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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 681

Paragraph Numbers 449 to 460

Volume 2

Chapter 7

Subsection 35

East Rand: Violations committed by SDUs and other ANC members

449 Violent conflict started in late 1990 in the townships of East Rand, when the ANC suspended the armed struggle, and the IFP was established as a political party and set up branches in hostels in various Reef townships.

450 Many of the violations committed by the ANC in this period were committed by paramilitary structures known as SDUs. The ANC argued in its first submission to the Commission that these structures were established in response to “grassroots demands for protection against the onslaught” of violence which began in August 1990, and that by the end of 1990, “pressure for the formation of SDUs had reached fever pitch”. The ANC emphasised that the SDUs were to be ‘nonpartisan’ bodies established within local communities for their protection. They claim that, “It was made clear that the overall control of SDUs was to remain with community structures and MK cadres were to participate as members of the community. MK command was to play a secondary role”. However, given the climate of political intolerance which prevailed and the role of senior members of MK in training and organising SDUs, it happened that in many cases the SDUs were seen as ANC structures. They have thus been analysed as ‘paramilitary structures’ of the ANC.

451 The ANC’s second submission to the Commission details the manner in which SDUs were established and trained. The document entitled For the Sake of Our Lives is appended to the ANC submission as an example of the instructions given by MK leadership for the training of SDUs in the 1990s. Regarding the setting up of SDUs, the ANC told the Commission:

Various clandestine units for the training and organisation of the various SDUs were set up, and some cadres were tasked to provide weaponry where possible … Selected members of MK, including senior officials from the command structures, were drawn into an ad hoc structure to assist with the arming of units … We do not have a record of MK’s role in SDUs since they were not HQ controlled structures.

452 The Commission received amnesty applications from Mr Ronnie Kasrils [AM5509/97], Mr Robert McBride [AM7033/97], Mr Aboobaker Ismail [AM7109/97] and Ms Janet Love [AM6652/97] – all members of the MK Command and senior ANC leadership – for their involvement in the establishment of SDUs. In addition, there are applications from ANC leaders Mr Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe [AM7170/97] and Mr Alec Erwin [AM6091/97]. As regards the East Rand conflict, the amnesty applications pertaining to the involvement of SDUs in conflict and violence were received from ANC members Mr Esau Chechela Machitje [AM7634/97], Mr Michael Khinini Phama [AM3155/96] and Mr Marvin Mokgale Maesela [AM3149/96].

453 A large number of violations by the ANC in this period involve the killing or severe ill treatment of ANC members by other ANC members. The amnesty hearing for members of the Katlehong SDU was heard in Boksburg in March 1998. In this application, members of the SDU testified that they had killed fourteen members of their community, including members of the ANCYL, because of conflict between the two groups in this period. The political motive given for these acts was that they were acting for the ‘self-defence’ of their community against an ‘enemy’, defined in this case as being certain members of the ANCYL.

454 The Commission asked the ANC leadership whether it was not irresponsible of the ANC to arm and train a force over which it did not exercise control. In response, Ronnie Kasrils acknowledged that “It was a very problematic situation and one could say at times extremely confusing”. However, he stressed the point made in the ANC submission that it “was made clear that the control (of these structures) was to remain with community structures. MK members were to participate as members of the community”.

Accumulation and distribution of weapons for the SDUs

455 After the ANC was unbanned and the leadership returned to the country, the ordnance department continued to play a role in the distribution of weapons. In the second ANC submission, it is noted that it was agreed that selected SDUs, particularly in the Reef area, would be assisted in arming themselves. Selected MK members, including senior officials from the command structure, were drawn into ad hoc structures to assist in the arming and training of units. This was in line with the ANC policy of assisting communities to defend themselves as decided at the 1991 MK conference in Venda. In the ‘recall hearings’, Mr Thabo Mbeki testified that the original intention was to get arms caches licensed and distributed legally to the SDUs, but this did not happen.

456 According to Kasrils, he was given the responsibility of ensuring the SDUs were provided with weapons. At this time, he was a member of the NEC of the ANC. He turned to Aboobaker Ismail and Riaz Saloojee for assistance. They created dead letter boxes (DLBs) in the worst hit areas - Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Vaal triangle, East and West Rand, Eastern Cape including Ciskei and the Western Cape. He claimed to have passed these to Chris Hani who then passed them on to those responsible in the areas concerned.

457 In other areas, SDUs made their own arrangements to obtain weapons from the central ordnance caches and/or outside the country. In the southern Natal region, an MK unit comprising of inter alia Mr Sipho Sithole [AM5950/97], Mr Vusi Ngobese, Mr Sipho Magwaza and Mr Mandlenkosi Makhoba [AM6620/97] were charged with various counts in relation to the transportation of weapons into South Africa from Mozambique through the Golela border post in 1992 and 1993. According to Sipho Magwaza, the weapons formed part of a cache laid down by central ordnance. He noted that not all areas had access to these weapons. His grouping had a personal relationship with an MK commander (whose name he did not wish to reveal) who assisted them in obtaining these weapons in Mozambique. These weapons were then distributed to various cells by MK ‘Chief’. No register was kept of the weapons distributed and their final location is allegedly unknown.

458 Yet other amnesty applications indicated that certain SDUs obtained weapons and ammunition from sources other than central ordnance. SDUs, such as the Katlehong and Thokoza structures, collected funds from the community and gave them to their logistics officer to buy weapons in Phola Park9. According to an MK member interviewed by the Commission, in some areas ANC members bought weapons from hostels and/or IFP dominated areas such as Tugela Ferry under the guise of being IFP supporters. In some cases, ANC members obtained arms by stealing them from police and other considered to be ‘enemies’.

459 Kasrils stated that strict instructions were sent out that the weapons were to be used for self-defence only. However, the fact that SDUs were armed and yet were not under any clear military discipline led to numerous situations in which human rights violations occurred. Two examples of this are the Katlehong SDUs on the East Rand (see Volume Three) and Khayelitsha SDUs in Cape Town (see above).

9. See Amnesty application of G Vilikazi [AM7730/97], AN Maci [AM 7635/97] and Meshack Thulo [AM 7714/97]
Violence in the wake of Chris Hani’s assassination

460 In 1993, Mr Glen Weakley and Mr Alistair Weakley were killed in the Transkei by ANC members in the wake of Chris Hani’s assassination. Their sister Ms Roslyn Stratford testified that Alistair, a lawyer from Grahamstown, and his brother Glenn, an engineer from Durban, were on a fishing holiday when they were ambushed and shot dead. The five attackers were all arrested and appeared in Umtata supreme court on murder charges. The accused admitted to being members of the ANCYL and claimed to have been driven by revenge for the death of Chris Hani. However, it is clear that in this case the ANC’s policy was not to engage in acts of violence in retaliation for Hani’s death – especially not against white civilians – and the ANC as a party cannot be held responsible for the actions of these members (see above and further in Volume Three)

WHILE THE COMMISSION ACCEPTS THAT THE VIOLENT CONFLICT THAT CONSUMED THE COUNTRY IN THE POST-1990 PERIOD WAS NEITHER INITIATED NOR IN THE INTERESTS OF THE ANC, THE ANC MUST NONETHELESS ACCOUNT FOR THE MANY HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE KILLED OR INJURED BY ITS MEMBERS IN THE CONFLICT. WHILE THE ANC LEADERSHIP HAS ARGUED THAT ITS MEMBERS WERE ACTING IN SELF-DEFENCE, IT IS THE COMMISSION’S VIEW THAT AT TIMES THE CONFLICT ASSUMED LOCAL DYNAMICS IN WHICH PROACTIVE REVENGE ATTACKS WERE CARRIED OUT BY BOTH SIDES. THIS SITUATION WAS EXACERBATED BY HIGH LEVELS OF POLITICAL INTOLERANCE AMONG ALL PARTIES, INCLUDING THE ANC. FURTHER, THE COMMISSION CONTENDS THAT THE LEADERSHIP SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF TRAINING AND ARMING MEMBERS OF SDUS IN A VOLATILE SITUATION AND IN WHICH THEY HAD LITTLE CONTROL OVER THE ACTIONS OF SUCH MEMBERS.
THE COMMISSION THEREFORE FINDS THAT, IN THE PERIOD 1990-1994, THE ANC WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR:
  • THE KILLINGS, ASSAULTS AND ATTACKS ON POLITICAL OPPONENTS, INCLUDING IFP MEMBERS, PAC AND AZAPO MEMBERS AND MEMBERS OF THE SAP;
  • CONTRIBUTING TO A SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE IN THE COUNTRY THROUGH THE CREATION AND ARMING OF SDUS. WHILST THE COMMISSION ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT WAS NOT THE POLICY OF THE ANC TO ATTACK AND KILL POLITICAL OPPONENTS, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT IN THE ABSENCE OF ADEQUATE COMMAND STRUCTURES AND IN THE CONTEXT OF WIDE SPREAD STATE-SPONSORED OR DIRECTED VIOLENCE AND A CLIMATE OF POLITICAL INTOLERANCE, SDU MEMBERS OFTEN ‘TOOK THE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS’ AND COMMITTED GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
THE COMMISSION TAKES NOTE THAT THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP OF THE ANC AND THE COMMAND STRUCTURE OF MK HAVE ACCEPTED POLITICAL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL THE ACTIONS OF ITS MEMBERS IN THE PERIOD 1960-1994 AND THEREFORE FINDS THAT THE LEADERSHIP OF THE ANC AND MK MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR ALL GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS PERPETRATED BY ITS MEMBERSHIP AND CADRES IN THE MANDATE PERIOD.
 
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