No Trust in South Africa

July 29, 1992

Charges against South African security forces of suppressing dissent, brutalizing captives and taking sides in ethnic conflicts have taken on greater credibility in recent weeks. They cast doubt over the integrity of negotiations for a new South Africa taking place among political parties.

The "smoking gun" of evidence against the police is the statement to the Sunday Times of South Africa by Dr. Jonathan Gluckman, a pathologist who examined 200 bodies of victims of police torture in recent years. "I am convinced that 90 percent were killed by the police," he said. "My impression is that they are totally out of control."

The second smoking gun was the report of an English police expert, Peter Waddington, called in to assess the South African police investigation of last month's Boipatong massacre. He criticized the South African police for seeking confessions, not evidence. He found the police hostile to the Boipatong victims and witnesses, mostly supporters of the African National Congress, and protective of the suspects at a Zulu migrant workers' hostel, supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party. This substantiates the ANC's allegations.

Does the government of President F. W. de Klerk have control of the police, army and other permanent civil servants? Or are those remnants of a police state still following the guidelines of the discredited former P. W. Botha regime? Small wonder that the ANC, its leader Nelson Mandela, its allies in the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions called a two-day general strike for Monday. That is a way to channel despair and prevent leadership passing to more violent hands. The strike, and whatever violence may flow from it, are not what caused the constitutional talks to break down.

Mr. Mandela is calling for the white government to give way to an interim non-racial regime. But he is also supporting the more moderate intervention of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other churchmen seeking the lesser goals of an honest investigative commission and a purge of the police.

The ANC and the Xhosa people who support it are themselves not immune to the culture of violence, and the ANC continually ignores the reality of Inkatha support among Zulu people. But credence is growing that the police manipulated Inkatha violence to destabilize the ANC. The de Klerk government must move swiftly to gain control of the police and secret police and commit them to the process of peaceful, negotiated and democratic change. The alternative would be greater violence and anarchy with no end in sight.

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