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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

ANC killed mostly civilians

21/03/2003 21:45  - (SAPA)  

Pretoria - Civilians suffered the most in military attacks by the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) said on Friday.

In its final report released in Pretoria it notes the stated objective of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), armed wing of the ANC, was not to target civilians or white people.

MK member Aboobaker Ismail underlined this when he said in his amnesty hearing: "While MK had the means to attack civilians ... it never did that sort of thing."

The TRC report says: "Despite these noble intentions, the majority of casualties of MK operations were civilians."

A total of 71 people died in such attacks between 1976 and 1984. Of these, 52 were civilians and 19 were security force members.

Among these civilians were people who the ANC apparently regarded as legitimate targets, says the TRC.

'Deliberately targeted'

They included "collaborators" such as councillors, state witnesses at the trials of the ANC members, and suspected informers.

"In other words, they were 'deliberately targeted individuals', says the report.

In attacks such as the detonation of car bombs outside buildings housing security forces, the casualties were predominantly civilian passers-by.

There were also a number of blasts in public places such as restaurants. Cadres seeking amnesty for such attacks explained that wrong intelligence had led them to believe security force members frequented these places.

The report observes that armed attacks virtually came to a halt between 1963 and 1976.

Between 1961 and 1963 about 190 attacks were recorded, undertaken mainly by regional operatives in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

"Armed actions inside South Africa were, by and large, terminated with the arrest of key members of MK's high command in Rivonia (Johannesburg) in July 1963, all of whom were subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment," says the report.

Steady growth

"The 1976 student-led uprising inside South Africa injected new life into the ANC."

From 1976 to 1984 there was a steady growth in armed attacks, with about 265 incidents recorded. These included assassinations and attacks on police stations.

"MK activity peaked between 1985 and 1988. The number of incidents increased from 44 in 1984 to 136 in 1985 and 228 in 1986," says the report.

About 300 incidents were recorded in 1988, falling by nearly a third in the following year.

Armed action continued after the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990, but they were fewer in number.

"Police documentation obtained suggests that the total number of incidents for the period October 1976 to May 1990 totalled about 1555," the report says.

The final report includes a volume containing case studies of more than 19000 victims of gross human rights violations on both sides of the struggle against apartheid.

Military operatives, prominent political activists and leadership figures are "poorly represented" on the list of victims, the report observes.

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.