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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 11
Paragraph Numbers 39 to 49
39 Poqo targeted white suburbs and individuals seen to be ‘collaborators’. The popular theme at its branch and cell meetings was the overthrow of white rule by force. It also believed that the way to liberation was through a ‘bloodbath’. Part of the blood to be spilt was that of black informers, spies and collaborators with the government. Hence bantustan chiefs like Mr Kaiser Matanzima also became targets. Any who questioned the legitimacy and constitutionality of certain developments could be included in the category of ‘enemy agents’. While the PAC disciplinary code encouraged members to air their views “and to agree or disagree with all or any member of the movement, including the leader”, there were instances where action was taken against those who disagreed openly with the leadership.
40 Following the events of the early 1960s, the South African government began to implement its bantustan policy. All Africans were to be stripped of South African citizenship and forced to become citizens of separate, ethnic bantustans or homelands. Ten homeland administrations were set up, although the South African security forces remained at least partially in control of security in the homelands.
41 The government also sought to strengthen and re-organise its security forces and security legislation. During the 1950s, the government had passed a range of security laws including the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, the Public Safety Act of 1953, the Police Amendment Act of 1955 and the Riotous Assemblies Act of 1956. During the 1960s, the government enacted further laws to counter the influence of political organisations which had been banned by law, notably the ANC, PAC and SACP.
42 One of the first such acts was the Indemnity Act of 1961 which granted indemnity to police officers for acts committed in good faith. It was made retrospective to 21 March 1960 (the date of the Sharpville and Langa massacres) and began the process of placing the police above and beyond public scrutiny.
43 The General Law Amendment Act (1962), one of many to amend the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, built on the general premise that new security legislation was necessary to fight the perceived threat from ‘Communist’ organisations and Marxist ideology. During the second reading of the bill in Parliament, Minister of Justice Mr BJ Vorster noted that, considering the balance between personal liberty and the interests of the state, the state should offer protection only to the law-abiding citizen. In view of the brutal acts of sabotage that had been committed, the state now needed protection against subversion and the legislation was intended as a pre-emptive measure to maintain order and calm within the state.
44 The Act increased the government’s power to declare organisations unlawful, as well as to impose a host of restrictions in the form of banning orders on designated persons. The Act also created the offence of sabotage which encompassed broad-based elements such as “wrongful and wilful” acts designed to “obstruct, injure, tamper with or destroy … the health and safety of the public” or “the supply of water, light, power, fuel or foodstuffs”. The penalties were the same as those for treason, ranging from a minimum five-year sentence to the death penalty. Further, the Act transferred the burden of proof to the accused, rather than maintaining the traditional stance that the accused was innocent until proven guilty.
45 The Act was followed by a series of measures aimed at strengthening the legal powers and effectiveness of the police as well as the powers of provincial Attorneys-General and the Minister of Justice. Simultaneously, the government curbed the ability of the judiciary to review the new security laws or to release people detained under these provisions. A further amendment to the General Law Amendment Act (1963) made provision for incommunicado detention for a period of ninety days. In practice, people were often released after ninety days only to be immediately re-detained for a further three-month period. This Act was later replaced by other laws providing for detention without trial – the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act of 1965, providing for a 180-day period of detention and re-detention, and the Terrorism Act of 1967, allowing for indefinite detention.
46 These laws were critical in establishing an environment of surveillance and repression in which the police were seen to be beyond public scrutiny and ‘untouchable’ by the judiciary.
47 In 1961, responsibility for the police was added to Justice Minister Vorster’s portfolio. In 1962, he appointed Lieutenant General JM Keevy as commissioner of police and, in 1963, Hendrik van den Bergh as head of the Security Branch. According to the official history of the SAP, the three were a formidable triumvirate whose major objective was “to safeguard and protect the country.”2 They obtained significant increases in the police budget, a large proportion of which was absorbed by the Security Branch, which grew substantially in the 1960s.
48 A special unit, the so-called ‘Sabotage Squad’ was set up, drawn from the SAP’s investigative section. In addition, a covert intelligence section was established as part of the Security Branch in 1963. Known as Republican Intelligence (RI), it largely ran ‘informers’ and aimed to penetrate the liberation and specifically the armed opposition movements. Many of the informers so recruited were journalists. Mr Gordon Winter, author of the book Inside BOSS, credits RI with the Rivonia bust, helping to smash Poqo, infiltrating the ARM and compiling extensive dossiers on white liberals connected to the Liberal Party. Winter was initially handled by Mr Johan Coetzee and later Mr Mike Geldenhuys, both of whom were later to lead the Security Branch before going on to become commissioners of police.
49 By utilising this legislative and institutional framework, the NP government effectively put the lid on extra-parliamentary opposition by the mid-1960s. The life sentences imposed on the leadership of MK at the Rivonia trial in November 1964 marked the end of this period of internal underground resistance.2 Marius de Witt Dippenaar: The South African Police Commemorative Album, p. 308.