Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 15:23:27 GMT
Reply-To: Brian Hauk <email@example.com>
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From: Brian Hauk <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC
Subject: Hit squad commander names former South African presidents in crimes
Hit squad commander names former South African presidents in crimes
By Greg Rosenberg, the Militant, Vol.60, no.35
WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of apartheid's birds has begun to
Col. Eugene de Kock, commander of the notorious Vlakplaas
police death squad, named in court former South African
presidents P.W. Botha and F.W. de Klerk as having approved
"hits" against apartheid's opponents. The vast repressive
machinery of the former apartheid state apparatus was aimed at
the revolutionary movement led by the African National
In August de Kock was convicted of six murders, two counts
of conspiracy to murder, one of attempted murder, one of
culpable homicide, and other charges, including 66 counts of
fraud. The Vlakplaas unit took its name from a farm outside
Pretoria where anti-apartheid fighters were taken to be
tortured and killed.
The apartheid assassin's grisly resume included blowing up
the ANC headquarters in London; bombing the Johannesburg
headquarters of the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU); murdering ANC activists in South Africa and
Swaziland; planting arms so that Pretoria could have an excuse
to raid an ANC office in Botswana, in which 12 people died;
killing police informants who had outlived their purpose;
sending a tape recorder rigged with a bomb that killed an ANC
lawyer; collaborating with Pretoria's "Department of Bacterial
Warfare"; and gun-running to leaders of the Inkatha Freedom
De Kock and his unit were favorites of the apartheid regime.
The colonel has described having generals pinning medals to his
chest for raids, and receiving accolades from a former South
African foreign minister for his actions. But in light of his
August conviction, de Kock has now been allowed to present
"mitigating" testimony prior to sentencing. And the cop has
begun to turn on his former masters.
`On the highest authority'
On September 17, de Kock testified that when ordered to blow
up the COSATU headquarters, he questioned on whose authority
the order had been issued. His superior pressed him to take the
assignment, stating it came on "the highest authority."
"I asked if it came from the President himself and he said
yes," de Kock stated. At that time, P.W. Botha held office.
A day later, current National Party leader de Klerk was
named by de Kock. "De Klerk cannot say that he did not know
that such [covert] organizations existed," the colonel said.
"He gave the order for the attack on the Transkei in 1993."
The Transkei was one of the apartheid "homelands" -
desolate areas with little arable land in rural South Africa
where blacks were forced to live in miserable conditions under
apartheid. Five youth, aged 12-17, were murdered in the attack.
Shortly thereafter, de Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Price
jointly with ANC president Nelson Mandela.
Loyalty for his former employers was in short supply during
the mitigation hearing. De Kock said he regarded de Klerk as
akin to "a small scared dog lying on his back wetting his
pants," who had betrayed loyal apartheid functionaries.
The colonel also explained that as police death squad
activities began to be exposed, the cops went on a document-
destroying campaign. "For days we burnt evidence," he
testified. "Literally tons and tons and tons of evidence." De
Kock added that he knew of other death squads operated by the
National Party government whose deeds would leave his own "in
De Kock's case falls outside the jurisdiction of South
Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was
established by the ANC-led government with the power to grant
amnesty to people who make full confessions of their crimes. De
Kock has applied for amnesty. But the Truth Commission is
prohibited from granting amnesty to those guilty of heinous
violations of human rights.
The latest revelations brought professions of disbelief from
some of the likely architects of apartheid's terror campaign.
Inkatha Freedom Party member of parliament Themba Khoza, named
by de Kock as a recipient of police gun-running, asserted he
was being set up. "It is the ANC that caused this country and
its citizens untold miseries. The ANC brought in more weapons
than anybody else," Khoza claimed.
Former apartheid foreign minister Pik Botha also bleated
shock. "I believe the Department of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Pik
Botha knew about it," de Kock had testified regarding the
planting of weapons in Gaborone, Botswana, set up to justify a
South African military raid that claimed 13 lives. Botha
claimed the testimony meant that "the Cabinet was deliberately
misled when matters of this nature were discussed."
National Party leader de Klerk had no immediate comment on
the charges. But they were in stark contradiction to testimony
he gave to the Truth Commission on behalf of his party in
August. "Within my knowledge and experience, [these actions]
never included the authorization of assassination, murder,
torture, rape, assault or the like. Nor did I individually
directly or indirectly ever suggest, order, or authorize any
such action," stated the former president at the August
In contrast to de Klerk's whitewash of 46 years of National
Party rule, presented in a 30-page document to the commission,
the ANC submission detailed apartheid repression. The report
was presented by ANC deputy-president Thabo Mbeki to the Truth
Commission at the end of August. In addition to providing an
overall view of Pretoria's brutal history, the ANC document
also explained and took responsibility for abuses committed by
some cadres of the organization during the battle against
apartheid, when it maintained an armed wing known as Umkhonto
we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).
`Know what happened and why'
"The ANC supports the work of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission," the submission states. "By knowing what happened
and why it happened, South Africa will be better placed to
ensure that the evil deeds of the past are never repeated."
Answering charges by South African rightists and liberals
alike that the ANC was equally culpable for human rights
violations, the document states, "It would be morally wrong and
legally incorrect to equate apartheid with the resistance
against it. While the latter was rooted in the principles of
human dignity and human rights, the former was an affront to
"Apartheid oppression and repression were therefore not an
aberration of a well-intentioned undertaking that went horribly
wrong. Neither were they, as we were later told, an attempt to
stave off the `evil of communism.' The ideological underpinning
and the programme of apartheid constituted a deliberate and
systematic mission of a ruling clique that saw itself as the
champion of a `super-race.'"
The ANC submission explained that such repression did not
abate after Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and political
organizations were unbanned in 1990. "Between 1990 and 1993,
nearly 12,000 civilians were killed and 20,000 were injured in
thousands of incidents, including several major massacres," the
ANC document said. "A top secret document dated March 13, 1990
stated that F.W. de Klerk was `briefed on a broad spectrum of
sensitive projects; and had given his approval `in principle'"
on various covert actions.
The report added that Pretoria's military actions against
neighboring countries in southern Africa had cost 1.5 million
lives by 1989.
`More deaths. Approved.'
Noting the mentality of the state officials who ran the
white minority regime, the report quoted notes taken at a
Cabinet meeting during the Soweto youth revolt in 1976 by then
Minister of Police Jimmy Kruger: "10.8.76. Unrest in Soweto
still continues. The children of Soweto are well-trained. The
pupils/students have established student councils. The basic
danger is a growing black consciousness and the inability to
prevent incidents, what with the military precision with which
they act. The Minister proposes that this movement must be
broken and thinks that police should perhaps act a bit more
drastically and heavy-handedly which will entail more deaths.
The ANC submission reported other details of the campaign to
break the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. "Over 80,000
people, including over 1,500 children were detained without
trial, some for periods of up to two and a half years; ...over
10,000 detainees were tortured, assaulted or suffered other
forms of abuse; over 70 detainees died in detention during this
period; at least 3,000 people were placed under house arrest;
... over 35,000 books were banned for possession and
distribution in South Africa between 1960 and 1991; thousands
of people were prosecuted in numerous political trials. Many
were jailed and others executed....
"Linked to this was the use of state-sanctioned hit squads
in extra-legal terror and assassinations by the Civil Co-
operation Bureau and the Vlakplaas police unit," the ANC report
In contrast, the ANC said, "it was the policy of the ANC -
ever since the formation of [Umkhonto we Sizwe] in 1961 - to
avoid unnecessary loss of life. The ANC has never permitted
random attacks on civilian targets.... The ANC has acknowledged
that in a number of instances breaches in policy did occur, and
deeply regrets civilian casualties. The leadership took steps
to halt operations in conflict with the policy."
The report noted that previous commissions of the liberation
organization had investigated and made public findings of abuse
and torture in some ANC camps in southern Africa. "The ANC
highly regrets the excesses that occurred. Further, we do
acknowledge that the real threat we faced and the difficult
condition under which we had to operate led to a drift in
accountability and control away from established norms,
resulting in situations in which some individuals within the
[ANC] Security Department started to behave as a law unto
The De Kock revelations point to a new round of trials of
former apartheid generals and other government officials that
may be in the offing. One such lawsuit is already coming to a
conclusion - that of former apartheid defense minister Magnus
Malan. He and 14 co-defendants are currently on trial for a
1987 massacre in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Evidence has
been presented linking the apartheid military, which ordered
the assault, with the Inkatha goons who carried it out.
Judgment is expected in October.
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