ANC seeks to suppress portion of truth commission's report Party is challenging unfavorable references

October 29, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The final report of this country's truth commission, meant to clear the air about the racist past, may instead resemble apartheid-era documents left with gaping holes by government censors.

Back from the printers yesterday, the five-volume report is scheduled to be delivered today to President Nelson Mandela.

But a threatened last-minute court challenge may force commissioners to delete, at least for the time being, unflattering references to Mandela's ruling African National Congress.

"If it comes to that, we would have to tear the pages out," said John Allen, spokesman for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"I don't know what is going to happen."

As commissioners played host to a party in Pretoria last night, the ANC called a surprise news conference in Johannesburg to announce that it would seek a court order blocking the panel from implicating it in "gross human rights violations" during the struggle against apartheid.

The ANC announcement came just hours after Frederik W. de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa, succeeded in blocking a small section of the report that reportedly implicated him in the cover-up of two state-sponsored bombings in the 1980s.

In de Klerk's case, truth commissioners agreed to withhold their half-page findings until the matter is heard in court.

Lawyers for the former president, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, submitted 2,500 pages of documentation supporting his claim that he knew nothing of the state's involvement in the attacks.

Although it has focused mostly on the wrongs committed by the former white-minority regime during 2 1/2 years of public hearings, the commission -- created by the ANC government -- was charged with examining apartheid-era abuses on all sides.

Many ANC activists have objected to such evenhandedness, saying it is unjust to consider abuses on behalf of "the struggle" in the same forum as those committed by South Africa's white oppressors.

"We will fight this matter quite vigorously," former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the commission's chairman, told reporters in Cape Town after the ANC's announcement.

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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