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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 220

Paragraph Numbers 221 to 230

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 24


221 As levels of conflict intensified, the security forces came to believe that it was no longer possible to rely on the due process of law and that it was preferable to kill people extra-judicially. Evidence of this is contained in numerous amnesty applications as well as section 29 hearings, in particular the hearing on the armed forces. Major-General ‘Sakkie’ Crafford [AM5468/97] claimed in his amnesty application that:

In some cases it was necessary to eliminate activists by killing them. This was the only way in which effective action could be taken against activists in a war situation … to charge someone in the normal court structure and go through the whole process was cumbersome and occasionally totally inadequate and impossible.

222 Extra-judicial killing was generally directed at high-profile activists “whose detention in terms of security legislation would give momentum to the liberation struggle. The security police and the country could not afford a Nelson Mandela again.”

223 Crafford suggested that the purpose of extra-judicial killing was threefold:

a It scared off other supporters and potential supporters; it made people reluctant to offer open support; it created distrust and demoralisation amongst cadres.

b It gave white voters confidence that the security forces were in control and winning the fight against Communism and terrorism.

c The information gleaned during interrogation needed to be protected against disclosure.

224 The difficulty posed by extra-judicial killing was that it moved the security forces directly into an arena of illegality. While cross-border assassinations and raids certainly fell outside the scope of international protocols and sometimes law, the security forces perceived them to be legitimate, authorised and thus legal actions. Raids, for example, although organised at a clandestine level, were openly – and proudly – acknowledged after the operation was completed.

225 The internal situation was different. Here operations had to be highly covert, ensuring that actions could not be traced back to the security forces. This led to the development of covert units, such as region 6 of the Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) and Vlakplaas hit squads.

226 Evidence before the Commission also suggests that, in some instances, the security forces were able to arrange for killings to be conducted by a third party. A former member of the CCB described it thus:

The emphasis was more placed on disruption by means of indirect means of getting the enemy to kill itself, to detain itself and to disrupt itself. And physically killing them was placed more or less ... [a]s a last resort, sort of method.

227 Examples of this form of killing included cases where an impression was deliberately created that someone was in the employ of the Security Branch and the person was subsequently killed by ‘comrades’ or, as in Natal, dropping UDF supporters in known Inkatha strongholds or ‘no-go’ areas where they had little chance of survival. At the other end of the spectrum, it included the fomenting of divisions within communities that led to more widespread killings. This approach had the added benefit of conveying the impression to white South Africa and the international community that the problem South Africa experienced was one of so-called black-on-black violence (see below).

228 The Commission distinguished between four types of extra-judicial killings: targeted killings; killing following abduction and interrogation; ambushes where seemingly little or no attempt was made to effect an arrest, and entrapment killings. Information about extra-judicial killings was drawn largely from amnesty applications, most of which were yet to be heard at the time of reporting, and thus largely untested. Where these applications are used, no conclusive finding is made by the Commission. Where amnesty applications have been heard and granted, and reliance is placed upon such applications, the Commission has also not made specific findings, as the finding of the Amnesty Committee constitutes the finding of the Commission.

229 It needs to be noted, further, that there were often no independent witnesses to these killings. Aside from the difficulties this poses in relation to corroboration, it poses even larger problems for victims. That the last moment in a victim’s life should be recorded for posterity through the voices and versions of those who killed them is of itself an act of violence. This needs to be acknowledged and remembered.

Targeted killing

230 Targeted killings refer to those which aimed to ensure the victim’s ‘permanent removal from society’. In most instances, targets for such killings were those whom the security forces perceived as a threat but were unable to charge, either for lack of evidence or because they feared it would lead to greater mobilisation. The people concerned were frequently high-profile political figures.

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