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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 418

Paragraph Numbers 70 to 77

Volume 2

Chapter 5

Subsection 11

1983 - 1989: Reform, Resistance and Repression - Historical and political overview

70 In 1978, Mr PW Botha assumed the premiership following Vorster’s resignation in the wake of the Information Department scandal. Buoyed by a brief economic upswing early in his term, Botha initiated a wide-ranging, carefully calculated period of reform. Explicitly controlled from above, Botha’s cautious reforms were designed to give form to his famous call for white South Africa “to adapt or die”. Botha’s so-called Total Strategy combined limited political concessions to non-whites with increased militarisation to counter opposition at home and abroad. However, by 1983, Botha’s cautious reformism lay in tatters. Far from neutralising the perceived ‘total onslaught’ against the state, opposition to the government and its policies peaked in the form of a widespread popular uprising that continued throughout the decade. The homelands were not immune to the rising tide of resistance.

71 Like urban South Africa, the homelands witnessed a peak in political activity in this period. In part, opposition in the homelands was spurred on by developments elsewhere in the country, especially in the townships. However, developments internal to the homelands were at least as important in politicising bantustan populations.

72 Despite reformist initiatives in other spheres, the Botha administration did not dramatically alter the state’s homeland policy. Throughout this period, the traditional tools of influx control, denationalisation and independence remained the pillars of government policy towards the homelands. Perhaps the most important policy development in this period was the government’s increasing reliance on incorporation to consolidate and strengthen the homelands. As demonstrated numerous times, however, the new tactic of redrawing boundaries to enlarge the homelands only created new or fuelled existing opposition in the affected areas. The conflict in KwaNdebele and Moutse in the mid-1980s dramatically illustrated this dynamic.

73 Because of increased resistance, combined with the continued growth of homeland forces, the security situation in all of the homelands deteriorated dramatically. The highest number of homeland gross violations of human rights reported to the Commission was for the period 1983-1989. In addition to the increase in resistance and repression, the homelands posed increasing security concerns for the South African government, proving to be dangerously unstable. In a number of cases, the very security forces created by South Africa to defend homeland rule rose up to challenge incumbent homeland governments. In Bophuthatswana and the Ciskei, South African forces put down several attempted coups. Meanwhile, South African security force personnel were implicated in fuelling a series of cross-border raids between Ciskei and Transkei during the SADF’s Operation Katzen. By the end of the period, Major General Bantu Holomisa of the TDF had engineered the first successful coup when he deposed Stella Sigcau’s Transkei government in December 1987. More coups would follow in the 1990s.

74 In KwaZulu, Inkatha became increasingly alienated from the ANC and the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Chief Buthelezi began to turn towards the South African government for more assistance. Covert assistance to Inkatha from the SADF MI’s Directorate of Special Tasks (DST) began during this period, through Operation Marion, and involving the training of paramilitary style units in the Caprivi, Namibia, which were subsequently deployed in KwaZulu. Years later, some of these recruits were taken into the KZP. DST, which had also been responsible for Operation Katzen in Transkei and Ciskei, was responsible for support to external covert groupings such as RENAMO in Mozambique, UNITA in Angola and the Lesotho Liberation Army in Lesotho.

Development of security forces
Homeland police forces

75 Throughout this period, homeland police forces continued to expand, both in size and importance. With the transfer of policing authority to KwaNdebele and KaNgwane in 1986, all of the homelands supported their own police forces. By the end of the decade, these forces had grown to considerable size. One analyst has reported that by 1990, the Transkei Police employed 3 300 police officers, the Venda and Ciskei forces each numbered 2 000 and Bophuthatswana boasted the largest force with 5 300 police officers. Another observer estimated that by the early 1990s approximately 20 000 black police officers served in the ten homeland forces.

76 It was also during this period that the Caprivi trainees from Operation Marion in KwaZulu were recruited as special constables and formally brought into the security structures. In 1988, some 300 Inkatha supporters were recruited as special constables, including 130 of the Caprivi trainees. This influx could account for some of the large increase in spending on policing in KwaZulu during this period (see budgets below).

77 The SAP continued to operate in the self-governing territories. In KwaZulu, the SAP’s Riot Unit 8 actively assisted Inkatha members in attacks on non-Inkatha residents.

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