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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 2 of Episode 85

00:41But we kick off with something rather unusual for the Special Report. This is the 85th edition of this programme; it is also the third last programme. The last one will be broadcast in two weeks time. We thought it a good time to look at the big picture of the Truth Commission process; to look back over the last two years and ask. Has the process been successful? How much truth have we had? Has the Truth Commission contributed to national reconciliation or has it indeed been counterproductive as some of its critics claim? I have four very interesting public personalities in the studio to discuss these questions with me. In Johannesburg is Dr Maki Mandela, director of human resources at Spoornet and Donald Woods, journalist, author and former newspaper editor. In Cape Town we have Mr. Abraham Mzizi, IFP member of parliament and Professor Herman Giliomee, UCT academic and political commentator. Good evening to you all. Maybe we should start in Cape Town. Full Transcript
01:40Professor Giliomee could you give us an idea of the public perception of the Truth Commission process so far. // I think the best indicator we have is the most recent public opinion poll that was published about a week ago, it’s a mark data poll and it shows that at the moment only half of the South African population is prepared to endorse a statement that the Truth Commission is impartial, only 45 percent of the total population think it will bring about reconciliation and only less than 20 percent, one fifth, thinks that the people who had suffered gross human rights violations would be prepared to forgive or forget. The majority of people, this is the entire population, feel that people will become more angry and they will be more hurt by the process. So … // How strong is the racial division in this opinion poll? // Well the interesting thing is one has the impression that it’s only the Afrikaners that is very much opposed to the Truth Commission and believe it’s not ...moreFull Transcript
03:05Well let’s go straight to you in Cape Town to Mr. Mzizi, the perceptions in your part of the world and in your specific political party, could you talk about that to us, the IFP’s perception? Has it been one sided, has it been fair? // Well Max, I think you have hit the nail when you say it has been one sided. We feel we have the same perception … // I’m asking, I’m not saying. // Well I just comment you have probably said the right thing. It’s unusual where a journalist always say the right thing at the right time. We feel the same that we have been left in the cold in that the structure of the TRC it was a political appointee and therefore it has left too many people out and whatever has happened in the long run it became clear that it was an ANC political tool to /draw/ throw? its open net. That is the perception we have … // So it was one sided in terms of the old order and one sided as regards to the Inkatha Freedom Party? // Exactly. Probably even to not to the ...moreFull Transcript
04:56Right, let’s get stuck into that. Dr Mandela, we talked about perceptions now, but Mr. Mzizi is bringing up something else – the whole question of reopening of old wounds. He just said the healing had begun but now the Truth Commission has scratched open the wounds. Do you agree with that perception? // No I think it is a matter of interpretation where you are. I don’t think that the Truth Commission has opened up any wounds; I don’t think that the healing had begun in this country. I think that if people say that they are creating a myth, a façade, it’s not true. But I think that we have to actually evaluate the effectiveness of the Truth Commission in terms of what it was intended to do in the beginning. I firmly believe that if the intention of the Truth Commission was actually to unearth the scenes of the past so that people should actually have a sense of the truth ... of sort of a much more objective - I know that it is a highly subjective process - then we have to go ...moreFull Transcript
07:12But Donald Woods, talk to me what you feel so far, perception wise has it been one sided. What is your feeling about this? // I’ve had the impression of it being pretty fair, but you know they were in a no win situation in the sense that when you undertake something which is really a very courageous experiment you’re not going to come out with universal approval anyway and given that I think they’ve done a terrific job because quite apart from whether or not there’s been enough ventilation - of course there hasn’t been, I think that would be impossible to achieve. I think what we must remember is the educational value of this process. A lot of people, and I know from their comments who didn’t really believe the security police were that bad, now are horrified at these stories coming out and of course a lot of people who knew they were bad are glad to see that these truths are coming out. So I think we mustn’t neglect the educational side of the Truth Commission.Full Transcript
08:08All right, let me go back to Cape Town and I want to ask both of you in Cape Town. Can you imagine, this is now two years after the process had started … let me speak for myself, because I’m hardly … I’m going to try to be very neutral, but I’m not because I’ve lived with this process for two years through this programme, so forgive me if I have views on it. But, I can hardly imagine South Africa trying to go into the future without having had this process. If you look back now at the role the process had played in our public life week after week on television, on the radio, in the newspapers, that constant interaction with it. Herman Giliomee. Can you actually say that we should have done without this process? // Well you know I don’t think this process was the only alternative. One could have had trials along the De Kock trial, now the Ferdi Barnard trial. My whole feeling about the Truth Commission, there was very little observance of judicial procedures. So, one ...moreFull Transcript
10:04Do you want to respond or can I ask Professor Giliomee some more questions? // For me the issue is not whether the process … I mean I know that the process was intended so that the perpetrators would feel comfortable, that they should come forward, but then the question they should be asked is whether the perpetrators came forward with the truth, with the whole truth. Because I think they came through with partial truths, however one interprets it and at least the ideal was that we should reach reconciliation. I’m saying we have not. The reality is that it has not promoted reconciliation and that process alone can never promote reconciliation in this country.Full Transcript
10:50Let me just quickly before we lose this thread go back to Professor Giliomee. Professor, you talked about maybe we should have had trials, there should have been a continuation of that. In other words, a criminal judicial process. In other words we should have instead of amnesty; we should have charged these people and if found guilty they should go to jail instead of getting amnesty. But isn’t that really the main problem of that that you won’t have reconciliation at all. You’re talking about Nuremberg type trials, which is far more dangerous in terms of reconciliation, isn’t that true? // Listen I think the Nuremberg trial is simply a bogey that’s not very credible at all. There was never revolutionary victory in the country. You only institute Nuremberg type of trials when there’s a complete defeat of the other side. So I don’t think that was ever an option. But in terms of the truth - the courts of course are also not satisfactory - but what the Truth Commission ...moreFull Transcript
13:28But let me go on to Mr. Mzizi. We’re talking about a one sided process and you’ve felt that it was a one sided process. In what sense? Do you think there should have been representation on the Truth Commission of other parties like Professor Giliomee just said, four of the new, four of the old order or do you think the way the process was handled by the present commissioners was one sided? Do you think that perpetrators and victims should have been treated differently? Do you think old order policemen and guerrilla fighters of the previous liberation movements should have been treated the same way? Specify what you mean. // Max, probably let’s start off here, we talk of two phrases here: the truth and the other phrase is reconciliation. Now, if I may ask a question, what is the colour of the truth? Who can define the truth? And simply the answer is that the truth has got no colour and nobody can define the truth. Because the truth lies between me and God, he’s the only one who ...moreFull Transcript
18:10Let’s come back to Johannesburg. The question now of equal treatment, of one sidedness. Let’s take one part of that. I’m speaking to both of you. Should we have treated or should the Truth Commission have treated perpetrators of gross human rights violations on the apartheid government’s side on exactly the same level as perpetrators of gross human rights on the liberation movement’s side. Dr Mandela, your feelings. // Well, I think that if a country has decided that we’re going to go through a truth commission in an era where we have just established a democratic country, which is free, some level of fairness - one will say objectively - should have prevailed, but … // Did it you think? // I think to a certain extent it did. One has to understand, I don’t think there’s any process that has been engineered by human beings that has ever been perfect and one cannot expect that this process engineered by the ANC should be perfect in every respect. It’s an experiment ...moreFull Transcript
19:46Did I hear a comment from Cape Town? Did you come in Mr. Mzizi? May I have a quick word from you before I go to Donald Woods? // I feel that the process is one sided in that even if probably everyone should have been invited, whether these has been actually engineered by ANC. We did not oppose this. We said yes we all want to know the truth. Yes, we differ in the method how we establish the truth. And we felt that if a human being, a person like the clergy people, could be the people that would probably engineer or facilitate this; the very clergy people were the people in the past whom we find that they were assisting the very comrades who were actually necklacing the councillors and they were actually providing them with attorneys, providing them with finance. Now where the fairness would be if we had decided that clergy people would be the right people to facilitate this rather than the court who would not have taken side. Full Transcript
20:55Let’s get some comment in Johannesburg. // Max, I’d rather focus on where the Truth Commission has succeeded. To me, as a viewer. // OK, let’s talk about that. // I think that a lot of people in the case of Steve Biko’s killing wanted this not to be part of the TRC process. Their argument was let’s prosecute the killers and imprison them. Fine, if you can find evidence, but there was no evidence. And so I think what happened has been a very healthy development. Now what happened was of course we didn’t get the whole truth, but at last we saw these faces, for the whole country to see and to see them lying to the extent that they were. Some of them came out with some of the truth and some of them lied. But you know people are not fools and they can see for themselves on television and they can judge at what point the person has departed from the truth or is covering up themselves. Now that in itself is a very strong sanction, because I mean how would you like to live the ...moreFull Transcript
22:31Professor Giliomee … // Well I’ve got trouble with Donald Woods’ assertion that people know when they hear the truth or not. I think as a newspaper editor I think he probably will say no that is not quite true. The point is that, certainly in the case of the Biko case we have had revelations, slightly more than what we’ve had after reading your book, which is very good by the way. But the point is I would like to know how could you actually say that it brings about reconciliation if only one fifth of the South African population believes so. Secondly, in terms of the Chilean commission. Yes, the proceedings were secret but the report was respected and now we have here a Truth Commission, one of them saying that they want to write a publicly sanctioned history. Now, there’s no historian on the Truth Commission, there’s no political scientist on the Truth Commission. It seems to me a totally mistaken … // Is that good or bad? // To say that you’re going to write a ...moreFull Transcript
24:27Alright, you want to go back to… // No simply I think the George Bizos example’s good, also for the Biko killers. We heard these probing questions and unlike the original so-called inquest where half the stuff couldn’t be brought out, at least the public… and I take Herman’s point that it may be 20 percent or whatever; it’s still a lot of South Africans. In fact, if I was a TV producer I’d be quite happy to have 20 percent of the South African people as a whole watching.Full Transcript
25:01Can I go back quickly, before you go on to Professor Herman Giliomee? The point that Donald Woods has just made Professor that he says. Well, let’s look at what the Truth Commission has achieved. I want you to answer that question. What do you with your - and you have your criticism, we’ve noticed that – but what do you think they have achieved? Are there some positive things that you can say about the Truth Commission process? I would say that there’s been a reduction of the number of publicly sanctioned government lies. There’s a few lies which the government told in the past which were exposed. So, the number of publicly permissible lies has been reduced considerably. That’s a gain. At the same time one must remember that a nation, as an old Frenchman said in the 19th century, is based on great forgettings and great rememberings. We, in fact at the moment we remember what happened to Steve Biko and the terrible tragedy, but this prolonged process of two to what looks ...moreFull Transcript
26:25We used to hear so many complaints in the bad old days that the allegations of people like ourselves against the security police were exaggerations, were unpatriotic, were disloyal and untrue. You know Herman must take the point surely that there are even the supporters of such people in the past have had to confront the fact, they’ve heard this coming out of the own mouths of these people now, these unbelievably terribly things for one human being to do to another and to admit it. And to say I hit him on the head with a steel spring, I stabbed him so many times, I burnt the body; now at last surely they have to accept these things happened.Full Transcript
27:07But Donald I’ve just acknowledged that, I said there is now far fewer public permissible lies. Governments can lie about certain security matters say nuclear war or things like that but in terms of what the government in the past has done and its complicity in human rights abuses, we know that now. I think that is a gain. It will be much more difficult in the future for governments to lie. So I conceded that.Full Transcript
27:31Let me ask Abraham Mzizi in Cape Town, do you think there has been a value in exposing things like Vlakplaas, the CCB, the horrors that we didn’t know. Do you think that there is a value to you as a citizen knowing those things now? // Max, nevertheless, yes, some people did not know anything about Vlakplaas but the crux of the matter is that I don’t think any truth has been established there. You have spoken of Mamasela and many others. You find a group of people coming to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee disclosing what they have done and they contradict themselves to a large degree. Now one wonders … // Or even people like Eugene de Kock who was the commander and Dirk Coetzee who was the commander? // None of them come and said yes collectively we have done this. If you would have listened to Mamasela’s evidence, now recently, he tells a complete story different to what his colleagues have said. Now who could believe that truth because you can’t cross examine that ...moreFull Transcript and References
30:30Thank you, Donald Woods. // A quick point. Since I’ve been back in South Africa I’ve met very few whites who knew anything about the Cassinga massacre, a much bigger massacre than any of these others, and for the first time through the TRC this came to light. I think last week it was in your programme. So, again I get back to the educational value. People are learning things they didn’t know before. And it’s one thing for an intellectual like Herman to say we know these guys lied in the past, but the ordinary person in the street, the guy who likes to carry the old flag and everything, I think they need more education.Full Transcript
31:05Alright, we only have five minutes left and I want to address the whole concept of reconciliation now. Maki Mandela, let’s look at what has happened in the Truth Commission in terms of reconciliation and what lies ahead. Your views. Where are we now in terms of reconciliation? Are we stuck in a racial divide? // I don’t think, as I said before, the Truth Commission I don’t think it has promoted reconciliation. As I said, to me reconciliation is much more than that. // Would you have preferred us not to have had a Truth Commission? // No, the Truth Commission that I think we should have had. I think it was nice, as Donald said, for the educational thing. I think that it forced a lot of those people who also denied their actions to come to terms with their actions, but that is different to saying that it is promoting reconciliation. // So is the Truth Commission not the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? // Yes, it’s the Truth Commission, not the Truth and Reconciliation ...moreFull Transcript
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