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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 692
Paragraph Numbers 497 to 509
■ THE ‘THIRD FORCE’
497 This section focuses on the notion that a ‘third force’ or ‘third force’ elements were involved in perpetrating the violence of the early 1990s. The Commission wishes to restrict the understanding of this phenomenon to the post-1990 period and specifically defines its central characteristic as violence covertly undertaken or encouraged. In this respect, the Commission distinguishes such a phenomenon from the discussions held at the level of the State Security Council in 1985/6 in which the establishment of a third force was contemplated. While some participants may well have held sinister views as to what such a third force would constitute, it is clear from documentation available to the Commission that the overall intention at that time was to set up an above-board third leg of the security forces to deal specifically with unrest. With regard to the 1990s, the task of the Commission was to investigate whether security force or other operatives or agencies were involved in directing or encouraging violence, from within state security structures and/or in alliance with other groups.
498 Before discussing the existence of such a ‘third force’, a few preliminary points and arguments should be made.
499 In the first place, there was a strong tendency on the part of various security forces structures and operatives to see their task as one of continued war against the enemies of the National Party. Structures such as STRATCOM, whose primary purpose appears to have been to continue a propaganda war against the ANC, and the authorisation of operations such as Project Echoes (see below) that sought to undermine the credibility of the ANC, continued to function. For many security force members, their existence undoubtedly confirmed that pronouncements of levelling the playing fields and normalising the political situation for free and fair elections represented the public face of NP policy, but at another, covert level, the war was to continue. In this regard, the Harms, Kahn and Goldstone Commissions and Steyn investigation were seen by many as public relations exercises rather than determined initiatives to root out 'dirty practices'. The long history of cover-ups and condonation of lying to such commissions merely reinforced this perception. Consequently, many operatives continued to conduct an all-out war against ‘the enemy’ and, as indicated earlier, elimination and the deadly use of force continued as a matter of routine.
500 When asked how he viewed the change in strategy between the 1980s and 1990s, a Military Intelligence (MI) member said: “In 1989 there was a strategy of counter-revolution. What I saw in 1990 after the FW announcement, we were all inKosi Bay, we all thought: this is it, fuck the kaffirs, this is the time to sort them out. That was the general situation in the security apparatus.”
501 Similarly, some sections of the liberation movements, in particular its rank and file, continued waging war against the security forces and the IFP. While negotiations had always formed part of ANC strategy, for most members of the ANC and other liberation movements, this simply meant negotiation for the transfer of power. When negotiation assumed a completely different form, winning at the polls became inextricably linked with the often violent contest for support and power at a local level. The existence of Operation Vula, which became public with the detentions of Mr Mac Maharaj and others, the continued training of MK members in foreign countries, and above all the arming of SDUs reinforced perceptions that continued offensive strategies were a legitimate part of the ANC negotiation strategy, notwithstanding the public position of the ANC. The suspension of the armed struggle by the ANC was greeted with dismay by many rank and file members, occurring as it did in conditions of near civil war in many communities, particularly the PWV area and Natal.
502 In this context, the establishment of SDUs – although created to protect communities against attack in the face of a complete lack of confidence in the security forces – inevitably led to wide-scale abuse and, in many instances, operated not just defensively but offensively as well. This, as has been suggested, was exacerbated by the lack of clear lines of control and accountability. Further, SDU members were given very little training, either military or political. This made it almost inevitable that the effect of arming such groups would lead to violence –particularly in function. For many security force members, their existence undoubtedly confirmed that pronouncements of levelling the playing fields and normalising the political situation for free and fair elections represented the public face of NP policy, but at another, covert level, the war was to continue. In this regard, the Harms, Kahn and Goldstone Commissions and Steyn investigation were seen by many as public relations exercises rather than determined initiatives to root out 'dirty practices'. The long history of cover-ups and condonation of lying to such commissions merely reinforced this perception. Consequently, many operatives continued to conduct an all-out war against ‘the enemy’ and, as indicated earlier, elimination and the deadly use of force continued as a matter of routine.
503 Whether or not forces were fomenting conflict or violence in communities and among groups, one of the enduring legacies of the previous years was a high degree of political intolerance on all sides. While the creation of divisions had been central to the experience of colonial rule, the entire policy of apartheid was predicated on the maintenance of ethnic and other divisions. The policy of contra-mobilisation during the 1980s intensified this ethnic, generational, inter-and intra-organisational conflict. Thus, for example, the deepening of divisions between Inkatha and the UDF had been central to state policy from the mid-1980s. The experience of violent struggle during the 1980s and conditions of near siege in many communities during the emergency years had left a deep suspicion of those seen to be allies of state. These conditions resulted in many situations in open conflict, and at times became self-generating. In such situations, infiltration by the security forces made structures particularly vulnerable to those pursuing double agendas or acting as agents provocateurs. The examples of Mr Sifiso Nkabinde and Mr Michael Phama dealt with above are powerful examples.
504 On all sides of the divide, the rapidly changing political scenario also led to the development of groups of disaffected operatives. Again, the military intelligence operative quoted above commented:
At the time of the FW purge of the National Party, he took the foundation of the securocrats from beneath their feet. The securocrats felt insecure, they still deemed (even until today) the ANC was the enemy … After the announcement in 1990 and the securocrats were caught unaware, they sat with the question, where to go now. Then individual commanders developed individual strategies … The last resort lay with the far right. By train violence, taxi wars, Boipatong, etc, can’t we create anarchy?
505 In such instances, security force and ex-security force members sometimes connected with elements of the right-wing who displayed increasing determination, at best, to prevent the transition or, at the very least, to strengthen the bargaining position of those attempting to negotiate the establishment of a volkstaat.
506 The NP itself was sharply divided about the appropriate strategic direction and different agendas were pursued by different factions. Thus, until the signing of the Record of Understanding in 1992, the principal negotiators, under the leadership of Minister Gerrit Viljoen, closely followed a direction that was welded to the notion of an IFP/NP alliance. Others, if only tacitly, remained closer to the kind of security force perspective outlined above.
507 A further factor in understanding the violence of the 1990s is the extent to which covert action, the existence of large amounts of secret funds and a climate of unaccountability led to an increasingly criminalised set of networks between members and ex-members of the security forces. In such cases, considerable financial interests were clearly furthered by a destabilised political situation. There is considerable evidence of ex- and serving security force members engaged in, for example, gun-running, as well as a range of other criminal activities. To some degree, the same pattern of criminalisation and involvement in gun-running is evident on the liberation movement side. Thus, for example, the Commission received amnesty applications from members of APLA’s ‘Repo Unit’ who applied for what appear to be largely criminal acts, as well as applications from SDU members involved in criminal activity. Such activity was partly a way of arming SDUs or APLA units, but there is evidence to suggest that, in some areas, criminal elements took over or got involved in SDUs. It is also clear that some impoverished disillusioned ex-guerrillas became involved in criminal networks.
508 Finally, the intensity and pace of the negotiations and the transition also resulted in rapidly shifting alliances between political parties – such as the IFP and the NP and later between the IFP and various right-wing groups. This made lines of command and accountability difficult to discern and identify.
509 These preliminary points need to be borne in mind when considering the evidence relating to a supposed ‘third force’.