The commission's report recommended that the ANC publicly apologise to all the victims; set up a body to provide victims with financial compensation; penalise those responsible; and generally put its house in order so as to avoid a possible recurrence of such crimes.
The report, made public yesterday at an ANC press conferece, named the organisation's deputy secretary-general, Jacob Zuma, and the top commander of its military wing, Joe Modise, among those who should be held accountable for some abuses.
The commission, which was established in January at the behest of the ANC president, Nelson Mandela, was chaired by a prominent South African businessman, Samuel Motsuenyane. He was assisted by David Zamchiya, a Zimbabwean barrister, and Margaret Burnham, a former Massachusetts judge. The three noted at the start of their 180-page report that this was the first time in history that a liberation movement had engaged an independent commission to review allegations of human rights violations by its own members.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's secretary-general, introduced the report to the media yesterday afternoon. He chose to highlight the commission's recommendations, saying the ANC's National Executive Committee would decide this weekend whether they would be implemented. But, as an ANC source acknowledged, the very fact that Mr Ramaphosa - second only to Mr Mandela in the ANC leadership - read them out in the full glare of the media pre-empts any possible attempt by other NEC members to reject them.
The commission's report made gruesome reading. At least 29 ANC detainees had died or disappeared, but the evidence suggested that many more had gone missing. Most victims were interned at Quadro, a detention camp in Angola run by 'Mbokodo' (The stone that crushes), the ANC's security department. Mbokodo fell under the direct control of the military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation).
The methods of torture at Quadro - 'a hell-hole where persons were sent to rot' - recalled those used against ANC activists by the South African security police, such as the 'helicopter - being tied hand and foot and suspended on a pole or a log like a pig on a spit', and 'Beirut - flogging while naked and lying in a face-down position'. Detainees, 'all of whom were subjected to torture, ill-treatment and humiliation', endured lengthy solitary confinement.
Some of the victims were genuine criminals, some were spies, some were wrongfully accused. But all, the report said, were accused of being 'enemy agents'. The blame lay with the ANC leadership in the sense that it failed to exercise proper control over Mbokodo, which appointed a 19-year-old as Quadro's first camp commander.
The codenames of some of those found by the commission to have carried out the abuses often reflected a cruelly juvenile turn of mind. There was a 'Stalin', a 'Fury' and a 'Commissar Hammer'.