Focus on De Klerk 'diverts attention'

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas says the spotlight on the role of former president FW de Klerk has raised questions about the extent of his control over the police.

De Haas, who has monitored state-sponsored violence since the mid-1980s, has expert knowledge of its dynamics, including the role played by the security forces.

She says police implicated in gross human rights violations "remain in positions where they can continue in their old ways".

She says the current focus on the leadership of the former National Party is diverting attention away from more pressing justice-related issues.

These include the failure to bring to book those who were found by the TRC to be implicated in gross human rights violations and their handlers.

"Unlike Vlok and De Klerk, some of these individuals remain in positions from which they can and do harm others. If they are in the police they are able to continue to defeat the ends of justice with impunity," she says.

"While the SADF was of strategic importance in destabilising black areas, it was the police who played the more visible role.

"Apartheid policy was to use black surrogates for human rights violations because it was thought that the government would suffer less international condemnation if blacks, rather than whites, were seen as perpetrators of violence."

De Haas says to this end, the former homeland police served a useful function, as did warlords, informers and agents provocateurs in doing the state's dirty work.

Many members of the SAP were implicated in violence, especially in covering up for their surrogates.

"While there is a need to prosecute murderers, it will serve little purpose until investigation teams untainted by the apartheid past are established because the old guard are skilled at ensuring that prosecutions fail," says De Haas.