression in a couple of paragraphs right at the very end on behalf of those you consulted of the regret for the loss of life, for the damage, for the violence, and I mean that and also for your commitment to future co-operation with the TRC. It is sometimes said that the messenger gets blamed for the bad news. I am not attributing any blame to you personally whatsoever. You are here on behalf of an organisation which thank God no longer exists. We have heard of the new SANDF but I thought that somewhere just somewhere there would be a serious acknowledgement of some of the pain and the tears and the heart ache that have caused in the conflict not only by one side but by all sides. I am going to ask Dr. Khoza Mgojo to put a couple of, two or three questions which he may have and then I will ask some of my colleagues and obviously you will have every opportunity of replying.
Dr. Khoza Mgojo: Thank you Mr Chairperson. I need to also share the same feeling which you are feeling. In this presentation I see self-righteousness and self-justification. Why I say that is because there are statements which are just passed here without any social analysis. If you look at statements appearing at pages 35 and 37 and even before that you will find the organisations which became violent during the end the pass-law campaign and no is said why did they become violent. There is nothing as a sign of confession as I said before. We need to use an approach of confession and sorry Ö.. It doesnít spell out, came out and say that they became violent because the ÖÖÖ method was stopped by the government. These are the people who were marching peacefully and the violence came from the government and I donít see that coming from the 1976 violence in Soweto when the children were just marching peacefully expressing that you call their disappointment about the education and it is this side again which Ö.. to me is depressing because if you are writing history bringing reconciliation we need to be honest so that we can sure of what we have done. So I need to say that I am very disappointed about that and again what has disappointed me most is that in this chronology of operations there is nothing said more, I see statistics when this is dealing with other organisations such and such thing happened, so many people, etc. but when you come to for instance the raids of Lesotho and Mozambique is not only the, it is very ÖÖ.ANC operation destabilized. People died there. There are tombs, funerals there and people are crying they miss their loved ones who are buried there. Some of them have not even seen those what you call it. I would appreciate it if it was said clearly that in this operation so many lives were lost and again to just say that black on black violence is too light for me but I am pleased that you have already raised on page 75 that in this black on black violence there must have been the operation of the third force. You say on page 75 I want to read it. You say on page 75 no. 17 : "In 1985 Chief Minister Buthelezi requested paramilitary support from the RSA government. The RSA government decided on 20 December 1985 to grant him this support and task the SADF to render the support. The project was known as Operation Marion. Should I believe that in all this conflicts in the black areas as we blacks and other what you call progressive people in the organisations have been saying that in all these conflicts we have had the hand of third force and I know that the government all along has been denying I know it ÖÖ government starting from the Prime Minister and President they were saying there was no third force but now it comes out clear here if you are doing this analysis of ÖÖ. Indeed third force was involved. You can make a comment. Was there any third force in the black on black violence in this country.
Denzil Potgieter: Thank you chairperson. I will restrict myself to one or two issues that are burning at this stage there are many other questions but I understand that this is not the occasion for that at this stage. General Mortimer on page 49 of your submission you deal with the Civil Cooperation Bureau and you deal with the question of available records and you make the point that no documentation other than contained in the records of the Harms Commission is believed to exist. Now is that in fact the case?
Denzil Potgieter : Now if there were records would you have expected to have found it because I am trying to understand what the position is because it says it is believed that those are the only records available.
Denzil Potgieter : And if they have been destroyed would there be a record of those destructions as General Meiring has indicated this morning, everything that was destroyed was recorded, would this be an unlawful act.
Denzil : Now, you have also said very little about the CCB in this submission and as I have indicated to the general it is obviously an issue that we are seized with and that we are very interested in as a Commission have very many questions around this organisation. Would you be able as the nodal point to facilitate further particulars some more information about this organisation or would you much rather refer the Commission to particular individuals who were in charge of this organisation and for us to deal with in terms of the powers that this Commission has to obtain information.
Klopper : Mr Commissioners, as far as we have ascertained there have been no documents available other than documents that have been referred to in the Harms Commission and in the Harms Commission in their finding which is the only document I have seen of it. There is also a reference to documents that have been destroyed or that have vanished. Yes the nodal point will further assist as far as it is humanly possible to see if there are any documents available. I am not talking about documents other than documents in official keeping. There might be documents available with people that I donít know of.
Denzil : Just to make sure that I understand correctly. This organisation according to your submission here was only terminated in April 1990 and it was finally closed in February 1994, so it seemed to have continued to exist after the Harms Commission so there must have been some official record of existence after the Harms Commission. Do I understand it correctly?
Denzil : Thank you and then perhaps I donít know whether General Mortimer will deal with that. On page 52 of your submission the last sentence of that paragraph under background where you say that the SADF was pre-eminently a peacekeeping task force but owing to the perceived threat and increasing instability in Southern Africa the SADF strategy was directed at ensuring the security of the people of the RSA by taking offensive pro-active steps. Now firstly would you be in a position to specify that, give more particulars about the nature of that steps that you are talking about, thatís the first point. Perhaps you want to respond to that eventually perhaps not immediately and then more importantly these offensive pro-active steps did that ever amount to operations inside the country within the borders of the RSA.
Mortimer : The cross border pro-active steps are those ones which we have listed here as cross border operations those would be examples of them. Those are the examples we have found by studying existing documentation. At this stage from studying existing documentation we have not identified such operations internally. However as I tried to indicate that documentation is not necessarily all available at a central point at this stage. One would have to identify potential or possible operations. Identify the area in which they took place and then try to trace it according to the level and the place where it occurred. As I say from our studies at this stage, no.
Denzil : And then just in conclusion is that what you mean on page 61 where you say that the list of operations as is set out here may not be complete, so you may be able to come across some more operations as you do your work as the nodal point.
Mortimer : Yes, it would of course facilitate matters if the Commission could direct the search into specific areas then it might be possible to find these but a generalised search in the time that is available is probably not going to produce the results which specified searches aimed at trying to find a specific piece of information on the grounds of other information available to you would possibly give results.
Denzil : So are you saying that a general search as the one that you have done has only come up with these ones here (yes) and if we are more specific as a Commission you might very well come up with some other (yes) information on more operations.
Wildschut : General Mortimer my question is related to the comments my colleagues made about the narrative or descriptive nature of your presentation. I would like you to perhaps just take us through the process a little bit, perhaps just in a few sentences. Tell us why the nodal point and persons involved in the collation of this information decided or got to the point that this submission would be purely descriptive. Why was the decision made that it would be just a narrative without some interpretation at least. So take us through that process a little bit and also could you tell us if there are inferences that we should be drawing from this? What do you want the nation to know in this public submission about the work of the SADF and what kind of inference should we be drawing from this submission.
Mortimer : The principal problem with interpretation is that we have no authority to speak on behalf of the SADF. There is no commander of the SADF to give me an order, do the task and interpret, give me your opinion. If I was to interpret this then former members of the SADF would be entitled and they have already done so said you do not have my authority to speak on my behalf. You Mortimer can go and stand there and speak but you do not speak on my behalf. Therefore I cannot interpret because then I would be taking rights to judge other peopleís actions which they do not want me to do. That is the principal reason. What do we want people to think about about our presentation. I think principally we want people to think that we were a professional force that as professionals soldiers we had certain responsibilities to the State. The responsibilities that are not only written in law but are part of a professional ethic. The professional ethic says that you must give the government of the say your loyalty. If you cannot live with their policies then you must resign. If you can live with their policies even if you donít agree with them in all detail it is your responsibility to give the government your honest advice and so too the soldier must give his commander his honest advice. That staff officer who gives advice to the commander must give what he believes not what he thinks the commander wishes to hear. However the ethic goes further. Once the commander has made the decision even if the decision goes against your advice then it is your absolute professional duty to carry out his decision to the very best of your ability. I think we would like to tell the nation that we did that. We had the question did we never disagree. We did disagree but working on the professional ethic having disagreed once your commander has made a decision then you must carry out his decision.
Wildschut : Thank you for that insight. I think thatís the kind of insight that we would really like to have. My second question is related to the issue, I may have missed it in the submission, which may not have been alluded to or mentioned and thatís the issue of chemical and biological warfare. Has there any been plans in relation to such warfare, and perhaps eventually as my other colleagues have mentioned it might be something that you would like to tell us about. Could you tell us if there was such strategies?
Mortimer : The reason there is no mention of chemical or biological warfare in this document is that again in the time available and in the study of the available records we have not come across it if specific info is required on the subject then we could zoom on it but we have not to date come across any evidence of it.
Wildschut : Just for clarity, so then do we assume that there was no strategy around chemical and biological warfare and hence asking questions around that would be stupid because it did not exist or did it exist and that we need to be quite specific about its existence.
Mortimer : The SADF did pursue studies into chemical and biological warfare from a defensive point of view. We were relatively sure that chemical weapons had been used on occasion by the enemy in Angola and therefore we studied it defensively. We have not addressed the Angolan situation in this paper. So, yes there was study of chemical and biological warfare and we have not come across any information indicating investigations in chemical and biological warfare for offensive purposes on the part of the SADF but I wouldnít like to say that it would be futile for you to question, it might produce something but I certainly cannot at this stage give you any assurance that there will be anything available.
Boraine : General Mortimer as you know I made a couple of preliminary remarks, Iíd now like to follow that up with quite specific questions. On page 50 part 3 paragraph 11 c2 you refer to clients. Iíd wonder if you could help us by telling us who were the clients of the directorate of covert collections.
Mortimer : Well, firstly of course the SADF as a whole. Should an operation be planned at the chief of the defence force level then he would be the principal client. Should an operation be planned at army level then the intelligence available to the chief of the defence force would be made available to the chief of the army either on the request of the chief of the army but also almost as an automatic action that you push your intelligence down to your lower level. If I could now skip the command level and say an operation is planned at group level, group could be conceivably a client of covert collection but it would now have to go up the whole channel of command so group would request information or intelligence from command who would request from army headquarters who could then eventually request it. So really theoretically at any rate any person who has to carry out an operation somewhere in this organisation could request intelligence and could in that sense be applied. It is however might more likely that it would be the higher headquarters who would be the client.
Boraine: On page 73 where you are dealing with the sort of neighbouring states you make reference to Angola and as I think you made in a comment you really havenít dealt with that in any detail in this presentation but you or people that you have consulted who can go back a few years, that operation was actually unlawful in a sense that Parliament which ought to give its final authority was never consulted. In fact it was lied to, thatís general facts, I am not asking you to accept it, just saying that for the argument accept that because this has now been well established. I just happened to be there at the time, I know what was told to me and what actually was happening at the very time it was told to me by the then Minister of Defence. Was the SADF at any time aware or did they assume that because instructions were given orders were given that they were legal and that they had to be obeyed. Was there any debate at all, did you recall all, only the people you consulted.
Mortimer: I was a good bit further down on the scale on things in 1975 and so I cannot from personal experience say anything about it. I am not aware that there was any questioning of the legality or otherwise of the operation from military personnel but I certainly cannot speak with any degree of confidence when I say so.
Boraine: On that same page, page 73, referring to the support of Renamo. In your knowledge or that the people that you have talked with when compiling this report did the SADF or any of its substructures continue to supply support not to influence them in terms of the peace agreement but to supply support to Renamo in defiance of the Ö. Accord and if so under whose orders.
Mortimer: I cannot answer the question. I am not aware of anything of that nature occurring but I base my answer on what is here before us. So, no I am not aware of anything like that happening and again it is something that could be examined further.
Boraine: As you know this is a vast document and there are many many questions that one would like to pursue but we will have an opportunity to do that through the nodal point but let me finish with one last question and that is to your knowledge did the SADF ever carry out any operations that were designed to look as though they had been carried out by the enemy or the opposition. We know that it is on record that the police did. Did the SADF use that as part of its strategy.
Boraine: Thank you very much. Let me again on behalf of the Commission thank both you and Major General Klopper for being with us for a very long time, for the very long report, for your presentation which is very demanding and tiring and we look forward to continuing the discussion with you and your colleague and in the hope that through this discussion and debate and questions the transformation which has already started and is now in the SANDF will continue and will grow, thank you very much indeed. The session is now adjourned.