THANKS to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, the world knows more about the evils of the former apartheid regime of that country than during its pariah existence before 1994. What it did to defend against majority will and world opinion is worse than anyone outside South Africa imagined.
Physicians and scientists who worked for the government have in recent weeks told horror tales to the commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They compare to the medical experiments of Nazi Germany in the 1940s and to science-fiction fantasy. But these were not fantasies. They were evil, the result of racial paranoia gone berserk.
Dr. Daan Goosen told of being ordered to seek out a scientist said to have bacteria that would kill people selectively based on pigment. The mission to Europe was called off, fearing a trap. But Dr. Goosen confirmed attempts to gain the capability to reduce the black population through biological agents. No evidence has turned up of an attempt to use this against masses of people.
But arcane poisons and delivery methods were used for assassinations, from cigarettes laced with anthrax to poisoned chocolates. These were developed in a mad weapons program for the army headed by Dr. Wouter Basson. Dr. Goosen discussed with Dr. Basson a plan to addle the brain of Nelson Mandela, now president, before his prison release.
Schalk van Rensburg testified that a poisoned shirt was given to a targeted African National Congress (ANC) activist, who lent it to a friend, who died. Lothar Neethling testified that narcotics confiscated by police were turned over to Dr. Basson's laboratories to adapt for riot control.
Ironically, Dr. Basson, dismissed from the army in 1993, faces trial for using his laboratories to make Ecstasy and other hallucinogenic drugs for illicit sale and consumption. If proved, this would show a corruption in South Africa's army not unlike that in Nigeria, Russia and Mexico.
These revelations show the evils arising from racism turned into philosophy, from the politics of paranoia, from science abused for oppression. They also show the virtue of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Unique among justice institutions, this invention of the Mandela government seeks to uncover misdeeds by all sides in the period from 1960 to 1994. Offering amnesties, the commission gives priority to the truth over punishment or retribution.
Under these conditions, many a burdened conscience is relieved.
Pub Date: 6/20/98