Date: Tue, 5 Nov 96 10:48:24 CST
Resent-From: rich%pencil@VM.MARIST.EDU (Rich Winkel)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Hauk)
Subject: S. African Truth Commission Exposes Apartheid Rulers
Organization: InfoMatch Internet - Vancouver BC
S.African Truth Commission Exposes Apartheid Rulers
By Greg Rosenberg, from the Militant, Vol.60, no.40
November 11, 1996
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Johan van der Merwe, former commissioner
of the apartheid police force, publicly implicated former South
African president Pieter W. Botha and other Cabinet officials in
two of the most high-profile acts of terror committed by the
white regime in the 1980s. Van der Merwe's October 21 testimony
before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission marked another
crack in the wall of silence put up by leaders and functionaries
of the former apartheid regime.
Van der Merwe told the commission that he had ordered the
1988 bombing of Khotso House in downtown Johannesburg, which
housed the South African Council of Churches. He also said he
had devised a plan to distribute booby-trapped hand grenades to
student anti-apartheid fighters in 1985. Eight youth were
Then-Law and Order minister Adriaan Vlok told van der Merwe
that Botha himself ordered the church headquarters destroyed.
Vlok, said van der Merwe, had instructed that Khotso House was
to be damaged by explosives "to such an extent that it could no
longer be utilized."
On October 30, a judge sentenced Eugene de Kock, former
commander of the notorious Vlakplaas police murder squad, to two
life terms plus additional jail sentences totaling more than 200
years. He was convicted on 89 charges, including 6 for murder.
It was the revelations presented by de Kock that ultimately led
to van der Merwe's confession. Catherine Mlangeni, the mother of
Bheki Mlangeni, remarked at the sentencing that "I feel a bit
better...I know he will stay in jail forever." De Kock had
assassinated Mlangeni, an anti-apartheid lawyer, with a set of
earphones packed with explosives.
The Truth Commission was established by the African National
Congress-led government to bring to light the wanton murder and
brutality organized by the apartheid state. Anti-apartheid
fighters who carried out sabotage and other attacks against the
regime are also to testify. Offering the possibility of amnesty
to those who confess their crimes, the commission is vested with
subpoena powers. Public hearings conducted by the commission
often assume the character of mass meetings, with hundreds or
thousands of working people cramming into rooms to cheer on the
testimony of the regime's victims and demanding that the truth
Continuing mass pressure, along with criminal trials and
issuing of subpoenas, is taking its toll on some former cops and
police generals. A growing number are starting to spill the
beans and in the process implicating central leaders of the
former National Party government. Apartheid military figures,
however, continue to cover up their entire history.
Cop testifies `kicking and squealing'
The former chief cop's testimony was not exactly voluntary.
Van der Merwe received word that 5 of his subordinates planned
to implicate him in some of the 40 murders they were planning to
confess to the Truth Commission. Van der Merwe applied for
amnesty in relation to these two acts, but said he would reserve
judgment on any further admissions depending on what came out in
"Van der Merwe and the other police witnesses have been
forced kicking and squealing to the commission by the threat of
prosecution, and there is good chance that their testimony will
spark a chain reaction which will envelop a widening circle of
policemen and state officials," said an editorial in the October
23 Johannesburg Business Day. The financial daily noted that the
testimony marked "a serious problem for the NP (National Party),
which has accepted executive responsibility only for pre-emptive
and `hot pursuit' attacks in neighbouring states and continues
to insist that the domestic crimes...were those of maverick
agents who exceeded their brief."
The testimony of their former chief cop indeed brought
protest from the National Party. "An aspect that is cause for
increasing concern is the one-sided emphasis being placed by
concentrating only on the deeds of the previous government and
no attention being given to the deeds of the ANC during this
period," said NP chief spokesperson Fanus Schoeman.
Botha and current NP leader Frederik W. de Klerk, meanwhile,
have remained totally silent on the revelations.
Truth Commission vice-chairperson Alex Boraine said the body
would try to get Botha to testify, but that "if there is no
positive response we have the powers of subpoena and will use
"Gen. van der Merwe's testimony...vindicates the ANC's view
that covert operations against anti-apartheid activists was not
the work of maverick elements within the ranks of former
security forces but were sanctioned at the highest echelons of
the apartheid state," said a statement from the ANC Department
of Information and Publicity.
The 5 cops and police officials who later named van der Merwe
as the source of their orders were implicated during the
criminal trial of de Kock. Three already face a variety of
criminal charges, but their trials have been postponed to 1997.
In the statement opening their amnesty plea, the cops derided an
earlier whitewash of apartheid rule presented by de Klerk to the
commission. "We seriously doubt the statement made by Mr. F.W.
de Klerk," they said.
The cops are implicated, among other things, in the murder of
3 Port Elizabeth anti-apartheid fighters known as the Pebco
Three, and 2 groups of young fighters from Mamelodi township
outside Pretoria, who were lured to their deaths on promises
that they were being taken out of the country for ANC military
Brig. Jack Cronje, who presented much of the testimony for
the 5 cops, explained that "it was necessary to eliminate [ANC
and other] terrorists and activists because if they were not
eliminated they would not be permanently neutralized. The legal
system was not equipped to deal with these situations. It was of
a proactive nature."
In related news, Truth Commission chairman Desmond Tutu has
asked the government to extend the amnesty cut-off date from
December 1993 to May 10, 1994 when South African president
Nelson Mandela was inaugurated. The date set means no one can
apply for amnesty for acts committed after that time. Mandela
said he opposed any such move.
Of the 2,000 amnesty applications pending, so far only three
have been granted.
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