About this site

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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Violence and Crime

A violent context

"It was safer for me to go into Angola on a military operation than it is for you to travel back to Johannesburg this afternoon ..."

One might assume that the environments to which most ex-combatants return as civilians would be less violent than those they found themselves in as combatants. This is not necessarily the case.

The extreme levels of violence that are part of contemporary life in South Africa impact on most people, including those whose lives were linked directly to the violence of the past. Many respondents say they have experienced violent encounters since the fighting ceased. Others consider violence, or at least the potential for violence to be pervasive. For some respondents, there is a strong perception that life, in general, is more violent than it was when they were combatants. This appears to be connected to their intense feelings of insecurity and the related fear of becoming victims of violence. Respondents who did not raise this issue spontaneously were specifically asked whether the contexts in which they now find themselves are experienced as more or less violent than when they were combatants. What emerges is a powerful sense of insecurity and impotence in the current context.

I have seen more death and violence in my own town in the past few weeks than I experienced during my whole two years in the army! ["AT"]

I do not go to the taverns to relax, I do not have that time. I sit waiting for war ... Like a soldier, I am on guard at night and during the day, waiting to see the thugs. [MK/SDU]

At any time somebody is not safe, he may be attacked by criminals. We need a solution. [MK/SDU]

Former members of Thokoza SDUs constitute an important exception to this trend. They stress that, in comparison to the time when they were active SDUs, there is a marked reduction of violence in their environment. Their increased freedom of movement and a decline in the number of violent deaths taking place around them are indicative of this.

It's not like before. Each and every day we had a funeral during that time. Each and every day we had a funeral. [Thokoza SDU]

Even at home there is a difference. There used to be policemen looking for me and that does not happen anymore. [Thokoza SDU]

You were not free when walking in the streets ... Life in general was terrible. There was fighting and there were no cars in the township, life was like in a war ... My life has changed dramatically. I am now able to go where I want to go, unlike before, even to the hostel if I want to. This means that there is now peace. [Thokoza SDU]

According to most of these respondents, the violence that engulfed Thokoza during the early 1990s is better described as full-scale warfare. Compared with the situation elsewhere on the Witwatersrand and other parts of the country (with the exception of some areas in KwaZulu-Natal), the violence here was more pervasive and unremitting than that to which other MK/SDU respondents were exposed. Furthermore, unlike former members of the SADF who participated in high-intensity combat situations, the war took place in the SDUs' own living space and intruded on all aspects of their daily lives. In contrast, the combat situations in which SADF recces were involved, for example, were far removed from their home environments. A clear separation existed between the war space and the home space. As the following SADF respondent points out, after his stints in the war he returned to an environment he considered secure. This is, however, no longer the case.

[I] definitely [experience life as] more [violent now]. Look, the violence there was isolated in the bush so when you come back to civvy street, you didn't lock your house, you'd leave your keys in [your car] when you stop at the caf. Now it's hijacking and rape and all of that ... A friend of mine had that shop [respondent is pointing to the building from his garden]. About two months ago they just walk in and kill him. That didn't happen when I was a soldier! [Recce]

Similar sentiments are expressed by former conscripts who point to the loss of physical security in their civilian lives - a security for which many considered themselves to be fighting - as a crucial element in their sense of betrayal.31

Several SADF respondents draw a distinction between the violence associated with combat and the current violence that is largely associated with criminality.

I wouldn't call combat 'violence'. It's more an art or a skill, a capability, it's not violence ... The guy on the other side is doing his job; you are doing your job. The one who is doing it the best is the one who is going to survive. [Recce]

Combat, they claim, was orderly, structured and framed by broad objectives. Moreover, ex-SADF recces point out that they were well equipped and highly trained to function in combat situations. By comparison, violent crime appears indiscriminate, unpredictable, meaningless, pervasive and, consequently, more dangerous.

It was safer for me to go into Angola on a military operation than it is for you to travel back to Johannesburg this afternoon. It's definitely a violent society ... I feel sorry for a guy who has to steal to make a living, but you do not kill people to make a living. [Recce]

The experiences of these SADF operators were very different from those of liberation fighters and SDU members who operated inside South Africa within the context of violence and intimidation that accompanied the period of intensified counter-insurgency during the late 1980s, and the internecine violence that characterised the early 1990s. This violence (or the potential for it) was also pervasive and, especially in the early 1990s, seemingly indiscriminate.

Furthermore, not all SADF respondents share the views expressed by the recce interviewees above. A former conscript, for example, who considers himself to have been badly affected by his army duty in Namibia and Angola, did not experience war as orderly, justifiable or something for which he was equipped. [See section, Trauma and Distress]

"Violence is harder now ..."

MK/SDU respondents received substantially less formal training than their SADF counterparts (and sometimes none at all). In addition, they functioned within dissimilar operational parameters. For example, their activities were framed to a much greater degree by their own initiative, and according to situations as they arose. The combatant roles of many internal operatives also incorporated a 'crime-fighting' brief, which contributed to the blurring of the distinction between political and criminal violence.

For many of these combatants, the violence took place in their own communities - communities where they remain today. This presence provides them with particular insight into the changing nature of the violence. Respondents from a notoriously violent part of Soweto, for example, point to these changes as they manifest in criminal violence. They say that guns are more prevalent now and that they are feeling the (more deadly) effects of this.

Ja, pertaining to violence in the location, criminal violence, we still have a problem ... Now [the thugs] are coming in a different way, they come with their guns. There are too many guns. Violence is harder now. [MK/SDU]

The following respondent also links a geographical shift in crime to the increased availability of guns. With guns, he says, criminals are more likely to do crime in their own neighbourhoods whereas before, they travelled to 'town'.

Especially nowadays, because guns are so many, many thugs don't want to go and rob in town like in the beginning. They just want to rob in the location. They want to see the comrades who were beating them in the past. [MK/SDU]

In addition, ex-combatants are no longer able to play an effective 'crime-fighting' role within communities, and consequently provide less of a deterrent to criminal elements, say respondents. At the same time, this situation renders former combatants vulnerable to reprisals from these criminal elements.

"The comrades have lost their teeth ..."

Like many other South Africans, ex-combatant respondents believe the government is not doing enough to address crime, and view South Africa's current systems of law enforcement and security as inadequate. The difference perhaps, for ex-combatants, is that they themselves were part and parcel of policing and defence structures in the old order, and feel that they did a better job of meeting the country's security requirements.

Integral to the sense of insecurity of former MK/SDUs in the face of criminal violence is that their own role in fighting it has been rendered illegitimate. Before the democratic transition, their 'crime-fighting' role was, to an extent, sanctioned by the communities.32 The new dispensation however, has reduced their role as 'crime fighters' vis--vis the new legitimacy of the criminal justice system.

Here in the locations, we were the ones who were applying law and order - the comrades, the members of MK. But after the suspension of everything [our former colleagues] went into parliament, eh! They disempowered us! ... So this whole thing is really frustrating us ... These men talk from high positions, but here on the ground, we were the ones who were controlling crime. [MK/SDU]

Things are no longer operating like before. They even have the slogan that 'comrades no longer have teeth': they can't bite anymore. So violence is still there in the location, it is too much. [MK/SDU]

There is a perception that the new laws and governing constitutional principles have effectively empowered and emboldened criminals. Many MK/SDU respondents feel they are more vulnerable to criminal violence than they were under the old order.

The law has turned against us and favours the thugs ... The government has no concern for us, about our safety ... That is what I cry about. [MK/SDU]

Ironically, some look back to the apartheid era as 'better times' for dealing with crime and criminals.

It's difficult because it is no longer like in the past. In the past we used to catch [the thugs] and give them a hiding, and that was not an issue. Now if you catch him and want to beat him, he will go to the police station. He will come back with the very same former Security Branch [member] to fetch you again ... So now thugs have more power than we do, you see. If you shoot or point him with a gun, that's a very serious case. He lays charges against you, and the police will come. [MK/SDU]

"Nothing to cover your backside ..."

In a similar vein, several SADF respondents regard the current state agencies of law enforcement and security with scepticism, anger and frustration.

Many, for example, see the police service as an institution in decay. The following SADF respondent makes comparisons with the policing situation as it was prior to democracy.

I cannot believe the police cannot do something about it ... If you have a murder in this area, they follow the track to Diepsloot. The moment they get to the perimeter of Diepsloot, the police stop, they turn around and they go. They do not have the guts to go in because they're either going to be killed or the BBC is going to take a video of police brutality. [Recce]

Most conscript focus-group participants also hold the SANDF in contempt, and do not believe it is capable of conducting itself professionally. This, they argue, is in stark contrast to the military of which they were part.

Guys, make no mistake, when the South African army wore brown uniforms, we were a great army. By God we were good! [The SANDF] is not an army; they sit there and then they go AWOL ... 17% of all vehicles in the brigade are serviceable. God help this country if we get into a war! In the days that we were in the army, I knew that if I got into a situation I had somebody that would cover me. Do you think they would cover you today? You'll be the only one standing there. They'll go on strike! [Conscript group]

This intensifies their sense of insecurity, and the belief that if they do not defend themselves, no-one will.

Today this country has got nothing to cover your backside but yourself and whatever you carry. That's it. [Conscript group]

While many former Special Forces operators are no longer situated in the state security apparatus, some have moved into the private security industry, which continues to grow rapidly. Respondents who are now working in the industry complain that the industry's hands are tied by legislation, and that, while it has the capacity to address the crime problem, it is not empowered to do so.

I think it is time maybe where they [should] allow security companies to put heavy machine-guns on their armoured vehicles so if you are ambushed you shoot who the hell might be ambushing; you take him out ... It's not nice to do, but it's part of the game ... We cannot do anything! We cannot do anything and it's getting worse and worse. [Recce]

This resonates with MK/SDUs' frustration at their sense that their own actions could improve the situation, but they have been outlawed from doing so.

Special Forces respondents do acknowledge that both the police and military are in a vulnerable transitional phase. However, they argue, the time for teething problems is rapidly passing, and crime requires immediate and effective attention.

There've been 43 murders in the past year in this area alone. People have been shot and battered to death, just in this small area ... I understand why there are, to a certain extent, untrained or unqualified [people] in senior police and military positions. They've got to do that otherwise they are sitting with masses on their hands, so it's reasonable to understand. But somewhere along the road this whole thing is going to collide. [Recce]

"I am the big man ..."

The language employed by former SADF respondents suggests that there is a gendered dimension to their fear, anger and sense of marginalisation. Central to their rationale for participation in the SADF was an understanding that this was intrinsic to the security of their womenfolk and families. Indeed, a key aspect of their sense of having been betrayed, as one respondent's wife puts it, is that 'if they'd known what would happen, they wouldn't have bothered' (see section, Betrayal). Despite their efforts, they live in a violent society. Their sense of responsibility to protect those close to them, who have not been trained (women and children), remains intact, but in very different circumstances.

He says he is scared. And he is scared and he is scared and he is scared [nodding to other participants sitting around the table]. We are all scared. It doesn't matter what you have got inside yourself, you are still scared. You are not scared for yourself because you know how to handle yourself; you know how to handle your weapons. You are scared ... for your children and your wife because they can't defend themselves ... And I haven't got the patience ... or the time to sit and teach them what I know - to defend. [Conscript group]

See [having a gun] as a basic human right. I am a male. I am the big man ... Come and try and rape and pillage, I am going to blow your head off. [Conscript group]

This sense of responsibility is reinforced by their lack of faith in the state security structures. They no longer have support, previously provided by the army, in fulfilling this protector role. Moreover, the requirements of the role are no longer delineated or structured, but increasingly difficult to manage in the face of heightened feelings of insecurity and fear of violent crime.

I'm living on a plot. Often I'm not here. I have to leave my family ... I don't know if when I come back they're going to be alive. [Recce]

Surrounded by violence - factors contributing to ex-combatants' potential for violence

"He who hesitates is lost ..."

A number of respondents in all the ex-combatant categories link the issue of physical security to possibilities of their own (or their former colleagues') involvement in violence. Their potential for using force is most often described as arising from the requirement that they defend themselves or family members in the event of attack. Those respondents that carry guns explain why they do so in this context. A significant difference between SADF and MK/SDU respondents, however, is that while the former mainly consider using violence in self defence as a future possibility, many MK/SDU respondents have already had such experiences. These similarities as well as differences are illustrated in the following extracts:

I carry a 9 mil', and believe me, every second shot of mine is going to blow the back away from him because as far as I am concerned there is no rule in this country any more but the zog rules, and it's either you or him! ... I will not put up with it! [If] a guy comes towards me, I am going to kill him first and then I will take the consequences. [Conscript group]

I have a 9mm 21 shooter. I've used it sure. I was using my firearm as protection. They were trying to rob me so I was protecting myself. [MK/SDU]

For some, the choice is understood to be simply between carrying a gun or becoming a victim.

In my situation now with the security company, I would not hesitate to kill a guy who's got a gun and I won't feel anything about it. You must go and look at crime situations in South Africa and you must realise that the saying is very apt, 'He who hesitates is lost'. The one who shoots first is the one that is surviving. Unfortunately that is how it is. [Recce]

"At least if you die like a brave man ..."

While the philosophy of 'he who hesitates is lost' is prevalent in explanations of their need to carry guns, a number of respondents talk about their guns, or their desire for a gun, less in terms of the protection these might offer, and more in terms of ways of dying. Often they suggest resignation to the possibility they will probably be the ones to die in a violent attack, but they do not want to die without having put up a fight. Individuals from all force categories indicate this view.

I sleep with a gun under my head because these chaps may come anytime. Anytime! I was forced to do so by circumstances. When I came [back from exile] I was living in Soweto and we got mugged several times, and I realized, 'No', we had to defend ourselves. The only way is to die with something rather than to die like a chicken. [APLA]

Oh my Lord, I do want a gun! I really want a gun because I can't walk freely ... When you come across your enemies it's difficult. When they cock [the gun] you have to raise your hands, and die like a coward. At least if you died like a brave man it would be better. I do want a gun. [MK/SDU]

'He who hesitates is lost' is also used by respondents to explain war situations. But death in combat is portrayed as automatically noble. In contrast, violent crime creates 'victims'. By having a gun, and intending to put up a fight in the event of attack, they hope to maintain a degree of their own agency in the situation - to reduce the 'victim' aspect, and 'to die a brave man'. In this sense, fighting continues to be synonymous with dignity and manhood. The words of the following respondent, a former conscript (who equates the perpetrators of criminal violence with his former enemies) also suggest that he fears the mode of potential attack - 'stabbing in the back', more than the realization of an attack itself. Death by stabbing in the back precludes the possibility of putting up a fight.

If you have a beef with me, come and fight me face to face. If you haven't got the balls to do that, shut your mouth! If this [recording] is going to go to those MK guys, you are welcome to come for me any day of the week. Do me a favour, 20 or 30 of you against me, but just let me // Don't stab me in the back! [Conscript group]

"A white man in Africa without a weapon is a victim ..."

Moves to tighten gun control in South Africa are rejected by many respondents, especially former SADF combatants, and are seen as a further component of their disempowerment in the face of violent crime. As they see it, their ability to defend themselves, when no-one else will, is now being curtailed. The Firearms Control Act (1999) was introduced as a crime-prevention tool aimed at curbing the proliferation of illegal firearms through improved controls over legal firearms. These improved controls include, for example, limiting the numbers and types of firearms that individuals may own, and the requirement of a competency certificate before firearm licences are issued.

Several SADF respondents equate violent crime with a war fought by the black population against the white population, in what they see as an undeclared continuation of the preceding liberation struggle. Gun control initiatives are read as one strategy in this war.33 By disarming Whites (who are perceived as the primary targets of the strategy), Blacks are weakening their enemy to facilitate their war aims.

'We are taking from the white man who has policed our land for 100 or 300 years' [they say] ... Every night you are getting some white okes murdered in their beds. It's a slow moving war, they are stealing - but it's just the pillaging of war ... They rape your wives, murder your children, murder you, and they really enjoy it. They are torturing you with irons and everything. I reckon most Whites will agree that crime is war and war is crime ... Now they disarm us, doing this, doing that, so they can have everything. Then they want the war, which is really something that is pissing me off and everyone is allowing it. [conscript group]

For some, the retention of private firearms is seen as the last line of defence. The following respondent also claims that he remains a target of the black man's unfinished war business.

If we allow white people to be disarmed, the white people become open prey to everybody that wants to do crime ... If the white people are disarmed, it's the end. Because, if you have a black person [who] you trust and you can have a nice confidential chat with him, he will tell you in your face 'We are still coming for you guys. We are still coming ...' It's not that the guy is angry or we are angry but he is saying, that's the policy, they will still come for you. [Recce]

The imagery of an ongoing racialised conflict is also presented by one respondent to explain the phenomenon of farm killings. Despite the introduction of a Rural Protection Plan and other measures, continued killings are interpreted as a failure by government to provide adequate protection. In this context, gun controls are seen as a conscious effort aimed at making Whites vulnerable to victimisation.

Ex-SADF members and their potential for violence

"And if the government doesn't do anything about it ..."

While most SADF Special Forces respondents say that this category of former combatants is unlikely to become involved in future conflict or violence, those who view this as a possibility connect it to the government's failure to adequately address crime. The new 'resistance', as they see it, could most likely mobilise around this issue. They simultaneously stress, however, that the stigmatisation - that amounts to an expectation of a threat from this quarter - is unjustified and that by misrepresenting the motives of ex-Special Forces operators or making false accusations and arrests, more anger is aroused and the likelihood of destructive reactions, increased.

Resistance-wise there is a threat ... But the solution is not to throw people in prison. The solution is to better the circumstances under which they are living. And they can do that by clamping down on crime, and leav[ing] the people in peace ... But they are not doing that and that's causing more and more aggravating circumstances because there [are] people saying, 'Well if the government can't contain crime at this stage, then we must do it ourselves'. Your vigilante groups are going to [be]come more and more. [Recce]

Government's apparent failure to deal with crime is seen as a potential source of confrontation. Unlike some of their former conscript counterparts, these respondents do not completely reject the new government but rather its track record in relation to crime.

I'm one of those objective type of people who says well let's give it a go and see what happens, but somewhere along the line [crime and violence] has got to stop. [Recce]

I'm not enjoying this life whatsoever, but ... we must make the best of it. It's not good to now start shooting every guy you see in the street and that sort of thing. But somewhere, somebody's got to something about it and there's only one organisation that can do it, and that is the government of the day. As an old soldier I will still support the government of the day whether it's the ANC, the PAC or whatever, but violence and criminal activities must stop. [Recce]

Other angers and frustrations, according to a few respondents, also inform the potential of a 'new resistance'. The betrayal of former soldiers is at times presented as feeding the conflict potential.

The anger can be created because of the dissatisfaction of ex-soldiers afterwards ... Look at Willem Ratte34 who occupied Fort Schanskop ... He was actually trying to make a statement there. I mean he knew when he went in there that he could never keep that place ... but out of anger he did that - to make a statement: 'Look, you are not looking after us. Don't throw us to the wolves because we can and will do something about it.' So ja, anger eventually can develop into certain aspects of violence. [Recce]

Contributing to the sense of being 'thrown to the wolves', they say, is the demonisation of ex-SADF combatants, most notably through the TRC process. [For an examination of this issue, see section, Revenge Violence, Former Enemies and Reconciliation].

Most Special Forces respondents consider the possibility of a new resistance from ex-SADF quarters to be remote. Others were silent on the issue. Those who regard it as a remote possibility say that for them personally, their preoccupation with earning a living keeps them too busy to entertain such thoughts.

I couldn't be bothered with politics. I have to make a living. I'm not interested [in] taking up armed struggle like that Afrikaner in Time [magazine]. I don't know any of my army colleagues who would be interested in anything like that, Afrikaners as well. [Parabat]

There is a potential [for some sort of uprising], but I think ... everybody is too busy trying to make a living - that's where I direct my energies. [Selous scout/SADF]

Conscript respondents had little to say on the issue of organised resistance. Indeed, while feelings of consistent marginalisation are prominent, and anger is sometimes aggressively expressed as racial hatred, these feelings are intertwined with a sense of isolation: that there is no structure or fellow-feeling on which they can depend. The white population in general, as with the previous ruling party, has become a 'lame duck' and has lost all sense of unity.

What gets me about white okes: I get into a lot of street battles with these [black] okes because I travel. Another white oke will ride past you, he won't help ... There is no brotherhood; there is no like mutual feeling like you had in the army. It's like 'Oh well, the poor little arse ... is on his own'. Whether there are three okes in this car and there is only two moering him, they are not going to stop. [Conscript group]

It follows that these respondents consider the chances of people unifying in a new resistance as slim. Nevertheless, on an individual level, several say that current circumstances are turning them 'violent'. Interestingly, some SADF respondents reject the question of whether they think that their military experience might sometimes lead them to react to situations in a more violent manner.35 Instead, these respondents say, it is the current circumstances alone that bring out violent behaviour.

We had our contact, we shot up people ... We have been through it at that time, personally, but it's not that bad. We are all violent today because of the life now. [Conscript group]

Living with violence - experiences of ex-MK members

Unlike most SADF respondents, many MK/SDU respondents base their understanding of contemporary violence on actual experiences of violence and alleged maltreatment. While ex-SADF personnel speak more of the feelings and fears associated with their perceptions of the violent context in which they live, MK/SDU members provide anecdotal information to illustrate the various ways in which they have been personally targeted.

Many MK/SDU respondents say they are targeted in the context of contemporary violence precisely because of their ex-combatant status. During the apartheid era and in response to the policing vacuum that existed in black townships, many of those involved in the armed struggle or self-defence structures took on policing and adjudicating roles to address criminal activities in their localities. At the same time, criminal activity became politicised in that it was perceived to be weakening the base of the liberation movement. The situation was complicated however, by political turf struggles and the involvement of some combatants themselves in crime.

These MK/SDU members are angry because their previous 'crime-fighting' role has been outlawed. As a result, they say, criminal elements have now gained the upper hand in the communities MK/SDUs previously policed. They believe they have the capacity to deal with the contemporary perpetrators of crime, but are not empowered to do so. Rather, they are aware that they could end up in trouble should they react. Over and above the detrimental effects they see this as having on communities, respondents allege that the criminals who bore the brunt of the ex-combatants' crime-fighting campaigns during the apartheid era, are now, in more conducive circumstances, attempting to exact revenge.

Those thugs whom we were arresting when we were comrades - when they mugged people, raped, and took people's TV - they are the ones who are looking for me, who want to kill me. [MK/SDU]

There are people who still have grudges here in the location ... We were people who were against crime, doing anti-crime campaigns. So many people want to pay revenges. You see [it's like], 'This one has done this to me. He beat me at a certain time so now I must pay my revenge.' [MK/SDU]

Former MK/SDU members, therefore explain that the conflicts of their pasts involve them in current violence. Their ex-combatant status, they say, renders them more likely targets of contemporary violence than other South Africans. In contrast, while SADF respondents' perceptions of contemporary violence appear to be informed by their military experiences36, the threat of violence comes, in several of their views, from being white rather than from being former soldiers.

"The worst thing is that the police didn't charge them, but us ..."

An important aspect of MK/SDU respondents' frustration is that in the new order, the consequences of using violence have changed. As one respondent complains, 'it is now a very serious case if you beat or shoot a criminal'. Criminal suspects have the protections of due process under the criminal justice system.

Despite existing constraints, a number of MK/SDU respondents claim that they continue to perform various 'crime-fighting' roles. In these roles they are exposed to yet more violence:

Even now I'm not on good terms with thugs because I will not leave you when you take someone's earrings, or when you take someone's car. [MK/SDU]

We are still operating now in the community. You cannot mug a person when we are here. There are many people I've defended in the evening. [MK/SDU]

We were the ones who were controlling crime. Even now, ... people [will] approach a member of the ANC [to tell them] that something has happened to them. [MK/SDU]

It appears, however, that to some extent those former MK/SDU members that remain involved in community crime fighting have adapted their methods in accordance with the new dispensation. In contrast to the past, they are more willing to work with the authorities.

I am a person who's fighting on, courageous ... I go out and arrest [the thugs]. We are bringing back our land into the right way. We must cooperate with the police. [MK/SDU].

Still, relations with the police are far from harmonious. MK/SDU respondents have substantial complaints to make about the police that are generally more complex than those raised by other respondents. Some ex-SADF members also argue that crime is not being addressed complaining, for example, of 'political appointments' to leadership positions in security structures, and regarding the legal framework in which the police must work as 'soft' on perpetrators. But MK respondents level the majority of their policing grievances at the police on the ground - those they encounter in their own localities. They provide a range of diverse explanations for the tension in their relationships with police. One factor is the way in which the police interact with them on the crime-fighting front.

A common complaint is that the police arrest the wrong people, namely those ex-combatants who are 'fighting crime'. This contributes to a keenly felt perception that they are 'targeted' by the police.

I found myself a job as security. One day I found out that my friend had been shot by people who were trying to rob the place [where we worked]. I fought with those gangsters and I took some of them to the police station and I also took their guns. I took my gun, so that I can defend myself, and later I got arrested! I don't know how I'm going to make a living because [now] I have a criminal record. [MK/SDU]

Although these respondents provide limited detail about the incidents and charges that are laid against them, a pattern of allegations emerges in which they claim that they are arrested and that the criminals are let off lightly. Their anecdotes reveal that the methods used to reprimand the 'thugs' before they are delivered to the police are, at times, unlawful. Subsequent action taken against them by the authorities is however construed as wrongfully targeting them.

Just to clarify that the police are negative for the guys - the members of MK - after 1994 until now ... If it happens that you beat a person and you were beating that person in self-defence, they will come to you making as if they are coming to fetch people who were robbing a bank. But if ... a thug has a gun ... [and he] wants to mug you, the police just look at you. The police do not have mercy; mercy they do not have for the MK guys. [MK/SDU]

In January [the ex-combatants] caught a certain boy who was mugging a certain lady and beat him. But now it is my colleagues who were arrested, [the ones] that caught that person who had a gun and took a woman's bag [when she was] walking from work. So it means we are targets [of the police] as my colleagues have been saying. [MK/SDU]

Vigilante-type actions, as well as the illegal use of firearms are referred to by some respondents as methods in 'crime fighting'.

There was a situation where I was defending people who were being mugged. I was with a friend who had a licensed firearm. He was a bit drunk and I used his gun to defend those people. We took the perpetrators to the police station and the police wanted to arrest me. I was just defending these people and the thugs were under the influence of alcohol, I shot up in the air to scare them and I took their guns. [MK/SDU]

A lack of understanding of and/or support for the requirements of due process contributes to the problem. One area where this frequently arises is in relation to the issue of bail. Many arrested suspects are released on bail, fuelling suspicions that the police may have been paid off.

We try to work hand in hand with the community to minimise crime and when they arrest these tsotsis, they all get released quickly and we don't know if they pay [the police] or not. [MK/SDU]

The reported quick release of criminal suspects places those still involved in 'anti-crime' activities under additional strain. A further layer of revenge relations is formed when 'new' criminals develop 'new' grudges. These respondents say that criminals seek them (ex-combatants who effected the arrests) out as soon as they are free. In addition to their fears of being targeted in this way, ensuing violent conflicts again put the ex-combatants at risk of arrest. The following extract illustrates the cycle of these problems.

One day there were boys who came to the township to do criminal things. We were there, and decided to catch [them] and send them to the police. They broke into a house and we found a video machine from that house. We took them to the police and they were released within a month. When they came back from jail they were fighting with us. The problem was that they couldn't kill us, so we shot them and took them back to the police. The worst thing is that the police didn't charge them, but us. We tried to explain to them that these boys came back from jail after such and such a case and they wanted to fight back, so we shot them. But they arrested us. [MK/SDU]

For one respondent, the fear of revenge violence together with the likelihood of his own arrest should he attempt to pre-empt it, is such that he is considering leaving the township.

I've got a problem. I was fighting against crime [and] I ended up having a criminal record because I got arrested. Now I'm moving out of the township. I want to know something: ... If you were in my situation, where you didn't mean to do any crime, but you were defending and ... you get arrested and you get a criminal record and then you meet those criminals and they try to shoot you, but they miss, what must I do? [Must I] come back and fight with them again? If I fight with these people and the police find out ... they will come and arrest me again ... I was not doing any crime ... The criminals were robbing someone and I decided to ... defend that person. After that I heard all sorts of stories about these thugs. Apparently I crossed paths with the wrong people ... People told me that they will try and do something bad to me. [MK/SDU]

What was regarded as legitimate action in the past can now carry heavy penalties, feeding perceptions of alienation and victimisation. But even when procedure is followed, these respondents claim that they are not trusted and remain under suspicion.

This soldier was shot in the township. We know the people who were responsible and they are out on bail ... We were so surprised when we were called to the police station and told things such as, 'You have to know that if anything happens [to the criminals], we'll come for you because we have information that you said you will pay revenge' ... There are people who are framing us at the Police Station ... The [criminals] see that the best thing is to go to the police station and bad name us about things we did not say. If we [had] wanted to pay revenge [we would have done it before because] those people were not [arrested] by the police, but by us ... We did not even assault them, we did nothing to them. We took them to the police station ... Whatever [might] happen [to them] it is you, [the ex-MK that will be blamed]. [MK/SDU]

"The police can see that we are blowing their cover ..."

Respondents allege that the police employ double standards when dealing with former MK/SDU members.

We catch people and take them to the police. They are arrested for a few days and they come back and [are] doing the very same things again. If they arrest you, you won't come out easily because they know that you are an MK member and will tell you exactly that they know that you are a MK member. [MK/SDU]

While some respondents' perceptions of maltreatment by the police may rest more on a misunderstanding of how the criminal justice system is supposed to work, other stories complicate the picture. Some ex-combatants claim, for example, that the police are threatened by the ex-combatants' 'crime-fighting' role because it can lead to the exposure of criminal activity perpetrated by elements within the police service.

Another thing that makes the police after us is because when we came back [from exile], we resolved to work with the community in combating crime and fighting against vigilantes so that we can get the freedom that we fought for all along. We worked with the community and arrested a lot of criminals and took them to the police. We catch the very same criminals that police use to get stolen cars and goods and some of them blow the whistle against the police. [They] confess that they work with certain policemen. Now, the police can see that we are getting in their way - we are blowing their cover. That's why they are against us. [MK/SDU]

The following respondent uses police alleged criminal involvement to argue for locally based police personnel. He links the criminal tendencies of some members of the service to their 'outsider' status.

In our police stations there are people fetched from Witbank, to be Station Commander in [area of Soweto]; this is something that will not work. There is a need for our children from here to work in the police stations and then crime will be eradicated because those policemen are shareholders in these scrap-yards. [MK/SDU]

These respondents allege that the police use their position to inform 'gangsters' about elements in the community (such as ex-combatants) who are trying to curb their activities, thereby protecting the gangsters and rendering the ex-combatants vulnerable to attack.

If you take the police at [our] police station, they tell these gangsters that so-and-so has told us [about you, they are onto you]. [MK/SDU]

My fight with the criminals is not over yet because the police use them against us. They get information and give it to the police, our enemies. The [police] will tell them that if you are looking for such a person, you will find him at such a place and it's true that they will find us there. And because we are MK soldiers, the police would make sure that we die. [MK/SDU]

"The police are still looking for us ..."

Relations between former MK/SDUs and the police emerge as a pressing problem and, according to respondents, one that is much larger than its relation to 'crime-fighting' activities. The majority of MK/SDU respondents, including those who do not speak of crime fighting, highlight difficulties in their interactions with the police. Grudges from the past, or the social relations generated in the past, are one element at play in these difficult relationships. Several respondents complain that for the police, the 'war is not over' as far as MK is concerned, and that 'they still have the same negative attitude'. Particularly in the early 1990s, when many were returning from exile, the violent harassment by police of MK members was rife. Since 1994, some respondents say, this type of harassment, typical in the early years of transition, has lessened. Nevertheless, many of them continue to feel harassed, claiming that their homes are raided by the police in search of weapons, and that they are profiled as criminal suspects because of their ex-combatant status.

When we left the country the police were harassing us, the very same police who are working now ... They know that we've been trained to use guns and that's what makes them to be against us. The leadership told us to leave the past behind, to abandon armed struggle because the war is over, but to [the police] it's not yet over. They still see us as dangerous [MK/SDU].

Moreover, some argue that events in neighbouring Zimbabwe, where war veterans have been implicated in farm invasions and pre-election violence, have exacerbated the situation by fuelling perceptions that South African ex-combatants are a potentially destabilising force.

We are hit by something from National Intelligence.37 We are being watched ... They are worried about what is happening outside the country. Things like rebellions are not on our minds, but Intelligence is not leaving us alone [MK/SDU].

Recent convictions and allegations of ex-MK cadres' involvement in burglaries and cash-in-transit heists have heightened these suspicions.

The police are targeting MK and APLA members because there are a lot of bank robberies and SBV robberies. They have arrested a guy like Chauke who was a former MK member. That is why they are looking for us, they think that a lot of MK members are involved in criminal activities and ... that we don't do any good things. They don't know that some of us are working with the government to unite South Africa and that we are part and parcel of the government's will to stop the crime. The police are still looking for us. [MK/SDU]

In a few extreme cases, the police are accused of murdering, or threatening to murder, former combatants.

Even today, our comrades who were in exile are dying one by one. And we can't try to investigate because they will come and shoot you at night. The enemy is the police because they told me that if we don't bring those guns [that they're harassing us for since we came back from exile] they are going to kill us one by one. [MK/SDU].

This year a former colleague who was in the Defence Force and also an MK soldier ... was found dead ... still in his uniform. We don't really know what happened because the people who last saw him said the police took him ... Later, he was found under the bridge dead, with no eyes ... We heard [that it was the police who picked him up] from people who were with him when the police allegedly took him. The police investigated but I don't know where it ended up. Three weeks back, his brother who was also a former MK soldier, was found dead in Pretoria outside the [military] camp in full uniform. They found him dead ... just like his brother. I don't know, maybe tomorrow it's going to be me or one of us ... And it's not only these ones that we've mentioned, some of them were shot right inside the police station. They were all killed brutally. [MK/SDU]

In all MK/SDU focus groups a number of respondents expressed varying degrees of anger at their alleged bad treatment at the hands of police. However, other facets of police-ex-combatant relationships are also hinted at and point to their complexity. One respondent, for example, said that the police attempt to get the co-operation of ex-combatants in identifying criminals, but that ex-combatants are reluctant to do so if they are not paid for this work. Another who had previously complained about police behaviour, revealed, in a follow-up meeting, that he is employed as a police informer. The ways in which these apparently contradictory situations interact, where ex-combatants are allegedly targeted by the police, and simultaneously called upon to assist them, requires further investigation. It could be, for example, that allegations made of 'the police' generally, refer only to particular elements in the police; or that different approaches to ex-combatants emanate from different structures within the South African Police Service.

Ex-MKs and 'disarmament'

Many MK/SDU respondents feel the need to carry guns for reasons that are very similar to those given by their SADF counterparts. The proportion of respondents who say they do not have a gun is greater among former MK respondents than former SADF members. While a few are of the opinion that gun possession is likely to exacerbate problems both at a personal level, and generally for ex-combatants, most ex-MK members without weapons say they want one. Unlike former SADF respondents, they do not comment on the gun control legislation process. Several however, refer to being 'disarmed', and do so in terms similar to those used by SADF respondents: they are left vulnerable, as easy prey for criminals.

The government told us to put our guns away and now the [criminals] have the opportunity to take advantage of us. It really gets to me! [MK/SDU]

Such feelings are closely intertwined with the curtailment of their former crime-fighting status, and it is the police rather than firearm legislation that they hold responsible for their disarmament. Indeed, as discussed above, the alleged possession of firearms by former cadres is central to the police's reported criminalisation of ex-combatants. Additional examples provided below illustrate the multifaceted nature of their fears and frustrations, which contribute to a general sense of victimisation, and of which disarmament is an important element.

[The thug who you were attempting to reprimand] lays charges against you, and the police will come to raid you. They disarm you [of] a gun and release you. When you get to the location [the thug] beats you and hurts you. You are now defenceless. [MK/SDU]

The following respondent's story is not focused on the increased potential for violent victimisation. Rather, he claims, his disarmament was part of a concerted effort on the part of a policeman, to incarcerate him. In addition to broader concerns about disarmament, this extract illustrates many of the other issues discussed thus far. These include allegations of wrongful arrest, the shortcomings of the Criminal Justice System, police criminal behaviour, and the targeting and maltreatment of ex-combatants by members of the police service.

I was arrested and I had my firearm. The police told me that I pointed someone with a gun and I don't even know who that person is. I've never seen him before ... They took my gun and I went to court [in] '98 and it only ended this year. The case was dismissed because the police couldn't investigate it. I did nothing, but they searched my house saying that I have AKs and grenades. After the case I went [to the police station] to get my gun ... When this guy arrested me, he didn't give me anything to prove that he has my gun. Now he was avoiding me and didn't want to give me my gun. I [would] go to the police station all the time to check if he has my gun and every time he tells me that it's in Pretoria. One day he took me inside [the police station] and said he was going to look for [it]. He had told me that my gun was in Pretoria but now he's taking me inside to look for it ... He didn't find it. He took another gun that is not mine and gave it to me saying that I must take it as a consolation for my one that's in Pretoria ... Earlier [while we were in the police station] I picked up my firearm license [which had dropped] on the floor and when he saw that, he asked me if that was my license. I told him that it was and [I think] he got scared ... But now I was scared that this cop would kill me inside there because his expression [had] changed completely. I was so scared I took [the gun]. ... And he knows that I am an MK member and the police hate MK members. I took [the gun] to the Intelligence. Intelligence is now investigating the gun and now, they've found out that he gave it to me because he thought he was [framing] me, a member of MK, so that I would go to jail. So they try by all means to kill us or send us to jail. Unfortunately [for him] he gave the gun to an intelligent person and now they are investigating him. [MK/SDU]

"Must we go back to square one? ..."

The lack of confidence that these respondents have in the police, combined with frustration at pervasive crime and experiences of victimisation, has led some of them to think about taking up arms again.

We don't know, because we had declared the peace in our country, what to do now. Must we go back to square one and use those weapons [the police] are talking about when they come and harass our people - AKs and hand-grenades, etc. etc.? [MK/SDU]

The members of MK were the ones who were applying law and order ... but they dis-empowered us, you see ... Today there are many guns, they are all over. And [from] the time when we were the activists of the ANC, we are targets. And now it happens that you end up tempted because you are forced to take out those guns, maybe those you were using that time ... So this whole thing is really frustrating us. [MK/SDU]

This suggestion can be compared to the utterances of some ex-SADF Special Forces operators who say that if crime is not addressed, ex-combatants may decide to address it themselves.

Ex-Thokoza SDUs - crime fighting and relationships with state security agencies

"They do not like bad things ..."

Thokoza SDU respondents did not speak of their own current crime-fighting activities. However, relatives of former SDUs in one section of the township praise some ex-SDU members for their role in addressing crime in the area. Descriptions of their activities include guarding the streets of the section, investigating thefts and unlicensed weapons, returning stolen items to their owners and 'reprimanding' rapists.38

What's pleasing in this section [is that] even at night, we don't lock our cars ... These guys, the ones who were fighting, are the ones who are guarding our cars and houses ... Women in this section walk during the night, [there's] no rape. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

They do not like bad things. If you [were to] find a boy being naughty and you told them, they would get him. If he has stolen, they get what he has stolen and bring it back. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

Respondents say that unlike in the past, these particular ex-SDUs now work in cooperation with the police, and no longer take responsibility for adjudicating on all types of cases. The ex-SDUs also work with other community members in their attempt to control crime. 'Easy' criminal cases are investigated before the police are contacted (if this is thought to be necessary at all). As with other MK/SDU respondents, however, the apprehension of alleged offenders may involve the use of excessive force.

They are stubborn; they want [the culprit] to tell the truth. They beat them up so that they may speak truth and show them where they [have] put the stolen goods. They take them to the police after they have pointed out the goods ... They do not make a court case, they do not make kangaroo courts, they don't do that [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

If they find a boy beating up a girl, that boy is in trouble, they'll beat him up. They know in this area, that if they rape they are calling trouble. They don't have a chance. If he rapes, it's better if he hangs himself ... because if these boys could find him, they would kill him. They are trying to make it safe for even the children [so that] you do not have to be scared that if a child plays outside, he [will] be taken [away] ... The children play till very late ... and they are safe. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

In more difficult cases, the police are immediately notified, they say.

When the children see that they are in a case they cannot solve, they come to us, the parents - they have the parents that they choose because they trusted them during the time of war. It's then that we unite with these children and investigate where this thing originated, and when we see that this thing is for the police, ... we call the police. This happens many times - that the case is for the police. If someone has died, or is injured, we give it to the police. It's the ones that are easy to solve, [that we resolve] with us. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

The reportedly more productive relationship between ex-SDU combatants from Thokoza and the police contrasts sharply with the strained relationships described elsewhere by other respondents. In this regard the implementation of the Kathorus Police Reservist Programme appears, to some extent, to have alleviated potential tensions. Under this programme, a number of former SDU and SPU members in the East Rand were brought into the local police service structure as paid reservists, also known as 'community constables'.39

The project of the community constables was one of the things which made us proud: having police which came [from being] under our command [in the SDUs] ... It even helped the police to identify the culprits. [Thokoza SDU]

Several others express sentiments similar to those of the respondent cited above. Importantly however, another interviewee draws attention to less favourable responses to the programme from other East Rand SDUs. In some cases, commanders of Self Defence Units saw the assimilation of defence structure members into SAPS as undermining their own power base, and wanted nothing to do with the process. Their former colleagues, now police reservists, also represented a potential threat because of their knowledge of the illegal activities of those outside the process. These tensions at times resulted in violent attacks on police reservists.

The period when there was the assimilation into the police services, [it was decided] that those that were in favour of the process should disarm, and be put under proper structures. And there are those who said, 'Fuck this process, we are commanders in our own right' ... Those who were assimilated into the police were constantly attacked by those who refused to disarm and be assimilated into the legal structure. [East Rand key informant]

"Soldiers are giving us a problem ..."

Although respondents do not report tensions between Thokoza SDUs and the police, some portray current members of the SANDF in a very negative light. Again, with a few exceptions, former SDUs themselves do not speak of this issue, but their relatives do. Community harassment by soldiers, including violent and bullying behaviour, is considered to be a common problem. Interestingly, respondents point to the problematic behaviour of soldiers who have been integrated into the SANDF from the ranks of the liberation movement.

The guys that have joined the SANDF have caused problems ... What this guy told me is, like grudges that they had from beforehand; when they come home with their big rifle and what-have-you, they go around sorting out their grudges. So that has been a particular problem ... Even now, under the new army with like 'our guys' lets say, integrated, the behaviour is just the same as before. They go around saying [things like] there's a curfew in Thokoza when there isn't. [NGO key informant]

Soldiers exercise a certain amount of unregulated power within the community.

If they come to your place and [say], 'Show us his room; tell him that we will collect his TV [to take] to our army place', you will not even dare put your feet there. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

Their intervention in domestic and other personal disputes, although often in response to requests from community members for assistance, has in instances contributed to tension with former SDUs.

Soldiers are giving us a problem, especially when coming to the issue of guys and girls, girls and boys ... If you have a problem with your own girlfriend, she will just run to the base and then half of the army will be looking for you ... and then one of the army guys will just have a relationship with that girl. [Thokoza SDU]

Failure on the part of some community members to apply appropriate procedures and include the appropriate agencies in dealing with disputes feeds the problem, say respondents. Inviting the soldiers to 'sort out' problems is preferred because of its immediate impact.

The soldiers are controlling [things]. People report [to] the soldiers because the soldiers beat and kill. [If you make] a slight mistake, like you step on my corn, I would say, 'Mpho you are stepping on me'. She would say, 'Ekskuus Thandi, I thought you are used to it'. But [if I was like some other people] I run to the soldiers and report. I don't talk to her or tell the police. [It's] the soldiers [that I call] and the soldiers do not behave when they come. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

This tendency of 'running to the soldiers' suggests that the culture of community justice borne of the past lives on in an altered form. The agents of 'justice' implementation have changed in as much as they are now, somewhat ironically, contained within the state's security structures. These roles however certainly do not constitute an official function. Although the backgrounds of the offending soldiers are unknown, it is likely that a proportion of them joined the SANDF through the process of armed forces integration. They may well then, have been protagonists in the community justice systems of the past. In addition, respondents imply that the soldiers' new-found status in the army also plays a part in their assuming these powers. The gun and uniform that go with the position are potent tools that they employ both in the community justice function and for personal benefit.

During their off time they go [in] their private [clothing] to the shebeens. If you have a query with them, they will just go to [put on] their uniform and come for you. [Thokoza SDU]

It is significant to note especially in relation to the suggested continuities from the past in the dynamics of community justice systems, that current complaints directed at SANDF elements often mirror those made of some SDUs themselves during the conflict in the early 1990s. An ex-SDU explains:

The SDUs were also involved in things like disciplin[ing] the community but that was not the main objective ... There were cases like that and that's where the situation became nasty because some were gaining like individually, as SDU members [because] some people would buy them ... Some of the people gave them excessive power. But once people and community leaders realised that there was some kind of anarchy going on, they actually brought that to the attention of the people, that they should not take advantage of the SDU's abilities to achieve their own goals. So that gradually diminished - also with [SDUs] realising that it was wrong to involve themselves in personal matters. [Thokoza SDU]

Another key grievance of some Thokoza respondents is that certain soldiers are involved in criminal networks.

These soldiers are in [the] company of those who were in jail during the time of war ... [The ex-convicts] have opened taverns which do not have licences ... We have a problem of a tavern here. It has guns [and] ... the soldiers rule that tavern ... We are surprised: how does a person who comes from jail mix with the soldiers? This is a long chain that you could never understand. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

Consequently, ex-SDUs involved in fighting crime represent a potential danger for military members mixed up in criminal endeavours. Some of the SDUs have been specifically targeted as a result.

The soldiers do not want these children ... [around because] the [children] do not want the soldiers to do what [they] want. We have a child who died, who was killed by the soldiers. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

The mother of a former SDU relates one example of a situation that was unfolding at the time the focus group met:

The soldiers are looking for [the ex-SDUs] again ... Yesterday there was a problem of a gun. The [ex-SDUs] went to a certain tavern; they searched and found the gun which is wanted [by the police] ... They are waiting for [the alleged owner] to bring a licence for the gun ... The children know that if a gun is not legal, it must be returned to the police station and a case must be opened. That's why they are running away because the soldiers want this gun [so] that they must drop this case ... The soldiers are friends with people who carry the guns which are not right ... Ever since the soldiers, there are now many guns. The guns have come back in a certain way. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

These reports echo allegations made by MK/SDU respondents that ex-MK cadres are targeted by members of the police because they threaten to blow the cover on criminality happening within SAPS.

Ex-combatants and criminal involvement

There is a clear distinction in the way the two broad categories of former soldiers respond to questions about ex-combatants' involvement in crime. While MK and SDU respondents speak at length about the pull factors of crime, SADF respondents do not.

All respondents were asked whether they were aware of any of their former colleagues being currently involved in crime. Increased depth to the issue was sought in interviews with Thokoza SDUs who were also asked whether they had participated in criminal activities prior to and during their SDU days. This was an attempt to trace potential continuities and shifts in crime, from the past to the present: to locate current crime activities in their historical context. In other respondent categories, ex-combatants frequently refer to their past military experiences in their explanations of current criminal activity. For instance, many MK respondents understand criminal behaviour amongst some ex-combatants to be informed by the sacrifices that they made, and the betrayal many of them now feel.

Most of the respondents depict crime as a response to immediate economic pressures. Although ex-combatants see these pressures as largely resulting from their past involvement in the conflict, with the exception of the Thokoza SDUs, respondents' representations of these histories rarely include reference to criminal activity. A minority, however, draw attention to militarised strategies and discourses employed in previous armed conflict in their explications of current crime.

For example, some liberation movement members explain that these discourses and strategies included the sanctioning of armed robbery, theft and other criminal activities for the purposes of resourcing the struggle. It is clear however, that such sanctioning was sometimes abused. In some cases it is difficult to determine whether or not criminal activities were politically motivated. The TRC was forced to examine some of these cases, and to make decisions about the political content of actions that might have appeared to be purely criminal. This examination revealed the complexity of the relationship between crime and politics during the conflict.

What is evident is that during the conflict, some combatants participated in what would ordinarily be defined as criminal activity. The following respondent points out that some ex-combatants, schooled in these strategies, now marginalised from legal income-generating opportunities, and perceiving themselves as having been dumped by their leaders, are utilising this experience 'to take their personal lives forward'.

[Those ex-combatants who are doing crime] are people who have found themselves marginalised and sidelined and they think [of] all these millions. Over and above that, when we were busy with this struggle, many things were said and many things were justified. Like for instance we talk[ed] of 'liberating the wealth'; when cadres were inside the country and they had no means [of supporting the struggle] they were told to use their training to the maximum effort. 'Go out and make a stake, sweep a bank or something, get that money, keep the Movement going'. Now, if the Movement is not going to cater for them, they can still resort to that, but to take their personal life forward. [MK/SDU]

An APLA respondent refers to the potential transmutation of the PAC slogans of the past into the present context, and points to how these might be used to justify criminal behaviour.

Perhaps one can put it this way. Not [that the criminals are] necessarily members of any political parties but [they are] being blessed by its ideology. For instance, PAC talks of self-determination, repossessing the land. The wealth of this country, we say, belongs to us. Now some take it literally: that if you run a caf I could simply walk in there and eat free. 'It's also mine', you see. Now you find such people ... an admirer of the PAC [who is a criminal] but not necessarily a member of PAC. So he's simply a criminal who believes the philosophy of the PAC [that] repossessing the economy is the right one. Therefore he goes on his own crusade, and does the same thing ... The money is theirs as far as they're concerned. They are not stealing, they're taking it. 'It's just that those chaps were refusing, hence we had to kill them.' [APLA]

Another interesting connection between political slogans and crime justifications emerges in allegations made by some farmers' groups that former combatants are involved in contemporary farm killings. These allegations have their roots in the political sloganeering of both the PAC's APLA and the ANC. The former coined the phrase, 'One settler, one bullet', and before it suspended its armed struggle in early 1994, supported attacks against white civilians, especially in the farming community. This was in part because of the association with land, a central pillar of PAC political interest. The ANC's Youth League also promoted the chant, 'Kill the Farmer, Kill the Boer' during the early 1990s. Despite ongoing killings of farmers and their families, and allegations that these are politically motivated, no evidence of any co-ordinated or systematic political targeting has emerged. Rather, it has been argued that, 'in depressed rural areas, farms are logical targets of relative wealth'.40

According to the APLA interviewee (cited above) some of his former colleagues had criminal histories prior to joining the ANC and PAC, and only escaped into exile to avoid criminal conviction (for non-politically motivated action) in South Africa. The PAC, he explains, welcomed all, regardless of their histories, because of the necessity to augment their force levels. Under the circumstances, any recruit was an asset to the organisation. Hence, some criminals became combatants and, subsequently, ex-combatants.

There are others who are demobilised and are struggling [who are doing crime] ... [but] some of them joined the Liberation Movement running away from crime. At that time they had this opportunity of skipping the country and getting involved in the Liberation Movement. I mean we wouldn't ask you whether you are a member of PAC back home. You are an asset to us, ... we are not going to question your background as to what happened [laughs] ... At that time, a desperate time, we also got people with criminal records who took cover ... You kill somebody, you hear that you can jump to Botswana ... 'Well I want to join PAC, I want to join ANC'. So coming back [from exile] they still had that thing, 'We fought for this country, this is ours'. We had quite a number of this type of thing. [APLA]

Moreover, within the country, as insurgency and counter insurgency activities intensified, a blurring of crime genuinely perpetrated for political purposes with that merely taking place under this guise, complicated the situation further. The extent to which elements within the apartheid security forces were involved in criminal activity both to further military objectives and for personal gain is increasingly being revealed. SADF respondents were largely silent on the issue. One former Citizen Force soldier, however, constitutes an important exception. Ironically, his story stems from his civilian experiences during the war. As a member of the Citizen Force he was following a civilian career, as well as a military one. It was in his civilian life that he accidentally became involved with military front companies, which he believed held serious potential consequences for him and his family. Interestingly, he related this story in response to a question on traumatic stress as a result of his military experience: 'I think if anything has placed me in a traumatic position or under stress it's what happened in the corporate scenario as opposed to the army'. But, in fact, as he explains, these traumatic situations, at the core of which were attempts to involve him in the state's criminal activity, are thoroughly associated with his military history, something of which he was unaware at the time.

I've had many death threats subsequently, in the line of my civilian occupations. ... There was a funny transaction involving a substantial amount [of money] which I felt was a scam [and] I was being urged on by management to go ahead with these [transactions] and they went totally against the company's policy, my own rationale and everything ... I effectively torpedoed it and then there were these threats ... The guy graphically explained how they would eliminate my whole family. [SADF]

He has since come to believe that this situation, as well as subsequent requests made of him, were part of the security establishment's war strategy.

Only now, with the benefit of hindsight, do I believe I know that that's what it was about. Subsequently it appears that in its official capacity it was a means to money laundering or getting money out of the country ... [Several of] the names being mentioned in the media now [in relation to dirty tricks and the state's unconventional war strategies] are the persons who I believe were behind the scenes string-pulling on the part of the state security establishment. [SADF]

Similarly, a former conscript also came across criminal activities involving members of the state security forces in his civilian life. However, unlike the above respondent, these encounters were in no way connected to his own military experience. In the area where he lived prior to and following his national service, he explained, he became aware of the activities of some members of the South African Police who later joined the CCB - the 'on the ground guys, the guys who were pulling the trigger', as he refers to them. Friends of his were allegedly 'set up' and murdered by some of these policemen in a bid to cover up their own drug-related criminal activities. Furthermore, he claims that he has been approached by connections of the same people to assist them with a particular 'job'. He refused to help, fearing that if he did, he too would end up dead. While a number of these people have since been incarcerated, this respondent points out that others are still serving as police officers. Consequently, he was not prepared to discuss in more detail what he knows about their past and present activities: 'I might get killed ... What about the other ones, they're not locked up?' Both these former soldiers say they are able to substantiate their claims, but still fear the possible consequences of this information being revealed.

Thokoza SDUs and criminal activity prior to the war

Thokoza SDU respondents were specifically questioned as to whether they had been involved in crime both before and during their combatant days. The rare instances of Thokoza SDU respondents who report criminal activity prior to their SDU involvement converge in their emphasis on the fact that at the same time, they were living 'normal' lives. School attendance and being 'under the command' of their parents are perceived as indexes of this 'normality'.

Maybe others were going to [do] house-breaking. Then they came with things and we [would] sell them. So I didn't go there [to do the burglary]. I'd sell things which [were] stolen ... but I was not involved too much ... Before [the violence started] I was living a normal life. I was under the command of my parents: ... everyday I'd wake up and go to school and I was doing the things that must be done in the house. [Thokoza SDU]

The violence brought these experiences to a halt for the majority of Thokoza SDU respondents. Certainly their declaration of normality prior to the violence indicates the havoc that the conflict wreaked on their lives. This is common in the words of all Thokoza SDUs. In addition though, it is suggestive of an environment where criminal activity is, to an extent, normalised.

Relevant reports diverge however, on the nature of pre-SDU crime. Unlike the above respondent, who partook in non-violent crime, the following respondent was involved in violence.

I was driven by poverty. I was involved in crime but at the same time still going to school ... Other things, we did them because we saw other people doing them, ... older people [who were] doing them ... Maybe it happens that we [would] point [a gun at] you ... Maybe [we would] hit you with a gun on the head and [you] start bleeding or [we might] hold you down and kick you, things like that ... until you agree with what we wanted. [Thokoza SDU]

Thokoza SDUs and criminal activity during the war

In contrast to the above respondents, most claim they were not involved in criminal activities before their participation in the SDUs, and attribute this primarily to the relative safety and security of their home lives.

During the past, before [the] violence, crime wasn't something we expected because we were able to live safely with our parents and get everything. [Thokoza SDU]

Crime became part of SDU activities, and respondents admit that when they themselves were not involved, their friends often were. They emphasise, however, that their involvement was out of necessity, in order to run and finance the SDU. Crime was the methodology employed to gain food, guns and bullets.

They wouldn't commit crime for their own [selfish reasons]. They committed crime for people of the SDU, in order to be able [to] look after us. [Thokoza SDU]

We had ladies who cooked for us during those days you see, with that money from my friends who committed crime. [These SDU members were also] buying us guns and rounds with that money. [Thokoza SDU]

We didn't have money, or the ANC to give us guns. No one came to give us guns. We had to give ourselves the money so that's whereby we [would] go and steal things. [Thokoza SDU]

There was a shortage of guns and no money. Then maybe we would go to Soweto to hijack a minibus [and] come back with it to this side. When we arrived [we would] sell it and buy something ... All the things I have done, I did them for the SDU. [Thokoza SDU]

According to their reports, SDUs in some sections of the township were more reliant on crime than others. The necessity for members to use crime for financing SDU activities largely depended on the composition of the respective community during the violence. In some sections community members were able to finance SDUs through donations. In others, SDU members were left on their own to defend the properties when others had fled the violence. Especially in the latter scenario, SDUs resorted to crime to feed and arm themselves. Those who remained behind when others left the affected sections of the township were the SDUs themselves, and often, the elderly. The old people, according to the following respondent, could not be expected to keep providing for the SDUs.

Most of the time the ones that were left behind were the older people, so to go ... house to house for R10.00 to [get] money to buy food or the bullets [was difficult]. Some of our friends, those who were involved in crime, were avoiding that in the community we should request a lot of things ... Like maybe request money for buying bullets this week, next week we will request money for buying food. Because a lot of people had run away and those that remained [in our section] were too old. [Thokoza SDU]

Other circumstances also contributed to involvement in crime. One respondent explains that he started doing crime when, during the violence, his house was burnt down and all his possessions were destroyed.

The other thing that turned me around was the house. [The IFP] burned everything. They burned the house and I got out with nothing ... - only wearing trousers and sneakers. Everyday I [had to] wear those things and they [would] get dirty and I had to wash them at night like I am a widower, you see. That's what made me change. [Thokoza SDU]

Over and above their own involvement, criminals who were not officially part of the SDU were also contracted by the SDU to secure weaponry. Alternatively, some of these individuals also loaned their guns to members of the SDU in-between their own activities. This apparently led to clashes with other SDU structures that disapproved of the involvement of criminals.

We allowed the criminals because in my area we ... didn't have guns. So some of the other sections were against us [because of this]. The criminal could go and rob and come with the money and give us the money for food. They could go and rob the police station and come with the guns and sell the guns ... cheaper ... So that is why we did allow them. They had guns before we had guns so they support[ed] us ... They were not members of the SDU but they would sponsor [us] with weapons. They would also require those guns back if they want[ed] to go and do their own activity. [Thokoza SDU]

In other areas, there was no such understanding towards criminal elements. The particular SDU structure referred to above, for example, that was financed by community donations, played a 'crime-fighting' role. Crime within the SDU itself was not tolerated, and members caught doing crime were punished.

In this place ... the criminal element was not tolerated at all. If I was caught doing criminal offences it would have meant that I would be flogged and all arms taken away from me and given to someone else. [Thokoza SDU]

The room for the criminals during that time was too slim. It was not yet open as it is [now] because you could deal with the enemy and the criminals at the same time. We are not saying that we were totally perfect, [that] we didn't have criminals around ourselves. We had some ... criminals that were [busy] with their own things ... If you caught them, then you ...[would] give them ... command words and some duties ... [They'd] get the punishment of cleaning the guns for a period ... and then after that [we'd] be keeping an eye on them. Being under watch cut your criminal activities. [Thokoza SDU]

One reason for treating crime and criminals harshly was the additional danger it could mean for the SDU. It brought police into the area.

When I was a member of the SDU tsotsis were not wanted in this extension because ... They would bring those [stolen] cars [into our area where] we soldiers were sitting ... When the police came chasing them, they would run and jump into the yard and the police would come into the house and find the ammunition which we used. That's why we did not want tsotsis around us. [Thokoza SDU].

Although criminal activities in this particular SDU were limited, some individuals were involved with crime 'on the side'.

We cannot deny that we ... had criminal activity during the violence, there was. Because some of the people ... would go and steal ... things [and] come back with them. Some of the people were doing their own business during the SDU activity. Some ... decided not even to join the SDU, just to do their own things. That's where the criminal element came because we don't know, if that person is not part of us, what he is up to. [Thokoza SDU]

One respondent tells of an entire SDU, led by its commander, that abandoned SDU defence functions in favour of robberies.

He was a commander then he resigned because he want[ed] to rob. Then suddenly, with his group he goes and robs cars.41 [Thokoza SDU]

A defining characteristic of SDUs in Thokoza was that the majority of members were very young, relative to members of defence structures in other areas. Many of them terminated their schooling to join the SDU in the early 1990s. In contrast, in the broader East Rand, for example, it was often the unemployed who reportedly constituted the SDUs. An East Rand commentator draws attention to the difficulty in making distinctions between SDUs that were never involved in crime during the SDU activity, and those that were.

The unemployed were the core of the Self Defence Units because they didn't have any activity to do except to engage the security forces. So at the end of the day, when we look at the criminal element, you wouldn't specifically pin point [some over others]. It was a general trend that even the guy who was politically active would do some petty crime because of the opportunities available to him, and because he's in a certain group - the peer pressure thing. [East Rand key informant]

The blurring between purely criminal and purely political activity makes distinctions difficult and has, according to this interviewee, impacted on current crime levels. Because of the merging of different scenarios under the label of political activity, many 'ex-combatants' who should have been sentenced have escaped conviction, and continue with their illegal activities instead.

You find that there are those guys who have serious criminal records; they deserve to be behind bars. But because of the political set up, they are still around and they have the criminal connections around the township, and now they are unemployed. One would automatically go back to where you feel that you have your backside organised in terms of survival in the township, whether it's crime or whatever. [East Rand key informant]

The more recent conflict in some parts of the East Rand has continued to play out along broadly political lines, and has largely been depicted as such by the media. According to this respondent however, the conflict is more criminal than political. Furthermore, he links it to former SDU members' sense of betrayal, and the (aggressive) power to which they have become accustomed to wielding in their communities. The primary motive is crime, but crime is simultaneously a method of revenge for betrayal.

You see the Greenfields, Mandela, Tambo, Holomisa conflict, although people report it as sort of a political conflict, it's not a political conflict. It's former members of the self defence units - a group of former commanders - [who] are terrorising the community, but using a political platform. [They say], 'We are representing this organisation'. But if we go deep into the conflict people are just being killed and intimidated under a political disguise, when the motive is criminal activity ... The commanders there claim that local government betrayed them and now local government [is being] killed. Councillors cannot operate in the area ... It's like a big process of revenge. [East Rand key informant]

Ex-combatants and current crime

As time goes by, even now I still do that thing [crime] because now it's difficult. Even now, you see, I don't have anything. I'm talking about present things. [Thokoza SDU]

The vast majority of MK/SDU respondents live in close proximity to crime. The 'crime-fighting' role of former combatants and revenge sought by criminals comprise one aspect of the ex-combatants' relationship to crime. The most reported element of this relationship, however, is ex-combatants' own involvement in current crime. Importantly, this is not to say that the majority of respondents are involved in crime. Rather, they have knowledge of the involvement of former colleagues in crime, and have opinions on why this is the case. Many have themselves considered turning to crime, or are experiencing considerable pressures to do so. A small number admit that they are presently 'doing' crime. Others are attempting to develop initiatives to lessen the pull towards crime.

Sometimes, the potential for criminal involvement is linked with the specific situation of an ex-combatant. At other times the crime-pull is articulated in more general terms. Unemployment, with its many consequences, is the most commonly cited reason for criminal involvement.

Some of our parents are not working and some of us have lost parents. We've got to support our siblings and children - they must eat. That's why you find them doing crime because they don't have jobs. [MK/SDU]

"Your life is on a thin line ..."

The justification for crime is that joblessness leaves no alternatives. This point arose frequently during interviews. Those who are not involved in crime say they find it difficult to watch their friends following this path, but do not distance themselves from the criminals among their former colleagues. They speak of them with understanding and empathy, saying they are unable to judge people whose options remain so limited.

If you ask them, 'Okay man, we were with you in the struggle to free the land, [so why are you doing this]?' He tells you, 'What am I supposed to eat, I'm not employed?' That is a question, and what he tells you is the truth. He says, 'Man, I am hungry. I have no money.' Now if I could say give him R200.00 [he wouldn't do crime but] you do not have it yourself, to feed your family. That is why ... we say there are some who are involved in crime. We do not want to say their names but if you ask him humbly, he will tell you, 'If I could just get a job, I would leave this whole thing. I would come back to being a human being'. [MK/SDU]

The reluctance to engage in crime, and the desire for an alternative are echoed in interviews with ex-combatants in Kwa Mashu, KwaZulu Natal. One ex-combatant, for example, noted a trend whereby individuals felt it necessary to tell other ex-combatants of their decisions to take the crime option. When doing so they used utterances such as, 'if I had another option'. This need to notify other ex-combatants he perceived as a plea for an alternative, a desire to show that entry into criminal activity is contemplated with reluctance.

Articulations of the path into crime sometimes contain a sense of resignation. The following Thokoza SDU expresses an understanding of the world in which crime is inevitable because there will never be enough work for everyone.

There are a lot of people on earth and we can't all be hired and we can't all be educated on earth. That is what I can say [about why our friends do crime]. [Thokoza SDU]

For many Thokoza SDUs, the journey into crime is presented as closely related to their recent experience in the violence of the early 1990s. During this time, many suffered substantial losses, both at a human and material level. Those who lost their parents are believed to be particularly vulnerable to criminal involvement.

Some people [amongst] us do go [into crime because] they don't have parents. I mean when you are 22 years old you are already old and if you have already lost your parents and there is no one looking after you and, even the [extended] families don't have time for you - so there is nothing. You don't have a choice to do anything. [Thokoza SDU]

Some of those who were orphaned are not only responsible for supporting themselves, but also their siblings.

There are our younger brothers and sisters behind us. We want them to live a better life than the one we were living at the age they are now ... If there is something you can do, you would stop doing crime just like that. [Thokoza SDU]

But circumstances remain unfavourable for many.

You are 21 or 22 years - whatever. Eh! Your parents passed away and you are left with the house and you have younger brothers and sisters and you are not working. You left school and maybe you could go back to school, but education is money. And now if you finish standard 10, they need money [at] like college [or] technikon, you see ... There has to be something that you can do at home for that present moment. [Thokoza SDU]

All Thokoza respondents consider the premature termination of schooling to be one of their most fundamental losses. And as the above respondent makes clear, the obstacles to securing access to education can appear to be insurmountable. In addition, some believe that their 'time for that is long gone', and that they are too old to go back to school.

It is not only orphaned combatants that face pressure to support their families.

There are also those who have parents. You will find that no one is working at home and you look around [and] you are the oldest one at home ... You would never [let them] stay with empty stomachs [while] you are there ... The time you were supposed to be learning [at school], you were looking at matters. It means that now your time is long gone to go to school. That's why now you find that you are doing wrong things. You are doing it being aware that it's wrong. You are doing it so that at home, they survive. [Thokoza SDU]

At home, you are the one they are looking at. They are not working and ... others are learning, like your brothers and sisters. Even on your side, you have a child. And now you see that your life is on the thin line. You no longer know what to do. It's whereby you say ... 'I have to look after my family ... I will go for it'. It's not that it's an aim that thing [crime] or that you were prepared [for it]. No, it's because of certain reasons that forced you to be in that situation. [Thokoza SDU]

"I am tired of handouts ..."

Other former Thokoza SDUs who are not the sole breadwinners in their homes, and whose basic socio-economic needs are being met, may also be lured into crime. They are no longer children, they say, and they struggle with boredom, lack of financial independence and with having only their most basis requirements met.

You would sit and see that your sneakers are getting old. You're not working; you're doing nothing. When you look for a job you are not hired and now you also have to look after yourself and find something. Not that when you do crime, you are doing it because you are naughty: you are driven by reason ... Like maybe you don't have R50.00 for two months. You live with people [and] all the time you come to them [because] you don't have money. A person can change his mind, 'I am tired of handouts. Let me do what is being done [by others]'. [Thokoza SDU]

As the parent of an ex-SDU put it,

Really, if these children could work there would be problems, but they would be less. Because now these children are older [and] they want money, they want to dress, they want everything, they like beautiful things. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

The situation is compounded by the former independence of these ex-combatants. They were operating independently at a very young age but are now attempting to build an independent existence in a context of very limited opportunities.

You must understand that this child, during that time of fighting, was taking care of himself. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

"Latest BMW, nice clothes and changing girlfriends like pairs of shoes ..."

Moves into crime cannot therefore simply be reduced to unmet basic needs. The immense power of the materialist youth culture in which these youth find themselves also feeds criminal involvement today. This culture effects youth more generally and is not restricted to militarised youth. It is also not a new phenomenon. According to some SDU respondents such peer pressures existed in the 1980s.

I was involved [in crime] just to get money to match with friends when they had fancy things and my mother didn't afford [them]. [Thokoza SDU]

But, the current situation appears to be far more complex, and the lure of contemporary youth culture, extremely attractive. The increasing predominance of this culture has, in the view of a key informant, coincided with the combatant/ex-combatant transition for many young men.

If you look at unemployed youth, the culture has changed ... [to] fast cars, young beautiful women. You look at the militarised youth that were politically, in a way, knowledgeable (never mind some were never that politically knowledgeable but) most were politically knowledgeable, but now they tend to be quite ignorant. And then [they are] also pissed off with government. It's, 'You know what has happened to us [but] we're left out of the process.' So the best thing is just to live your own life, being part and parcel of this new youth culture ... The guys that were active in the defence structures ... have gone different ways. [Many] that are remaining [in the townships] are in this new mainstream culture and are also involved directly and indirectly with crime. [East Rand key-informant]

Money, designer clothing, expensive cars and guns are apparently central to contemporary youth culture and its accompanying notions of masculinity. The material objects are what is important and not the means of acquisition. Crime pays for status and respect and not only material goods: it is the means to a powerful identity.

The thing that's most confusing the youth, is this: if you can differentiate between the criminal, and then people who are at varsity and schools // [there're those] who are directed, looking for the survival of their dear life in a proper manner [and then the] criminals who are earning like nobody's business. They're driving fancy cars, doing nice things, without sweating for it. It's, 'Look at this one, he never went further at school, but he's driving Z3 or the latest BMW, having nice clothes, cellular phones, changing girlfriends like pairs of shoes.' During the weekend the criminals are just stopped on the street in the car [with] the [music at] high volume. They are 'nice' and they are role models to these youngsters. Whereas yourself, you're still struggling to get your education ... You are not being recognised. The people who are recognised are the ones [who] have evidence: evidence of cars and money, and then totally, the township is looking at them. [Thokoza SDU]

Attracting the 'girls' is cited as a reason for crime. 'Girls', some respondents say, are attracted to 'evidence' of money.

Let me say, you're buying a T-shirt and it costs R700.00 and when I'm moving with you, all the girls are looking at you and I'm wearing an overall. It's whereby it can lead you [to] go and rob. [Thokoza SDU]

Mostly girls can make you go and do robbery ... If she asks you for R50.00 [and] you don't have it, then she goes to the other one and asks R50.00 [and] he has it . That's whereby now I can say, 'No, if I can get that R50.00 then I can have my girl ... definitely my girl will be attracted and go for the money ... It will depend on which girl or how that girl understand[s] you or your life. [Thokoza SDU]

The hold of this culture in an environment of poverty presents a range of dilemmas for individuals who have not achieved the financial status of their role models. The above respondent goes on to highlight the tension between attracting the girls and supporting the family.

But it's not rare that you must go and rob someone so that you can go and watch a movie with [a girlfriend] and do a nice thing ... only to find [after the movie] that ... we should have taken that money and spent it in the house. We should have done more things or good things [with that money]. So it's always here [that need for money]. That's whereby [some of the former SDU members] are in jail. [Thokoza SDU]

In one section of Thokoza, virtually the entire membership of the SDU is in prison for crimes such as armed robbery, cash-in-transit heists, and murder, explained one respondent. He attributes this situation to the pressures of pervasive materialism and the negative role played by 'heroes', whom he regards as the 'biggest crooks that ever walked this earth'. This particular unit is unlike most others in terms of the pervasiveness of its involvement in crime. Several contributory factors are proffered for the dramatic level of criminality in this group. These range from the specific historical methods of leadership and command (which deviated from those of other SDUs), the ineffectiveness of demilitarisation efforts in the area, and the absence of the type of leadership needed to provide adequate and relevant guidance.

Ex-MKs and the crime pull

The socio-economic explanation for crime also emerges in responses from former MK combatants. Unlike Thokoza SDUs, however, MK/SDU respondents emphasise the role of dashed expectations in this explanation.

I would like to plead and request the government to pay attention to ensure that ... certain changes will take place so that even those who committed themselves in crime turn and become normal. I cannot blame people for find[ing] themselves involved in crime. The crime is caused by poverty and hunger. The people committed themselves [to the struggle] with the objectives that after the liberation, they won't suffer like now. But now it is sounds like it is [there] more than ever, ever before. [MK/SDU]

Some suggest that up to a certain point there was hope that the expected changes to their material circumstances would be realised. The point at which the hope dies is the point at which they enter crime. They have 'given up'. The words of the following respondent illustrate this process. In addition, he draws attention to some of the sacrifices made by many ex-combatants, and the implications of these sacrifices in the present. However, he also includes the factor of choice of work: people cannot get the type of work they desire. In this he deviates from many other respondents who imply that any job would suffice. This point qualifies the 'pure' economic motivation for criminal involvement.

[Those doing crime] have given up. If I arrived here [from exile] I was trying everything to survive but nothing is going alright ... At last I see that there is no way out ... Nowadays without skills or experience in a particular field you will never get a job. If you are a human being there are kinds of jobs you like and if you don't have qualifications you won't get the job you like ... Their families are poor ... A person thinks about things such as: 'Maybe if I did not go to exile I would have finished my education and be able to help my family. Now I am from outside but there is no difference, I am still suffering. It is better to do something in order to survive, even if it is crime.' [MK/SDU]

Motivations provided for involvement in crime are frequently intertwined with respondents' sense of betrayal and unmet expectations. In contrast to those who stress their reluctance to become involved in crime, some respondents employ the anger of betrayal as a justification for the move to crime.

It's useless to hide it because we know very well [that MK guys are doing crime]. We know the motive behind it. There're people within [our ranks] who are highly, highly committed in crime. For instance, a person like Colin Chauke, I cannot blame him for what he has done. It is [affecting him] terribly deep down [in] the bottom of his heart that he isn't taken into high consideration by the government of the ANC. So therefore he ended committing himself in crime. [MK/SDU]

These ex-combatants are keenly aware, it appears, of the threat they are conventionally considered to pose, particularly if they are disillusioned and unemployed. Some warn of the dangers of not addressing their needs. Curiously, such expressions often co-exist with declarations of continuing loyalty to the ANC.

The employment issue is the main problem. Let's take for example, I was trained in exile to use a gun. Outside, they promised us a lot of things. When I came inside the country there was nothing that they [had] promised. I found myself doing nothing. I will end up thinking about wrong things because my children are starving, my mother is also starving. I am trying to find piece jobs but nothing is going right ... I will end up robbing because I am unemployed. If only the government can give us jobs we won't violate it. It would not even hear bad remarks from its people ... We don't care about [any] other things but jobs. [MK/SDU]

Experiences in the SANDF, especially having been dismissed, or involuntarily demobilised, also contribute to levels of anger and frustration.

Some of our comrades are doing crime and some have been arrested. They do crime because they are frustrated because they were dismissed from the army and they don't have jobs and they have children and families to support. [MK/SDU]

It was APLA and MK people [that] were demobilised. That is what shows that ... they want to drive us into crime, because if we just sit doing nothing with just a gun as a skill, we will suffer. If we do not join the police or security companies, it is then we form gangsters or such groups. [MK/SDU]

Involvement in crime is sometimes depicted as revenge for the way that ex-combatants have been treated.

Some of our comrades, like me, have been dismissed unfairly from the army and they went to sit at home - they don't even want to do the three months course for skills. So, they've decided that they want to do crime and I agree with them because they were in the army, they fought for this country and today they are in the streets like a bag of rubbish. I support them. I think they must do crime until they get tired of it. [MK/SDU]

"Tsotsis, they know me ..."

Many MK/SDU respondents say they are often approached to provide their services in criminal activities. Interviews with ex-combatants in KwaZulu Natal reveal that criminals are frequently aware of who has received military training, and attempt to exploit their disillusionment and desperation to criminal ends. Although many have resisted becoming involved, those who have not, find that once they are involved, it is difficult to extricate themselves.

There is a lot of frustration among ex-combatants that have been demobilised. What contributes to this frustration is that they sit around all day doing nothing and when they compare their situation to that of others, they feel angry. Gangs and criminals will know who has been militarily trained. These criminals will target these people and convince these guys by playing on their disillusionment. Once you get drawn in, you become trapped and there is no way out. [MK, KZN]

Similarly, relatives of ex-Thokoza SDUs claim that ex-SDUs, because of their militarised histories42, are sought out by criminals and sometimes manipulated into working for them.

There was a man ... [who] was always coming to these children and I was always [saying], 'What does this Corolla car want in this street?' [The ex-SDUs] said, 'This brother is giving us money, he does everything for us'... But [then] he took those children to do robbery ... They got 25 years ... [and] are in jail. They were taken by an older person who was not even in [the] war here, but because he wanted to do his things, he took them from here ... - the children that he knew were once fighting [and] who know about guns. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

In one MK/SDU focus group every participant said that they have been, and continue to be, approached in this way. They attribute these requests to their military training, and to the fact that criminals think they have access to arms and ammunition.43 Responses to these approaches vary: some are very clear that they will not become involved.

[The area where I grew up] has lots of tsotsis and they know me. A lot of them have approached me to help them out and I tell them that I wasn't born a thug. They want me to help them with car hijacking and bank robberies. I tell them that the only thing I know is politics. [MK/SDU]

There are such people [who approach me] but I [refused] because I know what I will earn for doing crime. Doing crime is something that would take back my life ... I will come back [from jail] old ... At some point my project [which I want to develop to help ex-combatants] will also include fighting crime. [MK/SDU]

Opposition to becoming involved in crime is sometimes explained in terms of loyalty to the ANC government.

I fought for this government to reach where it is today. I did not even want the crime I am seeing now in this country ... I would be betraying my government [if I did crime]. [MK/SDU]

Some respondents also raise concerns regarding the possible consequences of crime. It is fear of punishment under 'our' new government that serves as a deterrent.

A lot of guys have approached me looking for bullets because they were going to rob a jewellery store and they need my help because I was trained. I tell them ... I can't go out there and do crime because this is our government. This new government is very firm on criminals and they sentence you to up to 20 years especially if you come from exile. [MK/SDU]

The notion that punishment for crime is harsh contradicts the frequently expressed sentiments of other MK/SDU respondents who believe that the government is 'soft' on criminals. This particular respondent, however, shares the commonly held view that ex-combatants are targeted and prejudiced by the police and the criminal justice system. This reinforces his concerns about the treatment he would receive if he were ever apprehended. Despite this, the same respondent says he might yet succumb to the criminals' requests for assistance.

Yes, I'm scared [of the punishment] and I'm scared that it's my government and they know that I'm from exile and that I fought for this country. Now if I turn around and do crime, it's another story. Maybe next time I won't be afraid - especially if I'm hungry. [MK/SDU]

Another respondent expresses similar views:

Criminals approach me looking for bullets or grenades or AKs, pistol or magazines. The only thing that scares me is that this is our government and if they arrest us they make an example of us. [MK/SDU]

Along with the fear of punishment, their words suggest that a sense of loyalty to the reputation of other ex-combatants also keeps them from participating in crime.

I could make robberies and I could be a 'wanted' on TV and they would say, 'Here is another former MK doing crime.' [MK/SDU]

Several respondents have fewer reservations about responding positively to criminals' approaches:

Some guys approached me and told me that I should help them ... because I don't have money and I'm suffering. I said, 'Yes, we can go'. I'm ready anytime because I can't sit around when I don't have money. [MK/SDU]

I [was] approached last week but I don't trust some of the guys [so] I won't go with them. If they were people I trusted, I would go. [MK/SDU]

Although the majority of SADF respondents said they were unaware of any of their former colleagues being involved in crime, a former Special Forces operator said he knows of one who is currently serving time for having carried out a contract murder. A former policeman also recounted how he had received several anonymous phone-calls shortly after having left the service. These, he said were an attempt to recruit him into contract killings to be conducted outside South Africa.

Similarly, an ex MK respondent explains how recruitment into crime might well include contract killings.

Some people [are hungry and] if the taxi men came with R1000.00 [and say] 'This person is a problem to me, would you kill that man?' So because of anger, the person will take R1000.00 and go to kill the person. That thing is existing. [MK/SDU]

One former MK cadre was arrested and convicted for a series of killings related to conflict in the transport industry in the Western Cape during 2000.44 He was contracted by elements in the taxi industry to assassinate bus drivers working for the Golden Arrow bus company, which provided a rival source of transportation for local commuters.

"If you can't beat them, you better join them ..."

Requests made to ex-combatants to become involved in crime may emanate from criminals who are not necessarily themselves ex-combatants. Another possibility is that ex-combatants involved in crime may pressurise their former colleagues to assist them. One interviewee specifically points to some of the SDUs on the East Rand in this regard. In cases, he says, ex-SDU members impose substantial pressure on their former colleagues to do crime.45 Former SDU leadership may continue to issue orders and demand participation in criminal activity.

Most of the guys are seeking employment, they are going for training, ... trying to join security companies. The rest, you find that [there is a] core element that is there: very powerful, very intimidating [and] giving orders, even if you're no longer part of the structure. But if they want to utilise your skills, it's, 'Come and join us on this mission'. If you say, 'No', it's a sign of betrayal and a sign that you are a spy; you might sell them out to the police. They'll do away with you. [East Rand key informant]

The potential seriousness of not cooperating with demands by other SDUs to join them in their illegal missions is illustrated in an incident referred to by two Thokoza SDUs whose friend was murdered, allegedly because he resisted these pressures.

One group is criminal and some groups chose to be ordinary citizens [when the peace was realised]. Now the criminal group start[ed] to undermine this [other] group ... In 1994 [our friend] was done under at the hands of the criminals - because the criminal group would say [he is] stupid for not joining. You know the name of the word? The word says: 'If you can't beat them you better join them'. [Thokoza SDU]

Their account of the incident also underscores how past relationships and behaviours may manifest in the present. Because some defence unit members perpetrated crime for personal gain during their 'combatant' days, the peace agreement had little impact on their activities. Moreover, grudges, personal resentments and revenge may continue to play out. The death of the respondents' friend is perceived both as a revenge killing for the past (when he represented an obstacle to the particular SDUs criminal activity) and punishment for not co-operating after the war.

[During the war] the [the criminal group] said: 'You make yourselves clever, you don't want criminals in your area'... On our side we did not have a grudge, but they still had a grudge. He died in vain because he did nothing, he never killed anyone. [Thokoza SDU]

"You are a time bomb really, you are just ticking away ..."

Several respondents say that ex-combatants may contemplate becoming involved in violent crime with less ambivalence than others who have no military/conflict experience because ex-combatants are 'not afraid'.

One SDU interviewee, for example, reports being told by former colleagues, who are involved in criminal actions, that the cash-in-transit heist operations in which they participate are easier to execute than the combat missions they were previously engaged in.

To attack a person who is not alert [is much easier] than attacking a person who is already waiting for you. It's a different [situation]. The [ones doing crime] say to me: 'I have attacked IFP and IFP were 24 hours [on] alert, waiting for ANC people to attack. But when I go for the Fidelity Guard[s] they are not thinking that they can be robbed [in] this way or at that stop sign.' [Thokoza SDU]

An ex-MK cadre makes a similar point in his account of the government's response to a demonstration conducted by soldiers who were being demobilised from the SANDF. He marvels at what he perceives as the short-sightedness of the leaders in treating their fighters 'who are not scared' in this way:

In the SANDF, they just protest[ed] which is their democratic right ... but the government's reaction was terrible ... Nelson Mandela himself, said ... 'Let them dismiss themselves, they'll never be accepted anymore within the SANDF'. He couldn't realise that the crime will come to such an extent that nobody will stop it, because these are soldiers. Soldiers are not scared. They will just do things ... as they did before ... They're not scared. [MK/ SDU]

Ex-combatants trained in guerrilla warfare are especially well equipped for criminal activity, says another MK/SDU respondent. The individual initiative, deception, dodging capabilities, and underground networks required in this type of warfare are equally necessary to crime activities. These skills, combined with the increasing sophistication of criminal networks, make such criminals exceptionally difficult to apprehend. Like other respondents, he regards these attributes, when combined with a sense of betrayal, as particularly dangerous.

I have personal knowledge of people in crime who haven't been caught. You know, we were trained for such things as guerrilla warfare and [now,] being left there at the ledge - you are a time bomb really, you are just ticking away because all the skills and all the suffering that you had to go through and how you [were] made to develop yourself under those conditions, you utilise that tool to [the] maximum. It's unlike people who have been trained ... You were trained to be devious, [to] do things and not get caught ... You know, some even go to court and get acquitted because [of] how they do this: they think, they plan. [MK/SDU]

Processes of armed force integration - compounding problems of militarisation?

One unusual variation on the view that disillusioned militarised people pose a potential security threat is that armed-force integration processes can militarise people further. Several respondents argue that when these processes do not result in the long-term employment of combatants, the result is potentially more dangerous than it would have been had the ex-combatants not been integrated into these structures in the first place.

For example, allegations challenging the combatant status of some of the non-statutory force members on the Certified Personnel Register have led to questions being raised about the dangers of providing military training to personnel, who are subsequently demobilised.

I've seen these guys coming in [to the Defence Force] that [are] supposed to be combatants and did not know the difference between a rifle and a pistol ... All your military forces where you get integration, you will always find that many of these guys were never soldiers. Now [with the integration process] he's taught to be a soldier. You give him a rifle, teach him to shoot and everything and demobilise him. What's this bugger going to do now? He's worse off than before you integrated him. Now, you start getting crime and violence. [Recce]

This respondent argues that the armed-forces integration processes that frequently follow the termination of civil wars, are problematic in that they often include people who were not combatants in the conflict or, alternatively, only had very tenuous links to the status.

Another interviewee raises similar concerns in relation to the integration of former SDU and SPU members into Kathorus SAPS as paid reservists. Here, the issue is not about the previous combatant status of those that were integrated. Instead, the focus is on the potential consequences of providing people with additional skills and knowledge of the security structures, when they do not necessarily have a future in these structures. This particular initiative could not sustain the numbers of reservists who had originally participated in the programme, and significant numbers have recently been discharged with severance packages. However, as the contents of the packages dwindle, he says, their frustration at being unemployed and their intimate knowledge, by now, of the workings of the police service, make them a potential security risk.

So most of them were keen to take a package, and now they've burned it in a week and it's finished. So they are now ... unemployed, and they are the most dangerous part of the unemployed because they know what happens within the security forces, in terms of investigations, ... arresting people, ... of where the red spots are, and who's doing what within the police. So you have a large group of ex-community constables sitting unemployed. [East Rand key informant]

The dangers of this situation are compounded, he says, by the criminal histories of some of the affected people.

Although they haven't shown the capacity to be a time bomb, one would always think of looking after those characters. Because never mind [that] whilst they were still employed by the state [as community constables], most of them were involved in crime. So you can imagine now, they are no longer [working] in the police, they're going to increase the crime scenario that we are in now. [East Rand key informant]

These concerns can be considered to be equally applicable to soldiers who have been integrated into the SANDF. Although many ex-combatants were demobilised without SANDF training having been provided to them, all of those who were successfully integrated were given additional training, aimed at standardising levels of competence in conventional military practice. Successful integration provides no assurance of a career in the military. Many have subsequently left the SANDF for a variety of reasons, including resignations, medical discharges, and dismissal. This has contributed to increasing levels of unhappiness, especially among those soldiers who feel they have been unfairly treated. The situation is likely to deteriorate further as the SANDF embarks on a rationalisation process that will see thousands more soldiers lose their jobs. A possible outcome of this, according to the same interviewee is that:

The environment is going to develop bigger, more effective, and brutal [crime] syndicates ... because [these men] will have the logistics, and much more capacity to organise their logistics, taking from their experience in the army. [East Rand key informant]

Parents and caregivers of ex-Thokoza SDUs also consider the retrenched police reservists of Kathorus to represent a significant threat.

Those boys found jobs at the police station and they lost the jobs. They are troublesome now because there is no money coming in. Such children are dangerous now. That's why we were saying it seems like this thing could erupt in a certain way. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

While the 'time bomb' may not yet have exploded, these respondents say they have already encountered criminal manifestations of the problem and predict that these will increase.

There are more than ten [SDUs] who I know who were in the project of the policemen. Now [since they have lost their jobs] eish! That's why we say that [there is the] disappearance of cell [phones] and ... people are mugged ... We [parents] investigated [these things] ourselves and found that it involves the children ... We got the cells and took them back to the owners. [But] now, it's a risk ... because tomorrow the children [may] point out [to each other], 'That particular house is the one where we are able to find things [to steal]'. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

They emphasise the basic problem of unemployment (rather than the skills that the ex-SDUs gleaned during their employment) and explain how many of the retrenched reservists are now in debt, as well as being without income.

Many are left with instalments [that they have to pay every month], and now you can see that they are worried. You meet them at the corners, sitting uncomfortably ... That's why we say if it was possible that in Thokoza there could be another project urgently so that they could ... finish up their instalments because they are deep in instalments. All the houses, about 600 houses in Thokoza, did not have furniture; they had nothing ... We are assisted by these children that buy furniture for the houses. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

The anxiety of these respondents at what the discharged reservists might resort to in the circumstances is great, and compounded by their own sense of helplessness in the situation.

So when they are unemployed again, there is trouble. Poverty sets in again ... You will never know today, what have they planned. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

"Without beating about the bushes ..."

The most commonly provided explanation for criminal activity is unemployment. Yet some ex-SDUs who were integrated into the South African Police Service as paid reservists (known as 'community constables') have, at the same time, been involved in crime.

I mean the [community constables] also do [crime]. Those reservists, truly speaking, without beating about the bushes, they also do crime with those legal guns. [Thokoza SDU]

Some former colleagues think that the paid reservists do crime to augment their incomes because these do not cover their needs.

[They] are not satisfied with the money that they receive ... You find that a person is earning R1000.00 a month ... [and that] money doesn't satisfy. You have problems bigger than that ... and you find that you need some other money ... A person needs a lot of money, sure. Money is a problem. [Thokoza SDU]

In these cases too, peer group pressure and aspirations to status in a materialist youth culture are, reportedly, motivating factors.

There are other [reservists] also who commit crime for fun, just because they see maybe the lifestyle of people who commit crime as if, it's different to that of others. So they need that fame in order to be known that he is also there ... He also knows how to do that job [crime] that others are doing. It means it's like just a competition. [Some] take it as a competition. [Thokoza SDU]

As one interviewee points out, criminality within the ranks of the police service in the East Rand (and elsewhere) is not restricted to the former SDU and SPU community constables. The difference between the community constables and regular police criminality, he claims, is that crime involving community constables was a continuity of those members' criminal activities from the past, which they subsequently brought into the service.

Some of [the police] were also involved in their own crime, so it doesn't make them better than the community constables. But the issue with the community constables [is that] they were a sensitive issue and brought into the police, and now the police would say, 'No, we don't want this dirty structure coming to make our dirty linen even more dirty'. So crime within the police - it's just the same whether it's community constables or not. The thing with the community constable is that he was never a policeman before. He was involved in crime so he continues whilst he's in the police. [East Rand key informant]

Criminality within the ranks of the community constables was at its height during the early years of the project. Although the problem has not been eradicated, attempts by the non-criminal and disciplined community constables to address the activities of their colleagues, combined with community members taking on more active roles (such as lodging complaints against reservists) have gone some way to diminish the problem (East Rand key informant).

Criminal activity on the part of some community constables also accounts for a proportion of the many reported deaths, not in the line of duty, among community constables.46 You find that they had made deals with certain syndicates and the deal didn't go well [so he] 'happened to be' shot while off-duty. [East Rand key informant]

Employment is, therefore, not necessarily an antidote to crime, and even those who secure employment may be frustrated by the piecemeal opportunities that it presents, and the low wages that are on offer.

Sometimes I am working with my friends at the RDP [projects] ... but the money is very little ... Even now we are still involved in criminal activities - some of my friends and I. Maybe we would go there, the three of us, to hijack [and] sell it and get those cents ... so that we could be like the other guys [and] dress nicely. At home it's my younger brother and my sister ... My sister has to go to school. My younger brother is in jail, I have to go and see him ... It's Christmas now, [my sister] should get clothes like other kids. That is why sometimes I am doing criminal activities. [Thokoza SDU]

Preventing crime through building alternative identities

"We need them to be engaged in something ..."

Overall, unemployment, although certainly not the sole reason, is the most emphasised reason provided for criminal involvement. Not surprisingly, it is the financial consequences of unemployment that are most prominent in respondents' articulations. But unemployment is not only about not having an income. It is often also about humiliation, feelings of helplessness, dependency, boredom and a loss or lack of status. As one respondent says regarding the impact of the curtailed schooling on some former Thokoza SDUs:

It leads to a dumb mind - that we don't even think of doing anything. [You] just wake up in the morning, wash yourself [and] get to the streets. No motivation. [Thokoza SDU]

These are the consequences of not having anything to do, as distinct from not having an income. Juxtaposed with many ex-combatants' prior expectations as well as the powerful identities and roles that they lived in the past, their current situation potentially intensifies these particular consequences of unemployment.

"They love soccer, they love the team ..."

In an effort to address these concerns, former SDU commanders in one section of Thokoza have formed a soccer team to support their fellow ex-combatants and help them to avoid becoming embroiled in crime. According to one of the ex-SDU project leaders, the initiative has been relatively successful because of the ways in which it responds to the non-financial consequences of unemployment and marginalisation. Members of the team do not get an income, but their participation provides a number of alternative benefits that are powerful disincentives to criminal involvement.

The initiative includes all who wish to participate and membership is not restricted to the soccer-playing team members but involves others in departments such as finance, marketing, supporters and transport. Each member has a role to perform. They do not have time to do crime when they are busy with the team.

Most of the SDU's are involved in the team playing football [or] some of us are in the management, official-wise. I'm in the marketing department ... We even have memberships cards ... Like this guy who was here ... he changed from the SDU to be a criminal. Now he's involved in the team ... in the finance department. So the crime rate has gone down because people who [were doing] crime, all of them are now committed to football. We have to go and check [the players] at training sessions so [there's] no time to go around [doing crime]. [At the] weekends we have to go and support them. [Thokoza SDU]

In addition, members are proud of their team. Even in its early stages, it has achieved a number of successes. He suggests that the pride is, in itself, a deterrent to crime. The team also provides members with an alternative style and status in the community. Team T-shirts, with which all members are provided, are given particular emphasis.

We had a tournament [where] we beat 32 teams ... so at least we've success and we have T-shirts [and] we have support. If you come when we are playing you can see that maybe Mabaleng [is] playing with the results of Kaizer Chiefs or Cosmos ... We have a truck and people with cars ... [so] everyone who wants to go [to the match, can go]. You can see [our] red and white T-shirts, flags, everything ... So you cannot be a criminal and on the other side [be] playing football. So now ...you are playing nice football ... and I'm giving you this T-shirt. It's a nice T-shirt - on Sunday you can [dress] nice. [Thokoza SDU]

The team has altered the way that ex-SDUs are received in the community. Because they are involved in this initiative, says this respondent, people are keen to encourage them. He emphasises the importance for these youth of being engaged in an activity to which they are committed. While it does not furnish them with an income, they own a project in which they are all productive, valuable members. Furthermore the project begins to substantially address the community's marginalisation. It has, for example reactivated the limited recreational facilities available in the township: the soccer ground had not been operational since before the onset of the violence in the early 1990s.

What is great is they love soccer, they love the team, they love the people [who] are running the team because [before] they withdrew too many things from the young boys around the township ... So now we want to go as Thokoza, representing East Rand because it seems that there is no football in East Rand. [Thokoza SDU]

It has literally broadened their horizons. For the first time, the East Rand is featuring on the soccer map, and the team is playing against other teams from all over Gauteng.

We [are] show[ing] them there is football in East Rand ... You know why [the team has impacted on crime even when they are not getting paid]? It's because we have conquered [and] we are moving around [to other places]. [Thokoza SDU]

Perhaps most importantly, he claims, it has instilled a previously lost sense of hope.

We have ... two players from Thokoza who are playing for Jomo Cosmos ... so we have chances: most of the guys who are playing now can go to national level ... [Soon] we are going to play with the reserve of Cosmos ... If you have good football and if we are going to Soweto, Jomo Sono ... [and] the scouts of the big teams are always there ... So it's whereby [these guys] can get a chance. [Thokoza SDU]

Outbursts of aggression and violence

It does happen sometimes that I get violent. I sometimes feel it is part of life or these things are supposed to happen. I don't know. [Thokoza SDU]

In all armed force categories, a number of respondents speak of a past or continuing tendency to respond aggressively to certain situations, although this does not necessarily result in violence. Many attribute this to their military or militarised experiences.

Questions of violence are sensitive in the context of the stigmatisation faced by many ex-combatants. A few respondents were clearly irritated by questions attempting to explore the potential relationship between militarisation and violence at the individual level.

Most of us are normal human beings with normal lives. We are not all bent and warped individuals with the continuous desire to kill. The smell of napalm in the morning can become quite boring afterwards. (By the way we never used napalm on the border just in case the TRC might want to know!) ["AT"]

There is some danger that discussion of these issues can contribute further to destructive stereotypes despite intentions to the contrary. Some respondents say they have never used violence in their civilian lives. Several others admit to tending towards violent reactions. Our intention here is to better understand some of the factors at play in these tendencies and their possible relation to militarised experiences.

"He became another thing ..."

Several SADF Citizen Force respondents speak of the changes that occurred in them as a result of their military training:

The training really does change you. The army was a traumatic experience for me, but I was sensible enough to 'monitor' - with some discomfort and alarm - the internal changes. In the first three months one goes from shatteringly tired from the new routine (lack of sleep, fast weight loss, physical training etc.) to aggressive against your platoon members that are not carrying their weight or are constantly getting the platoon corrective action by failing. The system was of course designed to turn aggression onto one 'failure' in the platoon - one guy that was not making it. By the time our training was over we were a bomb waiting to explode: lots of young men with stacks of testosterone convinced in their own immortality and fairly convinced (except for a few guys like me) that the Red Threat was waiting to roll over us. ["AT"]

The training evoked a wide range of emotions and responses, from aggression and a 'strong desire for danger', to tension and anxiety.

You're bloody nervous of course [before an operation]. The situation is very tense. It's not a laugh or a giggle ... [But] one thing that was quite incredible [was when] ... the senior officer announced that this was now the real thing - the cheer that went up from the guys. It sounds crazy but the roar of approval, sort of thing ... Once the army is in you - it's difficult to describe - although it's wrong etc., but there is that sort of adrenaline rush. You know you almost become a junky. [Parabat]

The stresses of warfare itself were profound, and some, like the following respondent did not endorse what they were purportedly fighting for. And yet in his case, aggression and the desire to kill were evoked in him all the same. After a stint in the townships - which he describes as a 'very deadly hide and seek with the 'comrades' ... lots of young men shot down. A hard stamp of white authority on the townships' - he was sent to Angola.

As an ops medic I dealt with the bloody, broken and cooked results of this [hide and seek] 'game' from both sides. I tried to send some letters to my parents about the horror of it all and the injustice of our behaviour ... My father destroyed these letters and actually flew down ... and took me out for a few nights to chill out. By the time I got to Angola, I was really more stressed and ready to revel in the feeling of it all - the excitement of the hunt and the results were like wine to me. The adrenaline rush was incredible - this is something that even today is difficult to control. ["AT"]

Although these respondents frame their experiences as 'crazy' and in a sense dehumanising, they also illustrate the potentially addictive quality of violence and danger. They suggest that the desire for danger can continue into later life. However, such a desire need not be equated with 'danger to society'. One respondent, for example, satisfies his desire through his ongoing work in a military reserve unit.

The strong desire for danger still continues today in that I enjoy the aspects of tradition in my Reserve Unit ... I don't know why, but I feel fitter and stronger and happier ... [on operations there] than when I am sitting in my suit and tie being an IT consultant. Go figure. ["AT"]

Though relatively few respondents speak of an 'addiction' to danger, a tendency to aggressive behaviour or fearsome tempers, sometimes resulting in violence, and affected by military experiences, is more widely reported.

Now it might happen that a person would be angry very easily and maybe end up hitting [another person], maybe hurt him. At the beginning, before being an SDU, these things were not there. [Thokoza SDU]

Before the army, I wouldn't have thought about stabbing somebody or shooting somebody, no. Basically I went into the army as a sports kind of guy [and] came out something else ... There's no going back to what you were. [Conscript group, follow-up interview]

The passage of time has had varied impacts on these respondents' propensity for aggressive behaviour and anger, which may remain unchanged, be increasingly controlled, or become more intense. Respondents commenting on aggression and violence amongst both conscripts and Thokoza SDUs highlight the period of conflict itself, and that immediately following it, as particularly notable in this regard.

Former Citizen Force members emphasise the difficulty in the multiple transitions they had to make from a war situation to a civilian situation, as punctuated by their leave periods, the ending of their two-year military service, and then the periodically enforced camps.

When I came back from Angola, I was very aggressive ... I left the army in July 1987 and went back to being a little bank clerk - a huge change and struggle to adapt to the boring routine of married and working life. I was terribly unhappy and battled to adapt to this new civilian life. Then six months after finishing I was back in Angola for an Ops - called up by telegram ... three months of hell and shit. Suddenly back to civilian life again. I had just started to adapt after National Service then, just when things were settling down, everything was turned upside-down. The second time adapting was worse than ever, I suffered many flashbacks - almost LSD type experiences - where almost every sense is convinced you're back in the bush even though your body is lying flat in SA. ["AT"]

The aggression and vigilance instilled through military experience frequently remained with the individual on his return to civilian life. When they themselves did not register this, those around them did.

After coming back [from an operation] ... my girlfriend at the time (who since became my wife) said I've become very, very belligerent, aggressive ... and I didn't perceive it in myself. [Parabat]

For some respondents, this aggression manifested in violence:

The adjustment one has to go through afterwards is really hard to deal with. Also the 'knowledge' inside yourself that despite having a Christian, civilised upbringing, the animal lurks just underneath the surface. I still remember very vividly my first 'hunt'. The almost intoxicating desire to kill (despite the incredible feeling of fear) was frightening. It made me very aggressive when I came back to the 'real' world. My wife was nearly killed by me on two occasions ... after a really bad stretch in Angola. ["AT"]

Female family members of former conscripts also describe the aggression with which their conscript relatives returned from the war.

He was an ordinary little boy when he went in the army. And when he came out he was totally different: rude and aggressive and ungrateful. [Wife/sister of conscript]

They became aggressive to their own parents, which made it very hard ... they were not themselves. [Wife/sister of conscript]

These respondents speak of the soldiers' aggression on return from the army as being directed towards family members. Others say it would also manifest racially, and in relation to black people specifically, who for many of these men continued to represent the 'enemy'. As the former conscripts explain, they were trained to fight 'them' and when they got back on home turf, they were surrounded by 'them'.

When you walk in the shopping centre or you walk down ... the street, and you check this gang of Blacks coming towards you, you like actually go cold. You are unarmed so you feel like naked. You like just want to try and kill the oke. [Conscript group]

You are trained there to react immediately. Immediately react, blow 'em away. Get back into civvie world [and] ... the reactions are still there because you're on edge. It doesn't matter who you are, you are on edge because you were fighting the Blacks up there. [If] a Black didn't step out your path, you wanted to kill him. [Conscript group]

Other conscript respondents refer to their aggression as more general and indiscriminate.

When I was in the army I had gone on pass. They locked me up for assault, which is a good thing, otherwise I would have killed someone ... [The army] made me a worse person. I will do things, which I didn't do, aggression, you know. [Conscript group]

Similarly, Thokoza respondents say that violent behaviour off the battleground was common during the conflict in the early 1990s, as many SDUs took out their distress on the people in their personal lives.

The time when there was war, he was very wild. He behaved like a beast. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

This situation was especially difficult for these combatants' girlfriends. All the participants in the focus group of SDU girlfriends, who were with their SDU partners during the conflict itself, say they were frequently beaten up by their boyfriends in this period.

When he became an SDU, he became another thing. In the beginning ... there was no problem ... But when the violence erupted, I was scared of him, even looking at him ... Maybe it is caused by the fact that there was fighting, their hearts were changed ... They were always saying that everything has changed. [Girlfriend of Thokoza SDU]

I could see that this person can eat me and finish me up, you see. [Girlfriend of Thokoza SDU]

The SDU guy I was [going out with] was just a person. We were [on] good terms. But there was a time [during the violence] when he would just change, and I wouldn't even know what has happened ... He would beat me ... There were always misunderstandings. But now it is better ... It is not like in the beginning. [Girlfriend of Thokoza SDU]

"A temper that is so hard to resist ..."

The periods of combatant activity themselves, and the periods immediately following them, receive most emphasis with regard to the affected individuals' potential for aggressive and violent behaviour. However, several individuals in each respondent category report a continued, and even increased, tendency to such behaviour.

The following former conscript describes some of the painful and dangerous long-term consequences of having had to adapt and re-adapt to civilian life in between periods in combat while simultaneously struggling with the psychological effects of his combat experiences.

These types of experiences bring about a type of rage - a temper that is so hard to resist. I am sometimes faced with situations and have to physically walk away with hands and arms rigid in case I let go and hurt someone. It took me three years or so (with help from other mates that have been in the same situation) to cool down the aggression and nightmares ... My wife tells me that I get a 'look' and she knows that she is now dicing with death - that if she pushes a few more buttons, the consequences may be serious. On a few occasions she ended up against the wall with a pistol in her mouth, once on the floor, bleeding. There are no excuses for this type of behaviour. My wife being an ex-PF has seen this before and understood that it wasn't the loving man that she married but another person. That is why I do not drink in excess, ... because of the possible explosion that lack of control caused by alcohol brings. I cannot risk that I lose control. The blow-out that could occur may be terrible. Hence I always must watch my temper, a temper that I never had before the army. ["AT"]

Some MK and SDU respondents also describe difficulties controlling their anger.

I'll react more impatiently to any situation ... I wouldn't hurt anybody but my emotions will boil very quickly. [MK/SDU]

Sometimes it's anger, your anger that leads you to fighting. Perhaps you try to talk to a person, but he does not want to understand. You get into a situation that I do [get violent]. It's after the SDU [that this anger came] ... Many of us have changed a lot because of this violence thing. [Thokoza SDU]

These things [violence in the home] happen because you have parents and they are sober minded, but your mind is always racing. So it happens because you are always thinking even if you don't mean to. [MK/SDU]

As in the above explanation provided by the former SADF conscript, alcohol is often a contributory and compounding factor in violent behaviour.

Ja, this thing happens ... Maybe we would sit at a shebeen and drink, and we would drink and drink. When we are drunk maybe you talk to me badly. It means what would solve [it would be] if we talk about it verbally, but now eish! I would grab him. It just happens. I would take a bottle and hit him with it, things like that. [Thokoza SDU]

There are parents who are scared of their children today. Like [someone we know] is not safe with her child. She runs away [from him]. He is a bully, he is troublesome too much ... As for us, you go to check if he is sober. If he is not sober, you are scared to go near. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

This seeming inability to predict how one might react to certain situations, as well as the possibility of a violent reaction, is also raised by former SADF conscripts. The following conversation took place during the conscript focus group.

R1: I was four years out of the army. I was travelling down the road. Next minute I stopped ... and I saw this bloke coming up behind me, in a car. Screeching brakes, and I know he is going to [hit me]. So I move slightly forward, and he stops this far away [indicates small distance] from my back bumper. [My] reaction: out the car, I punched him through his window. His window was still closed. I snapped. I wasn't there, I was on the border. Punched him through his window right to the other side of his car. He came back and I punched him again. I got back in my car and I disappeared.

R3: That wouldn't have happened if you never went to the army.

R1: Correct.

R3: Most okes here, we have all got short tempers, such a short fuse.

Some respondents suggest that, over time, they have fewer outbursts of sudden, uncontrolled violence. Instead, they become increasingly conscious of how their anger builds up, and when they are aware of anger developing, they are able to pre-empt aggressive or violent reactions by removing themselves from the situation.

I felt that I was going to kill my girlfriend, that's why I decided to go far away, so that I can think clearly. [MK/SDU]

Sometimes if I get angry I have to adjust myself. I know myself and what I know is that I'm not scared of anything. But I know if I'm sitting with other people [and] if they can't understand what my problem is, I'll just leave them. [Thokoza SDU]

I don't really live in one place too long because I'll think, 'This okes irritating me now' ... It's like you get angry with them, and then I'll go and disappear for two days ... [I] go let some steam off and then come back . [Conscript group, follow-up interview]

Other coping strategies reported are the restricted use of alcohol and not carrying weapons. Several former SADF respondents say that their tendency to aggression has reduced as they have got older. Although many respondents have reportedly struggled with aggression and its consequences, some have found ways to deal with it, as have their families. According to family members of Thokoza SDUs, for example, trauma counselling has had dramatic results in reducing aggression and violence among participating ex-combatants. Their behaviour contrasts, say respondents, with that of ex-combatants who have not received counselling.

There is a problem of some boys who did not go to counselling ... Like at home, there is one boy who did not go ... I think his mind has not changed well because he is still violent. When there is an argument, a small misunderstanding, ... he blows up. He thinks that he is still in the war ... We can assume that perhaps he thinks that it is that time when there was fighting. He has not calmed down. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

On the other hand, some respondents say that their anger, aggression and propensity for violence have worsened over time. This increase is most frequently described as an effect, or potential effect, of the violence of their current environments and frustration at their circumstances. A few former conscripts say, for example, that they are more violent now because of 'the life now' - one that they experience as threatening and marginalising. While the external social environment is the main focus of these discussions, and may provide the key reported impetus for potential violence, in some cases, responses are clearly intertwined with lingering trauma. A former conscript, for instance, who says his propensity for violence has increased, provides the following in explanation of why he is forbidden to carry a firearm:

I feel [the danger of behaving violently] it's got worse hey, because the country is going down. I would love to [carry a gun] but I am not allowed to. If I had one I would probably be in jail now. I would just kill: left, right and centre. It's from the army. I got a bit bosbefok. That's what you call it ... Everyone around this table got bosbefok, I promise you that. [Conscript group]

Similarly, an ex-MK cadre said that if he carried a gun he would 'shoot a lot of people'.

Aggression and violence in the home

"You learnt after a while, if something struck you as odd, just to keep quiet ..."

Ongoing aggression and violence play out in a variety of social environments. Bars and taverns, for example, are mentioned especially by Thokoza SDUs, and descriptions of these situations typically make reference to excessive alcohol consumption. But as has already begun to emerge, the most commonly reported site of this aggression is the home or personal environment. This may partly be a result of the interview methodology as respondents were specifically questioned on violence in the home. While some ex-combatants refer to aggression in the home, it is relatives and partners of ex-combatants that provide the bulk of information regarding apparently trauma-linked aggression in this environment.

The anger that they had or still have - that anger because of the violence - they take out on their parents, their sisters and their brothers. [Relative of Thokoza SDU]

My son is very, very aggressive; he's got moods and things you know. [Mother of conscript]

In the focus group with female partners/relatives of former conscripts two of the five women who are, or were, married to former conscripts, say that they have regularly been beaten by their husbands. In both cases, they directly attribute this abuse to their husbands' experiences 'on the border'. For one of these women, the beatings stopped when her husband sought psychological help, but re-erupted when he became involved with drugs. The abuse continued until he found support in religion.

In the beginning you [would] say something and he will turn around and hit you. [You think] 'What the hell did I say now?' Meanwhile he is seeing it in a totally different way. And then you repeat it and he hits you again. When you try and sort it out [you discover] he has taken it in the wrong context. My husband went for psychological treatment, which helped for a couple of years and then he went onto drugs and what-have-you [and it started again]. Then God picked him up and now he is on a totally different road. [Wife of conscript]

For the other woman, the beatings only recently stopped when her husband was murdered.

My husband was violent all the time from the army experience. He was on the border. He wasn't always violent ... You learnt after a while if something struck you as odd, just to keep quiet, so as not to provoke ... The smallest thing triggers them off. You eventually learn which topics it is, but in the beginning, it's hard to know ... There was no question of psychological help for him. I was the mad one; he was the totally sane one. But I think that's just a general man thing. [Wife of conscript]

Several girlfriends or ex-girlfriends of Thokoza SDUs continue to live with the brutal effects of their boyfriends' distress. One of them, echoing the words of other respondents, states that alcohol increases the likelihood of a violent outburst: 'When he is drunk, he gets more mad'. She ensures that she only spends limited periods of time with him, and believes that if she did not control their interaction in this way, he would kill her. The following extract highlights some of the brutal experiences she has suffered at his hands during and since the war.

When my boyfriend was an SDU, he was a person who used to lose his mind. When I was sleeping with him, he [would] see people who are dead whom I don't know. He would scream at night, he would beat me, and he stabbed me in the back with a knife. When I ask[ed] him why, he did not want to understand. He beat me every day ... Maybe those [dead] people were strangling him at night, and it was like he was going mad ... One day he took me to the graveyard and said that he wanted to dig me a hole ... I cried and begged him, 'My Lord, please do not do that'. He had mercy. [But] one day he took me to the graveyard again and tied me [up] and tied my mouth. He left me there and he came to release me at 6 o'clock in the morning, saying that he wanted to kill me. And I'm sure he can kill me ... Even now ... he easily loses his mind ... He does get well but perhaps we can get along for only two weeks ... before I am beaten ... [Recently] he wanted to bite my ear, he wanted to remove it. His mind come[s] back but [then] once again, go[es]. I believe he can kill me. [Girlfriend of Thokoza SDU]

In the same focus group another participant recounted how she was regularly beaten and threatened, and once shot by her SDU boyfriend in the period between the cessation of hostilities in the township and his arrest. In contrast to these respondents' accounts, others say that since the end of the conflict, there has been a marked reduction in the violence they experience at the hands of their boyfriends. This, however, does not mean that the violence has stopped, although this is the case for one of the focus-group participants. For others, it is the nature and intensity of the violence that has changed. During the conflict, they say, SDU members beat them excessively, often for no apparent reason. It was the indiscriminate, irrational and brutal nature of their boyfriends' violence that terrified them most. In the present, the beatings are less severe and more 'reasoned' - it is possible to 'understand' the behaviour. For these respondents, this constitutes a significant step forward.

[During the violence] he would hit his girlfriend with whatever he could lay his hands on - a brick or anything. Others were shooting their girlfriends with guns. But now they are no longer shooting their girlfriends, they just beat them kahle [more gently, appropriately], not hurting them. [I: They beat them appropriately?] They just beat them so that [she] must leave what she is doing if she did something wrong. There are reasons for them to beat them [now]. [Girlfriend of Thokoza SDU]

Such explanations of the 'changing' nature of their partners' abusive behaviour raise a number of other important issues. For many of these young women, domestic violence does not represent anything out of the ordinary but has, to a significant degree, become 'normal'. Related to this, as various respondents point out, ex-combatants are by no means necessarily perpetrators of domestic violence, nor are they the sole perpetrators. These respondents know many other women who are also beaten by partners who are not ex-combatants.

Domestic violence, which is so prevalent in South Africa, has a variety of complex causes, and a militarised background should be considered but one, potentially important, contributing factor. Even within this militarised context however, respondents provide different reasons for violence in the home.

"He used to be something; now he's nothing ..."

In addition to reports that domestic violence can be related to war trauma, respondents also explain domestic violence as a response to the stresses and frustrations of adapting and 'making it' in civilian life. These pressures do not necessarily result in violence, but the potential for it is mentioned by a number of respondents.

To differing degrees, all ex-combatant respondents refer to the impact that their combatant histories have had on their families. For example, many of the families of MK/SDU respondents suffered various forms of harassment and trauma as a result of their relatives' association with the banned liberation movement. Families of combatants who spent long periods in exile or in prison often lost the support of breadwinners, and lived with constant uncertainty about the well being of family members. It was not unusual for families to completely lose touch with their loved ones.

Former Thokoza SDUs speak of the difficulty their parents had, watching their children taking up arms in the context of terrifying and indiscriminate attacks on the community. Their proximity to the violence gave them a more detailed insight into the dangers involved, as well as the kind of practices their children were likely to be engaged in.

Former conscripts and other Citizen Force members stress the detrimental effects that call-ups have had on their personal relationships. The multiple transitions; the secrecy which shrouded their involvement in the war and the resultant sense of alienation; the long periods for which they were removed from their loved ones and that hindered their ability to put down civilian roots, have all taken their toll.

Former SADF recces speak about the effects of their work on their families in a slightly different way. Their permanent status in the military meant that they were seldom at home. Their partners, however, were considerably more involved or supported by the military than the partners of Citizen Force soldiers.47

You saw your wife in that two months, say for about a week - maybe two if you were very lucky. But the guys were quite happy and the women accepted it. The unit was looking after the women when the men were away, and they had this women's club going. [Recce].

According to recce interviewees, the problems emerged when they returned to their homes and their wives. In their absence their wives ran the household, often taking on many of the roles conventionally ascribed to men. The return of the men required a negotiation of roles as well as simply getting re-accustomed to each other's company. This role negotiation, say several respondents, was present on each return. It was the transition to a permanent home life, however, that has been most difficult for these respondents and their families.

But when the war stopped, suddenly this guy is faced with he's at home all the time. He doesn't want to mow the lawn. He's not used to this, it's not in his nature. And that's only when the divorces really started getting going. He was not used to being with a woman all the time. [Recce]

Transition: a recce wife's experience

The following extract comes from the wife of a former recce, and describes the considerable change and difficulties wrought in her family by the need to adapt from a military life organised around her husband's employment in the Permanent Force, to a civilian life.[Before when] they came home [on leave] everything was ready and right for them because the time that you could spend together was the main focus. Then, you didn't want him to put in [light] bulbs or whatever. So the wife at home managed everything. But, when the husband is back again [having left the military], I don't think they adapt very well because they want it to be the same like it was before [when they came home on leave]. I think we spoilt them a lot then ... Now, the men also want to feel in charge, [and] you can't be in charge anymore. So if you start cutting the lawn, doing this, organising that, they don't feel secure anymore. The husband wants to be in control but he also doesn't want to be in control of certain things. Army women ... must almost act like light switch[es]. When the husband puts the switch on they must be on, but if they want the switch to be off, the switch must be off. I don't think it's a personal thing from the man's side, it was circumstances that has brought this into our path ...Misunderstandings also [surface] because the husband was used to his military surroundings, and when something happened, your comrade knows what to do because he sort of reads your mind. But, for us [women] at home, we had only two months in a year to learn this mind reading and that isn't quite enough to get the skills ... Outside of the military environment it's very difficult because everything has changed. You don't have that safe environment ... It was very difficult in the beginning to cope because out of the military you have to stand fully on your own feet. It's as if there is a missing link because you're not on the same level [as everyone else]. You don't have the same support groups ... I can't remember when we spent time with friends because there isn't any time, and your friends are now living far away ...You have to rely on your husband a lot more than before. And I don't know if the husbands are really accepting that kind of behaviour from the women ... It's as if they can't realise that the women don't have that support group anymore, and now they have [to] actually be more involved in his life. I don't think the men want it that way. They want to do as they did before: when they want to go, they want to go. They don't want to tell anybody where they are going because that is what they were used to. I am struggling with that because I know that now, when he's going away, it's not about secrecy anymore. I mean if they can perhaps involve us more in their lives then we will be more certain about where we are standing. I think for the women, there are a lot of things to cope with personally, to survive in a new environment.

Divorce rates amongst former permanent members of the SADF Special Forces are believed to be high. In part, respondents attribute this to their previous lengthy absences from home. In other instances, some venture, divorce could be a consequence of violence. Generally however, they distance themselves from the potential for domestic abuse, saying they are aware of no, or very few, cases amongst their former colleagues where this is taking place. Instead, without exception, recce respondents point to civilians they know, who do not have military experience and who abuse their wives. Nonetheless, they do provide some suggestions for ex-combatants' potential perpetration of domestic abuse. One Special Forces respondent, for example, thinks that the military culture of discipline, aggression, and 'shouting and screaming' may find its way into the private sphere. Another says that some individuals may be less able to control a habituation to the use of force. Traumatic combat experience is again occasionally mentioned as a potential contributing factor.48

But SADF Special Force respondents talk about the period of transition (from combatant to ex-combatant) as most relevant to divorce rates and conflict in the home. Many relationships do not survive the turmoil of transition, according to these respondents. Domestic conflict and violence may be an outcome of the frustrations and insecurities of their transition to a different life, they say. In effect, they are suffering a loss of identity and purpose, with no immediate alternative.

I believe that [domestic violence] does happen to a certain extent but that's caused out of frustration. Every soldier ... [had] rank: a sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant major, captain or major or a colonel. All of a sudden now, he is nothing. He used to be somebody and something; now he's nothing. And that creates a lot of frustration. Unfortunately in all people's lives, the easiest way to let it go is in the house, so then it goes through to your family, yes. You will find the percentage of divorces of ex-Special Forces soldiers is extremely high. And that's a direct result of it. I will say family violence which results in divorces and things can be a direct result of the war. We can say it contributed, but if you look at the normal civilian ... what is that guy using as a reason [for] why he's divorced. Is he also using the military's excuse? It's very difficult [to say] but [my wife and I] have seen it, we have talked about it. [Recce]

The above respondent articulates the difficulties of his transition mainly in terms of the losses it has effected: the way of life, securities and status. The following respondent places more emphasis on another fundamental aspect of the transition: the uncertainty of his economic future. His frustrations have been amplified by the fact that he has still not received his voluntary severance package from the SANDF.

Every individual and his family might experience problems to a certain extent which they would like to point fingers to 'my military days' [but] which has got nothing to do with their military days ... I mean, I'm often frustrated and I start kicking the dogs and what have you, but it's because the army didn't give me my bloody money! And yes, that influences the family, of course, because I have to tell the kids, 'I can't buy you ice-cream, I can't do this and can't do that'. But I know just as many guys who were never in the army who're living with their third wives. [Recce]

In a similar vein, several MK/SDU respondents locate ex-combatants' potential for domestic abuse in the frustrations accompanying transition. The most significant aspect of this, for many of them, is unemployment. Combined with this, as the following extract illustrates, is a related frustration at not being able to fulfil the expected gender role. It is not only the anxiety of providing for self and family, but also the erosion of one's sense of man-hood that accompanies unemployment. As well as perceiving themselves as victims in their home, these respondents also perceive themselves as victims of their broader contexts.

When we get home, it is difficult to tolerate each other, especially your family [who are] hungry, and there is nothing. Because your family looks up to the father, the father must make a plan so that we can eat before we go to bed. But you do not know where to make plans. You find that when the mother speaks in front of the children, she says, 'Even your father cannot find something for you to eat'. Then you feel bad that she does not think that you are also a human being, and there are no jobs, and you are also suffering. So now you find that you even beat her and when you beat the mother, they now have a bad tendency to run and lay charges against you, 'You do not want to maintain me' ... The law does not favour us, that we are also not employed. How are we going to maintain them? You have nothing ... You are still holding a thought that you're head of the house, but you are unable to satisfy their needs. They don't understand how difficult your situation is. [MK/SDU]

Several respondents say that ex-combatants' inability to support their families results in their partners leaving them or threatening to leave them if they do not find work. In these situations they say, wife or partner beatings are likely to occur.

To differing degrees, those MK/SDU respondents who contributed to this discussion associate the potential for domestic violence with the betrayal of the expectation that they would be able to provide for their families once the conflict ended.

Maybe if the ANC did not exist at all, I would be praising Jesus Christ. But now it's difficult because if I think about the frustration of unemployment and poverty ... So you get home and there are hungry children - it makes you impatient. Hey, I do not know how to explain, because what happens [is] sometimes you find that somebody replies [to] you harshly, [and] sometimes you end up beating your wife [because of] the way frustration plays with us. So sometimes I find I have beaten my wife. I realise that [I have done it] after it [has] happened. It happened and children have seen it. [MK/SDU]

Betrayal is at the core of the following respondent's description of his former colleague's conflictual domestic situation. Profound disillusionment and helplessness, he says, have led his friend to engage in a range of self-destructive activities, the brunt of which is felt by the family.

Sometimes you feel like you want to cry. The other day I had a sister of one of the comrades I was arrested with. She was hysterical, telling me that she is finding it difficult to live with him because, what happens is, the poor fellow is so demoralised that he is no longer thinking straight and all he wants to do is to party. He's becoming a party animal. He doesn't care anymore because he believes that no one cares for him so why the hell should he care? He is trying to find some kind of consolation and he is doing a lot of wrong things. He becomes so aggressive that they have to leave the house. And I thought to myself [that] one day the poor fellow is going to [get the] gun and put [it] into his mouth and decide to end it because it's very difficult. A lot of people are looking to you. People will ... say, 'You are ANC, it's not delivering, what the hell is the problem? Look we don't have a problem, we did nothing, so we deserve nothing, but what about you, the sacrifices you paid? You abandoned school, you didn't have a career, you went to sit in prison.' [MK/SDU]

Similarly, another ex-MK/SDU cadre says he often behaves violently both outside and inside the home. He emphasises his treatment in the SANDF as contributing to this behaviour. His anger at the way he was treated is compounded by the pressures placed on him by his family members.

When I was at the National Defence Force, I was very violent. Even now, I'm still violent especially when I'm drunk. I think about things like, 'I was in the army, unfairly dismissed and never got my money' ... Sometimes I would think about robbing somewhere or killing someone. People made me violent because at home they complain that they gave me money and now I don't give them any money, that I'm just a criminal and, 'He does nothing'. When I'm drunk I become violent ... I go home and tell them that I'm not working for the army anymore. They don't care about me because I don't work. They make [me] violent and I also become violent. [MK/SDU]

Interestingly, one factor he describes as perpetuating his tendency to violence, is the training that was provided by the SANDF to integrating soldiers.

I can say [my violent behaviour] was related to that training. Because the training that I got from the National Defence Force was not good at all. It made me become more violent and corrupt. [MK/SDU]

His assertion of this link between violence and SANDF training could be understood more in terms of his anger as a consequence of his treatment in the military. It could be that his anger has in fact provided the impetus to his violent behaviour, or alternatively that it is a projected link in response to this anger. On the other hand, the link may be more literal. The conventional dehumanisation of troops in training can in itself lead to both aggression and trauma, which, in turn, may play out in violence as it did (and still does) for several former conscripts.

A minority of respondents refer to murder-suicides in the home - where an individual kills his partner and then himself - as one extreme violent manifestation of these transitional stresses.

There are some comrades who were in the army and later dismissed ... Now, because he is not working, his wife will leave him and go for wealthier guys. They end up taking their licensed firearms and killing the wife and himself. These are the problems we face everyday because when we don't work we get frustrated and people know that we were MK members and we were in exile. And it's not the same government anymore and it's still quiet. So when you think of those things, you end up killing yourself and your wife because she has left you because you don't work anymore and you don't have any money. [MK/SDU]

Importantly though, the examples they provide sometimes include both suicides and partner killings by ex-combatants who remain in the SANDF. Those who have been integrated, as is suggested in the section on SANDF experiences, are themselves 'in transition' and face a variety of pressures and disappointments. The following interviewee, however, predicts that the rationalisation of the SANDF will see an increase in the number of these murder-suicides.

If you look at the integration process, it didn't materialise the way it's supposed to ... All the pressure [in the SANDF] works on them ... But now, if you just tell them [that they're going to be retrenched], we're going to have a lot of cases where guys from the army [are] shooting their wives, girlfriends, their families. We should expect that. [East Rand key informant]

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.