|That is why I said earlier that it wasn’t a great day for reconciliation but as Brigadier Mofokeng pointed out the Truth Commission is the forum to vent this kind of frustration. On to the men in blue. It is probably safe to say that the majority of human rights violations committed the last three decades were the work of members of the former South African Police Force. Several former police generals and some of their high ranking subordinates appeared before the Commission to explain their role during especially the turbulent 1980s. First to testify was General Johan van der Merwe, South Africa’s last apartheid police commissioner.
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|Gen Johan van der Merwe, head of the security police in the 1980s and National Police Commissioner in the 90s told the TRC that there was never a general policy authorizing unlawful actions by the police against opponents of apartheid. // Mister Chairman often during my evidence given to the Amnesty Committee and also before the investigative unit that there had never been a clear instruction by the previous government or the State Security Council that any unlawful deed, which was a violation of human rights had to be committed.
|However he claimed that such actions were carried out under certain circumstances and that senior members of the State Security Council or certain politicians had to accept responsibility for those actions.
|The National Party made its submission and the former state president made his submission. He said actions of an unlawful nature were never authorized, they were either bona fide misinterpretations of lawful instructions or they were bona fide actions as a result of people who were overzealous or they were mala fide. Those people, you – he didn’t mention you in particular but you – and your subordinates were bad apples and that that was never authorized. Can you comment on that perspective please? // Mister Chairman, I have already testified before the Amnesty Committee and before the investigative team and I’ve confirmed that certain instructions were given with the approval of the minister. I do not doubt that at all he would have informed the State Security Council.
|Gen van der Merwe challenged former State President FW de Klerk’s claim that the National Party government had never authorized human rights crimes. // If that is denied that the previous government in this case, specifically the State Security Council, did not have knowledge of certain unlawful actions; that is not true.
|Gen van der Merwe’s predecessor Gen Johan Coetzee said that he had no knowledge of unlawful operations being carried out within the country and denied ever having issued an illegal instruction. // I did not, I did not sir, give any policeman any illegal instruction, unlawful instruction: kill a person, assault a person or do anything of that nature sir. As a matter of fact the Vice Chairman has spoken about people in incarceration; we had extensive instructions, published; enforced orders about how these people should be dealt with sir. Not anything illegal contained in that sir, how they should be treated. If a policeman stepped outside that, he must explain that sir, he must explain his actions.
|You never authorized anyone, and if any person under your command purported to authorize someone to commit an unlawful act, that person would have been acting unlawfully. Is that correct? // That person must be asked. // That person would be acting unlawfully. // That person must be asked… // I’m asking you whether that person acted unlawfully or not, it’s a simple question. // Yes, but you place it in a very simple category sir. The fact is you’re asking me, I’ve told you sir that I haven’t given any policeman, not a single policeman, any order to commit an illegal act. Whether he constructed what I said in a wrong way, whether he constructed what I said in another way that I meant it, I cannot comment on it. He is the man. His mind must be probed, not mine.
|What I think we find difficult to understand is how this could take place, how people could die, could be tortured, could be abducted, could be buried and many of them; and people like yourself and others just didn’t know, weren’t aware of that these people were acting unlawfully or illegally or misunderstood. Help us, I mean how is it possible for that to take place? // I think sir one should look upon this whole matter in its whole situation, it lasted sir thirty years. What was described by both sides as a war situation lasted for more than thirty years. It was all done on a need to know underground basis, both from the side of the ANC, APLA, South African Police, the army and everyone that participated in this. So, in that situation I say sir, it’s not a normal situation where you have evidence, information at your fingertips. In those cases Mr. Chairperson, and I can mention them if necessary, where I became aware … Vlakplaas operatives, I had them charged for murder sir ...more
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|Vlakplaas, the notorious security police unit outside Pretoria. This week, the former security police boss to whom the men of Vlakplaas had to answer spoke publicly for the first time.
|Schoon told the TRC that he’d never been disciplined for authorizing actions of an illegal nature and said that former Commissioners and Ministers of police such as Louis Le Grange, Adriaan Vlok, Johan van der Merwe and Johan Coetzee had all visited Vlakplaas.
|I think there was one occasion when I met Minister Vlok personally. // From that meeting and from that incident would you have gained any insight into the minister’s view in regard to the approach adopted by the security police that we’ve been talking about? // Mister Chairman I think this is a very personal question and I would rather not answer this here.
|Former security policeman and Military Intelligence agent Craig Williamson says he still finds it surprising that politicians and the upper echelons of the security forces say they did not know about covert operations conducted in the name of apartheid. He says that he and his security forces colleagues cannot accept all the blame.
|Our weapons, ammunition, uniforms, vehicles, radios and other equipment were all developed and provided by industry. Our finances and banking were done by bankers who even gave us covert credit cards for covert operations. Our chaplains prayed for our victory and our universities educated us in war. Our propaganda was carried by the media and our political masters were voted back into power time after time with ever increasing majorities.