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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Collapse of BLA's and introduction of Auxillary Forces

68. The collapse of Black Local Authorities (BLAs) and the climate of 'ungovernability' from 1985 saw an expansion of police capacity, demonstrated by the introduction of auxiliary forces, municipal police and special constables into black townships - a cheap way of bolstering the presence of the security forces and defending the BLAs. In line with the adopted strategies of contra-mobilisation, these forces were recruited from the communities they would return to police.

69. Special constables were created according to the Malaysian model of counter-revolutionary warfare, popularised by American counter-insurgency theorist James McCuen. They drew too from the Rhodesian experience. A paper by Major General FMA Steenkamp from SAP headquarters points to the successful deployment of local militias in Rhodesia to regain and protect the status quo.

An effective physical counter to the tyranny of the 'comrades' should be established fom the ranks of the blacks themselves ... the necessity for and value of such an auxiliary service is apparent from research done into the role played by the 'Security Forces Auxiliaries' in Rhodesia and the battle against the revolutionary war over there. [Commission translation.]

70. Former SAP captain Brian Mitchell [AM2586/96] told the Commission that the function of special constables was to win back areas and towns lost to the ANC/UDF and to act as "a physical wedge against the 'tyranny of the comrades'".

71. Special constables, also known colloquially as 'kitskonstabels' (instant police), 'blue lines', or 'bloupakke', were recruited from urban and rural areas, and were usually unemployed African men with few educational qualifications. Many were illiterate and some had criminal convictions. Training for special constables commenced in September 1986 at the SAP's Koeberg facility outside Cape Town. Initially only six weeks, the training course was later increased to three months. The training was perfunctory and involved only one seven-hour course in onlusdril (riot drill). The Commission received evidence from former special constables that the training, given by senior Security Branch officers, presented the ANC/UDF as the enemy to be suppressed.

72. Although trained for three months and thereafter paid by the SAP, municipal police (known as 'greenflies', 'greenbeans' or 'amaTshaka') were attached to the BLAs, initially falling under the Department of Constitutional Development. In 1989 they were incorporated into the SAP.

73. It is estimated that, by the end of the 1980s, approximately 8 000 special constables and 14 000 municipal police had been recruited, trained and deployed in urban and rural towns across the country where unrest was strongest. 6 Special constables were usually attached to local riot squads. Their powers were largely the same as ordinary SAP and included the state of emergency powers granted to all security forces. They were, however, at the very bottom of the police hierarchy. Wages and working conditions were poor and there were several strikes and desertions from the ranks.

74. Special constables and municipal policemen rapidly became associated with numerous violations both on and off duty, and were the subject of several interdicts. It was reported to Parliament in April 1988 that, since August 1987, 349 municipal police had been charged with crimes including murder, robbery, assault, theft, and rape.

75. A former member of the Pietermaritzburg Riot Unit told the Commission that "the special constables was one of the biggest mistakes the police ever made". Two former police officers told the Commission that:

The special constables were the biggest nonsense introduced by the state. They caused even more problems. They shot people unnecessarily. They were drunk on duty and rude most of the time. The problem was that they did not receive enough training ... They were wild. The problem was that they were uneducated, but given guns and a high position. (Commission interviews, Oudtshoorn.)

76. The types of gross human rights violations attributed to the special constables and municipal policemen include sjambokkings, beatings with gun butts, general assault, injury by shooting, killing by shooting, torture in custody, sexual assault and harassment, and theft. High levels of excessive and inappropriate use of violence, often arising out of drunken behaviour, ill-discipline and personal vendettas, were reported. They retained the use of shotguns even off-duty.

77. Special constables were also the target of attack by both civilian internal opposition groups and the armed forces of the liberation movements. Several killings or attacks on special constables and municipal policemen from late 1986 to 1989 are reported in secondary sources. Few statements were received by the Commission in this regard.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.