SUBMISSION TO THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
COMMISSION BY MR F W DE KLERK, LEADER OF THE NATIONAL PARTY
This submission sets out the National
Party's view of the historical context within which the conflicts
of the past should be considered. It provides an analysis of the
origin of the conflict; it deals with the perceptions that motivated
Government policies; it analyses the ensuing conflict and the
steps that the Government took, on the one hand to defend society
against revolution and on the other to promote a peaceful solution
to the complex problems that confronted us. It deals in some detail
with issues such as amnesty, reconciliation, responsibility, the
circumstances that necessitated unconventional strategies and
the measures that we took to try to prevent abuses. The submission
also sets out the National Party's views on the framework within
which we believe the Commission should carry out is mandate.
It is not, however, the purpose of this
submission to provide details of specific incidents that occurred
during the conflict of the past. We understand that detailed submissions
will be made in this regard by the former leadership of the South
African Police and by the SANDF. Should the Commission have any
particular requirements or queries the National Party will be
happy to assist it in any way that we can.
I am acutely aware of the difficulty
of establishing exactly what happened during past conflicts. The
many judicial commissions that the former Government established
during my Presidency experienced the same difficulty. Nevertheless,
the National Party will do everything that it can to assist the
Commission with its task.
Nature of the Commission's mandate
The 1993 Constitution identifies the
need for "the people of South Africa to transcend 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."
The National Party accepts the need
for a mechanism that can establish the truth about the conflict
of the past and that can promote national reconciliation. It was
for this reason that, during my Presidency, I appointed a number
of commissions to investigate allegations relating to the conflict.
These included the Commission on Public Violence (the Goldstone
Commission) which I gave full scope and support to investigate
allegations relating to the perpetration of violence by any party
during the conflict. The National Party accordingly supported
the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
notwithstanding its reservations about some aspects of the relevant
legislation and the process that it established.
The 1993 constitution also requires
that the conflicts of the past should be dealt with "on the
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 victimisation." It stipulates further that
"amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and
offences associated with political objectives and committed in
the course of the conflicts of the past."
It is essential for the success of the
Commission that it should at all times bear in mind these points
of departure and the overall objective of promoting reconciliation.
It must, in particular, ensure that its deliberations are not
exploited or manipulated for party-political gain. It must be
scrupulously impartial in dealing with transgressions by all parties.
It must also ensure that people who may be innocent of any wrong-doing
are not publicly humiliated or subjected to trial by the media
on the basis of untested allegations.
The Commission should also consider
the elusive nature of "truth" in an historical or political
context. Perceptions of what is true vary from time to time, from
place to place and from party to party according to the affiliations
and convictions of those involved. The Commission should bear
this in mind when considering the motives and actions of those
involved in the conflict of the past. It should also try to free
itself of the preconceptions generated over the years by the vitriolic
propaganda that was disseminated by all sides during the period
Authorship of the submission
I am making this submission on behalf
of the National Party, as its leader and as former State President.
It relates primarily to my own presidency and to other occurrences
of which I have personal knowledge. I cannot speak with the same
authority with regard to developments that fall outside this framework.
In this regard, I made an unsuccessful attempt to enlist the co-operation
of by predecessor, Mr P W Botha. The submission was, however,
prepared after discussions with the retired leadership of the
South African Defence Force, the South African Police and former
members of the Government during my Presidency. Although we are
in substantial agreement on its contents, we also agreed that
the SANDF and the retired leadership of the SAP should prepare
separate submissions reflecting their respective areas of knowledge
of the events of the past.
I must also stress that a distinction should be drawn between what have become known as the "old National Party" and the "New National Party". There is a profound difference between the National Party as it is presently constituted and the party that ruled South Africa for the first decades after its election victory in 1948. The policies and philosophy of the National Party as it is today are diametrically different from those of the old party. It also has a different support base. More than half of the people who voted for the National Party in the last election were black, coloured or Indian South Africans. Neither they, nor our younger white supporters, can or should be associated in any way with the apartheid policies of the past.
The recent history of the National Party
can be divided into four distinct periods:
A distinction should also be made between
the various National Party administrations between 1948 and 1994.
For example, my administration and that of my predecessor belonged
to the reform and transformation periods of the National Party.
In my opinion it is quite incorrect to refer to our administrations
as the "apartheid Government". We were primarily concerned
with the dismantling of apartheid, the defence of the country
against revolution and the search for workable democratic alternatives
that would accommodate the political aspirations of all South
I retain my deep respect for our former
leaders. Within the context of their time, circumstances and convictions
they were good and honourable men - although history has subsequently
shown that, as far as the policy of apartheid was concerned, they
were deeply mistaken in the course upon which they embarked. In
particular, I should like to place on record the role played by
my predecessor, President P W Botha, in initiating the process
of change that ultimately led to the peaceful transformation of
My own father was a Cabinet Minister
under three Prime Ministers and my aunt was married to a Prime
Minister of South Africa. I myself have always been a loyal supporter
of the National Party. I supported its policies in the period
before 1978, when I believed that they could bring about a just
constitutional solution for all South Africans. Subsequently,
during the reform period my colleagues and I worked for the transformation
of the party; we dismantled apartheid; we defended South Africa
against those who planned to seize power by violent and unconstitutional
means; and we played a leading role in the establishment of the
New South Africa. Now as supporters of the new National Party
we are enthusiastic participants in the non-racial democracy that
we helped to create.
I will endeavour, in this submission,
to explain how this transformation occurred.
Three hundred and forty-four years ago
Europeans first settled at the Cape of Good Hope. They came for
a variety of reasons: many as employees of the Dutch East India
Company; some as farmers and merchants; and many, including my
own ancestors, to escape from religious persecution.
During the next century they trekked
further and further away from the Cape, leaving scattered villages
- such as Stellenbosch, Paarl, Swellendam and Graaff Reinet in
their wake. They were pastoral people who felt uncomfortable if
they could see the smoke from their neighbour's farm. In such
circumstances, it is not surprising that they soon developed a
sense of hardy independence and resentment for far-away and ineffective
authority - whether that authority was the Dutch East India Company
or the British, who first arrived in the Cape two hundred years
At some stage they began to refer to
themselves as "Afrikaners". They no longer saw themselves
primarily as Europeans in an alien continent - but as a people
of Africa, as white Africans - a people with its own emerging
identity, its own increasingly distinct language and its own sense
of destiny. They wanted political freedom, just as they had formerly
struggled for religious freedom.
It was primarily these factors that
led the Voortrekkers to leave the settled valleys of the Cape
in the 1830's and to establish their own republics in the hinterland
- in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. It was their determination
to rule themselves that involved them in a number of internal
wars and subsequently led them, in two bitter war, to resist the
expansion of the British Empire. However, it should be emphasised
that in none of these wars were they the aggressors.
These people - my forebears - understood
oppression. During their freedom struggle their homes were burned,
their country was devastated and more than 20 000 of their women
and children died in concentration camps.
They understood resistance. They withstood British attempts to anglicise their people and to strip them of their culture. They spent the first decades of this century in further developing and entrenching their own language, Afrikaans, and their own cultural identity.
They also experienced poverty and deprivation.
The drought and depression of the 'thirties forced many Afrikaners
to leave their farms and migrate to the cities where they earned
a place for themselves in the national economy.
These are the traditions that we were taught as children. We were taught to revere heroes such as Piet Retief and Dirkie Uys, such as Paul Kruger and Christiaan de Wet. The collective memories that we inherited were of the Covenant of Blood River; the oath that was taken at Paardekraal to regain our independence from the British; our victory at Majuba and the bitterness of our defeat in the Anglo-Boer War in 1902.
The history of the first half of this
century, with which we grew up, was dominated by the conflict
and tension between "Boer and Brit". For us, in the
National Party, the key issue at that time was the campaign to
establish a republic. The quest for the restoration of our right
to self-determination in our own republic was, on the whole, pursued
in a peaceful and constitutional manner - with a few exceptions,
such as the 1914 rebellion and the activities of the Ossewa Brandwag.
However, the National Party did not subscribe to these activities
and since its foundation in 1914 consistently rejected violence
as a means to achieve political and constitutional change.
The National Party's main opponents
were the "Sappe", the followers of Gen Smuts's United
Party who favoured close relations with Britain. Most South Africans
of British descent supported the United Party. In general, they
also supported the segregation policies and political traditions
that had been inherited from the British colonial administrations.
They were also opposed to policies that would lead to Black domination,
but rejected the National Party's rigid implementation of apartheid.
The great majority of United Party members were in favour of remaining
within the Commonwealth and were opposed to the establishment
of a republic.
It was issues such as these that were
at the forefront of the political debate between 1910 and 1960.
It was only in the second half of this century that the complex
relationship between Black and White South Africans, really began
to dominate the constitutional debate.
We are all the children of our times
and the product of the cultural and political circumstances into
which we were born and with which we grew up.
Deplorable as it now may seem, until
the middle of the century hardly anyone in the European-dominated
world considered that the indigenous peoples of the far-flung
colonial empires were ready to rule themselves. The attitude of
most "Europeans" - as they were called - inside and
outside South Africa was, at best, paternalistic. In South Africa,
by the early 'fifties, the strict racial segregation that we had
inherited from the past, had been firmly institutionalised. The
more daring liberals advocated a qualified franchise for "educated
natives". But nowhere did anyone seriously entertain the
idea that the majority should rule through a process of universal
franchise - nobody, of course, except for the emerging black leadership
in the ANC and the Congress Movement - who at that time were dismissed
as "communist agitators".
It should be remembered that this was
also the situation in much of colonial Africa at that time. In
the southern states of the United States the colour bar was still
firmly in place. Few political weathermen at the beginning of
the '50s forecast the coming winds of change.
However, in the fifteen years between
1955 and 1970 most of the countries of Africa were granted independence.
The receding empires left the whites of South Africa increasingly
isolated and out of step with the rest of humanity. Racial discrimination
and/or paternalism - which had been the general rule throughout
the European empires - were now universally - and quite correctly
- condemned. During the Anglo-Boer War Afrikaner nationalism had
been widely admired throughout Europe and in the United States.
However, in the climate of non-racialism, anti-colonialism and
universalism that dominated global thinking in the wake of the
Second World War, the concept of nationalism in general was in
disrepute. As far as international opinion was concerned, the
right to self-determination in Africa was associated only with
This was the situation that confronted
young members of the National Party at the beginning of the 'sixties.
The issues that we debated deep into the night centred on the
question of how we could come to grips with this changing world
on the one hand, and yet retain our right to our own national
self-determination on the other? How would we avoid the chaos
that was sweeping much of the rest of Africa - that was depicted
in horrific photographs of refugees fleeing from the Congo or
Angola - and yet ensure justice and full political rights for
Black South Africans? How could we defend ourselves against expansionist
international communism and terrorism and yet make all South Africans
The solution that we then came up with
was "separate development".
We thought that we could solve the complex
problems that confronted us by giving each of the ten distinguishable
Black South African nations self-government and independence within
the core areas that they had traditionally occupied. In this way
we would create a commonwealth of South African states - each
independent, but all co-operating on a confederal basis with one
another within an economic common market.
The underlying principle of territorial
partition to assure self-determination for different peoples living
in a common area was widely accepted. It was inter alia the
basis for the creation of the nation states that emerged from
the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the First World War, and for
modern Pakistan and India after the Second World War.
Although we were primarily concerned
with maintaining our own right to self-determination, it would
be a mistake to think that there was not a strong element of idealism
in this vision. A number of new cities were built in the states
that had been had identified. Ten Legislative Assemblies came
into being, each with its own government buildings and bureaucracy.
In some instances the infrastructure was quite impressive.
Several modern universities were founded
- which were formerly dismissed as "tribal colleges"
- but which are now accepted as fully fledged universities. By
1975 some 77 new towns had been established and 130 204 new houses
had been built. Between 1952 and 1972 the number of hospital beds
in the homelands increased from some 5 000 to 34 689. Decentralised
industries were developed and hundreds of millions of rands were
pumped into the traditional areas in an attempt to stem the flood
of people to the supposedly "white" cities.
It was thought that in this manner it
would be possible to accommodate the political and constitutional
aspirations of Black South Africans. By the late 'seventies it
was also accepted that territorial partition was impossible in
respect of Coloured and Indian South Africans. They were politically
sidelined in the years of rigid apartheid and, in the case of
the Coloureds, removed from the Common Voters Role. Their representation
in specially created councils with little authority or power,
could not continue.
The President's Council was established
to look into this and other constitutional questions. Their recommendations
ultimately led to the adoption of the tricameral constitution
in 1983 in terms of which White, Coloured and Indian South Africans
were given the opportunity of electing their own houses of Parliament
and of administering their "own affairs", while power
was shared with regard to matters of common interest.
Even this concept was, however, too
much for some members of the National Party to accept. In February
1982 twenty-two members of the NP caucus, under the leadership
of Dr Andries Treurnicht, left the party and founded the Conservative
Party. Their departure was an indication of the degree to which
the National Party, even by that stage, had started to move away
from orthodox apartheid.
Despite considerable efforts to develop
the homelands, the flood of black emigration to the "white"
cities continued unabated. According to the theorists, the tide
should have turned by 1978 - after which the supposedly "white
areas" would have had a substantial white majority.
Of course, this did not happen.
The homelands were too small, too poor
and economically too unattractive, to provide a decent livelihood
for all their citizens. It was also evident that the great majority
of black South Africans totally rejected the concept of separate
development. Led by the ANC, and its internal structures, they
insisted on full citizenship in an undivided non-racial democracy.
This situation was further exacerbated when six of the ten homelands
- and most notably KwaZulu under the leadership of Dr Buthelezi
- flatly refused to accept independence from South Africa.
This rejection of independence was one
of the main factors that led to the hardly noticed announcement
by President P W Botha in the "Rubicon" speech of 15
August 1985 that
"Should any of the black National
States therefore prefer not to accept independence, such states
or communities will remain part of the South African nation, are
South African citizens and should be accommodated within the political
institutions within the boundaries of South Africa"
This announcement, in effect, sounded
the death knell for the concept of separate development and set
the Government on the road that ultimately led to the transformation
of our society.
This new direction was formally endorsed
and given strong impetus at the 1986 congress of the National
Party which accepted "one citizenship for all South Africans"
and the implication that " any discrimination on the ground
of colour, race and cultural affiliation or religion" would
have to be eliminated. However, the Party still believed that
political rights should be exercised on a group basis. One of
the points of departure for its 1987 programme of action was the
continued protection of group rights: "This must be done
on the basis of the maximum degree of self-determination for each
group, and joint responsibility on matters of common interest,
in such a way that the domination of one group over others be
eliminated." During the national elections of 1987 the National
Party sought, and was granted, a mandate by the electorate to
pursue and implement such a constitutional programme.
Thus, by the middle 'eighties the Government
had begun to take the first steps in the search for constitutional
settlement that would fully include Black, Brown and Indian South
Africans. The policy of separate development had clearly failed.
Instead of providing a just and workable solution, it had led
to hardship, suffering and humiliation - to institutionalised
discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity. Instead of
promoting peaceful inter-group relations, it had precipitated
a cycle of wide-spread resistance and repression in which unacceptable
actions were committed by all sides. Instead of providing a solution,
it had led to injustice, growing international isolation and to
the escalation of the conflict that had been smouldering since
the early 'sixties.
Nature of the conflict
The conflict that South Africa experienced
between 1960 and 1994 had a number of dimensions:
One dimension was the conflict between
(mainly) Afrikaner nationalism and African nationalism.
Many of those who took part in the struggle
from the side of the Government, especially most of the Afrikaners,
believed, to start with, that they were defending the right of
their people to national self-determination in their own state
within a territorially partitioned South Africa. They believed
that their actions were in line, not only with the traditions
of their forefathers, but also with the universally accepted principle
that nations were entitled to defend their right to self-determination
in a country of their own. As the impracticality of this vision
for the Afrikaner nation became more and more evident during the
'eighties its importance as a motivating factor diminished for
most Afrikaans members of the National Party until it was finally
abandoned. It nevertheless remains, to this day, the ideal of
a significant proportion of Afrikaners who support the Freedom
Front, the Conservative Party and various right-wing organisations.
The demand by these political groups for Afrikaner self-determination
in a country of their own provides the context for many of the
incidents that occurred in the conflict up until the inauguration
of the Government of National Unity on 10 May 1994.
On the other hand, those who opposed
the Government had a diametrically different perception of the
nature of the South African nation. In their view neither the
Afrikaners nor the Whites were separate nations, but minorities
within a broader South African nation. For them, self-determination
meant one-man, one-vote in an undivided South Africa.
Another dimension of the conflict
was the struggle between various Black political movements and
Those who were united in their rejection
of apartheid at times fundamentally disagreed on how it should
be opposed. The two main schools of thought were those who favoured
violent and revolutionary strategies and those who preferred to
work for change within the system.
These disagreements led first to tension
and then conflict between the protagonists of these conflicting
Most notably it resulted in a protracted
violent conflict between the ANC and the IFP and in the murder
to many Black political and community leaders. Some of this continues
to this day.
Another important dimension of the
conflict was South Africa's involvement in the global ideological
struggle between the West and expansionist Soviet Communism.
Those who fought on the side of the Government believed that they were defending their country against what they perceived to be the aggressive expansion of Soviet communism. They had ample reason to believe this. The Sixth Congress of the Communist International had resolved, as early as 1928, that
"The CPSA ( Communist Party of
South Africa ) should pay particular attention to the ANC. Our
aim should be to transform the ANC into a fighting nationalist
From the 'sixties onwards, the ANC received
substantial aid from the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.
It was closely allied to - some would say dominated by - the South
African Communist Party. The SACP was, in turn, one of the most
Stalinist and pro-Soviet parties in the world. Among other actions,
it had enthusiastically supported the Soviet invasions of Hungary,
Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. The Soviet threat was not simply
McCarthyite paranoia on the part of the South African Government.
The reality was that SACP members held dominant positions within
the ANC's National Executive Committee and that Soviet surrogate
forces had established strong positions in a number of Southern
African countries, particularly in Angola. In September 1987 Soviet
and Cuban-led MPLA forces clashed with UNITA and SADF forces at
the Lomba River in southern Angola in what was probably the largest
set-piece battle in the continent since the Battle of El Alemein.
The SACP's agenda was to use its position
in the ANC-led alliance to promote a two-phase revolution. According
to a policy document produced by the SACP politburo in May 1986
the immediate attainment
of the socialist revolution is not on the agenda. This does not
mean that we are putting it off but, to quote Lenin's words, we
'are taking the first steps towards it in the only possible way,
along the only correct path, namely the path of a democratic republic.'"
The perception of those on the side
of the Government was accordingly that the installation of an
ANC Government would lead to Communist domination. They believed
that in conducting their struggle against the ANC, they were playing
an important role in the West's global resistance to the expansion
of Soviet Communism.
On the other hand, those who fought
against the Government were often equally convinced that they
were fighting against a bastion of capitalism and imperialism.
Finally, there was a dimension to
the conflict that related to the defence of the State and the
maintenance of law and order.
Many of those who fought on the side
of the security forces, particularly national servicemen and reservists,
often did so without any specific ideological or party-political
motive. They believed that it was their duty to carry out the
instructions of a legally constituted and internationally recognised
government. They also believed that they had an underlying and
non-party-political responsibility to uphold the law and to protect
the lives and property of citizens.
Millions of South Africans who opposed
apartheid also condemned the use of violence to achieve political
objectives. Newspapers in South Africa which were strenuous opponents
of apartheid often supported cross-border actions by the security
forces in cases where perpetrators sought refuge in neighbouring
states after murdering civilians in South Africa.
The great majority of those who served
in the security forces during the conflict were honourable, professional
and dedicated men and women. They were convinced that their cause
was just, necessary and legitimate.
The conflict escalated from 1960 onwards, after the ANC decided to opt for an armed struggle. It is doubtful whether this decision hastened the transformation process. It can be argued that socio-economic forces had already begun to change South Africa and that non-violent pressure and resistance would have been far more effective vehicles for change. Be that as it may, the ANC's armed struggle inevitably contributed to a major escalation in the general violence that has plagued South Africa ever since.
In the perception of those on the Government
side, the ANC and its allies were committed to the revolutionary
seizure of power and not to peaceful and negotiated reform. For
example, one of the documents submitted during the Rivonia trial
in 1964 read as follows:
"The people of South Africa, led
by the South African Communist Party, will destroy capitalist
society and build in its place socialism
from capitalism to socialism and the liberation of the working
class from the yoke cannot be effected by slow changes or by reforms
as reactionaries and liberals often advise, but by revolution.
One must therefore be a revolutionary and not a reformist."
At its National Consultative Conference
in June 1985 the ANC recommitted itself to a Peoples War "in
which a liberation army becomes rooted amongst the people who
progressively participate actively in the armed struggle both
politically and militarily
" Such a struggle would "lead
inevitably to a revolutionary situation in which our plan and
aim must be the seizure of power through a general insurrection."
Between September 1984 and May 1986
the ANC's revolutionary strategy had the following results:
The ANC's offensive against the Government
was supported by an international campaign of unprecedented proportions.
This campaign was centred in the United Nations and its agencies
and was orchestrated by the ANC, its Soviet allies and by international
anti-apartheid movements. At one stage, there were no fewer than
15 UN committees and organs that were solely or primarily dedicated
to the struggle against South Africa. The international campaign
affected every aspect of South Africa's international relations
and ultimately led to the imposition of arms, oil, sport, cultural,
economic and financial sanctions against South Africa. The objectives
of this campaign included an unprecedented international propaganda
offensive, the isolation of South Africa through the imposition
of comprehensive sanctions, support for the "armed struggle"
and the ultimate overthrow of the South African Government.
The then Government believed that it
was being confronted by a "total onslaught". Its response
was to develop its own "total strategy". The need for
such a total strategy was identified in a Government White Paper
on Defence in 1977 in the following terms;
"The process of ensuring and maintaining
the sovereignty of a state's authority in a conflict situation
has, through the evolution of warfare, shifted from the purely
military to an integrated national action
.. the resolution
of conflict in the times in which we now live demands interdependent
and co-ordinated action in all fields - military, psychological,
economic, political, sociological, technological, diplomatic,
ideological, cultural etc."
The vehicle that the Government established
to implement its total strategy and to co-ordinate the activities
of all branches of the Government in response to what it viewed
as the "total onslaught" was the National Management
System. The National Management System comprised the National
Security Management System (NSMS) and the National Welfare Management
System (NWMS). Responsibility for the NSMS rested with the State
Security Council, which was established in June, 1972. The NSMS
The prime purpose of the NMS was to
ensure that all branches of government responded in a co-ordinated
manner to the revolutionary threat. It was accepted that this
threat could not be effectively - or even primarily - countered
by military or security action. The main accent should instead
fall on the provision of effective government and social services
and in promoting inclusive constitutional solutions. This inevitably
led to the politicisation of the role of the security forces and
to their involvement in civilian administration.
It was the view of the Government that
orderly constitutional transformation could not take place in
a climate of general violence and insurrection. Thus, the National
State of Emergency that the Government declared on 12 June 1986
had as its declared aims:
The State of Emergency had, by 1988, succeeded to a reasonable extent in achieving most of these objectives. It restored a more acceptable level of law, order and security in most parts of the country; it helped to re-establish some degree of normality in most Black residential areas and it significantly contributed to the creation of a climate in which genuine and workable negotiations could take place.
However, far reaching Security Legislation
and the State of Emergency, with the suspension of many normal
legal protective measures, also created circumstances and an atmosphere
which were conducive to many of the abuses and transgressions
against human rights which form the basis of the Commission's
Unconventional actions and reactions
It was not only the strict Security
Legislation and the State of Emergency which created an atmosphere
conducive to abuses and transgressions. The unconventional nature
of the revolutionary thread created circumstances in which conventional
responses proved to be lest and lest effective. The revolutionary
strategies adopted by the Government's opponents blurred traditional
distinctions between combatants and non-combatants; between legitimate
and illegitimate targets; and between acceptable and unacceptable
The normal processes of law - and even
the government's tough security measures - seemed incapable of
dealing with this situation. Members of the security forces watched,
with increasing frustration, while revolutionary movements organised,
mobilised and intimidated or killed their opponents, seemingly
at will. The security forces were expected to play by the rules
while their opponents could, and did, use any methods that they
liked. There was a perceived need for unconventional counter-strategies
of the kind developed by the British and others in successful
campaigns against insurgency and terrorism. Consequently, the
then Government began to make use of unconventional strategies
which, of necessity, had to be planned and implemented on a "need
to know" basis.
In dealing with the unconventional
strategies from the side of the Government I want to make it clear
from the outset that, within my knowledge and experience, they
never included the authorisation of assassination, murder, torture,
rape, assault or the like. I have never been part of any decision
taken by Cabinet, the State Security Council or any Committee
authorising or instructing the commission of such gross violations
of human rights. Nor did I individually directly or indirectly
ever suggest, order or authorise any such action.
I have been involved as State President
in the legally required authorisation of cross border actions
aimed at legitimate military targets on the bases of cross-checked
intelligence information. Such authorisation specifically excluded
attacks on civilians and limited the use of violence to the minimum
required under prevailing circumstances.
I feel in duty bound to also place
on record that the above statement with regard to my position,
is also a reflection of the viewpoint of my colleagues who sat
with me in Cabinet, the State Security Council or Cabinet Committees.
I suggest that the Commission examine
the minutes of the Cabinet and the State Security Council in this
regard. Procedures are available to obtain permission from the
Government to do so and a full set of such minutes have been lodged
with the State Archives.
The type of unconventional actions which were approved, in principle, by the Cabinet and State Security Council related to such issues as information gathering, disinformation and assistance to outside organisations opposed to the revolutionary forces. These
matters are not the subject matter of
the Commission's terms of reference and I will therefore refrain
from dealing with them in detail. Suffice it to say that none
of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross
violation of human rights. It can, however, be argued that they
did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.
The Security Forces had to operate increasingly
within a framework of states of emergency, far-reaching security
legislation, underground activities and unconventional strategies.
They had to give operational interpretation to broadly framed
decisions, aimed at firm and effective action against the insurgency.
These circumstances created the environment
within which abuses and gross violations of human rights could
take place. However, it would be a serious mistake to adopt a
simplistic approach in judging such abuses and violations. Clear
distinctions should be drawn between varying situations:
During the latter years of the conflict,
and more specifically during my presidency, another factor came
to the fore. The fundamental change of direction that I initiated,
which involved the opening of negotiations, the termination of
secret operations and the lifting of the State of Emergency (which
is dealt with in more detail below), were not supported by some
elements in the Security Forces. My colleagues and I were accused
along the grapevine of being "soft" and of being traitors.
I suspect that many of the unauthorised actions, that are now
coming to light, were at time directed as much against the transformation
process as they were directed against the revolutionary threat.
It has now become clear that certain elements misused state
funds and were involved in unauthorised operations leading to
abuses and violation of human rights.
The nature and extent of many of these
abuses have since been uncovered by various commissions of enquiry
- and particularly the Goldstone Commission - by the media, by
the courts and by many of the perpetrators and now by the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission. It is not my purpose here to
try to find excuses for these abuses but to explain the historic
context within which they occurred.
It is important that the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission should continue to investigate all serious abuses
perpetrated by all sides in the conflict. Abuses committed
by the Security Forces have been widely publicised and are receiving
extensive attention from the Commission, from the Attorneys-General
and from the Courts. Insufficient attention has, however, been
focused on the instigators and perpetrators of the following incidents:
In addition, the Commission should investigate
serious human rights violations which occurred in ANC detention
centres in Southern Africa. These abuses have been the subject
of a number of investigations including those conducted by the
Stuart Commission, the Skweyiya Commission, the Motsuenyane Commission
and the Douglas Commission.
The Commission must also ensure that,
in its consideration of applications for amnesty, it adheres strictly
to the requirements of the 1993 constitution and to the precedent
already established by the extension of indemnity to large numbers
of people in terms of the Further Indemnity Act. In this regard,
it should be borne in mind that the great majority of such indemnities
were granted to supporters of revolutionary movements, that many
of them had committed and had been convicted of heinous and disproportional
crimes and that their release was part of the price demanded by
the ANC in September 1992 for returning to the negotiating table.
According to the South African Institute
of Race Relations 18 997 people died as a result of political
violence between September 1984 and December 1993. The scope of
the human suffering involved in this statistic is difficult to
conceive. All South Africans must be truly grateful that the parties
involved in the conflict were able to resolve their differences
and antipathies through peaceful negotiations. By so-doing they
were able to draw the country back from the brink of a general
war that might well have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands
of South Africans.
The nature of the transformation
By the end of the1980's it had become evident that the only possible solution to the constitutional impasse lay in negotiations between all South Africa's major parties, aimed at the establishment of a fully-inclusive non-racial democracy. This was a difficult and far-reaching decision for those in power - and especially for Afrikaner nationalists:
The negotiations were often on the point
of breaking down. It is hard to imagine, at the start of the process,
parties that were further apart than the National Party, the IFP
and the ANC. All of the parties involved saw one another - not
as they really were - but as the stereotypes depicted by their
Nevertheless, in December 1993, basic
agreement on the new Transitional Constitution was reached, despite
the numerous crises, boycotts and walk-outs that we experienced
during the process.
There is a tendency now for some parties
to claim a monopoly of the credit for the transformation process.
There were, in fact, many different forces at play. Among these
were, of course, the revolutionary movements themselves. It would
be wrong to minimise in any way the major contribution made by
revolutionary movements such as the ANC, or the individual sacrifices
of many of its members in the pursuit of their goal of national
liberation. This in not my intention. There were, however, other
important factors and forces involved in the liberation process.
From as early as 1978 the National Party
began with its own tentative process of reform - starting with
the important labour reforms that emerged from the recommendations
of the Wiehahn Commission. This culminated in unrestrained freedom
of labour organisation and association and the abolition of all
racial discrimination in labour relations.
With the establishment of the President's Council in 1978, the National Party also began to move towards the broadening of democracy. By 1983 it had, in terms of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act, no 110 of 1983, extended the franchise to the Coloured and Indian communities.
By the end of 1986 it had repealed some
100 discriminatory laws, including many laws such as the Pass
Laws that had constituted cornerstones of the policy of apartheid.
By 1987 the National Party Government
had established fully representative black local authorities.
In 1988 nation-wide elections were held for black local authorities.
26% of registered voters participated in the elections, despite
intimidation and strong opposition from the ANC and its allies.
Many of the councillors who were elected were subsequently tragically
murdered or forced from office through threats to their lives,
families and homes.
After I became State President in 1989
I took the following steps to further normalise the political
situation in South Africa:
There were many South Africans, inside and outside Parliament who believed that apartheid could best be dismantled by peaceful and constitutional means. They undoubtedly made a major contribution. In particular, the refusal of six of the national states - and especially KwaZulu - to accept independence was one of the key factors that ultimately persuaded the National Party Government of the failure of its overall policy.
The collapse of global communism in 1989 removed the major strategic concern that had dominated the thinking of the previous successive governments for decades and greatly facilitated negotiations with the ANC.
Sanctions imposed against South Africa
by the international community were undoubtedly a factor in the
process of change. However, more often than not, they served to
retard reform rather than stimulate it. The Government was always
more inclined to listen to the advice of countries that maintained
contact with it than those who sought to isolate South Africa.
For example, the decision of Malawi to send black diplomats to
Pretoria was far more effective in exposing the logical and logistical
absurdities of apartheid than any number of resolutions by the
United Nations. Throughout the negotiation process all sides received
strong encouragement from the international community to persevere
in their difficult attempts to reach peaceful accommodation.
During the twenty-five years between
1970 and 1995 there were dramatic - but largely unpublicised -
shifts in socio-economic relationships in South Africa which led
to the de facto and ultimately to the de jure transformation
of South Africa:
There is nothing new in this. Much of
history has been the story of how changing economic relationships
have led to changed social relationships. Ultimately these changed
relationships have placed irresistible pressure on antiquated
constitutional relationships and have led to the emergence of
According to the propaganda of our opponents, the years of National Party Government were characterised by the unbridled exploitation of black South Africans by whites.
The fact is that between 1948 and 1994
there were major socio-economic developments in South Africa,
many of them originating from Government initiatives from which
Black South Africans, in particular, benefited enormously:
In May 1994 the Government of National Unity inherited a country with an excellent infrastructure and well-established financial, industrial, agricultural, mining and service sectors.
Between 1948 and 1993 South Africa's
Gross Domestic Product increased by an average of 3,5% per annum
in real terms. By 1994 South Africa was the only country in Africa
with a fully developed modern sector.
These facts are not stated to justify
apartheid. However, it is a fallacy to blame the policies of the
past for everything which is wrong in present day South Africa.
Much more could have been achieved, had it not been for apartheid;
the revolutionary actions of the ANC and others; and the resulting
distortions imposed on our economy.
Against this background a number of
pertinent issues need to be dealt with, within the context of
the views set out in this submission, relating to the origins
and nature of this conflict:
I believe that the Commission needs
to develop guidelines in respect of the attribution of responsibility
to the various role-players in the conflict.
Obviously there rests an overall responsibility
on the leadership of the various parties, organisations and institutions
which were part of the conflict. I accept such overall responsibility
in respect of the period of my leadership. However, when it comes
to specific incidents, occurrences, deeds and transgressions it
will be necessary to apply specific guidelines.
As far as the State is concerned, I
submit that the following guidelines would be realistic, fair
Responsibility should be attributed
I furthermore submit that these guidelines
could, mutatis mutandis, be applied to
other parties, organisations or institutions.
2. Preventative measures
The question may justifiably be asked
whether the Government, during the period that I was State President,
exercised adequate control and took appropriate action to prevent
abuses - especially after public allegations had persistently
been made concerning so-called "third force" activities.
In response, I can provide the following list of some of the steps
that were taken in this regard and also in pursuance of the normalisation
of security force operations:
These steps - and particularly the reports
of the Goldstone Commission - were instrumental in uncovering
many of the abuses that have now come before the Courts and the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, the Goldstone Commission
consistently found that abuses had been committed by all sides
in the conflict.
I therefore submit that extensive steps,
in keeping with what could reasonably be required under prevailing
circumstances, were taken to prevent abuses and the gross violation
of human rights. The inability since 1994 of the new Government
to bring political violence in KwaZulu-Natal to an end serves
as a good case study of the limitations on any Government to effectively
deal with the type of violence which has plagued our country for
3. Reconciliation and the way forward
One of the main aims of the Commission's
activities is to promote reconciliation. This cannot be achieved
unless there is also repentance on all sides. It is in this spirit
that I want to emphasize that it is not my intention to excuse
or gloss over the many unacceptable things that occurred during
the period of National Party rule. They happened and caused immeasurable
pain and suffering to many. This is starkly illustrated by the
evidence placed before the Commission at its hearings across the
country. Many of the accounts by witnesses are deeply moving.
I should like to express my deepest
sympathy with all those on all sides who suffered during the conflict.
I, and many other leading figures, have
already publicly apologised for the pain and suffering caused
by former policies of the National Party. This was accepted and
publicly acknowledged by the Chairperson of the Commission, Archbishop
Tutu. I reiterate these apologies today.
It is my sincere wish that other parties
and organisations, which have not yet done so, will now do the
Without reconciliation, the future is
bleak. I commit the National Party to continue on the road of
reconciliation, reconstruction and development.
I believe that reconciliation goes hand
in hand with the issue of amnesty and reparation.
Throughout the negotiations that resulted
in the 1993 Constitution it was the understanding amongst the
parties that amnesty will be provided for in legislation in line
with agreements that had been reached during the process of negotiations.
Those agreements and understandings secured the negotiated constitutional
settlement that resulted in the peaceful transformation that we
have experienced over the last number of years.
It is therefore, fundamentally, important
that the Commission now deal with amnesty in an evenhanded way.
Any effort to apply stricter norms than those applied in the period
up till now, will result in injustice. During my term of Office
I found it extremely difficult in many cases to grant indemnity,
because of my personal abhorrence of the crimes involved. Nonetheless
I had to pardon those then involved because it was the only way
to ensure agreement and reconciliation. This difficult task now
rests on the shoulders of the Commission.
The task of reparation is an equally
difficult one and evenhandedness is equally important. In this
regard there are no direct precedents. The victims of the conflicts
of the past, more than anybody else, paid a heavy price for the
freedom we enjoy today. The country owes then a great debt of
gratitude and some or other form of reparation. The National Party
will support all reasonable guidelines developed by the Commission
in this regard and wish them well.
5. The way forward
Another prime purpose of the Truth and
Reconciliation process is to learn from the experiences of the
past and to ensure that we never again repeat the same mistakes.
I suggest that we should draw the following lessons and conclusions from all of these traumatic experiences:
May God, Almighty, grant the Commission
the wisdom and the insight to succeed in achieving the worthy
goals that Parliament has set for them.
F W DE KLERK