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Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 15:23:27 GMT
Reply-To: Brian Hauk <bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Brian Hauk <bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com>
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
9 October 1996

WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of apartheid's birds has begun to sing.

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 Congress.

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 Party.

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 the shade."

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 hearing.

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 humanity itself...

"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. Approved."

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 noted.

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 themselves."

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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