Right-Wing Coup Fails
Past and Present Human Rights Violations Remain Unpunished
On March 11, 1994, President Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana was finally forced to abandon his boycott of South Africa’s first all-race elections, currently scheduled to take place on April 26 to 28, 1994. In one dramatic week, widespread strikes by civil servants brought the nominally independent state C one of ten “homelands” established under the apartheid system for each of South Africa’s major black ethnic groups C to the brink of collapse. Several thousand right-wing vigilantes invaded the homeland capital in support of the tottering Mangope regime, but South African troops finally restored order. At least sixty people were killed in the course of the disturbances, almost all of them black civilians killed by white extremists.
In the face of the South African army intervention, President Mangope conceded defeat, and agreed to contest the elections as leader of the Northwest Christian Democratic Party. He was replaced as head of the Bophuthatswana government by two administrators, who will remain in office until the homeland is absorbed into a newly created regional government following the elections. Although the right to vote of those South Africans living inside the borders of Bophuthatswana has now been assured, Human Rights Watch/Africa continues to have serious concerns about the situation in the homeland.
These include the failure to take any steps to bring to justice those right-wing whites responsible for the deaths of unarmed black civilians; the fact that senior members of the Mangope regime responsible for serious abuses before the South African intervention have been allowed to remain in power; and reports of continuing harassment of opposition parties by the Bophuthatswana security forces, especially in the more remote areas of the homeland.
Bophuthatswana is one of the ten homelands set up as part of the policy of grand apartheid implemented by the National Party government of South Africa following its election in 1948. The aim of the policy was to deprive all black South Africans of their citizenship of South Africa, and instead make them citizens of nominally independent “homelands” or bantustans, one set up for each major black ethnic group. Together with Transkei, Venda, and Ciskei, Bophuthatswana was officially recognized by the South African government (though by no other country) as an independent state. Bophuthatswana itself is in seven pieces, scattered around the northern Transvaal and Orange Free State; its capital is Mmabatho, adjacent to the formerly “white” town of Mafikeng, approximately four hours’ drive northwest of Johannesburg. From 1977, when Bophuthatswana was established, its president was Lucas Mangope.
As a nominally independent state, Bophuthatswana was endowed with its own parliament and president, civil service, police force and army. This infrastructure was financed by the South African government; moreover, many of the homeland’s civil servants were seconded white officials paid from central funds. Relations between Bophuthatswana and the South African government were conducted through ministries of foreign affairs, with embassies established in each capital. Bophuthatswana also maintained representative offices in several other countries, including the United Kingdom and United States.
During the course of the multiparty negotiations that were begun in February 1990 with the purpose of ending white minority rule in South Africa, it was agreed that the homelands should be reincorporated into South Africa under a new constitutional dispensation, and that the residents of the homelands should be able to vote in South Africa’s first all-race elections, in the same way as if they lived in any other part of South Africa. South African citizenship was restored to the residents of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei on January 1, 1994.
Despite these changes, and in defiance of the reforms being carried out in South Africa as a whole, the Bophuthatswana government resisted the idea of reincorporation and insisted that those who lived within its borders would not be allowed to vote in the April elections. As a member first of the Concerned South Africans Group (Cosag), and then of the Freedom Alliance, when it was formed by Cosag members in October 1993, President Mangope joined the parties of the white right-wing, as well the Inkatha Freedom Party (led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Chief Minister of the KwaZulu homeland), in opposing South Africa’s process of transition to a democratically elected government.
Throughout the negotiation period, security legislation in the homeland remained as severely repressive C if not more so C as that in effect in South Africa during the state of emergency of the 1980s. Opponents of the Mangope regime were detained, dismissed from civil service positions, or “deported” to South Africa if they did not hold Bophuthatswana citizenship. Section 31 of the Bophuthatswana Internal Security Act defined as an “illegal gathering” any meeting, whatever the number of people involved, whether held for lawful or unlawful purposes. Using this and other legislation C or acting outside the framework of any law C political parties, trades unions, or any other organization with the potential to challenge the homeland government, were prevented from operating.
Human Rights Watch/Africa published a report on Bophuthatswana in 1991, documenting extensive abuses.31 We revisited the homeland in January and February 1994, and found that little had changed. Members of the homeland security police routinely harassed those believed to be opposed to the Mangope government, frequently detaining both activists and simple members of opposition parties, dispersing any gathering at their discretion, and often brutally assaulting individuals in police custody. Bophuthatswana was locked in an apartheid timewarp, denying even the most basic freedoms to those with the misfortune to live within its borders.
The collapse of the Bophuthatswana regime
As the elections in South Africa approached, discontent with the repressive regime in Bophuthatswana grew, including from within its own structures. From late February 1994, increasing numbers of civil servants in Bophuthatswana came out on strike. Concerned at their future after the installation of a democratic regime in South Africa, hospital workers, teachers and other civil servants demanded immediate refunds of their pension contributions and free political activity within the homeland. Initial demonstrations were brutally dispersed by homeland security forces, but the protests continued. In the second week of March the confrontation reached crisis point, as strikes and protest marches spread across the homeland. Riot police once again dispersed crowds with tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot, assaulting many individual demostrators. However, by Wednesday, March 9, several hundred police had also joined the demonstrations.
At that point, right-wing whites came out in support of the homeland regime. Both Constand Viljoen, head of the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), and Eugene Terreblanche, commander of the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement (Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, or AWB), called on their members to respond to a request for assistance from the Bophuthatswana government. Both the AWB and AVF are co-members of the Freedom Alliance, with the Bophuthatswana government. Several thousand armed white paramilitaries invaded the homeland beginning Wednesday evening, March 9. On Thursday night, they occupied the military air base on the outskirts of Mmabatho, with the approval of the head of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force, General Turner, and began patrolling the streets of the capital and terrorizing the inhabitants. The local office of Lawyers for Human Rights, a national human rights organization with its headquarters in Pretoria, has identified by name twenty-seven black civilians killed during the disturbances, many of them in drive-by shootings; press reports put the number of dead at over sixty. Three whites were also killed, two of them summarily executed by a Bophuthatswana policeman after they had been wounded in an exchange of fire.
Early in the morning of Friday March 11, South African Defence Force (SADF) troops moved into Mmabatho, on the orders of State President F.W. de Klerk. They did not, however, immediately act to protect the residents of the homeland. According to Foreign Minister Pik Botha, “the president decided … that a contingent of South African troops should as a matter of urgency move to our embassy to protect and guard our property and people there, and secondly to be available to protect South African citizens and their property.”32 Even the previous day, de Klerk had stated that he did not think it was necessary to send in the SADF. The approximately 1,500 troops were initially stationed outside the South African embassy, and only later moved to halt the extensive looting that broke out in Mmabatho and elsewhere. No action had been taken to prevent the right-wing forces, which gathered outside the homeland borders, from entering the homeland in the first place.
Nevertheless, President Mangope, under pressure from the military intervention, caved in and agreed to take part in the April elections as leader of his party, the Christian Democratic Party. On Saturday March 12, AWB members still patrolling in Mmabatho were escorted to the “border” with South Africa by SADF troops. On March 13, Tjaart van der Walt, formerly the South African ambassador to Bophuthatswana, was appointed by de Klerk to administer the homeland until reincorporation in April. Two days later, the Transitional Executive Council (the multiparty body charged with facilitating the transition to a new constitutional order in South Africa) appointed Job Mokgoro, currently working with the South African Development Bank, but previously an opponent of Mangope detained in 1990, as joint administrator with van der Walt.
Although the right to vote of those South African citizens who are resident within the borders of Bophuthatswana has now been assured, there are continuing concerns:
No action has been taken to bring to justice those right-wing paramilitaries guilty of the killings of numerous black residents of the homeland. In the wake of the disturbances, General Turner, head of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force (BDF), announced that an intensive investigation would be undertaken to find and arrest the members of the Bophuthatswana security forces responsible for the killing of three whites. No similar effort was announced with respect to any of the killings carried out by members of the AWB or AVF.
Senior members of the security forces implicated in reports of assistance to the right-wing invasion, most of them whites seconded from the South African security forces, remain in office. Although General Turner of the BDF and Commissioner Saleke, head of the Bophuthatswana Police, were put on enforced leave by the joint administrators on March 18, numerous lower-ranking officers remain in their positions.
Several thousand assault rifles were taken by members of the AWB from BDF headquarters in Mmabatho. Black members of the BDF were instructed to load two trucks with arms and drive them to the air base, where the AWB command had set up its headquarters. These weapons are believed to have been taken by the right-wingers when they were escorted from Bophuthatswana by the SADF. The white BDF officers who gave the orders for these weapons to be handed over to the AWB are among those who still remain in their jobs. No action has been taken to track down the missing arms.
Senior civil servants from the Mangope regime also remain in office. Some of them are associated with serious past violations of human rights. There are credible reports that these civil servants are destroying documents dating from the Mangope administration.
In outlying areas of Bophuthatswana, there are reports that representatives of the Bophuthatswana security forces are continuing to harass residents who attempt to hold meetings or campaign for the coming election.
No investigation has been set in motion to determine the extent to which Constand Viljoen of the AVF, Eugene Terreblanche of the AWB, or other leaders of the right-wing groups whose members invaded Bophuthatswana, either planned or are otherwise responsible for the violent crimes carried out by their members in Bophuthatswana.
The message of impunity sent by this failure to take strong action against those who choose to resist the democratic process with violence may have serious consequences. In particular, the close links between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the white right-wing indicate that similar paramilitary support may be offered to the KwaZulu government, if it is threatened with collapse.
Human Rights Watch/Africa urges the South African government, the Transitional Executive Council (the multiparty body charged with facilitating the transition to a democratic constitution in South Africa), and the Independent Electoral Commission (established to manage the elections) to take the following immediate steps; whether through the joint administrators appointed to rule Bophuthatswana for the period till the election or otherwise:
Appoint a properly funded task force to investigate the right-wing invasion of Bophuthatswana, with the principal aim of establishing individual responsibility for the killings of black residents of the homeland. The killings of the three whites who were summarily executed should similarly be investigated. Where individual responsibility can be established, those concerned should be charged with the appropriate offenses and speedily brought to trial.
This investigation should extend to the national leadership of the organizations responsible for the invasion. The rapid deployment of several thousand armed men implies that plans for the invasion had been laid well in advance. Those who gave the orders that led to the invasion, either intending that violent crimes would result, or not caring if they would be committed, should be charged under the appropriate laws.
Suspend from office in the administration of the homeland all those civil servants or security force officers alleged to have given assistance to the right-wing invasion, or to be responsible for serious violations of human rights under the Mangope regime. Following investigation of their activities, criminal charges should be brought where appropriate.
Make secure all documents produced by the Bophuthatswana civil service under Mangope, to ensure that those which contain evidence of wrongdoing are not destroyed.
Ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are respected throughout the different parts of Bophuthatswana, and not just in the capital, where SADF presence is currently most visible.
This report was written by Bronwen Manby, consultant to Human Rights Watch/Africa, and edited by Abdullahi An-Na`im, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Africa and Cynthia Brown, program director of Human Rights Watch. We would like to thank the following organizations and individuals for their invaluable assistance: Practical Ministries (Port Shepstone), the Human Rights Commission (Durban), the Legal Resources Centre (Durban), the Network of Independent Monitors, Mary de Haas, the Local Peace Committees of Empangeni and Port Shepstone, Lawyers for Human Rights (Mafikeng), Mangel Panchia and the Mafikeng Anti-Repression Forum.
Human Rights Watch/Africa (formerly Africa Watch)
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki Accords. Kenneth Roth is the executive director; Cynthia Brown is the program director; Holly J. Burkhalter is the advocacy director; Gara LaMarche is the associate director; Juan E. Mendez is the general counsel; and Susan Osnos is the communications director. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the executive committee and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair.
The Africa division of Human Rights Watch was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa. Abdullahi An-Na`im is the director; Janet Fleischman is the Washington representative; Karen Sorensen, Alex Vines and Berhane Woldegabriel are research associates; Bronwen Manby is a consultant; and Kimberley Mazyck and Urmi Shah are associates. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee and Alice Brown is the vice chair.
1 Africa Watch, “`Traditional’ Dictatorship: One Party State in KwaZulu Homeland Treatens Transition to Democracy,” News from Africa Watch, Vol.5 No.12, New York: Human Rights Watch, September 1993.
2 2,009 people died in political violence in Natal during 1993, according to the Durban office of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), a national human rights monitoring organization. HRC (Durban), “Natal Annual Review: 1993,” January 1994.
3 The nominally independent homelands of Ciskei and Bophuthatswana also rejected participation in the elections until each was forced to change its position by pressure from civil servants in their own administrations; Ciskei in January 1994, and Bophuthatswana on March 11, 1994, following dramatic mass action, an invasion of the homeland by several thousand members of the right wing paramilitary Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), and final intervention by the South African Defence Force.
4 Four of the ten homelands were formally recognized by South Africa (though by no other country) as independent. They are Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei, collectively known as the TBVC states.
5 Opinion polls give Inkatha less than five per cent of the national vote; regionally, it is estimated to be supported by between twenty and forty per cent of Natal residents.
6 John Carlin, “Buthelezi rejects ANC election concessions,” The Independent (London), February 18, 1994.
7 Alec Russell, “Inkatha chief tells followers to fight alongside whites,” Daily Telegraph (London), February 14, 1994.
8 John Carlin, “Buthelezi persists with warnings of war,” The Independent (London), March 3, 1994.
9 Marius Bosch, “Zulu king moves closer to sovereign Zulu state,” Reuters Information Services Inc, March 18, 1994.
10 The Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation, headed by Mr. Justice Richard Goldstone, established in October 1991 under the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation Act 1991 and empowered by the South African government to investigate incidents of political violence, in terms of the September 1991 National Peace Accord.
11 Khumalo resigned from the IFP in the wake of the June 1991 “Inkathagate” scandal in which covert South African government funding to Inkatha was revealed. However, he was subsequently reinstated to membership of the IFP and today is once again personal assistant to Buthelezi.
12 “Report by the committee appointed to inquire into the allegations concerning front companies of the SADF and the training by the SADF of Inkatha supporters in the Caprivi in 1986,” Pretoria: Goldstone Commission, June 1, 1993; paragraphs 28, 31 & 36.
13 Transitional Executive Council Act, 1993, Section 3.
14 Chris Louw, “The general in the hot seat hints at hit squads,” Weekly Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), February 11 to 17, 1994.
15 Rich Mkhondo, “Task force says hit squads operating in Natal,” Reuters Information Services Inc., March 22, 1994.
16 The National Peace Accord of September 1991, signed by nineteen parties in South Africa (including the ANC and IFP, as well as the National Party government and the police), provides that communities have the right to establish “voluntary associations or self-protection units in any neighbourhood to prevent crime and to prevent any invasion of the lawful rights of such communities,” including the “right to bear licensed firearms and to use them in legitimate and lawful self-defence.” However, the Accord also provides that these units may not be established “on the basis of any party or political affiliation, such units being considered private armies.” and that “No private armies shall be allowed or formed.” Liaison structures should operate between any self-protection units and the police, and the police remain responsible for the maintenance of law and order.
17 “Third intake of Zulu trainees pass out,” Daily News (Durban), March 4, 1994.
18 For example, Leonard Veenendal, a member of the Orde Boerevolk and officer commanding the Boerekommando, stated in an interview in Newcastle, northern Natal, on February 22, 1994, that “it is no secret that we are training them [the Zulus]. We are training them offensively.” “We’re training the Zulus: Veenendal,” The Citizen (Johannesburg), February 23, 1994.
19 For example, as reported by Philippa Garson & Enoch Mthembu, “Bambata: Rebels linked to the Inkatha cause,” Weekly Mail & Guardian, December 18 to 22, 1992.
20 Although the camps established by the KwaZulu government in Natal are the most blatant current effort to train a private army, South Africa has a large number of paramilitary organizations both from the left and right wing. On the left, MK (the armed wing of the ANC) is still training locally in some areas despite being officially disbanded; while APLA (the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Pan-Africanist Congress) is also training in Transkei, despite its parent organization’s official suspension of armed struggle. All such private armies represent a threat to the maintenance of law and order, and should be prevented from operating.
21 Traditional Dictatorship, pp.25-27 & 32-36, describing attacks on ANC-supporting households in which KZP members were involved, and the failure of the KZP to assist residents of the township during violent incidents.
22 Under the National Peace Accord of September 1991, civilian Police Reporting Officers were to be appointed for each of the regions of South Africa to investigate complaints of police misbehavior. Advocate Neville Melville was appointed PRO for Natal/KwaZulu in February 1993.
23 Information supplied by the HRC (Durban).
24 Vasantha Angamuthu, “Chilling report of AmaSinyora’s reign,” Daily News (Durban), July 23, 1991.
25 Phillip van Niekerk, “Inkatha massacre cover-up,” The Observer (London), March 6, 1994.
26 HRC (Durban), “Bulletin #7,” July 1993.
27 HRC (Durban), “Natal Annual Review: 1993”.
28 A detailed discussion of the use and abuses of tribal authorities, including their arming by the KwaZulu government, is contained in “Traditional” Dictatorship.
29 HRC (Durban), “Natal Annual Review: 1993.”
30 For example, The Killings in South Africa: The Role of the Security Forces and the Response of the State, January 1991; Half-Hearted Reform: The Official Response to the Rising Tide of Violence, May 1993; “Traditional” Dictatorship: One Party State in KwaZulu Homeland Threatens Transition to Democracy, September 1993.
31 Africa Watch, “Out of Sight: The Misery in Bophuthatswana,” News from Africa Watch, Vol. 3, No.12, NY: Human Rights Watch, September 1991.
32 Anton Ferreira, “South Africa sends troops to troubled homeland,” Reuters Information Services Inc, March 11, 1994.