ANC urges investigation of abuses on both sides Truth squad would punish, compensate

August 31, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The leadership of the African National Congress has decided to take no action against its members who committed human rights abuses in the group's military camps during its years in exile.

Instead, the ANC called for a "Truth Commission" that would investigate abuses by all the players in the political scene, including the government. The commission would have the power to mete out punishment and to decide compensation for victims.

Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC general secretary, said that such a commission would be similar to those set up in Chile and El Salvador following tumultuous governmental transitions.

"We believe that punishment on a partial basis where only a certain segment is identified would not amount to assuring that there is full justice and full reconciliation in our country," he said at a news conference yesterday.

He explained the ANC would not unilaterally punish its members even as it accepted their guilt, and in a statement he expressed "our profound sense of regret, collective moral responsibility and apology to all those who suffered as a consequence.

"What is needed is that the full truth should be brought out and that the bringing out of the truth should enhance the process of reconciliation," he said.

"All those who are found guilty of such abuse should be subject of investigation and punishment. We are therefore not going to ++ act in a piecemeal fashion," said ANC President Nelson Mandela.

"We will punish everybody who violated human rights no matter if he is a member of the liberation movement or of the government," Mr. Mandela said.

"A coordinated and national approach can only be carried out by a government with its resources," Mr. Ramaphosa said, explaining that the ANC could not afford to compensate those who were abused in the name of fighting apartheid.

Specifics of the ANC abuses, which the ANC acknowledged last year, were revealed last week when the so-called Motsuenyane Commission issued its report.

Among those implicated, though not directly, were Joe Modise, head of the ANC's military wing Umkhonto We Sizwe, and top ANC official Jacob Zuma. Both are members of the ANC's National Executive Committee, which decided not to take any punitive action at a meeting over the weekend.

The ANC camps, mainly in Angola, were the launching pads for the ANC's military operations against South Africa during its 30 years in exile. The camps, which swelled with exiles following the student uprisings, were rife with government informers who were able to neutralize most of the ANC's activities.

It was mainly in an attempt to find those informers that ANC soldiers resorted to brutal torture, imprisonment and, in some cases, death.

"It is clear that these abuses were committed in an attempt to protect the organization against the violations of human rights which were committed by the other side," Mr. Mandela said, emphasizing that the abuses by ANC members were in violation of its policies while claiming such abuses were a systematic part of the government's defense of apartheid.

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