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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Eavesdroppings or ... the credulous Kriel

An exasperated Hems Kriel, the regime's Minister of Justice, was having a hard time in a sub-committee of CODESA Working Group 1. The sub-committee had been charged with looking into the question of "political violence and intimidation".

Delegate after delegate hammered the regime's security forces for their complicity in the violence.

"Some people come here thinking they .have lily white hands," said Kriel, looking hard at SACP representative Ronnie Kasrils. "Well, I am going to expose them once andv for all."

Kriel then dramatically produced a TOP SECRET/UTTERS GEHEIM government intelligence file. He proceeded to read from one of the reports in it:

"On December 4, 1991 at a meeting of the South African Communist.Party in a Hilibrow hotel, Walter Sisulu said that 'for every township resident killed we must respond by killing 10 policemen'. Chris Hani said that 'if MK is not integrated into the SADF we must begin killing SADF soldiers'. And Jay Naidoo said that 'when we get to power the first thing we must do is ban Inkatha. "'

Kriel closed the file with a triumphant smirk on his face.

It took him some time to realise that he was virtually alone in the sub-committee in believing this preposterous report.

In fact, the SACP did hold a function on December 4 in a Hilibrow hotel (the Park Lane, to be exact). It was a cocktail party for our international guests and for the media on the eve of our 8th Congress.

Chris Hani said a few words of welcome.

As far as we can remember neither Walter Sisulu nor Jay Naidoo were even present. Certainly neither of them made any kind of public address.

Both Sisulu and Naidoo did, however, speak the next day. They delivered the key-note messages of support from the ANC and COSATU at the opening session of the 8th Congress. These speeches were delivered in the full glare of media coverage. As the more than 50 journalists present, including many from the NP-party supporting press, will testify, neither Sisulu nor Naidoo made any blood-curdling calls, or any threats of banning.

"Either your informant was inebriated or he was taking you for a whopping ride," Kasrils told Kriel.

Most of the delegates in the CODESA sub-committee demanded that Kriel withdraw his allegation. Eventually the reluctant minister did retract, but only after he had been warned that his claims were both false and defamatory. He might have ended up in one of his own courts!

The whole episode has, of course, its amusing side. But less amusing is the insight it gives us into the kind of "intelligence" reports upon which the Department of Justice and the regime in general operate. This is the kind of information that has led to thousands of us being detained without trial, to the banning of organisations, and (who can say?) very likely to the "permanent removal" of more than one activist.

Kriel's eavesdroppings shows how urgent is the need for the security forces to be restructured and for them to come under proper civilian control.

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.