The decision to launch cross-border raids into neighbouring states in the mid-1980s was not taken lightly, former defence minister Magnus Malan told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Cape Town on Friday.

He was responding to a question whether he knew about the SA Defence Force raids on Maseru, Gaborone and Maputo before they took place.

Malan told the commission the decision to launch the raids was taken by himself and former state president PW Botha.

"In 1985 the there was a tremendous escalation in terrorist activity. I approached the state president and he approved (the raids).

"The State President told me to keep quiet about this - it was very sensitive."

Malan was testifying at the TRC's public inquiry into the activities of the former National Party government's State Security Council (SSC), which advised on national security policy during the apartheid years.

The commission quizzed Malan on the use of "kragdadige" language in SSC meetings - words such as "eliminate" and "neutralise" - and asked whether this language might have contributed to illegal actions by security force members.

"Various departments had various terminologies... and different tasks; I think that is where the problem originates," Malan said.

If the SSC had taken unlawful decisions, the justice department would have advised it accordingly. This had not happened.

Asked whether he ever suspected that the SADF was involved in the killing of political opponents, Malan said he had been more worried about the atrocities being committed by the opposition and Umkhonto we Sizwe in South Africa.

"My first priority was the defence of the country."

Asked where the personnel who formed part of the Civil Co-operation Bureau - under ex-special forces soldier Joe Verster - had been recruited, Malan said as minister he was not involved in these matters.

"The CCB was an integrated part of the SADF; that is all I know of the CCB.

"I never directly worked with the CCB; I never received any reports; I do not know how they operated."

South African Press Association, 1997
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