CAPE TOWN August 22 1996 Sapa


It was never African National Congress policy to permit random attacks on civilian targets, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki told the Truth Commission on Thursday.

In his party's submission to a special seven-member panel of the committee, Mbeki said it had always been ANC policy - ever since the formation of its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe - to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

Every MK combatant was also trained not to define the enemy in racial terms, while the ANC in 1977 was the first liberation movement to become a signatory to the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war.

Mbeki catalogued high profile ANC armed attacks as examples of the ANC's policy of not attacking civilian targets.

The May 20, 1983 car bomb attack on the South African Airforce Headquarters in Church Street Pretoria was an example, he said.

Nineteen people were killed in the attack, of which at least 11 were SAAF officers. Of the 200 people injured, more than 70 were members or employees of the armed forces.

Many of those injured may have not been military officers, but as SAAF employees, had directly associated themselves with apartheid military aggression.

Moreover, the location of the SAAF headquarters in a concentrated civilian area was itself a violation of protocols of war, Mbeki said.

In its written submission the ANC said the attack took place in the week that the white-only Parliament was debating the new tricameral constitution, from which black people were excluded.

It had also taken place in the overall context of heightened military aggression by the state, such as the December 9, 1982 Lesotho raid, in which 42 people were killed many of them civilians.

The government promised to avenge the Church Street dead and launched an attack on Maputo three days later in which six civilians were killed and 40 injured, the ANC said.

Mbeki said ANC military headquarters continued to stress avoidance of civilian targets when using land mines.

"While regretting all loss of life, the ANC notes that the apartheid regime had declared white border farms military zones, with white farmers integrated into the security systems and provided with the tools of war, including automatic weapons."

The much publicised car bomb explosion at the Magoo's and Why Not bars in Durban on June 14, 1986 was another example in which civilian casualties occurred in the context of intensifying the armed struggle, Mbeki said.

The operation was carried out during extreme upheaval in South Africa culminating in the nationwide State of Emergency on June 12.

The attack was also carried out to commemorate the June 14, 1985 raid on Gaborone in which 12 people were killed of which only five were ANC members and none MK.

The Why Not bar was targeted because it was frequented by off-duty security force members, he said.

In its written submission the ANC again defended the actions of its operative Robert McBride.

McBride was convicted for the car bomb attack and spent four years on death row before being granted indemnity and released in 1992 "with the racist mass-murderer Barend Strydom".

The government had done so in an obvious attempt to create the impression that "these men were indistinguishable in moral terms", the ANC said.

Mbeki said that from about December 1985, and particularly during April 1986 to September 1988, a number of attacks on civilian targets with no connection to the state occurred.

Where ANC personnel were responsible, the ANC did not seek to justify the attacks, but insisted that context in which they occurred was relevant.

"The ANC has acknowledged that in a number of instances breaches in policy did occur and deeply regrets civilians casualties. The leadership took steps to halt operations in conflict with policy," he said.

The December 1985 blast in Amanzimtoti where five people were killed and 40 people were injured was a clear example of how the government's actions provoked certain attacks which were in breach of ANC policy.

Andrew Zondo, 19, left a bomb in the shopping centre in anger at a the December 20, raid on Lesotho in which nine people were killed, Mbeki said.

Zondo at his trial had spoken with sincere regret for the deaths.

"Those responsible for the Lesotho massacre received medals at a secret ceremony", yet Zondo was sentenced to death five times and refused leave to appeal, Mbeki said.

South African Press Association, 1996
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