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Verdict damns all SA parties

SOUTH Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered devastating indictments of leading political figures, their parties, and members of the former white apartheid regime when it published its report on more than two years of investigations yesterday.

Senior members of all the main political parties were found responsible for ``gross violations of human rights'' between 1960 and 1994.

The five-volume, 3,500-page report could prove devastating to the career of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party and the country's deputy president. He could face prosecution for his part in political murders during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

Former generals of the apartheid regime who shredded tonnes of documents before the handover to majority rule in 1994, including Gen Constand Viljoen, leader of the right-wing Freedom Front, as well as former president PW Botha, police officers and members of the security forces who have failed to apply for amnesty could also be charged as a result of the commission's findings.

The ruling ANC was found culpable for failing to control Winnie Mandela during her 1980s ``reign of terror'' in the townships around Johannesburg.

The commission has exposed the devastating effects of apartheid on its victims.

Page after page catalogues rape, abduction, murder, summary execution and massacres. Most of the perpetrators, especially from Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, were either members of the security services or agents for them, it said.

The 17-member commission, which included six whites, expressed disappointment with the attitude of the majority of whites.

``Despite amnesty provision extending to criminal and civil charges, the white community often seemed either indifferent or plainly hostile to the work of the commission,'' the report said.

Drawing on statements from 21,000 victims of human rights abuses as well as its own investigations, the commission found that the State Security Council, which under PW Botha became the most powerful body in South Africa from 1978 to 1989, was ``guilty of `official tolerance' of violations and are accountable for such violations''.

Members included the president, the ministers of defence, justice and police and senior officers.

The commission agreed with claims by apartheid assassins like Eugene de Kock, leader of the Vlakplaas death squad, that when the council said political opponents should be ``neutralised'' and ``eliminated'' this meant killed; former members of the council had denied this.

The report found that the Inkatha Freedom Party ``was the foremost perpetrator of human rights violations during the 1990-1994 period. Indeed, IFP violations constituted almost 50pc of violations reported''.

This accounted for 3,800 killings in the KwaZulu-Natal area, compared with 1,100 attributed to the ANC and 700 to the South African police.

Inkatha was an integral part of the `Third Force' identified as an informal group of security organisations dedicated to fomenting interparty and ethnic rivalries among black people.

Inkatha also conspired to kill members of the ANC in hundreds of attacks with the apartheid security forces in an attempt to prevent the 1994 elections.

While praising the ANC as the only signatory to the Geneva Convention, the commission found that the party, and its armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, committed gross violations of human rights ``in that the distinction between civilian and military targets was blurred such as the 1983 Church Street bombing of the South African Air Force headquarters''.

The ANC is most bitterly criticised over the treatment of people alleged to have been informers in townships.

(The Times, London)