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Type THE AZANIAN PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY SUBMISSION
Names THE AZANIAN PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY
In the presentation of the Pan Africanist Congress, we promised that this second presentation would concentrate on the mandate of the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) which was earlier known as POQO. The dictionary meaning of the word mandate is the "power or a command given by someone in higher authority". The formation of APLA was inspired by the need to pursue the most noble of causes; the liberation of mankind. The highest authority from which APLA derived its mandate was the PAC Congress, the highest body that charted the PAC's policy and programme.
We must, however, restate our previous position. As a matter of principle we do not see the armed struggle, which constituted the major part of the mandate, as something to apologize for. APLA's mandate was not only necessary but critical in overthrowing the most oppressive system of modern times. We remind those who have chosen to forget that this is the system, that the international community had declared a crime aghast humanity.
In South Africa, there are three liberation movements which had military wings, of these only two were recognized by the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Throughout this presentation, we shall therefore insist that it is a shame and a mockery of justice to equate the activities of those who fought against injustice with those of the architects of injustice. Those who fought to preserve oppression together with those who fought for the liberation of mankind have all received a new status of being gross violators of human rights.
We have been called upon to accept and to pay the price of freedom and democracy through reconciliation. The dictionary meaning of reconciliation is "harmonizing or bringing back into friendship". However, in the context of South Africa, reconciliation is equated with the establishment and the process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The process of the TRC however, starts from an unfortunate premise that APLA's activities were nothing else but gross violations of human rights allegedly committed within the period of its mandate. We reject this premise. Whilst we acknowledge, with honour, the TRC's mandate to promote national unity and reconciliation, we find it abhorrent that the very system that was intended to bring us freedom and would have brought genuine freedom to our people, demands that the forces of injustice which perpetrated the atrocities of apartheid be equated with those of the liberation movements. We are now put in the same dock as the victims and the architects of injustice.
Whilst we do not intend to engage the TRC in unnecessary political arguments, it suffices to reiterate the legitimacy of our actions, lest we allow those who have chosen to remain oblivious of the truth and historical facts to achieve their desire by criminalising our actions.
Our major goal is to highlight the plight of hundreds of APLA/PAC members who are still languishing in prison while their pleas for release fall on deaf ears. It is surprising that today the very people who sacrificed their lives and futures in defence of human rights are criminalised and are expected to apologize for their role in the overthrow of the apartheid regime. We still wish to witness a moment in which the first APLA/PAC member will be granted amnesty by the TRC's Amnesty Committee. It is in this context therefore, that we make this submission and we are sure that history will vindicate our approach of refusing to apologize for defending ourselves as a nation through armed struggle.
When the PAC was formed in 1959, no provision was made in its operational structures for the establishment of a military wing. That situation changed with the massacre of our people at Sharpville and Langa in the opening days of our positive action campaign launched on March 1960. In September 1961, the foundation for the military wing of the PAC was laid by Comrades John Nyathi Pokela and Clarence Mlali Makwetu. The Presidential Council, based in Maseru subsequently appointed one of its members as Commander to head its military activities. The reconciliation conference of members of the National Executive Committee abroad held in Moshi, United Republic of Tanzania in 1967, endorsed the organization's stand on an armed struggle and set-up a revolutionary command, in recognition of the exigencies of armed struggle, to set-up and supervise the strategic and policy tasks of the armed struggle.
The revolutionary command took up the political command of the High Command that had already been established. The hierarchy was reviewed in 1971 and later, a Military Commission as a sub-organ of the Central Committee was established to direct the work of the High Command. In the review of the structures of the party, at the consultative conference in Arusha in mid-1978, the name Military Committee was replaced by that of the Military Commission. The Chairman and two other members of the Central Committee were designated as members of the Military Commission which would also be responsible for the appointment of members of the High Command. The Military Commission subsequently drew up on behalf of the Central Committee, the Directive for APLA which outlined the operational instructions and military doctrine of the PAC. The Military Commission was later expanded to accommodate the new military structure.
Stemming from this historical context, the APLA eventually evolved a competent organizational structure that was to oversee the effective implementation of the armed struggle.
The starting point of the armed struggle was to consider our mandate on the basis of the concrete situation between ourselves and the enemy we were facing. Our mandate was to organize and lead the armed struggle. The matter of what to do and how to define the political leadership's responsibility. APLA's responsibility was how to do it. The key to the matter was whether we were capable of putting our struggle on the correct political line and employing correct methods of struggle. The crux of the matter was to satisfy ourselves within the limits of our understanding, that we could set our struggle on a correct course of development. And that was to develop military operations to the level where they served political objectives and achieved the anticipated results.
The enemy of the liberation movement of South Africa and of its people was always the settler Colonial regime of South Africa. Reduced to its simplest form, the apartheid regime meant, white domination not leadership, but control and supremacy. This was the desire of the white man to continue to protect himself from the "swart gevaar" the "black danger". The pillars of apartheid, protecting white South Africa from the black danger were the military and the process of arming of the entire white South African society. This militarisation therefore, of necessity made every white citizen a member of the security establishment. Whilst uniformed men and women engaged in border and cross-border operations, non-uniformed men and women became the pillar of the so-called rear-arear protection.
It would therefore be a fallacy in the context of white South Africa to talk about innocent civilians. Military trained and armed civilians defy the definition of civilians. To us an attack on a trained and armed individual was a military operation. It is in this context therefore that the Azanian People's Liberation Army did not have the burden or problem of the so-called "soft or hard target". In all honesty, the terms "soft or hard" targets did not exist in our vocabulary. All that mattered was the political and pycholological benefit that the organisation would derive from such military operations.
It should be noted that the killing of genuine African civilians had intensified. Africans attending night vigils, commuting to work, in Boipatong etc. were brutally massacred whilst the white community lived in tranquility. The decision was aimed at carrying out legitimate reprisals and forcing the regime to end the killings of African civilians. This was done both in reprisal and self-defence. The only requirement was proportionality. It should therefore not surprise anyone that targets like the St James Church, King William'stown Golf Club, Heilderberg Tavern etc. were selected. The leadership of the APLA takes full responsibility for all these operations. The APLA forces who carried out these operations followed the directives from their commanders and these directives were from the highest echelons of the military leadership. We do not therefore, regret that such operations took place and there is therefore nothing to apologize for.
From 1978 to 1984 the PAC had an unstable existence particularly in Tanzania. This is a period in which internal conflicts made a serious dent on the organization's image and performance.
As a result of these internal disputes, a consultative conference was held in Arusha, Tanzania in 1978. This conference resulted in the expulsion of over 60 members. The expelled members subsequently formed an organisation called the Azanian People's Revolutionary Party (APRP). Despite these expulsions, the organisation continued to be unstable. Subsequently clear conflicts emerged and namely:
The internal leadership conflicts resulted in the expulsion of the then Chairman of the Central Committee, P.K. Leballo and a few other members who allegedly were his supporters. The conflict between the cadres and leadership on the other hand resulted in the death of the members of the PAC triumvirate, David Maphumzana Sibeko who was shot and killed by six APLA cadres who were dispatched from the military camp in Itumbi. The six APLA cadres were arrested and subsequently sentenced to an effective 15 years each by the Tanzanian High Court and therefore cannot be made an issue anymore as they were formally charged and sentenced.
Consequently, the remaining PAC leadership lost total control of the forces at Itumbi Camp. Eventually the Tanzanian Defence Force intervened and in the operation to wrest control over the camp, four APLA cadres were killed by the Tanzanian Defence Force (TDF).
Meanwhile dissensions among the APLA cadres in the camp resulted in disappearance of an APLA cadre, by the name of Owen Ntuli. Allegations were made that he was murdered at the camp but these allegations were never confirmed.
After the arrival of Cde John Nyathi Pokela in 1981 after serving his thirteen years on Robben Island, Cde Pokela upon his arrival was unanimously elected Chairman of the Pan Africanist Congress. His main priority was to re-unite the PAC and eventually a call was made for all PAC members who were either expelled or had left on their own to come back into the fold and rejoin the organisation. This call received a positive response and even those members who had formed the APRP unconditionally returned to the ranks of the PAC.
Every APLA cadre was entitled to the constitutional rights afforded by the PAC constitution and disciplinary code. However, those rights were tempered with the practical needs of good order and discipline necessary to maintain a military force. Therefore, APLA faced the dilemma of maintaining military discipline whilst creating a system of justice where individual APLA members were afforded maximum rights prescribed by the PAC constitution. Note should be taken of the fact that APLA members were not employees but volunteers who were prepared to sacrifice their lives without expecting anything. Their only reward would be that the apartheid regime of South Africa would eventually be overthrown. Putting it simply, APLA cadres were not just soldiers living on orders but political fighters who had a say in how they should be led and commanded.
2. The right of individual APLA members to have open and fair participation in the process of decision making that affected their lives and well being.
3. The right to express opinions, to information, to attend meetings, make contributions and be directly involved in the political life of the organisation. These rights were essential, and they ensured the following:
(c) Fair selection of the most capable personnel for promotion, additional training, deployment, etc.
Whilst we cannot boast of having had a perfect human rights record, we however, can with pride insist that we did everything we could to protect. As an organisation and as an institution, we take pride in informing the South African nation that in our entire period of existence, we never had a single detention camp, prison or any form of institution that was employed to violate members' human rights. No single individual can genuinely claim any experience of systematic torture, abuse or detentions in any of our facilities or camps.
The so-called murders in the PAC camps that the TRC has chosen to sensationalise and blow out of proportion are acts that APLA will never be ashamed of. Whilst we regret any loss of life as a result of our disciplinary actions, we however still remain proud that the disciplinary actions that were taken fell within the confines of our disciplinary code and oath of allegiance.
We must consider the concrete and practical reality of the environment and circumstances that determined the continued existence of our organisation and its ability to carry out its functions of liberation. We could not hope to survive and to expand our activities without eliminating or demobilising the forces of destabilisation. Only one authority could survive or our organisation would have remained in a state of permanent instability and therefore fail to carry out its mandate. We have already alluded to the period of instability that the PAC went through until the arrival of Comrade John Nyathi Pokela. The organisation could therefore not tolerate any further forms of destabilisation and subversion such as those carried out by the individuals concerned.
Whilst we accept full responsibility for our disciplinary actions, we however take great exception when anyone would abuse the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No. 34, 1995 to criminalise our members and therefore distort facts and spread rumours and lies. It is surprising to us that before we even present our case, the TRC is already talking about murders in our camps. If this is not a deliberate attempt to criminalise the Azanian People's Liberation Army, then what is it? It is shocking to note that such educated and legally qualified men and women can loosely refer to deaths as murders. Whilst we are laymen, we however, know the difference between death and murder. It is this little knowledge that give us an impression that either the entire TRC or some members thereof while acknowledging our right to reconcile have chosen to antagonise us for some political gain best known to the TRC and/or those individuals. To make matters even worse, in the TRC's correspondence with us terms like treachery and cruelty are used and why we do not know. Be that as it may, we however, still believe that the record should have been put straight by the end of our presentation. It is true that a number of deaths did actually take place not only in our camps but in most areas where we had a presence. These deaths can be categorised into the following:
A number of PAC/APLA members died as a result of natural illnesses particularly malaria. A list can be made available of all the members and wherever possible, even the nature of illnesses members suffered from. The Tanzanian government and other relevant authorities may be contacted to very these lists.
A number of accidents in the entire period of our existence took place in most of the countries where we operated. These accidents can be put into different categories namely:
(a) Vehicle accidents - which were the majority of accidents that even claimed the lives of two APLA commanders i.e. General Victor Gqweta and Sabela Phama and General Phiri Bonke.
A number of murders did actually occur as well. These are called murders for they had nothing to do with any APLA programmes and discipline. In all these cases, the law took its course and those who committed these acts were charged in courts of law and served their sentences. Among these cases, is that of Cde Benny Sondlo, who was stabbed to death by a PAC member who was eventually charged and sentenced in a court of law.
A limited number of APLA members were executed mostly for acts of destabilisation. These members were executed by orders of the APLA Commander who in his own capacity determined the individuals who had to perform the task(s). We would prefer not to present the list of these members's during this presentation but a copy of all known members will be submitted.
The aim of the categorisation of the abovementioned cases is twofold. Firstly, it is to remove the myth that all the members who died were murdered. Secondly, it is to put into correct perspective, APLA's human rights record that is deliberately being tarnished by people whose only agenda could be to criminalise our activities and therefore deny amnesty to our members who are still languishing in the South African jails. We will go to any extent to satisfactorily answer any question that we may be called upon to answer. The only request we wish to make is that we should confine ourselves to the truth for the truth is only what happened not what we wish or consider to have happened. We are therefore here within the confines of what we know, to tell the truth and not tell what some people may want to hear.
When we discussed our programme of action above, we endeavoured to define our targets and enemy. Our presentation will however be incomplete if we do not correct the sensationalised and maligned acts of repossession. We would like to clarify once and for all that we have never engaged in armed robberies. It is only criminals that engage in armed robberies. We have always mentioned that our major source of income was repossession. From its inception, the PAC categorically stated that our land and its resources were usurped through the force of arms. It was APLA's responsibility to repossess what rightfully belonged to the oppressed and dispossessed Azanian people. It is in this context that we proudly and openly mentioned it that banks and other financial institutions were targeted. We still remain proud and open about these acts because they fell within the PAC's political and ideological perspective. We therefore do not take kindly to allegations that we were armed robbers. Robbers are those who steal and defraud and not those who repossess what rightfully belongs to them.
APLA has viewed with shock and dismay the privileges enjoyed by those who murdered and maimed the African people in the name of apartheid. If people like Dirk Coetzee and Brian Mitchell could receive amnesty, what is it that can make any APLA member not deserve amnesty. We still remain puzzled with regard to the attitude of the TRC in as far as APLA and the PAC members' applications are concerned. To date not a single APLA/PAC member has been granted amnesty. However, the trend we see now is that of turning down our applications. The only impression we have at this point is that TRC has a political agenda to criminalise APLA's activities thereby discrediting any of our achievements. Only history will prove us wrong because we still have to see anything different. For instance, we are still surprised as to why there has been no enquiries into the deaths of PAC members that have no negative connotations to the PAC and APLA. We have so far not heard of any enquiries concerning the deaths of Jeff Masemola, Comrade Mpendulo's children in Umtata, Cde Pokela, Victor Gqweta and many others. The only enquiries are those that have an aim to prove and expose the perceived negative side of human rights violations by the PAC/APLA. When are we going to enquire on gross human rights violations against PAC/APLA members? Maybe sooner than later, we hope.