State Security Council

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President Botha and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (June 2, 1984)

The State Security Council (SSC) presided over the National Security Management System (NSMS) of President P W Botha's apartheid regime in South Africa. Its function was to advise the government on formulating and executing national security policy. Botha himself chaired the SSC, which was served by a secretariat of 100 full-time staff seconded from other government departments. The SSC had four divisions:

  • strategy
  • strategic communications
  • national intelligence interpretation, and
  • administration

Targeting anti-apartheid activists

Below the SSC was a network of regional, district and local committees or Joint Management Committees (JMCs) which reported on the activities and location of political activists so as to form an overall security profile, thus enabling decisions on security action to be taken.[1] Such action included assassination of people opposed to the apartheid government's policies, and the widespread use of abduction, arson, sabotage and torture. The SSC put pressure on the security forces to "engage robustly" against persons and organisations opposed to the government.[2]

Castigated by the TRC

In a 1998 report on the former South African government and its security forces, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) castigated South Africa's last hardline apartheid president P W Botha and held him responsible for gross human rights violations, including all violence sanctioned by the State Security Council. The report said:[3]

By virtue of his position as head of state and chairperson of the State Security Council (SSC), Botha contributed to and facilitated a climate in which ... gross violations of human rights did occur, and as such is accountable for such violations.

The TRC also found that the SSC had contributed to the prevailing culture of impunity by failing to recommend that action be taken against those members of the security forces who were involved in gross human rights violations.

SSC and Samora Machel

In 1996, the TRC conducted a special investigation into the 1986 aircrash in which president Samora Machel of Mozambique was killed. The investigation was unable to prove an allegation that South Africa was behind the Mozambican Tupolev Tu-134 air disaster, but the TRC stated in its report:[4]

South Africa's State Security Council (SSC) minutes from January 1984 indicate that the Mozambican working group, including General Jac Buchner and Major Craig Williamson, discussed how to help RENAMO overthrow the FRELIMO government of Mozambique.

De Klerk and the SSC

In a statement on the death of former president P W Botha in 2006, his successor, F W de Klerk, said:[5]

"Personally, my relationship with P W Botha was often strained. I did not like his overbearing leadership style and was opposed to the intrusion of the State Security Council system into virtually every facet of government. After I became leader of the National Party in February 1989 I did my best to ensure that P W Botha would be able to end his term as president with full dignity and decorum. Unfortunately, this was not to be."

In August 2007, de Klerk was challenged to say what he knew about the atrocities carried out at the behest of the SSC. The Guardian quoted de Klerk as replying that although he was a member of the cabinet it was not briefed "on clandestine operations involving murders, assassinations or the like – all of which were evidently carried out strictly on a 'need to know' basis".[6] The same newspaper report alleged that, in his last months as president in 1994, de Klerk ordered the wholesale shredding and incineration of tons of documents, microfilm and computer tapes that dealt with matters such as the chain of command in covert operations.


See also

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