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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 194
Paragraph Numbers 120 to 131
The use of torture in the arrest and interrogation of detainees
120 The security legislation providing for detention during the mandate period was as follows:
a Detention for interrogation: section 21 of General Laws Amendment Act (1963); section 6 of Terrorism Act (1967); and section 29 of Internal Security Act (1982).
b Preventative detention: section 10 of Internal Security Act (1950); section 28 of Internal Security Act (1982).
c Short-term detention: section 22 of General Law Amendment Act (1966); section 50 of Internal Security Act (1982).
d Detention of state witnesses: section 12 of the Suppression of Communism Act (1950); Criminal Procedures Act (1965); section 31 of Internal Security Act (1982).
e State of emergency detention: Public Safety Act (1953); Proclamation R121 (1985).
121 Torture of political detainees was reported from the early 1960s. That torture of political detainees was a relatively new phenomenon during that period is evident from the following statement by Mr Joe Slovo:
However firm the old type of policemen were … they were not torturers … In a sense, up to about 1960/1, the underground struggle was fought on a gentlemanly terrain. There was still a rule of law. You had a fair trial in their courts. Nobody could be kept in isolation. Up to 1963, I know of no incident of any political prisoner being tortured.9
122 It was widely believed by many political activists of the time that, in the early 1960s, a special squad of security policemen received special training in torture techniques in France and Algeria and that this accounted for a sudden and dramatic increase in torture. The Commission established that the following officers received training in France at some point during the first half of the 1960s: Hendrik van den Bergh (then head of the Security Branch), TJ ‘Rooi Rus’ Swanepoel, DK Genis, Lieutenant Daantjie ‘Kardoesbroek’ Rossouw, G Klindt, a Major Brits (from the Railway Police), a Lieutenant van der Merwe and one Coetzee.
123 However, the Commission found considerable evidence of the occurrence of torture in the years prior to 1963. While torture does not appear to have been used on urban-based, ANC political detainees until 1963, the Commission received information about the extensive use of all forms torture on rural insurgents involved in the Pondoland revolt in 1960 and against members and supporters of the Poqo movement of the PAC. Further, it is clear that such methods were widely used in criminal investigations before the 1960s.
124 It is more likely, therefore, that the French training promoted the development of other non-physical third degree methods. Indeed, in 1964, there was a marked shift to an approach in which teams working in relays used sleep deprivation
125 The Commission received confirmation that a number of officers received further training in interrogation and counter-interrogation techniques in France in about 1968. Officers known to have attended this course include: TJ ‘Rooi Rus’ Swanepoel, Major JJ ‘Blackie’ de Swardt, Hans Gloy, Roelf van Rensberg and Dries Verwey.
126 It is further believed that, in the early 1980s, joint co-operation agreements between South Africa, Argentina, Chile and Taiwan led to further training opportunities and an exchange of ideas and experience. Close links with Argentina existed even before this. For example, Alfredo Astiz, a notorious torturer, was one of four torture experts attached to the Argentinian Embassy in Pretoria in 1979. During his stay, there were several seminars at which South African security police and the Argentines exchanged ideas regarding methods of interrogation.
127 It is also known that Military Intelligence (MI) operatives received training in interrogation techniques in Italy. According to one MI operative, such training tended to focus on non-aggressive methods of interrogation as the use of torture was seen to result in false confessions or information.
128 Finally, the training grounds par excellence were Rhodesia and South West Africa where South African police developed hands-on experience in fighting a counter-insurgency war.
129 Following the general failure of the Security Branch to conclude investigations in sabotage cases in the early 1960s, a tougher approach was adopted and a group of police was drawn in from outside the ranks of the Security Branch to constitute a special ‘sabotage squad’. This was part of a more extensive restructuring of legal provisions relating to detentions and police structures introduced by the new Minister of Justice, Police and Prisons, Mr BJ Vorster, his new commissioner of police, Lieutenant General Keevy and new head of the Security Branch, Colonel Hendrik van den Bergh. An SAP Commemorative Album records that:
Col van den Bergh decided that the Security Branch should be reorganised to enable it to deal more efficiently with subversive elements in the Republic. The Minister of Justice, who was fully aware of the threat against the Republic, agreed with Col van den Bergh and undertook to supply the Security Branch with the necessary arms to ward off the onslaught.10
130 The ‘sabotage squad’ was one of these “necessary arms”. Officers associated with this squad include: Major TJ ‘Rooi Rus’ Swanepoel, Major George Klindt, a Major Coetzee, Major Britz, Lieutenant DK Genis, ‘Kardoesbroek’ Rossouw and a Captain or Major JJ van der Merwe. Others who appeared to form part of this team, or who worked closely with them, include Warrant Officer ‘Spyker’ van Wyk, Captain JJ Viktor, Lieutenant Petrus Ferreira, Lieutenant Erasmus, Lieutenant and/or Captain van Rensberg and Sergeant Greeff. Their approach contrasted sharply with the ‘gentlemanly approach’ of earlier Security Branch men.
131 Arrests of people linked to sabotage campaigns increased markedly in 1963 and the Commission received reports of torture in respect of nearly every detainee interrogated by members of this team. Reports exposed the widespread use of beating, electric shock and terror tactics (see below).9 Quoted in Thomas G Karis and Gail M Gerhardt, From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in SA, 1882–1990. Volume 5 – Nadir and Resurgence, 1964–1969, p.25 or 26. and non-physical means such as standing on one spot or the ‘hard/soft cop’ routine. It is probable that the techniques apparent in the 1964 period were the fruit of the French exercise.