Link to BBC Homepage

Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Thursday, April 16, 1998 Published at 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK

World: Africa

Botha 'linked to murder decisions'
image: [ P.W. Botha driven from court in George on Tuesday ]
P.W. Botha driven from court in George on Tuesday

BBC Correspondent Richard Downes: Botha has repudiated his negotiating position (2'17")
The trial for contempt of the former South African president PW Botha has been told of "evidence" allegedly showing he was involved in decisions which led to human rights violations, including the assassination of political opponents.

The evidence was put forward by Paul van Zyl, the Executive Secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who stressed the commission had not made a ruling on it but sought an explanation from Mr Botha.

Mr Botha has gone on trial for contempt after refusing to testify before the commission.

Mr van Zyl, the first witness to give evidence, described Mr Botha as the former "chairman of the State Security Council."

He told the trial the commmission had found minutes of the council's meetings which appeared to order assassinations and bombings against black activists.

The minutes documented orders to "eliminate" and "neutralise" he said.

Mr van Zyl added: "It caused a real concern for us ... obviously it is an area where we wanted clarity ..."

The BBC correspondent at the trial says legal argument is now likely to centre on whether this was an order to kill opponents or merely to harass them.

Negotiations 'repudiated'

Earlier, after almost two days of negotiations aimed at persuading Mr Botha to "co-operate", lawyers for the commission said he had rejected all discussions.

"He's blown it," said a lawyer for the commission, Jeremy Gauntlett, adding, "he's effectively repudiated all the discussions."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "We just want him to give us answers." (0' 17")
A BBC correspondent described commission officials as "very fed up." They said they had "bent over backwards" in an attempt to get him to testify.

Mr Botha's trial for contempt had been due to start on Tuesday in the town of George. But the judge agreed to adjourn the sitting till Wednesday morning after the prosecutors said agreement was close.

However, no agreement was reached and Mr Botha was put on trial for contempt.

Truth Commission seeks answers

Mr Botha ruled South Africa in the turbulent apartheid years between 1978 and 1989.

Mike Siluma, editor of The Sowetan newspaper: Botha's testimony is crucial (0'13")
The commission wants to hear evidence about Mr Botha's State Security Council which controlled the army, police and intelligence during the late 1980s and enforced apartheid by emergency rule.

These were some of the most violent years of white minority government: thousands of black people died in clashes with police and many others were detained without trial.

Mr Botha has described the commission as a political witch-hunt. He says that he should not have to appear in person after giving the commission written evidence. But the commission wants to ask Mr Botha how much he knew and to cross-question him aspects of his long, written submission.

Other members of the apartheid-era council have given evidence and Mr Botha's refusal to do so is seen as the biggest thorn in the side of the commission in its two-year history.

Afrikaner journalist, Hennie Serfontein: "He's become a sort of a symbol." (0' 17")
For his part, the commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu has sought to avoid a potentially divisive trial fearing it could exacerbate already strained race relations in South Africa.

But the BBC correspondent in South Africa says the commission is also under an overriding obligation to find out the truth about South Africa's apartheid past.

Mr Botha could face a large fine, up to two years in prison, or both.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


Link to BBC Homepage

  Relevant Stories

14 Apr 98 | World
Botha trial deadline set

23 Feb 98 | World
P.W. Botha pleads not guilty to contempt charges

07 Jan 98 | World
New move to prosecute Botha over Truth Commission refusal

14 Dec 97 | World
Mandela says P.W. Botha not above the law

  Internet Links

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

African National Congress

Government of National Unity

National Party

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief

Africa Contents

Country profiles