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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 705
Paragraph Numbers 542 to 548
542 While the Commission commends such efforts on the part of former President De Klerk, a number of factors continue to cast doubt on the integrity of such efforts. These include:
a Appointment of personnel: In 1989, Tim McNally, the Attorney-General of the OFS was appointed to investigate the allegations made by Almond Nofemela, Dirk Coetzee and David Tshikilange that a ‘death squad’ existed at Vlakplaas. Despite having concluded that there was no substance to these allegations, McNally was appointed as counsel for the Harms Commission, whose mandate was to determine precisely what McNally had already dismissed. Further, his investigative team was comprised of police officers. The Commission is of the opinion that these appointments were inappropriate.
Similarly, with regard to the Steyn investigation, while the Commission acknowledges former President de Klerk’s reasons for believing that an SADF appointee would have better access to and knowledge of the area he was investigating, to all intents and purposes this appointment meant that the SADF was investigating itself. The Commission is of the belief that, at the very least, independent and non-security force personnel should have been appointed alongside General Steyn in the interests of transparency.
b Limited mandates: All the above commissions and investigations were severely hampered by the limited mandate they were given. Despite allegations of security force involvement in numerous cross-border assassinations, the mandate of the Harms Commission was confined to South Africa. Thus, although that Commission spent a substantial portion of its time investigating the activities of the CCB, considerable areas remained unscrutinised because the CCB consisted predominantly of external regions.
Similarly, Professor Ellison Kahn’s terms of reference were so narrowly defined that he did not have the authority and mandate to initiate and/or engage in proactive investigation, but had to rely on the willingness of the security forces to furnish him with such reports. This meant that the security forces retained the discretion to determine which secret projects they should report on.
c Follow-up action and investigations: The Commission notes that, while Judge Harms identified some security force personnel as having committed perjury in their evidence, no prosecutions followed.
The Commission has noted that former President de Klerk appeared to take no heed of General Steyn’s repeated pleas for a co-ordinated and thorough- going investigation of the allegations contained in the staff report. Moreover, despite the fact that significant allegations about the role of police structures such as Vlakplaas emerged during the course of General Steyn’s investigation, there was no attempt to institute a broad-ranging enquiry. In the interest of conveying a public and determined intent to uproot dubious practices, the Commission submits that the decision to pass piecemeal allegations to the Attorney-General, the Office for Serious Economic Offences and the Goldstone Commission, was a short-sighted one. Mr de Klerk chose to apppoint three generals who had themselves been seriously implicated in the Steyn investigation to make recommendations about follow-up action. This constituted a serious error of judgement.
543 The Commission thus finds that, commendable such initiatives may have been, they were largely ineffectual in rooting out the modus operandi and thinking that had developed during the previous period or, crucially, dismantling the associated ‘informal official’ networks. This criticism needs to be weighed against the rejoinder that President de Klerk’s capacity to intervene in this arena was limited owing to the fact that he lacked a security force background, and that his actions were further constrained by the extraordinarily difficult task of ensuring that the security forces as a whole continued to support the transition, and did not turn towards a military rather than a political solution. Significant role-players continue to believe that the threat of a coup was a real one, and while the SADF as a whole never presented a threat and supported political and constitutional processes, individuals within it, and even sections of the security forces, may well have opted for a violent resolution. It needs to be noted that, while such a coup never materialised, the above confirms that there were indeed those who opted for violence.
544 Aside from the failure of such commissions to root out illegal and unauthorised activities, there are other worrying factors about the NP’s response to the violence enveloping South Africa. While some security force involvement in dubious agendas of violence is apparent, and sufficient evidence of this was already within the public domain, at no stage did the NP concede that sectors of its security forces were out of its control. More than this, despite the fact that former President de Klerk was aware that his commissioner of police had been involved in illegal activity regarding the bombing of Khotso House, he continued to retain his position as the most senior policeman in the country. Similarly, despite allegations emerging from the Steyn investigation relating to the chief of the defence force and the chief of the army – the two most senior defence portfolios – former President de Klerk assigned them to the task of deciding what action should be taken against those implicated by the investigation.
545 While former President de Klerk may well have been constrained by the delicate balance within the security forces and a fear that firmer action could lead to a schism between the NP’s negotiation agenda and disgruntled security force members, the Commission notes that no such constraint applied at the time that former President de Klerk made his submission to this Commission. De Klerk made no attempt to take the Commission into his confidence and to explain the very real dilemmas and difficulties that he faced at the time.
546 It was precisely this seeming unwillingness to take more significant action against individual security force members and structures that led to a public perception that the violence, if not part of an NP agenda, was in some way in its interest. The violence directed against black communities was seen to hurt the ANC the most, in that its support base began to lose confidence in its leadership’s capacity to defend them. The Commission has no doubt that, had white communities experienced a fraction of what their black counterparts were experiencing, there would have been an infinitely more robust effort to bring an end to the violence. Thus, for example, in the Commission’s hearing on the Seven Day War, a senior police official was asked: “If the violence on that scale had happened in a white area, you wouldn't have tolerated that at all, surely?” His response was: “During those times, more than likely no, we wouldn't”.
547 There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest that the signing of the Record of Understanding led to a fall in the rate of random and anonymous attacks associated with ‘third force’ violence. It has been suggested that by this stage there was a real possibility that violence could become uncontrollable and lead to civil war. This was demonstrated most clearly by the events in Boipatong and the violent reaction to Mr de Klerk’s attempt to visit the area. Further, the escalation of violence was beginning to threaten the NP itself as, locally and internationally, it was increasingly suggested that the government had lost control. According to this argument, the Record of Understanding is widely seen to have represented a significant shift in NP strategy, marked by an end to its close alliance with the IFP and an increasing convergence with ANC interests – at least in terms of effecting a transition to democracy. To some degree this argument is borne out by statistics, which demonstrate a shift in patterns of violence.
548 This shift in strategic direction also meant an increasing convergence between the right-wing/IFP and security force agenda. In this respect, there is some evidence that right-wing structures were funding by MI (see above), raising the suspicion that violence was encouraged by forces and/or structures of the state, but in a way that could not be associated directly with the governing party. The Commission was unable to establish conclusively whether there is any substance to this.