CHAIRPERSON: Laurie is waiting here in the vicinity somewhereand he'll be coming in shortly after Roger. There is thank you. Over to you Roger please start.
MR R FIELD: Okay so I press the red button and then Ican start. Briefly, thank you for this opportunity to make thisbrief input on the Committee on South African War Assistance whichwas an organisation of exiled conscientious objectors that wasactive between 1978 and 1990 when we closed the offices. I workedfor the organisation from May '85 to December '89 and it's onthat basis that I am making this presentation.
The organisation had an office in Amsterdam and an office inLondon. I have quite a bit of information about the organisationbut what I'm going to stick to for now is the exile experiencesince I think it follows quite neatly on some of the presentationswe've heard this morning.
There was, and perhaps still is, a mis-perception that we hadan easy time in what some people referred to as the flesh potsof Europe, but for most of our constituency exile was the mostimportant decision and I think often the most traumatic experienceof their lives and it's long term effects should not be underestimated.
Now most exiles made their asylum applications in the UK andthe procedure there was long and sometimes very uncertain. Ifthe initial application was rejected the process could last severalyears as we worked through appeals and appeals against appeals. Exiles were not allowed to work for the first six months of theirapplication although they were entitled to a small weekly stipendfrom the British State. Now for many young men exile was an extremelystressful period and we spent much of our time trying to sortout personal needs and integrating new arrivals into the largerexiled community. Many were without financial and emotional resourcesand for the first time I think, many were confronting the consciousand I think often unconscious fears and racist attitudes of WhiteSouth African society and there were casualties. During the timethat I worked for COSAW I can recall one suicide and six peoplewho were hospitalised for nervous breakdowns.
However, our limit resources also did encourage us to use ourinitiatives and we wanted exiles to retain links with South Africathrough active involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle ,sowe held study classes and discussion groups and organised socialevents. And we drew on the expertise of other refugee organisationsof which I'm sure you can understand there would be many in aplace like London and Amsterdam and we formed the Kliptown HousingCo-operative which found accommodation for exiled young SouthAfricans and not only South African War resisters.
The work of the Commission has already shown us some of the psychologicaland political benefits and problems that follow when we re-livetraumatic experiences but I hope that in some way this brief presentationhas helped you to understand the exile experience and the contributionwhich opposition to apartheid conscription has made to the SouthAfrica we inhabit to-day. And I'd just like to thank the Commissionfor this opportunity to present this brief presentation and tosubmit a copy of the book which contains the distillation of COSAWand resisters' analyses of the SADF and it's occupations of Namibia,it's war against the frontline states and it's war against thepeople of South Africa. Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON : Roger could you just tell us who the authorsof the book are just for the records.
MR R FIELD: Alright, the authors were Gavin Callthra,Gerald Kraak and Gerald O'Sullivan and I'm sorry none of themcould be here to-day.
CHAIRPERSON: And the title of the book?
MR R FIELD: War in Resistance - Southern African Reports.
MR R FIELD: Published by McMillan and the first publicationdate was in 1994.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
MR R FIELD: Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: We would just like to place on record thatwe have received the book. It's been submitted to us, SouthernAfrican Studies - War in Resistance, Southern African Reportsedited by Gavin Callthra, Gerald Kraak and Gerald O'Sullivan whohappens to be a colleague of ourS. Thank you very much.
We would like to call upon Laurie Nathan. Laurie could you pleasecome up and Miss Glenda Wildschut will facilitate this session,thank you. Laurie Nathan approaches.
The Commission doesn't really censor as such but Laurie in hiskindness was warning the audience that he's going to read extractsfrom statements of ex-conscripts the language of which might beoffensive so I am just presenting what Laurie Nathan has presentedwithout really a need to sensor or to get responses from the audience. Be warned, thank you. Glenda Wildschut?
MISS WILDSCHUT: Good afternoon Laurie thanks for comingI know you need very little facilitation except for me to saythat the floor is yours. If you press the red button on yourlittle, as the Archbishop says, jiggle miggles, what you presentto us will go into the record and the language facilitators willbe able to do the necessary interpretation thank you.
DR NATHAN: Good afternoon Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen.
I've been invited to do a presentation on the End ConscriptionCampaign since the ECC was disbanded some years ago I obviouslydon't speak on anybody's behalf but offer some personal reflections. I was involved in the founding of the End Conscription Campaignin the early '80's. I subsequently served as National Organisersof ECC in 1985 and '86 and after that for a short period wasChair of ECC in Cape Town. Currently I am Director of The Centrefor Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town.
The War Resistance Movement in South Africa began in earnestin the late 1970's although there were in fact some precedentsduring both the world wars where conscientious objectors tooka stand, but in terms of the apartheid era the War ResistanceMovement emerged in the late 1970's following South Africa's invasionof Angola in 1975 and the Soweto uprising the following year. It manifested itself in a number of different forms one of whichwas a group of conscripts going into exile where they joined theANC some of them and formed COSAW, the Committee on South AfricanWar Resistance with the aim of raising international awarenessabout the role of the SADF and providing support to objectorsin exile.
At more-or-less the same time the South African Council of Churchespassed a landmark resolution declaring the SADF was defendinga fundamentally unjust and discriminatory society and the resolutionalso challenged Christians to become conscientious objectors. A small number of conscripts heeded this challenge and were imprisonedin military detention barracks. The Conscientious Objectors SupportGroup, which we refer to as COSG, was established to support thesemen and campaign on their behalf.
The Government's response was to amend the Defence Act in 1983. The amendment offered a limited and punitive option of alternativeservice and also increased the penalty for conscientious objectionto a maximum of six years in prison. The length of compulsorymilitary service for White men at this stage was a total of fouryears comprising of two years continuous service followed by annualcamps of thirty, sixty or ninety days thereafter. If Governmenthad hoped that this amendment to the Defence Act would crush thenascent War Resistance Movement, the draconian measures in facthad the opposite effect.
At it's annual conference in 1983 the Black Sash made the firstcall for an end to conscription and shortly thereafter ECC wasestablished. One of the particularly exciting things about thecampaign at the time was that we were a broad coalition, we hadwithin our ranks English and Afrikaans-speaking people, we hadschool pupils, University students and parents. Some of us regardedourselves as liberals others as radicals, Marxists, pacifists,Christians, humanists we had rock musicians, poets, artists andall of these different sectors were able, through the ECC, tocampaign against conscription in a way that they felt comfortable. So we had traditional political activities like mass meetingsetc, but we had rock concerts with the title "Rock againstthe Rattel", the Rattel being a name of a military or policevehicle. We built sand castles on Clifton beach in the shapeof the Castle in Cape Town, the police came onto the beach inuniform middle of summer, can you imagine Clifton beach, plicecame onto the beach in uniform with their boots and broke downthe castles.
In the streets of Pretoria early one morning we tied yellow ribbonsto trees and street poles as an effort to make the point thatwe were calling for troops out of the townships, out of Namibiaand out of Angola, and before the ECC activists were arrestedthe police climbed up the trees, up the poles to untie the yellowribbons.
We were serious about what we did but I simply make the pointat this stage that we were engaged in a kind of political activitythat was dynamic and creative. We had a sense of purpose butwe pursued that purpose having fun in the process.
I want to read the ECC Declaration because it sums up the missionof the campaign.
The Declaration is headed towards a just peace in our land, aDeclaration to end conscription. We live in an unjust societywhere basic human rights are denied to the majority of the people. We live in an unequal society where the land and wealth are ownedby the minority. We live in a society in a state of civil war,where brother is called on to fight brother. We call for an endto conscription. Young men are conscripted to maintain the illegaloccupation of Namibia and to wage unjust war against foreign countries. Young men are conscripted to assist in the implementation anddefence of apartheid policies. Young men who refuse to serveare faced with the choice of a life of exile or a possible sixyears in prison. We call for an end to conscription. We believedthat the financial costs of the war increases the poverty of ourcountry and that money should be used rather in the interestsof peace. We believed that the extension of conscription to Colouredand Indian youth will increase conflict and further divide ourcountry. We believed that it is the moral right of South Africansto exercise freedom of conscience and to choose not to serve inthe SADF. We call for an end to conscription. We call for ajust peace in our land.
That was our Declaration of Intent and it captures neatly theobjectives of the organisation.
We set up ECC and we pursued our campaigns for three principalreasons. The first was a matter of conscience, in conscience wewere not prepared to take up arms in defence of apartheid againstfellow citizens.
Secondly, we sought to actively contribute to the struggle againstapartheid by opposing conscription and the role of the militaryand this obviously had particular political sensitivity. Thesystem of legislated racialism, White rule rejected by the majorityof South Africans necessarily relied on extensive use of forceto maintain and perpetuate the system. The role of the defenceforce and conscription were therefore of critical political andstrategic importance to the apartheid Government, and by challengingthat system we believed that we could contribute to the struggleagainst apartheid and our involvement was also significant preciselybecause we were White. We had students at Afrikaans-speakingcampuses and members of the defence force who would say to usthey regarded us as worse than the enemy because we were traitors.
And thirdly we sought to contribute to non-racialism throughour campaign. The African National Congress and it's internalallies sought to make the point, in the course of their campaigns,that the struggle in South Africa was not a struggle between Whiteand Black, it was a struggle between justice and injustice andthat the end goal was not to replace White domination with Blackdomination but to establish a just and non-racial society.
The point was made further that non-racialism could not simplybe a goal, it also had to be part of the process. So throughour involvement we sought to demonstrate to both the White andthe Black community that not all Whites were racist and some ofus at least were committed to a struggle for justice and peace.
The significance of these objectives and the high profile natureof our campaigns led to extensive State repression. We were subjectedto merciless vilification the thrust of which was that we weretraitors, cowards, mommy's boys, as Magnus Malan once put it,that we were in bed with communists and that we were part of therevolutionary onslaught against South Africa.
There were also numerous acts of physical harassment, ECC memberswere beaten up, we had petrol bombs thrown into our homes, themotor vehicles of ECC activists were tampered with, brake liningcut, wheel nuts loosened. It emerged subsequently that a numberof ECC activists were on the hit list of the Civil Co-operationBureau, the CCB and during the state of emergency in 1985 roughlyseventy to eighty of our activists were detained. The youngestof them was seventeen years old and the eldest seventy five yearsold. Some of the activists were interrogated by military intelligenceothers by the security police, some were not questioned at alland not one was tried.
In 1988, following the successful court action against the defenceforce, and following also the stand of one hundred and forty threeconscripts who collectively announced their refusal to serve,the ECC was formally banned and it was really only with the liftingof the ban on the ANC that we were once more operative.
Were conscripts victims or perpetrators? In particular wereWhite conscripts who served in the defence force victims or perpetrators? In my view there is no neat clean-cut answer to this question. The conscripts who served in the defence force were clearly bothvictims and perpetrators. On the one hand they were subjectedto relentless propaganda about the virtues of White Christiancivilisation and the evils of Black communism and terrorism. Many conscripts served willingly because they believed the propaganda. They were also victims in the sense that they were subjectedto physical brutality during their basic military training andsome of them suffered and continue to suffer post-traumatic stressespecially where they were deployed in combat situations. AndI see on the programme that you will have speakers talking aboutpost-traumatic stress.
On the other hand these conscripts who served were actively engagedin defending apartheid and maintaining South Africa's illegaloccupation of Namibia and Southern Angola, many of them committedatrocities. Under international humanitarian law the Geneva Conventionin particular, they are personally liable for their actions. The excuse that they were obeying orders is not regarded as alegitimate defence in international law, but of course thosewho issued the orders and those who sanctioned the abuse of humanrights by members of the security forces bear special responsibility. Personally I have a measure of sympathy for members of the securityforces who have been abandoned by their former political and militaryleaders who gave the orders and supported the activities whetherdirectly or tacitly.
You may recall for example that the 1986 State of Emergency Regulationgranted indemnity from civil and criminal prosecution to any memberof the security forces for actions committed in good faith.
The ambiguities and contradictions in being both victim and perpetratoris captured in two statements that were made by conscripts inthe mid '80's and which I would like to read, and it's these statementsthat do contain offensive language but I think the statementswould lack authenticity and integrity if I censored them. Thefirst statement was made in 1985 by a national serviceman whowas describing his experiences after four months of joint police/armyoperations in the Eastern Cape. He wrote at the time.
"I will never forget my first patrol in a Casspir. The Casspiris the police vehicle of choice in the townships, huge brutishmachines loaded with a plethora of weapons and equipment, invincibleand inhuman in scale. We entered one of the sprawling Port Elizabethtownships and began our run as in a bad dream, through the mazeof streets, buildings, shacks and people. The policemen expressedcontempt at the rubbish and dirt around them but they keep theirlitter to dump in the township, throwing refuse out of the vehicleat pedestrians minding their own business. The streets are fullof activity. There is a funeral of one of the persons shot bythe police and vehicles overloaded with Blacks roar back and forth. The policemen respond to the chance and clench fists with shoutsof abuse and of White power. We move on to a less crowded areaand the cops keep a watch for members of the media especiallywith cameras. We come upon a bakkie loaded with children andyouths who show us the clenched fist salute. The cops go intoaction and the bakkie is overtaken and forced to stop. The pileof Black bodies spill off in all directions as the cops tumbleout of the back of the Casspir in pursuit. Shortly they returnin triumph with their catch, a boy of about ten, who they arehitting and slapping as they drag him into the vehicle where theycontinue to slap and punch him while he recites 'weet niks baas,weet niks'. The pneumatic steel doors shut and the vehicle movesoff. They force the boy to slap himself by telling us you won'tshow Black sign again in a hurry, and this for me is the centralimage of the time, the small Black boy with wild frightened eyesbut no tears slapping himself and a sudden stream of bright bloodappearing from his nose and dropping from his chin onto the carpetedfloor of the Casspir.
A few blocks later we pause and the boy is dumped. For the firsttime I look at the other army guys and only one shows any discomfort. On the faces of the others I see only a leer. Well-meaning peoplehave imagined the young police and army members sitting in theirvehicles as fearful, confused somehow as deserving of pity andunderstanding as the angry mobs outside rally round. Even I havenever been afraid sitting in this huge powerful vehicle behindthick glass and steel. The majority of my peers are not afraidor confused they are in turn bored and excited. They want action,they are callous, they are enormously arrogant. Action, especiallyfor young National Servicemen is often a thrill, an ego trip. There is a tremendous sense of power in beating someone up evenif you are the most put-upon dumb son of a bitch, you are stillbetter that a Kaffir and can beat him up to prove it."
The second statement by a conscript was published in a journalcalled Frontline in the mid 1980's and I'm reading an extractfrom that, again to make the point that we need to understandconscripts who served both as victims and as perpetrators. Thisconscript wrote:
I haven't got sorrow and pain about what we did up there. (he'sreferring to Northern Namibia and Southern Angola) Some of thethings were stupid I can see that now but it doesn't cause megrief. We weren't so bad. One time we were at a Kuka shop drinking,when we went back to base we found that three of the okes weremissing. We went back to the shop and found that they were goingwith a woman there, they were like raping them. We beat themup, they were lowering our name. There was a lot of rape, wehad some low guys with us. Some of these guys you couldn't understand. You didn't know what they were fighting for. Me, I was fightingfor the protection of my country, I was fighting to stop the terscoming down. Sometimes you think what the hell the ters are alreadyin Soweto anyway so what's the diff. I don't suppose it willever end. It will go on until the Blacks get the vote and thenwe're the fuck, but you go on fighting because you think you cankeep things lekker like now for a few more years. Also when you'rethere you're sommer fighting, you aren't thinking about what you'refighting about, you just know that there are some ous on yourend of the rifle and other ous on the other side. If we saw awell-built Kaffir we'd know he was a ter. If he had soft feetthat would prove it beyond doubt at least if we were out in thebush because who else wears shoes. We'd interrogate him and ifhe was stubborn he could have some trouble, maybe we would tiehim to the front of the Buffel and do a little bundu bashing. Feel it? Why should I feel it, I wasn't on the front of theBuffel. Sometimes they shout and shout and complain and thenwe have no choice we have to finish them off. Sometimes he'sfinished off before we stop driving then we just untie him andfarewell. I feel no skaam. Now and then I have dreams. Abouttwice in the last six months I woke up shivering and sweatingand thinking about what might have happened to me, but it hasnot changed my life. Sooner or later the Kaffirs are going towin but I have helped keep us going for a few more years."
If we view conscripts who served in the defence force then asboth perpetrators and victims what can be said of the conscriptswho refused to serve? It's important I think to acknowledge thebravery and the suffering of those who went into exile and thosewho were imprisoned for their beliefs. Nevertheless we do notregard ourselves as heroes, we did what we did because we sawno alternative and we certainly do not regard ourselves as victims. Whatever hardships we endured, they were small compared withthe life experience of Black people and the brutal treatment metedout to Black activists. So today we harbour, as those who refusedto serve, neither a sense of resentment nor any sense of selfrighteousness.
I want to end by addressing the question of how in the lightof this history we should manage the past and I want to addressthese comments in particular to the White community. The Whitecommunity tends to take one of three positions in this regard. First they say the are shocked by the revelations of the TRC,had they only known about the atrocities at the time they wouldsurely have objected. This is a self-serving myth. It is patentlydishonest to claim to-day that any of us were unaware of apartheid,unaware of forced removals and pass laws, unaware of deaths indetention or unaware of the killing of children in our streets.
The second response from the White community is that, well weknew what was happening and we did everything in our power toobject. This is also a myth. The truth of the matter is thata tiny minority of Whites voiced any opposition and then mostlyin conditions of relative safety and comfort, an even smallerminority of Whites participated directly in the campaigns, inthe daily struggle of the Black community.
The third position comes from Whites who say, let bygones bebygones, rehashing the past will only perpetuate divisions andinhibit reconciliation. Let us concentrate instead, they say,on building a new future. In my view this position adds insultto injury. It's a monumental deceit. Whatever the individualtalents and efforts of Whites our lives of privilege to-day arethe product of a grand historical act of theft. We stole theland, the labour, the dignity, and in countless instances, thelives of the Black people of our country. The majority of Blacksstill live with the consequences and the majority of Whites stillenjoy the fruits of our acts of violence. The past is present,it is present in our suburbs and in our townships, it's presentin our individual and national psyche. White domination may havebeen eliminated in the political arena but it still prevails atan economic level and in forums like Universities and the Mediawhich have a powerful impact on the ideas and the debates of broadersociety.
White racism is alive and kicking. It no longer takes the formof legislated supremacy but it continues to manifest itself incrude and subtle ways. The most insidious is the assumption thatWhite values are universal and by implication superior to thoseof other groups. The most offensive is the endless complainingabout corruption, inefficiency and falling standards, this isone of the bad jokes of the new South Africa. The previous Governmentset unsurpassed standards for corruption, incompetence and neglect.
There is a fourth position which is seldom heard and which Ibelieve is the appropriate response. The White community shouldconfront it's pervasive racism, and stare our ugly history andit's long shelf life in the face. We should acknowledge collectiveresponsibility for our efforts and our acquiescence in constructingand maintaining a wretched system of discrimination, exclusionand repression. To invoke theological terminology we shouldconfess and engage in meaningful acts of contrition.
These acts of contrition could take many forms, establishingor funding memorials like those which commemorate the holocaustin Nazi Germany, funding bursaries for Black students or basicfacilities for pupils, providing medical supplies to amputee hospitalsin Mozambique and Angola, church actions such as fasts and others,training in respect for human rights and multi-cultural diversityfor teachers and pupils. These are only some examples. Theseand other actions are forms of reparation but it's critical thatthey are undertaken, not as charity, but in partnership with Blackcommunities.
If the end conscription campaign existed to-day I would proposethat we issue stickers for distribution in the White communitywhich said stop complaining, start building and I would suggestthe RDP office that they put out stickers for distribution inthe White community that say, get with the programme.
Let me say in closing that Whites who interpret this argumentto mean that they should become passive and sycophantic have misunderstoodthe nature of the challenge. The challenge is to become self-criticalnot uncritical, to acquire some humility, not be submissive, tobecome empathetic, not paternalistic. The challenge has nothingto do with self-flagellation or wallowing in guilt, it has everythingto do with accepting responsibility for our actions and our lackof action.
MISS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much Laurie. You haveraised several very important issues in your submission this afternoon,and I think that your last statement is a very powerful challengeto the broader community out there, not only just to Whites butto all of us to begin building together.
I want to make one comment and then Pumla will help us facilitateone or two questions from the audience that they might want toput to you. You are right, we had just before lunch we had asubmission about the link between conscription and PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder and I think that it's important to notethat all people who had joined any army liable to or are exposedto the possibility of having PTSD. So today we are particularlooking at conscripts, we are looking at the link between PTSDand conscriptees, but we are also very aware that many peoplewho joined other armies themselves suffer the consequences ofthat war.
Having said that Pumla, I hand over to you and you can have oneor two short, crisp pointed questions to Laurie, thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Glenda and thank you very muchLaurie. We really value inputs from the audience and so we givethis time to just three questions. Some of you have been withus since morning and so you all understand the constraints oftime, thank you. I just wanted to say there are interpretationdevices available if you would like to use them. There's a buttonon the side but there are interpreters available. Do you allhave this interpretation device? If there is anybody who doesnot have one you will be handed the device. At the side is abutton, Xhosa is on Channel Three, the other side has the volumebutton however Xhosa is on Channel Three. Thank you very much.
At this point I will invite some comments or questions from theaudience if there are any. There are none, good. Do you wantto ask Richard? Okay there are no questions. I have a commentwhich is almost like a question as well. The issue of conscience. I think one of the struggles we've had in our society is thedifficulty for people to exercise individual decision and to allowconscience to rise above authority. I think in some of the submissionswe've had to-day we've heard quite a lot about socialisation andthe power of authority and I don't know what programmes we couldengage in to teach people the importance of individuality as faras making informed decisions. I think we talked about being self-critical,which I think is important, but what are the actual strategiesthat you can use to get people there, to get people to questionauthority, to have the prerogative to ask these pertinent questionsthat very few of you in your organisation asked? What sort ofstrategies do you think people can be taught, obviously perhapsthere might be a generation that we have lost, that is the oldergeneration in this case, but how best can we teach people strategiesof self critisism?
DR NATHAN : There are two ways which I think are extremelyimportant in that regard. The first is the way in which we educateyoung people and whether we're educating them to be critical orwe are discouraging questions and critisism? The second obviousarea is the response of Government to criticism. The more torrentGovernment is of criticism, the more free we citizens will feelto be critical. And I've often made the point in other Africancountries, when we debate the issue of democracy, to illustratehow free I regard our country, it would be possible in this country,unlike most other African countries, for somebody to stand upin front of Parliament, on a soap box and say that he thinks PresidentMandela is a silly old fool. No-one would pay that person anyattention. This is not something one can do in authoritarianstates, so the degree of tolerance on the part of authoritiesis obviously critical.
In the case of armed forces it's difficult to encourage a criticalattitude, becuase particularly in situations of stress one expectssoldiers to follow orders and not have ethical debates but ourconstitution is unequivocal in it's provision that members ofthe security forces are obliged to disobey a manifestly illegalcommand. Now that imposes a duty on the security forces to educatetheir members on what constitutes a lawful command and what constitutesan unlawful command. I'm not personally familiar with the effortsof the police in this regard but the defence force under the auspicesof Minister Modise has made this a major thrust of the transformationprogramme within the Department of Defence. He has initiatedthe development of a civic education programme on democracy forall members, civilian and military, who serve in the Departmentand in the defence force. The curricula for that programme havebeen completed and there are six chapters which consider Multi-CulturalDiversity, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the essentialfeatures of a democratic political system, International HumanitarianLaw, including the Geneva Convention, Civil Military Relationsin a Democracy and Military Professionalism in a Democracy. Sothrough that programme of education and training the intentionis to instill in soldiers and generals an appreciation of onething in particular which is that they may owe a duty of obedienceand allegiance to their commanding officers, and they may owea higher duty of allegiance to the President as Commander in Chief,but at the end of the day their supreme allegiance is to the law,to the Constitution and they may not contravene that document.
So I think that is one important and powerful way in which aninstitution which inherently carries the risk of abusing humanrights because it has the power of force is attempting to ensurethat, that force is exercised in a fashion which is disciplinedand consistent with the law.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Laurie, we really appreciateyour coming. We will ask Craig Botha, welcome Craig, if youcould please come up on stage. Craig is the next speaker thisafternoon. Welcome Craig you're welcome to just handlethis session as you wish.
PASTOR BOTHA: Shall I just go ahead and read the statement?
PASTOR BOTHA: Thank you and if there are questions afterwardsyou have ........
CHAIRPERSON: Certainly thanks.
PASTOR BOTHA: I'm just going to read the statement asI've prepared it. It's headed "Statement by Pastor CraigBotha regarding conscription in the SADF".
This following statement has been prepared by Craig Botha regardingmy involvement in the SADF which began initially as a conscriptin January 1978 where I was deployed at seventeen years of ageto Bloemfontein to serve in 1SSB Battalion.
However after basic training I realised that I would not copeemotionally with two years in the army in the Free State and didnot wish to serve on the border. I then proceeded to join theS.A. Navy and was transferred from Bloemfontein to Saldanha whereI re-did my basic training in the Navy and subsequently did aradar course and was deployed upon a strike craft which was basedat Salisbury Island in Durban. My Navy number was 76237825PE,Permanent Force. I remained in the Navy for a period of fourand a half years, first as a Radar Operator and later on as adiver.
However, it was during the first two years that I would like tocomment on. It was from September 1978 until the end of 1980that I served first on P1563 and then on P1566 which were strikecraft vessels from the strike craft flotilla and spent this timegoing to sea, doing "patrols" . Amongst other normalNaval exercises these patrols consisted of a very specialisedoperations in which we often travelled to Langebaan along theCape West Coast where we worked in conjunction with the reconnaissancecommandos based there and we developed a technique of going tosea with inflatable craft accompanying us along with a numberof these highly trained reconnaissance commandos. Our missionwas to launch these inflatable craft with the commandos on boardinto the water off various strategic points upon which the commandoswould go ashore and they would blow up installations and generallycause havoc, and then they would escape via the sea back to ourwaiting strike craft and we would leave the area at high speed.
So during the time I served upon these attack vessels we performeda number of operations of which we were instructed to keep secretour destination and operation. Often we were going to sea fora period of time and we were not told our destination before departure. On a number of occasions we were visited by a number of highranking defence force personnel who wished us well and spoke tous abut the importance of our mission and what we were doing toprotect the country from a total onslaught etc.
I remember one night on my twentieth birthday on board the ship,because we never went ashore with the Commandos on the 11th ofAugust 1980 being involved in a mission where we were blowingup such installations. I never spoke to anyone about these missionsand basically felt that we were serving the defence force. Iwas very politically naive and it was only later that I realisedwhat a lie I had been involved in.
As I look back upon this period it is with deep shame and regretthat I took part in these acts of sabotage and violent destabilisation. The struggles that our neighbouring states have had to undergo,even to this time, is partially attributable to these missions.
The good side to the story, however, is that since that time Iwas converted to Christianity, I met the Lord Jesus Christ asmy personal Saviour and God began to reveal to me the inhumanityof apartheid. This was in the early '80's. Many years ago Irepented of furthering the aims of apartheid, I dealt with issuesof racism in my own heart. I joined the ANC in 1990 and beganto support the democratic process already underway within thecountry. Amongst other things I also mobilised our church tostand for justice and peace. For example we protested stronglyto the SADF regarding their attack in Umtata on the eighth ofOctober 1993.
Along with our church, now called Jubilee Community Church inthe Western Cape we also began to work actively towards reconciliationinvolving seeking forgiveness for the evil of apartheid and makingfinancial restitution. To cut a long story short we are at presentextensively involved in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. We haveplanted a non-racial church. The White folk that are part ofthis church have committed themselves to racial reconciliationin a practical way, not just in theory. We are involved in twopre-schools and are seeking to launch projects to empower thecommunity. We are also involved in a housing project in TambuSquare, Tambu Village and have seen the hand of God really movingin terms of bringing together White and Black and healing thedivisions and enmity of the past. I did not feel I needed toapply for amnesty for I personally did not kill anyone. I dofeel however that I was part of the overall strategy of destabilisationduring the apartheid years and it was because of that, that I'vecome forward with this account and I've also made the informationavailable because I have been very disappointed to see the lackof courage that has been shown by many in the defence force interms of owning up to deeds like this in the past.
I really feel that as a South African and as a Christian Pastorthat there's a tremendous hope for this nation if individualscan find the grace to speak the truth and the agents of reconciliationas we face the future together.
Finally I'd like to suggest that there are probably many SouthAfricans who have been moved by the revelations from the TRC hearingsand would like to get involved practically and financially throughrestitution into a needy community however there seems to be alack of application and advice as to how one can get involvedand I just request that perhaps more effort and guidelines couldbe offered to the general South African public in this regard.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Craig. I'm going toask you two questions as I'd like to focus more on the reconciliationefforts that you have been engaged in. I was privileged to aattend a church service on Sunday at the church that Craig istalking about. I just dropped by on a surprise visit and I satthere and there was something very surprising, very strange aboutbeing in that church. It wasn't so much about the White peopleand the Black people worshipping together I was just puzzled inmy mind what is strange about this experience. It occurred tome that the comfort, the lack of self consciousness on the partof the kids who were playing around and the lack of self consciousnesson the White who were in a Black area was what was strange aboutit. It was really very different very, very strange where peoplejust walked in as if they belonged there which obviously meantthat they did belong there, and to me this represented very profoundhopefulness that these things are possible. The only mixing I'veseen is where Black people have moved into White areas. I'venever seen anything like what I experienced in that church andI was really very touched by it. My question to you Craig ishow do people, White people approach you and why is it that peopleseek out to go to Khayelitsha to worship on a Sunday morning?
PASTOR BOTHA: I think what we've found is despite ofwhat we've been through as a nation there are a lot of peoplelooking for places and areas they can go to in order to experiencepractical reconciliation. And I think what has happened is thatwithin the church we've been involved with and the project I thinkit's provided an arena where people can come in and begin to workthrough issues and begin to meet people from different backgroundsand language groups and start a process together which is veryexciting. That's been good to just being a part of facilitatingthat.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you. And my other question relatesto the issue of restitution. When I was at the church I was shownthe development at the back of the church that people are involvedin, the development project and the work that people are involvedin and I spoke to a few people there who explained how this wasa source of income for them. I do want to talk about that a littlebit but mostly what would be useful for us is to get an understandingof what it means to establish a restitution fund and what is involvedin that because that building was built by funds from your restitutionfunds so if you can explain a bit to us how you went about doingthis?
PASTOR BOTHA: I think we went through a stage when wewere quite overwhelmed by the whole situation and didn't reallyknow what to do or how to proceed and we consulted people in thecommunity and we also did some soul -searching and some homeworkourselves and realised that it would be good to target a particularcommunity to see something established in a particular area. We therefore got this fund going through our church where peoplecould put finances into that fund knowing that it would be goingto a specific community for upliftment and to build a centre inthe area of Khayelitsha and people responded to that in an overwhelmingway. So I think if one could create channels even simple channelsand people know that there's an end product that it's not justgoing into a fund somewhere but it's helping a particular communityin a particular place. I think people want to give to that sothat's what we did and it worked and people are still wantingto give, not just money but also themselves as well. Obviouslythere are those that are still apprehensive about going to thetownships but will give finances into a fund to help with thingslike that so that also helps towards uplifting communities andso on.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much Craig, thank you foryour contribution we really appreciate it.
PASTOR BOTHA: Thank you.
CHAIRPERSON: We would like to call upon Ian Liebenbergand if you could bring your identity as well.
MR LIEBENBERG: Thanks Pumla.
CHAIRPERSON: You're welcome. Miss Glenda Wildschut willfacilitate the process thank you.
MISS WILDSCHUT: You notice the more often Pumla says myname the better she pronounces it. Thank you very much Pumla,thanks Ian for coming and making a submission to us. Like withthe others the floor is open to you. Once you've pressed thered knob after I've spoken. You will make your submission uninterruptedand once you are finished there will be one or two questions thankyou.
MR LIEBENBERG: Thank you very much members of the panel,Miss Chairperson and other people here for giving me this opportunity. Someone who read this thing which I call a submission to theTRC Ex-Conscripts said it's a hybrid, it's personal experienceand academic experience and they never sure what where and whatwhere. At least I can assure you it's no poetry it's a hybridof the two and after thinking critically about it I decided tokeep it both personal and academic. For those who read it furtheryou might find reasons why one would stick to that. Lookingat the mandate of the TRC and more specifically at why we warehere today I think the TRC made it in this case quite clear thatthe request for submissions on conscription is neither an attemptto find perpetrators nor a process that will lead to awardingof victim status for purposes of reparation. It's perhaps exactlyin that tension that a submission like to-day stands.
Can I say that for me in the final analysis such a submissionentails just what is meant by it then, reflection about wherewe came from and where we are going as a community of citizensand hopefully in the process raising contextual awareness of thevexedness of our past and present in the aftermath of violenceagainst another. It's a reflection on a history which was permeatedby a monster and a great deal of misunderstanding. A lot of evilwas perpetrated and there was a lot of cruel conflict in the Southernmost tip of Africa.
MISS WILDSCHUT: Can I just interrupt you? Maybe if you'regoing to speak Afrikaans maybe we should give the non-Afrikaansspeaking people an opportunity to put the earphones on so theyfully appreciate what you're saying.
MR LIEBENBERG: Shall I give you an early warning if Igo into English?
MISS WILDSCHUT: No I think we've already had the warning.
MR LIEBENBERG: I was surprised when a visiting Americanstudent asked me why the jobless and poor young Whites on thestreets of Pretoria look more sad to her than the poor Black jobless people. In a following analysis she argued that it mustbe due to the fact that these poor-Whites lost all power sincethe advent of majority rule and democracy. Hereby she impliedthat these people had real power in the first place. Forgiveme the cynicism, but my immediate thought was isn't power relativeafter all? What power had a young conscript when called up formilitary service, what power had a conscript even and NCO or ajunior officer when ordered to take part inside South Africa,townships if you like or rural areas or our formal colony? Thewell known Afrikaans term "die fyfde provinsie" wouldring a bell with many of you or Namibia or inside neighbouringstates like Angola and Mozambique. Authoritarian states unlikedemocracies at war have no inculcated culture of what constitutejust or unjust orders in the heat of what is perceived the battleagainst the enemy, the agitator the other. These wars by authoritarianstates turned into dirty wars. Maybe this is a set conditionfor the survival of the authoritarian states.
I doubt, I also mention here briefly that I'm not that sure evenif I believe in the just war theory or believe that it can beargued under some conditions that democracy doesn't gravitateto dirty wars as well. I can think about Dresden, Hiroshima,Warsaw and a lot of other places, American massacres in Vietnam. I doubt that conscripts or ex-conscripts for that matter hadany real power to speak of. It is true that powerlessness shouldnot translate into a morality and precisely for that reason manyex-soldiers including conscripts not to forget our foot soldiersof the revolution and competence and liberation armies especiallythe lower ranks suffers from an historical overload of impressionsand experiences. Call it post-traumatic stress syndrome if youwant to. While some will admit to that there are those that aretrying to cope with a heroic or pathetic awareness that life evenafter the trauma has to go on as normally as conceivably possible.
I look at why I think fairly normal people with normal interestswere pushed into the trenches of a society at war with itself. I think we heard a lot about it this morning about the role ofthe church for example, the role of the school cadet system whichwas not voluntary in many cases although in some schools it wasand in others not. In general there where social sanctions evenwhere school cadet systems were voluntary. Maybe I should takeus back a bit to a conscript and I think it's important to keepin mind that non commissioned officers and officers experiencedthat closely I think that many of your conscripts are in manyrespects people with Standard Six, Seven or Eight and in retrospect,and then not necessarily had the tools to understand where theywere. I wasn't even sure that I had the tools at the age of eighteen,commanding a platoon of thirty people, how I came there and forwhat reason.
The role of combat training is to prepare the soldier or thesubject through repeated and rigorous drills to be able to inflictthe utmost disruption amongst the enemy forces with as littleloss as possible on the side of own forces and keeping the economyof fire power in mind. This dictum from the times of ancientEgypt Gengis Khan and the Chinese Federal Power stayed the samefor soldiers and commanding officers alike. It applies to geurillaarmies, whether they are involved in armed propaganda, armed resistanceor national revolution. ...(inaudbile) I thought here becausethe two come from very different worlds and they fundamentallyagree on the idea of why do you enter into conflict with whatyou perceive to be the enemy or those commanding you are perceivingin most cases what the enemy are.
I want to contextualise this. It comes from an "OpleidingsNota", Thirty of Seventy Nine, dated 2 July 79 - Combat ShootingExercises to improve Results during Combat Situations. The aimof all weapon training is to produce soldiers who can kill withany weapon. Quote from a British Infantry Manual as an introductionto the "Opleidings Nota" so I don't think we necessarilyinvented that one but the next one we did invent.
In more detail, the success of infantry operations is largelydetermined by the dexterity with which the weapons are handledby the infantrymen and this dexterity is measured on the basisof how many of the enemy is killed. In other words the artsof using the weapon will be measured in the end on the amountof destruction that you achieve with that weapon in which youwere trained. For any soldier in training or in my case botha soldier and later an Officer Commanding this dictum would bevery difficult to misunderstand or to re-interpret.
Then I say a bit about the introduction of people into the trenches. I look a bit at conscripts, our own experience. I've heard peoplesaying this morning that or at least it was implied in an articlethat many of these conscripts were callous and that they feltvery powerful. I remember a day in Oshikati when I arrived therewith my new platoon at the airport and while we were there waitingfor two or three days the choppers brought in some insurgentsor geurillas that were shot. They were in plastic bags and off-loadedonto the tarmac and we went there, I went there with quite a fewof my troops and one of theses soldiers combatants from SWAPOwas quite badly mutilated on the body because he had been shotwith a twenty millimetre machine gun from a gun ship which isa Aleutte helicopter with a heavy machine gun on it and it wasinteresting that, that callousness if it was there was then difficultto discern because some of the troops disguised their reactionwith a makeshift bravado, some showed a cold determination tosurvive under all circumstances and at all costs and I think mainlyin order to go back home, and some other literally couldn't stomachthe sight. I think in many cases if callousness came it mighthave come many years later for many of those people.
I mention a bit about another experience of a guy that I stillthink to-day is rightwing but that was confronted with a bodyafter a contact which he shot at together with other people andrealised that in this Namibian sun save for luck and a bit ofskill he could be the guy lying there in the sun with the wormscrawling all over him. I think that type of experiences are thingsthat touched all people deeply and I resist to think that aftermany years of battle in this country that there are people whocan say that it might have numbed people, but it didn't becomesomething that no-one could consider or take seriously. In factit's probably one of the reasons why lots of people later in manyways tried to change the course of history.
I'm not going to deal with the church stuff as there's abouttwo minutes left. I'll deal with our conscripts, officers andnon-commissioned officers like myself and what we felt and rationalisedwhen we were there, more so how we felt and what we decided uponafter we left military service. There's a bit about what mostof us knew ducking and diving in order not to go to your nextcamp and the sort of decisions and traumas in trying to understandwhere do I go and when do I object. In my case I objected fairlylate in 1987 to military service so if I have to ask for amnesiaor amnesty it would be because I was in the SADF and I supportedthe arms struggle at some stage. I never killed anyone directlybut I think it's another thing to think about.
There's a few things that I think one could perhaps contemplateand I'll just briefly deal with it. Maybe I should just readthis as it would probably offer an understanding on how many soldiersand I think more so trained soldiers in permanent forces thanpeople who have tried to leave behind their experience or theirsocialisation feel. I think it was quite clear that for myselfin more or less the middle of my military training many of usstarted making and much more so later after I was at University,started making distinctions between political and fighting Generalsand subsequently I think even if we differ deeply and we do fromthose fighting Generals one retains some respect for them. Ithink here about Constand Viljoen for example initially when Iwrote this I said and perhaps Jannie Geldenhuys after Kwamatuthe Kwamakuta Trial. I'm not entirely sure how I feel aboutGeneral Geldenhuys whom I respected very highly in 1980. Whatmost of us were getting both disillusioned with, tired of andI think which in a very real sense moulded our moral decision-making to choose for a new future and for transformation ofsociety was that I think the feeling that these politicians andpolitical Generals directed and dictated politics and war fromTuynhuis in the Union Buildings and that in many cases, especiallythe politicians, had no personal experience of war and it's impacton humans, the land and nature. Not to mention the individualor collective human psyche.
I look a bit at why I think we're not that extraordinary people. The liberation forces would have felt the same, experienced thesame and I also ask the question what about those people in theexistential vacuum from both sides that are now left with tryingto figure out where to go. The turn of Government doesn't necessarilybring a job or resolve your problems that you have as a resultof a long history of alienation.
On a practical side just a few short things. One is, is it notmoral, not necessarily for the TRC but in the aftermath of whatwe're going through now, why the question should not be askedwhy lower ranking officials in service of an authoritarian orderare found guilty of human rights transgressions while politicalGenerals and even more so politicians that created the ambit withinwhich this all took place, go free? Perhaps this is a personalbone or two to pick, I have problems with those people especiallyon the side of the apartheid regime as well as on the side ofthe liberation forces that justified our involvement, our antagonismand our struggle for power in an academic or religious sense. I know people are saying that many people became a lost generation. I'm not sure that the not so lost generation that are in a bitof an existential vacuum but certainly looking for alternativesand have become deeply distrustful of all religion can be thatwrong and perhaps that's something which we should morally re-evaluate,think about and debate a lot in future.
I think especially the alienation and the double disillusionmentthat people lived through in the way in which religion and politicsdictated their lives made it difficult for them to understandhow one can rebuild on the basis of something that was so destructive.
I made two notes about the future, culture of tolerance, opennessand ubuntu which you can read. The suggestions there are quitestraightforward. And six, which is probably more important butwhich I think should be looked at clearly later as there's notime now. The developing of a sound culture, structures and processesregarding civil military relations in a democratic South Africa. But that is all there for reading in the submission and the Appendix. Thank you very much.
MISS WILDSCHUT: Please don't go away yet. We are notgoing to ask many questions says the Chair but perhaps just tomake one comment probably similar to many of the other submissions,that often this process leads to a lot of introspection and I'msure that this must have lead to quite a bit of introspectionon your part as well. It's perhaps part of the aim of the exercisethat we look inward as well as look into the future because weare after all in the process of trying to re-shape how we go intothe future and not perhaps make the mistakes of the past. I thinkthat one of the things that worry me often is a quote that says"one of the certainties we have is that we often do not learnfrom the past". We examine the past but we actually do notlearn from it, and I wonder if there is a way in which we cantry to change that. Perhaps we can ask you to just tell a littlebit more about what do you feel about how we can shape the necessaryneed that we do have to have a defence force. I don't think thatwe're debating that but how can we make it a humane credible forcegiving the background and given the history we have of the past?
MR LIEBENBERG: I think it's a very complex question andI cannot vaguely attempt to give satisfactory answers especiallynot to my brothers and sisters that in principle differ from theinstitution of the military or the military has an institution. My feeling is the first step has been achieved, militaries aremuch better under control in democracies. We have achieved that. The more difficult part probably is we're shaping a history ofauthoritarian control, an authoritarian Government and the waysuch a Governments relates to the military and visa versa. ThereI have quite strong feelings that one should never, as you shouldhave civil societies that have and provide and impose in a sensechecks and balances on politicians. Politicians should providean impose checks and balances on the military and civil militaryrelations is a very important area here. It goes about thingslike what oversight do we have about budgets, what ways of doublechecking on budgets exist and how do you keep that in place andintact so it becomes part of an inculcated culture that it doesn'tjust become structures that exist on paper of how do we overseebudgeting processes, intelligence gathering etc. Exactly howdo we double check that those things relate to how a militaryshould see it's role in a democracy.
More important I think the Argentinean experience is the importantone, that while the Argentinean military perhaps more than theChilean military were brought in kicking and screaming into theprocess there, they afterwards by introspection came around tothe conclusion that the term re-professionalisation of the militaryis not that bad a term at all and that you should try to re-evaluateand re-constitute a military under a democratic rule.
In Chile we know Pinoche is still very powerful and we know thatthe Chileans have experienced the Chilean example of Truth Commissionsin many
senses especially in the justice part of it as a negative experience.
MISS WILDSCHUT: That is a big challenge and thanks forpointing us at least in some way to looking at some of the areasthat we need to examine in terms of institutional change becausethat is one of the imperatives in the Act that we need to makerecommendations about institutional reform and institutional change. I notice you have one small comment to make.
MR LIEBENBERG: A very small one, but I think it's a verylogical one, but no institution structures or processes changeif people don't see the way in which they attempt to deal withthe situation in relation with other people. In my personal viewthat was perhaps my biggest experience since 1978 until to-dayis that the change might come with a lot of ache and sort of moralreflection but once it's come I don't think one should spend toomuch time suffering ad nauseam, there's a lot of other thingsto build and there's a country to build if you put in the Africancontext there's a lot more to do, thank you.
MISS WILDSCHUT: Thank you very much.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Glenda and thank you Ian. We'llcall upon Tim Ledgerwood to come up please and Glenda please stayon. Thank you Craig Botha and family thank you. Thank you, overto you Glenda Wildschut.
MISS WILDSCHUT: Good afternoon Tim I know you've beenhere all day and it's been a long day. We want to thank you forthat patience. Maybe we can just pause a while because thereare some people moving out and then we can give you our full attention. Tim once you've switched on the red button after I've spokenyou may go ahead and present your submission to us.
MR LEDGERWOOD: I want to start off and end off with aquote. The quote that I want to start off with comes from whenI did an army camp in Mamelodi in 1988.
Some Government department had put up billboards all over Malmelodisaying things like "water is a bargain but even bargainsmust be paid for", "housing is a bargain but even housingmust be paid for" and I think it was to do with the boycott. So being balshey soldiers what we did was chalked it all overour Ratels, "the army is a bargain but even bargains mustbe paid for".
I'm not sure where to start. I grew up in a White middle classhome and I went to a very, very good school. My parents are stillGod fearing churchgoers who take their religion very, very seriouslyand I suppose that the combination of a good school and the rightkind of upbringing had given me a good old liberal sense of whatwas right and what was wrong. I went to a school where it waseverybody's stated aim to inculcate the "Mr Chips" valuesof being brave and strong and true and being able to fill theworld with love your whole life through.
I was also lucky in that the education that I had received taughtme to be very critical of the society that I lived in. I didn'texperience poverty, I didn't know how other people lived, butI was aware that there were a lot of people out there who liveda very different life to the one I did. I can remember cryingwhen reading Cry of the Beloved Country. I can remember readingsome of the Spruikhuis publications and being struck by some ofthe arguments inside there.
I was at the same time enormously interested in the military,even to-day military history and the military are hobbies of mineand at one stage I actually wanted to become a serving officerin the defence force an Infantry Officer. However by the timeI got to my National Service I'd been accepted by one of the mainstreamchurches as a candidate Minister. I was in my religious phaseat that stage. The society that I grew up in had no questionsabout military duty, this was in 1980. You went to school youregistered when you were sixteen, you went off and did your NationalService, you came home and life carried on as normal. Your girlfriendwas proud to have somebody who was on the border and the war wasfar, far away. None of us had ever been to Namibia.
I had been called up to report to Sixth South African InfantryBattalion in Grahamstown in July 1980 but wanting to get thisover and done with as quickly as possible made a few phone callsand was re-assigned to the Second South African Infantry BattalionGroup in Walvis Bay in January 1980. To say that the Army wasa trauma leaves no words to describe how I would later find thesecurity police. Having travelled by a dusty troop train forfour days from the lush greenery and the gentle cultivated landsof the Western Cape through the Karoo and Namibia the countrybecoming increasingly parched and barren. We came to the dryNamib Desert where the salt lay maybe thirty centimetres underthe ground and even aluminium rotted. To-day I kind of see thisas a sign of the journey that I would be taking over the nextthree years. I tried to fit in like everybody does and to bethe best that I could be but it didn't work because no matterwhat you did you were in trouble. The aim of basic training whichI understand now has changed was not to equip you with battleskills but was to break you down so that you would blindly followorders and to provide recruits even in 1980 was some moral justificationfor being on the border. Every Wednesday morning after tea atten o'clock we went to listen to the Dominee telling us why communismwas such a bad idea. A few days later or a few lessons latersocialism turned out to be a pretty bad idea too and after thatit was a simple and short step to showing that democracy actuallywasn't the best way you could run things and how America and Russiawere actually on the same side. This was all based on the Bible. Here I was on much better ground because I knew my Bible betterthan the Dominee did and took pleasure in arguing with him untilI was banned from the propaganda classes.
I had to go, as I think it was Dominee du Plooy explained earlierto-day, there was a junior and a senior Dominee and after thisthe junior Dominee was the one who came and gave us the propagandaclasses but as soon as he realised what was going on I had toreport to the senior Dominee's office every Wednesday morningon my own. I didn't fit in at all. The army was bent on destroyingwhat I was and everything that I had been taught to be and myhigher order needs quickly overrode the army's determination tostamp me into a mould of their own making.
Towards the end of my second phase training I became a conscientiousnon-combatant and refused to carry a rifle. I could not reconcileeverything that I had been taught to hold true with what the armywas doing to me and with what it was teaching me and most importantlywith what it believed about itself. I got quite a lot of flackabout this. The favourite argument was, what do you think wouldhappen if everybody did what you did and of course the logicalanswer to that was, well if everybody did what I did then nobodywould be here, we wouldn't have national service. This reallyconfused them because they hated national service so they didn'tknow what to say to that argument but there were others that wereworse, things like what would I do if a terrorist murdered mymother?
Under the rules of those days you could only become a conscientiousnon-combatant if you were a religious pacifist and so that wasthe argument that I had to put forward. The Dominee was alwaysthere swift and insidious like a serpent. I can remember himexplaining to me that Greutesh(?) the Dutch theologian had writtenof the concept of the just war and that South Africa was indeedfighting exactly such a war. I had my doubts but didn't voicethem instead I took refuge in the Bible. That was the great thing,the Bible was the final word on everything and eventually theyleft me alone.
I went through a very bad time in my first year, the world thatI had been taught to believe in did not exist. I can remembergetting a letter from a very concerned Minister of the churchthat I was a member of, asking me about this and writing backto him that as far as I was concerned Christianity did not applyin the SADF. All of my belief systems were under siege but perhapshaving to defend them made me stronger and more able to acceptwhat was about to come.
During my second year things calmed down a lot. I made a friendwho introduced me to Andre Brink and in quick succession I readThe Dry White Season and An instant in the Wind and Rumoursof Rain. He was a university graduate and we spoke a lot aboutthe army and society and this was the first decent conversationI'd had in the army. At one stage I was the only matriculantin the company of two hundred and twenty people. I started thinkingseriously about why I was there and what it meant to be a NationalServiceman. The long and gentle pressure to conform to simplybe swept away with the tide of received wisdom was making me restlessand urging me to be free. In a sense the arguments and defencesI had put up the previous year had made me examine quite criticallywho and why I was and why I was there.
One of the conclusions that I increasingly came to during mysecond year was that it was morally wrong, intrinsically wrong,evil in itself. There was no way that I could justify being involvedin any way with the defence force. Although I had not and wouldnot participate in any actions the whole atmosphere reeked ofmoral turpitude and all I had to go one was what the defence forcetold me. I thought them that believing what the SADF had to sayabout the ANC and SWAPO was a bit like asking the devil for areference on the Pope.
Eventually, in October it all came together. I got drunk oneevening with some friends and we decided to go AWOL. I'd readabout the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Gaboronesand an organisation called the South African Military ResistersAid Fund also in Gaborones and had decided to desert and to makecontact with the UNHCR or SAMRA. From there I'd hoped to be putinto contact with the ANC to join Umkhonto weSizwe and to workfor something that I could at least believe in more than whatI was involved in at that stage. It wasn't really that I supportedthe ANC after all I didn't really know anything about them itwas just that I could not support the SADF.
I had an interesting few weeks. The guy that I had gone on AWOLwith was a pay clerk and he stole the permanent force salary forWalvis Bay. There was great consternation that Monday morning,I must tell you this. We split it and in those far off days beforedigit inflation four thousand rand was a hell of a lot of money. We slept over at Swakopmund, split the money and went our separateways. He returned to camp and was arrested on the Monday morning. I went to Cape Town where I stayed while deciding how best toproceed. I left for Johannesburg going via Knysna, Port Elizabeth,Cradock before joining up with a young hitchhiker who had justbeen released from jail for car theft when I reached Colesburg. In Johannesburg it turned out he was a member of a small groupof street children and I hung around with them for a while stayingin the Salvation Army hostel in Berea until I'd gathered up enoughcourage to buy a train ticket for Mafeking early in November. Being young, foolish. unprepared and on my own I was caughtas I was about to climb over the border fence at Ramaklabana. It was then that the nightmare began. I was handed over to theZeerust branch of the security police who interrogated me forabout two weeks or so. I can remember very few details exceptthe screaming. I was nineteen years old at the time. The darknights of my soul had began. It has been very interesting forme over the past week to follow Geoff Benzien's testimony on television. I'd thought for so long that I had been alone now it seems asif my experiences while not common but certainly not unique. I can remember being marched naked with a police blanket overme and handcuffed down the main street of Zeerust to the Magistrate'soffice where this kindly old gentleman offered me some coffeeand read my confession with growing horror. The security policefor example had insisted that I include the fact that I was preparedto kill my own parents in the name of the struggle while he carefullysigned every page until the story was over. I think that theabsolute worst moment, worse even that the repeated interrogationswas the moment at Waterkloof Airforce Base when the security policemanescorting me back to Walvis Bay took out his trip authorisationto show the controller. He also showed a body receipt for mewhich was all I was, a body, one body in transit to Walvis Bay. One more dead body didn't matter. This was the same securitypoliceman who'd just bought me a packet of cigarettes.
It became ...(inaudbile) Introduced me to a simple piece ofpaper and years later watching Schindler's List I suddenly realisedwhat it must have felt like in some small part in the death camps. I was then handed over to Walvis Bay Security Branch where interrogationand torture continued. They thought that I was part of some largercommunist plot and the South West Africa Army Intelligence alsointerrogated me. It was a relief to be handed over to militarycustody after about two months. The military treated me far betterthan the police did although the police came and fetched me fromthe military cells every night for further interrogation. Therewere other incidents that I can remember while in detention. Joking with the Colonel in charge of Military Intelligence afterbeing interrogated. Betraying everybody who had ever said anythingat all to me while I was under interrogation. The shame at havingbeen broken. A police Major telling me that he could kill meand that no-one would know and I think the most poignant of all,being taken out to the spit of land outside of Walvis Bay Harbourthe last night of the interrogation and being given a cheese burger,chips and a coke having a smoke afterwards and the question, thesame one I would hear time and time again over the years, do youreally think the Blacks will ever govern this country? And theremark on my security police file when in all these years of interrogatingpeople the security police Captain had never met anybody who heldonto his beliefs so strongly. I took that as a compliment.
One the nicest experiences I ever had was being handed over fromsecurity police custody to military police custody. I didn'tknow it but there were military policeman from 1021 Battalionwho were performing military police duties in Walvis Bay. Assoon as the security police left these guys chased everybody intothe cells and brought out two bottles of brandy and a packet ofcigarettes Black guys, sit down tell us all about it we've beenwaiting for you and it was just so strange.
In March I was sent to One Military Hospital in Pretoria forpsychological evaluation. The TRC has since told me that theSADF had found that I had been suffering from very severe traumabut made the decision to treat me as normal. I suppose that thisis fairly normal for oppressive regimes. You can't classify themas other in other words like in Black or terrorist then classifythem as mad which either enough and serves to explain their obviouslydelinquent behaviours.
My court martial was a relief after everything else that hadhappened. I had the Sergeant Major of the military police tellingthe President that I was the best behaved prisoner he had everhad. I had a medical doctor telling the Colonel how I saved anepileptic's life while he was having an attack in the DB. I hadglowing references from the young Dominee but best of all my defencelawyer, best friend ,had just been banned for five years. Weexpected that I would get five years civilian jail in Pollsmoorso we were very relieved when the Colonel of the court martialsaid the SADF is not a political organisation and so can makeno findings on charges one to fifty. These were the charges underthe various Suppression of Communism, Suppression of Terrorismacts. We were quite surprised because they had a signed statementthat I wanted to go and join the ANC and what they said as well,we don't care we're not worried about it. For going AWOL andtheft we sentence you to a further six months detention. I hadbeen in solitary confinement for seven months and was to remainin solitary for another two. It was over except that it wasn't.
My life after that was substantially and subtly different. Ifound myself emotionally exhausted for years afterwards, I'm talkingtwelve years afterwards. My sense of dissociation and alienationwas acute. Before the TRC I'd never met anybody who'd been througheven remotely similar experiences to these, except for one guywho is now my best friend, a guy who spent his time instructingUNITA in Angola and had gone through some quite harsh things.
Even now it is as if it had all happened to someone else andas if I was simply an observer looking in from the outside. Thisbrings me to the point of my story. I've noticed in the lastfew weeks some quite bad press that the TRC has been getting. The TRC has deeply affected my life in a short space of timethat has elapsed since I first came to their offices here in CapeTown and told my story to one of the investigators. It has begana healing process in all sorts of relationships in my family andhas enabled me to begin on my own road to any healing. I cannotclaim to speak for all victims I haven't met any other victims. There are many who have suffered more than I have. I can speakonly for myself but from my point of view the reportage missesa vital point, the role and reaction and feelings of the victims. Having gone to the TRC with my story it is almost as if it'salright to talk about it now. Slowly things are changing as ifI've been freed from a prison in which I have been in for eighteenyears.
It is also as if my family have been freed. My brother who workedfor Armscor for five or six years in the 1980's is all of a suddenmuch softer, more human and more able to talk to me. The lasttime I saw him he told me that he feels that he should have donemore, that he should have tried harder. Perhaps this is the mostimportant and yet unpublisised role of the TRC not to extractconfessions from F.W. and Magnus and people like that no, theymust live with their own consciences and will have their own demonsto haunt them as they grow older and increasingly irrelevant. I believe it is the victims who are important. I don't knowhow the TRC has affected other people's lives but if my experienceis anything to go by a vast amount of healing has already beendone. It is almost as if the silence is ending as if we are wakingup from a long bad nightmare. We are not living under a tyrannyof silence anymore in a world of double speak, it is the dawnthat has come of our freedom from fear and our fear of freedom,it is the dawn that so many have worked for and the darkness cannotovercome it. Looking back I wonder sometimes why I did what Idid.
One of the biggest problems is that the previous Government criminalisedwhat I had done and severely limited my options for sharing myexperiences. I'm to this day careful with whom I share my trials. Why did I do it? I don't know. I hope that if I'm ever facedwith the same choices I would make the same decisions. I'm nota pacifist, war has been part of the human condition for so longfor as long as there have been humans. As Professor Phillip Tobiashas said, "it's not nature that is red in tooth and claw,it is mankind."
I believe that a well trained and prepared defence force is integralto the long term continuance of our nation and to protect thisgentle thing that we call democracy. I think that it is ThomasJefferson who wrote that occasionally the tree of freedom needsto be watered with the blood of free man. I'm still involvedwith the military. I'm a member of the part time forces. I believethat it's each person's duty to contribute to their country inproportion to the gifts that their country has given them. I'vebeen extraordinary fortunate and want to give back to the countrywhatever I can and this is my way of contributing. I believeas Doctor Nathan said earlier to-day, that the military is theultimate expression of the will of the people. There's not muchyou can do to argue with an Olifant tank or a Ratel 90. Thisis why abuse of this enormous power is so evil. Now that thepeople have a chance to express their will I would like to bepart of that. ....... wrote that war is a continuation of politicsby other means by this he means that is the purpose of war toserve political or economic goals. Unfortunately it is the natureof world to serve only itself. I believe that the defence forceneeds people who understand the place and the role of the societyand the conflict between these two roles of war and they can betrusted to make decisions based on that understanding.
There are plenty of things that give me hope. The fact thatmy own children can speak Zulu fluently at the age of ten, thatgives me hope. On December the 16th I saw a young Afrikaans girlwatching Sarafina, that gives me hope. I don't know how longit's going to take to change but things are changing.
I want to close with a quote from Sinad O'Conner from a albumcalled Universal Mother, the song is called Famine,
"If there's ever going to be healing there has to be remembranceand then grieving so that there can be forgiving there has tobe knowledge and understanding."
MISS WILDSCHUT: One's impression and one's feeling isnot to fill the space with words because your words were powerfulenough to give us lots and lots of food for thought and that thosethoughts would in a sense assuage the famine that you referredto. You've moved us deeply and thank you very much for your presentation.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Glenda and thank you Tim not tofill the space with words, yes you are right Glenda.