Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Conflict of the Past - A Factual Review (PART 1)

As compiled by General Johan van der Merwe - (Retired 31 March 1995)


Gen JV van der Merwe, SSAS,SOE: 1990 - 1995

More than two decades after political negotiations were started and the ANC, as well as other revolutionary organisations, ceased the armed struggle, there is still large scale confusion and ignorance regarding the nature of the violence that raged in South Africa from 1960 to 1990.

The TRC, which unquestionably consisted overwhelmingly of ANC-supporters and sympathisers, laid the foundation for a propaganda onslaught in which the SABC and certain members of the media merrily took part.

One example of the manner in which this propaganda campaign was conducted is the Special Assignment program about the conflict of the past, presented by the SABC on 18 November 2008.

This program was presented in such a one-sided and distorted fashion that the Foundation for Equality before the Law found it necessary to lay a complaint with the Independent Broadcasting Complaints Commission. After conducting a trial, they found:

“Taking all these facts into consideration, the Tribunal is of the view that one-sided impressions were created in the programme, which is to the detriment of the security force officers. This does not mean that we are of the opinion that these officers were innocent of any atrocities. They (or some of them) admitted to such atrocities. What we find is that there was not sufficient balance in presenting this particular programme, because a lasting impression is created in the mind of the reasonable viewer, firstly, that the security officers were the only people who committed atrocities during the armed struggle, and, secondly, that they then tried to prevent victims from giving evidence against them at the TRC hearings. In finding thus, it is not our intention to interfere with the editorial prerogative of the presenter. The presenter is free to take a particular angle or line and to emphasize aspects that he or she considers to be more important than others. However, when the presenter is dealing with controversial issues of public importance, he or she should treat all parties involved in the issue fairly, and see to it that balance is obtained in presenting different viewpoints. If this is not done, the broadcast can deteriorate into propaganda, a situation that cannot be allowed in any democracy.”

Examples of this type of propaganda appear in our Media daily and it is sad that certain Afrikaans newspapers, either due to ignorance or because of journalists with dubious motives, often take the lead.

It is also a pity that Mr FW de Klerk and other former Ministers of the National Party do not feel obliged to rectify these skewed and distorted reports regarding the conflict of the past.

The following facts are lost sight of, consciously disregarded or maliciously distorted.

For more than three decades the RSA was subjected to a fierce struggle filled with deeds of terror through which the ANC and other revolutionary organisations attempted to take over the Government.

Car-bombs, landmines, limpet mines and other explosive devices exploded on a regular basis and defenceless people - women and children - were killed or horribly maimed and the community faced a constant threat. Limpet mines in Wimpy Restaurants and explosive devices in refuse containers or terror attacks, in which persons might be mowed down indiscriminately, irrespective of whether they were women or children, were a real daily threat. The Church Street Bomb-explosion and the attack on the St James Church were characteristic of the reckless and barbaric way in which the revolutionary groups conducted the struggle. Pressure was mounted on the police from all sides, especially on the Security Branch, to safeguard the community at large from these attacks.

Members of the South African Police Force were regarded as ‘hard targets” and attacks on members and their families became a frequent event. Black members of the force, especially those living in black townships, lived under constant threat. In some areas black policemen had to be housed in tents in secure areas in order to safeguard them against attack from the ANC. From 1973 to 1990 more than 346 members of the force were killed in the revolutionary onslaught.

Where the slightest suspicion existed that someone had given information to the police or cooperated with the police in any way, that person was branded a collaborator and collaborators were burned alive using the most inhuman and barbaric method known as the ‘necklace method’. During the period 1 September 1984 to 31 March 1993, 505 persons, exclusively members of the black community, were burned alive by the necklace method. 36 persons, whom they were able to rescue in time, were severely burnt. During the same period, 710 persons, once again solely members of the black community, were burnt alive while 320 received serious burns. This all but destroyed the ability of the police to obtain information from the black community or to get people to give evidence against members of Umkhonto we Sizwe or other revolutionary organisations. As a result the legal processes available to the police became impotent. Even the declaration of a state of emergency and emergency regulations were not enough to stop the terror. On the 26th of September 1992 the previous Government and the ANC entered into an agreement or so-called “RECORD OF UNDERSTANDING” in terms of which 176 prisoners were released. One of the stipulations of this Agreement determined that:

“The two parties agreed that all prisoners whose imprisonment is related to the conflict of the past, and whose release could make a contribution to reconciliation, should be released.”

With the exception of Barend Strydom, the so-called “Wit Wolf”, all of the other prisoners were released at the insistence of the ANC. These included persons who were serving long sentences for “necklace murders”. In so doing, the ANC clearly confirmed that the ‘necklace murder” was indeed a tool of the revolutionary struggle and was carried out to further their aims. The abhorrent deeds committed by some of these prisoners far exceeded anything that Eugene de Kock was involved with.

Members of the police force were deployed in both South West Africa (Namibia) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in order to stem the revolutionary onslaught. The training of the police had to be drastically adapted to enable them to meet this task. This training also conflicted with classic policing methods where minimum force may be used and where the main objective is to bring charges against a suspect and to bring him before the court. Police work became a life or death struggle which hinged on the extermination of the enemy. The policeman was compelled to kill or be killed.

The revolutionary struggle was seen as an East-West struggle both internally and externally and the Soviet Union’s involvement and support for the ANC added the element of Soviet expansionism.

Members of the police force, particularly members of the Security Branch, were regularly exposed to the carnage and violence which resulted from this conflict. It was a regular tactic of the ANC to set up mines and explosive devices in such a way that the first explosion drew the police to the scene while the second mine or explosive device would explode some while afterwards with the aim of harming the police. Several members of the police force were brutally killed in this fashion.

Members of the Security Branch were often at scenes where motorcar-bombs, landmines, limpet mines or other explosive devices had been detonated and their colleagues as well as defenceless people, including women and children, were blown apart and body-parts flung over a wide area, and had to help gather up the body-parts. This inevitably left an indelible impression on the minds of policemen on the scene which, in many cases, led to a hardening in their attitude towards members of revolutionary groups and their supporters.

Vociferous statements by politicians that the ANC had to be wiped out roots and all, ambiguous instructions and the covert manner in which they were given created the impression that everything possible had to be done to wipe out the ANC. Due to all of these factors, it was impossible for the Security Branch to combat the ANC threat with the legal means at their disposal. The desperate situation which prevailed led to desperate measures. In these circumstances Mr PW Botha and other members of his cabinet themselves authorised or tacitly approved actions which fell outside the usual letter of the law. This inevitably led to members of the Security Branch, who were at the forefront of the struggle against terror, taking the law into their own hands.

It is widely known that no power in the world has been able to combat large scale and well organised terror, which carries the express or tacit approval of the majority of the people of that country, by legal means. There are several examples to support this view and, without exception, powers who became involved in such revolutionary struggles had to resort to unconventional means to combat them. The war that Britain fought in Malaya is a case in point! South Africa was no exception since the police had to protect the population against the terror attacks of revolutionary organisations while the majority of the black population supported them, whether voluntarily or as a result of severe intimidation.

From the very beginning the TRC-process was characterised by a one-sided approach in which members of the Security Branch were often harshly discriminated against. To qualify for amnesty, former members of the Security Branch had to meet the following requirements:
  • They had to prove that the unlawful acts in which they were involved were associated with a political objective and committed in the conflict of the past;
  • that the acts were committed in the course and scope of their duties and within the scope of their express or implied authority and,
  • they had to make a full disclosure.

These provisions of The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act made a mockery of the closing passages of the Interim Constitution which expressly determines that amnesty shall be granted in respect of any action or omission associated with a political objective and committed in the conflict of the past.. It is clear that Mr de Klerk and former ministers of the National Party, who were involved in drafting these provisions, did not have the foggiest idea of the conditions under which the security forces carried out these deeds or else they didn't really care.

Continue reading... PART 2


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