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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 266

Paragraph Numbers 28 to 39

Volume 5

Chapter 7

Subsection 4

What went wrong? “We made mistakes.”

28 Different parties to the conflict admitted that there were errors, mistakes and unintended consequences. Several parties contended that violence occurred precisely because of the grey areas that developed.

29 At one of the hearings on children and youth, Mr George Ndlozi, reporting on the activities of SDUs, said things “went wrong” because they – had to depend on criminals and people took advantage of the situation. They ended up operating out of personal gain.

30 Mr Niel Barnard, former head of National Intelligence, said at the hearings on the State Security Council:

It is true that instructions and mandates were sometimes vague and were communicated poorly [and] … in large bureaucratic institutions such as the public sector there is a danger that decisions and instructions are not formulated, conveyed and interpreted in a correct way.

31 Mr Johan van der Merwe, former commissioner of police, said at the State Security Council hearings that “we had to move outside the boundaries of our law”, leading to all sorts of blurred distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable methods. This point was also conceded by Mr FW de Klerk in the NP submission.

32 General Andrew Masondo, former political commissar of the ANC, admitted that they “could have made mistakes” as a result of disinformation or when they had to rely on young, inexperienced people in authority in the Quatro camp.

33 Mr FW de Klerk, answering questions on widespread torture during the 1980s in the second NP submission, said: I’m not saying we were perfect … I’m not saying we didn’t make mistakes. Detailed operationalisation (of security policy) takes place at a much lower level … that is where, either through over-zealousness or a male fide approach, where things get out of hand.

History has subsequently shown that, as far as the policy of apartheid was concerned, they were deeply mistaken.
None of these unconventional projects was intended to lead to any gross violations of human rights … but … they did create an atmosphere conducive to abuses.

34 Former MK leader Mr Ronnie Kasrils, speaking during the Commission’s public debate on the notion of ‘just war’, said: “I’m not saying that there weren’t certain departures, certain aberrations”. Similarly, the ANC submission to the Commission reported concern in late 1987 regarding an increase in “attacks which did not accord with ANC policy”, conceding that “some incidents not entirely consistent with ANC policy did take place”. In its second submission, the ANC repeated that “mistakes were made”. In similar vein the UDF stated that the –

… activities of the UDF and its allies, while making invaluable contributions to the democratisation of South African society, had many regrettable consequences.

35 Even in the details of operations of bomb attacks, things could go wrong, mistakes were made. Regarding the explosion at the Krugersdorp magistrate’s court adjacent to a “notorious security police branch”, Mr Mohammed Shaik told the amnesty hearing:

I prepared two charges; one being a decoy which I placed in the toilet used by police officers in the court complex, the other being a car bomb. The decoy was to have exploded first, drawing out police officers, who in a few minutes would have cordoned, cleared and secured the area. Their presence would have been very near to the car bomb which was to explode minutes later. Unfortunately the decoy failed to explode due to some malfunction. The car bomb detonated as planned. The intended aim of a large number of enemy personnel being killed, injured was not achieved. A civilian and two security branch members were killed.

36 In the Freedom Front submission, General Constand Viljoen also reported on mistakes of the former government. Referring to the NP government, in which he was chief of the defence force, he testified:

Forty years of governmental control made them power-drunk. Expediency, manipulation, propaganda … and in the end the ruthless tactics of an unconventional sort to retain power – all these things are not necessarily part and parcel of the original concept of differentiation that prevailed within Afrikaner political thinking. The original motivation of the Afrikaner was not to rule others.

37 He argued further that errors were made due to the arbitrary powers given to ministers and “even officials in the security forces” during the states of emergency.

… because of the absence of normal checks and balances that would avoid misuse of these powers … most cases of gross violations of human rights resulted from these practices and they had the serious additional effect of keeping the public in the dark on these activities and creating a sense of fear and bondage in general that was not conducive to free and responsible citizenship.

38 The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), in its submission to the Commission, also admitted to mistakes. Reporting on “a new pattern in the 1990s where civilians within the white community were attacked”, the PAC submission stated:

In the nature of guerrilla war, which is unlike conventional warfare, detailed plans could not be made from Dar-es-Salaam. The actual targets were decided by local commanders … In the militarised environment in our country in the 1990s … internally based operatives often made errors that APLA [the Azanian People’s Liberation Army] had earlier avoided. These are the causes of the departures in the 1990s.

39 Specifically on the murder of Ms Amy Biehl, the PAC submission regretted its error, stating that:

PASO was not a part of APLA. They are a component part of the PAC not involved in armed struggle. They wrongly targeted and killed Amy Biehl. We expressed our regret and condolences.
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