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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 218

Paragraph Numbers 100 to

Volume 5

Chapter 6

Subsection 10

Findings on the state and unlawful activities

100 This finding forms a major part of the Commission’s overall conclusion that the South African state in the 1980s and early 1990s engaged in or undertook a range of unlawful activities. Other evidence to support this assertion is, in brief:

a The admission by both senior security force officers and security police operatives that they were ordered by either the then State President or senior members of the government to:

  • commit criminal acts of sabotage by blowing up such public facilities as the diplomatic mission of the ANC in London, the offices of the South African Council of Churches (SACC – Khotso House), the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (Khanya House) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU);
  • undertake a ‘false-flag’ operation in the form of the placing and uncovering of an arms cache in order to provide a pretext for the state’s armed forces to attack targets in an independent neighbouring state, in a clear violation of international law.

b Evidence presented to the Commission that certain sections of the security police, such as the Soweto Intelligence Unit, undertook illegal acts such as sabotage and arson, within and outside the country, in order to give credibility to their agents.

c Evidence from security police members that, in the latter 1980s, they sometimes deliberately circumvented what they saw as negative or adverse court decisions by, for example, killing alleged political activists acquitted in political trials.

d Evidence presented to the Commission under oath and by way of amnesty applications that, on the instruction of their senior officers, security police members abducted MK cadres, executed them when they refused to cooperate and buried them secretly on farms owned or rented by the police.

e Evidence presented under oath to the Commission by the former secretary of a state structure, the Joint Management Centre (JMC), that he was instructed by a senior police officer to arrange and facilitate the attack on a suspected UDF house in Trustfeeds, KwaZulu-Natal, in which eleven people were killed, and that the subsequent investigation into the killing was covered up at the highest level.

f Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that the South African government authorised and financed the formation of a clandestine security force unit (the CCB) whose objective was to “inflict maximal damage to the enemy”1 including, among other actions, the killing of political opponents.

g Evidence made available to the Commission that, after 1990, MI devised an official plan to abduct and/or assassinate Mr Chris Hani and Mr Bantu Holomisa.

h Evidence presented to the Commission of covert assistance given by the SADF to the IFP to establish, train, arm and pay an offensive para-military unit or hit squad to be deployed against mutual enemies of the state and the IFP.

i Evidence in the possession of the Commission that it was state policy to foster division between communities and organisations, and that security force and state officials gave material and other support to conservative groupings which frequently engaged in violent attacks on political opponents of the government.

j Evidence made available to the Commission that the South African government armed, trained, financed and in other ways assisted foreign nationals to undertake military operations against neighbouring governments in violation of international law and the sovereignty of those states; and further that these domestically generated foreign wars and military operations resulted in the gross violation of the human rights of non-South African nationals on a vast scale.

k Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that the weapons used in a state-planned massacre of alleged government opponents were given over to a state corporation (ISCOR) for smelting in order to destroy the evidence of a crime.

l Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that high-ranking members of a state corporation (ESKOM) attempted to make available or sell a portion of its armoury to a political party engaged in a civil war – in the knowledge that those weapons could or would be used against alleged ANC supporters. This was authorised and done with the knowledge of the commissioner of police. The ESKOM deal formed only a small part of a wider practice of covert shipment of arms by state operatives to groups engaged in violent activities against opponents of the government.

m Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that air hostesses of the state carrier, South African Airways, were required or put under pressure to eavesdrop on passengers’ conversations and to report those of a suspicious nature to the security police.

n Evidence made available to the Commission that state or public vehicles, such as ambulances, were used to transport weapons supplied by the state to surrogates for use against opponents of the state.

o Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that members of the security police placed explosives in cinemas showing the film Cry Freedom, thus committing serious criminal offences. Earlier, the state had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a ruling from another state body prohibiting the screening of the film. This action reflects an attitude that the security police would not be impeded by the law in the pursuit of their objectives.

p Evidence presented under oath to the Commission that on a number of occasions, and usually at the behest of their superiors, members of the security forces presented false testimony at court inquests, including those dealing with the deaths in detention of Mr Stanza Bopape and Mr Steve Biko, as well as to trials of alleged political offenders and state commissions like the Harms Commission. The Commission also received evidence of deliberate falsification and/or destruction of evidence, and of widespread and deliberate cover-ups of investigations including the hiding of persons accused of killings, in SADF bases.

q Evidence presented under oath by former Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok, and in other amnesty applications, that strategic communication (Stratcom) activities transgressed the law.

r Evidence presented to the Commission of a widespread system of covert funding of secret operations, involving the expenditure of more than R2.75 billion in the period 1978–94. Though the funding system was not illegal in terms of existing statutory law, there is evidence that portions of those funds were used in the pursuit of unlawful activities, such as those undertaken by the CCB. In a report submitted to the Commission on secret state funding, the Auditor-General stated that certain secret projects of the SADF were never subjected to a full audit. Access to the operational files of the CCB was consistently denied by its so-called managing director, who was a high-ranking Special Forces officer. The Commission regards the following statement made to the Commission by the Auditor-General as significant:

The Office has always maintained and has publicly reported that the audit assurance obtained from auditing secret funds is lower than would normally be the case. It is with regret that, because of the inherent limitations of any audit as well as the particular circumstances set out earlier, the Office must accept that expenditure audited by it may have been incurred, or assets may have been acquired, from the relevant secret funds for the purpose of committing gross violation of human rights.

This Commission believes it can be more emphatic than the Auditor-General in asserting that some of these funds were used for unlawful activities. The CCB is a clear instance. Project Echoes involved the spreading of disinformation about ANC and MK leaders in the post-1990 period and amounted in large part to an exercise in criminal defamation.

101 Arising from the above, and from evidence presented in Volume Two of this report, the Commission makes the following findings in respect of the state’s involvement in gross violations of human rights during the period 1960–94:

THE COMMISSION ENDORSES THE POSITION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW THAT APARTHEID AS A FORM OF SYSTEMATIC RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND SEPARATION CONSTITUTED A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY.
WITHIN THIS CONTEXT, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT:
  • THE STATE – IN THE FORM OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT, THE CIVIL SERVICE AND ITS SECURITY FORCES – WAS, IN THE PERIOD 1960–94 THE PRIMARY PERPETRATOR OF GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA, AND FROM 1974, IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.
  • IN THE APPLICATION OF THE POLICY OF APARTHEID, THE STATE IN THE COMMISSION’S MANDATE PERIOD WAS INCREASINGLY AUTHORITARIAN IN NATURE AND INTOLERANT OF DISSENT. THIS WAS MANIFESTED, INTER ALIA, IN A HOST OF LEGISLATIVE MEASURES WHICH SEVERELY ABRIDGED THE PRINCIPLES OF THE RULE OF LAW AND LIMITED THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA TO FREE POLITICAL ACTIVITY.
  • THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN AUTHORITARIAN POLITICAL ORDER IN THE MANDATE PERIOD WAS FACILITATED BY A CULTURE OF IMPUNITY WHICH EMERGED AS A RESULT OF LEGISLATIVE AND OTHER MEASURES BY THE STATE, AND BY THE FAILURE, LARGELY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF STATE PRESSURE, OF ORGANS OF CIVIL SOCIETY – POLITICAL PARTIES, THE MASS MEDIA, FAITH, BUSINESS, LEGAL, MEDICAL AND OTHER GROUPS – TO OBSERVE AND ADHERE TO THE CODES AND STANDARDS OF CONDUCT INTEGRAL TO THEIR PROFESSIONS.
  • IN THE APPLICATION OF THE POLICY OF APARTHEID, THE STATE IN THE PERIOD 1960–90 SOUGHT TO PROTECT THE POWER AND PRIVILEGE OF A RACIAL MINORITY. RACISM THEREFORE CONSTITUTED THE MOTIVATING CORE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICAL ORDER, AN ATTITUDE LARGELY ENDORSED BY THE INVESTMENT AND OTHER POLICIES OF SOUTH AFRICA’S MAJOR TRADING PARTNERS IN THIS PERIOD. A CONSEQUENCE OF THIS RACISM WAS THAT WHITE CITIZENS IN GENERAL ADOPTED A DEHUMANISING POSITION TOWARDS BLACK CITIZENS, TO THE POINT WHERE THE RULING ORDER OF THE STATE CEASED TO REGARD THEM AS FELLOW CITIZENS AND LARGELY LABELLED THEM AS ‘THE ENEMY’. THIS CREATED A CLIMATE IN WHICH GROSS ATROCITIES COMMITTED AGAINST THEM WERE SEEN AS LEGITIMATE.
AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THESE FACTORS, THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE STATE PERPETRATED, AMONG OTHERS, THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH AND/OR SOUTHERN AFRICA:
  • TORTURE, INCLUDING NOT ONLY THE INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF PAIN BUT ALSO DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL AND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT;
  • ABDUCTION, INVOLVING THE FORCIBLE AND ILLEGAL REMOVAL OR CAPTURE OF PEOPLE, OFTEN FROM BEYOND THE BORDERS OF SOUTH AFRICA;
  • SEVERE ILL TREATMENT INCLUDING SEXUAL ASSAULT, ABUSE OR HARASSMENT, THE IMPOSITION OF RESTRICTIONS ON INDIVIDUALS IN THE FORM OF BANNING AND BANISHMENT ORDERS, THE DELIBERATE WITHHOLDING OF MEDICAL ATTENTION, FOOD AND WATER, THE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES OR OFFICES THROUGH ARSON OR SABOTAGE, AND THE MUTILATION OF BODY PARTS;
  • THE UNJUSTIFIED USE OF DEADLY FORCE IN SITUATIONS WHERE LESSER MEASURES WOULD HAVE BEEN ADEQUATE TO CONTROL DEMONSTRATIONS OR DETAIN OR ARREST SUSPECTS;
  • THE DELIBERATE MANIPULATION OF SOCIAL DIVISIONS IN SOCIETY WITH THE INTENTION OF MOBILISING ONE GROUP AGAINST ANOTHER, RESULTING, AT TIMES, IN VIOLENT CLASHES;
  • THE ARMING, FUNDING AND TRAINING OF FOREIGN NATIONALS FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENTS IN THE REGION;
  • INCURSIONS ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA’S BORDERS WITH THE INTENTION OF KILLING OR ABDUCTING OPPONENTS LIVING OUTSIDE OF SOUTH AFRICA;
  • JUDICIAL KILLINGS, INVOLVING THE EXECUTION OF OPPONENTS FOR OFFENCES OF A POLITICAL AND NOT A CRIMINAL NATURE;
  • EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS IN THE FORM OF STATE-PLANNED AND EXECUTED ASSASSINATIONS, ATTEMPTED KILLINGS, DISAPPEARANCES, ABDUCTIONS AND SO-CALLED ‘ENTRAPMENT KILLINGS’, WHERE INDIVIDUALS WERE DELIBERATELY ENTICED INTO SITUATIONS;
  • THE COVERT TRAINING, ARMING AND FUNDING OF OFFENSIVE PARAMILITARY UNITS OR HIT SQUADS FOR DEPLOYMENT INTERNALLY AGAINST OPPONENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT.
1 Hendrik Christoffel Nel in section 29 hearing, dated 18 May 1998, p51 (quoting CCB planning document for 1987).
 
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