Backing for investigation into SA violence

THE judge heading a commission of inquiry into political violence in South Africa yesterday welcomed a United Nations proposal for an investigation into the security forces.

A list of recommendations made by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, after a ten-day mission by Cyrus Vance, a special envoy, included an inquiry into the South African Defence Force, the police, the KwaZulu police and the armed wings of the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress.

The UN report also called for a 30- strong monitoring force and for offices, functioning around the clock, to be established at flashpoints. A return to negotiations was recommended and the release of all political prisoners.

The powers of the commission, which is headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, have been reinforced by the intervention of the UN and the judge responded promptly to recommendations that clearly show that Mr Vance believes that without a cleansing of the security forces the prospects for peace, democracy and stability in South Africa are in question.

Mr Goldstone said in a statement: 'Unless the SADF and SAP are fully investigated by a neutral and reliable body they will have no prospect of receiving the trust, confidence and co-operation of the public.'

The Goldstone Commission's work during the eight months since it was set up has focused on specific incidents of violence. The judge revealed that he did not see much benefit in persisting exclusively with this course of action.

He said: 'The commission is of the unanimous and firm view that further piecemeal investigations into specific incidents of violence will not do more than scratch the surface of the widespread perceptions which make all of these agencies the object of mistrust, distrust and suspicion. The commission believes that if it is not able to investigate fully the operations of these agencies it will not be able to carry out its mandate of making recommendations for curbing the violence.'

What such investigations will seek to do is examine the activities of the SADF's intelligence branches and its operational arm, Special Forces; the police security branch, renamed the Criminal Intelligence Service; the KwaZulu police, widely viewed as the private army of the Inkatha Freedom Party; the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, and questions surrounding allegations of murder and torture in ANC camps outside South Africa; and the Azanian People's Liberation Army, the PAC's tiny guerrilla force.

Mr Goldstone called upon all the political organisations involved to support the UN recommendations. The government and the ANC reacted cautiously to the UN recommendations, welcoming them but noting that they required more detailed analysis before a full official response would be forthcoming. An unnamed 'top cabinet source' was reported in yesterday's Johannesburg Sunday Times to have warned that the proposals would meet with resistance from the SADF.

At least as contentious was a proposal by Mr Goldstone in his statement for a general amnesty, an issue which has been discussed in private by the ANC and the government. The government position is understood to be that they will only release the remaining 400 or so political prisoners once a retrospective amnesty is granted to all military and police officers who may yet be found guilty of political crimes.

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