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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 297

Paragraph Numbers 551 to 565

Volume 2

Chapter 3

Subsection 57

Support to surrogate and opposition groups

551 Other chapters of this report deal with the former state’s use of surrogate forces and covert support to opposition groups outside South Africa. Major Craig Williamson told the Commission that this strategy was adopted and used actively from the 1980s on the principle that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Several specific operations were undertaken. The strategy was also implemented internally through the practice of ‘contra-mobilisation’.

552 The two most prominent examples of operations designed to create, bolster or train ‘middle groups’ to counter the revolutionary threat were Operation Marion and Operation Katzen. The former was fully implemented; the latter only partially. Both operations were run as DST 2 projects with input and training from Special Forces. Both are dealt with elsewhere in the Commission’s report. Marion involved the building of the counter-revolutionary capacities of Inkatha as a bulwark against the UDF and ANC. Katzen involved efforts to build a traditionalist, ethnically-based bulwark against the resistance movements in the Eastern Cape.

553 Contra-mobilisation was essentially the practical implementation of the principles of ‘strategic communication’ or ‘STRATCOM’ (also known in military terms as communication operations, or ‘COMOPS’) – counter-propaganda to motivate the population to oppose the revolution26. At this point the only aspect of STRATCOM covered in this report is that of contra-mobilisation. As there were amnesty applications pending at the time of reporting, the broader issue of STRATCOM will be covered in the Amnesty Committee’s report.


554 Contra-mobilisation is an important principle of counter-revolutionary warfare developed by American military and intelligence analysts in the 1960s. It holds that, in revolutionary warfare, the most significant battle is for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the population, and that security strategies should therefore be 80 per cent political and only 20 per cent military. This approach was increasingly incorporated into the SADF’s security perspectives from the 1960s and was reproduced virtually in text book form by senior SADF strategists such as Brigadier CA Fraser.27

555 In the South African context, contra-mobilisation was used to organise and support ‘moderate blacks’ to oppose the revolutionary movements. Of necessity, it was a covert strategy – concealing the hand of the state as provider of logistical, political and financial support – and making use of ‘surrogate’ forces. Hence, the state would not be seen to be involved in the conflict and violence between groupings and the resistance organisations.

556 Elements of the theory and practice of contra-mobilisation can be traced to the early 1980s. From 1985 it received the attention of the State Security Council (SSC), resulting in the January 1987 ‘position paper’ which postulated that the idea was an integral part of ‘Strategy 44’, which was developed in the Total Strategy Branch of the SSC, and was formally adopted by the SSC in December 1986 as the “Nasionale Strategie teen die Rewolusionêre Oorlog teen die RSA” (National strategy against Revolutionary War against South Africa).

557 Strategy 44 aimed “to mobilize groups and individuals to defend themselves and to offer resistance against revolutionary actions”, giving “moderate blacks” support in political developments. It held also that counter-revolutionary organisations should be “developed on an ethnic basis to prevent radicals from utilising the political vacuum”.

558 The term contra-mobilisation was used in official documentation to refer to more offensive actions in which the population is seen as a direct vehicle to crush the revolutionary threat. For example, a November 1985 discussion document authored by National Intelligence Service states:

The activities of the Comrades should be rendered inoperative by the neutralization of the leadership by means of an operation called ‘vasvat’ [to take a firm grip], or, in an clandestine manner, to make them the target of the ‘vigilantes’ or ‘mabangalala’. … The action against intimidation from anarchists and revolutionaries by the so-called ‘vigilantes’ or ‘mabangalala’, should, taking in consideration an organization such as Inkatha, in a clandestine manner, be reinforced, extended and portrayed as a natural resistance by moderates against anarchy.”28

559 A specific theme related to South African implementation of the principles of contra-mobilisation can be found in the fostering of conflicts, either in the ethnic dimensions mentioned above or in ideological differences. As early as 1982, the SADF proposed to the SSC that it should “exploit and encourage the division between the ANC, Inkatha and the BCM [Black Consciousness Movement] organizations.”29

560 The STRATCOM branch of the SSC played an important role in this aspect as well. It is seen, for example, in a 1985 telex directive from the Secretariat of the SSC and the STRATCOM branch to regional JMCs regarding the fostering of differences between the UDF and AZAPO and advancing ideas and suggestions for further inflaming situations of conflict.

561 The security arm most directly concerned with the implementation of contra-mobilisation was the SADF. The SADF was made responsible for youth clubs, community organisations, women’s organisations, traditional authorities, arts and rural development, with the aim of establishing structures to oppose the revolution. Major Marius Oelschig acknowledged in the State v Msane and 19 others that “the South African government … through the SADF, assisted various dissident groups to create a capability, which they themselves could use … ”.30

562 In September 1985, the SADF proposed to the SSC that a national contra-mobilisation project be established, a project similar to the Etango/eZuva project in South West Africa/Namibia. The project was approved by the Minister of Defence on 11 September 1985 and the organisational structure and expenses were approved by the Chief of the Defence Force on 19 December 1985.31

563 The contra-mobilisation methods applied to Etango and eZuva were seen to be successful. It was felt that this was owing to the absence of public involvement of the SADF, which would have damaged the credibility of these organisations. The aim of the Etango project was “to motivate the Owambo people to resist SWAPO and any form of communist infiltration”. It was run largely by the Directorate of Communication Operations (‘COMOPS’) and was intended to establish a traditionalist tribally oriented Owambo movement. Similarly, the eZuva project targeted the Kavango population.

564 Colonel HC ‘Chris’ Nel suggests that some support for the Etango project came from former SWAPO-supporting members of the local population:

We had a high turnover of suspects, members of the local population, so-called SWAPO chairmen, people who were part of the internal support structure, that were brought in for questioning and we had to release them within thirty days. We had a very high turnover of that. They were all administered by the military police who kept records of everybody who came in there and then were released according to the law. Those who offered to become askaris [i.e collaborate], they were passed on to a structure called Etango, called Komops. There were people under the leadership of Dr Pasques who established a political organisation called Etango and this is the Ovambo word for rising sun.
They had a facility not very far from the POW camp and with the advantage of hindsight, today I can say that they were brainwashed, conditioned … They were put through an extensive programme to clean their minds of all communist influences and they were recruited to become organisers and members of the DTA. That was where a large percentage of the prisoners went.”

565 Guidelines for contra-mobilisation were issued from command HQ level and were given to the territorial commands. These instructions took the form of memoranda discussed in various conferences. The regional COMOPS divisions met from time to time to exchange notes. Over and above contra-mobilisation projects undertaken by the territorial commands, COMOPS ran national contra-mobilisation projects under Brigadier FJ ‘Ferdi’ van Wyk.

26 In 1984/85, the SSC established a special committee to investigate strategic communication and the co-ordination of counter-propaganada among departments. In line with the greater emphasis on STRATCOM, the Strategic Communications Branch of the SSC was reformulated and various state organs allocated responsibilities in this regard. 27 Brigadier CA Fraser, Lessons from Past Revolutionary Wars. 28 From file 22/3/2/44, Pretoria State Archives, Vol 3, ref NI/B3/17/1/4/19. 29 From file 22/3/2/2 ANC Total Strategy, HSAW 521/2/2/30 Vol 1, Appendix A: Military Strategic Directive (MSD) No 461 HS OPS/HDB/303/11/1. 30 Major Oelschig, State v P Msane, vol 54, p. 4225. 31 AMI/KO/328/6/3/ANCOR Uitbreiding van Kontramobilisasiestrategie (Extension of Contra-mobilisation Strategy), 21 July 1986, Memorandum from the chief of staff intelligence to chief of the army.
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