"After World War II, there was no such impartial investigation. Instead, the anti-German propaganda was further embellished and intensified. Far from being tested and exposed as fraudulent, the atrocity stories were given credence through repetition and the Nuremberg Trials, described by one prominent American jurist at the time as 'nothing more than a high-class lynching party.'
"To conceal the truth, hearsay was accepted as 'evidence,' confessions were obtained through trickery and subterfuge, critical documents were withheld from the defence, effective cross-examination was not permitted and the basic principles of Western justice violated to gain convictions. The orchestrated Trials became an instrument for vengeance. The judges were all drawn from the ranks of the victors, prompting a leading anti-Nazi German to comment that 'only God can save him who is judged by his accusers.'
"Denouncing the Nuremberg Trials, US Senator
Robert Taft said in 1946: 'The trial of the vanquished by the
victors cannot be impartial, no matter how it is hedged about
with forms of justice.' The Trials will go down in history as
an indelible blot on every principle of law and justice."
- Excerpts from an article written by a British commentator, Ian
Macdonald, and published under the heading, "Vilification
of a Nation."
WHAT Macdonald writes about the now widely-discredited 1946 Nuremberg Military Trials and the "Vilification of a Nation" today applies equally forcefully to SA's own carbon-copy travesty, the similarly increasingly discredited Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC). On April 15, the TRC will be half way through its two-year emotional voyage.
After 12 months of an avalanche of TV histrionics, backed by hysterical media headlines, this R130 million extravaganza has degenerated into little more than a series of one-sided show trials aimed, it would appear, at the moral annihilation of the Afrikaners. Academics prefer the term, "cultural genocide."
At Nuremberg, as Macdonald points out, it didn't really matter who was in the dock. It was the German people collectively who were on trial. History now repeats itself. All the same ingredients are visible here. Only one set of villains: the Afrikaners. The pretence of justice; all formal rules of evidence ignored; presumption of guilt before evidence is heard; hearsay evidence, with untested allegations disseminated as truth; reality distorted to accommodate ideological imperatives.
Every TV frame is calculated to revive all the old, bitter memories of race hatred, violence, rage and grief, all well suited to stimulate the passions of the largely untutored, unsophisticated Black masses. But now there is another, equally dangerous spin off; one which could yet prove the whole partisan charade to be a colossal political blunder on the part of those who organised this misshapen, imprudent act of folly.
There are, after all, other viewers, too. Whites. They too watch the nightly arraignment and humiliation of the former, predominantly Afrikaner, security forces with rising resentment. Far from reconciliation, it still further polarises White/Black divisions, stiffens White resistance, acts as a first-class incentive to Afrikaners to demand their own volkstaat, their own self-determination, all adding further to the spectre of disunion and fragmentation. There is no doubt that inter-community relations have suffered grievously, with a perceptible rise in ethnic tensions.
General Constand Viljoen long ago denounced the whole unsavoury process as "a spear in the heart of the Afrikaner people." Now comes another powerful new voice: that of Rand Afrikaans University ethnologist, Professor Chris Maritz. Addressing a conference on cultural and language rights in Pretoria, he struck out:
"Almost everything that is remotely unedifying in this country has been laid at the door of the Afrikaner or his 'apartheid regime.' In his capacity as a people, he (the Afrikaner) must acknowledge the fact that his character has been sullied, that he has been deformed by sin upon sin." (Citizen, 19.3.97).
Bodies such as the TRC and SABC, he charged, "are constantly seeking the Afrikaner's blood." The Afrikaner's reaction to this has been further to isolate himself from the existing order. Should the Afrikaner admit his guilt, "what sentence would be imposed on him?"
The onslaught was evident in the government's nation-building exercise which, "on paper," acknowledged the country's cultural diversity. "In reality, it is seeking through this formula to denigrate, down-scale and degrade Afrikaner symbols. What it boils down to is that the Afrikaner must cease to be an Afrikaner."
Such undisguised discrimination on the basis of race and colour was especially applied to appointments in the public sector. "White efficiency is spurned in favour of Black inefficiency. Should anyone dare to complain about or protest against Black favouring or reverse discrimination, he or she is soon branded as a rogue and a racist."
We on APN were always sceptical of the TRC achieving any form of "truth" or "reconciliation." We wrote (APN No 190, December, 1995) that for any hope of success it was essential that it be fully representative, be seen by all as unbiased, unprejudiced, even-handed, non-selective. We repeated Professor Hennie Kotze's warning that unless handled in the most responsible way, the TRC could prove "one of the most high-risk exercises" in SA's modern history. It all fell on deaf ears.
With a great flourish of moral earnestness, the TRC was sold as some sort of giant therapy session, designed to lead SA gently into racial entente cordiale, to national solidarity, a new era of goodwill and mutual forgiveness, peace assured for ever. Defects of a major character in that scenario were quick to show.
Night after night, month after month, TV watchers have been brainwashed with enormously emotional scenes, many starring fainting, shrieking and wailing Black women, weepy commissioners embracing and comforting them. All the greatest possible theatre, demonstrably not aimed at Whites but at the impressionable Black masses, the ANC's main support base, and presumably with the hope that these excited spectacles will resonate around the world.
More mature viewers, watching the TRC follow its tendentious, blunder-stricken course, ask: What drives the TRC? What is its agenda? What kind of ideas does it seek to instil in Black minds? Is it all, finally, just an intrinsic part of the ANC propaganda machine? A device to galvanise shrinking ANC support, to divert attention from the way in which our ANC rulers are running (and ruining) the country? Is this a prelude to the 1999 general election? How does what we see differ from a show trial?
Show business, alas, is what the TRC is all about. The entire atmosphere has been unwholesome. But, considering who sits in judgement, could it have been otherwise? The commission's very composition argued against that. In Western courts of justice, the accused are never judged by their accusers. They are tried by an impartial court.
Is the TRC in any way impartial? Hardly. Its members are almost entirely drawn from a very narrow, limited circle: identified ANC/SACP supporters or fellow travellers, liberation theologians, apartheid and human rights activists.
Chairman (though, considering his state of health, probably not for much longer), is the egregious Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace (!) Prize winner for 1984. To hear this publicity-seeking little socialist lionised one could easily expect a capability of walking on water. "Tutu: A Man for All Seasons, A True Man of God," eulogised The Star, 4.6.94. "A man of unassailable moral credentials," echoed The Financial Mail, 8.11.96.
That conveniently masks Tutu's role as "Mr Sanctions," as the ANC-nominated leader of the 1980s campaign to hit SA, and all its people, with a global economic boycott, aimed at undermining and destroying the country's economy and create industrial chaos. What wise and kindly Christian leadership! What a contribution to national harmony and well-being! With millions now unemployed, with more sick, starving and homeless people on our hands than ever before, we can see that Tutu was just the man to sit in moral judgement on others.
TRC vice-chairman is the insufferably smarmy Alex Boraine, a former Methodist minister and for 12 years a Progressive Federal Party Parliamentarian. He was always well to he left of the PFP. In his TRC casting, media critics have faulted him as "biased, intemperate and garrulous." The Natal Nationalist Party is of the same mind. Charging that the TRC faces "a major credibility problem," it says Boraine "should resign immediately, because of his obvious political bias and hostility towards the NP and its leader." One Freedom Front spokesman claims that "no one in SA hates the Afrikaners more than Boraine."
Question marks equally hang over Richard Lyster, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Legal Resources Centre in Durban. The IFP has called for his resignation for his "biased" attitude towards its submissions.
Others attracting critical attention include political activists, Dr Wendy Orr, advocate Denzil Potgieter and Mary Burton, Black Sash president from 1986 to 1990. All may be people of personal integrity, but their known ideological bias suggests that any possibility of impartiality to be severely compromised. Their political record would, in normal circumstances, disqualify them from any such public service.
That the TRC has been guilty of prejudice, discrimination, partiality and selectivity is a given. The legal argument, tu quoquo ("thou too") has been widely ignored. In this game, the No 1 accused are the hapless Afrikaners, this in line with the oft-repeated ANC boast that it represents a superior morality. To quote the late Oliver Tambo, "We in the ANC have for nearly 70 years respected humanitarian principles in our struggle." Well, he may have thought so.
The "morally blameless" line is also pushed by Mathews Phosa, the ANC lawyer and Mpumalanga premier. He protests that neither the organisation "as a liberation movement nor any of its members were involved in any crime against humanity. On the contrary, the ANC was involved in a just and heroic struggle."
The same argument of immaculate purity is used by Dullah Omar, our curious Minister of Justice, who initiated the TRC in the first place. From the start, Omar has protested that "all actions" of the ANC, SACP and the radical alliance's terrorist wing, MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe), were "justifiable acts of war." And so forth and so on, ad infinitum.
The fact is that guilt, expertly used, is a terrible weapon, perhaps the most powerful propaganda weapon of all. The ANC/SACP have always been masters of PR. The unbalanced way the TRC has gone about its business exploits alleged "collective Afrikaner guilt" to the 9th degree. Security force members have repeatedly accused the TRC of questioning them differently from the way they question other witnesses.
The facts support them. Some 200 questions have been put to former SADF members, none to MK or the Azanian People's "Liberation" Army. Questions never settled at Nuremberg included: "Who was the aggressor? What was his objective?" What surely needs to be made clear is that, under the influence of the late Joe Slovo, ANC loyalties rested fully and entirely with Moscow, not SA.
Not only were these loyalties based on a foreign ideology, but the ANC was primarily armed, trained and underwritten by the old USSR, East Germany and Cuba. During the Angolan War, the ANC fought alongside the invading Cuban and Soviet forces. It was supported 100% by Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, forming a largely Marxist-controlled belt across the sub-continent.
From 1960 to 1984, SA faced a classic Marxist/Leninist revolution, this converting to full-scale insurgency in 1984 when Slovo and other SACP strategists decided to make SA "ungovernable," this via premeditated and purposeful terrorist violence, à la the IRA/PLO: ANC comrades in international terrorism.
Ask yourself: Given the circumstances ruling at the time, was the Afrikaner-led SA government, together with its security forces and the vast majority of Whites, Zulus, Indians and Coloureds, justified in believing it was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with international, predatory communism?
It may, and did, eventually devolve into a "dirty" war, but it was a war. And we all know how wrong wars can go, particularly in a defensive war against indiscriminate terrorism. War, they say, is nothing but an accumulation of one injustice on another by all sides. Too true.
One recalls the social and economic devastation inflicted on the SA people by terrorist violence in the 1980s; the murderous bomb attacks during rush hours or in crowded bars; the appalling atrocities perpetrated against thousands of non-revolutionary Black councillors, policemen and teachers; the township thugs - the ANC's "Young Lions" - who during the shop boycotts forced old women to swallow bottles of paraffin, pregnant mothers to gulp down liquid detergents, children to eat raw meat. All forgotten now, at least by the TRC.
One remembers the people who had their ears cut off because they tried to go to work; the utter cruelties of the so-called "people's courts" where self-appointed comrade lawyers, often juveniles, could condemn young Black mothers to 100 lashes apiece because they wanted their children to go to school. Those kangaroo courts will go down as one of the most sordid episodes in all SA history. Again, ignored by the TRC.
Nor should we forget the ANC's infamous hell camps in Angola, with their bestial torture and grotesque death sentences. Certain SA Cabinet Ministers are well positioned to testify on this. If, for various reasons, they prove reluctant, there is ample evidence available in various investigatory commission documents.
Boraine has said that many of the stories related at the TRC have made his blood run cold. Anyone who has ever seen pictures - or, much worse, the real thing - of that uniquely repulsive ANC form of execution, the necklace, would also feel their blood run cold. If necklacing, given solemn approval by our present Foreign Minister, the distinguished Mr Alfred Nzo, was not a "crime against humanity." I'd very much like to know what was.
The Sowetan, 19.8.86, editorialised: "There are some things we can do without; things that make us hang our heads in shame and disgust. There is no excuse, no justification, for using the barbaric necklace against anybody." We have yet to see any intensity of collective ANC/SACP remorse over that. Or any interest displayed by the TRC.
That, in the face of such horrors, certain members of the security forces would respond with counter-terrorism was all too predictable. Not that I justify this. But: murder is murder in any language, in any country, for any motive, no matter who commits it or who the victims are. No amount of hype from Omar, Nzo or anyone else will alter that. Judged by their own ugly record, a little moral humility would much become the ANC.
Rather belatedly, it began to dawn on Tutu last year that some of his agenda had been carried too far. In the dawning light, he himself acknowledged that "some members of the TRC have not been even-handed, that this has left the organisation with a credibility problem, in danger of becoming the witchhunt many of its early critics believed it would be." He can say that again.
Later, he went on record: "I have asked committee members to desist from making statements that could be construed as revealing a particular bias or suggesting that they have already made a finding." (Citizen, 26.11.96), Boraine, too, admits to "often having misgivings (wondering) if I'm doing the right thing." But the doubts don't seem to last long. "If I didn't think it was right, I would get out." Hmnn.
Should the TRC ever have been launched? That it was wrongly conceived from the start is a given. As presently constituted, it projects as an extremely expensive and socially disturbing stunt, having little or nothing to do with justice, truth or reconciliation, least of all with nation-building.
In a nation drowning in problems, very large sums of money have already been wasted, divisions along racial and political lines deepened. We can't for ever keep living in the dreary, dreadful past. Common sense suggests that if Tutu is indeed forced, through his spreading prostate cancer, to step down, then this is the time to bring the tawdry circus to an overdue end.
Should it be decided to continue, then the TRC must
immediately begin restoring a much-needed consensus, with the
ANC/SACP conscientiously searching their own recent history. Does
the ANC have the stomach for full fact-finding? We wonder.
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