ANC accepts blame for torture by its security officials

NELSON MANDELA said yesterday that the leadership of the African National Congress accepted full responsibility for the damning findings of an internal commission of inquiry appointed to investigate criminal abuses allegedly committed by members of the organisation's security department.

In a 74-page report, made public yesterday, the three lawyers who made up the commission - two of them ANC members - said they were 'profoundly shocked' by what they had discovered. 'We were left with an overall impression that for the better part of the Eighties there existed a situation of extraordinary abuse of power and lack of accountability.'

The commission focused on the treatment meted out to suspected traitors detained in the ANC's guerrilla camps in Angola, Uganda and Tanzania. Among the witnesses the commission heard were 17 ex-detainees and six high-ranking ANC officials.

The report, which listed the crimes but did not name names, highlighted 'the inordinate lengths of time' people were held without trial; 'the consistently harsh' conditions of confinement; 'the unconscionable and pernicious' inadequacy of the detainees' food; 'the harrowing accounts of use of torture to extract confessions'; and 'violence meted out gratuitously and brutally'.

Among the many examples cited was the practice in Quatro camp, Angola, of washing detainees' blankets once every six months and using the water that remained for the detainees to bathe in. One suspect's interrogation consisted of being suspended from a tree, burnt on the soles of his feet with a candle and beaten on the back with whips. The commission's report also cited evidence that ANC members who mutinied against the leadership in 1984 had been summarily executed.

'Nobody was beyond the reach of the security apparatus,' the report said, pointing to the case of Pallo Jordan - now the ANC's head of information and publicity - who was detained for six weeks in 1983.

At a press conference, Mr Mandela, the ANC President, said the organisation was now studying a list of 10 recommendations by the commission. One, the appointment of a fully independent commission to delve deeper into the abuses, had already been accepted. 'As the leadership of the ANC we accept ultimate collective responsibility for adequately monitoring and therefore eradicating such abuses,' he said.

He noted that the 'regrettable' abuses should be understood 'in context', but added: 'None the less they are inexcusable. One of the lessons of our struggle indicates very clearly that human rights form the cornerstone of freedom. No force of circumstances should be permitted to induce us to forget the centrality of this point and lead us into a trap of excusing violations of human rights. We accept full responsibility for what happened.'

Asked why the decision had been taken not to name the guilty parties, Mr Mandela replied that, by the commission's own admission, insufficient evidence had been furnished conclusively to establish guilt. That question would be determined after the independent commission had concluded its work.

While evasive on such thorny political points, ANC leaders strove to draw attention to their courage in making public their organisation's crimes and to contrast this with the attitude of the South African government towards its own misdemeanours.

Joe Slovo, a leading ANC member and Communist Party chairman, sat alongside Mr Mandela at the press conference. 'Let's see,' he said, 'if

De Klerk will come forward and say 'these are the crimes for which we in the National Party bear collective responsibility'.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones