Arms deal inherited corrupt DNA

Nov 11 2011 14:50

In the following editions the Mail & Guardian will run extracts from a major new work on the arms deal by Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden, The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything, which will be launched this week. In the first chapter, from which this extract is drawn, the authors analyse how the arms deal emerged from the corruption and anti-democratic tendencies of elites in Umkhonto weSizwe and the South African Defence Force. Quoting from the Shishita Report, previously submitted secretly by the ANC to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it shows how the ANC’s intelligence network in exile thought -- and how that led to the human rights abuses in the movement’s camps

The discovery of the spy network [in the exiled ANC] was detailed in perhaps one of the most important documents in the ANC's exile history, the Shishita Report. Access to the report has remained limited but, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the ANC acknowledged its existence and made copies available to the TRC on the understanding that it would be kept confidential -- an odd request, seeing as the TRC was underpinned by the concept of full disclosure.

In any event, the TRC was to release the report to the public. Little has been made of its contents, as it dashed many expectations that it would unveil a more sensational trail of corruption on the part of the ANC elite -- another strange belief, seeing as it was drawn up by a body that was set up and run by the ANC old guard rather than disgruntled comrades with an axe to grind.

A large section of the report was convincing, painting a picture of widespread infiltration, and tracing the ways in which infiltrators were convinced to join the South African Police (SAP) and South African Defence Force (SADF) to spy on the ANC.

Included in the description were training methods and courses, the routes of infiltration and even the networks in South Africa responsible for "turning" potential MK soldiers into apartheid agents. At this level, at least, the report suggested accuracy and indicates that there was a high level of infiltration. Because the end-game was read as the agitation towards a "Morogoro-type Conference" [the ANC's national conference in Morogoro, Tanzania in 1969], however, and because the agents had admitted (unevenly and with some qualifications) that they had purposefully whipped up dissent, any person expressing unhappiness was considered to be either an agent or collusive in the apartheid project.

This was illustrated by the fact that many of the agents who had infiltrated the organisation had developed their critiques on the basis of talks that they had had with non-agents. This would suggest that, agent infiltration notwithstanding, genuine grievances were frequently articulated by those who were not apartheid agents. But, because the grievances were the furrows in which the infiltrated agents could sow seeds of discontent, those with legitimate frustrations were to be considered, like the agents, the enemy.

In one such discussion of this tendency, two people were highlighted for their role as non-agents in supporting the work of the apartheid state: Albert Dlomo and Mark Shope.

That Shope and Dlomo were mentioned is remarkable considering their pedigree and their standing in the organisation.

Shope would be awarded, posthumously, the Order of the Baobab in Gold in recognition of his role in the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Sactu) and as one of the first Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) soldiers to receive training in the Soviet Union.

Dlomo, meanwhile, was a veteran of Robben Island, having served a four-year sentence from 1965; a political studies Master's degree graduate; a close colleague of Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki in Swaziland; and, in the years before his death, an adviser to Mosiuoa Lekota, who was then minister of defence. Considering this, it would probably be fair to conclude that the findings of the Shishita Report were more likely than not to point fingers at committed comrades with, at the very least, genuine frustrations:

"In the area of our investigation, it is clear that there was, in fact, a campaign promoted by enemy agents, within and outside our ranks, for discrediting the leadership of the African National Congress on 'grounds' of 'corruption', 'in-efficiency' [sic], 'money making', 'too old to lead', etc. All NEC members, particularly those based at headquarters in Lusaka, excluding the president, had been given different kinds of labels to 'prove their dishonesty and inefficiency'.

"It should be noted that this anti-leadership campaign was not waged by the new cadres alone. In some cases they say that they got the tune from very senior members of the movement. For example, Piper says his attitudes towards the NEC members were shaped by Comrade Mark Shope in the camps. According to him [Shope] the only genuine leader in the NEC is the president. Mark, according to Piper, also told him about tribal divisions in the leadership, his [Mark's] role in the ANC and Sactu. His early contact with Mark Shope shaped his attitude towards members of the NEC, even before he had actually met them.

"The other example is that of Comrade Albert Dlomo. He was meeting most of the young cadres at Zane-Moni Bar [along the Great North road]. This includes underground comrades from F.C. and Chunga. He would tell them about the 'general corruption among the leadership', that he does not recognise some of them like Cde Joe Modise. Most of the time he talked about his past history and role in the movement, including at Robben Island. According to these sources, he [Dlomo] ought to be in the NEC. It is now clear that his buying these comrades crates and crates of beer and the deliveries of meat and supplies are also part of this campaign …

"Objectively these comrades are playing the role of enemy agents or provocateurs despite the fact that they were never formally recruited."

Although the exact chronology is unclear, it seems likely that it was after the compilation of the Shishita Report that the ANC's department of security and intelligence was finally constituted as a body separate from the MK, significantly enlarged -- and more able to engage in violations of human rights. In 1981, the same year as the Shishita Report, Mzwandile Piliso, then a member of the NEC, was appointed head of the intelligence and security department of the ANC. The department was, in turn, composed of three further sub-branches, namely, external intelligence, internal intelligence (security) and administration. An executive committee, consisting of all the heads of these branches as well as Peter Boroko, the deputy to Piliso, was charged with running and co-ordinating the various activities of the branches.

The newly reconstituted intelligence and security department, motivated by the findings of the Shishita Report, was to undertake its task of rooting out "spies" and "provocateurs" with gusto -- so much so that it acquired a new name, "Mbokodo", meaning "grinding stone" -- an indication of the methods it was to employ and the reputation it carried.

From 1981 to 1984, Mbokodo agents became ubiquitous, working in every nook and cranny of both the ANC and MK: its "powers were apparently pervasive", according to the Motsuenyane Commission Report of 1993.

Mbokodo frequently acted in mysterious ways, moving suspected agents or infringers of the disciplinary code to unknown locations, and failing to inform colleagues, family or friends of the reason why and their eventual destination. These failures were compounded by the fact that Mbokodo was "seriously lacking" in accountability: "Members of the department did not consider themselves accountable to the ANC generally or answerable to anybody specifically other than its head. This caused considerable friction with other organs of the ANC …"
Mbokodo, in other words, was the archetypal Gestapo-style security branch, with agents everywhere, surrounded by mystery and intrigue, and unaccountable to any beyond a small group at the top of the leadership corps. It was a law unto itself. Its brief was to enforce a strict code of discipline, which classed petty offences such as marijuana smoking as equally threatening to the security of the ANC as infiltrated agents.

Following the Shishita Report (the findings of which were announced by Oliver Tambo during a meeting with MK soldiers in 1981), Mbokodo pursued the mandate with gusto. Commissions were established in "every ANC establishment", according to five MK members who later were jailed for years at Quatro. In the four existing MK camps, security officers and camp commanders supervised the work of the commission, in which "all those implicated [in breaches of discipline] were detained, beaten and tortured to extract information". One method of torture that was frequently employed was to tie cadres to trees for extended periods of time, interspersed with beatings.

A number of those suspected of breaches of discipline lost their lives: Oupa Moloi, for example, who was the head of the political department at the Camalundi camp, died during the first day of interrogations, while in Quibaxe, two cadres, Elik Parasi and Reggie Mthengele, were allegedly killed on the instruction of the camp commander "at a time when they were in severe pain with little hope of survival". Others were summarily shipped to Quatro, where they languished for a number of years.

The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything, by Paul Holden and Hennie Van Vuuren is Published by Jonathan Ball

For more news on the arms deal visit our special report.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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