ANC accused of `gross' rights abuses


The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has found that President Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) committed gross human rights abuses during its fight against apartheid, according to leaked TRC documents made public yesterday.

The abuses include the torture and execution of suspected traitors and the killing of civilians in bomb and landmine attacks, as well as fomenting political violence and killing policemen.

The TRC is to hand over its report to Mr Mandela at a ceremony in Pretoria on Thursday, but yesterday gave him a preview copy so he could prepare his response.

A section of the report dealing with the role of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid said the party should bear responsibility for the actions of Mr Mandela's former wife, Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who has been implicated in torture, murder and abduction.

Some 200 people, among them former apartheid presidents Mr F.W. de Klerk and Mr P.W. Botha, as well as the deputy Defence Minister, Mr Ronnie Kasrils, and Ms Madikizela-Mandela, have been sent so-called Section 30 notices warning that they may be prejudiced by the report.

Mr De Klerk is planning to apply for an urgent interdict in the Cape Town High Court today to stop the TRC implicating him in state-sponsored terrorism, according to the Johannesburg Star newspaper.

The ANC has been at odds with the TRC since it received the Section 30 notice in August and demanded a meeting with TRC leaders, which was refused.

In the TRC document, the commission said the ANC and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, is "politically and morally accountable for the commission of gross human rights violations committed during the course of the armed struggle waged by it".

The commission acknowledges that the ANC fought a "legitimate struggle against apartheid", but says its leaders at times had little control over military operations, resulting in civilian loss of life. Similarly, the party's failure to take action against Ms Madikizela-Mandela resulted in more abuses being committed.

It also found that "during 1979 to 1989 torture was widely used" in ANC training camps in neighbouring countries and that ANC members who "had grievances and who participated in mutinies in the camps were executed after being convicted by military tribunals".

The document lists 13 forms of torture including the so-called "Beirut" method in which victims were flogged naked while lying face down on the ground. Detainees were also deprived of food and medical attention and held in solitary confinement for lengthy periods without trial, the TRC found. As a result, it said, "many persons died after punitive starvation and assault".

The commission said the ANC was responsible for attacks and killings of political opponents, including members of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the fellow liberation movement, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), between 1990 and 1994.