Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 16:43 GMT

World: Africa

Truth report accuses leading figures

Blacked out: A section of report dealing with FW de Klerk

Click here for the Truth Commission's full report

The long-awaited report by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission into abuses under apartheid has accused leading figures from across the political spectrum of human rights violations.

Truth and Reconciliation
Former President PW Botha, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and Winnie Mandela are among those who stand accused.

The ruling African National Congress is also blamed.

But it is the system of apartheid, condemned as a crime against humanity, which receives the harshest criticism from the TRC's report, which was published on Thursday.

  • Mr Botha, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1984, and president until 1989, was fined earlier this year after refusing to testify before the commission. The report holds him accountable for killings during his time in office, a period when anti-apartheid resistance was met with increasingly brutal suppression.

  • Mr Buthelezi is held responsible for killings carried out by members of his Inkatha Freedom Party. The Zulu nationalist grouping was revealed in 1992 to have collaborated in secret police activity, including mass killings, in the KwaZulu-Natal region.

  • Ms Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of the president, is judged by the report to have been implicated in murders, and was said to have allowed her home to be used as a place for assault and mutilation. She has already been convicted of the kidnapping of young activist Stompie Sepei in the late 1980s. Her personal bodyguards have been linked to killings and abductions.

Apartheid accused

Southern Africa Correspondent Jane Standley: "The first halting steps to reconcilation have been taken"
The report speaks of the strategy developed by senior politicians, and police intelligence and defence force leaders - to deal with government opponents.

"This entailed, among other actions, the unlawful killing, within and beyond South Africa, of people whom they perceived as posing a significant challenge to the state's authority."

The existence of such a scheme, the report says, "supports the notion that the apartheid system was a crime against humanity."

The report also holds the ANC responsible for deaths and injuries during its time as an exiled movement fighting apartheid.

[ image: Desmond Tutu: The commission's driving force]
Desmond Tutu: The commission's driving force
The 3,500-page report was presented to President Mandela on Thursday by commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu predicted that many would be upset by the report.

"Some have sought to discredit it pre-emptively," the bishop said. "It won't change the fact that they have killed... bombed... and tortured their own people. Those are not inventions by this commission."

'A way to heal'

"Fellow South Africans, accept this report as a way - an indispensible way - to heal," Archbishop Tutu concluded before presenting the report to President Mandela.

The president stumbled momentarily under the weight of the volumes as they were handed over.

[ image:  ]
Accepting the report, Mr Mandela said although it was imperfect, it would help reconciliation following the apartheid era.

"The wounds of the period of repression and resistance are too deep to have been healed by the TRC alone," Mr Mandela said. "We are extricating oursleves from a system which that insulted our common humnaity by dividing us from one another on the basis of race."

Legal challenges

The sound of reconciliation
The handing over of the report was overshadowed by two controversial legal bids to delay publication - the first by former President FW de Klerk, and the second by the ANC.

The ANC, concerned over condemnation of its activities while in exile, failed in a last-minute attempt to delay publication of the report.

South African Deputy President and ANC President Thabo Mbeki criticised the commission for not heeding the ANC's objections to the report.

"This does not help the process for which the TRC was established," Mr Mbeki told reporters.

Earlier in the week, Mr de Klerk won a temporary interdict preventing the publication of material linking him to state-sponsored bombings in the 1980s.

Sections of the TRC document, which suggest that Mr de Klerk knew about the bombing plans but failed to report them, have been suppressed until the case is heard again in March.

Thousands have testifed

[ image:  ]
The TRC spent two-and-a-half years compiling a dossier of human rights violations committed by all sides during the time of apartheid.

The commission was established with multi-party approval in 1995 to investigate crimes committed during the apartheid era, with the aim of providing "as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights".

It has heard testimony from over 21,000 victims of apartheid.

The commission completed its work on 31 July 1998, except for ongoing amnesty investigations, which will continue until next June.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

28 Oct 98 | Truth and Reconciliation
Truth Commission report: At a glance

28 Oct 98 | Truth and Reconciliation
Seeking reconciliation: Timeline

26 Oct 98 | Africa
Truth commission implicates ANC in torture

31 Jul 98 | Africa
Profile of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Internet Links

Truth and Reconciliation Commission


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