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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 26
Paragraph Numbers 108 to 123
1979–1984: The ‘total strategy’, regional destabilisation and resistance
108 ‘Total strategy’ was based on the premise that South Africa was the object of a total onslaught, supported or even co-ordinated by the Soviet Union. The objective of this onslaught was to overthrow the government of South Africa. In a graphic illustration of this, at a briefing to the Commission, a former secretary of the SSC described a scene in the government’s operations room in the 1980s. A large map filled the wall. A series of markers and labels linked activists in a local township to larger co-ordinating structures nationally. From there a line was drawn linking exile structures in Lusaka to the offices of the KGB in Moscow.
109 The government understood the onslaught as being in the tradition of guerrilla warfare. This type of warfare is characterised by the relative unimportance of military operations in the sense of combat operations carried out against opposing armed forces. Rather, the aim of the revolutionary forces is to gain control of government by gaining the support of the people through a combination of intimidation, persuasion and propaganda.
110 The Botha government’s riposte was a ‘total strategy’ of counter-revolution, in which every sphere of government activity was to be co-ordinated so as to prevent the perceived revolutionary onslaught from succeeding. The task of the armed forces was to prevent the enemy – chiefly the ANC–SACP alliance, but also the PAC and others – from establishing a viable rear-base outside South Africa while, in its domestic operations, the government developed the necessary political initiatives to win the support of the population, thus enabling it to survive the revolutionary onslaught.
111 There were four main pillars to the ‘total strategy’: a the maintenance of state security at all costs; b reform of the political environment; c efficient and ‘clean’ government; d the co-ordination of all state action.
112 The importance of a ‘total strategy’ was underlined by developments within the ANC. A joint meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee and Revolutionary Council received a report from senior members of the ANC, the SACP and MK who had undertaken a study tour of Vietnam in October 1978 as part of a strategic review. The delegation had spent some time with General Giap, the architect of victories over both French colonial and US forces. Based on insights gained on this mission, the ANC/MK decided on an adaptation to its insurgency strategy.
113 Abandoning an earlier emphasis on rural guerrilla warfare, the strategy aimed now at integrating political and military activity, while attributing particular importance to urban areas. A Politico-Military Strategy Commission consisting of Mr Oliver Tambo, Mr Thabo Mbeki, Mr Joe Slovo, Mr Moses Mabhida, Mr Joe Gqabi and Mr Joe Modise was established to oversee the new strategic direction and, in 1979, a Special Operations Unit was formed which reported directly to the ANC president.
114 Militarily, a campaign of ‘armed propaganda’ attacks by a specially-trained elite unit (‘Special Ops’) was designed less for immediate military effect than to advertise the existence of MK and to win publicity and support. This was to lead to a general uprising or, to use the idiom of the time, a ‘people's war’.
115 The ‘lessons from Vietnam’ were contained in a report which became known as The Green Book, finalised in March 1979. It envisaged a strategy involving the escalation of armed attacks combined with the building of mass organisations. A strengthened underground movement inside the country would provide the link between the two. However, while underground political units of the ANC began to organise around some of the above aims, the military imperative remained the focus of ANC strategy in this period. At that time, the PAC was beset by splits and internal problems.
116 It was largely in response to the ANC/SACP mission to Vietnam, and the subsequent strategy overhaul, that Mr PW Botha convened an elite gathering of high-ranking cabinet ministers and security officials at Fort Klapperkop. Those attending the Fort Klapperkop conference included Mr Pik Botha, General Magnus Malan, Mr Gerrit Viljoen, Generals Jannie Geldenhuys and Johan Coetzee, and a General D'Almeida, a visitor from Argentina.
117 D’Almeida’s presence reflected an emerging alliance between South Africa and a set of allies of ‘pariah’ status internationally and with a reputation for ruthlessness, involving the use of violence and terror, towards their opponents. With Argentina in this group were Chile, Israel and Taiwan, all of whom had in recent years entered into some form of security co-operation with Pretoria.
118 Co-operation with Argentina continued. SAP commissioner, General Mike Geldenhuys, and some of his senior officers, including Brigadier Albertus Wandrag, head of the Riot Unit visited both Argentina and Chile in 1982. These trips led to mutual visits and agreements on the exchange of information. In May/June 1982, the British journal X-Ray reported “there was growing evidence of the use of new forms of torture in South Africa, which are known to have been used in Argentina”.
119 One of the major decisions of the Klapperkop Conference was to authorise the military’s Special Forces units to undertake counter-guerrilla operations outside of the country in order to prevent MK from developing rear-bases within striking distance of South Africa and, consequently, an effective logistical network.
120 General Magnus Malan, chief of the SADF and, from 1980, Minister of Defence, was first exposed to the theories of counter-insurgency in the United States where he completed the regular command and general staff officer’s course in 1962–63. As officer commanding of South West Africa Command from 1966–68, he acquired first-hand experience of a war conducted largely on the principles of counter-insurgency. During his tenure as chief of the army (1973–76), a series of joint inter-departmental counter-insurgency committees was established to help manage the war in Namibia, creating a model for the National Security Management System (NSMS).
121 In August 1979, the establishment of the NSMS was officially announced. It strengthened the SSC through the appointment of a permanent secretary and the establishment of a full-time Secretariat and Working Group and rationalised cabinet committees to four; namely, the Cabinet Committees on Constitutional Affairs, Economic Affairs, Social Affairs and Security. The latter, the Cabinet Committee on Security, was the already existent SSC and sat at the pinnacle of the NSMS. Later, the NSMS was divided into two arms – a Security Management System and a Welfare Management System. The former was headed by the SSC while the latter was headed by the remaining three cabinet committees (Constitutional Affairs, Economic Affairs and Social Affairs). In the mid-1980s these two systems were integrated into a National Co-ordinating Committee.
122 The SSC was the policy and decision-making body of the NSMS. It was assisted by a Work Group and between twelve and fifteen Interdepartmental Committees (IDCs). Decisions taken at the fortnightly SSC meetings were sent to the heads of the respective departments for implementation. From 1979 onwards, some 500 regional, district and local Joint Management Centres were put into place, theoretically enabling a co-ordinated security system to reach from the highest level to the smallest locality. The first national strategy of the SSC, known as Boek 1/Beleid: Die RSA se Belange en die RSA-Regering se Doel, Doelstellings en Beleid4 was approved by cabinet in March 1980.
123 The establishment of the NSMS was followed by a related restructuring of the intelligence services – an outcome of the Klapperkop Conference and an accompanying initiative, the Coetzee Committee. A conference held at Simonstown in January 1981 focused, inter alia, on the establishment of a co-ordinating intelligence body known by its Afrikaans acronym as KIK (the Co-ordinating Intelligence Committee). The conference also looked at the areas of responsibility of the various structures. The result was a division of labour between the police and the military. In regard to extra-South African territories, Swaziland was assigned to the SAP while the rest of the world, but more particularly the region, became an SADF responsibility. The agreement also made provision for joint SAP–SADF operations. As a consequence, the powers of the NIS (the reconstituted BOSS) were considerably reduced, while those of the SADF substantially increased.4 Book 1/ Policy: The RSA’s Interests and the RSA Government’s Aims, Objectives and Policy.