Apartheid army's secrets made public
A report detailing white South Africa's deadly military involvement during apartheid's dying days has been made public for the first time.
Last Modified: 01 May 2006 14:21 GMT
Thousands of mainly black S Africans died during unrest
A report detailing white South Africa's deadly military involvement during apartheid's dying days has been made public for the first time.

The Steyn report, compiled by a top apartheid general for FW De Klerk, South Africa's last white president, details how the army helped destabilise the country during the turbulent early 1990s.

"The report contains a list of military and other suspects, which, now that it is in the public arena, puts pressure on the  authorities to bring the perpetrators to book," the Sunday Independent, a South African newspaper, said on Sunday.

The report lends credence to allegations at the time linking the apartheid-era army and police to parastatal groups, commonly referred to as the "Third Force", that were orchestrating violence against liberation movements and black civilians.

The Third Force carried out a series of train massacres in which hundreds were killed or wounded.

Thousands of mainly black South Africans died in the run-up to the country's first democratic elections in 1994.

Coup plans

The Steyn report, among other allegations, said that:

  • apartheid army officers gave orders to left-wing Pan Africanist Congress operatives to murder (now ruling) African National Congress (ANC) members;
  • senior apartheid army officers were involved in framing contingency plans for a right-wing coup;
  • the military maintained secret caches in South Africa and neighbouring states;
  • orders were given for the murder of two detained Portuguese operatives;
  • military training was provided to resistance movements in neighbouring states;
  • the apartheid army cached illegal weapons in Portugal for use in internal uprisings.

After General Pierre Steyn's report to De Klerk in 1992, many senior officers in the military and other security organs were fired or retired, the Sunday Independent said.

"Subsequently, however, relatively little of the report's  contents came to light - at least until now," the paper said.

Critics from the old military establishment reacted to the report by saying it was fuelled by resentment from the former intelligence community and the allegations were never proved.

Unresolved cases

Dave Steward, De Klerk's spokesman, said some of the allegations had been referred to the attorney-general and the Goldstone commission, but most were never resolved.

Former president de Klerk
commissioned the Steyn report

He said that after Steyn's briefing to De Klerk it became impossible to unravel the truth and Steyn himself was ostracised by the defence force.

"After that the shutters went down and there was no way to know who on the list was deeply involved or not," Steward said.

"There was a lot of frustration in following up. Nothing really emerged in subsequent investigations."

The declassified documents are now with the South African History Archives, which obtained them - after some difficulty - from the department of justice.

The department initially inherited the then-classified information from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Real names

Some of the aliases of people allegedly involved in illicit activities have been deleted from the documents by the department of justice but the real names of many of the alleged perpetrators have been allowed to remain and so enter the public domain.

It remains to be seen how the ruling ANC government will deal with the latest report.

On Monday, South African media reported that the National Prosecuting Authority, which conducts criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, expressed interest in the report.

Vusi Pikoli, chief advocate for the NPA, said any investigation would first have gone to the police, and only after that would the NPA be handed the documents for a decision on whether to prosecute, The Star newspaper reports.

Jackie Selebi, the national police commissioner, said he will look into the report.

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