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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

2. Evolution Of The Department

2.1. From 1969 to the  June 1976 Uprisings 

The Department was first established in April 1969 under the late Moses Mabhida.

The Morogoro Conference, held in 1969, assessed the first phase of the ANC's armed struggle. The Revolutionary Council (RC) was established and was instructed by the NEC to concentrate on the home front: developing internal structures, gaining publicity for the ANC, and waging armed struggle.

During this period, the embryonic Department had no formal structure, and all members of the Department were also members of MK. Intelligence gathered was primarily on routes back into South Africa and on inanimate targets. In addition to this these tasks, the physical security of the President was attended to.

2.2. June 1976 - Kabwe, 1985 

The 1976 Uprisings ushered in a new era for the Department. The sudden mass influx of new recruits to some extent rendered screening procedures ineffective This infusion of new blood into the Movement, though welcomed, was equally fraught with danger since the regime was quick to exploit the situation by sending in several agents to infiltrate the Movement.

It soon became evident that some agents had escaped the screening procedures of the time. There was an attempt to kill about 500 cadres by poisoning their food in the infamous Black September episode of 1978. This was followed by the aerial bombardment and destruction in April 1979 of Nova Catengue military camp, which indicated that the enemy had good intelligence. However, the Department had received forewarning of the attack, and the camp was evacuated in time.

In response to these threats, certain cadres were selected and sent for specialised training in Security and Intelligence work in various countries, mainly the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic. The latter courses were different to previous ANC courses followed by all MK recruits, which centred on Military Combat Work, with Security and Intelligence forming only a part of the course. This training emphasised that the use of force was counter-productive, and stressed the use of the intellect.

MK personnel sent for training in intelligence work qualified in the period from 1978 - 1979. On their return, they joined the 60's generation of officers, and NAT began to take shape.

Screening procedures were improved and re-organised, with the introduction of a standard questionnaire for all new recruits.

Regional structures were reorganised. Reception centres to screen all new recruits were set up in Forward Areas. The Department concentrated on Angola first, where screening procedures had as yet not been formalised.

Investigations into the poisoning ('Black September') of 1978 and the bombardment of the Nova Katengue camp in 1979 continued. These cases were solved only some years later.

Other changes followed. Camp 32 (later called the Morris Seabelo Rehabilitation Centre) was established in 1979 near Camp 13 (Quibaxe) in Angola in order to create a means to contain and rehabilitate cadres who had committed offences, and to imprison enemy agents who could not be isolated in the other military camps.

By 1981 a National Directorate of NAT had been appointed by the NEC, and the Department was organised into three main sectors: Intelligence, Security, and Processing of Information.

A number of agents were identified as a result of these improved screening procedures. The information gleaned in this manner was augmented by several voluntary confessions, and ongoing investigations into earlier cases of sabotage. It was evident that the apartheid regime felt confident and had adopted a very arrogant attitude, telling some of these agents that they had nothing to fear from the Department even if they were discovered: they would merely be given political education and released, they were told, and would be able to resume their activities as agents. To some extent, this was true. But in 1981, the Department dealt a heavy blow to the enemy when it uprooted its most prized network of infiltrators. This operation was popularly known as Shishita (the report prepared at the time on this network has been submitted to the TRC.)

2.3. Kabwe to Negotiations: 1985 - 1990 

As we stated in our first submission, with this being dealt with in more detail in the main submission to which this report is attached, a number of decisions were taken at the Kabwe Conference specifically to halt the abuses that had occurred by members of the security department of NAT, to reorganise and improve the functioning of the Department, to improve conditions under which prisoners were held, and to ensure that investigations and sentences were carried out fairly, with the accused entitled to proper legal representation.

The most important of these were the establishment of the Review Board and the Office of Justice, both of which reported to the President's office. NAT would in future send reports on its investigations into suspected agents to the Office of Justice, which would take over from that point. The Review Board would broadly act as a court of appeal. (Considerable detail on these structures has been presented in our first and second main submissions, and they are also covered in the report of the Motsuenyane Commission.)

It was decided to remove Mzwai Piliso from his post as head of the Department, and an interim Directorate was set up under Alfred Nzo, consisting of Joe Nhlanhla, Jacob Zuma, Sizakele Sigxashe, and Tony Mongalo.

This provisional Directorate was tasked with restructuring the Department in order to ensure that its practices were in line with the new structures for justice established after the Kabwe Conference, investigating the style of work within the Department, and assessing its ability to respond to the changed circumstances of struggle within the country and in the international arena.

The NEC had declared Angola a military zone between 1983 - 1986. NAT in Angola fell under Military HQ during this period. In 1986, a meeting was held between MK and NAT, chaired by OR Tambo, in which the vexed question of lines of authority over NAT in Angola was addressed. The delegations committed themselves to ensuring that the NAT Directorate would be in command of NAT cadres deployed in Angola and that they would report only to the NAT Directorate in Lusaka.

In July 1987 the new permanent Directorate of the Department was appointed by the NEC. Joe Nhlanhla was appointed the Director, with Jacob Zuma as Deputy Director, Sizakele Sigxashe as head of the Central Intelligence Evaluation Sector (CIES) Simon Makana as Administrator, Tony Mongalo, and Daniel Oliphant heading Counter-Intelligence. Most of them were members of the NEC.

NAT was restructured into more clearly defined Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Processing, and Security sub-sectors. The task of Intelligence was confined to investigations, on the basis of which reports were submitted to the officer of Justice, whose office would decide on what further action to take, The new leadership tightened up supervision of interrogation practices, systematically investigated conditions in detention centres, and implemented other corrective measures where appropriate. A programme to review the cases of all those held in Camp 32 was set in place, and the National People's Tribunal met in Luanda in 1988 for this purpose. More details in this regard appear in the main document of this second submission. The mutineers were fully pardoned, demobilised, and sent to Tanzania to be re-integrated into the civilian structures of the ANC in 1989. Plans were drawn up for a modern prison in Uganda.

By this time, the ANC's intelligence structures had begun to function within the country and was assisted by various MDM networks, and contacts within the intelligence services of the regime. This led to greater confidence, efficiency, and a greatly improved intelligence capacity in general. It became relatively easier to cross-check biographies, follow up on accusations, investigate suspicious tendencies, and obtain advice on possible agents from activists and cadres inside the country.

NAT built up an extensive dossier of files on agents; this was not guess-work, but hard information on the names of their handlers, their force numbers, their grading by the SB, their activities and contacts. The dossier was updated regularly with fresh information from inside the country. The extent of infiltration of anti-apartheid structures was immense, running to thousands of agents.

2.4. The Negotiations Era:  1990 - 1994 

All ANC camps in Angola were closed down in 1989, including Camp 32. All but 32 prisoners were released, and these were transferred to a small prison in Uganda after negotiations with that government. In 1991 the group of 32 were also released and allowed to return to South Africa, where several immediately rejoined their handlers and fronted for the SB-managed stratkom outfit, the "Returned Exiles Co-ordinating Committee". The activities of this front are dealt with in more detail in our first submission, and in the main document of this second submission.

The negotiations era was characterised by the worst ever state-sponsored violence known in the country, in line with the De Klerk regime's strategy of negotiating from a position of strength in order to extract constitutional concessions from the ANC, which entailed covert measures to destabilise the ANC's support base and disrupt its ability to function effectively. Threats to the physical security of the ANC's membership in general, its leaders and physical installations, increased drastically on a number of fronts, from state-sponsored covert operations through to the white far right.

By this time (at national level) the Department had six main sub-sectors: Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence, Central Information Evaluation Section, Security, Technical, and Administration.

The Department developed policy on the restructuring and reorientation of the existing intelligence services; workshops were held inside and outside the country to discuss the shape and role of a future intelligence service in a new democratic order. Open meetings were also held in military camps to discuss these issues and contribute to this policy debate. Towards the end of 1993 preparations for the amalgamation of NAT and the National Intelligence Service began.

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.