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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 42

Paragraph Numbers 1 to 9

Volume 2

Chapter 2

Subsection 1

Volume TWO Chapter TWO

The State outside South Africa between 1960 and 1990


The security forces will hammer them, wherever they find them. What I am saying is the policy of the government. We will not sit here with hands folded waiting for them to cross the borders … we shall settle the hash of those terrorists, their fellow-travellers and those who help them. (Minister of Defence, General Magnus Malan, Parliament, 4 February 1986.)

1 The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act (the Act) charges the Commission with investigating and documenting gross human rights abuses committed “within or outside” South Africa in the period 1960–94. This chapter focuses on the “outside”, specifically the Southern African region and Western Europe. Evidence has been gathered of violations committed by South African security forces or their agents and/or surrogates in nine regional states – Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, and the Seychelles – and in Western Europe – in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

2 The primary focus will be on killings and attempted killings (including targeted assassinations, cross-border raids and large-scale massacres such as that at Kassinga in Angola in 1978) and on abductions and infrastructural sabotage.

3 Another area of focus will be acts which, though they may not in and of themselves have constituted gross violations, were violations of state sovereignty and international law and invariably led to or created the conditions for the perpetration of gross violations of human rights. The reference here is to the wars in Angola and South West Africa (now Namibia), South African Police (SAP) operations in Rhodesia, surrogate-force campaigns in Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the attempted coup in the Seychelles.

4 Over three decades, the South African government’s involvement in the region expanded from occasional cross-border interventions in the 1960s to a situation in the 1980s where the South African Defence Force (SADF) was involved in various levels of warfare in six Southern African states, while covert units conducted attacks particularly in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (the BLS states). Additionally, in the early 1980s, South African security and intelligence operatives attempted to overthrow the Seychelles government and co-funded a mercenary force of Presidential Guards in the Comores, which became the de facto ruling authority of that territory.

5 This involvement in the region led to the conclusion that the majority of the victims of the South African government’s attempts to maintain itself in power were outside of South Africa. Tens of thousands of people in the region died as a direct or indirect result of the South African government’s aggressive intent towards its neighbours. The lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of others were disrupted by the systematic targeting of infrastructure in some of the poorest nations in Africa.

6 The South African government’s security strategy was shaped by the doctrines of pre-emptive interventionism and counter-revolutionary warfare. By the 1980s, the region had become an arena of cold war confrontation. For the leadership of the government and the SADF, the war in Angola and the other conflicts across the region were good and just wars, part of the West’s resistance to a perceived Soviet global offensive.

7 It is the Commission’s view that the destruction wrought on the region by South Africa’s counter-revolutionary war, particularly in Angola and Mozambique, was disproportionate to the threat posed by their post-independence governments and the fact that they played host to groups engaged in armed conflict with the South African government. At the time of their independence in 1975, Angola and Mozambique were severely underdeveloped and posed no credible military threat to the Republic of South Africa. Centuries of colonial exploitation had left them with a legacy of poverty and without the skills to build and manage a modern economy.

8 The Commission is, therefore, of the view that factors of race and racism should not be dismissed when attempting to explain South Africa’s conduct in the region. It finds it difficult to believe, for example, that Koevoet would have been allowed to operate on a bounty basis, or that the SADF would have killed over 600 people,

many of them children and women, in the Kassinga camp in Angola, had their targets been white. From the evidence before the Commission, it appears that, while some acts of regional destabilisation may have been a defence against Communism, the purpose of the war was also to preserve white minority rule in South Africa and was, therefore, a race war.

9 The perpetration of gross human rights violations outside South Africa will be discussed through an examination of the following types of security operations:

a conventional warfare;

b police and military counter-insurgency operations;

c surrogate-force insurgency operations;

d police and military cross-border operations, including special operations of a sensitive nature or by the Civilian Co-operation Bureau (CCB);

e unconventional military operations.

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