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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

B. The Terms of Reference

In letters to each of the members of the Commission, the President of the ANC indicated his attitude to the task of the Commission. The letter stated, among other things, the following:

"Complaints have been made to the ANC by a number of persons who were previously held as prisoners by it in camps outside of South Africa concerning the conditions in which they were held, the manner in which they were treated and the manner in which their property was dealt with after their detention.

These complaints are serious and call for a full and thorough investigation by the ANC to establish whether or not they are correct, and if they are, what action it should take in consequence thereof."

The terms of reference of the Commission were designed to achieve these objectives. They record that the commission was established "following the receipt of complaints by individuals who were previously held as detainees by the ANC" and require the Commission to investigate complaints relating to "the conditions of their detention", "the allegations of their maltreatment", and "the complaints about the loss or destruction of their property". The Commission was required to make recommendations consequent upon its findings.

The ANC undertook "to ensure its cooperation to facilitate a full and thorough investigation into all aspects of the matter specified in the terms of reference". To this end, the ANC undertook to appoint "an independent lawyer to conduct investigations, interview witnesses, visit detention camps and lead the evidence before the Commission and to do all things reasonably incidental to the afore going". Advocate E. Revelas of the Johannesburg Bar, who is not a member of the ANC, was appointed for this purpose. The Commission was promised "full and unhindered access" to all records, documents, files, archives and other materials relevant to the investigation as well as the records of past enquiries and investigations relevant to the Commission's work.

It was provided that the proceedings of the Commission were to take place "at an appropriate venue" but that such proceedings should not be open to the general public or the press. However, the Commission was given the power to determine whether or not the presence of any person was necessary or desirable during the hearing of evidence. Any former prisoner was entitled to lodge a complaint with the secretary of the Commission. An Independent firm of attorneys was appointed to facilitate the processing of complaints. Finally, the ANC undertook to publish the report of the Commission "subject only to the deletion of the names of persons mentioned in the report where this is considered appropriate by the Commission for reasons of privacy, reputation, safety, confidentiality or the like".

In order to explain the workings of the Commission and the limitations placed upon the ambit of its enquiry, certain features of these terms of reference require elaboration.

resulted in many of the witnesses refusing to give evidence. Although the task of the Commission was purely investigatory, allegations of a serious nature were levelled against specific named individuals who did not have the opportunity to defend themselves against such allegations. It would have been unfair to such persons if these allegations became public knowledge without the persons concerned being afforded an opportunity of dealing therewith. Many of the witnesses who eventually testified before die Commission would not have done so had the hearings been open to the public. They feared that they might suffer adverse consequences should their identities have been revealed. We felt obliged to respect their wishes.

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.