As a disclaimer: I am not saying that Cyril Ramaphosa was a spy or anything of that nature, I am saying that Terror Lekota’s accusation is something that he sold his comrades out is very serious, and it cannot be left to people to conclude by themselves who is telling the truth and who isn’t between Mr. Ramaphosa and Mr. Lekota. It is not good for the country that the sitting president’s commitment to South Africans is questioned by a comrade he was arrested with as a member of SASO, who accuses him of betrayed them like Peter did Jesus when it mattered most by denouncing his involvement and shifting blame to others who filled his head with certain ideas so he could be released. Mr. Lekota also did this in parliament in full view of the people of South Africa; different from previous, rumour peddled allegations. Thus, it catches our attention much more, that someone has finally blurted out instead of whispering in corners.
We are clear in this regard I hope, so let’s proceed.
1. HOW TO GO ABOUT TESTING THESE CLAIMS
My suggestion, therefore, is that the ANC, as leader of society entrusted into governance by the people, have to establish an inquiry into this particular matter. Not only to test Lekota’s allegation but to have a commission as part of the so-called organisational renewal, that will deal with all past issues of comrades selling out and the mass murder and gross human rights violations in the MK camps, including the sexual abuse of female MK recruits, as well as integrity of comrades who came into its ranks who were within the country who served in various structures of the MDM. Furthermore, it would go into relations with UDF, SASO/BCM and AZAPO, and PAC and APLA and the antagonisms that exist there.
It would not be the first time the ANC had a commission to investigate allegations coming from the struggle era. There were four commissions set up by the ANC or external parties to investigate the gross violation of human rights in MK camps:
a. Stuart Commission in 1984, right after the aftermath Quatro mutiny.
(Members of the commission: James Stuart (Convenor), Antony Mongalo, Sizakele Sigxashe, Aziz Pahad, and Mtu Jwili).
The Special Commission was established by the Working Committee of the National Executive Committee of the ANC in February 1984. Its mandate was to fully investigate the developments that took place within the ranks of the ANC in the People’s Republic of Angola.
The members visited and interviewed all occupants of the Viana Transit Camp, Phango, Quibaxe, Caxito and Caculama Military training Camps, as well as ANC cadres detained in the Luanda Maximum Security Prison, members of the Military High Command, the Regional Command and the then ANC Chief Representative in Angola. The Commission was to investigate the root cause of the disturbances; the nature and genuineness of the grievances; any outside or enemy involvement; connection in other areas; and ring leaders and their motives
b. The Skweyiya Commission in 1992
(Members: Adv T.L Skweyiya S.C. (Chairman), Ms B. Mabandla, Adv GJ. Marcus)
The ANC, through its President, Mr. Nelson Mandela undertook to fully investigate all complaints about the treatment of detainees in ANC camps. In March 1992 the appointment of an Internal Commission of Enquiry was announced.
The Terms of Reference:
In letters to each of the members of the Commission, the President of the ANC indicated his attitude to the task of the Commission. The letter stated, among other things, the following:
“Complaints have been made to the ANC by a number of persons who were previously held as prisoners by it in camps outside of South Africa concerning the conditions in which they were held, the manner in which they were treated and the manner in which their property was dealt with after their detention.
These complaints are serious and call for a full and thorough investigation by the ANC to establish whether or not they are correct, and if they are, what action it should take in consequence thereof.”
The terms of reference of the Commission were designed to achieve these objectives. They record that the commission was established “following the receipt of complaints by individuals who were previously held as detainees by the ANC” and require the Commission to investigate complaints relating to “the conditions of their detention”, “the allegations of their maltreatment”, and “the complaints about the loss or destruction of their property”. The Commission was required to make recommendations consequent upon its findings.
The ANC undertook “to ensure its cooperation to facilitate a full and thorough investigation into all aspects of the matter specified in the terms of reference”. To this end, the ANC undertook to appoint “an independent lawyer to conduct investigations, interview witnesses, visit detention camps and lead the evidence before the Commission and to do all things reasonably incidental to the afore going”. Advocate E. Revelas of the Johannesburg Bar, who is not a member of the ANC, was appointed for this purpose. The Commission was promised “full and unhindered access” to all records, documents, files, archives and other materials relevant to the investigation as well as the records of past enquiries and investigations relevant to the Commission’s work.
It was provided that the proceedings of the Commission were to take place “at an appropriate venue” but that such proceedings should not be open to the general public or the press. However, the Commission was given the power to determine whether or not the presence of any person was necessary or desirable during the hearing of evidence. Any former prisoner was entitled to lodge a complaint with the secretary of the Commission. An Independent firm of attorneys was appointed to facilitate the processing of complaints. Finally, the ANC undertook to publish the report of the Commission “subject only to the deletion of the names of persons mentioned in the report where this is considered appropriate by the Commission for reasons of privacy, reputation, safety, confidentiality or the like”.
c. The Motsoenyane Commission in 1993
The report was commissioned by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), Frankfurt/M, Germany, and was compiled by Marc Gordon, a freelance writer on African affairs, who followed the issue of the ANC detainees for a number of years. He attended the Motsuenyane Commission hearings on behalf of the ISHR and provided an assessment of the outcome of that Commission.
d. Douglas Commission in 1992 – 1993
The International Freedom Foundation (Washington D.C.) commissioned and sponsored the Douglas Commission that lasted from July 1992 to January 1993, to look into MK camps and it was headed by R.S. Douglas S.C. The report was based on 100 witnesses, which were seen during that period, and 60 sworn depositions received. At least 40 survivors of the camps were interviewed.
Now, the Skweyiya Commission is the most interesting of the lot. Some of the people who testified are Mr. Mzwai Piliso, Mr. Joe Nhlanhla, Mr. Jacob Zuma, Mr. Chris Hani, Mr. Zola Skweyiya and Mr. James Stuart. The first three on the list were in the security department of the ANC, and James Stuart was the convenor of the Stuart Commission. The commission published its report on 19 October 1992.
The commission had been formulated after the ANC had adopted a resolution in February 1991 to release all persons whom it had apprehended as “secret agents, spies, agents provocateurs and hired assassins” in the employ of the South African Government’s security services.
In August 1991, 32 men labelled by the ANC as the “most notorious” suspected agents and infiltrators and who had been detained in various ANC detention camps returned to South Africa. Upon their return, the group of 32 met with high-ranking ANC officials. Some of the group was anxious to expose the alleged maltreatment to which they had been subjected while in detention. An agreement was reached between the group of 32 and the ANC: officials concerned and a moratorium on “accusative statements” was agreed upon. Within days, however, several of the group of 32 gave detailed accounts to the media of their alleged treatment in ANC camps. The allegiances of the group or 32 were divided. Approximately 20 wished to have nothing further to do with the ANC, while the remaining 12 proclaimed themselves still loyal to the ideals for which the ANC stood. The members of the former group subsequently organized themselves into an association styled the Returned Exiles Committee (REC).
The allegations made by some of the group of 32 were of the gravest nature. It was alleged that detainees were beaten with iron bars, bicycle chains and barbed wire, while they were in captivity. They stated that they were forced into making false confessions and then crammed into cells (The Star, 22 August 1991). Two former detainees alleged that having been branded as Spies by the ANC, they voluntarily left South Africa to clarify their position to the ANC. They were allegedly held in detention for the next six years and were subjected to torture (Sowetan, 23 August 1991) (Since the persons who made these allegations to the press did not testify before the Commission their veracity could not be tested). Other allegations made at that time and subsequently were that summary executions had taken place in the camps and that certain detainees had simply disappeared without trace.
This forced Nelson Mandela and his NEC to establish a commission to investigate all this. This is how the Skweyiya Commission was born. From the outset, the REC (as well as another organization of former detainees formed in 1990 known as the Returned Exiles Coordination Committee) sought to discredit the Commission. It did so by a vigorous media campaign, and the principal basis of the attack was that the members of the Commission were biased in favour of the ANC and were accordingly incapable of conducting a fair enquiry. The discontent was that Adv L. Skweyiya S.C., who was appointed Chairman of the Commission and Ms Mabandla were both members of the ANC and serve on its Constitutional Committee. Adv Skweyiya was also said to be a brother or cousin of Zola Skweyiya, a high-ranking official in the ANC’s legal department. Adv Marcus was said to be related to Ms Gill Marcus, the then ANC spokesperson who later became Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. Apart from the latter suggestion about Gill Marcus and Adv Marcus, all the other allegations were entirely true. In consequence, the perception had been created that the ANC has appointed a “tame” Commission.
The commission took place nonetheless, and a decision was taken that no name of people who had come up as spies, either apprehended by the ANC or given up by the accused were going to be released. It was handled as the TRC of some sort where everyone was cleared and exonerated in many ways.
Since then, there is this mysterious list that some ANC comrades refer to and threaten to release a name or two they know to be in the list whenever factional battles are flaring high. It however has never happened that the list be released or people on it be named because many say that the release of such a list carries the real possibility of irreparably breaking the ANC.
2. HOW THIS NEW COMMISSION WOULD FUNCTION
This commission would appoint neutral commissioners who were not in any close proximity to things that will be tested by the commission.
Its function would take the form of a judicial commission and its scope would be as follows:
a. The scope of the Skweyiya Commission, to see what was overlooked and not treated satisfactorily, and also an opportunity to deal with new evidence on those issues that might exist.
b. Create a scope for the UDF era, all things that arise from the like selling out of comrades as well as the lynching of many accused of being spies.
c. Create a scope for SASO/BCM comrades, and later AZAPO. There were a lot of documented antagonisms between ANC and the so-called BC bloc, including that ANC ordered hits from Lusaka and that many were targeted with necklacing in the UDF era.
d. Create a scope for the PAC and APLA, covering the continued detaining of APLA combatants in post 1994 jails as life prisoners to date.
The sub-committees of the commission would then deal with these matters and provide a consolidated report covering all scopes into various issues, including those not mentioned.
3. WHY DO IT? WHY SUCH A RETROSPECTIVE COMMISSION?
Many argue that an inquiry into whether Cyril Ramaphosa bailed out on his comrades by denouncing their ideologies to the apartheid state or he didn’t would be futile. On investigating events of the past, the same views are held as the findings will not help us today.
I hold an opposing view, because I am an adherent to revolutionary theory and praxis, and one of the people I believe was an outstanding theoretician of what he practised was Amilcar Cabral. In his book, Revolution in Guinea (1969), he says something very pertinent:
“We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our Party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.”
From Amilcar, we learn that the truth and openness to the people you claim to lead and fight for is a requirement of revolution. We also learn that deceit is an abomination in the revolution; when you fail you tell the people, when you succeed you tell the people, when you lose you also tell the people as much as you will when you win.
The ANC has taken everything that went wrong and swept it under the carpet, and this has done it more harm than good in the long run as an organisation because a lot of its factional politics come from problems from the struggle era that were never addressed and now express themselves as a malignant melanoma. The ANC was not in the struggle for itself, but for the people and thus has upon it the onus to be truthful to the people. Whoever sold out or defected, or was a spy, did not just betray the ANC, but ultimately betrayed the people of South Africa who had been confronted with a regime that was a crime against humanity. The people have the right to know, they have the right to understand what actually transpired leading to today, and a lot is still shrouded in secrecy and speculation. The people of this land cannot be subjected to rule by people who they don’t know betrayed them and thus, are still serving self-interests to date because the organisation they entrusted as the vanguard of their struggle puts its own interests above those of the people who by revolutionary and democratic standards it actually answers to; because the ANC purposefully concealing the truth is an act of betray to the people.
Therefore, the ANC, in its aspiration for organisational renewal, must begin with a cleanse of the truth. You cannot say you are changing anything when you are not stripping naked and introspecting every blemish there is.
BY WAY OF CONCLUSION
When we call ourselves revolutionaries, we must be willing to adhere to revolutionary principles. When we claim to represent the people, we must be prepared to account to the people with truthfulness. Anything that needs clarity must be given clarity.
I say, therefore, give an official platform to Mr. Mosioua Lekota to lay bare his story, if he is a liar it will be visible for all to see and that is the beauty of it. However, if he is telling the truth, then we will be left with decisions about what it means. Many more allegations will be tested, and many families who lost loved ones will find closure as well. An inquiry of this nature has widespread reach, to also achieve what TRC dismally failed to achieve because the ANC applied for blanket amnesty, and many issues were never dealt with except a few like the sad TRC testimony of Diliza Mthembu, who speaks about how his father (a founding member of MK – Abel Patrick Mthembu) was killed for betraying the ANC in 1978, after he had been recruited to execute his own father and after which way tortured daily from prison camp to prison camp (link: http://www.justice.gov.za/…/media%5C1997%5C97…/s970722f.htm…).
Another story from ANC camps is told by one Mwezi Twala in his book published in 1994. Here are excerpts from a book titled: Mbokodo: Inside MK: Mwezi Twala – A Soldier’s Story by Mwezi Twala and Ed Bernard (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 1994)
“In 1981 began a time of terror and death for ANC members in exile. In February a strong ANC National Executive Committee entourage which incuded President Tambo made the rounds of all ANC camps in Angola. Cadres were warned of the presence of a spy network and the need for vigilance was emphasised. Enemy agents and provocateurs were rudely warned by Piliso, in Xhosa, ‘.. I’ll hang them by their balls.’ An ‘internal enemy’ psychosis had been whipped up and whenever ANC leaders visited camps they were heavily guarded. Many men and women were apprehended on suspicion of dissidence were to be exterminated in the most brutal manner in the months ahead. Those disillusioned MK cadres who returned from Rhodesia were the first to go.(p.49)
I became aware of these developments by word of mouth, but I was to discover later on, by personal experience, the terror of Quatro, to name but one death camp. People were removed from amongst us — taken to Quatro or Camp 13 — and disappeared forever without reason. Many of them were slaughtered by one means or another and their ultimate destination was a shallow grave. We heard rumours of execution by being buried alive, amongst many other techniques beyond civilized imagination. The purge created great fear amongst all of us, to the point where the smallest criticism, such as of badly prepared food, was seriously reconsidered by every individual, for one could never be certain that a ‘best friend’ would keep his mouth shut. (p.49)
Our own security people became exceedingly arrogant, to the point where an innocent slip of the tongue or even a simple gesture could land you in a torture cell at Quatro. Security men of the lowest rank and intelligence — fourteen to eighteen year olds — became our masters, with the power of life or death in their hands. They acted on a mood with impunity. (p.49-50)
Oliver Tambo visited Pango [Camp] at the height of the terror. The path from the entrance to the admin building was lined — like a scene from ‘Spartacus’ — with men, bloodied and filthy, hanging from trees. When his entourage arrived at admin, where I was officer on duty, Tambo’s chief of staff told us that there would be a meeting at ‘the stage’ (a clearing in the jungle… where we held meetings and discussions). Runners were sent out to notify everyone in the vicinity. On his way to the stage [Oliver Tambo] again passed the men tied to the trees. Being officer on duty, I could not attend the meeting, but my deputy went. After a while I saw guards come up from the stage, release the prisoners and take them to the meeting. There, my deputy told me, instead of objecting to their treatment, as I had hoped, Tambo berated them for their dissident behaviour and appeared to approve when Andrew Masondo declared that on the presidents next visit they would be in shallow graves behind the stage. The prisoners were returned to their trees.. where the president [Oliver Tambo] passed the unfortunate men without a glance on his way out, and they hung there for another three months — followed by three months hard labour. (p.51-52)”
I pause here, but the fact of the matter is that at some point, all these things must be dealt with. We cannot wish them away as a society, as a people. They are part of the struggle that ensued to gain us liberation.