The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) on Friday expressed regrets for the deaths that occurred in the 1994 right-wing incursion into Bophuthatswana, and said it could have done more to combat racism among its members.

In a four-page submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the organisation also accused Freedom Front leader general Constand Viljoen of having ordered acts of terror in the run-up to the elections that year.

The submission, drawn up by AWB brigadier Dries Kriel, said the AWB took part in the Bophuthatswana incident in March 1994 as part of the Afrikaner Volksfront (AV), in whose "cabinet" Viljoen had been minister of defence.

Three white right-wingers died when they and a contingent of armed colleagues tried to bolster the homeland's collapsing administration. The group apparently shot three black people in their bid to restore order in Mafikeng.

The AWB said in its submission that it genuinely regretted it had joined the AV, and realised that it should never have become involved in Bophuthatswana. It blamed Viljoen for his "weak and confusing" leadership, and for trying to put the blame for the fiasco he had planned and executed on the AWB.

"The AWB wants to express its regret to all parties who suffered losses, or whose loved ones died. The AWB deeply regrets that it as a party joined the AV, in the expectation that the Front, under the leadership of General Viljoen, would lead the volk to freedom."

Referring to "the concealment of dangerous weapons and explosives, and sabotage by AWB members and officers", the submission said Viljoen had issued instructions and requests that deeds of terror be committed, and that several AWB officers and members had reacted to that order.

"The AWB genuinely regrets that although we were aware of General Viljoen's instruction, we did not distance ourselves from it. We feel that this omission was largely responsible for the fact that innocent people died and many AWB members were sentenced to long jail terms.

"Where some of us carried out General Viljoen's orders and approved them, we wish without exception to express our deepest sympathies and condolences with the victims and their next-of-kin."

The AWB now realised that the 1978 decision to tar and feather Pretoria academic Floors van Jaarsveld had been wrong, and that denying freedom of speech to one person could mean it was denied to all. It would like to use the mechanism that the TRC offered to apologise to all those involved.

Dealing with the 1991 "Battle of Ventersdorp", in which AWB members disrupted a National Party meeting addressed by former state president FW de Klerk, the submission said the AWB realised that gatherings arranged by other organisations should go ahead unhindered.

It realised its conduct had been wrong and wanted to convey its "personal regrets" to all those affected.

It said AWB members had, over the years, committed acts of racism under the misapprehension that they were contributing to the freedom struggle of the volk.

"Although the AWB leadership condemned racism, it is our feeling today that we could have done more to correct wrong impressions among our members."

The submission said the AWB and its general staff looked forward to a meeting with the TRC in the new year, and said Kriel was available to assist with any outstanding investigations or questions.

The TRC said in a statement on Friday that these talks would also cover other issues, such as the storming of the World Trade Centre at Kempton Park, where constitutional talks were being held, and the plight of AWB prisoners who applied for amnesty.

Commenting on the AWB submission, Viljoen said that while he had served in the Volksfront's directorate, he had refused to accept any cabinet post and had therefore not been "minister of defence", as the AWB claimed.

He had admitted in his application for amnesty to the TRC that orders had been given for certain deeds of terror, but such orders had never been issued to the AWB.

Referring to the AWB's claims on his role in the Bophuthatswana incident, he said the AWB had participated in the events in an unauthorised manner and against orders.

South African Press Association, 1997
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