This document was first published by the Institute for Contexual Theology, and is reproduced here with due acknowledgement to the Institute.
The ANC is in an alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Each Alliance partner is an independent organisation with its own constitution, membership and programmes. The Alliance is founded on a common commitment to the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution, and the need to unite the largest possible cross-section of South Africans behind these objectives.
15 September 1990
In July 1985 the iron fist of the first state of emergency came down hard upon the people of South Africa's townships. Many were killed, injured, maimed for life or locked up in detention. Some of the pastors, theologians and church workers who were appalled by the iron fist of the police, came together to write the Kairos Document. They said that it was a moment of truth for the Church and that it was no longer possible to remain silent or to indulge in vague generalities.
The Kairos Document was published on 25 September 1985. Today, exactly five years later, with violence of horrific proportions and the real possibility of even more violence to come if the perpetrators are not exposed soon, we face a crisis, a moment of truth, that is even more of a kairos than 1985. It has been said that if we had all heeded the prophetic warning of the Kairos Document five years ago, today's violence could have been avoided. Be that as it may, the challenge to the Churches at this moment in our history is more serious than ever before.
What is that challenge?
The Institute for Contextual Theology has done research, consulted numerous influential Christians, held a series of meetings and visited the victims of violence in the townships. A major consultation with some Church leaders is being planned. In the meantime a very clear challenge, a new kairos, has emerged.
In the first place what is required of us in the present circumstances is a penetratingly astute analysis of the signs of our times. We cannot afford to be fooled by the propaganda, the cover-ups, the smokescreens, the lies and the confusion. For, as Jesus warns us, the children of darkness are frequently more astute than the children of light (Lk 16:8). We cannot afford to rely upon superficial explanations of the present violence: tribalism, political rivalry between ANC and Inkatha, gangsterism, poverty, conditions in the hostels, police partiality and so forth. Some of these things are indeed factors to be considered but there is more to it than meets the eye. We must become astute enough to find out what is really going on. Without a penetrating analysis, all our efforts, all our advice and all our admonitions will be in vain.
The Conditions For Violence
A good analysis will need to be clear about the difference between the causes of the violence and the conditions that make violence possible. A fire hazard is not the same as a fire. A fire hazard means the conditions of dryness and high temperatures that make it possible for a fire to start and spread quickly. But the fire has to be started by a spark, a match, an arsonist.
The present conditions in South Africa are the results of oppression and exploitation, of colonialism and apartheid. Most black people have been deprived of their land, reduced to poverty, forced into hostels as migrant workers or into squatter camps as job-seekers, while others have managed to settle permanently as residents in townships. Exploitation and apartheid education have given us a vast number of semi-literate! unemployed youth. The homelands policy failed, but it left us with potential tribalism in some places and a certain amount of tension between urban and rural people.
The potential for conflict, a fire hazard, has been there for a long time. It is to the credit of the black people of South Africa that they did not allow it to burst into flames before.
The unbanning of political organisations on February 2, the release of political prisoners and the talks about talks have not really changed the conditions of life in the townships. At first there was hope but for those whose sufferings have continued and even become worse despite all the talk about a new South Africa, hope has turned into disillusionment. On the other hand, the prospect of majority rule and the possibility of some form of socialism in the future has filled many whites with greater fear than ever. Disillusionment, fear and mistrust only serve to make the situation even more of a fire hazard.
Nor has the Church itself been all that helpful in diffusing potential conflict. Many pastors have actually contributed to the conditions that do not make for peace by underlining the fear of communism or socialism, and by creating an unbridgeable gulf between the spiritual and the material. Many pastors give the impression that the values of the gospel are so exclusively personal, private and spiritual that they have little or no bearing upon social, political, economic, national, tribal and racial affairs-except to condemn blindly everything associated with communism. As we now see, that has been of no help at all in preventing violence.
However, none of this can be said to be the cause of the recent violence in our country. These are only the conditions that have been so effectively exploited. By whom? Who started the fires around the country?
The Pattern Of Violence
Allegations of police using excessive force against; crowds of people engaging in peaceful marches or rallies have been made frequently. Despite the new policy that allows for peaceful marches when permits have been granted, the police have thrown teargas into stadia and other meeting places as they did in Mamelodi and Port Elizabeth.
It times the people have retaliated by throwing stones, going on the rampage or attacking the police themselves.
In Natal, affidavits presented to the courts point to indiscriminate attacks. The attackers, according to this evidence, have been Kwa-Zulu policemen and Inkatha impis led by the so-called warlords. Here too there has been retaliation and even revenge but it would be quite wrong to see the Natal violence as tribalism or factionalism. In Natal everyone involved, both the attackers and the victims, are Zulus. But what we have seen is that tensions between rural and urban Zulus, between squatters and residents, between supporters of Inkatha and supporters of the ANC, have heed systematically exploited by the, warlords to fuel the fires of violence and bloodshed. But what for?
In recent months the violence has systematically and deliberately exported from Natal to the Southern Transvaal. The evidence from the people in the affected areas is unanimous. In one township after the other the violence was deliberately sparked off by mysterious people and by certain white policemen. The spark in most cases was skillfully placed rumour. Amongst residents, squatters and the youth the rumour would be: "Inkatha is Coming". In the hostels the rumours or stories would be: "The comrades are going to attack; the youth who are dictating to their elders must be put in their place; an ANC takeover will mean domination by Xhosas;Inkatha can help you to defend yourself and to attack the Xhosas or comrades". The fact that hostel residents have been armed and that the police role has been highly partial, has meant that the violence has been even more devastating
All the eyewitnesses attest to the fact that there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. It was carefully orchestrated and it had nothing to do with tribalism. 40% of the residents in Soweto who were attacked by hostel dwellers were themselves Zulus. In Thokoza especially, attempts were made to get Zulus and Xhosas to fight. Nor were the attacks aimed solely at the ANC or at the young comrades. Residents of the townships were killed indiscriminately.
What we are dealing with here is a well planned conspiracy.
In some places it simply didn't work. In Soshanguve, Attridgeville and Alexandra, for example, the rumours were spread, but the civic associations intervened quickly to avert the violence by showing both residents and hostel dwellers that they were being used as pawns by unscrupulous instigators of violence.
Gradually the plotters, whoever they are, began to overplay their hands: minibuses with armed men, black and white, shooting people indiscriminately in several townships and in the centre of Johannesburg, balaclava-clad gunmen, whites with faces painted black and then the great train massacre. No attempt was made to disguise this violence as tribalism or factionalism or political rivalry or any other form of so-called black on black violence. It was naked terrorism executed by well-trained and highly professional hitmen.
A pattern now begins to emerge. In all the different incidents from the shooting of peaceful marchers to Inkatha warlords, from the burning of squatter camps to train massacres, from the inciting of hostel dwellers to the failed attempts to set Indian and African against one another in Natal, one aim or purpose emerges. It is known as destabilization. All the evidence, according to the best analysts, is pointing to a well-planned conspiracy to destabilise the emerging new South Africa The net result of all the violence is much more fear than ever before, much more suspicion, much more confusion and much more despair - a very unstable situation. But why? end who?
There is a sinister hand behind it all, a "third force", or, as one woman from Soweto said, "There Is a fox behind the wolves who are killing us". At this stage it is not possible to name the fox, but it is possible to narrow down the range of possibilities by trying to answer two questions: who would have sufficient motive to want to commit the crime? and who would have the means to execute it? There are people who could have a sufficient motive because destabilisation is in their interest, but they do not have the means, the resources, the power, the weapons, the professionalism, the information and the skills to carry it out. On the otter hand some who have the means might lack a motive since it does not benefit their cause.
We can begin with Right Wing, e.g., the AWB and all the other militant formations. Destabilisation is very much in their interest. They want to reverse the process of negotiations that Mr. de Klerk says is now irreversible. But does any right wing group have the means to mount a national operation that is so sophisticated, so professional, so well co-ordinated and so invisible? And which right wing group has the power to give instructions to policemen and to Inkatha supporters, and to employ extremely well-trained black and white hitmen? The so-called "third force" is not a right wing formation like the AWB, although individual rightwingers are no doubt members of this "third force".
What about individuals in Inkatha? Because Inkatha feels excluded from the negotiation process and because it is losing support, and because Mr. Mandela has proved to be so much more popular than Chief Buthelezi, there are some who believe that individuals in Inkatha might well regard it as in their interest to destabilise the present process and especially to destabilise the ANC. But these individuals in Inkatha do not possess the means, the resources and the influence over white policemen. Inkatha is not the fox or "third force".
Many people believe that the police are behind all the recant violence. Whatever Mr. Vlok may say, some policemen are certainly responsible is for not preventing the violence. They have protected Inkatha supporters and the hostel dwellers, they have stood by watching while the violence rages and they have themselves been responsible for the shooting of countless people. On the other hand, not all policemen have been involved. Black policemen are often excluded from acts of killing or destabilisation and some police officers have genuinely tried to work for peace. Does that mean that the conspiracy comes from a small clique of white policemen? Are they the faceless "third force"? Some of them may be part of it, but it is unlikely that a group of white policemen alone could command the necessary authority and resources to execute such a sophisticated conspiracy.
Of course, this is all speculation. There is no hard evidence that can lead us to the conspirators. All we have is circumstantial evidence but people are dying and therefore we must leave no stone unturned in our search for clues.
Some newspapers have recently focused our attention in another direction, (New Nation 21/09/90, pp.6-7; Weekly Mail 21/09/90, pp.1-2)
If we are looking for people with resources, the weapons, the expertise and training, professionalism and the experience, the ability to kill and to destabilise, then we must surely look at the history of the Special Forces of the SADF. Destabilisation has always been their speciality: in Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. They have always trained and used surrogate forces: Koevoet, Unita, Renamo. That the special forces have been training Inkatha at a place called Hippo along the Caprivi Strip seems to be supported by incontrovertible evidence gathered by the alternative press (Weekly Mail21/09/90, p.1.). Moreover the evidence presented to the Harms Commission has made us all aware of the sinister role played by one of these Special Forces: the CCB. We have also head of the use that was made of Askari's death squads and other highly trained hitmen.
Here we have the people with all the means necessary to orchestrate a massive covert operation of destabilisation, but would individuals or elements of the Special Forces of the SADF have any reason or motive for wanting to destabilise the new; South Africa? Yes, they would have. It would be the same as their reasons for destabilising Mozambique or Angola and their reasons for trying to destabilise SWAPO and the ANC over so many years. Their reasons would be the same as those of other similar forces in other parts of the world, from Central America to the Philippines. These reasons are Quite simply to wreck any attempt (by a government or a potential government) that is perceived to be a move towards a Marxist one party state, or a move towards communism.
Many whites and not a few blacks believe that the greatest danger for the future is the ANC's talk about negotiations and its close association with the SACP. At the level of politics this entails discrediting the SACP, ridiculing nationalisation and trying to weaken the support for the ANC. At the level at which these elements operate anything goes: killings, massacres, wars, terrorism; as long as it helps to destabilise communism.
The conspiracy behind the violence in South Africa today could be the same as conspiracies in other parts of the world where violent conflict is instigated as a counter-revolutionary measure and as a way of distracting attention from the real issues. In fact this kind of conspiracy has a name. Its advocates or proponents throughout the world call it Low Intensity Conflict.
There is no conclusive proof and in such operations it would be very difficult to find conclusive proof; but as one newspaper puts it, "Direct involvement by members of the military's special forces, for personal or other reasons, in the violence cannot be ruled out" (Weekly Mail 21/09/90, p.2). If this were true, then, as in the case of the CCB operatives, a question arises about the line of command. How far up does it go?
One can hear the protestations of Mr. Vlok and of Mr. Malan: "Where is your evidence? Bring us the evidence". The Church leaders and the Independent Board of Inquiry into Informal Repression (IBIIR) have handed over a large number of sworn affidavits to the government. The ANC leadership has presented dossier after dossier of evidence pointing to a sinister plot. the alternative press has also unearthed a great deal of information. So the evidence is there, and in any case if the police and the army were really interested in finding out who was behind the violence they would be questioning the hostel-dwellers, the squatters, the residents and black police officers, they would be collecting affidavits, they would be following up clues like the bullets used, the false number plates on minibuses the whites with blackened faces and so forth. The fact that they are not doing most of this and that they have instituted Operation Iron Fist instead, is in itself very, very suspicious.
Is this what we have come to in South Africa? Are these the signs of our time?
Many Church leaders and pastors have shown great concern for the victims of violence and for the women and children who have become refugees. They have visited the strife-torn townships, collected affidavits and taken them to Mr. Vlok and to Mr. de Klerk. They have tried to get individuals and groups to meet with one another and they have made numerous appeals for peace from the pulpit and through the media.
But all of this does not face the contradictions and crises of the present situation. On the one hand we have talks about talks and the hope of negotiations in the near future; while on the other hand there is more violent conflict than ever before. Exiles are about to return, prisoners are being released, and yet there are others who are still being detained. While we are experiencing a new balance of forces with talk about an interim government and the need to re-structure the economy, we are also experiencing mysterious forces that are killing our people. The Church itself is caught up in these dilemmas: the more the Church appeals for peace, the more the violence continues; and the more the Church condemns the savagery of the killings, the more savage they become; and the more the Church speaks about reconciliation, the more the people plead for arms to defend themselves against attack. Appeals for peace have more and more of a hollow ring about them because they do not put the blame for the violence where it really belongs -outside the townships. Here then is the new kairos.
A strong, clear prophetic word is needed. The sins of the wicked must be exposed and condemned. We dare not sit back and wait because the evidence is not yet technically complete, while hundreds of people are being slaughtered on our streets. We must speak up, we must raise questions, we must take risks, we must call for inquiries. Together with the lawyers, the politicians and the journalists we must monitor the violence, search for its causes and try to make the truth known. We must not be afraid to point a finger in the direction of those who are conspiring against us all. The violence must be stopped at its source.
Let Mr. Vlok and Mr. Malan shout at us. Let our critics accuse us, let the death squads themselves haunt us. But for the sake of those who are suffering we must speak out. In the name of God we must condemn those who hire others to kill, those who treat black life cheaper than dirt, those who plot and conspire and provoke others into acts of savagery. The wickedness of these conspirators has no precedent even in South Africa. We must condemn their sin, even if we have never seen their faces and we don't know their names. We must say to them, in the name of God, "Thou shall not kill".
A prophetic word would also have to show how this violence and the conspirators behind it exposes the false prophecies of a new South Africa, of an end to the season of violence, of an end to white domination and control. Apartheid, racism, oppression and violence are still very much part of the system that rules our lives - despite all the promises of a different future. The Church must continue to take action, inside and outside of the Church itself, against any form of racism, discrimination or injustice, and find ways and means of healing and repairing the damage that has been done to all the people of South Africa by apartheid.
And finally a prophetic word from the Church at this time must be above all a word of hope. Nothing could be more hopeless than the realisation that you are unable to defend yourself and your family, that there is no one else to defend you, that your attackers will never be apprehended and that justice will not be done. Some measure of hope could be restored if there were a prophetic church leadership that would risk everything to search for the truth, to publish the truth and to take every action possible to ensure that justice is done. The Church should also encourage the people of the townships to organise themselves into structures like civic associations which would ensure greater unity on the ground. This in turn, will help to resist the counter-revolutionary tactics of the enemy. This strategy has shown to be effective in the various townships where violence was averted. Encouragement and help like this from the Churches would give our people some reason to face the future with hope. God in Jesus Christ is our hope. But how do we communicate this to people who live in fear of the next attack?
The primary task of the Church at this moment, then, is not to call for peace but to call for justice. The culprit must be found and brought to justice. And there must be no cover-ups. Because unless justice is done and seen to be done, there is no hope of peace in the near future.