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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 702

Paragraph Numbers 1 to 17

Volume 6

Section 5

Chapter 5

Subsection 1

Volume SIX Section FIVE Chapter F I V E

Holding the Pan Africanist Congress Accountable


1. In its Final Report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (the Commission) made findings of accountability against the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in respect of the commission of gross human rights violations.

2. The Commission stated in its report that it recognised the PAC as a legitimate liberation movement which had waged a just struggle against the apartheid government. However, in the course and conduct of that struggle, it had committed gross violations of human rights.

3. While the PAC did not formally commit itself to upholding the provisions of the Geneva Conventions or the Additional Protocols, it was nevertheless bound by international customary law and, in particular, by international humanitarian law.

4. The Commission made three major findings against the PAC. It made a finding against the PAC’s armed grouping of the 1960s, Poqo; a finding against the PAC for violations committed in exile, and a finding against its armed wing APLA in the later period.


5. The Commission stated in its Final Report that:

While the Commission takes note of the explanation tendered by the PAC that its activities in the early 1990’s need to be understood in the context of the ‘land wars of the time’, it nevertheless finds that the PAC and Poqo were responsible for the commission of gross violations of human rights through Poqo’s campaign to liberate the country. This unleashed a reign of terror, particularly in the Western Cape Townships. In the course of this campaign, the following groups suffered gross violations of their human rights:
  • Members of the police, particularly those living in Black townships;
  • The so-called ‘Kataganese’, dissident members of the PAC who opposed the campaign and were subjected to physical attacks and assassinations by other Poqo members;
  • Representatives of traditional authority in the homelands, that is Chiefs and headmen;
  • White civilians in non-combat situations.69

6. In making these findings, the Commission relied on evidence received from victims and witnesses who made statements and submissions to the Human Rights Violations Committee. In terms of the evidence received, the commission of human rights violations by PAC members began with the activities of its 1960s armed grouping, Poqo. These included forcible conscription drives and attacks on the South African Police, white civilians, and alleged ‘collaborators’ and ‘dissidents’ within the movement.

7. Poqo’s activities in the early 1960s unleashed a reign of terror, particularly in the Western Cape townships, where it adopted aggressive conscription methods. These allowed no room for dissent and at times resulted in violent intolerance towards members and outsiders who criticised or failed to support its methods.

8. The Commission found that Poqo militants targeted civilians indiscriminately, particularly in the November 1962 Paarl attacks, which resulted in the killing of two white civilians. It found that these attacks (on the prison, the police station and the private homes of white residents) were locally planned and executed in response to serious local grievances arising from the strong enforcement of influx control and the corruption of Bantu Administration Board officers. Although not officially sanctioned by the regional or national PAC leadership, the Paarl attacks fell in line with a mass uprising planned for 8 March 1963, which specifically targeted whites and government agents.

9. The February 1963 attack on a group of whites sleeping at the roadside near Bashee (Mbashe) River Bridge in Transkei, in which five whites were killed, was also found to be an indiscriminate targeting of civilians. A massive police crackdown on the PAC followed. Fifty-five people were subsequently charged with murder, of whom twenty-three were convicted and sentenced to death.

1 0 . The PAC told the Commission that the incident needed to be understood in the context of the land wars of the time. Families were being forcibly moved fro m their plots and homes without compensation to make way for the construction of a new road between Umtata and Queenstown. In the light of this, the PAC considered their attack to be purely defensive.

11. The Commission took note of the explanation but nonetheless found the PAC and Poqo to have been responsible for the commission of gross violations of human rights in its indiscriminate targeting of civilians.

12. In 1962 and 1963, Poqo members engaged in attacks on re p resentatives of traditional authorities in the homelands, killing two headmen in the St Marks district of Cofimvaba in the Transkei. The attacks were described by the PAC as ‘aimed at those headmen and chiefs assisting the dispossession of African people through the rural rehabilitation scheme’. On 12 December 1962, armed Poqo members were intercepted by police while on their way to assassinate Chief Kaiser Matanzima. An armed clash took place at Ntlonze Hill in the Transkei. Seven Poqo members were killed in this encounter and three policemen were seriously injured. The Commission considered this incident to be in the nature of a military encounter in which both sides were armed. It concluded, therefore, that the injuries to the policemen and the deaths of the Poqo members did not constitute gross human rights violations.

13. In the early 1960s, a group of disaffected PAC supporters, dubbed the ‘Katangese’, began operating outside the PAC’s policy framework. They soon became the targets of physical attacks, attempted assassinations and attacks by Poqo gangs.

14. The PAC considered police officers to be an extension of the apartheid machinery and hence legitimate military targets. Spies and informers fell into this category as well. Dissidents in the movement were treated as the ‘enemy’. It needs to be remembered that there were continual fears that the liberation movement would be infiltrated by those in the employ of the state. Not unnaturally, vigilance tended to spill over into paranoia.

15. The PAC deliberately targeted ‘white farmers’ as they were considered to be ‘settlers’ and thus ‘acceptable’ targets for killing.

16. The activities of Poqo belong to the 1960s and it is not surprising that the Commission received no amnesty applications from members of Poqo for violations committed during this period. Nor did the PAC furnish the Commission with any further information related to these matters, providing no reason for the Commission to change its findings in respect of Poqo.

17. The finding with respect to Poqo thus remains unchanged.

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