Stratcom, the propoganda apparatus of the apartheid security police, used Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as a tool to discredit the entire African National Congress, the Truth and Reconciliation Commision was told on Friday.

Former Stratcom head Vic McPherson said during the 1980s various disinformation campaigns were launched to discredit the ANC, to promote disunity between the ANC and SA Communist Party, and to sow division within the ranks of the liberation movement.

Articles were placed in South African and international newspapers discrediting Madikizela-Mandela with "several notable successes", according to documents submitted to the TRC from a Stratcom disinformation campaign known as Operation Romulus.

A document entitled "Dissemination of suitable material re Winnie Mandela abroad: Discreditation of the ANC", said a "veritable mass of material" was forwarded to the media "with the specific objective of using Winnie Mandela... to discredit the ANC as a whole".

Articles highly critical of Madikizela-Mandela appeared in early 1991 in leading British newspapers The Sunday Times, The Times, The Independent, Daily Express and other newspapers.

An article appeared in the United States Vanity Fair entitled "How bad is Winnie Mandela?" The document was written by former Stratcom operative Paul Erasmus, who took the stand with McPherson, and signed on June 20, 1991 by his section head, a Major GHB Bruwer.

McPherson said: "The subject, Winnie Mandela, was considered as a revolutionary."

McPherson said he would not apologise to Madikizela-Mandela for smear campaigns, because at the time the country was at war. This included psychological warfare.

McPherson said TRC chairman Achbishop Desmond Tutu was also a Stratcom subject.

Deputy TRC chairman Alex Boraine asked if opposition politicians in Parliament were also on the list. "Why was I on the list?" Boraine asked. Mcpherson answered that there were hundreds of people on the list.

South African Press Association, 1997
This text is for information only and may not be published or reprinted without the permission of the South African Press Association