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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 218
Paragraph Numbers 214 to 220
Knowledge or condonation of torture
214 The SAP and the former government have conceded that torture occurred, but have claimed that it represented the actions of a few renegade policemen. Thus, for example, in his submission to the Commission, the former leader of the National Party (NP) and former State President FW de Klerk maintained:
The National Party is prepared to accept responsibility for the policies that it adopted and for the actions taken by its office-bearers in the implementation of those policies. It is, however not prepared to accept responsibility for the criminal actions of a handful of operatives of the security forces of which the Party was not aware and which it never would have condoned.
215 However, the NP’s former Deputy Minister of Police Leon Wessels conceded that it was not possible to deny knowledge of torture. At the Commission’s special hearing on the role of the State Security Council, Wessels said that “it was foreseen that under those circumstances people would be detained, people would be tortured, everybody in this country knew people were tortured”. Wessels also conceded in an interview that, on one occasion, when he had raised the matter of torture with former Minister Louis le Grange, Le Grange had responded: “Leon, but you have such a fantastic image amongst the Police and other people, why are you ... spoiling all of this by getting involved in this”.
216 While the courts in general failed to protect the rights of detainees, there were cases when magistrates and judges ruled in favour of those in custody. Thus, for example, in the State v Mogale, the Appellate Division established that the security police had severely assaulted a detainee in order to compel him to confess. Such assault had included punching, kicking, throttling with a medallion chain, electric shock and breaking of two teeth with pliers.
217 In the State v Mayson, the judge ruled that Mr Cedric Mayson’s statement was inadmissible as he had been subjected to torture. Eight months before, one of the officers implicated in the Mayson case admitted at the Aggett inquest that he had “given Lieutenant Whitehead and other officers permission to interrogate Aggett for an extraordinarily lengthy spell said to have covered sixty-three hours”. Shortly thereafter, other security police implicated in these cases were ordered to pay Mr Auret van Heerden R5 000 in damages for subjecting him to “unreasonably lengthy periods of detention”. Hence, notwithstanding incriminating judgments, security police were allowed to continue torturing detainees unchecked.
218 Further evidence of tolerance of torture lies in the promotion, sometimes to the highest levels, of security police officers involved in torture. Statements before the Commission implicate four former heads of the Security Branch, two of whom subsequently became commissioners of police.
219 A number of officers commanding of divisional and local Security Branch offices and section heads at headquarters have been implicated either directly or indirectly of having knowledge of torture. These include the divisional commanders of the Eastern Cape, the Eastern Transvaal, Port Natal, Northern Transvaal and Border.
220 The use and condoning of torture allowed for the use of coercion in the investigation of cases. Reinforced by deep racism, this approach increasingly characterised police work and led, furthermore, to serious neglect of investigative police work.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE USE OF TORTURE IN THE FORM OF THE INFLICTION OF SEVERE PHYSICAL AND/OR MENTAL PAIN AND SUFFERING FOR THE PURPOSES OF PUNISHMENT, INTIMIDATION AND THE EXTRACTING OF INFORMATION AND/OR CONFESSIONS, WAS PRACTISED SYSTEMATICALLY PARTICULARLY, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY, BY THE SECURITY BRANCH OF THE SAP THROUGHOUT THE COMMISSION’S MANDATE PERIOD.
THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT A CONSIDERABLE NUMBER OF DEATHS IN DETENTION OCCURRED, EITHER AS A DIRECT RESULT OF TORTURE OR AS A CONSEQUENCE OF A SITUATION IN WHICH THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE SUCH THAT DETAINEES WERE INDUCED TO COMMIT SUICIDE.
THE COMMISSION CONCLUDES THAT THE USE OF TORTURE WAS CONDONED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT AS OFFICIAL PRACTICE.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT TORTURE AS PRACTISED BY MEMBERS OF THE SAP CONSTITUTED A SYSTEMATIC PATTERN OF ABUSE WHICH ENTAILED DELIBERATE PLANNING BY SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE SAP, AND WAS A GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THEREFORE THAT THE FOLLOWING ARE DIRECTLY ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE USE OF TORTURE AGAINST DETAINEES AND INDIRECTLY FOR ALL UNNATURAL DEATHS OF DETAINEES IN POLICE CUSTODY: THE MINISTERS OF POLICE AND OF LAW AND ORDER; THE COMMISSIONERS OF POLICE; OFFICERS COMMANDING OF THE SECURITY BRANCH AT NATIONAL, DIVISIONAL AND LOCAL LEVELS. THE CABINET IS FOUND TO BE INDIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE.