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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

FW admits apartheid bombing

21/03/2003 16:04  - (SAPA)  

Pretoria - Former president FW de Klerk has admitted that he knew the 1988 bombing of the SA Council of Churches' Johannesburg headquarters had been authorised by the apartheid government.

The admission was contained in the final two volumes of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released on Friday.

In testimony to the TRC in 1996 and 1997, De Klerk stated that neither he nor his colleagues in the cabinet, the State Security Council, or cabinet committees had authorised any gross violations of human rights.

He has now conceded to a finding by the commission that his then police commissioner General Johann van der Merwe told him he had been ordered to bomb Khotso House, which housed the headquarters of the SA Council of Churches.

"Mr de Klerk did not report the matter to the prosecuting authorities or the Goldstone Commission because he knew that General van der Merwe would be applying for amnesty in respect of the relevant bombing," the TRC says in its report.

"The Commission finds that when Mr de Klerk testified before the Commission ... he knew that General van der Merwe had been authorised to bomb Khotso House, and accordingly, his statement that none of his colleagues in Cabinet, the State Security Council or Cabinet Committees had authorised assassination, murder or other gross violations of human rights was indefensible."

It finds the former president had failed to make a full disclosure of the involvement of senior members of the government and the then SA Police in the bombing of Khotso House.

Shortly before the first five volumes of the TRC's final report were released in 1998, De Klerk filed an urgent application to the Cape High Court for an order interdicting the commission from publishing any of its intended findings against him.

To prevent a delay of the handing over of the report to former President Nelson Mandela, the commission blacked out the findings on De Klerk.

Afterwards, Mandela's office sought to facilitate a settlement between the TRC and De Klerk.

As a result of discussions between De Klerk and the TRC's amnesty committee, the former president has conceded to the new finding released on Friday.

The report says the finding was not made an order of court as it was never put to the TRC and was thus never discussed, accepted or rejected. The TRC was in suspension at the time of the talks.

Nobody was killed in the bombing.

The finding states that the bombing posed a high risk to passers-by, and its effect was predictable.

Former Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock, who led the SAP bombing team, foresaw the possibility of loss of life, the report says.

"The risk was inevitably foreseeable and was in fact foreseen; the bombing was nevertheless ordered and proceeded with by the perpetrators with reckless disregard of the consequences."

In 1997, De Klerk stated the bombing was not a gross violation of human rights as nobody was killed or seriously injured.

"The Commission finds that the bombing of Khotso House constituted a gross violation of human rights and that at all material times, Mr de Klerk must have had knowledge it did, despite the fact that no lives were lost."

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.