This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
10 Nov 1996: Botha, Louis
POM Colonel, I can't believe it's a year ago, just a year ago almost to the day since we last talked. It must have been a very traumatic year for you consumed mostly by the trial in Durban. So let me begin with the simplest question. Now that it's all over is there a sense of relief? Are you reinstated in the police force? Have you quit? Where do you stand personally?
LB Well it was a dramatic year, traumatic as well. As soon as the case was finished on 10th October I was reinstated. I have subsequently taken a severance package and I left the police on 30th November after 32 years service, so I am now a private citizen and enjoying the days.
POM Are you working or just taking it easy for the time being or do you have plans to go back to work or do I see certain expressions on Mr Botha's face that say 'no way'?
LB Well I certainly won't go back to the police. In January next year I'll start. I've several options and issues I'm looking at but it serves no purpose to start now. It's almost December and things shut down over December so I will look at starting employment or seeking employment in January next year.
POM How has the whole process of the trial left you feeling? Has it left you feeling disillusioned, vindicated, do you yet understand why you were put through the ordeal you were put through, why, one of the things we talked about last year, why you were the only policeman of all the people who were charged?
LB That's a lot of questions you've thrown into the basket. Let's take them one by one. I'm not disillusioned. I certainly feel vindicated. I'm not bitter but a great injustice has been done to me. We can't argue that one away. If one looks at the remarks by the honourable judge it was clear that there was no case from the word go. The whole way the trial went, the investigation before the trial and the trial itself, it was clearly a case of injustice and there was never a case right from day one. I see though that in Natal certain members of the community are making statements to the effect that they reject the court's findings because it doesn't reflect the wishes of the people. Now that has implications for justice in this country as well if that is the way that people are looking at justice. This was one of the very senior ANC officials that made this statement, obviously for political purposes, but then we accepted that the trial was a political trial from day one. As to why I should have been drawn in it became clear to me as a person right from day one that people were hoping that I would somehow deliver Buthelezi to them and during the trial that was not emphasised but it became clearer to me this was what one of the purposes were. I don't say the people will ever admit to it. When I say the people, the Investigation Task Unit, because the judge criticised them rather harshly.
POM That's putting it mildly.
LB That's putting it very mildly. If one looks at words like, "Dutton either deliberately misled the court", or "He lied to the court", or "He gave evidence that had no bearing on the case and wanted the court to make it's own deductions therefrom", in a normal trial that policeman would have had his, to put it bluntly, his backside kicked well and truly and to Dutton nothing's going to happen because it's a political trial. This is what I claimed from day one. In the normal cases the justice system where it emerged throughout the trial, there were about twenty cases where the witnesses were told what to say by the Investigation Task Unit, their statements were twisted, it emerged in the trial. If it wasn't the Investigation Task Unit then it was somebody very close to them because they spoke what the state, and I'm not saying McNally now, what the state wanted to put across. A case like that would normally have been thrown out of court immediately.
POM You make a distinction between the state and McNally yet this would have fallen quite exclusively under McNally's jurisdiction in KwaZulu/Natal, it wasn't a nationally directed case as such, it was a provincially directed case.
LB Right, I take your point, but the pressure for McNally to proceed with this prosecution came from national, it came from the Justice Committee headed by Johnny de Lange. Never before in the history of this country has an Attorney General been hauled over the coals for eight hours. So this is why I'm saying the state and not McNally because as far as I'm aware McNally did not want to proceed with this case in the first instance because he knew that there was no case. It was clear from the evidence before him. Any intelligent person, and McNally is intelligent make no bones about it, he would have seen that there was no case. You don't proceed with this type of case with that type of evidence that he had before him. No person in his sober senses would.
POM So that even when subsequent to the trial he has made statements that if he had to do it again on the basis of the evidence before him he would have done it again, you think he is saying that for the sake of the form book rather than out of conviction?
LB Correct, that is my summing up of the situation.
POM Now during the trial did you take the stand on your own behalf?
LB Yes I did. After the state closed its case there were a couple of people, three of the accused were discharged immediately. When my Advocate got up to present his heads of argument last of all, because I was accused number twenty, the honourable judge actually stopped him before he proceeded and said to him, "Let me sum up your case in your heads of argument into sentences", which he did. The heads of argument were about 15 - 18 pages but the judge knew exactly what was going on even at that stage already and it went over credibility. In this country there's a case State versus Oscar Mpetha, 1978 I think it was, Appellate Division, where over a question of credibility the judge cannot make a finding at the end of the state's case, only at the end of the trial, and I got caught up with that. So the media immediately thought that I was going to walk out the same afternoon and I said to the people there, "No ways, I'm going to have to sit here till right at the end of the trial", and it transpired that's exactly what happened. I took the stand in my own defence, bearing in mind I was arrested first with all things that occurred. Some of the other people were on the stand between one and five days. I was there for an hour and five minutes and I was out. That was it.
POM And were you asked questions by the prosecution?
LB Yes I was asked several questions by the prosecution. McNally started off with wanting to enquire from me as to why I had proceeded with a civil case, trying to give the impression that I was trying to influence the court by instituting a civil proceeding but our regulations are very clear, we have got a year from the date of the event to institute proceedings if we so wish. Of course the civil proceedings have to wait till a conclusion of the criminal case and that's all that I did. He then immediately went on to a document which in our system of justice in this country should not have been admitted in the first place. It was a document drawn up, it was in Afrikaans, it was a cryptic note, unsigned, the person who drew it up did not give evidence on it, nobody gave evidence on it and it was totally, totally out of line with the principles of law in this country, totally. When I finished giving evidence on that particular document ...
POM What was the thrust of this document?
LB The thrust of the document, I'll just roughly translate, it went over information session to the Security Branch 'Operation Marion'. The document was handwritten and the second page indicated that a series of meetings occurred in November of 1988. Now one must bear in mind the murder occurred, or the massacre occurred on 21 January 1987, now the heading of the document was Operation Marion, then there was a '1' on the left hand side of the page and it said in Afrikaans, I'll translate it to English, "The Head of Intelligence Military:
1.Inform General van der Merwe and General Smit about Operation Marion.
2. General Smit asked about Captain Louis Botha's liaison."
Then it went on and alluded to some other meetings and other things but I was out of it, those were the two questions that the document centred around and it went something like this: "Colonel, you deny knowing anything about Operation Marion?" And I emphatically deny that I ever knew of Operation Marion, it's aims, it's objectives. I know as much about Operation Marion prior to the case as any other person that would have read about it in the media. I never knew about Operation Marion, ever. Then he tried to say that this document indicated that in November 1988 that the Security Branch knew of Operation Marion and that I was actually misleading the court. I then turned to the judge and I said to the judge at that stage that the document, the contents, the meetings it alludes to, the whole issue surrounding this document I knew nothing of at all, I was never informed about any of the contents, the decisions, anything about that document. The people mentioned in that document, General Smit, General van der Merwe, Berthus Steyn, Burger, Buchner, Erasmus, there's a whole crowd of people, never ever came to me at any stage and informed me about Operation Marion, what it entailed or what was discussed at that or subsequent meetings. They never informed me and I said to the judge the part that shook me was that all these people were available to the Investigation Task Team and they were never approached for any clarification on what happened at that meeting. And had the state done that I wouldn't have been in court. Now where's your justice now?
POM Just as an aside, I think I told you before, one of the people that I've been interviewing over the years has been General Buchner and on the last occasion I spoke to him he said, "I heard my name surfaced at the Malan trial and I have written to them and said if you want to ask me questions please come and ask me questions, but nobody has ever responded to my request."
LB Well the same applies to General van der Merwe, General Smit and all the people mentioned there. We, as the defence, my counsels, the two counsels and lawyer and myself saw General van der Merwe, General Smit and the people mentioned in that document, I think it was on 15th January, the beginning of this year, to find out what happened at that meeting. We knew what happened. As a result of them telling us I knew what happened at that meeting but nobody ever approached them, so where's your system of justice?
Then the Attorney General left that aspect and he went to the second question that said, "General Smit enquired about Captain Louis Botha's liaison", and I said to the judge unless the court specifically instructs me I refuse to speculate over something I was not a party to and by speculating I give status to the document because the person who wrote the document was not called to come and say what he meant here, now I've got to speculate on something that I was not even aware of. At that stage the judge said to McNally, "Mr McNally you're flogging a dead horse, leave the document", which was a clear indication that it was a lot of, to put it bluntly, bullshit.
And that's the type of thing that was going on in court. Now where is the justice in this country? I take the point that Opperman implicated me by saying that I agreed to sweep the scene and I agreed to do certain issues to clear sources with him but that is a figment of imagination of a very twisted person and I maintain that because at the end of the day I was a Security Branch officer and here this idiot gets up and he says that I as a Security Branch officer cleared Security Branch sources with him. I don't even discuss Security Branch sources with my own colleagues unless the man is directly involved. So where on earth am I going to discuss sources with a civilian, because he admits he was introduced to me as a civilian, where am I going to discuss sources with a civilian coming off the street introducing himself and discuss Security Branch sources? Not in a lifetime, it just doesn't happen, that happens in fiction, TV and James Bond type of stories. That's where that happens. And that the state actually believed that, that's where I have my difficulty.
Then he claims that I also agreed to sweep the scene of Doppies(?) afterwards. Bear in mind the following, he claims he met me and we had a general discussion. We met a second time, within a matter of a couple of days he then asked me to clear the four people, whether they were Security Branch sources or not, and the third meeting which happened at seven o'clock at night, according to his evidence as public record, he then said to me he had been granted permission to commit this bloody murder and would I please keep the people out and sweep the scene afterwards. By any stretch of imagination that's bullshit. There's no ways that I would have done it that way even if I was that way inclined. Let's look at the mechanics of it, seven o'clock at night he comes with his bright story, he's still known to me as a civilian. He's still known to me as a civilian, he admits it. I agree to keep the police off his back. Bear in mind 1987 state of emergency. To have kept the police out of KwaMakutha on that night I would have had to warn the Station Commander at Toti because KwaMakutha fell in his area of jurisdiction, I would have had to warn the head of CID in Toti because his CID guys would have gone in there, he would have to spread that down to ground level. I would have had to warn Murder & Robbery, SANAP, this is the drug people, Security Branch, the army, the reaction unit, the vehicle staff, the stock theft units, all the other units I would have had to warn, "Stay out of KwaMakutha tonight there's a murder going to be committed." I mean what other plausible reason am I going to give them to keep them out because there's a state of emergency and the people were running around in the townships as if it was their own so I would have had now to ensure that all these people would remain out? Now having said that, they would have had to warn their juniors to stay out and by my reckoning over 500 policemen would have borne knowledge of that issue that night. But the state couldn't produce one solitary policeman to say that they had been warned to stay out. They approached the Station Commander and he denies he ever received such an instruction or a request from me and the thing stops dead there. Then you've got this bloody idiot Opperman again. I would have had to warn the Emergency Regulation Investigation team as well and Dutton was a member of that team. He would have had knowledge. But then the height of irony, the first policeman on the scene was stationed at Toti and he was doing patrols in KwaMakutha on that morning and he emphatically denied in court that he ever received or heard of an instruction to stay out of KwaMakutha. Now for crying in a bucket where are we? Where's the justice?
These are the issues which you asked me last time about which I declined, if you go back to your notes, you will find that I refused to say things because I had the docket and I knew what these bloody idiots were going to say and I knew what my answers were going to be and there was no way I was going to answer ahead of the time. Then it was claimed that I was supposed to have swept the scene afterwards. Now let's stop there again. I'm a policeman with many years of experience. I've gone through court many, many times. To have done that I would have had to be introduced to the team, the murderous team that were going to do the job because I would have had to see what weapons they were using, what clothing they had on, what identity documents they had on, because if they dropped anything at the scene bear in mind I would have had to go in and remove those things so they couldn't be traced back to them and I wouldn't have time to bugger around. At any scene like that there would be chaos anyway and I wouldn't have time to - there would be chaos and there would be articles of clothing and stuff lying around. I would have to be able to differentiate in a matter of a couple of seconds what belonged there and what didn't belong there and Opperman in his evidence said straight he never introduced me to his hit squad. So what sweeping am I going to do then? I didn't see the hit squad, there was no communication between them and me at all according to his own evidence. I emphatically denied it ever happened. So now where does that leave me? And this is the basis of the Attorney General's prosecution.
POM Was that the end of the prosecution's questioning of you?
LB You see I emphatically deny that I met Opperman in January of 1987. I met Opperman for the first time after I returned from a visit to Germany in May/June of 1987. That's the first time I met him. I never met him in January. I didn't know him in January from a bar of soap. His co-witness, Cloete, who was with him in January also emphatically denied that he ever met me because he left Opperman's side in about February of 1987. I never met this guy. When he walked into the court that was the first time I had ever seen him in my life, I'm talking now of Cloete, and this is the guy that was with him planning and what have you. I deny emphatically meeting Opperman in January. I met Opperman on return from Europe in 1987. Now the first question is, how can you remember that? What I got back from Europe Khumalo, accused number seven, said to me he had somebody that wanted to meet me and it went, if my memory serves me correctly, it went over the guy who was expanding into Natal for some security company and he was just wanting to talk to somebody. No, hang on, what happened was - you see things get blurred with time as well, this guy wanted to go to Europe.
POM Opperman did?
LB Opperman did and he wanted to talk to somebody who has just returned from there to find out what's a cheap way of doing it. At a subsequent meeting with Opperman he then said he was head of a security company or he was part of the management and he wanted to expand into Natal. He was introduced to me as a civilian and he admits it but he takes the meeting in June/July and he puts it back into January.
POM So that was the end of the state's questioning of you basically?
LB One or two other issues were also raised and it's interesting to note this as well. Opperman claims that I took him to General Buchner in Pietermaritzburg and Buchner said that one Luthuli who was part of this hit squad of his had been arrested by the police and he was talking about the whole operation and he needed to be eliminated. Now Opperman said this conversation took place, I took him across to Pietermaritzburg, or met him there and introduced him to Buchner and he, Buchner, I and a man by the name of van den Berg were present at this meeting. Now the interesting part is van den Berg is not called to support him in this and neither is Buchner called to support him in this. Again, a single witness. Opperman gets believed. Nobody ever comes to me and says to me, "Louis, did you go to Buchner and did this conversation take place?" But they want to believe this bloody idiot all the way down the line. Now where's the justice system now?
It was a set up right from day one because I emphatically deny - I took him to Buchner, yes, that I did. I told the judge I did, because Natal was divided into three separate divisions and I was in Port Natal and he wanted information from Mpumalanga or Camperdown which fell under Natal, Pietermaritzburg, and I took him across and introduced him to General Buchner, he was a Brigadier then, so that Brigadier Buchner could introduce him(Opperman) to one of his colleagues who would then be able to supply him with information. I couldn't them take him straight across and just introduce him to a colleague. That would be breach of protocol. You take him to the Commanding Officer. That I did and I emphatically deny that Luthuli was discussed at that meeting. That's bullshit. But then the two people that could throw light on the issue, Buchner and van den Berg, weren't called. And just as a side issue van den Berg was also of that document that I alluded to in the beginning of the interview. Van den Berg wasn't called. And the hallmark of this case has been the absence of witnesses who could have contradicted anything Opperman said throughout the trial. These questions have been raised dozens of times. Anybody that could contradict Opperman was not called.
POM I just want to get the sequence of your own case. Now the prosecution was finished with you in terms of their questioning. Then your Advocate now has questions for you.
LB Right. That is now at a much later stage.
POM How long does that take?
LB Well what happens is if I take the stand my Advocate leads my evidence. I gave my evidence. I deliberately did not allude at all in my evidence to that document I was referring to because to me that document didn't exist. It was a lot of bullshit. It shouldn't have been, according to the principles of the law in this country, been permitted in court so I didn't allude thereto and that's why McNally referred to it to try and make me give status to this document which I refused to do. But he didn't call the person who wrote the document because lots of things he was involved in throughout the case that actually contradicted what Opperman said. Anyway, to get back to your original question, once I had gone through my evidence McNally then would cross-examine me on my evidence and this what I am saying now is the cross-examination that took place.
POM And then when your own Advocate questioned you, how long did he have you on the stand for?
LB About 40 minutes, if it was that long.
POM Just basically running through?
LB The running through, yes, because I started off, I met Opperman at that time, this took place, that didn't take place, I took him to Pietermaritzburg. It wasn't much more than that. And they attempted to draw the old Inkathagate into it, not with me but with Khumalo. But again that's not permitted because it falls outside the charge sheet. It's like a traffic officer charging you for six parking tickets and you go to court and the prosecutor has got a charge sheet with six parking tickets written out for you and while you're giving evidence he says, "But listen, you were seen driving under the influence on that and that day as well." In law that's not permissible, and he tried it. He tried to draw Inkathagate in. Inkathagate had nothing at all to do with this.
POM What impression did you gain of McNally? People that I've talked to said that he is an experienced, honest prosecutor and their opinion is that he wouldn't have taken the case unless he thought there was something to it. How did he come across to you? He went through this trial knowing that the only witness he had was Opperman, that he was drawing no collaborative witnesses and that the essence of prosecution is collaborative witnesses, you back up your case step by step by step and he had no steps, he had one step on a ladder and there was nothing else on it. What was his demeanour, what was his self-confidence, what was his projection? Was it one of going through the motions because he felt he had to? Was it one of vigorously prosecuting a case he knew he didn't have? What impression watching him every day in court did you gain?
LB I had great sympathy with McNally because no matter what he claims publicly he didn't want to take the case to court because of exactly what you said now. He knew he had no corroborative evidence to take a case like that to court. In the normal run of things that case would never have gone to court. He knew it. So whether he admits it or not he was pushed into a situation where he prosecutes. What does he work with? He makes the best out of the position that he's in, and he is, he's in a terrible bloody predicament. The trial is costing the state millions and he is seen to be leading the prosecuting team. There is no case. Everything, all the evidence if you look at it objectively, was looked at by the Investigation Task Unit with a jaundiced eye and a twisted version, everything was twisted. As the judge said, what law is broken if the military train anybody up in the Caprivi? There's no law broken. But the state would immediately say that this is sinister. The fact that it's done in secret was explained why it was done in secret and it's a perfectly acceptable explanation, not because I want to hear it but it is, it is a perfectly acceptable explanation but of course it didn't fit the political situation, the present one, so you had to make it seem sinister. So where are we? We're back to it's a political trial.
POM I had a friend who is an Attorney in Boston who tried a very emotional case, it was a medical case involving huge sums of money for malpractice and he won the case but afterwards he said, "I should have lost the case", and I said, "Why do you say that?" and he said, "Well the opposition became so emotionally involved in their case or in trying to turn it into a political case involving gender and reproduction rights and all this that they forgot that a prosecution is a very simple thing, it's about facts and you've got to concentrate on the facts, and I stuck to the facts and they stuck to their ideological case and that was their mistake." Do you get the impression that, yes there was an Operation Marion, yes there was the training of people, yes there were all of these things, but that had nothing to do with trying to tie a specific group of people with a massacre on a specific date at a specific time at a specific location?
LB One hundred percent. Perfectly summed up. I like the analogy. It's exactly what happened. If one can just stand back for a second, the document I alluded to was a perfect example that should never have been handed in. That wasn't a fact. Do you understand? Also another interesting issue was, I was never on that scene. An OB entry, an Occurrence Book entry, was found which said, "Security Major Botha attended the scene", and everybody immediately thought it was me. It wasn't me, I was only a Captain then. I only became a Major in May 1989. They found the right Botha once the case started so we are talking now of end of February, beginning of March. They found the Botha that was on the scene and they actually took his statement and he declined to say anything further apart from admitting he was on the scene. Now I'm not saying, and I want to emphasise this, I'm not saying that he did anything wrong on that scene, I'm not saying that at all.
POM You're saying you weren't on the scene?
LB I was never on the scene, but look at the investigation methods again. The investigation team fell out of the chair, McNally fell out of the chair when he heard that I only became a Major in 1989, May. They immediately assumed it was me that was on the scene. Nobody ever came to me to find out or ever drew my record which is available to find out what my rank was.
POM What was his response to the revelation that in fact there was a Major Botha, not a Captain Botha, on the scene and that there were in fact two people and they are two distinct people and the fact that the other person was on the scene and it wasn't you?
LB To say the least he was very surprised. To say the least. They actually brought the man to court. He was standing outside the court but they didn't call him to give evidence because had they done that they would have effectively removed me from the scene. Where's your justice? This is why I said to you originally I don't want to talk too much about the case because I knew it was a bloody whitewash.
POM To get back to the larger issue, do you feel that you were pulled in because in some way that either under strain, pressure, whatever, you might open the door and involve Buthelezi in some way?
LB That is the firm impression I got right from the word go.
POM Did you get the impression that even as the trial was unfolding that the purpose of the trial was not so much to convict you or even the others, it was in some way to get to Buthelezi?
LB That was clear as well. In fact the Attorney General alluded thereto in his opening speech. His words were something to this effect: the question will be asked why is Buthelezi not here. And then he went on and tried to explain why he wasn't there and it emerged during the trial that Buthelezi was the initiator of Operation Marion although not the name Marion. But he did that in response to the attack on him which was launched by the ANC and you can't blame the man for doing what he did and the military helped him. And there you are. But he was the one that actually initiated the whole thing and one would have thought that if one looks at a person like Jacobs he was the Camp Commander in the Caprivi where the training took place. Now his sole function in this whole thing was he was the Camp Commander where all the recruits were coming through, bring trained for three months or six months at a time. In his camp were trained Unita people, Renamo people, people from Lesotho and then these Inkatha people. He's got no choice, he gets X amount of people, never mind their ideology, he has to train them according to curriculum. He was charged. Now what for? For heavens sake, I fail to see the relevance of that charge. Then you say, "Surely there's a better case to have charged Buthelezi?" I'm not saying he should have been charged, I'm not saying that at all, I want to emphasise that, but I'm just drawing a comparison. For crying in a bucket here you charge a Camp Commander, you might as well charge the Commander of the Police Training College every time a policeman shoots a guy down on ground level. That's the same thing.
POM How did you find the press? You would be in court every day following the evidence, talking to your Advocate, hearing what was going on and then you would read accounts of the trial in the press. Did the accounts of the trial that appeared in the press dovetail at all with what you were experiencing in court every day?
LB The Afrikaans press reported very accurately. The English press didn't report very accurately and this is not an attack on the media but they looked at it through rose tinted glasses. One would experience something like this, that something would happen, an important event would happen in court and they would try and play it down because it was counter-productive to the state's case, they would play it down. Here is a case where the main witnesses were found to be total liars and that fact has been played down as well but now the emphasis is on the ability of McNally. Do you understand? And that's a wrong focus. The focus should be on those witnesses and the people that prepared those witnesses because my Advocate actually alluded thereto. He said this witness protection scheme is not a witness protection scheme, it's a criminal protection scheme because the people who actually did the deeds and admitted thereto they were the ones that were under the witness protection scheme and the guys who weren't involved at all were all sitting in the dock. Where's your justice?
And to get back to the media, so whenever the media reports appeared you usually had a rehash of the allegations against the people were that they shot and killed thirteen innocent people, and they are innocent, it was a dastardly deed yes, but I wasn't involved. But the impression was gained virtually with every report that those twenty in court had actually done this. You can go back to all the reports and prove me wrong, virtually every single report that appeared said that these people were allegedly involved in this massacre and such and such, never mind the evidence in court which was actually stating quite clearly that nobody was there or that these events didn't take place and actually connecting the people in court.
POM Even if my recollection is correct, the judge in his scathing summary of the prosecution's case went so far as to say they even called the wrong witnesses or didn't call witnesses they should have called.
LB Those are the witnesses that were missing.
POM Now that has led some people in the media again, or in the ANC or in liberal circles or whatever, people who had already made up their mind. I interviewed two people on one occasion, I won't mention them because it's irrelevant, and I said, "What if they're all found innocent?" And I was looked at and they said, "What do you mean?", and the trial hadn't started. It was like, "What do you mean? They can't be found innocent." I was saying, "Well, we needn't pursue that subject". But even after the case it seemed to me that again a lot of emphasis was put on the fact, or tried to be put on the fact that McNally deliberately blew the case.
LB He didn't deliberately blow the case. That's fallacy, that's bulldust.
POM His backside was covered because he had prosecuted the case and he said OK I'll prosecute.
LB How can you take a case like that to court where there is no evidence? You alluded to that yourself when you drew the analogy with the medical case in America; the case is about facts, there were no facts, there was bulldust in front of court. There was nothing to back anything up.
POM Obviously this has soured you, to some extent it must and you wouldn't be human if it didn't, your sense of how justice is administered in the country or does it sour you just with regard to this particular case?
LB No this particular case. Justice, at the end of the day, won through. This is why I reject the Truth Commission. That's a lot of bulldust. This is the only way to do it, do you understand? Just after the case I believe the honourable gentlemen from the Truth Commission said words to the following effect that they want to subpoena all of us to come and give evidence in front of the Truth Commission because they are going to get behind the truth, they are going to establish the truth. Now for crying in a bucket if the country's Supreme Court finds you not guilty, and not only finds you not guilty, made the scathing attack and passes some very rude comments and then you get a remark like that.
POM As I see it a whole concept of double jeopardy.
LB Well I just laugh, it's emphasised, but I said in the first time you interviewed me, in December last year, about the circus concerning the Truth Commission.
POM You had this spectacle of Eugene de Kock with his revelations for two or three days that dominated the headlines, you then had General Johan van der Merwe going before the TRC speaking on behalf of some officers but saying in the course of it that he had ordered the blowing up of Khotso House in Johannesburg on the orders of PW Botha, you have Adriaan Vlok appearing to apply for amnesty, at least that's the word, you had Dirk Coetzee admitting to participation in the murder of thirty to forty people, you have names of senior politicians, the names of senior generals, not lower ranking people, upper ranking people saying they did things on the orders of other people. A couple of questions, one, how does this make you feel when you read stuff coming out like this?
LB Let's take it one by one. First of all those, at this stage, are merely allegations. There was an allegation I committed or participated in some wild scheme to commit murder and conspired to commit murder in Durban, and I told you what happened. You saw what happened, what the judge made of the case, he threw it out. So what I am saying is I can't pass comment on those issues for the simple reason that they haven't been tested in court. To stand up in court and say that you received instructions from X, Y and Z in the police, does that necessarily make that a fact?
POM But General van der Merwe has said, "I did it, I ordered it".
LB Well if he got up in the Truth Commission and he ordered it, well so be it. I was not involved, I don't know. So as far as that's concerned I can't pass comment but I again say a thing like that should be tested in court because in the TRC all there seems to be is just dragging of names through mud. In many cases there may be an element of truth there but if there is an element of truth, charge the people and take them to court.
POM Do you think any of the things that have emerged, outside of your case completely, but that have emerged in the last couple of weeks lend any credence to the ANC's allegations during the early nineties that there was a third force and that there were elements in the security forces that were operating on the dual track strategy, on the one hand negotiate on the other hand undermine them.
LB All right. One has to be very cautious how you answer that one. It would appear, nothing has been proven yet, it would appear that there is or was such a group of people. I certainly was not party thereto. First of all you said the ANC's allegations, this is a complete one-sided issue at the moment because as Brigadier Cronjé said in his submission to the TRC these things occurred following the declaration of war in 1985 in Kabwe by the ANC. Now any country in the world, United States included, if citizens of another country or its own citizens living in another country declare war you have to react. I'm not condoning what they did or what it was alleged they did, I'm not condoning that at all but I am saying this is possibly just a response to that. So at the moment we are just concentrating on the one side. We haven't begun to see what the ANC did. In fact their people refuse point blank to apply for amnesty. Where are we? Are we going to sit and listen to a one-sided thing? This is what I said to you last time. It's a complete one-sided thing to such an extent that Bishop Tutu has on two or three occasions threatened to resign and the ANC will have to start digging out their own things as well because there are literally hundreds of dockets involving some of their leadership. I see in the last week there was a report that there was a point of dispute between the Commissioner Fivaz and the Minister of Safety & Security over dockets that had been handed to the Attorney General concerning deeds whereby senior ANC ministers are involved. Apparently this should not have happened. So, again, we're talking about justice, it is a one-sided justice at the moment. Again, by saying that I'm not condoning what happened or what is alleged happened but if you're going to start digging, dig properly and open the whole can of worms, you can't just open one side.
POM Do you have respect for Tutu in what he's saying, if the ANC don't kick in and toe the line and have their people apply for amnesty he is simply going to resign and the TRC closes down and that's it?
LB Well if he has any sense of justice and if he has any value and if he has any morals or any principles he would have put down a date and said to the ANC, listen, never mind the 15th December, if you haven't started trickling in by the 10th or 15th November I'm out of this. Because then it is a one-sided witch-hunt and this is what we've said from day one, it's a one-sided witch-hunt. You go to the operatives on the ground, the foot soldiers. On Friday I spoke to a senior guy, he's a senior guy in one of the government agencies, he was involved and his exact words were ...
POM He's involved in the ANC?
LB Yes, he's an ANC supporter, he said straight, he said not in a lifetime would he ever go to the TRC. So this is the perception on the ground that they are refusing point blank to go to the TRC but it's kosher and it's OK if you pull the former government people in. Again I'm not condoning, if indeed the former government people did anything wrong.
POM Does this give rise to a lot of anger?
LB Of course it does, of course it does because what does the bill say? Reconciliation, and this is not reconciliation.
POM In fact if anything it's doing the very opposite.
LB Exactly, it's doing the total opposite because you are misleading the people for political purposes. You are drawing people's attention away from the misgovernment that's going on in the country and you're pulling a red herring across the page, that's all this goes over.
POM So is the purpose here ultimately to nail people like De Klerk and PW Botha and other very senior National Party politicians, is that the end game?
LB It would seem to be. One would have to speculate and I don't like speculating. That would seem to be the object, but again I'm making this statement the second time, to me it's a red herring being pulled across a page to draw attention away from what's going on in the country and keeping the pages and the people's attention focused on something else and not what is going on in the country. That's the way I sum it up.
POM When you hear of General Johan van der Merwe who was the Commissioner during the years that I was here before Fivaz took over and he would deny the existence of this and the existence of that and the existence of the other and then he comes along and says, "Yes indeed I commissioned what amounted to a criminal act and then I arranged that somebody else would be blamed." And you say this is my Commissioner of Police, do you not say something is rotten some place?
LB Well you see it's not easy to answer that because it goes over politics and politics are a game of survival. One has to see this again in the context of the 1985 declaration of war and fighting legal means, governments throughout the world.
POM Was it 1985 or 1987?
LB 1985 in Kabwe, the whole National Executive were there if I remember correctly. One must see this all in light of politics throughout the world. This is the type of thing that happens, it's not peculiar to South Africa. Even the American government deny certain things have happened and then it transpires that there were instructions from the highest echelons of government. This is the reality. One mustn't see this in isolation. By saying that I'm not condoning it, I'm just try to get the thing balanced out.
LB Yes it's Iran, it's Watergate, it's whatever. The British have done it exactly the same way as well. I am sure the French and the Germans if you go through into their history they all deny. It's called deniability.
POM Plausible deniability.
LB Plausible deniability. So can you blame the man? I'm not condemning him because I'm positive that the present leadership of the ANC have fallen into the same trap over the years.
POM So how do you feel? Are you looking forward to the rest of your life? Has this strengthened you, toughened you, made you slightly more cynical? Does the future lie in South Africa? Is it an indicator of where the future is going too be, of what kind of country it's going to become?
LB One must look at what's happened over the last couple of years. I was one of the leading exponents of change in the country. I feel personally that I have misled my own colleagues. I was accused of misleading my colleagues a long time ago and with hindsight now you can see that I've misled them. It wasn't done deliberately. I believed that the change had to come and I participated whole-heartedly therein. My unit was mentioned in the United Nations by very senior officials as the way other units and other police units in this country should follow the example. This is now the Community Relations Division.
POM In Port Elizabeth?
LB In Port Elizabeth.
POM And it was mentioned in the UN?
LB In the United Nations in one of their committees, this is the group that should be watched, this is the way it should be done. And I was very proud of what I did. But if one looks at the subsequent results then I am rather horrified. Then the question arises, we are following clearly the whole line of Africa, sliding down a slope. What is going to make this an exception? And the way the people are proceeding with it now there is going to be no exception. We are going the same way as the rest of Africa all the way down. It's just going to take a matter of time.
POM So you feel little hope for the future?
LB Very little hope for the future if you're being pragmatic about it. The question is what's going to make this different, what's going to make it different? If you look at the large scale misappropriation of funds, the gravy train that's never been as big as it is now. If people talked about a gravy train before that was a little toy in comparison to the gravy train now. You can't argue it any other way and your tax base is small. Where are we going to end up? And if you crack the economy, and the rand reflects it, then you've lost and then where are you going to end up?
POM I must tell you, being strictly honest I don't really mind the rand going down, it's the first thing I look at every day. I've turned from somebody who used to never look at a financial page in my life, the first thing I did is I look at the currency every day and say will I cash my cheques today or will I wait until tomorrow?
LB You've said something very important there, that's Africa isn't it?
POM Well I'm also speculating against the currency.
LB Exactly, but the reason why you're doing that is because there's no sound economic policy that's trying to get the rand out of the doldrums where it is, not just economic policy, political policy as well, so that's where the problem lies. And in Africa if a country crashes it crashes and that's it, it doesn't come up again.
POM Would it surprise you if the TRC attempted to subpoena you or do you think this case is dead and that's it?
LB I wouldn't be surprised if they did. I'm expecting to be subpoenaed. I see that my name has been mentioned in two other cases which I emphatically deny I was involved in. It's a figment of their imagination and let's just leave it there and let's see. But in those two particular cases, as in this case of KwaMakutha I'll put my hand on a bible, look God four-square in the eye and say I deny that I was ever involved.
POM So the lesson of this?
LB The lesson?
POM Mrs Botha, what of your feelings, do you mind my asking?
LB No comment from her side.
POM No comment. What's the residue? I remember talking to you a couple of years ago and you were really excited by the work you were getting into on the community policing side and you had an excitement about the future, about how things could change and it would be slow but you had to expect a transformation to be slow and the stakes would be major in transformation. Is all that now gone simply out the window?
LB One is still hopeful that it's going to work somewhere along the line. We all live in hope, we're human beings, but what's emerging on the ground is exactly the opposite and that's worrying. Again, what is going to make this country an exception in Africa? That's what worries me, that's the question I'd like answered because Africa is noted for crashing and noted for not being able to get up off the floor. So if we crash what's going to get us up off the floor? And that's a problem that worries me.
California passed the law stopping affirmative action and gender favour affirmative action and that's another aspect in this country. It's not based on are you capable or able to do it. As long as you have potential to do it you get promoted into the post. That has hideous implications. Let's go on to a subject that's - let's go on to a medical subject. Do you appoint a guy head of surgery because he has potential or do you appoint him as head of surgery because he's capable and able to do that particular type of surgery? The same applies in the banking world, same applies in the police. It's just potential, potential and just look at it falling apart. The police force is falling apart, coming apart at the seams. You can't argue that away. I was asked the other day to go and see the Commercial Branch, the guys wanted to see me. I went down there, all the senior management have put in for early discharges, they want out. They say they can't handle this. So now your people who are were up to now investigating all your white collar, blue collar crimes, fraud, theft, that type of thing, they are out, they want to go. They say they can't handle this. And it's true of most of the other units. The people are getting out and there is this great pressure to promote those with potential. Potential to do what? Potential to investigate? Please don't make me laugh. Look at what Dutton did. That was a potential. He was incapable from day one, follow all his investigations back to the seventies, he's incapable of investigating no matter what the Attorney General says. Same here, people with potential.
POM OK. Thank you.
LB Listen to the judge, you hear the whole case and then you sit back and you listen to the judge summing it up over two days. In other words you're then getting a concentrated dose now and then you realise how close you came to a disaster because of false evidence, because of tampering with the evidence, because of improper investigation or poor investigation or just lack of investigation, principles of law that were thrown out. One of the principles of law is you are not guilty till proven guilty by the court and it was a clear indication in court, and it happened on several occasions, there's public record, go and check it, where the prosecution attempted to turn this so that the defence would have to prove that they weren't guilty. Now, over this document was one that I had a massive argument with my legal team. They wanted me to call General van der Merwe, General Smit and General Buchner and I refused point blank. I was prepared to go to jail on a principle, the principle being the state had to prove my guilt, I didn't have to prove my innocence. And we had an argument over this over several days because their written opinion was I had to call those people to give evidence and I refused point blank because the principles are being overturned. And now when you're sitting there listening to the judge summing up the whole thing you actually get a fright, you realise how close it was.
POM You look as though you're going to thrive for a long time.