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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 695
Paragraph Numbers 510 to 521
Evidence of security force involvement in ‘third force’ activities
510 As indicated above, there was a long tradition of waging an all out war on the ANC, and in particular MK, that did not cease in 1990. Three related factors about the way in which this war was waged have a bearing on the issue of security force involvement in third force activities: firstly, increasing resort to unlawful methods by the security forces; secondly, a consistent attempt to make use of other parties or surrogate forces; and thirdly the use of covert structures. While this was especially true of the mid- to late 1980s, the origins of approach lay earlier.
511 A number of examples can be given about the way in which significant sections of the security forces, with sanction from high up the chain of command, increasingly engaged in actions that involved transgressions of the law:
512 As indicated elsewhere, torture was widely and routinely used by the Security Branch from the early 1960s. That this practice was condoned is evident from the promotion of known torturers, the alleged involvement of ranking officers – including possibly two commissioners of police and a several heads of the Security Branch – and the ongoing refusal by responsible ministers or the cabinet to intervene, despite ongoing public pressure. This laid the basis for a culture of impunity among Security Branch officers.
513 Aside from torture, the security forces increasingly used unlawful methods in their intelligence-collecting process. An early example of this was provided by Major Craig Williamson, who was recruited by the ANC in the mid-1970s and set up an ANC cell consisting entirely of security police who were responsible for detonating pamphlet bombs.
Mr Williamson: I never actually carried out any pamphlet bombs. I ordered them … Basically, if the ANC told me to put up a pamphlet bomb, I'd say, OK I will do it, and three weeks later it happened and the ANC was very happy with them.
Commission member: Can you remember more or less when that was?
Mr Williamson: That was in 1976/77 …
Commission member: So in that ANC cell that you set up after your trip, there was some genuine...?
Mr Williamson: No.
Commission member: You were all agents?
Mr Williamson: All agents, but it did not really exist. That cell was the Security Branch. I did not go out and recruit real ... I mean non-security force members to that; that was all security force. There were obviously people whom the ANC and other people met whom they did not know were security force members, but they were all security force members. The people who went to London to get detonators from Stephanie Kemp, pick up suitcases full of the propaganda material, they were police officers … People who were arrested by the flying squad after setting off a pamphlet bomb were police officers. On one occasion the flying squad managed to detect and arrest [people who placed a] pamphlet bomb in the library gardens, and the people who were arrested were police officers which caused some … They had to recruit the staff, the flying squad guys into the Security Branch to keep them quiet.’
514 Wiliamson was handled by General Johan Coetzee, later commissioner of police, who himself instructed other Security Branch members to investigate the pamphlet bombs. This modus operandi was developed with deadly effect during the 1980s and led to entrapment operations – in which security force personnel recruited, trained and, in some instances, armed activists before killing them – as well as arson and sabotage operations conducted by the Security Branch in order to boost the credibility of agents.
515 The killing of political opponents both inside and outside of South Africa, as was discussed earlier, was widely carried out by the mid-1980s, frequently with the authorisation or involvement of senior Security Branch personnel. Further, and importantly, it is clear from SSC documents that such actions were widely considered to be in line with state policy.
516 A further area of illegality concerned various STRATCOM projects and operations, again carried out with the knowledge of both senior security force personnel and politicians. Former Minister Vlok himself conceded in his evidence to the Commission:
It cannot be denied that certain STRATCOM conduct, or the consequences thereof in certain circumstances, could have been interpreted as unlawful or illegal. In this way I could have been part in an unconscious way of the taking of decisions which led to illegal conduct … I'd like to say that I included that under STRATCOM conduct and operations which could have led to illegal actions … It was illegal and unlawful.’
517 The security forces were widely involved in acts of arson and sabotage, not simply as part of credibility operations as suggested above, but as part of a policy of meeting violence with violence. The involvement of the highest political authority in the Khotso House bombing is an eloquent example of the extent to which breaking the law was seen to be both legitimate and authorised.
518 The above examples of sanctioned and, in some cases, authorised illegal activities were central in establishing a view, particularly amongst the police, that the security forces could use all measures at their disposal, even if they transgressed the law in so doing. This view was underpinned by the notion that the security forces were engaged in a counter-revolutionary war and that in war the same civilian norms and laws do not apply.
519 The wide-ranging indemnity provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act were extended even further during the state of emergency in the mid-1980s, giving the security forces greater license. Moreover, the security forces were repeatedly involved in a long line of cover-ups of illegal or unlawful activity. This is evident, for example, in evidence given to inquests and trials in relation to torture and killings which again, in cases such as that of Stanza Bopape, reached the highest echelons of the police. There is no evidence to suggest that this practice was halted during the 1990s. The Harms Commission is a significant example of this: not only were witnesses instructed by their seniors to lie, but the Harms Commission failed to deter them from embarking on further operations.
520 The March 1994 Goldstone report on the criminal activities of the SAP, KZP and IFP provides further compelling evidence of senior police officers attempting to subvert a government-appointed commission of enquiry. According to the report, senior members of the SAP repeatedly approached police officers associated with the Goldstone Commission during the course of the investigation, in ways that could only be construed as obstructive. Further, once the police became aware of Goldstone’s interest in false passports, persons in possession of such passports were requested to bring them in for destruction. Similarly, Goldstone investigators learnt that Major General Engelbrecht, head of C section, had ordered the destruction of all documentation relating to the SAP’s involvement with Inkatha.
521 The fact that such cover-ups involved senior officers and continued well into the 1990s reflects the extent to which such groups saw them as an essential, but intensified, extension of the modus operandi developed in previous periods. In such a context, the impression must have been conveyed to more junior members of such structures that, despite negotiations, they were still at war and could make use of whatever means they had at their disposal, if not to rout, then at least to weaken ‘the enemy.’ The continued practice, in SADF operational commands, of referring to the ANC as ‘the enemy’ only underlines this point.