A reassessment by David Philips  of The Truth & Reconciliation Commission (part 1):

When South Africa became a democracy in 1994, its new constitution was judged internationally as the most progressive in the world.  Inscribed in this remarkable document was a commitment to ensuring reconciliation between the peoples of South Africa.  But what was meant by “reconciliation”, and was it achieved?  The historian, the late Professor David Philips who died suddenly in August 2008, studied the course of the TRC from its inception.  He addressed these and other questions in the first of a three part series for London Grip.

A cartoon from a South African newspaper in 1997 shows Bishop Tutu, accompanied by the media and various members of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, with a Map in his hand, standing on the edge of a steep cliff labelled “TRUTH”.  He’s looking across a deep abyss to another steep cliff labelled “RECONCILIATION” – unreachable from where he is.  And he’s saying, “OOPS!”

The TRC took as its motto “Truth: The Road to Reconciliation” – but, as the cartoon suggests, the route from one to the other is neither simple nor straightforward.

In terms of the negotiated Interim Constitution, South Africa was able to hold its first free and democratic election in April 1994.  Included as an afterthought to this document, commonly referred to as its ‘Postamble’.  This was an agreement between the governing Nationalist Party (NP) and the imminent government of the African National Congress (ANC), which committed the new, democratically elected South African Parliament to legislate to provide some form of amnesty, in pursuit of “reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society”. The NP were anxious to protect themselves and their subordinates from prosecution by the new democratic government; the ANC – knowing that they were not in a sufficiently powerful position to insist on prosecution and punishment of all the leaders and main functionaries of the apartheid regime, and anyhow wanting amnesty for some of their own people – made a virtue of necessity.  They embraced their leader Mandela’s language of forgiveness, ubuntu (a feeling of common humanity), reconciliation and reconstruction.  The new democratic Parliament passed the Promotion of National Unity and  Reconciliation Act in 1995; and its implementation began in December 1995.

Models for Punishment, Truth-finding and/or Reconciliation

The National Party had been in power for 46 years, an authoritarian regime based on racial discrimination.  It had maintained itself in power, particularly in the final decade, by brutal oppression and allowing its security forces to commit numerous atrocities.  When Mandela’s new Government took office in 1994, a means had to be found to deal with the past conduct of the preceding government while still managing the delicate process of transition to a new political system.  Similar transitional issues have affected many countries and in the future probably will affect many more, such as East Timor,  Indonesia, Northern Ireland, and  Israel/Palestine.

Since 1945, two major models have evolved to deal with this such circumstances, and have become enshrined in International Human Rights Law: the Nuremberg Model and the Latin American Model.

The Nuremberg Model:  Trials before a Tribunal

At  the end of WWII, tribunals were established at Nuremberg and Tokyo to try individuals in the leadership of Germany and Japan for war crimes, both crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity.  Initially it was assumed that a permanent international tribunal would be established to handle similar future situations, but the Cold War put an end to such hopes.  Not until 1993 was another such international tribunal set up by the UN Security Council, for the former Yugoslavia, followed in 1995 by a similar tribunal for Rwanda.  In South Africa the Nuremberg model was never a realistic option:  Germany and Japan had surrendered unconditionally in 1945 whereas  the apartheid regime had negotiated its transition from its original position while still possessing substantial strength.

The Latin American Model:  a ‘Truth Commission’

The second model – for a country in transition from a dictatorship which committed atrocities against its own citizens, to a democracy – was pioneered by some Latin American countries, notably Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Uruguay.  This was a ‘Truth Commission’ as an alternative to the prosecution of individuals before a criminal tribunal.  For some of these countries, the transition to democracy was a fragile and delicate process in which the military retained considerable power and the ability to disrupt the whole transition process.  Often the military could extract a promise of amnesty for their past misdeeds as part of the price of a return to democracy.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission  (TRC)

The South African Parliament opted for a version of the ‘Latin American model’.  The TRC Act set up a TRC with seventeen Commissioners.  Its brief was to achieve four major objectives:

  • To establish as complete a picture as possible of ‘gross violations of human rights’ in the period between March 1960 and 10 May 1994.
  • To grant amnesty to people who applied, on certain conditions.
  • To establish the fate of the victims of such violations, restore their dignity by giving them or their families the opportunity to tell their story, and to recommend measures of reparation for victims or their dependents;
  • To compile a report of the TRC’s activities, with recommendations of measures to prevent future violations of human rights.

The TRC was given powers to conduct investigations and hold hearings, normally in public, to subpoena witnesses, and to compel witnesses to answer questions or produce any article, even if it might incriminate them.

To achieve its objectives, the TRC set up three Committees – on Human Rights Violations (HRV); on the Reparation and Rehabilitation of Victims; and on the granting of Amnesty.

Of these, inevitably, the most controversial was the Amnesty Committee.  It was the most formally legal of the committees and unlike the other two Committees, was appointed directly by President Mandela.  It was chaired by a Judge who was not a Commissioner, it comprised two other Judges, and the two Commissioners appointed to it had to be lawyers.  Subsequently, more judges were added to it.  Anyone seeking amnesty had to apply before the deadline, upon which the Committee then investigated the application and if it found that the application complied with the requirements, the Committee granted amnesty to that person for that act, rendering him or her neither criminally nor civilly liable for such act.

The three main criteria to be satisfied for the granting of an amnesty were that the act took place during the period March 1960 – May 1994; that it was associated with a political objective; and that the applicant was judged by the committee to have made full disclosure of all relevant facts.

The Commissioners first met in December 1995 and held their first HRV hearings in April 1996.  The TRC was originally supposed to last for just eighteen months with a possible six-month extension but the deadline was extended – a number of times – to October 1998.  The original Report in 5 vols. was presented to President Mandela at the end of Oct. 1998 but the work of the Amnesty Committee continued to 2001.  In 2003, the Government finally announced the Reparations to be paid, and the TRC issued two more volumes of its report, volumes 6 and 7.

The TRC’s  struggle

The TRC made a considerable effort to advertise the hearings,  both to encourage victims and their families to come forward and to disseminate to the South African public the evidence given at hearings. It set up a database of about 22,000 cases of alleged human rights violations, and put a TRC website online to disseminate information about its activities and the results it was achieving.  It encouraged national and international press and radio coverage, allowing TV cameras to film the HRV hearings.  The South African Broadcasting Corporation gave the TRC two hours of live TV coverage on its opening day, featured it prominently in news bulletins, and presented a much watched 45-minute summary every Sunday following each week’s hearings.

The TRC carried a heavy burden of national and international expectation.   Apartheid had gained huge international attention and condemnation, and the TRC arrested the attention of the world’s media, more than any previous truth commission.  It was also bigger, in terms of its resources and the scope of its inquiries, than any previous truth commission.

Given the impossibly heavy weight of expectations placed on the TRC, it’s not surprising that some were disappointed.  The real question is whether, on balance, its work will be regarded as having been a success.  Initially, the TRC could draw on a huge groundswell of popular support for the Mandela Government, and for the general objectives of discovering and publicizing the truth and working actively for reconciliation.  And it benefited from its formal leaders – its Chairperson Archbishop Tutu, the charismatic anti-apartheid clergyman, Nobel Peace Prize winner and skilled media performer, as well as its Deputy-Chairperson Alex Boraine, a former White liberal politician who was generally praised for his handling of the role.

But, from the start, it also faced considerable opposition from diverse groups, from right-wing Whites, especially Afrikaners, who claimed to fear a partisan witch-hunt – and the Afrikaner press hammered home this theme; from significant parts of the old White liberal establishment, as well as  Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party, who attacked the TRC as a puppet of the ANC government;  and from some radicals, mainly Black, but including some Whites, who regarded its terms as too even-handed, too lax in its amnesty provisions, and too favourable to the old beneficiaries of apartheid, especially in its investigation of only gross human rights violations and not the gamut of the apartheid regime’s oppressive actions.

So – what did it achieve?

An important part of the TRC’s task was to gather information about atrocities, and to publicise them to the South African population and the rest of the world.  This began with public hearings by the HRV Committee, held in various centres  around South Africa, at which victims of such violations, or their families and dependants, gave evidence about what had been done to them.

The evidence from the HRV hearings is striking and chilling.  Used in conjunction with some of the evidence from the perpetrators, given in the Amnesty Committee hearings, it confirms in substantial detail a saga of countless incidents of torture, abduction, ‘disappearances’, and murder – mainly, but not exclusively, committed by the security forces.  These included some notorious incidents, such as the death in police custody of Steve Biko in 1977;  the assassination, by police death squads, of anti-apartheid activists such as Griffiths Mxenge in 1981 and his wife Victoria Mxenge in 1985, Fabian and Florence Ribeiro in 1986, and  David Webster in 1989;  the Security Police abduction and assassination of the ‘Cradock Four’ in 1985;  the killing by police of the ‘Gugulethu Seven’ in 1986;   the abduction, killing & disposal of the body, by chopping it up and throwing it into a river, of student activist Siphiwo Mtimkulu by Gideon Nieuwoudt of the Port Elizabeth special branch police.

And there were great numbers of less publicized but equally atrocious assaults on, mainly Black,  South Africans.

The Amnesty Committee

The most contentious part of the TRC’s activities concerned the powers and decisions of the Amnesty Committee.  By the deadline of 30th September 1997 they had received  7,127 applications for amnesty. Most of the applications were from convicted criminals in prison, trying their luck, who were turned down without a formal hearing. Only 1,146 (16%) were successful in getting amnesty.

Let’s examine one such application, that of notorious ‘death squad’ security policeman Captain Dirk Coetzee.  He was an officer in the Security Police, in command of the security police unit at Vlakplaas, a farm near Pretoria which the Security Police used as a base for hit squads.  He was told by his superior to ‘make a plan’ with Griffiths Mxenge, a well-known Black lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, described as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of the authorities.  The order to “make a plan” with someone, always given verbally, never in writing, was understood to be an instruction to murder that person.  Coetzee and his two African askaris (captured guerillas made turncoats) David Tshikalange and Butana Almond Nofomela, planned Mxenge’s death, and, with the aid of two others, carried it out in November 1981.  Coetzee was told not to shoot him, but to make it look like a robbery, so after they had abducted him in his car, they stabbed him – 45 times – as well as hitting him on the head with a spanner.

Coetzee and his men also abducted, interrogated and tortured Sizwe Kondile, a young law student and anti-apartheid activist.  He sustained such serious brain injuries that they decided that they couldn’t release him; so they poisoned him and then burned the body on an open fire in the veld.  Coetzee testified that it took about seven hours for the body to burn fully; and, while they were attending to this, he and his men were having a braaivleis (barbecue) next to the burning body.

Coetzee, Tshikalange and Nofomela requested and were granted amnesty for these and other killings, as political acts,  done on the orders of the Security Police.

Coetzee, aged 51 when he testified to the Amnesty Committee in November 1996, told them that his beliefs were shaped by his family being “typical Afrikaner conservative National Party members” and by his religious upbringing in the Dutch Reformed Church.   He had been a member of the Voortrekker Youth Movement (the Afrikaner equivalent of Boy Scouts),  “a youth movement wearing para-military uniform, based on the traditions of our forebears, the Voortrekkers – going on camps, singing typical Afrikaans songs, being educated in the history of our forebears.”  He said that he believed that politics and religion were “100%” connected in the form of “the National Party and the Dutch Reformed Church”; and that “God had in fact given this country for the Afrikaners as its own”.  He said, “I was born into this environment, grew up in this environment, where we were made to believe that we were God’s own people.  We were the last southern Christian tip on the southern tip of Africa, that we were threatened with a communist revolutionary onslaught from the north, which if it was ever to succeed would plunge the southern tip of Africa into chaos.”

Coetzee volunteered for military service, to defend South Africa against the ‘communist onslaught’, and then joined the police.  In August 1980 he was appointed commander of Vlakplaas, a unit which he turned into a base for hit squads.   Asked whether he thought the unit operated above the law, he replied, “Absolutely”.  One of the unit’s operating instructions, known as “the eleventh commandment”, was, “Don’t get caught”.

Coetzee’s most famous successor as commander of the hit squads at Vlakplaas was Colonel Eugene De Kock, a much-decorated hero of the Security Police.  In May 1994, just after the elections, De Kock was put on trial for a series of offences.  He was eventually convicted of 89 charges, including six of murder,  two of attempted murder, plus many others, and in August 1996 he was sentenced to two life sentences plus 212 years’ imprisonment.  From prison, De Kock then applied for amnesty, and freely revealed details of his activities, including implicating his superiors in the police force and members of the Government in giving the orders for these killings.  Coetzee was granted amnesty for all of his killings, and walked free; De Kock was granted amnesty for almost all of his offences – including an attempt on the life of Dirk Coetzee.  He was refused amnesty in just five cases, where the committee found that there was no clear political objective in the killing, or the killing was seen as disproportionate to the objective.  So De Kock also escaped punishment for most of his atrocities though he is still currently in prison, serving one of his life sentences.

De Kock made a point of stressing that his orders for hit squad killings and other activities came from police and army generals who in turn got them from President P.W. Botha and his successor F.W. de Klerk.   The generals, confronted with this evidence, mostly denied that they had given such orders, or claimed that the Vlakplaas people had misunderstood what they meant when they ordered them to ‘eliminate’ people such as Matthew Goniwe of the Cradock Four.

Yet P.W. Botha refused to testify to the TRC; and De Klerk succeeded, by legal action, in getting the section referring to him removed from the final TRC Report.  Botha was eventually prosecuted for refusal to testify but the magistrate only imposed a fine and a suspended sentence –  and even that was overturned on appeal on a technicality.   So the end result is:  Botha and De Klerk got off scot-free;  Coetzee got amnesty for everything; and  De Kock got amnesty for most of his crimes.

You don’t, I think, have to be unduly cynical, nor a committed opponent of the TRC, to feel that this is not a very just result.  And there are other such examples, as I shall indicate below.

So the dilemma remains as to where to place the emphasis.  On punishment or forgiveness?  On justice or vengeance?

Let us consider the cases for and against the TRC’s performance.

The Case in Favour of the TRC

An important part of the argument favouring the TRC’s activities is that it has facilitated a national catharsis for a society traumatised by all the killings, torture and disappearances.  It can be said to have achieved this in at least three ways.  First, by offering the victims and their families the opportunity to tell their stories in public, thus helping relieve them of an appalling mental and emotional burden.  Second, by requiring full disclosure of the applicants for amnesty, which put confessions of their shameful actions on the public record.  Third, the TRC provided reparation and rehabilitation for those who in its terms qualified as “victims”, and their dependants.  The TRC originally recommended that each victim receive between R17,000 and R20,000 per year for six years; by 2003 it was decided to increase the upper limit to R30,000 for each victim.

There is a conventional argument that a truth commission serves a national purpose in forcing a society to confront, and come to terms with, its atrocious past; that it can deter such conduct in the future; and that it can do so at least as well as the alternative, namely prosecution of a few individual perpetrators.

Many non-South Africans expressed the hope that the TRC, positive and optimistic, would offer a model for other countries facing similar problems of transitional justice and dealing with past atrocities.  Amongst South Africans, no-one projected this notion better than the TRC’s Chair, Archbishop Tutu, who loved to portray the TRC, and his ‘Rainbow nation of God’ of the ‘new South Africa’, as offering new moral hope and guidance to the world.  He did this in countless media interviews and press releases, and in his Foreword to the TRC Report. Tutu had his own ideal vision of how the TRC should work, as a form of ‘restorative justice’, as opposed to ‘retributive justice’.

In the ideal case, it would go like this:  the victim/survivor gives evidence to the HRVC about the violation;  the perpetrator applies for amnesty, and comes forward to disclose everything about it before the Amnesty Committee;  the perpetrator apologises to the victim and the victim’s family, and asks their forgiveness;  the victim comes forward to embrace and forgive the perpetrator in full view of the TV cameras.

Tutu repeatedly cited and praised a few cases which fitted in well with this model, as if they were the norm.  He cited the case of  Babalwa Mhlauli, the daughter of one of the Cradock Four who were abducted & killed.  She said at her HRVC hearing, “We want to forgive but whom should we forgive?”  He cited the case of  Mrs Beth Savage, a White woman, badly injured by a grenade in the Azanian People’s Liberation Army attack on a New Year’s Eve dance at a King Williams Town golf club. She said that the experience had enriched her and that she wanted to meet the perpetrator and forgive him.

Tutu suggested that these cases were common – but in fact, they were far from it.  Many victims felt pressured by the TRC to forgive their perpetrators but felt no necessary inclination to do so.For example, there was Mrs Charity Kondile,  the mother of Sizwe Kondile who was murdered and his body burned by Dirk Coetzee.  Coetzee publicly asked her forgiveness.  Her lawyer replied on her behalf,  “You said that you would like to meet Mrs Kondile and look her in the eye.  She asked me to tell you that she feels it is an honour … you do not deserve.  If you are really sorry, you would stand trial for the deeds you did.”  Mrs Kondile added to this:  “It is easy for Mandela and Tutu to forgive  …  they live vindicated lives.  In my life nothing, not a single thing has changed since my son was burnt by barbarians … nothing.  Therefore I cannot forgive.”

The families of three sets of victims, Steve Biko,  Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, and Fabian & Florence Ribeiro,  applied to the new Constitutional Court to have the amnesty clause of the TRC Act  set aside as unconstitutional.  The Court unanimously rejected their application, mainly on the grounds of public policy: without the promise of amnesty, perpetrators would have no incentive to come forward and make full disclosure.   The families still objected to perpetrators of atrocities against their family members going free.

Similarly, Marius Schoon, whose wife and six-year-old daughter were killed by a parcel bomb sent by the team of security policeman Craig Williamson, who was granted amnesty, said,  “There can be no indemnity, no forgiveness, without remorse.  We see no signs of Craig being sorry.  I mean, are we going to have a situation where people can qualify for indemnity just by saying, as if they were reeling off a grocery list, ‘I killed this one and poisoned that one and beat the shit out of the third one’.  It seems untenable to me, morally and philosophically.”

Craig Williamson’s team also sent the letter bomb which killed Ruth First.  Her daughter Gillian Slovo described how repelled she was by hearing Williamson freely talk about sending those letter bombs, and how little desire she felt to forgive him or shake his hand.

I’m not suggesting that Tutu and the others are dishonest, or even naive, in their attitudes.  They acknowledge that there is good reason to want to see the perpetrators of the violations punished, both for fundamental reasons of justice and from an understandable human wish for vengeance.  The strongest argument in favour of their position – which they have frequently made – is an essentially pragmatic one: without the offer of amnesty for acts committed under apartheid, there would have been no negotiated settlement at all, and South Africa would have faced the alternative of continued internal conflict, possibly leading to bloody racial civil war. And, after the free election and new government, the nation’s greatest need is healing and reconciliation, rather than vengeance for past wrongs which would simply prolong the bitterness and conflict.

But not everyone accepts this argument as a complete solution to all the problems.

The Case Against the TRC

A major problem with the Tutu view is that many people who would reluctantly accept criminal amnesty as preferable to a bloody racial civil war, still can’t see why that should also include amnesty against being civilly sued for damages.  And many understandably object to the way in which this pragmatic argument – amnesty reluctantly accepted as the lesser of two evils – often became in Tutu’s mouth a very different argument: namely, that amnesty was morally preferable to prosecution, preferable as a form of ‘restorative justice’ instead of ‘retributive justice’.

One critic, Richard Wilson, has called this the TRC’s “religious-redemptive narrative”: amnesty is presented as a positive good of Christian forgiveness, and the wish to prosecute perpetrators through the criminal justice system is portrayed as a nasty wish for vengeance.  Of course, Tutu was an Anglican Archbishop, and it was his job to urge Christian forgiveness on people.  But not everyone involved with the TRC was either Christian or religious, and there was no reason why everyone else should have to share Tutu’s view of reconciliation and forgiveness; the TRC Act talks about reconciliation, but says nothing about any requirement of forgiveness.

The TRC was also criticised by some for its brief to investigate all atrocities committed in this period, those  committed by supporters of the liberation movements as well as by supporters of apartheid.  The Nuremberg Trials were criticised as exhibitions of “victors’ justice” – punishing the crimes of the Germans but not those of the Allies.  The new South African Government was keen to avoid a similar criticism, that the TRC was simply a “witchhunt” against White Afrikaners who had supported apartheid.  So Tutu stressed the “even-handedness and independence” of the TRC.

But this angered many supporters of the liberation struggle, who objected to treating acts committed in the course of the fight against apartheid in the same way as acts committed by defenders and enforcers of apartheid.  They argued that the struggle against apartheid – apartheid having been confirmed by the UN as a “crime against humanity” –  should have been assessed as a “just war”, and acts committed by anti-apartheid activists treated more leniently.

This was not, however, what the TRC Act said, nor what the TRC did, which brought them into conflict with many of the leaders of the ANC who objected to having to apply for amnesty along with agents of the apartheid state.

In a sadly farcical last–minute action, those ANC leaders, headed by Thabo Mbeki,   tried to get a Court order to stop publication of the TRC Report.  Fortunately, their request was refused, but it didn’t make the ANC look good, nor did it bode well for getting the ANC Government to pay the reparations which that Report recommended.

Truth versus Reconciliation

A Dutch observer of the TRC said that the Commission could not but fail because its task was simply too demanding:  but “even as it fails, it has already succeeded beyond any rational expectations”. This seems to me to be the right, complex, conclusion to come to.

The TRC was assigned a massive political, social, and moral role.  Natural justice suggested that victims and their families had a right to expect both prosecution and reparation.  International Human Rights Law demanded that, as with Pinochet in Chile, the leaders of the apartheid regime such as P.W. Botha, should be punished, to deter others from running similar regimes.  Yet political prudence suggested that all the conflicting groups in South Africa should try to live together in the future, hence the need for national reconciliation.  Perhaps it was the most sensible course to take – to trade amnesty for perpetrators in return for their putting their misdeeds on the public record.  This could be rationalised as an essential reconciliation to which was added a gloss of religion and morality, by invoking the virtues of Christian forgiveness and indigenous ubuntu.

Many South Africans are not happy at the thought that many of the guilty perpetrators (White ones, in particular) have escaped prosecution.  But, in its favour,  the TRC has also left a permanent historical record of detailed disclosures by some of the perpetrators of atrocities which the forces of ‘law and order’ committed in defending apartheid South Africa, thus at last confirming what many people claimed in the face of repeated official denials during the apartheid years.

The TRC didn’t – it couldn’t – satisfy all the high hopes placed on it by both South Africans and the international community.   Its brief was to produce both ‘truth’ and ‘reconciliation’.  But perhaps you can’t have both at once,  and it may have served truth at the expense of reconciliation – as in the cartoon I cited at the start.

In South Africa’s circumstances, a perfect solution was never a serious option.  What the TRC did may be the least bad outcome of a difficult and complex process of transition to a free and democratic society.

In the longer term, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and all the evidence it collected and placed on the public record, offers a valuable contribution towards building up a new “human rights culture” in the new South Africa – and provides a deep, if harrowing, repository of primary materials for future historians.


Also see in London Grip:

David Philips on The Freedom Charter


David Philips on the TRC Part 2 and TRC Part 3


In 2011 Warwick Hojem wrote to London Grip, as follows,  to correct a detail in David Philip’s article which can alter interpretation of the event. (See section above, “The Case in Favour of the TRC”).

Tutu cited the case of  Mrs Beth Savage, a White woman, badly injured by a grenade in the Azanian People’s Liberation Army attack on a New Year’s Eve dance at a King Williams Town golf club. She said that the experience had enriched her and that she wanted to meet the perpetrator and forgive him.

A minor correction from somebody who was there: it was not a New Year’s Eve dance but an end of year Wine Circle dinner, held on 28/11/92. I was present in my role as the Wine Circle’s secretary.

I witnessed the deaths of the four people killed by the grenade – Mr and Mrs MacDonald and Mr and Mrs Davies.  I think that Beth Savage’s main injury was not by a grenade but rather by an R4 bullet that pierced her heart.  She was airlifted to Bloemfontein and had open heart surgery there. I think the surgeon was a Dr. Penold.

Although the TRC claimed to have tried to contact all victims, neither I nor my wife (who received a flesh wound from the hand grenade) were contacted but this could have been because we emigrated mid-1996 as a direct result of the violence we experienced that night and because of some events after that date.

In terms of whether the TRC was a success or not, I do think that the country was poised for civil war, with a small minority of well-armed right-wingers, predominantly Afrikaners, in one camp and a bunch of aggrieved (the majority of victims came from their side) poorly armed militant blacks in the other. The TRC’s introduction and handling of the situation neutralized the tense situation that existed.

Would I have forgiven the perpetrators of the attack at the golf club had I been at one of the hearings?  Definitely not. We were the first soft target that was attacked after the Bisho massacre on 7/9/92 and the breakdown of the Codesa talks. It was a cowardly attack performed by cowards who tried to create maximum mayhem (they even tried to set fire to eight gas cylinders that were used to heat the clubhouse shower’s water) but fled after one of their automatic rifles jammed. Their second grenade was also kicked to one side and the 13 occupants of the bar (in an adjoining room) managed to dive to the ground prior to it exploding, with no injuries being sustained, in contrast to the 23 injuries from shrapnel in the dining room.

And for the record, I was chairperson of the Democratic Party in KWT (Alex Borraine’s party) and was as much against the National party government as I was against perpetrators of cowardly hit and run attacks on innocent civilians.

I was also co-chair of the Border Peace committee from early 1993 through to early 1996 and my choice at the time was to work for a peaceful transition towards black majority rule or to align with the white right wing who had been the main cornerstone of the apartheid era. Admittedly, by mid-93 we had decided to leave but I wanted to make it a better country for those who chose not to leave or didn’t have the resources to do so. I felt that I could contribute more actively towards a better society following the path I did take than by taking up arms (which I had been appropriately trained for in the mid-70’s courtesy of compulsory conscription).

©2011 Warwick Hojem