TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
DATE: 14 OCTOBER
HELD AT: JOHANNESBURG
HEARING COMMENCES WITH A PRAYER
CHAIRPERSON: I welcome all of you very warmly this open session of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
This is the first time as it were, in a session of this kind I wanted to express congratulations to Max du Preez's team, TV team, and Antjie Samuels radio team on winning the Pringle Awards - richly deserved accolades.
I have just returned from the Seventh Assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was addressed, amongst others, by the President of Ethiopia, also by the Secretary General of the OAU and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa, and it was amazing in all of those addresses to hear how highly the TRC is regarded everywhere, and spoken of in glowing terms. Jesus Christ said something about a prophet being honoured except in his own country, and this seems to apply to the TRC. I hope those who regard the TRC as a witchhunt directed at one particular racial group will, after last week, when they heard the TRC called a farce by another political group come to change their tune.
This is an organ set up by all the parties that negotiated the transition from repression and injustice to democracy and freedom which they all approved, whose terms of reference they all accepted to establish as much of the truth about our past as was humanly possible. Looking at it, not with a jaundiced eye, the unbiased observer would say the TRC has not done too badly. It is not a perfect instrument but it is the best thing available for that task.
Just look at what has in fact been uncovered through the TRC; all about Steve Biko, the Cradock 4, the Pebco 3, Siphiwe Mthimkulu, the Ribeiros, truth that had remained concealed despite all the elaborate trials and inquests that had been held.
After the 'Makuta trial I said the TRC gave us the best chance of arriving at the truth. On that occasion I was attacked by some but I am glad to have been vindicated.
My own unshakeable belief is that we inhabit a moral universe that a lie could not forever prevail against the truth; that repression, evil and injustice would not have the last word. Again we were vindicated in this belief. Truth will out despite all the elaborate machinations of liars. Truth will out even for those who thought they were unassailable, sitting in impregnable fastnesses.
We hope this particular hearing on the State Security Council will go a long way to help establish the truth, the truth especially about accountability; the truth about where in fact does the buck eventually end. What was intended by some of the cryptic writings. We are certain that those appearing before us in this session are honourable men who won't engage in semantic obfuscations; who will tell the world this is what was intended. And we hope that the truth that surfaces is not in order to pillory anyone; is not in order to go forward to prosecution, it is to help in the process of healing, in the process of reconciliation in our land. We are certain that those going to testify before us will want to go down in history as having helped to heal a traumatised, a deeply divided and wounded people.
And so in welcoming Mr "Pik" Botha I want to introduce to you the panel. The names are - Ilan Lax is a member of our Human Rights Violations Committee and he is based in our KwaZulu Natal office in Durban. Dumisa Ntsebeza is a Commissioner and he heads up our Investigative Unit and he often hopes that I will be away so that he can act as Deputy-Chairperson of the Commission which he does splendidly well and he's based in our office in Cape Town. Yasmin Sooka is a Commissioner and she is Deputy-Chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is based here in our Gauteng office. Alex Boraine is Deputy-Chairperson of the Commission and with us is down in Cape Town. Wynand Malan is a Commissioner and a second Deputy-Chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee and is based here in Johannesburg. Richard Lyster is a Commissioner and he is a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee and he is also in charge of our KwaZulu Natal region in the office in Durban.
We welcome you very warmly and give you the word. Glen Goosen is director of our Investigative Unit and Paul van Zyl is executive secretary of the Commission. John Daniel is Research, I just remember that I had to write a letter or something.
DR BORAINE: Mr Botha as is customary at these hearings we ask everyone appearing before us to take the oath and if you would like to take the oath or the affirmation, the oath - would you please stand.
R F BOTHA: (sworn states)
CHAIRPERSON: I will now hand over to Glen Goosen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Chairperson I understand that Mr Botha has prepared a statement and a submission, is going to present that to the panel at the outset before I ask any questions, so I would simply hand over to Mr Botha.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Mr Chairperson, that is correct. I actually arranged with a staff member of the TRC already yesterday morning I delivered the basic document that I had in mind consisting of 39 pages and the idea was that that document should be made available to the members of the Commission. The last part I brought with me here this morning. With your permission if I may just explain.
The Deputy Chairman invited me at the end of August to participate in these hearings. I immediately accepted and the TRC assisted me in then sending me a number of questions, the idea being at that time that that would set the ball rolling and give me some indication of the matters that you would be interested in.
Now the first 39 pages deal then, and is actually answering those questions put to me by the TRC, and the last part no.5, General Questions on the State Security Council, this is from my point of view perhaps the most important part of the questions. I would, with your permission, wish to read that statement in full because I believe it contains rather important views on my part.
CHAIRPERSON: Please go ahead, yes.
MR R F BOTHA: With your permission then may I just - I won't read the 39 pages ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much.
MR R F BOTHA: I tested myself and it takes me two and a half minutes to read one page, that means 39 times two and a half will keep us here perhaps for too long, but then with respect Chairperson, it was the TRC who submitted the questions to me and I wanted to do justice in my replies to those questions.
The first question that they put to me, or series of questions, not just one question, they have a subject and then a series of questions, that is added as Annexure A. I made that available also to the staff of the TRC yesterday so that if the media are interested then they have the advantage of those questions and they have the advantage now of my first document, the 39 pages.
Now I did not repeat the questions in my document because that would have been repetitive of the five pages, but the first series of questions centred around the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.
This group, as you know, was established in terms of a Commonwealth heads of government decision the previous year in 1985, and the co-chairpersons of the EPG, I will refer to the Eminent Persons Group as the EPG, were General Obasanja, a former Head of State of Nigeria and Mr Malcolm Fraser, a former Prime Minister of Australia.
Looking back, Mr Chairperson, 1985 stands out as a dark year in our history. The South West Africa issue was far from being resolved. South African troops were fighting in Angola. The high hopes raised by the 1984 Nkomati Accord between Mozambique and South Africa had dissipated.
In August 1985 President PW Botha had delivered what has become known as his Rubicon Speech in Durban. The world had been waiting for good news, important announcements on dismantling apartheid and releasing Mr Nelson Mandela. I myself drafted that part of the speech in which the phrase "today we have crossed the Rubicon" appeared. President Botha, however, retained the sentence but removed what had preceded it, namely the release of Nelson Mandela and the government's intention to dismantle apartheid. The effect of the speech on the world, and on many South Africans, was that of a bucket of iced water in the face.
Relations with our neighbouring states were characterised by animosity, suspicion, resentment and mistrust and there were acrimonious exchanges and cross-border military operations. Within South Africa bombs were exploding. Pressure for Mr Nelson Mandela's release mounted inexorably. Against the gloomy background of South Africa's situation in 1985 the Commonwealth took the initiative at a meeting of heads of government at Nassau in October of that year to appoint a group of eminent persons to see whether they could help us break out of this impasse, this looming threat of escalating conflict, not only internally in South Africa but also in the region as a whole. It was certainly a formidable task.
I will, because it is in my document, not burden you with the technical details, but I think it is essential that the Commission have that on record, so I will skip a number of pages.
The ANC leadership told the EPG that their immediate reaction to the setting-up of the group had been one of disappointment. According to the EPG report the hopes of the ANC had been raised by the debate in Nassau and the prospect of increased international pressure on the government through sanctions, instead the group had been established and in their view it would assist in relieving the pressures on the South African government which had been building up in the period before Nassau.
The EPG was nevertheless warmly welcomed as the ANC had a keen interest in hearing what the group felt it might be able to do. The ANC expressed great interest in the South African government's response to the EPG's mandate because only then would it be able to make it's own contribution. If the government was prepared to shift its ground and indicate its readiness for fundamental change this would impact on the ANC view. Their assessment was, however, that nothing had changed and nothing would change. If that proved to be the case then the conditions for negotiation did not exist.
The ANC placed much emphasis on the release of Mr Nelson Mandela, a crucial step which recognised that it was not possible for negotiations to take place in the absence of the peoples' authentic leaders. A prerequisite for talking to the government was that it should be through the peoples recognised leaders, not through the ones the government chose to identify. Without this essential first step the conflict would continue.
Allow me also to say here today Mr Chairperson, Dennis Worrall, our ambassador in London at the time, played a major role in preparing the EPG for their visit to South Africa. Both of us saw in the visit a real chance to make progress in ending the turmoil in our country.
I mention these matters because of their relevance to the EPG mission. General Obasanja and Mr Fraser arrived in South Africa on a preliminary visit a few days after I made a remark at an international press conference in Cape Town on 6 February 1986 to the effect that South Africa would have a black president and that I would be willing to serve under that president. General Obasanja arrived here on 17 February when the media of South Africa were still reporting on my black president remark. These two gentlemen had a meeting with me on the date they arrived, 17 February. Had it not been for my black president remark I would probably have been in a stronger position to influence the discussions more positively. As things turned out my room to manoeuvre was restricted as I hope you can imagine.
I could, however, give advice to General Obasanja on the sensitivities on both sides. He understood my position. A strong personal bond of friendship began to grow between us. We could say to each other whatever was in our minds, openly and without inhibition. During February until 13 March 1986 the EPG held meetings with South African leaders across the full spectrum of opinion, the government, the ANC and all other political parties, church leaders, business leaders, academics, women's organisations, even governments of South Africa's neighbouring states.
By 13 March the EPG had developed its possible negotiating concept which evolved out of their consultations and their judgement of what might be possible.
I will now skip parts of the report of the EPG. I have inserted it in the document for the sake of completion of the record. What is important is at that time I urged General Obasanja to explain to his colleagues that the South African position at that stage represented progress, maybe not enough but it did represent progress. After all I was not fired after my remark on 6 February.
What we needed was to start talks with the ANC. I negotiated the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique in 1983/84 which involved equally intractable obstacles in an atmosphere of severe suspicion and animosity. Written positions only changed, Mr Chairperson with respect, when you sit down with your opponent and ask him face-to-face what his words mean. General Obasanja agreed with me but said that he had difficulties with some members of the group. He reminded me that obduracy was not confined to certain members of the South African government.
The EPG, Mr Chairperson, this is very important, the EPG came closer to success than most people realise or at least suspected at the time. I saw in the EPG a real chance of achieving a breakthrough. This was a smaller and less emotional forum than the United Nations. It was able to draw closer to the protagonists. Also General Obasanja was not only an African leader but a realist. He had gone through severe and troubled times in his own country and he had been a witness of the havoc conflict brings. In my discussions with General Obasanja he displayed a ready willingness to understand the government's difficulties without surrendering the objectives of achieving a solution based on a full democracy which in effect meant one person one vote at the end of the day. He knew our history and had a deep understanding of the position of the Afrikaner. He accepted the Afrikaner's anti-colonial stands. He used to say, and I quote him -
"The Afrikaner is an inherent part of Africa. Consequently....."
he would continue...
"... other Africans should acknowledge this to a greater extent and by doing so diminish the Afrikaner's fear of being overwhelmed".
He has said, for instance -
"The Afrikaner mentally is reported to thrive in isolation and be prone to rigidity under pressure, yet my limited contact with the Afrikaner does not suggest that he is suicidal".
In the EPG report itself, I think this is important that I read this so that the country can also take note of this and also the Afrikaners, this is coming from the EPG report.
"Clearly a number of Afrikaners, including some who trace their roots back over 300 years to the original Dutch colony feel their whole future threatened and see no country which might match up to their fatherland. Some of them are turning to the misguided notion that their power to subdue blacks by using the full power of the security forces renders them sufficiently strong to resist fundamental change. They close their eyes to the simple fact, acknowledged by government and business alike, that both whites and blacks separately have it within their power to destroy the country.
In recent months the country has witnessed the emergence of growing and increasingly assertive extreme right-wing as Afrikanerdom begins to fragment under the cumulative weight of the pressures we have described. The phenomenon is not altogether surprising for two generations whites in South Africa have lived as beneficiaries of apartheid, in a system engineered by a political party which constantly asserted white supremacy. When they witness an apparent change in government theology with the rhetoric of total white control giving way of talk to power sharing a backlash of some description is inevitable, but just as the far right is a creation of the National Party, so too it must accept responsibility for dealing with it. The need for courageous leadership has never been greater. Certainly whatever the threat from the extreme right the government can still rely on carrying the majority of the white community if it takes bold decisions to bring peace and prosperity to the country as a whole.
We recognise, (that's the EPG), the huge difficulties of adjustment facing the white community. As the editor of one leading English daily put it recently, it will not be easy for many whites to settle down to what is their inevitable destiny in a multiracial country where the population is three-quarters black. Many whites genuinely entertain fears about their future in any new dispensation. We found a keen awareness of this among responsible black leaders, together with an acknowledgement of a need to allay them".
Mr Chairperson I would skip a number of pages now because I would like to get to the EPG's negotiating concept which was handed to me Minister J C Heunis, who was then Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning and he was the Chairperson of the Constitutional Committee, not me, at that time, and General Obasanja handed that to us on 12 March 1986. He explained in that document first of all to us their motives for drafting it, and then this is important, their concept in fact read as follows, it's not long but it's very important, because Mr Chairperson four years later this is what happened, four years later when the ANC and the National Party started their discussions they started it on the basis of this negotiating concept of General Obasanja. And this is how it read -
"The South African government has declared its commitment to dismantling the system of apartheid, to ending racial discrimination and to broad-based negotiations leading to new constitutional arrangements for power-sharing by all the people of South Africa. In the light of preliminary and as yet incomplete discussions with representatives of various organisations and groups within and outside South Africa we believe that in the context of specific and meaningful steps being taken towards ending apartheid the following additional action might ensure negotiations and a break in the cycle of violence".
And then they have, in the part of the government four requirements, no three, only three -
"A. Removal of the military from the townships.
Providing for freedom of assembly and discussion, and
suspension of detention without trial".
That was (A).
"B. The release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and detainees.
C. The unbanning of the ANC, the PAC and the permitting of normal political activities".
On the part of the ANC and others the requirement was that they should enter into negotiations and suspend violence.
And then they added, the EPG in their negotiating concept -
"It is our view that simultaneous announcements incorporating these ideas might be negotiated if the government were to be interested in pursuing this broad approach".
And then they say -
"In the light of the government's indication to us that it (that's the government) -
1. is not in principle against the release of Nelson Mandela and similar prisoners;
2. is not opposed in principle to the unbanning of any organisations;
3. is prepared to enter into negotiations with the acknowledged leaders of the people of South Africa;
4. is committed to the removal of discrimination, not only from the statute books but also from South African society as a whole;
5. is committed to the ending of white domination;
6. will not prescribe who may represent black communities in negotiations on a new constitution for South Africa;
7. is prepared to negotiate on an open agenda the South African government may wish to give serious consideration to the approach outlined in this note".
I drafted these points 1 to 7. I was naturally pleased it was used prominently in the concept. On our side eyebrows were lifted, but luckily I was not shot down. I explained to my colleagues in the Cabinet that I could substantiate each of these points from statements made by some of them over the past year, even if they have been made in a different context, they still made the statements.
The possible negotiating concept of the EPG, Mr Chairperson, will in my opinion come to be regarded as one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from the seemingly interminable negotiating processes. Our discussions with the EPG floundered on the issue as to whether the ANC should merely suspend violence or instead terminate it. There were also a few other questions of concern to us but the main problem was that if suspending violence meant only discontinuing violence for as long as negotiations continued, then the threat of a resumption of violence would become a bargaining counter, in other words, we were afraid that the ANC would say keep talking or else violence again. Significantly this same issue again formed the major stumbling block in getting the negotiations going four years later. It was only eventually resolved at the end of 1990. The irony is that today few South Africans would even know what the fuss was about in such a way it is that history moves us past some of our most earnest issues.
On 19 May 1986 I formally responded to the EPG negotiating concept in a letter to General Obasanja and Mr Fraser. It was the culmination of intense debate and argumentation amongst my colleagues and myself. It was the best I could do. I expressed the government's concerns on the issues of violence and three other points, but I ended by saying -
"The South African government would welcome further discussions which could accommodate the government's concerns.
I would like to thank you and your colleagues for the spirit in which we have been able to conduct our discussions".
On 5 June 1986 the co-chairman responded. They did not agree with the South African government's points of concern and reiterated their belief that their negotiating concept would assist in achieving negotiations in a non-violent atmosphere.
They concluded saying that in the absence both of movement on the part of government on the major points and a positive response to the concept as a whole they were unable to see merit in further discussions.
They came to this conclusion, that there was no prospect of setting in motion a dialogue with a view to establishing a non-racial and representative government.
I like to believe that General Obasanja himself did not share this view. He was the kingpin in the driveshaft but also a member of a team. One day I shall ask him what he really thought at that time and I know that he will tell me. But that, Mr Chairperson, is not the only reason why I conveyed a personal message in 1995 to the President of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, appealing for clemency for my friend and his fellow Nigerians.
Or perhaps he will tell me one day, yes he had still thought there was a good prospect of getting talks off the ground. But Mr Chairperson, in the early morning of 19 May 1986 the South African security forces launched attacks on Harare, Lusaka and Gaberone. Each was a Commonwealth capital which the EPG had recently visited in the course of their search for a South African solution. Maybe General Obasanja will tell me it was just one provocation too much, if so, I will understand him. I felt very much the same.
On the other hand the EPG stated categorically, on their departure, that the raids were not the reason for the decision to discontinue the discussions.
Now how did it happen? Why did it happen? The ANC suspected that the government's design to get them to agree to the termination of all violence on their part was to gain time to consolidate its position internally and externally. The government, this is us, could then enter into protracted negotiations producing proposals which might seem reasonable and acceptable to the outside world but which robbed the ANC of a strong bargaining counter in exacting concessions from the government. In short the ANC believed that the government would not voluntarily relinquish power come what may.
The government in turn believed that the ANC's willingness to suspend violence was their strategy to get the talks going with total world support and then to make demands under the threat of a resumption of violence if their demands were not met. They would then exploit anti-apartheid world opinion to support a resumption of violence.
What I had in mind in making my ultimate appeal on 19 May to the EPG for further discussions on the issue of violence was to explore the feasibility of international or Commonwealth guarantee or pledge to the effect that the international community would expect both parties to implement their commitments in good faith and would monitor the process. I often attempted to do this on the issue of Namibia, on the issue of South Africa but the National Party was not ripe for the idea to get outsiders into this country to give that kind of guarantee because we had an over-exaggerated fear of interference in our internal affairs ever since Jan van Riebeeck landed at Cape Town.
"We couldn't cut the Gordian knot", as we say in Afrikaans, that "we couldn't cut the Gordian knot" was the greatest disappointment in my 17 year career as Minister of Foreign Affairs. So many hopes were raised by this mission, it could and would have saved South Africa a lot of pain, a lot of wounds, a lot of agony, nevertheless it was an important trial-run for the breakthrough that was to come four years later.
Against this broad background Mr Chairperson I will now proceed to reply to the more specific questions.
The raids on Harare, Gaberone and Lusaka on 19 May '86 were not discussed at any meeting where I was present. In the light of the importance the Department of Foreign Affairs and I attached to the EPG discussions, and the tremendous amount of work we invested in the effort we would certainly have opposed raids most strongly.
As regards the guidelines for cross-border activities approved by the Security Council on 21 October 1985 I should point out that these were guidelines. Where it is stated in the introduction that in all cases there should be the closest co-operation between the defence force and the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as other affected departments it meant no more than what is said. And this guideline was in any event subject to the proviso except in instances where immediate action was considered essential.
May I also point out that it was clearly stated that the responsibility for the military implementation of operations vested exclusively in the Chief of the Defence Force. The security forces considered the raids essential to prevent ANC activists from initiating and pursuing armed incursions into the country. They claimed that they had reliable and confirmed information that operatives would be staging murderous activities from places which were attacked by the security forces. The security forces believed that they were acting within the framework of the Defence Act and other relevant legislation mandating them to take the action which they took. From a legal and technical point of view my department and I could not assail or ward off the argument on the basis of illegal activities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and I in principle assessed a given cross-border action in the light of the predictable international consequences. In these matters, Mr Chairperson, a clear and consistent divergence of views existed between the security forces and Foreign Affairs.
The security establishment saw it as their prime objective to trace and stop dangerous operatives from pursuing sabotage and violence in the country. Foreign Affairs, although in principle opposed to violent pursuits by the ANC, the PAC and others, weighed the consequences of reprisals or pre-emptive strikes against the international consequences for the government.
In the few instances where Foreign Affairs acquiesced in cross-border raids it did so on the strength of convincing evidence produced by the security establishment to the effect that a pre-emptive strike was essential to save the lives of innocent South African citizens.
Cross-border activities against terrorists who cut the throats of elderly couples on farms, or who set off a bomb like the Pretoria bomb were generally supported by the vast majority of white voters including opposition parties and the media, but this support was limited to activities against proven targets. In some cases facts or circumstances surfaced after an attack which contradicted the claims made by the South African security forces.
CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me, I don't want to interrupt you, I just wonder with the time constraint whether - I don't want to push you because all of what you are doing is very important for us, whether you would be able, given a time line of 10H45, we want to break at 10H45 for tea, whether you would have managed to give a summary of the first 38 pages and your new seven page (...indistinct)
MR R F BOTHA: Yes, thank you Mr Chairperson, I am at page 15, I am almost halfway through the 39 which I think is not too bad ...(intervention)
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, 39 steps, yes. Let's see you are going quite well, I just wanted you to be aware of sort of the objective to aim at. Thank you.
MR R F BOTHA: Yes. No of course I respect your sentiments Chairperson. May I just say that I worked two weeks on this and I would like to say it today but I will try and limit it.
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, no, I don't want to sort-of get into the way of your wonderful eloquence. Go ahead.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you, thank you Sir. Then the second series of questions which the TRC forwarded to me was on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In the first instance the questions centred around military assistance in 1979. Mr Chairperson I am not aware of any decision of the State Security Council to interfere militarily in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1979 or subsequently until their independence in the sense that we would send troops to participate in the conflict.
It was known at that time that the South African government assisted the Rhodesian government for a long time in many ways. My department and I were fully occupied with efforts to bring together the warring factions in Rhodesia for discussions on a settlement of the conflict.
My best witness, Mr Chairperson, as to the role we played is Mr Ian Smith himself, who recently published his memoirs and made no secret what he thought of my efforts. The discussions in the Security Council concerning the Rhodesian situation emanated from a realisation that the Rhodesian forces were losing the fight and that we should concentrate on strategies to put pressure on Mozambique to curtail its support for ZANLA guerrillas.
I believe it might be of assistance to the Commission if I briefly describe the South African position, vis a vis the Rhodesia conflict as from 1975 onwards, but as it is documented, it is there, I appeal to the Commission to read it, I know you have a lot of reading matter. I would skip then that page 16.
I then come to the point which really matters - you will see there how the British government approached us and that the only troops we had were a unit stationed at Beitbridge. The British government was fully aware of it. When Lord Soames arrived here towards the end of '79 he was aware of it, but Mr Mugabe complained bitterly about it and said he would pull out of the cease-fire if our troops remained at Beitbridge. Government's point of view was Beitbridge was an important link to the north and unless the British government would substitute our troops with British troops this important link to the north might be jeopardised.
The British government then came back and said no, the combined Rhodesian forces would be able to replace our troops and we then withdrew our troops or indicated we would, but then the British government came and asked us for quite a number of mine-resistant vehicles, helicopters and other equipment. Then we said to them, yes, we would consider it if the British government can guarantee us that we have an inalienable right to take them back. After a while they agreed to that.
So our equipment went there, the elections went well and this meeting to which the documentation refers Mr Chairperson, took place a few days before the Zimbabwe elections. And I can assure the Commission here today, I am already here with B, on the elimination of political figures, when I say this, and I will just read it to you to refresh your memory. This was in the agenda of the State Security Council at the meeting of 18 February 1980. Elections in Rhodesia took place 27, 28, 29 February. I am not aware of any programme of the South African Government to eliminate in the sense of killing any Rhodesia leader.
The relevant recommendation of the State Security Council, a meeting of 18 February is unfortunately susceptible, I admit to such an interpretation. It reads -
"The implication of elimination of political figures in Rhodesia must constantly be borne in mind and it's accepted that it's pointed out that the botched attempts to assassinate Mugabe was busy making a martyr of him, and after another attempt he became a hero".
Let me explain. The discussion which took place on 18 February, nine days before the election in Zimbabwe, all the other recommendations, as you will notice Mr Chairperson, clearly indicate the tenor of the discussion in the State Security Council which was to the effect that nothing should be done which would upset the course of peaceful democratic elections. Remember the British Governor was there; the British Intelligence Service was there; the American Intelligence Service was there, they might deny it, and I believe the Soviet Intelligence Service was there, and the French one and the German one, and even if you had no sense of proper conduct it would simply have been foolish for the South African government at that stage to try and upset the events there.
I can assure you that what happened there was, I think either Dr Neil Barnard or one of the Security personnel reported that elements in Rhodesia were endeavouring to kill Mr Mugabe, and what we then reacted to was, said look, tell those people they are playing with fire, it's in no-one's interest, least of all ours and if they carry on like this and succeed in killing him he will then become a hero and a martyr. That is, I guarantee you what happened that day in that discussion.
As regards the operations in Matabeleland I, in my document, took some trouble to indicate to the Commission how the era of - I call it the "era of charges and counter-charges" set in. Immediately after the elections in Rhodesia, end of February, Mr Mugabe made realistic, rational and reasonable statements, from our point of view, there's always another side, but from our point of view, and I gave a very positive report to the Cabinet on the future outlook of our relations with Zimbabwe.
But then as so often happens things happened which we in Foreign Affairs, never, never thought of, and this was one of those events, the killing on 18 August 1982, was a question put to me by the TRC on this issue, in which three members of the South African Defence Force were killed, and that Mr Chairperson brought the deteriorating relations between us and Zimbabwe almost to the boiling point.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and I learned of the killing of the three South African troops in Zimbabwe when Mr Mugabe made an announcement to that effect on 21 August 1982. My Director General obtained as much information as he could about the incident from our Trade Representative in Harare and then we sent a letter to the Chief of the Defence Force in which we told him look, we have now heard this has happened and this is going to be very bad for South Africa, we told him, it is quoted there, you can read it, in which we say -
"This incident will give renewed impetus to Mr Mugabe's constant allegations that South Africa is responsible for the sabotage attempts in Zimbabwe in the past two years. The Trade Representative is of the opinion that any hope or progress in bilateral relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe has now been defeated and that even if it could be proved that the incident took place in Mozambique the damage has already been done.
He is further of the opinion that South Africa's credibility has been further damaged by this incident and that attempts to reopen channels of communication with the Zimbabwean Government will be made very difficult by this".
And then we asked -
"Please inform us, what is your information?"
And on 26 or 27 August General Constand Viljoen who was then the Chief of the South African Defence Force reacted to the press conference and admitted that the three men killed in Zimbabwe were troops of the Defence Force who went on an unauthorised mission to free political detainees.
And then General Viljoen, here it is, gives a whole explanation that - I think the man in charge was saying to the others it was a patrol, a unit of 17 men, three white, fourteen black, but many of them formerly served in the Rhodesian forces and this is what made it bad. It doesn't matter what we say, it might be quite correct that they were genuinely recruited, signed up in our Defence Force, but if you kill a troop dressed in a foreign uniform on your territory and on top of it you discover that that troop was formerly in your service, then Mr Chairperson, listen there is no way - we have not yet discovered people how to - to persuade people to believe that easily. So I do not know what the truth is.
But the other question that was put to me concerned then the return of their bodies. That was also a question put to me by the TRC and I thank the TRC for doing that, because I think you've opened up a matter that has never been resolved and might perhaps in the present atmosphere of better and good relations between the present government and the Zimbabwe Government be taken further and in that way perhaps help the relatives and family of the people concerned to come to rest with their anxiety. But the three persons killed were Sgt R T Beech, Sgt P D Barry and Sgt J A Wessels. And on 15 October the Defence Force wrote to us that -
"As a result of a misunderstanding the whole aspect of the repatriation of the remains has now also not taken place. It would be appreciated if, by means of your diplomatic channels, contact can be made with the Zimbabwean Government in order to effect the repatriation of the remains of these Defence Force members".
We forwarded the request to the Zimbabwean authorities, received no reaction.
And then Mr Chairperson, the records available to me do not disclose what transpired for the next years after these attempts to have the remains of the three soldiers returned to South Africa. I assumed that the relatives of the men continued with their efforts to have the remains returned to South Africa, but without success. But I did find a record that in February 1988 the parents of Sergeant Robert Beech approached the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist Sergeant Beech's parents who refused to accept that he was dead. The hope that he might be alive somehow, somewhere, lingered on in their hearts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross approached the Zimbabwean Government in the matter and the Red Cross reported to us on 7 February '89 as follows:
"Following one official written representation to the Zimbabwe Government and three reminders over the past seven months, it has to be assumed that the matter will not be given any attention".
Then on the internal conflict inside Zimbabwe, that question concerning a recommendation of the State Security Council, "to keep the pot at boiling point" - I am giving the facts of how the internal tension inside Zimbabwe, Mr Chairperson with respect, between ZANU PF and PF ZAPU. It means between Mr Mugabe and Mr Nkomo, our, with respect, it didn't really need much outside encouragement for that pot to boil, it was boiling. I don't want to dwell too long on this here today and give the impression that we are now you know dishing up Zimbabwe's past here, but with respect, if you read the records, the newspaper reports, there was internal turmoil and turbulence inside, and I suppose in that background it suited the South African government. The attitude being well at least there is this internal trouble for them so it suits us and "let us keep the pot boiling", "let us keep the pot boiling". I think that is what that sentence meant, no more, no less.
Mr Chairperson towards the end of 1981 it was clear to me that the prospects of improving relations with Zimbabwe were bleak. The chances were better to pursue a solution to the Namibian issue within the framework of UN Security Council resolution no.435. The Cuban presence in Angola, as I saw it then, was a matter of great distress to the USA. There was a possibility that the solution could be negotiated on a balance of interest between opposing forces on the basis of Namibia's independence and Cuban withdrawal from Angola. Mozambique also offered an opportunity to negotiate a better relationship despite the heavy obstacle posed by our assistance to Renamo.
Progress in the work involved in these objectives, however, was often hampered and on occasion almost brought to a standstill by preposterous events which I could not even accommodate within the ambit of my worst fears. One such an event was the attempt to overthrow the Seychelles Government in November 1981.
Early on the morning of 26 November 1981, and of course I am dealing here now with the response to TRC questions, early during that morning I was woken by a telephone call from the late Mr Louis le Grange, who was then the Minister of Law and Order, it was still dark. He told me that an Air India aircraft had been hijacked in the Seychelles and that the aircraft had been ordered by the hijackers to land at Durban. He thought that I would not mind being informed of the event so early in the morning as I would no doubt wish to prepare myself and my department for the expected international reaction.
I immediately asked him who the hijackers were. He said he did not know, but it was possible that at least some of them were South Africans. I asked him why on earth South Africans would hijack an aircraft in the Seychelles. He said he did not know. He was relaying to me information from the South African Police which came from the Air Control officials at either Johannesburg or Durban airport. At that stage I could not recall, Mr Chairperson, any event which stunned and jolted me more than the news conveyed to me by my colleague.
As he was talking a gut feeling took hold of me that there could only be one reason for hijackers to want the aircraft to land at Durban, they did something terribly wrong in the Seychelles and Durban offered them the best chance of escape or survival; that would mean South Africans were involved; and that would mean an international outcry; and that would mean the heat was on again on Foreign Affairs.
I responded to my colleague in a way in which he considered somewhat insulting. I told him that this "bugger-up" would once and for all establish South Africa as the haven for terrorists and pirates. A day or two later when the matter was discussed with the Prime Minister in Cape Town, immediately before a Cabinet meeting, I was then in Pretoria, the Prime Minister severely castigated me in the presence of my colleagues for my disgraceful behaviour towards a Cabinet colleague who was merely conveying to me news about the hijacked aircraft.
After the meeting and before the commencement of the Cabinet meeting I asked the Prime Minister whether, in the light of his remarks about my behaviour he would excuse me from attending the Cabinet meeting. His reaction was that if he wanted to fire me he would say so in clear, unambiguous terms, as he did not say so I should pull myself together like a man and carry on with my work.
I attended the Cabinet meeting. I assure you Mr Chairperson that the Seychelles coup was neither discussed nor approved by the South African Cabinet or the State Security Council. I then give you a very useful summary of the Attorney General of Natal, Advocate Reises(?), a summary of the basic facts.
Needless to say the incident created an international uproar resulting in extremely negative media reports all over the world. The UN Security Council appointed a commission of inquiry into the Seychelles coup. Generally there was a strong suspicion throughout the world that the South African government was involved in the coup in some way or another. In its report to the Security Council in June 1982 the Commission of Inquiry indicated that it had no concrete evidence that the South African authorities were implicated in the affair, however, it expressed the view that there was a strong presumption that the authorities were at least aware of the preparations.
It is possible that the matter would have been left at that, ironically, were it not for the evidence given by Colonel Hoare, it was a gentleman called Mike Hoare, shortly before the Security Council examined the Commission's report, to the effect that he, that is now this Colonel, had received assistance from the Department of Defence. In the event the Security Council decided to prolong the mandate of the Commission for submission to the Council by 15 August. So more problems for us. The mercenaries were found guilty on 27 July '82.
The supplementary report of the UN Commission of Inquiry was submitted to the Security Council towards the end of November. I am giving you the extracts from the reports findings and conclusions which were of relevance to South Africa and I won't read all of them, I will just read 78 -
"The Commission wishes to draw attention to the following which it considers as clearly established regarding South African involvement:
A. The arms, ammunition and other equipment were supplied by South African Defence Force personnel;
B. An army officer participated in preliminary discussions;
C. The government was generally aware of attempts by Seychelles exiles seeking support for attempts to overthrow the Government of Seychelles;
D. The National Intelligence Service was aware of Hoare's plans (that's Mike Hoare's plans), from the inception;
E. Members of the 2nd Reconnaissance Commando and a lead unit took part in the operation.
79. The Commission notes that while admitting certain facts the Prime Minister of South Africa in his statement of 29 July '82 said that neither the South African Government, the Cabinet nor the State Security Council were aware of the coup.
In the light of the facts as set out above the Commission must conclude that if responsible Ministers were not at least aware of what was going on this indicates both a remarkable lack of control by the South African Government over its own agencies and a lack of awareness that is hard to reconcile with the tight and effective control exercised by the security authorities in South Africa to which the Commission referred in its first report".
And then the Commission's recommendations, there was only really one that affected us, not really a tough one, it said -
"In the light of the conclusions it has reached on this issue the Commission considers that South Africa has a particular obligation to take all necessary steps to ensure that mercenary operations are not launched from its territory".
The point I want to make Mr Chairperson is, although the South African Government came off fairly lightly in the UN Security Council immense damage was done to the country internationally.
I was not, as regards the other questions of the TRC, I was not directly involved in the negotiations which led to the release of the six participants who were captured in the Seychelles operation but I strongly supported the idea of obtaining their release. I wanted to normalise relations with Seychelles again. I succeeded in doing it later when I personally, when I was personally received by President Rene.
But at that stage my recollection is that the National Intelligence Service and/or Defence Force, I cannot say which, were certainly involved in the attempts to obtain their release. I can remember that an amount was paid, yes, an amount was paid, but I can't tell you what the amount. The figure in my memory and I speak please under correction, is between three and six million dollars, but I stand to be corrected. It was not really my task Mr Chairperson.
I've been asked whether I knew what the reasons were for the State Security Council at its meeting of 20 December '82 accepting the recommendations submitted by Mr F W de Klerk that the foreigners released are acquitted after the trial not be deported. I vaguely remember, I remember the discussion but only vaguely, and I remember an argument was put forward to the effect that the persons concerned stood trial in South Africa, if they were acquitted further action then, in addition to the court action against them would be unfair and would amount to punishment meted out by the government. But I suggest, Mr President, that Mr de Klerk be asked to furnish you with that information.
Now I am at the subject, Assistance to Renamo, and I am giving here full details of my efforts to conclude the Nkomati Accord, which I considered, with respect, as one of the great events in my career. The signing of that accord on 16 March 1984 reverberated throughout the world and was acclaimed by all the governments that count in the world, including the Soviet Union's government and President Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, and our African governments, all of them. The surest indication to me that it was a major success was that the other day an ANC friend of mine said, you know Pik we considered that as one of the greatest setbacks, and that was to me one of the greatest achievements. It was not aimed at the ANC of course, I wanted the turmoil to end. I give you the facts there in the document that you have.
I explain to you about my meetings with President Samora Machel whom I often met. Often we had very long meetings and I will deal with that in the book I'm going to write Mr Chairperson, but on 16 September '85 President Machel informed me of a raid that his troops made in the area of Gorongoza and there they captured a diary, a diary kept by Mr Was, a secretary of Mr Dhlakama(?) who was the leader of Renamo, and the President then arranged for me to meet with his Ministers that same day.
I telephoned from Maputo that day the office of President Botha and asked for an appointment that very evening because I could see here was really big trouble coming, because the entries in that diary, if they were to be believed, and on what basis could you not believe, then it was bad stuff.
The entries in the diary in short - I can furnish all that information if it's required, but some of them are here, indicated that the Air Force undertook regular flights into Mozambique and delivered equipment and that this was done, apparently, also on the instructions of General Constand Viljoen and some of his officers.
The part that personally affected me Mr Chairperson was some rather derogatory remarks about me in the diary attributable to General Viljoen and his senior officers. It was not very pleasant to read how fellow South Africans talk about you in Mozambique to the henchmen of Dhlakama. But let's leave that, maybe Dr Viljoen or General Viljoen, he might get a doctor's degree soon or have one, can explain that position better than I can. As far as I am concerned I phoned, I met the President that evening and present was the Minister of Defence, the Chief of the Defence Force. The President at first said to me look that book is a fake. I said no, no go, it's not a fake, you can't fake a book like that, you can't fake a diary, not like that, because there are too many things that are true, too many things that are true and to which the man Was could not have been privy to. And then I asked for a Commission of Inquiry. The President said no, we can have a committee not a commission, and due to the fact that I promised President Samora Machel that I would be back in days to his Ministers, he was going on an overseas trip but he wanted me to meet his Ministers soon, we then agreed to appoint General Rogers who later I think became a colleague of some of the members of your present Commission here, and - an excellent man and then a Dr Gilleland, a Dr J Gilleland, I think he died about a year ago, but Dr Gilleland was, although he was Director General of one of the Houses of Parliament was also a civil aviation expert. They brought out a report Mr President, within a day, day and a half.
I arranged a meeting a Komatipoort on 19 May with a senior delegation from Mozambique. I gave them the report of our committee. I took with me Dr Gilleland who at length explained to them, and was ready to reply to their questions. I also then made use of the occasion to give them particulars of the presence of ANC activists and operatives in Maputo, in Mozambique who operated from Mozambique into South Africa. The Mozambique delegation thanked me for those particulars indicating that for the first time they have now received firm, firm - hard facts, they would go into that, etc.
As regards Mr Nel's position may I just say that he was never a member of the State Security Council. The Act establishing the State Security Council did not provide for the appointment of deputy ministers, but he was asked by Mr P W Botha to attend the meetings so that he could be kept fully informed of policy, of decisions as he was responsible for the information office. And as regards his unauthorised visit to Gorongoza when I asked him at that time why did you do it, his answer was that he knew I would have disapproved. So he was honest.
And on top of it he then said to me but look Mr Minister you asked me, because the Soviet Union approached us about two Russians that had disappeared in the bush, and I said to Louis Nel, look try to get to Dhlakama because maybe they are holding these Russians, but then when you get to the Russians please take with you a newspaper with the date on so that the two Russians hold the newspaper and then we photograph them with the newspaper, because that would then prove to the Russians that we really saw their men. And he said to me, Pik how did you expect me to be photographed with two Russians holding a South African newspaper without going to Dhlakama. So I said but Louis I did not authorise you to go behind my back in a military aircraft under those circumstances, and that he admitted.
Mr President, the part I am getting to now is of great importance, that is the last part. Sir, respectfully, if you would think that we rather take a break now I would appreciate it, but if you decide differently I am ready to go ahead.
CHAIRPERSON: I think we should probably break for tea.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Sir.
CHAIRPERSON: And then start at 11.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much for your very co-operative stance, we are most grateful.
CHAIRPERSON: We resume and you are getting on to a substantive part Mr Botha, the sort of last seven pages or something like that. Thank you very much.
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you Mr Chairperson. The..... (microphone giving trouble)
CHAIRPERSON: I think it just might be possible for you to start again Mr Botha, thank you.
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson thank you. I am afraid there is a noise here now.
CHAIRPERSON: I have to speak because they are now doing a radio commentary reporting and they would obviously always want to know what is happening, they can't see us. What is happening is that we are trying to sort out a difficulty with closed circuit television in the next room and we hope we can have it sorted out. Thank you very much. Third time lucky!
MR R F BOTHA: Thank you. I thank you Mr President. On the subject of analysing and construing State Security Council resolutions and documents it should be mentioned that we were relentlessly inundated with working documents, proposals, guidelines, assessments, predictions and memoranda drafted by a labyrinth of committees, subcommittees, joint management centres, assessment centres, working committee, task groups ad infinitum. In interpreting SSC minutes it should be kept in mind that the minutes as well as the documentation do not reflect the atmosphere in which a debate took place. They do not contain the differences between Ministers expressed in the discussion. A considerable number of the proposals and recommendations formulated as decisions were vague and of a general nature and some were naive and ingenuous and simply not capable of implementation in the light of the existing realities or the shortage of funds.
In annexure 2 to the document discussed under item 7 of the State Security Council meeting of 14 April 1986 a multitude of plans are set out to stem the deteriorating security situation. An analysis of the plans and the funds earmarked for the implementation will illustrate how unrealistic and naive some of the plans were. For instance under the heading Restoration of Law and Order the first objective is to dominate Duncan Village and Ndantsane, The tasks to achieve this are according to the document, I quote, roadblocks, patrols and reaction unit. The actions to be implemented are, day and night roadblocks, maintaining mobile reaction units similar to the South African Municipal Police system. This task is then to be done by 228 members of the Ciskei Police and Ciskei Defence Force.
Dominate, Mr Chairperson, may have a variety of meanings but all of them amount to the following - control, rule over, command, dictate, call the shots, lay down the law, be in the saddle, wear the crown, etc. In 1986 the situation in Ndantsane simply did not lend itself to be put in any of these categories by 228 members of the Ciskei Police Force and Defence Force. In German there is an expression "Traum Wirklichkeit", "dream and reality", which can be applied to many of the plans and tasks contained in the document under reference. At first sight the plans look impressive, I admit, on analysis they become words expressing a wish to do something to curb a deteriorating security situation. Then I give in the document which will be made available to you, some other examples of the objectives to be pursued.
The important one is the question put to me by the TRC and that concerns the words, to neutralise/ eliminate enemy leaders and the influence which they exercised. I have been asked to explain this and the meaning of this.
To achieve this objective in the document the following actions are proposed. I quote -
"Deceptive operations; payment for information R10 000.
Exploiting differences among the enemy; harassment actions; smash and grab actions; turn actions..."
I don't know what that is,
"...legal steps; arrests and prosecutions. Identifying the weak points and vulnerabilities of enemy leaders; banning and detention without trial".
These tasks are then entrusted to the South African Police, the South African Defence Force and the Department of Justice.
Under the heading Special remarks or guidelines it is stated-
"Linkage with the Security Forces is to be avoided; isolation in respect of contact with society is essential; judicial authority for South African Police and Minister for detention without trial is required; respectively 90 days and 180 days is requested urgently. (Amendments of the Public Safety Act".
It is fairly obvious Sir, Mr Chairperson, that the neutralisation/elimination of enemy leaders is to be brought about by detention without trial because the means to achieve this objective is clearly spelt out, namely the need to amend the Public Safety Act, to give the South African Police and Minister the power to detain persons without trial for 90 or 180 days.
I realise that the TRC is confronted by a dilemma in having to interpret the meaning or import of various words and phrases used in decisions of the Security Council dealing with action against terrorists. A variety of words were used, "elimineer" - eliminate; "neutraliseer" - neutralise; "uitwis" - obliterate or wipe out; "vernietig" - destroy; "opspoor en vernietig" - track down and destroy; "hou vas, breek" - break their grip; "bekamp" - fight against, curb, control; "stuit" -arrest, stem; "uit die saamelewing verwyder" - remove from society; "permanent uit die saamelewing verwyder" -remove permanently from society.
The context in which these words or phrases were used is important to determine the meaning. If the words neutralise, eliminate were used in reference to hot-pursuit, cross-border action or terrorist bases in neighbouring countries then obviously neutralise, eliminate would include the killing of the terrorists.
If the phrase neutralise, eliminate was used in respect of actions inside the country then neutralisation, elimination can indeed mean detention without trial. Removing from a person permanently from society can indeed mean detaining that person indefinitely.
The Deputy Attorney-General of Gauteng is reported to have said in the High Court on 6 October 1997, that's a few days ago, that the convicted murderer, Ben du Toit, should be permanently removed from society. As the death penalty does not apply in South Africa the Attorney General must have had in mind a prison sentence of long duration.
These words and phrases were part of the vocabulary commonly used throughout South Africa over many years, since the first murders and bomb attacks by terrorists commenced. The sentiments expressed in these words, and far more militant language were used in debates in Parliament, at public meetings, business lunches, Party conferences, social functions and in media reporting and editorial comment.
These words and phrases reflected the general reaction amongst the majority of white South Africans whenever a murder or bomb explosion by terrorists was announced. It was reasonable, therefore, that members of the security forces would have interpreted a phrase like wipe out the terrorists to include killing them, and unless the senior command structures of the security forces made sure that all ranks understood the distinction between a person who is directly engaged in the planning and execution of acts of violence threatening the lives of civilians on the one hand, and political opponents belonging to the same organisations as the terrorists on the other hand, lower ranks would probably not have made that distinction on their own. General Johan Coetzee, a former Commissioner of the South African Police, is reported to have said at a hearing of the TRC on 9 October that he had never sanctioned illegal Police activities. To plan and execute the killing of a political opponent of the government would certainly constitute an illegal activity. What is of importance in General Coetzee's statement is that he did not interpret any State Security Council decisions as a licence to kill political opponents, because if he did not issue such instructions he could not have got them from the - or rather it is indicative that he did not get them from the State Security Council.
A number of ex-members of the South African Police have, however, testified at other hearings that they received clearance for killing political opponents from their seniors. They said that they sincerely believed that such orders had come from the top, or that the top must have been aware of their actions, or at least acquiesced in their actions. The top included the Chief of Police, in certain cases the Minister of Police, and in some cases even the State Security Council and the Cabinet. I would, myself, be interested to receive a clarification of this concept from the top.
When I visited Mr Piet du Plessis in prison in Pretoria Mr Eugene de Kock's cell was opposite Mr du Plessis' cell and he used to make tea for us, and I had the opportunity to have lengthy discussions with him, and in the presence of Mr du Plessis he said to me that he once had an order to plant false dollar notes and diamonds on Mr du Plessis when he was still a minister. I then asked him, who gave you that order? And he said from the top. Neither Mr du Plessis or I have succeeded in finding out what that top means. We would very, very much like to know that.
I was on the hit list of both the Conservative Party, or members of the Conservative Party, and members of the ANC according to evidence given in the courts of this country. I think I would also like to know who gave those orders. But let us leave that aside for the moment.
I have to point out that the State Security Council, although it was established by an Act of Parliament only had an advisory function. The Prime Minister, and later the State President submitted all the more important proposals and decisions to the Cabinet meeting which followed the relevant State Security Council meeting. I am not aware of any State Security Council decision of substance which was not submitted to the Cabinet for approval and discussion. In my opinion the State Security Council could not take illegal decisions because as a body it was not entrusted with executive powers.
Specific tasks were allocated to specific ministers or general tasks were allocated to all the ministers, but always subject to the applicable legislative powers exercised by individual ministers and/or heads of their departments. If an individual minister felt that he was given an assignment in contravention of the provisions of any Act of Parliament, then it was the responsibility of that minister to raise the matter in the Cabinet or to take it up with the State President. In terms of the Republic of South African Constitution Act no.110 of 1983 the State President and all Cabinet ministers were required to make and subscribe an oath of office to respect and uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic of South Africa.
I can assure the TRC that I did not approve and would not have approved of any action which authorised the killing of political opponents of the government. Quite apart from the moral aspect of such a decision the Department of Foreign Affairs and I had to bear the brunt of international reaction to the death of persons like Steve Biko and all the others. Four of the five Directors General of Foreign Affairs who served under me are still alive, they were also members of the State Security Council, they attended more meetings of the Council than I did due to my frequent visits abroad, they will certainly be willing to testify before the TRC on the stand they and I took in respect of actions and events which stirred up world reaction against South Africa.
But I will go further today and say, that all my colleagues in the State Security Council, and in the Cabinet and in Parliament, and there are records of Parliament, are equally acquainted with the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and myself, on events which damaged our image abroad.
I say this here today to pay tribute to the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs who fought a lonely battle out in the corners of the world to curb our growing isolation and to avert the imposition of economic sanctions. They never received medals in grand parades, they just suffered quietly and endlessly, their story remains to be told.
The State Security Council, as well as the Cabinet and for that matter Parliament, operated in an atmosphere of tension and global isolation. It was believed that the ANC, the PAC and later the UDF would not be satisfied with any constitutional arrangements which did not unequivocally ensure universal suffrage. Universal suffrage was anathema not only to the National Party, but to the vast majority of the white voters and their institutions and even to a sizeable number of brown South Africans and citizens of Indian origin. Without expressing myself on the merits of the causes of the two sides it was a fact that the leaders on both sides were precluded from meeting and discussing a peaceful way out of the deadlock because each side rejected the political stand of the other out-of-hand and in principle. Each side believed it had the power and the means to sustain the struggle. On the part of the government the resolve to halt the enemy was real. In Angola where the enemy was identifiable successes were achieved. In South Africa we were fighting a losing battle, but no-one in government would admit it. I was certainly not lauded when I said at that international conference in Cape Town, that South Africa would have a black president.
The point I want to emphasise Mr President, is that neither the State Security Council, nor the Cabinet was a sinister structure, divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented. I want to emphasise the words divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented.
I cannot describe the state of affairs more aptly than Dr Nico Horan, a well-known church leader of Windhoek. In the column "Godsdiens aktueel" - religion topical, in Beeld of 2 October 1997, he described the relationship between the Afrikaans churches and the government as follows. I now quote Dr Horan -
"It is like someone who has been caught with his neighbour's wife, he does not confess his adultery but he does admit I got too close to her".
Dr Horan suggests that the churches ought to confess that they believed in apartheid from early times, long before the State made it a policy, apartheid had been practised in the churches. When the NP came to power the churches enthusiastically co-operated. The churches directed the coloured people to take their seats in the back of the church. Later they were driven out of the church. The churches assisted eagerly in the passing of apartheid legislation to deprive people of their vote. I agree with Dr Horan.
I have noticed that the Western and Southern Cape Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church decided recently to submit a presentation to the TRC in which the church will acknowledged inter alia the wrongs of the past. I appeal to the other synods of the church, as well as to the other Afrikaans churches to do the same. Confessing a sin and experiencing remorse for wrongs which one committed have a salutary healing effect on the individual and on a people. This is essentially a mental and spiritual venture. Entering into it cannot be made conditional on others doing the same. It does not work on the basis of a quid pro quo, it loses its efficacy the moment we say, yes, we confess, we know that we sinned but the ANC and the PAC and others also committed hideous transgressions, we will confess if they confess. In the realm of confession there is no room for negotiations or striking deals. It is a lonely cleansing process of the heart and the mind, and that is what Dr Nico Horan would wish us to do.
Mr Chairperson, although I warned the whites of this country many years ago that they should change; although I urged the NP Government in 1970 to subscribe to the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights; although I stated in 1974 at the United Nations that I could not defend apartheid; although I said in 1986 that South Africa would have a black president and that I would be willing to serve under him; although all this I realised that I could have done more to turn the tide of apartheid earlier.
I acknowledge that I could have done more in the State Security Council, in the Cabinet and in Parliament to ensure that political opponents were not killed or tortured by government institutions. I could have and should have done more to find out whether the accusations that government institutions were killing and torturing political opponents were true. Not one of us in the former government can say today that there were no suspicions on our part that members of the South African Police were engaged in irregular activities. The decisive question is not whether we as a Cabinet approved the killing of a specific political opponent, we did not do so. The question is whether we should have done more to ensure that it did not happen. I deeply regret this omission. May God forgive me.
In my public career I said many controversial things, I did not do it simply to be different. I had been a career diplomat for 18 years when I entered politics in 1970. I was a member of our legal team at the World Court where for more than five years we fought the world unremittingly. There I experienced that you gain nothing by winning the legal battle if you lose the moral battle. We could not win the political struggle, not against the world and not against the ANC because the policy of the National Party had no moral basis.
The whites of our country can now, for the first time, make their contribution without feelings of guilt. President Mandela made it clear that he welcomes and appreciates the contributions of the whites. Of course the levels of crime and violence are horrific. Of course things are said by individual members of the ANC that are distressing, but then it is the duty of all, black and white, brown and Asian, to enter into debate with each other and analyse our clashing standpoints within the framework of free speech and association and that we can now do today without the contamination of racial prejudices. We can debate on policy and premises that are no longer race or colour bound.
And we, the whites, should not lose perspective. There was a time when an NP minister said in public that Steve Biko's gruesome death left him cold. There was a time when it was seriously considered in the inner circles of the Party, that's the National Party, to clamp down on the so-called Oppenheimer Empire, when the Senate was packed to make the law stripping coloureds of their right to vote; when people of colour were reclassified in the most disgusting way to strip them of their fundamental rights; when a white man and a coloured or black woman that had sexual intercourse were sent to jail like criminals while a white man could cheat his wife every evening with another white woman without the law laying a single finger on them; when a black man went to the cafe around the corner without his pass to buy cigarettes for his "baas" was arrested, locked up and punished in court like a criminal; when a black professor of a university near the Limpopo river was travelling to Cape Town could not overnight in any hotel along the long way he had to travel; when a coloured person who had a doctorate, who spoke and wrote poetry in Afrikaans and was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church could not dine in a restaurant with fellow Afrikaners; when Indians were deprived of their property in cities and towns and were moved to the outskirts; when as a member of Parliament I had to battle for six months to a year to get a telephone for a voter when a voter who wanted to open a cafe had to obtain approval from 26 official institutions; when no farmer could sell his goods along the roadside - I do not want to create the impression that whites have to reproach themselves endlessly and condemn themselves to sit in sackcloth and ashes until Doomsday, we the whites, including the Afrikaner, in particular the Afrikaner, now have a more important role to play than ever before. Genuine remorse about the repressive past which we sustained and supported, will liberate us to play that role.
The country's gross domestic product, this country's, is equal to that of the 42 countries south of the Sahara. We have at our disposal modern institutions in almost every sphere of life. General Obasanja, to whom I've referred earlier, told me after his first visit to South Africa, and that was before the EPG visit, he said to me, I am suffering from shock, I did not know that there exists on our continent such a paradise. Africa can be proud of you. There is no other place on this continent like this one. We must preserve this country as a model for Africa. You are our hope for survival.
The whites and also the Afrikaner are necessary, together with all the other communities to ensure that this country survives and prospers. We have to get the past behind us. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki is right when he says a new Great Trek awaits us. I have hope for this country. I believe that new political movements will come into being where skin colour will play no role and where South Africans will be bound together by the principles which they support, only then will the liberation process of this country be completed.
Mr Chairperson I want to thank you and your fellow Commissioners for your patience and for the time given me to deliver this presentation.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I have to take some time to get my breath back because the last part of your presentation is a deeply moving one. Thank you very much. I am sure my colleagues and I will be wanting to say a great deal more than this in response to a contribution that I hope will reverberate in our country for the purpose of the healing of this country. I just want to say in a preliminary way thank you very, very much indeed for having made this contribution. Thank you for what you have done in the past for our country. Now I hand you over to - I don't know what they are saying, I mean they are sort-of sending secret signals which are a little - Glen Goosen please.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson thank you very much. Mr Botha from the side of the group who have been preparing some questions, some additional questions to direct to you, and I think possibly following on from the Chairperson's remarks, our appreciation for the detail with which you answered the questions that were originally sent to you. It certainly makes our task a bit easier.
I obviously do have the difficulty, given the statements that you have just made in the concluding part of your address to unfortunately bring you back to some of the earlier parts and deal in a sense with more mundane questions in relation to that, and you will forgive me for that.
The impression one gets in reading through the initial part of your submission and listening to it is that certainly in respect of actions which impacted upon the activities of the Department of Foreign Affairs and your Ministry in particular, that crucial decisions were being taken, policy decisions, or that policies were being implemented by the security forces without your knowledge, without you being consulted and without any regard to the consequences that such actions would have on the efforts made by the Department of Foreign Affairs in your Ministry in that regard.
And there is a sense when reading your submission that you, despite the fact that you were a senior member of Cabinet, that you were not a player in regard to those issues, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way at all, but that there were other Cabinet Ministers who were taking decisions without reference to you whatsoever. Would that be an accurate reflection of the dilemma that you faced?
MR R F BOTHA: It is not all that simple. First of all the TRC quoted that passage to me where it was policy that Foreign Affairs and other departments, as I indicated in my response, should as far as possible be consulted. Then there's a proviso, except when immediate action was required. In other words, when immediate action was required then the security forces need not, need not consult.
The fact of the matter is that there is a Defence Act, there's a Police Act, which gives certain powers, I don't know the Acts so well myself, but they do give powers to the Chief of the Defence Force; the Constitution gives certain powers to the Head of State when it comes to defence matters, and as I also indicated, in all fairness to the Defence Force they saw it as their task to guard the borders, the territorial integrity of the country, while Foreign Affairs had a different style, culture and objective.
And I do not - yes you're right, I believe that not only the Defence Force, but a vast number of South Africans, due to this country's relative isolation, never really appreciated the implications of full-scale sanctions. I did. And that's why I made it my business, I knew that in the case of the former Rhodesia/Zimbabwe after the donor conferences and when the flags were lowered and the euphoria was over the markets that that country lost under Ian Smith were never regained, never. And the promises which the donors made were not fulfilled. And I saw clearly that if this country was going to be crippled economically it would be extremely difficult for us to revive any sort of economic growth because in a dramatic monumental change such as the one that we went through, and had to go through, you need a strong economic base to support it. That's why the, I think the Chinese of the People's Republic of China is doing it differently from the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union you had a dramatic constitutional change, but a very thin economic basis. In the People's Republic of China they first built up their economy and maybe then will change their constitution into a more democratic system.
But be that as it may I think we must keep in mind here that the Defence Force also had the rule, and for that matter the Police, but mostly the Defence Force, it was said in Afrikaans "moet weet", in other words certain actions were regarded of such a sensitive nature that only those few who are required to implement the action "moet weet daarvan", must be informed of it. And that is also not something you know restricted to our Defence Force. There is quite a brotherhood across the world amongst police forces and amongst defence forces, it's extremely interesting how after a war erstwhile enemies dine and wine together, but that's a different matter.
The point I want to make in response to your question, I think it would be unfair to imply that they did not want to consult with us. The fact of the matter it is true that I think my department and I were generally considered to be obstructionists, that we might try to block a given activity because of our fear for the outside world. I was called once by one of my colleagues, yes you are indeed the Foreign Minister, meaning I am the Minister for foreigners. But be that as it may, you see the Foreign Minister of South Africa in those days if he had any ambition to become the Prime Minister or President then he should have resigned his Foreign Minister portfolio immediately because you could not follow the two, you could not pursue the two. You could not try to become popular in terms of the caucus and at the same time do your job as Foreign Minister, that is clear.
But I want to really again, if I may Mr Chairperson, emphasise as I have done here with respect to the use of those phrases and words, I am not saying this in a critical sense but those were the phrases used at every National Party conference. A National Party conference had an agenda, we can dig it up for you. Far worse things were demanded of the government at these conferences. What I am trying to say there will never be an end to trying to find the root of this thing.
It was - I attended a business lunch in Johannesburg where I suggested many years ago to a number of well-to-do companies, I said, I asked them how many blacks have you got on your boards and not one of them had any. And then I didn't dictate, I didn't prescribe, I just said gentlemen with a view to the future don't you think it might be a good thing to start recruiting some black people to serve on your boards so that they can get training, training in business, in business management etc? And then one stood up and said to me, look you in the government will not be allowed to come and dictate to us in this country, this is the private sector not your government, we will appoint the people we consider to be necessary to make profits in our....
I am trying to answer your question really as best as I can, but at the same time want to warn that to take some of these lines and inscriptions, why not publish all of it, publish the lot so that the public, the newspapers, everyone can see the Cabinet minutes, the - why not, secrecy is now being created and I want to say to my friends in the TRC be careful not to lift a sentence out of context because you were not there, you were not at that meeting.
MR GOOSEN: Mr Botha perhaps I am going to come back to the question of the use of the words elimineer and neutraliseer at a slightly later point. But just to go back to the first part of your submission, you don't indicate in your submission whether you are of the view that the Minister of Defence and/or Mr Botha were aware, prior to launching the 19 May raids in relation to the EPG, whether they were in fact were - or is it your view that those raids were launched with their knowledge in the first place; and secondly whether those raids were launched deliberately to scupper the EPG efforts?
MR R F BOTHA: I don't know.
MR GOOSEN: On either of those questions you don't know?
MR R F BOTHA: No I don't know, I have my suspicions, but a suspicion is not a fact.
MR GOOSEN: Did you make enquiries in that regard as to what the reason for those raids were?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes of course I did, and I was told that they had - I've explained this to you here, I wish to draw your attention to documents I worked two weeks on which you ought to read, really with respect, and I did this out of respect for the TRC ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: I certainly did read them and I don't mean any disrespect to your documents, but the fact of the matter is the impression from your document, I mean we can - on page 14 you say -
"It's the prerogative of the Chief of the South African Defence Force to deal with military operations".
MR R F BOTHA: Of course it is.
MR GOOSEN: I accept that. Was it within the Chief of the South African Defence Force to order simultaneous air strikes on three capitals, it's never been done before, never done subsequently at precisely the time ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: The law allows him to do so ...(intervention)
MR GOOSEN: .... of the EPG ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson the - I'm speaking about the law and that's a law man, now what more can I do?
CHAIRPERSON: What I think I mean is the line that is being pursued is that you have a body that is in the country, and the substance of your presentation is that there was the possibility of a breakthrough in the way that you would have wanted it to be happening, and then it seems sort-of out of the blue something happens which clearly, and you yourself say so, it is one act too many to upset the international community. And I think what Glen is trying to find out is, whether the three strike, I mean the strike on three Commonwealth, Commonwealth capitals was a deliberate act seen as having the consequence of going to subvert the EPG and whatever it might in fact have achieved.
MR R F BOTHA: Mr Chairperson I think I have largely responded to it in my reply in the documentation submitted. I will read it again where I deal with this matter, where General Obasanja now and I are taking leave of each other.
"But in the early morning of 18 May 1986 the South African security forces launched attacks on Harare, Lusaka and Gaberone, each was a Commonwealth capital which the EPG had recently visited in the course of their search for a South African solution".
Then I say,
"If one day we meet again he will probably tell me it was just one provocation too much".
I say, I said to myself,
"If so I will understand him, I felt very much the same".
On the other hand the EPG stated, and it was published in our press, that the raids were not the reason for the decision to discontinue the discussions. And then later on I categorically stated, no, we were not consulted, if we were consulted in view of our - the importance we attached we would strongly have opposed. These are the only facts I know of. I cannot speculate on the possible motives.
I did enquire, of course I did enquire and I was told that there was an urgent need to stop an imminent attack from ANC activists or operatives from the three capitals, they were going to move southward and it was the duty of the Defence Force in terms of their tactics, in terms of their duty towards the country to stop these activists there and then and to prevent them from crossing the border and making other arrangements that would have resulted in the killing of South African civilians.
Now my department, the Department of Foreign Affairs had an overseas duty, three-quarters of the staff working for Foreign Affairs, five-sixths were abroad, I did not have a police service in this country or a defence force, I did not sit in at Chiefs of staff meetings, I sat with my ambassadors and people, I cannot say what went on in the minds of others. For that purpose I respectfully suggest that you ask the people who authorised the raids to explain that. I asked them about it as I said, and they gave me this explanation.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Dumisa Ntsebeza.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chairperson. Perhaps I need to say to you Mr Botha that you must take it as given, that there has been preparatory work for this session. That inasmuch as you spent two weeks to prepare for it those people across there have spent as much time to prepare for these hearings ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: I accept that.
MR NTSEBEZA: And that maybe we will get sooner to the end in resolving the questions that we must put if we, (a) answer the questions put, because there's a purpose for the questions; and be more direct to the questions, I mean in our answers.
We have heard you, I mean we have spent an hour listening to you, more than an hour and we accept your explanations, but we have a far more important duty than just to sit here accept a submission and say thank you to you. We have a task which goes far beyond just listening. We need to be able to say we are satisfied that what the words on paper say mean exactly what they say and I would rather ask you, appeal to you, that you should bear with those who put questions to you, that it's not an idle exercise. It's not an exercise that is intended to irritate you. It may be probing, it may be robust, but it is intended for you to be able to say I went to the Commission, I subjected myself even to their most probing questions, but I stood for what I believed in. So I think it is against that background that I think you should understand why they put the questions that they do. It's not as though they don't understand what you are saying (...indistinct).
I think mine is simply to say maybe now that you possibly understand what I have indicated that you should respond to their questions and try and reply to them to the best of your ability maybe by crisp short replies to questions that they put.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson. Mr Botha can I just clarify your evidence in this one. You indicated that you have suspicions that Mr Botha and Mr Malan knew about the raids prior to them being launched but you have no facts on which you can state that that is the case, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, yes.
MR GOOSEN: Okay. Mr Botha I am going to go through a few matters by way of clarification on your submission. You indicated in your, in the submission in respect of the military support or any military intervention in the former Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, that you have no, that you are not aware of any State Security Council decision in that regard. Part of the bundle of documents which were sent to you was a State Security Council meeting of the 13th of August 1979 where General Malan assures the State Security Council under an item headed "Assistance and co-operation Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. Purely defence force operations are what are contemplated". In addition there is a document that was also sent, the 26th of March 1979 which refers to "Military operations" and "Clandestine operations obviously had to continue". It's in the light of that, in preparing your submission, I assume that you had regard to those, and did you take those into account when you indicated that you didn't have knowledge of the State Security Council considering and/or authorising military interventions in the former Zimbabwe/Rhodesia?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes Mr Chairperson. As I say again I said I am not aware of any decision of the State Security Council to interfere militarily in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia in 1979 or subsequently in the sense that we would send troops to participate in the conflict. That means the Security Council did not take a decision that a certain South African regiment or battalion in South African uniforms with South African flags, that is what is said here, and that is correct. But then I made it clear in the rest of my response that it is obvious that South Africans were being integrated in the Rhodesian forces and were fighting, or rather a part of the Rhodesian forces and the British government knew it and Mr Mugabe knew it. The only South African unit that was there as a unit in South African uniform was at Beitbridge and he objected to it and we withdrew that unit. But for the rest I do not know how many, but I know there were South African troops and they were integrated.
Now from a defence force point of view I take it, that from their point of view it's still their troops, but from the point of view of linking it, it is a bit more difficult if you are fighting under Rhodesian commanders or part of Rhodesian units in their uniforms but you come from South Africa. I take it this is what was meant by it.
CHAIRPERSON: Dr Boraine.
DR BORAINE: Mr Botha I hesitate to raise this because you haven't got it in front of you, I only received this fax yesterday, but in order to try and understand how decisions are taken and so on, this is a fax from Kevin Woods who is in the Chikurubi Maximum Prison and I think most of us have been contacted by him and his colleagues who were tried in Zimbabwe, found guilty, sentenced to death I think but then that was commuted to life imprisonment, we've been dealing with them, as many of the people have, probably including yourself, on compassionate grounds, and saying that in fairness if the orders originated from South Africa they should have the same chance of applying for amnesty as anyone else in a South African prison because it seems that they do have at least dual citizenship. They did have South African passports as well as Zimbabwean or Rhodesian passports. Now in this, where he tells me he has applied for amnesty and indicates that probably the Zimbabwean government would not recognise the decision of this TRC, nevertheless because of his family and his friends he wants to come clean. He wants to say this is what I did, this is why I did it and so on. And he says whilst going, and I am quoting now -
"Whilst going through some letters recently I came across one from Pik Botha...."
and I mean no disrespect, I am just quoting directly from that,
"....dated 25 July 1996".
and I don't expect you to remember this, I mean you write many letters. In this letter he makes direct reference to the "acts for which we are jailed as having been...."
and then he quotes you as saying -
"...official and authorised".
He is now - I immediately faxed him and said that I'd be grateful if he could send me a copy of that letter and he has promised to do so.
I think that this is the point that we have found so difficult to establish. For example nearby capitals are bombed, is it not reasonable to assume, at least to assume, that an act of such seriousness against a background of the work that you were doing and others probably, that it was at least reasonable to assume that one no Chief of the Defence Force could act like that without consultation, and that the consultation would reasonably have to be with the Head of State, if not with the Cabinet? Now it clearly wasn't discussed in Cabinet, it wasn't discussed in the State Security Council. But acts like these where people went into Zimbabwe to kill, because that's what they did, are now described, allegedly, in a letter as "official and authorised". Now of course what I want to know and the Commission wants to know, "official" in what sense? "Authorised" by whom, because the chain of command for us is very important?
We actually think that the security forces have a point when they constantly say they feel that they have been left holding the bag and the politicians have got off very lightly, and I quote them, and they say this many times to us, as you know. So by "official" and "authorised" a group of people going into a neighbouring country to destabilise, to kill, being found out, found guilty in a court of law, sentenced to death, serious stuff, what does that mean?
MR R F BOTHA: In practice when South African troops were captured and then taken prisoner I had to try and obtain their release which sometimes took a long time. In the case of Angola I succeeded twice, in the first instance to get those first seven troops out many years ago after our entering Angola, that was in 1976, '75. Odile Harrington was also one in Zimbabwe, we obtained her release, there were others from Zimbabwe, we obtained their release and then there was this group. I share your view for reasons of compassion I did my utmost to try and obtain their release or a further remission in their sentences over many years, over many years. Because the mother of Mr Woods is getting on in years now and I think it is a great wish on her part to see her son before she dies.
I cannot today here disclose all the methods that we've used already and what has already happened and who phoned whom about this matter, but I can assure you I've really done my best even after I was no longer Foreign Minister because you quote a date there, 19...?
DR BORAINE: The date of your letter, allegedly, according to Kevin Woods is 25th of July 1996.
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, it's quite correct, quite correct. He sent me, and they allowed it to pass through prison, a letter, and I knew that what I would be sending him would be read, so I purposely said of them that what they did was "authorised" so that when the Zimbabwean authorities read it I hopefully thought they would have a little bit of extra sympathy for them and know it here is a Minister from South Africa who confirms it. I am sure that was the case. I am sure on the basis of the evidence that came out they must have been, either in the employment of the defence force or somebody connected to the defence force must have given them that job to do. That's why I inserted those words.
DR BORAINE: In other words this was official and authorised ...(intervention)
MR R F BOTHA: Well that was my interpretation.
DR BORAINE: Ja.
MR R F BOTHA: They went there, they planted a bomb, you can correct me if I am wrong, I think the bomb was aimed at the ANC or their offices but a Zimbabwe citizen got killed and the Zimbabwe government so far at one stage, we must be careful here, according to the Zimbabwean government they are all Zimbabweans but they have relatives of wives or children, family here, which Mr Mugabe understands, he understands it, he's very sympathetic, but on the other hand it's his citizens in a certain way. So this puts him in a very difficult position. If they were South Africans it might have been easier for the President of Zimbabwe to act here, but I don't want to say too much here. I know you will agree with me and I appreciate your interest, I thank you for it, I think we are working here for exactly the same purpose.
DR BORAINE: I certainly wouldn't want in any way to jeopardise any chances that they may have of release. Just in conclusion what I am really getting at is that whether it has been acknowledged in public before or not this was an official and authorised act but never discussed in your presence in the Cabinet or the State Security Council?
MR R F BOTHA: No an incident of this nature would not have, this is perhaps an example of the "moet weet", you can imagine - and please I speak under correction, I do not have the facts, I made the deduction on the basis of the evidence that was led during the court case in Zimbabwe of these people, I made that deduction. And I did discuss, I think, on one or two occasions the matter with my colleague of the defence force and I am on thin ice here when I must tell you I know for sure, I don't know for sure. All I know is that I was trying to get them out because of the appeals of their family here in South Africa and I wrote a letter which I considered that if the Zimbabwe authorities read my letter they would react sympathetically towards the prisoners.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Richard.
MR LYSTER: Thank you. Mr Botha the impression that one gets from your answer and from other answers that you have given, and from answers that have been given by other people who have appeared in similar forums as you are now appearing, is that you and they are not absolutely sure who in fact was running the country at that time or who was responsible for making vitally important decisions about this country and what it did and how it was perceived abroad. If one thinks of the example you have just given of this military incursion into Zimbabwe; if you think of the example that was given earlier on about the Seychelles and the clear involvement there of the National Intelligence Service as well as of Military Intelligence in that debacle and yet nobody in the State Security Council and Cabinet knew about it; if you think of the various projects of the Directorate of Special Tasks of Military Intelligence; the support to Renamo in Mozambique after the Nkomati Accord, there was evidence given about that last week by Mr Williamson in Cape Town that there was substantial assistance to Renamo after Nkomati; the support to Angola, to Unita in Angola; the support to the Lesotho Liberation Army where Military Intelligence set up a huge training camp in Natal where it trained over a thousand people to destabilise and overthrow the government of Lesotho. Another Directorate with Special Tasks operation was Operation Marion internally where people were trained by special forces to carry out certain actions in Natal. And one listens to all this evidence and it certainly leaves me with the impression that there were two parallel systems of government going on in this country, that there was the Cabinet and the State Security Council and that there was the military, there were special forces, there was a Directorate of Special Tasks, there was this shadowy - the highest possible level to which many people have referred and we just get the general impression, or certainly I do, is that the left hand very often didn't know what the right hand was doing, and that decisions, vital decisions were taken about this country, vital decisions were being taken not by the people who should have been taking those decisions. And that there were in effect two or more systems of government that were taking place at the same time. Do you want to comment on that?
MR R F BOTHA: I won't blame you for gaining that impression if you concentrate on the documentation of the State Security Council. The Cabinet was governing the country, there is not the slightest doubt about it. The decisions in respect of finance, economics, transport, housing, agriculture were far more important from time-to-time than these decisions. You had a budget, so many billion and then go and check it, so many billion would go into education, housing, health services etc, I need not tell you that. Now you have been concentrating it seems to me, very much, and I don't blame you, on the State Security Council documents, all the decisions were taken to Cabinet. You are not dealing with State Security Council decisions, you are dealing with Cabinet decisions, Cabinet, it can be proved not only factually but that is the constitutional position. So the Cabinet was governing. The State Security Council was a security committee. There was an economic committee of Cabinet; a constitutional committee of Cabinet; a welfare something, "maatskaplik" in Afrikaans, committee, and then security. And security was one of four entrusted to the Security Council and within the Security Council, according to the law that created it, certain Ministers were members and the Head of State, the President, the Prime Minister could coopt others, except he could not coopt deputy ministers, only ministers or certain heads of department.
And I sincerely believe that too much power is attributed to the State Security Council. The power was given by law to the Minister. The Minister of Defence is without any power. The State Security Council can't empower him, he is without any power unless a law of Parliament gives him that power. The same applies to the Minister of Police. These are the facts.
But now as I said if you were inundated with committees, with regional committees and the State Security Council had all these other departments in - we spent many, many times on identifying for instance that in a certain black township we get a call that there is only one tap of the water supply has broken and now it will be easier for the enemy to organise a demonstration, now can't we quickly put in pipes of water, you see. Overall in terms of a conference that the Minister of Finance must attend in Frankfurt tomorrow night where 80 German bankers will demand from us certain assurances regarding certain matters otherwise they don't roll over a six billion loan which can sink the country, against those decisions, with respect, paying ten thousand for informants by the Security Council, with respect Mr Chairperson. If there was no State Security Council you would have had more-or-less the same situation in this country.
And the Cabinet was the government, and the Cabinet had to report to the caucus, the caucus of the National Party had quite a lot of power, there is no question about it. Conferences, annual conferences of the party in the various provinces, they had power. They could make or break you. They elected the leaders or kicked them out. And the caucus elected the Head of State. That's where the power was.
But within the State Security Council were six, seven officials of government departments, the President, and with the duty that he must report to the Cabinet and that the Cabinet must then subscribe to the State Security Council decisions. I don't blame you for that impression, I don't blame you for that impression because the things that were newsworthy would be the Seychelles, for weeks on end it was Seychelles. An attack of that nature, blood that has flowed and then reactions at the United Nations, and this was what bothered me. If I then go to Upington or Pofadder and hold there a meeting in the midst of the Seychelles debacle then very few people at that meeting in question time would even refer to it, they would like to know from me when is the government going to put in that water pipe from the south because their cattle die. And people would say they need assistance for food for their sheep. If I tried to discuss with them the Seychelles there is a mask coming down, they were not interested.
CHAIRPERSON: Let me just give an opportunity to one or two other people who are I think wanting to follow-up. Yasmin Sooka and then Wynand Malan.
MS SOOKA: Mr Botha I think I am reminded of what you quote of
the Eminent Persons Group at page 6 of your submission when you
say that the South African government has perfected a specialised
political vocabulary which was saying one thing means quite
another, and I am struck as you talk about the separation that you
are making between the politicians on the one hand and the role and
activities of the military and the police. And I think the question
that we have to answer next year, which we have to put in the public
arena is, where does the buck stop? Where does political
accountability lie for the killings that have taken place both inside
our country and outside of our country? On page 43 of your own
submission you talk about the suspicions that you had. On page 41
you say - "I did not approve, would not have approved or
authorised the killing of political opponents of the government".
yet in the same breath you say Cabinet must take responsibility. Now I think we are all confused, who is responsible for the killings that took place the charge of which is our - the responsibility of our Commission to investigate and establish what happened in terms of gross human rights violations? And I think we are getting rather tired of the rhetoric. Forgive me for being blunt because you end so nicely by apologising, but I am confused and I would like to know where do we say the blame lies in the chain of command for the killings that took place? Please help me.
CHAIRPERSON: Wynand Malan.
MR MALAN: Chairperson I have less of a problem I think than Yasmin Sooka, but Mr Botha knows that I also come with a bit of a baggage to this Commission. I left the National Party at the end of '86, beginning of '87, advancing as my primary reason what I perceived to be license to the security establishment. You did say in your evidence this morning when Cabinet and the State Security Council are not the sinister organisations, you didn't expand on that. You also expanded fairly at length on the question of power when you referred to the caucus and to congresses and so on, but you ended that statement by saying that "the caucus elected the Head of State", and I am quoting you, "that is where the power was". Were you saying that the power was at the level of Head of State? That's question number one.
Then to sort of kick back adding on to the question of Yasmin, you see I also find it difficult to believe that things happened where people were assassinated, clearly also often in a planned manner or in similar ways and therefore co-ordinated in some way or another, I find it very difficult to believe that it would not have been sanctioned to certain people within the security establishment by at least a member or members of Cabinet. I find it very difficult to understand that.
Alternatively that a member or members acted as a shield between whoever was applying this unwritten or implied policy or whatever it was and their being found out. Now I really implore you to - you did say in your submission, I read it, responsibility lies with Cabinet, none of you can walk away from the position of saying you should not have done more. You should have questioned which you did not. And by omission you are responsible. I think that's how I read your presentation.
But there is something more than that. I mean either there was no nexus with any politician or there was a nexus, either as a shield or commissioning to at least some politicians, if not the whole of Cabinet, and I think I made it clear, I, with my baggage, find it very difficult to accept that the whole of Cabinet would have commissioned and sanctioned and shielded such a policy, something which in any event for yourself you have denied in your presentation. Please help me also in terms of saying something about the power.
CHAIRPERSON: Please switch on.....
MR R F BOTHA: ...the power of the government derived from the constitution and I think it is obvious if you look at the previous constitution you will find in that constitution that much power, too much in my opinion, was given to the Head of State. The convention was I remember years ago when we were divided in the Cabinet almost 50/50 on the issue of whether we should attack a place in Angola called Kasinga. I said no the UN was going to give us a lot of trouble. The Minister of Defence, who was then Mr P W Botha said it must be done because it had something to do with the movements of the moon because parachute troops had to be dropped. We were divided 50/50. And then it was said, I was then a young minister, the Cabinet decision is the Prime Minister's decision and the Prime Minister's decision is the Cabinet's decision. And I think I am correct in saying this because he who can fire has the power. If a given minister did not agree when we have sat in Cabinet and I think it's very much the procedure in most of the Anglo-Saxon countries a matter is now on the agenda, you see here of the Security Council, then it goes to the Cabinet in a similar manner and it's discussed, every minister has a right to participate in the discussion, even if it's not your particular portfolio that is affected or your budget that is affected, and then the Chairperson is then the Prime Minister, now the State President, at the end I suppose he looks, listens and he watches all the time, no voting but he watches and he makes up his mind more-or-less well now what is the feeling there. But you would not always necessarily accept his interpretation of what the majority in the Cabinet feel. At a given stage the conversation would end, the Chairperson would make a summary and say I've listened to all of you, I've given you each a chance to express your views, I now summarise the Cabinet's decision, but in fact it's his decision. He culls from, he takes from inputs from the individual ministers, you can also not say a word, it's your right, you can just keep quiet, but he then sums up. He then sums up and says this is the Cabinet decision. It is noted like that, and that's it.
So technically speaking or rather in practice it would depend on very much on the personality of that person who sits in that chair, his style, the way he behaves and his personality and character. If you have a kind of Chairperson there that wants to listen extensively to his Cabinet Ministers you will have long, prolonged discussions, each one would be listened to and you would have a tendency to postpone the matter until the next Cabinet meeting. If you have a different kind of personality who takes decisions there and then, wants to see them implemented etc, then you have shorter Cabinet meetings, but it's still within the constitution.
MR MALAN: May I just put a brief follow-up to that, my question really relates to this, if the power vested with the Head of State, as I quoted you, not Cabinet at that level, you didn't quote Cabinet, you said the Head of State, let me phrase it differently, with Cabinet decisions, the President's decision being the Cabinet's decision, ever taken outside of Cabinet meetings? In other words in your experience were decisions overridden or matters not brought to the Cabinet which was decided at the level of the Head of State? And do you know whether other people were involved in that?
MR R F BOTHA: I can only speak from experience. What you might get is for instance that the British Foreign Minister would phone me here at 10 o'clock in the evening and say to me look can we send a British ship on its way to - what are those islands in South America - Maldives, to take in food and fuel? Now you can't wait for a Cabinet meeting for this kind of thing, I would then phone the President or Head of State, first of all I'll phone the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Transport, I'll check all the Ministers that might have a possible say in a ship that must come into a port, into a harbour etc, and phone all of them, then the President and I'd say look I've consulted colleague A, B, C, D, they have no objection or three of them are alright but D says he's worried about this, so I bring this to your attention. He will then consider it, give me an answer and we'll take a decision that way. We will then report to the next Cabinet meeting and say sorry gentlemen, there were not ladies then in the Cabinet, but sorry, time was too short and the decision was taken. I am really just trying to explain yes, depending on the need to take a decision, you sometimes had to go about executive, you are dealing with executive decisions.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. Can I get Glen to continue.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you Mr Chairperson I will try to follow on the panel's questions and see if I can rescue my original line of questioning.
Mr Botha I don't think that the question is intended to elicit a response at the level of a constitutional law outline of where power is and who can operate in Cabinet. Perhaps I can put it very bluntly and you can have a look at it from that point of view, we've had numerous hearings, people come forward, politicians, and say they never authorised anything unlawful. They didn't know about anything unlawful being authorised. And as far as they were concerned it was not policy to authorise unlawful actions. The substance of your submission is along similar lines. In your experience no unlawful actions authorised by State Security Council or the Cabinet and that you've indicated. We have operatives, police and military personnel, not just junior operatives but high-ranking members, brigadiers, colonels and so on who are applying for amnesty in droves indicating that they were acting in accordance with authority given to them. We have commissioners, former Commissioners of Police applying for amnesty, for unlawful actions authorised by, at least in one instance, by a Cabinet Minister and by the former Head of State. So clearly there were some unlawful actions that were authorised at that very highest level, former State President and Ministers of the Cabinet.
The question is how did that happen? Was it routine? And who was responsible for ensuring that that in fact occurred? Were all Cabinet Ministers, were all members of the State Security Council aware of it or were they not aware of it? And it's really a crisp question addressed to that issue that I am addressing to you.
MR R F BOTHA: I explained that if a Minister felt that an assignment given to him was unlawful either he then should accept responsibility for committing something illegal or unlawful or go and change his assignment. I have no evidence to indicate to me that on any occasion the Cabinet, who was the body that approved the State Security Council decisions, ever approved any unlawful act. It would in any case not have been recorded, in my opinion, if that was the case. And I would like to remind you that General Coetzee was a Commissioner of Police, according to his evidence, I wasn't here, but what I read in the papers was to the effect that he never gave unlawful instructions or illegal instructions to the police. I do not know whether colleagues acted illegally. That I can't tell you.
MR GOOSEN: No I accept that. General Coetzee may have stated one thing but there were other Commissioners of Police, General van der Merwe, for example, his evidence also stated something slightly different to that. But be that as it may.
In your experience was it Mr P W Botha's practice, following State Security Council meetings, before State Security Council meetings, prior to Cabinet meetings, after Cabinet meetings, whenever, to call individual Ministers in, or groups of Ministers in for that matter, in informal meetings where matters would have been discussed relating to the business of either State Security Council or Cabinet, in your experience?
MR R F BOTHA: That is, with respect, a practice all over the world where you have Cabinet.
MR GOOSEN: In - I take it that those, you would have been from time-to-time you too would have participated in such meetings?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes.
MR GOOSEN: The proceedings of those meetings would not be minuted, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: Correct, but at some stage I started to become suspicious that the conversations might be taped and from then onwards naturally I guarded my words. (Laughter)
MR GOOSEN: You were probably very wise. If it's reflected to you that a former Minister indicated that it was fairly routine that that should happen and that in at least one of those instances a decision was conveyed to that Minister that a certain unlawful action should be carried out, how would you respond to that?
MR R F BOTHA: If I am asked to commit it?
MR GOOSEN: If I had to tell you that a former Minister is on record with the TRC as indicating that such meetings were fairly routine and that in at least one of those instances what was conveyed to that Minister was that an unlawful action should be undertaken.
MR R F BOTHA: I don't know what I must comment on it beyond saying that a Minister should then take it up with the Head of State and confront him and say to him I am not prepared to commit something which will violate the oath that I have prescribed to.
MR GOOSEN: You indicate in your submission that you have suspicions that certain actions were unlawful actions were in fact being carried out by members of the security forces and you indicate that in the last portion of your submission. Do you have any suspicions that actions of an unlawful nature would have been authorised in informal meetings convened by the former President, Mr P W Botha?
MR R F BOTHA: I, Mr Chairperson, I am not prepared to conduct a conversation on the basis of suspicions. I have no evidence. I have no evidence whatsoever. When Franz Josef Strauss, the late Franz Josef Strauss was here he strongly advocated and told us in closed meetings you must release Mr Mandela as fast as possible. I then got Mr Franz Josef Strauss to convey that message to Mr P W Botha. The result of that was that we sent Mr Schlebusch to call in Germany with a letter saying to Kohl that maybe the government can decide parole conditions. Kohl wrote back and said forget it, Germany is not going to touch that at all. Now in a way that kind of conversation took place between me, the President and Schlebusch. We did not inform the other colleagues. In a way it is illegal because I can't, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, appoint a Parole Board. I can't make such an offer or even the President can't make such an offer, by law it is a given Minister, the man in charge of Correctional Services. So I respectfully submit that unless I am told, as I have done here now, to reveal the facts, now give me the facts and then I can make a judgement, but I appeal to you also don't put me in a position where without facts on a theoretical issue I must comment on sheer speculation.
MR GOOSEN: Alright, thank you Mr Botha I do appreciate the difficulty that you have. I won't pursue that.
Just to more specific matters the TRC has been informed that the bombing of the ANC offices in London was approved by government and we've also been informed, well one of the participants in that exercise has informed the TRC, is on record to the TRC, is indicating that the components for the manufacture of the bomb were in fact smuggled by the diplomatic bag to the South African Embassy in London. You were not aware of the plans to bomb the ANC offices in London prior to the bombing, is that correct?
MR R F BOTHA: That is not only correct, but may I actually thank Mr Goosen for raising this, that kind of thing upset my department and myself very much. We had special seals to seal our diplomatic bags. The practice, Mr Chairperson, was that once a week, depending on the aircraft flying to which capitals you would send a diplomatic pouch containing communications from my department to the staff and head of mission there, there was very strict control on what may go into that bag because in terms of international diplomatic practice if the government where your ambassador is, or you embassy is, ever find out that you have put in such a bag prohibited articles, these things are arranged in terms of international conventions, then that, in diplomatic practice, is one of the most serious violations that you can think of. And what is obvious to me here is that they even copied our seal, whoever did this, which is in my opinion a gross - a crime of gross proportions, of gross proportions because that means then that a diplomatic bag of South Africa can be used to put a bomb in it, and that bomb can explode in the aircraft. So they copied the leaden seal. It was a special seal with marks on it, they copied that, they stole it at the airport to do what they did, then they smuggled it into the embassy. And then, not on this occasion but a similar one, or maybe this one, when the British Government now finds out that one of your security people you always had in your embassy is either a military man or some funny ghost and when they find out that these people did something wrong there against diplomatic practice and etiquette that chap was not kicked out, they take the diplomatic list and they take one of my people and kick him out. And then I am forced again this side to kick a Brit out, tit-for-tat.
I can assure the Commission here today, I can assure the Commission here today that I would personally like to know who did those things. Who stole our bags and what did they send in those bags. And how did they copy that secret diplomatic seal.
MR GOOSEN: I am sure that during the course of the amnesty process some of those answers may be forthcoming, perhaps you can attend and put some of those questions.
In respect of the murder of Dulcie September in Paris, it's not a question that you knew beforehand, what steps in the aftermath of that did you take to establish whether there was any South African involvement in relation to that matter or not?
MR R F BOTHA: As in most other cases of a similar nature it came to us in Foreign Affairs as a severe shock, because an event of that nature can't happen, whether you liked Dulcie September or not doesn't matter, it is bad stuff, it is bad for South Africa, just bad, and it carries on for months. In a case like this all that we could do, we had no spying service of our own, is you enquire, I would on occasions like this perhaps call in the French Ambassador which I had the power to do and said look have you information, can you tell me what happened? Can you on your side make available to me perhaps sensitive information which I can't get from other sources? And for the rest you are dependent on those organisations that you have around us.
The only thing that I duplicated was when this suspicion grew that they were stealing our diplomatic bags and listening into our conversations I then created my own telephone technical division and sent them abroad so that they could check out telephones and not National Intelligence and also my ministerial phones and departmental phones were checked by my departmental technicians. That's as far as I could go.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much. I want to move Mr Botha now to the latter portion of your submission, just a few questions.
You at page 41, you indicate that words and phrases such as elimineer, neutraliseer, verwyder- wipe out, and words to that effect used in the State Security Council documents and that you've indicated also used at other fora, National Party congresses and so on, that it was reasonable that members of the security forces would have interpreted phrases like that to include killing people. If it was, do I take it then, that if it was reasonable for security force members to interpret phrases like that at the time to mean that they should kill, then those who formulated and used those words at the level of State Security Council, Cabinet and so on, would bear responsibility for that language use and would bear responsibility for the killing that in fact did ensure in consequence of the use of those phrases?
MR R F BOTHA: ...earlier that each Minister was assigned a task must surely after the Cabinet meeting, not the State Security Council meeting, the Cabinet meeting, the Security Council decisions were useless, of no validity until the Cabinet subscribed to them, then that Minister must call in his head of department or senior officers and say here we have a decision, can we implement it in terms of our law. If they can't then they must go back as they have done and said we now urgently require an amendment of the Public Safety Act. That's indicative of how you now deal with it in the implementation stage. I was just trying to say much more than and you quoted, if you read in the papers of those days that even the Sunday Times carry an editorial saying that these people have got to be stopped, eliminated, destroyed, and you read it, if a member of Parliament stands up and he says to say if at a conference the same is said, then the question arises surely throughout, yes that is an emotional reaction, that's how people feel, but when it comes to the implementation now we were all under the law and then in my opinion technically, technically, legally speaking that department of those who implement must ensure that they act within the law. You cannot take every Cabinet decision and say that if we are to build a school they can't go and steal the money to build it, that's illegal. They must build it because - it must have a budget, the money must have been approved and it must be legal.
What I did say in the end then was that I could see, I could see that we did not do enough to ensure, we did not follow up, because you've read in the paper that a man like Mr Webster is killed, or you read about somebody who jumped from a police headquarters or somewhere to his death and committed suicide, of course I enquired then. And I was then told look can't you wait for the post mortem. If you want to go and attend the post mortem, go and attend it, and very often with post mortems overseas observers asked my department could they come, and we supported it. But in the end a suspicion lingers in your mind, it lingers in your mind, there's a post mortem now, the report comes out Mr Chairperson, and in medical terms they say to us no the man died of this and this and this, then there's a magistrate with a finding, all legal, saying the death cannot be ascribed to any unnatural causes something, which means that nobody can be prosecuted as a result of his finding. Now where do you take it from there.
Now I said, I asked myself, I can't ask my colleagues, everyone must speak for himself, I said to myself, not for the sake of this meeting, but here, this man, should I not have done more? Should I not have done more? Should I not have resigned from the Cabinet? I struggled with this thought. I wanted to on occasion but then supporters would say hang in there man, if you are out there you can do nothing. If you are in there at least you can still change things, but I struggled with a moral, mental idea and which I admitted here today, I think I could have done more. I don't know about my colleagues, they must be - I can only speak for myself, and I regret that I didn't do more.
CHAIRPERSON: That should be your last question before lunch, yes, I don't mean it's the end of your questioning because I think we will come back after lunch at two, do you want to put - or should we adjourn now?
MR GOOSEN: Mr Chairperson perhaps we could take the adjournment, that would be fine and we will pick up after lunch.
CHAIRPERSON: I was saying two, but the suggestion is that maybe we should resume at quarter to. You would be okay?
MR R F BOTHA: Yes no if you say so, I was not bargaining on such a long session quite frankly, but...
CHAIRPERSON: I am sure that we will have I mean finished by - maybe we have another 30 minutes or so. Okay. We resume at quarter to two. Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: I am going to ask Glen to continue but I can assure you we are, the end is nigh. Yes Glen.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Chairperson. Mr Botha just to refer to page 43 of your submission and I will read it through as introduction to the question where you state that -
"Not one of us in the former government can say today that there were no suspicions on our part that members of the South African Police were engaged in irregular activities. The decisive question is not whether we as a Cabinet approved the killing of a specific political opponent, the question is whether we should have done more to ensure that it did not happen".
Is it not so, Mr Botha, that you and your Cabinet colleagues, at the very least by not acting on the suspicions you had but certainly by adopting and approving security policies formulated in language which has been described as at least ambiguous, in other instances unfortunate, but language which was widely used at the time, that in so doing you created a climate in which irregular or illegal activities by the security forces were sanctioned?
MR R F BOTHA: The result I suppose will be that such a climate was created but such a climate was not created intentionally, there is no question about it - this country was at war. There was a conflict. I tried at length to explain what newspapers reported in this country, what everybody said, you could go to a hairdresser, barber shop and hear what the people talk there and said but can't the police act more militantly. Have you heard about that farmer and his wife whose throats were cut last night near Zeerust in the most gruesome manner. This was the climate. And I admitted here today that I made a distinction and most people in this country made a distinction between people who crossed the borders secretly and killed other people innocently, and mere political opponents.
I can again just give you the assurance that we did not take decisions to kill political opponents. You will find it nowhere, in no record and in no discussion because that was not in our minds at all, and I made it clear that I would have been against that. That would have been the end of my career in the Cabinet and in the National Party.
What I said and I admitted is that when you read in the papers that there has been this and then again this, and again this, should we not have challenged them, should we not have done more. I fell morally, yes, despite what I did personally, it might not be important to you but to me it was important, what I did, and despite that I say I still think I could have done more. I can't take it further than that.
MR GOOSEN: Thank you very much Mr Botha.
CHAIRPERSON: Dr Boraine.
DR BORAINE: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Botha there are only two points I want to make in conclusion. The first I want to identify myself with the comments made by the Chairperson after your - the latter part of your presentation, and to say that it is my experience that what you have said, particularly on page 43, 44, is much more, substantially more than anyone else in the former government has ever done, and I would like to thank you for that.
I think what some of us are concerned about is that - the point you make on page 42 and the sentence which begins -
"I want to emphasise that neither the SSC nor the Cabinet was a sinister structure divorced from the sentiments of the voters and the institutions which the government represented".
In other words, and I think you've used quite a few words to explain and to say that there was a climate in the country, and frankly some of your supporters were asking you to even go way beyond what the security forces were doing in order to maintain the position of the government. Is something of your own sense, moral sense, that greater degree of leadership of the white voters, a phrase you use, to help them beyond the sense of wanting to crush the enemy and not taking seriously the fact that the vast majority of people in the country were unrepresented in Parliament, were oppressed, were denied, one of the areas, and perhaps you did this in many of your own statements regarding black presidents and so on, do you feel a sense that greater leadership could have been given, by yourself, by your colleagues, rather than following the sentiments of most white voters who were extremely negative and pretty bloodthirsty in relation to the conflict? That's the first part of the question.
The second follows on directly and that is we understand that you wrote a letter to, I think it was Roelf Meyer, you will correct me if I am wrong, with the intent that he should share this with the then President de Klerk, or he may have been Deputy-President at the time, suggesting or at least raising the possibility that members of your Cabinet, former Cabinet, should at least consider applying for amnesty. We understand that that was actually put and that this was turned away from. Why would you want to suggest that? Was it in relation to this vacuum of leadership at one stage or a sense of moral responsibility for things that you thought may be happening but didn't test out or what was in your mind when you wanted to suggest that the entire Cabinet should actually apply for amnesty?
MR R F BOTHA: Dr Boraine I will start with the last question first. Yes, this is correct. Apparently it became known that I wrote such a letter to Mr Roelf Meyer and then the press got hold of it and then you got hold of it. Be that as it may Mr Chairperson. Yes I remember that I saw, I can't lay my hand on it now, but it was my understanding towards the end of April, beginning of May this year that the leadership of the ANC had accepted joint and/or collective political responsibility for gross violations of human rights committed by members of certain sections of the ANC by applying for amnesty. This was my understanding. I read it over and over in reports. And although at that time it was not clear to me whether you could do that in terms of the existing legislation, because it was also my understanding that as the legislation provides you must specify a specific crime and indicate dates, you must be more specific about the events in respect of which you ask amnesty, and that such a rather vague, joint responsibility kind of application would probably not be entertained by the Amnesty Committee because it would not comply with the requirements of the law. My opinion then was be that as it may, that's not my job to find out what can legally be submitted to the Amnesty Committee and what not, but if the ANC did it then we should do it. Not on the basis of a quid pro quo but far beyond that.
It was of great importance to me that if we want reconciliation in this country, that was the driving force in my mind, then the leaders of these two parties who were at war with each other and who were enemies, if they could be seen to be acting on par then I was convinced that it would have an influence in the country, both for the followers of the National Party on the one hand and the followers of the ANC on the other. And that is, from my little bit of knowledge of life, the type of action which brings about reconciliation in the minds of people. You can change laws but it's difficult to change the hearts and minds of people. But this kind of action, when they read about it in the papers, say oh FW has done it, Thabo has done it, you see what I mean, then people are inclined to say well let's do it too. And it was from that point of view that I then wrote to Roelf a letter in time for the National Party Federal something, Federal "dagbestuur", Federal Management Committee or something, they were going to have this meeting say in Cape Town in a day or two, or they were busy with it, and I sent it in a great hurry. I dictated it by telephone but I have somewhere a written copy of it to ask Roelf to submit it there at that meeting as a proposal from my side. But it was apparently not approved. I am sorry that it wasn't because I saw it more in the light of a step to improve, to facilitate reconciliation in this country.
Then as far as the Deputy-Chairperson's first question is concerned yes you know if you find yourself in the situation in which we found ourselves then on many occasions the thought came to one's mind on how do you handle these situations because you struggle with your own conscience.
But then again really from the point of view of the people out there it was not easy. When Eugene Terreblanche broke up my meeting in Pietersburg by force, by force, and later the bill was sent by the Pietersburg Municipal Council to us because they said we hired the hall for the night, but Terreblanche and his men broke the windows and the doors but all right, I was told when I complained to a colleague he said to me but if you want blacks to be presidents what do you expect. In other words it's easy today to sit and look back you know, but when you're in it, when you're in it, that's the trouble. How do you persuade people? Or what do you do through example I tried my little bit, maybe I should have resigned then and formed my own party, call it a different name, I don't know. But it is very difficult.
All I know was it was a hard job going out there and telling the whites of this country look - the only reason why I could persuade them on occasion was that I adopted a rather aggressive attitude at the United Nations and was then portrayed here in this country as somebody who can stand up abroad and against the international community and against the UN and I can give them hell because of the lies that they tell, and a lot of it was exaggerations and it did not always help. It's easier to change a person if he's confronted with the truth. If half of it is only true then a person is inclined to say no he's talking nonsense I am not going to be influenced by what he said.
But alright, then at the same time in virtually all these events I in the same breath said, alright, just as I won't allow the United Nations to tell lies about you I am telling you now, here, here, you had better change, you can't go on like this. I went so far in one of my speeches Mr Chairperson, to say to a gathering in rural areas, I said even if the United Nations tomorrow turns around and passes resolutions to the effect that they praise PW Botha and they pass resolutions and they congratulate him on his policies, even then I will come back to you and say to you, you must change because there is something inherently wrong.
It's difficult to change people that's all I can say today.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Botha. Whilst there are things we would have hoped we could have had clarity, I mean you are telling us all that you know and there is no reason for us to question that, it just does seem to make it more true that there were maybe parallel lines of authority and that some of you were outside the loop at certain points. I don't want to dwell on that. It's just I mean that it probably is in the nature of what was happening at the time that there was deception and so forth happening because the thing was based on a lie. But what I wanted in fact to emphasise is what I said right at the beginning after your submission, that we haven't had anything quite as powerfully put and in a way as straightforward in some ways, and it requires a great deal of courage to have had to come out and to say the sort of things that you have said here. Very few people in your community have wanted to say that when you engage in the process of confessing you don't do it on the basis of a quid pro quo, saying it is something that I have to do whether the person on the other side does it or not that is their business. It's a business between themselves and their God.
I want to say to you that I believe that this has made one of the most impactful contributions. And I would just hope that there are those in your community listening and who would seek to take this really to heart, that - and this is what we seek to encourage. I believe that people in my community hearing what you say, despite all of the pain and anguish that they have undergone, when you come to them in that spirit very, very few of them would find it easy not to acquiesce. And nobody of your political stature coming out of that particular community has said the policy of the NP had no moral basis in such stark terms. In a way it is breathtaking.
And we want to, as a Commission that is mandated, you see the main task actually, apart from getting this is promoting reconciliation and unity, I just want to say that for myself and for my colleagues we are deeply appreciative of what you have said at the end of your submission, and your own appeals to the people in your community that their liberation is actually going to come when they face up to the truths, horrendous as they may be, of their past and that is how the ...(tape ends)...warmly and to say thank you very, very much for having had the courage to have to say as