Letter: At a loss for words after Ciskei

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have before me a brochure from the Ciskei Tourist Board in which a smiling Brigadier Oupa Gqozo extols the virtues of a free society - and those of law and order. A few months ago, I drove from the capital of the 'homeland', Bisho, across an invisible 'border' into King William's Town. The latter was thronged with black workers heading back to their shacks in Ciskei (to which many had been 'ethnically cleansed' under the Group Areas Act).

The poverty of Pretoria's human waste bin was appalling in contrast to the bustling affluence of the contrived white land peninsula of King William's Town. No residence rights in King William's Town for black people meant no cost to the South African economy of a plentiful supply of cheap labour, the latter being disciplined by the poverty of the artificial Ciskei state and by the notorious military thugs of the surrogate, Brigadier Gqozo. All the human viciousness of the neo-apartheid regime of F. W. de Klerk are apparent on those few miles between Bisho and King William's Town.

Next month I am participating in a conference on the reform of the South African police, in Johannesburg, a conference that police officials from the 'homelands' are expected to attend. After Bisho, and its predecessor Boipatong, and many, many others, I am at a loss as to what positive contribution one can make. Words lose their meaning when addressed to some representatives of the South African state, and especially to its senior security officers. But there is immediate need for positive action.

Last week's important visit by Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, must be followed by, at the very least, outright condemnation from the institutions of the European Community, of the Commonwealth, and of the United Nations - not just of the massacre itself, but of the continuing flagrant involvement of senior officers of the South African state in those affairs. The preliminary agreement to send international monitors to potential flashpoints must be extended wholesale across the length and breadth of South Africa's townships and crisis points. International monitors may have few sanctions, but they can cast the glare of publicity on the security officers of the South African state and its surrogates.

No progress is possible, and no meeting of minds feasible over the reform of the coercive apparatus of the South African state until the South African government pubicly rids itself of those who directly or indirectly perpetrate or connive at atrocities such as that of Bisho. A fortnight ago, with the retirement of a third of the police general staff, the Law and Order Minister, Hernus Kriel, made a start. But the evidence of Bisho suggests he has a long way to go.

Yours sincerely,


Professor of Criminal Justice

School of Social Science

Liverpool John Moores University