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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 3
Paragraph Numbers 10 to 17
10 While few statements were been received from deponents and victims outside South Africa, it has been argued that the majority of victims of gross violations of human rights were in fact residing outside the country’s borders at the time the violations were committed. One of the biggest single incidents of gross violation which occurred during the mandate period was the assault by the SADF on a base of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) located at Kassinga, Angola in 1978. More than 600 people were killed at Kassinga in one day. According to SWAPO, these were unarmed refugees. According to the South African government, Kassinga was a guerrilla base and thus a legitimate military target. This is discussed in this volume.
11 Second, from evidence before the Commission, it would appear that conflicts in southern African states, particularly in Mozambique, Namibia and Angola, were often inextricably linked to the struggle for control of the South African state. Hence there is a sense in which the large number of people who died in wars and conflicts in the neighbouring states since 1960 did so, to some extent, in the furtherance of the South African struggle. While it is impossible to specify how many of these deaths were directly connected to the struggle for South Africa, the Commission believes that the number of people killed inside the borders of the country in the course of the liberation struggle was considerably lower than those who died outside.
12 It is for this reason that a distinction has been made in this volume between security activities and gross violations of human rights outside and inside South Africa’s borders. This does not imply that the two spheres were separate. It is, however, clear that some of the most powerful protagonists in the conflict in South Africa recognised at an early stage that the contest was occurring to a large extent outside South Africa. In its first submission to the Commission, the SADF stated emphatically that “national security policy made explicit provision for pro-active actions beyond the borders of the RSA”1. This was consistent with a view frequently expressed at State Security Council (SSC) meetings that the defence of South Africa should take place outside its borders. The South African government’s principal armed opponent, Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) also recognised, after the arrest of many of its personnel and the destruction of its internal organisation in the early 1960s, that its war had of necessity to be waged from outside South Africa.
13 Evidence before the Commission shows that members of the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in exile were also involved in the commission of gross violations of human rights, particularly within their own ranks.
14 The difficulty of attributing precise responsibility for human rights violations committed outside South Africa applies also to the internal situation. As the political conflict in the country gained intensity, many more people were drawn into activism. In the 1990s particularly, more gross violations were carried out by members of South African society acting in what they considered to be the pursuit of a political aim than by members of political organisations acting on the express orders of their superiors. Both the state security services and guerrilla organisations such as MK aimed to supply such social actors with the means to achieve their aims – including weapons, information, trained personnel, and, in the case of the state, funding. It was therefore difficult to attribute direct responsibility for many violations, such as the lynchings or necklacings carried out by crowds loosely aligned to the ANC/UDF in the 1980s, and attacks carried out by social groups such as the ‘witdoeke’ in Crossroads, encouraged and endorsed by state security forces.
15 The political authorities that promoted these actions, such as the chief of staff (intelligence) of the SADF, or the ANC propaganda station Radio Freedom, can be seen to have encouraged them or created the climate in which they occurred. They cannot, however, be described as direct perpetrators.
16 By the 1990s, the great majority of human rights violations, especially killings, were being carried out by persons who were not bound to a political authority. In some cases, weapons were supplied by organised groups. The Commission sought to establish a proper balance between individual cases where an identified perpetrator could be shown to have violated the rights of a specific victim, and the many more cases where large numbers of people, hundreds or even thousands, were killed in the course of ‘collective’ violence. Examples of the latter included drive-by shootings, indiscriminate massacres on trains or in certain residential areas, and armed political conflicts in KwaZulu-Natal and the East Rand where the responsibility of individual actors cannot be identified with precision.
17 Volume Three of this report deals with human rights violations in the different provinces and regions of the country. In many ways, the division between that volume and this is an arbitrary one and has resulted in an inevitable overlap in certain instances. In others, detail is included in one volume and simply sketched or referred to in the other. Ideally, the two volumes should be read together and seen as complementary.1 p. 12.