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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 339
Paragraph Numbers 67 to 80
Gross violations of human rights in the context of the ‘people’s war’
67 In some cases, ANC supporters were responsible for perpetrating gross violations of human rights in contravention of the express policies of the organisation. Some of the individuals responsible have applied for amnesty arguing that, although not formally under orders of the ANC, they believed they were acting in accordance with ANC strategic objectives at the time. Such acts included the killings of local councillors, police officers, alleged informers and others deemed to be ‘collaborators’. Such killings sometimes involved the use of the ‘necklace’ method. The apportioning of accountability for such violations is a difficult matter, given the complexities and difficulties of mass organisation during the period.
68 The relationships between the ANC and other liberation movements in exile, and between the ANC and the internal mass organisations that became central to the resistance movements in the late 1970s and 1980s, were complex. They were tenuous in that the internal underground structures of the exiled ANC, for most of the period, were weak. This meant that lines of communication and decision-making between those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside’ were often ineffective. The relationship was strong in that there was an extremely dedicated core of activists inside the mass movements who owed loyalty to the ANC. Even where they were not formally linked into decision-making structures via underground cells, they communicated with the ANC in exile and on Robben Island through an ingenious variety of methods. Through this complicated and uneven process, activists inside South Africa interpreted what they understood to be ‘the line’ of ‘the Movement’. There were, however, many occasions where activists themselves were, in practice, determining ‘the line’ and where the ANC in exile was bound to accept their interpretation of events ‘on the ground’.
69 The ANC played a direct role in the establishment of the ‘new generation’ of mass organisations in the late 1970s. Mass mobilisation formed one of the ‘four pillars’ of ANC strategy as outlined in the Green Book. Many individual activists who filled key positions in the organisations that made up the democratic mass movement held primary allegiance to the ANC. Their loyalty to two (sometimes more) organisations seldom resulted in conflict, and there was an unspoken understanding that organisations such as the United Democratic Front (UDF) and its affiliates would not act in ways which countered ANC policy – except inasmuch as they did not engage in armed actions and tried to remain within the terrain of legal operation.
70 The fact that individual leaders of the mass movements owed allegiance to the ANC did not necessarily mean that they were all ANC members or linked to the underground network. Yet, some individuals were formal members of the ANC and were involved in the underground structures. With the blurring of the boundaries of these allegiances, it has been difficult to ascertain accountability for the various violations of human rights allegedly perpetrated in the name of the ANC during the 1980s.
Conflict with Inkatha
71 Violent conflict between supporters of Inkatha and supporters of the UDF broke out in parts of Natal in the early 1980s and escalated rapidly over the next ten years. The role of the ANC in this conflict is difficult to determine. On the one hand, many of the conflicts were local battles over resources, control and patronage of Inkatha officials (who controlled, amongst other things, local government, land access, education and housing in KwaZulu). On the other, the ANC had, from the time of the severing of ties between the two organisations, engaged in propaganda which encouraged its supporters to see Inkatha as ‘the enemy’.
72 While the ANC denied that its armed operatives had ever considered political leaders or members of Inkatha to be ‘legitimate targets’, Mr Joel Netshitenzhe of the ANC told the ‘recall hearing’ of the Commission that:
From time to time there were individuals in these structures, be it in the community councils or in the Bantustan structures, who behaved in such a manner within communities that they defined themselves as targets to those communities, and amongst those communities you would from time to time find MK cadres who would have responded to such attacks and provocation.
73 There were numerous armed attacks on Inkatha members in the late 1980s, involving hand grenades and automatic rifles. The ANC explained that a plan by an MK unit to assassinate Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi was stopped by MK commanders; however, many lower profile Inkatha leaders were killed.
74 The ANC was asked specifically to respond to documents stating that correspondence to Mr Thami Zulu (at the time head of MK operations in Natal) “emphasised the need to infiltrate smaller groups to deal with Inkatha warlords” from December 1987 onwards. Mr Joe Modise, head of MK, responded that Thami Zulu would have had the “latitude to act” in response to such requests; but that such a request had not been discussed in MK headquarters. Mr Matthews Phosa, who was a member of the MK command in Mozambique at the time, denied that such a matter had ever been discussed.
75 As a result of public statements by Chief Buthelezi that his party would not cooperate with the Commission, the Commission was unable to access any significant number of statements from Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members and supporters who were victims of human rights violations. The Commission went to extensive lengths to persuade the IFP to participate in its work, but with limited success. In late 1997, shortly before the cut-off date for the making of victim statements, KwaZulu-Natal premier Ben Ngubane issued a public statement encouraging IFP members who had been victims of violations to make statements to the Commission so they could qualify for financial reparations. This resulted in a small number of IFP victims coming forward.
76 In the submission it made to the Commission, the IFP said that differences between Inkatha and the ANC proved irreconcilable at the 1979 meeting in London. “From then onwards”, said Mr Frank Mdlalose, “Inkatha was singled out as an enemy because it refused to crook the knee to the ANC or accept its strategy of armed struggle and the destruction of the South African economy.”
77 Relations between the ANC and Inkatha deteriorated rapidly after the London meeting. Initially, the conflict took the form of a war of words. The ANC embarked upon a propaganda onslaught against Chief Buthelezi and Inkatha. UDF supporters on the ground became increasingly antagonistic towards Inkatha, describing its leadership, particularly Chief Buthelezi, variously as a “sell-out” and a “puppet of Pretoria”. Former senior IFP official Mr Daluxolo Luthuli told the Commission that:
Zulu traditional leaders were by this time coming under increasing attack by the ANC. Comrades were attacking, murdering and destroying the homes of councillors, indunas and chiefs. This was a strategy of the ANC and was even announced on Radio Freedom.
78 The IFP provided the Commission with a substantial volume of information from the propaganda apparatus of the ANC at this time, illustrating the extent to which the IFP became the focal point for opposition to the system.
79 When in late 1985 Chief Buthelezi was alerted to alleged MK plans to assassinate him, he turned to the state security apparatus for support. Buthelezi’s requests included the training and deployment of a VIP guard unit, an intelligence structure, a KwaZulu army, the authority to issue firearm licenses and a paramilitary force. The SADF viewed the question of covert assistance to Inkatha as mutually beneficial; it saw Inkatha playing a central role in its strategic response to ‘the total onslaught’ by the liberation and resistance movements.
80 In his amnesty application, Daluxolo Luthuli confirmed that the IFP felt that the only course open to it was to mobilise a paramilitary capacity: Militant youth who were affiliated to the UDF were very active in black areas. Through violence and intimidation they were forcing people to support them in their efforts to make the country ungovernable. People who did not support the comrades were abused in many ways by these comrades. People’s courts were held and the sentences which were meted out by youngsters were often inhumane and barbaric. People were commonly sentenced to hundreds of lashes, forced to parade naked through townships and killed by necklacing.