'Missing' truth files are in NIA's hands
A formal investigation has been launched by the National Archives into the 34 boxes and two folders of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) documents earlier reported missing by the Mail & Guardian.
Days after the investigation was agreed to last week, it was confirmed to the M&G that the records were being held by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). TRC commissioners charge this is illegal.
A senior official in the Ministry of Intelligence sought to explain the confusion over who held the documents by saying they were ‘technically in the possession of the Department of Justice, but physically held by NIA’.
The official said the records, which include all documents relating to the hearings involving Wouter ‘Dr Death’ Basson and to the 1988 assassina-
tion of Dulcie September, the African National Congress chief representative in Paris, were being held in order to classify them. This took time as
the records had to be “gone through, document by document”.
“But there is no legal provision for this and no need,” lawyer and TRC commissioner Yasmin Sooka said this week. Fellow lawyer and former TRC investigations unit head Dumisa Ntsebeza concurred.
The chairperson of the official TRC records committee, justice department deputy information officer David Porogo and the national archivist, Graham Dominy, also stressed in a joint statement on Wednesday that responsibility for the TRC records rested with the National Archives and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The statement announced the official National Archives investigation.
But even before the committee had decided on a formal investigation, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development John Bacon, speaking on behalf of the head of ministerial service, Johan Labuschagne, admitted the ministry knew where the missing documents were. Bacon said the ministry had felt it necessary to send the documents to the NIA for classification because they had been listed as “sensitive” by the former chief executive of the TRC, Biki Minyuku.
However, according to the TRC commissioners, neither Minyuku nor the NIA had the legal authority to remove or classify the documents. Yet the NIA has apparently had access to the documents for at least two years.
Two years ago, former TRC investigator Chandre Gould was questioned at length by the NIA about a “list of informers” included in the catalogue of contents of the boxes removed from the TRC.
She knew nothing of any such list. However, at least one such list does exist. It was given to TRC investigators by John Adam who, with his wife, Patricia, was central to South African security police operations in Europe between 1984 and 1987.
Adam, granted amnesty for his part in the bombing of the ANC office in London in 1982, was recruited by the spy and letter-bomb killer, Craig Williamson.
During his four years in Europe, based in Brussels, Adam and his wife were responsible for agents and informers throughout Europe. One of the “sources” they were responsible for was Solly Smith (Samuel Khunyeli), the ANC chief representative in London at the time.
Adam was interviewed at length by TRC investigators. A file containing transcripts of these interviews and the list of informers was kept in a locked vault in the TRC offices in Johannesburg. It disappeared in 1998.
Terry Bell is the author of the recently published Unfinished Business: South Africa, Apartheid & Truth