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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The Mating Game Plan

The ANC's aggressive political campaign aimed at breaking the IFP's hold on KwaZulu-Natal was the flip side of its strategy to swallow up its old enemy.

Patrick Laurence reports

Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, contemplating its electoral losses in KwaZulu-Natal, can be forgiven for suspecting that it is the victim of a "conspiracy" orchestrated by the African National Congress to weaken it politically. Better described as an electioneering stratagem than a conspiracy, it has at least four components.

Ø     The raid on the home of IFP MEC Nyanga Ngubane ordered by the national director of public prosecution on allegations that he was unlawfully stashing weapons there. The episode, which has still not yet been resolved in court, is all the more significant because of Ngubane's status: he served as minister of safety and security in the IFP-controlled provincial government in KwaZulu-Natal until the June 2 election.

Ø     The threat of prosecution which persuaded IFP stalwart Phillip Powell to admit that he had received large supplies of arms from the notorious Eugene de Kock and to disclose the site where he buried the contraband weapons in 1993.

Ø     The start of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission amnesty committee hearing of an application by De Kock, who once boasted of being the most proficient of the secret assassins deployed against "revolutionaries" by the white minority government in its crucial last years.

Ø     The continuation of the amnesty hearing of 14 Zulu-speaking former residents of the KwaMadala hostel, near Vanderbijlpark. They have been convicted of murder for their role in the Boipatong massacre of June 1992, in which more than 42 people, including women and children, were slaughtered.

All four components of the stratagem occurred during the two months preceding the election and rekindled and, in many cases, confirmed suspicions that the IFP had conspired with rabid right-wingers in an attempt to thwart the ANC's election victory in 1994. They also suggested that the IFP was still implicated in gun-running and/or violence five years later.

A major figure in the ANC stratagem was Bulelani Ngcuka, an ANC loyalist who served as deputy chairman of the National Council of Provinces until his appointment as national director of public prosecutions. Even before his appointment, the ANC-sponsored notion of a national director of public prosecutions or "super attorney general" aroused controversy. The fear expressed in opposition circles was that the establishment of the post would result in prosecutions being determined by a political agenda as much as the law.

Though Ngcuka's intelligence and determination impressed media commentators, his first actions did little or nothing to allay such fears. One of his first initiatives was to transfer former KwaZulu-Natal attorney general Tim McNally to Pretoria to serve on the national staff. ANC propagandists in KwaZulu-Natal had sought his removal because of his alleged reluctance to prosecute right-wingers with the full vigour of the law. McNally's sins of omission included his purported failure to prosecute IFP hit-squad leaders and the perceived deficiencies in his prosecution of former defence minister Magnus Malan - and several of his former generals, as well as the deputy IFP secretary-general, Z.K. Khumalo - for their alleged role in the KwaMakhutha massacre of 1987.

With McNally edged out of the away (he chose early retirement rather than accept the transfer to Pretoria) Ngcuka then raised eyebrows when he tried to intervene in a court hearing to secure bail for three ANC men who had been convicted, wrongly they believe, for the Eikenhof massacre of 1993. Presiding Judge Piet van der Walt resisted Ngcuka's intervention. Describing it as "unfortunate, ill-conceived and unwise," he refused bail to the three men. The next move came in mid-April when police of the special priority crime unit attached to Ngcuka's office, launched a pre-dawn raid on the home of Nyanga Ngubane. They reportedly recovered a shotgun from Ngubane's house and a G3 rifle that belonged to IFP organiser Gamuntu Sithole. Ngubane described the raid as "malicious" and compared it to the actions of the apartheid government. Accusing the ANC of misusing the law for political gain, he asked "Why was it necessary to raid my home in the middle of the night as if I were a common criminal?" The Democratic Party spokesman on security in the province, Wessel Nel, concurred with Ngubane's remarks about the timing of the raid, labelling it "highly provocative".

The raid, which contributed to rising tension between the ANC and the IFP during the election campaign, had a sequel less than a week before the election. Ngubane, Sithole and Ngubane's son, S'gwili, appeared in the regional court in Pietermaritzburg in connection with investigations into a possible contravention of the Arms and Ammunition Act. They were neither formally charged nor asked to plead.

At the time of the raid on Ngubane's home a front page article in the Sunday Tribune reported that Ngcuka and his special investigation unit were "closing in" on KwaZulu-Natal's "untouchables", men who until then had appeared immune to prosecution. The article proclaimed in its headline that Phillip Powell and Zweli Mkhize, the ANC's deputy leader in the KwaZulu-Natal, were targeted.

The implication of the report was that there was no political bias to the investigation. Powell, a former security policemen is a controversial IFP leader whom the ANC describes as a "warlord". Mkhize, the provincial minister of health, is a tough ANC midlands leader accused by his IFP rivals of using heavy-handed methods to persuade IFP members to cross to the ANC in the Bulwer district. The Sunday Tribune's prediction and interpretation were not borne out by later events. While action was indeed taken against Powell, no parallel measures have been instigated against Mkhize. The action against Powell took the forms of the threat to prosecute him unless he disclosed the whereabouts of arms that Ngcuka's office believed he had hidden. That led to the uncovering in early May of the cache near Nqutu. It caused a minor sensation for two reasons: its sheer size and its source. The secret stockpile included rocket launchers and anti-personnel landmines and was described as "enough to start a small war".

As important, Powell confirmed that he had taken delivery of the arms in 1993 from De Kock, the last commander of the dreaded police "assassination unit" at Vlakplaas whose pitiless nature earned him the sobriquet "Prime Evil" from his own police colleagues. The discovery of the arms - which were destroyed by police - substantiated repeated assertions by De Kock, now serving a double life sentence, that he had supplied the IFP with arms.

While vindicating De Kock, the discovery was embarrassing to the IFP. It posed a critical question on the eve of election: how could a party that, in its original title, defined itself as a national liberation movement, accept arms from a man whose raison d'être in 1993 was to defend the existing apartheid order by all means available? It simultaneously raised questions about whether Powell was the only IFP leader aware of the delivery of arms and whether Buthelezi's emphatic denials of knowledge were credible.

The ANC's response was to home in on Powell, a man who overcame his ideological past and skin colour to win the loyalty of rank-and-file IFP members by his dedicated commitment to improving their lot. Describing Powell as a "warlord", the ANC demanded that the IFP exclude him from its list of candidates for the provincial legislature. But to the chagrin of the ANC its attempt to drive a wedge between him and the IFP leadership in general failed. With the skill of a seasoned politician, Buthelezi tried to turn the situation to his and the IFP's advantage. He praised Powell for his role in uncovering the arms cache, presenting it as a contribution to peace. In a clear reference to hidden arms which he, in common with many South Africans, believes the ANC has not surrendered, he challenged the ANC to "encourage all those who are still clinging to arms caches to give them up and participate in the building of the future." A later statement by the IFP national council endorsed Buthelezi's stance. Noting that the arms had been delivered to Powell at a time when the province was immersed in a "low intensity" civil war, it declared that it neither commended nor, critically, condemned Powell. Its statement amounted to a condonation of Powell's actions and a rebuff to ANC demands.

Powell still faced the risk of prosecution, as Ngcuka refused to rule it out despite Powell's co-operation in pointing out the hidden arms. Believing that the arms cache at Nqutu did not fully account for all the weapons delivered to Powell by De Kock, Ngcuka insisted that whether or not Powell was prosecuted would depend on the progress of investigations. But Powell had taken the precaution of obtaining a signed statement from the provincial director of prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe. In it Mpshe agreed that he would not indict Powell as a quid pro quo for his co-operation. "I decline to prosecute Phillip Powell," a statement in possession of Powell's lawyers reads. "I regard the matter as final."

A question begs to be answered about the Powell saga. De Kock insisted during his trial between 1995 and 1996, and again in his autobiography written with Jeremy Gordon and published in 1998 that he had supplied weapons to the IFP in general and to Powell in particular. So why did the ANC government wait for so long before taking action against him? To put the question more precisely - why did it wait until less than a month before the June 2 election?

To Ngcuka's targeting of Ngubane and Powell for their alleged contravention of the law must be added the third and fourth components of the ANC stratagem to embarrass and demoralise its chief political opponent for control of KwaZulu-Natal. Amnesty hearings involving the Boipatong 14 made newspaper headlines at the beginning of May; those involving De Kock occurred at the end of the month as campaigning for the June 2 election ended it final phase.

In their testimony the 14, all KwaMadala residents, admitted that they had taken part in the attack on Boipatong in retaliation for earlier attacks on them by ANC loyalists in Boipatong and neighbouring townships. "Every weekend someone would be murdered, raped or necklaced," one of them told the TRC amnesty hearing. They denied - despite vigorous cross-examination by counsel for Boipatong residents - that the attack was carried out in concert with members of the old South African Police. In so doing, they contradicted the finding of the TRC, which implicated unidentified policemen as accomplices in the massacre in its final report. But as convicted prisoners seeking amnesty they had no reason to lie. Their application could only succeed if they told the truth.

Then, in a move which surprised counsel representing the KwaMadala applicants, lawyers for the ANC introduced an amnesty applicant of their own, Andries Nosenga. A prisoner who was convicted for murder in killings unrelated to Boipatong, Nosenga claimed to have suddenly realised that he had been involved in the Boipatong massacre and that he had killed "eight or nine" people. His version, contained in a three-page statement, supported the tale of police complicity in the attack contained in the TRC final report, thus reinforcing the image of the IFP as a party, which covertly collaborated with the police. As damaging - perhaps even more damaging - was Nosenga's allegation that Buthelezi had congratulated the attackers at a meeting in Ulundi after the massacre.

Rian Malan, author of an excellent article on the Boipatong massacre and its aftermath in the latest issue of Frontiers of Freedom published by the South African Institute of Race Relations, notes that television cameras were ready and rolling when Nosenga first voiced his allegation. But, he adds, when Nosenga contradicted many of the allegations in his statement under cross-examination by counsel for the Boipatong 14, the cameras were no longer there. As the election drew closer, the ANC legal team, headed by Danny Berger, was still leading evidence about the alleged conspiracy between the attackers from KwaMadala and the police.

On May 24, less than 10 days before the election, De Kock took the stand before a TRC amnesty hearing to support his application for amnesty. He launched a scathing attack on former National Party leaders P.W. Botha, F. W. de Klerk and Kobie Coetsee for urging the police to resist the ANC "terrorist" onslaught while themselves negotiating in secret with ANC leaders. In the course of his testimony, however, he repeated earlier accounts about the supply of arms from the Vlakplaas arsenal to IFP leaders Themba Khoza and Phillip Powell. The IFP response, articulated by its chief whip in Parliament, Koos van der Merwe, was sharp and unmistakable. "The TRC is part of the ANC and it is not objective. De Kock's amnesty hearing was planned a few days before the elections to put doubt in the minds of the electorate about the IFP."

The ANC's multiple political assault on the IFP in the weeks before the election presents a conundrum to observers. It coincided with continual wooing of the IFP by ANC leaders, notably Thabo Mbeki and ANC national chairman Jacob Zuma, and did not prevent the signing, on May 14, of a code of conduct between the two parties. That code committed them to peaceful electioneering and, more important, not to let their political strongholds turn into "no-go areas" for their opponents.

There is an explanation for the paradox. The aggressive political campaign aimed at breaking the IFP's hold over power in KwaZulu-Natal and thus reducing its support base was a prelude to an accommodation with the IFP, not a substitution for it. The terms of the accommodation could be dictated to the IFP by a triumphant ANC and could lead to the absorption of the IFP into the ANC on the Zimbabwe model. There Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF incorporated Joshua Nkomo's Zapu-PF at the low cost of making Nkomo a deputy president.

For its own reasons, however, the IFP contributed to the political warfare that preceded the election. The steps that signalled the IFP political assault on the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal include:

Ø     The replacement of the popular Ben Ngubane as premier in the province by the hardline Lionel Mtshali. The shuffle - Ngubane replaced Mtshali as minister of arts and culture in the national government - was part of a campaign by the IFP to raise its profile in the run-up to the election.

Ø     Mtshali's attempt to appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations that Zweli Mkhize was involved in gun-running and at the centre of a plot to kill IFP strong man David Ntombela. The inquiry faltered, following an application to the high court by Mkhize contesting its legality and the granting by the court of an interdict.

Ø     An IFP bid to use its majority on the rules committee in the provincial legislature to remove Bheki Cele, another prominent ANC leader in the province, from his position as chairman of the portfolio committee on safety and security. The proposal was passed but not implemented as it had to be approved at a full sitting of the legislature, a requirement not met before the election.

The IFP political manoeuvres against the ANC, like those of the ANC against the IFP, ran in tandem with the rapprochement between the two parties at national level and did not negate the obvious goodwill between the national leaders of the two parties, Mbeki and Buthelezi. The IFP's aggressive politicking was a sequel to, rather than a contradiction of, the rapprochement. Faced with the prospect of a closer working partnership with the ANC, the IFP wanted to reassert its separate identity lest it be consumed by the larger and more powerful ANC. Only by vigorously asserting its independence could the IFP hope to attract votes in meaningful numbers. Only by demonstrating that it was still a force to be reckoned with, in KwaZulu-Natal at any rate, would it be able to bargain with the ANC over the shape and terms of the emerging partnership.

At stake was Buthelezi's hope of ending his long political career as the second highest ranking politician in South Africa after Mbeki. It was a risky gambit but perhaps better than sitting passively waiting to be ingested by the omnivorous ANC.

Chronology of the gun-running row

January: The IFP alleges that Zweli Mkhize, ANC MEC for health, has bribed IFP activists to join the ANC in return for firearms

Feb 10: Chief Buthelezi announces that he has briefed Thabo Mbeki about allegations that a security company connected to a Mr McBride has been supplying arms to the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal in order to attack IFP leaders

Feb 10: Emergency debate in provincial legislature ends in uproar as IFP accuses ANC of having hit lists and the ANC accuses Phillip Powell of gun-running

Mar 4: Lionel Mtshali, provincial premier sets up an inquiry into Mkhize and his alleged involvement in the illegal distribution of arms

Mar 5: ANC asks why Powell and David Ntombela are not being investigated for gun-running too

Mar 8: Mkhize asks the high court to declare the inquiry invalid. Court issues an interdict restraining the commission from going ahead

Mar 9: Buthelezi confirms that Powell was sent by the KwaZulu homeland government to buy arms from the then Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock because there was information that "we were going to be killed"

Mar 10: Buthelezi says that the guns he referred to were those the KwaZulu government sought to buy from the security department of Eskom for the Mlaba camp. He had never instructed anyone to have any contact with de Kock

May 10: Powell points out a bunker in Nqutu containing a seven-ton arms and explosives cache to the director of public prosecutions

May 11: Journalists are shown the site and the arms are destroyed in a controlled explosion (left). Powell says he has been given indemnity from prosecution

May 12: The provincial ANC calls on the IFP to strike Powell off its election list

May 14: Small arms cache found in a forest at KwaHlongwa near Hibberdene on the south coast

May 16: Chris MacAdam confirms that De Kock is to assist the search for weapons he supplied to Powell

May 17: IFP states that the acquisition of the weapons in 1993 should be placed in the context of the conflicts of the past and accuses the ANC of hypocrisy for failing to hand over its own weapons caches

May 17: A letter, signed by KZN director of public prosecutions, Moketedi Mpshe, gives Powell protection from prosecution

May 18: Calalakubo Khaluwa, IFP MPP, charged with possession of illegal firearms after the Hibberdene find

May 25: Bulelani Ngcuka (above right) insists that he will prosecute Powell. De Kock claims he was a card-carrying member of the IFP

May 26: Douglas Gibson of the DP says his party will call for a commission of inquiry and snap debate on arms caches in KZN during the next parliamentary session

May 28: A "secret memorandum" from Powell to a KwaZulu cabinet meeting in March 1994 setting out a plan to train and equip men to defend KwaZulu from the ANC is said to be filed in police dockets

May 31: Chief Buthelezi denies any knowledge of the above memo and accuses the media of promoting an ANC dirty tricks campaign against his party

June 10: Ngcuka's department confirms that Powell is being investigated for treason

Source: http://www.hsf.org.za/Briefing_15/game.htm

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.