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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

N. Context, Justification and Explanation

The Code of Conduct referred to above, contains a separate military code. It records that Umichonto we Sizwe "is engaged in guerrilla warfare against a powerful and remorseless enemy which resorts to torture, banditry and terrorism". As already indicated, the group of 32 were labelled as the "most notorious" suspected agents and infiltrators. Upon their arrival in South Africa, a statement issued by the ANC revealed that one was alleged to have taken part in planting a car bomb at Harare's Avondale shopping centre in 1986, which maimed anti-apartheid activist Jeremy Brickhill. Another was alleged to have identified ANC homes in Lesotho to the South African Defence Force. During December 1982, 42 people, including women and children were killed in a South African Defence Force raid in Lesotho. A third was said to have given "short-primed" hand-grenades to ANC members which exploded immediately the pins were pulled (Sunday Times, 18 August 1991). It is not within the Commission's terms of reference to determine the truth of these allegations. It is abundantly clear, however, that the ANC was infiltrated by South African agents and that the South African Defence Force made use of such agents in attacks that were carried out in the neighbouring countries. Apart from the Lesotho raid mentioned above, attacks were also carried out in Mocambique (Matola), Botswana and Swaziland resulting in heavy casualties. Upon their return to South Africa, some of the group of 32 openly admitted to being members of the South African Police.

Several of the ANC officials who testified before the Commission described the effect of the infiltration of South African agents on ANC activities. We were told that poison had deliberately placed in the food at a particular camp which could have resulted in extensive deaths. We were also informed of plots to kill the ANC leadership. In his interview to Work in Progress, Mr Hani referred to a climate of "paranoia and hysteria". He went on to state:

"This climate, where the regime was destabilising the ANC, killing its leaders, assassinating commanders of MK, created a situation of overall suspicion. In other words, if for instance we had sent people into the country and 60 percent of them were either arrested or killed, sometimes the wrong conclusion would be drawn that those who handled the operations were working for the enemy. And in my own view, people like Thami Zulu were victims of that situation of paranoia and hysteria about the ability of the regime to send in agents. People began to lose a balanced approach in teens of combatting the infiltration of the ANC by the regime.

And that situation actually caused problems where, in my own view, the innocent and the guilty were sometimes lumped together."

Mr Hani, in his evidence before us, did not for one moment suggest that the abuses were justified for these reasons. Mr Hani referred to his personal "feeling of revulsion" upon hearing, in the mid 80's, that certain inmates of Quatro had been kept for up to two years without trial. He told us of his increasing concern for what he described as "the horrors of Quatro", and how he and others had insisted on the adoption of the Code of Conduct in 1985. He described some of the members of the security department as "really vicious", a description which was amply borne out by the evidence. He felt that the ANC, as an organisation built upon respect for human rights had an obligation to acknowledge and redress the wrongs of the past and to prevent them from happening in flee future.

Mr Mzwai Piliso, the Head of the ANC's Department of Intelligence and Security until 1987 reluctantly testified before the Commission. Although given the option to refuse, he stated that he felt obliged to give evidence. Mr Piliso was directly responsible for the establishment of Quatro. His role as the head of security was to protect the organisation from both external infiltration and destabilisation from within.

Mr Piliso stated that there were complaints of abuse which came to his attention from time to time. He claimed that he took steps to rectify the situation. However, Mr Piliso candidly admitted his personal participation in the beating of suspects in 1981. A plot to assassinate certain senior ANC members had been uncovered and suspects were interrogated over a period of two weeks. These suspects were beaten on the soles of their feet in Mr Piliso's presence. The soles of the feet were specially chosen, according to Mr Piliso, because other parts of the body "easily rupture". Mr Piliso justified this treatment on the basis that he wanted information and he wanted it, in his words, "at any cost".

The evidence presented by certain ANC officials disclosed a growing sense of unease with the activities of the security department within the ANC hierarchy. Among the causes of concern were the allegations of abuses in the camps and the feeling that the security department had become a law unto itself. As a result of internal pressure, changes were introduced to the security department in 1986 Mr Piliso was relieved of his duties and a provisional directorate of security was established. In 1987 Mr Joe Nhlanhla became the new head of security and intelligence. His views and attitude sharply with those of his predecessor, Mr Piliso. Other members of the new department included Mr Zurna and Mr Sigxashe. The new group was charged with the duty of remedying the post.

Notwithstanding the change of personnel, certain elements within the security department still carried great power. It took a considerable period of time before the Code of Conduct became more than a mere scrap of paper. Mr Zola Skweyiya became the Officer of Justice in 1986. His duties were prescribed by the Code of Conduct. He told us that he experienced enormous difficulties in executing those duties by reason of lack of resources, personnel and, most importantly, the lack of cooperation from the people connected with security. He said that he made repeated attempts to visit Angola in 1986 and 1987. He claimed that he was blocked at every turn. He informed us that his attempts to execute his official functions were met with hostility. He told us how there emerged an attitude towards him that he was interfering with things that were not his concern He was led to understand, albeit not direciiy, that he himself was in danger of being arrested He was told in categoric terms by Mr Piliso that he would never set foot in Angola.

Mr Skweyiya testified that matters improved when Mr Nhlanhla assumed office. It was felt that Mr Nhlanhla had integrity and the capacity to cleanse the security department. Mr Skweyiya did visit Angola late in 1988 but once again his entry to Quatro was apparently blocked. Similarly, he told us that his efforts to visit Uganda were also blocked.

Eventually, the attempts to enforce the Code of Conduct started bearing fruit. We were informed by both Mr Skweyiya and Mr Stuart that certain members of the security department appeared before bibunals and were disciplined Moreover, the civil authorities in both Zambia and Tanzania prosecuted certain members of the security department for offences.

We went left with an overall impression that for the better part of the 80's, there existed a situation of extraordinary abuse of power and lack of accountability.

Nobody was beyond the reach of the security apparatus. The malaise was clearly identified by the Stuart Commission in 1984. After dealing with the complaints against the security department, which included allegations of torture and killings, the Stuart Commission reached the following conclusions:

"The security department has become increasingly involved in deciding on and implementing disciplinary measures. Consequently, their major task of being the 'eyes and ears' of the Movement and helping to expose agents and protect our Movement has been seriously hampered. Some people remain suspects for years. Force has become the rule rather than the exception. It is indiscriminately used not only as punishment but even when candying out interviews and debriefings. There are cases when after severe beatings individuals have admitted to being agents only to retract this later."

Even a high-ranking official like Dr. Pallo Jordan was detained by the security department in 1983. He was held for a period of six weeks without charge. During that period he was only questioned on one occasion. That occurred on the day of his release when it emerged from the questions put to him that the reason for his detention was that he had criticised the security department for conducting itself like a repressive police force.

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.