The Namibia Support Committee:
Concealment of SWAPO’s human rights abuses and the demise of the Liberal Party of South Africa
Paper to be presented at the workshop “South Africa: Retrospection, Introversion, Extraversion”
Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham,
18/19 May 2012
Linked to the new attack [by South Africa] is the story of the recent uncovering of agents infiltrated into PLAN[SWAPO’s army in exile, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia] and the camps, many of them broken by blackmail or threats to family hostages. SWAPO’s neutralising of the agents is bad for South Africa but already the propaganda composed of stories of SWAPO’s response is yielding dividends of another sort.
The SWAPOleaders in exile and at home, and the growing numbers of young trained men and women serving with them, are not dismayed by the latest version of the long campaign to traduce their organisation.
— Randolph Vigne (1987), “SWAPO of Namibia: A Movement in Exile”. 
[While] a report of the World Council of Churches effectively endorsed the reign of terror, …the parents received a critical boost from an unimpeachable source. Amnesty International’s International Report for 1987 referred to human rights abuses in the SWAPOcamps in Angola. This vindicated their efforts and dealt a blow to their critics. …The confessing churches that courageously confronted the evils of apartheid were thus non-confessing and timid in their dealings with SWAPO. …Solidarity organizations, driven by liberal guilt, were similarly ineffectual; their fixation on the evils of apartheid blinded them to the terror within SWAPO.
- Philip Steenkamp (1995), “The Churches”, in Colin Leys and John S. Saul, Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-edged Sword.
THE NAMIBIA SUPPORT COMMITTEE
[Randolph] Vigne and his close associate Neville Rubin…. [had both] been active in the Liberal Party in South Africa and the African Resistance Movement before moving to London. …With the formation of NSC[the Namibia Support Committee] in 1974, …Vigne would remain a key figure in the organisation until Namibian independence, in effect the organisation’s elder statesman, available for advice and often extremely active in the day-to day work of the organisation. …[Vigne’s] connections to establishment figures in Britain enabled him to interact effectively with members of parliament and the officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)with whom NSCmet regularly.
- Chris Saunders (2009), “Namibian Solidarity: British Support for Namibian Independence”, Journal of Southern African Studies(JSAS), Vol. 35 No. 2. 
Up to the unbanning of the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, the Pan Africanist Congress and other organizations in 1990, there was only one non-racial political party in South Africa which in its constitution declared a fundamental rejection of “all forms of totalitarianism such as communism and fascism”, and there is still only one book-length study of this party: Liberals against Apartheid: The Liberal Party of South Africa, 1953-1968, published in 1997.  The author of this history is the former deputy national chairman of the LPSA, Randolph Vigne.
The statement in the constitution of the LPSA expressing opposition to totalitarianism of all kinds appears in Vigne’s ground-breaking study (p.34). It is hard to locate information or discussion about this crucial political statement anywhere else in the now very extensive historical and political literature concerning South Africa. Given the central place of the concept of totalitarianism in the political philosophy of the 20th century, this in itself must strike one as odd. There is still no full-length study of the LPSA by a trained historian or student of politics.
Randolph Vigne himself receives acknowledgement in the first pages of the autobiography of Sam Nujoma, Where Others Wavered, published in 2001.  There, the founding president of the South West African Political Organisation (SWAPO) and subsequent first president of Namibia states in the first paragraph of his Acknowledgements: “…it was Mr. Randolph Vigne, founder member and President of the then Namibia Support Committee, who contributed a great deal in helping me to draft the initial version, and I am greatly indebted to him.” (p.iii)
Vigne further received one of South Africa’s highest honours, the Order of Luthuli (silver), from President Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day in South Africa in 2010.  The order is bestowed on South African citizens who contributed to the struggle for democracy and human rights, justice, peace, nation-building and the resolution of conflict.
The heritage of the LPSA becomes more complex and in need of further research, however, given a statement of major significance by Vigne in Liberals against Apartheid. There he writes of the existence of a “Swapo-Liberal Party alliance” which “formed the basis of an enduring association, mainly among Liberals and Swapo in exile, and later in independent Namibia.” (p.186)
Despite the significance of what Vigne describes here as an “alliance” followed by “enduring association” between the party of which he had previously been deputy national chairman and the governing party of Namibia of the past two decades, the nature of this connection nevertheless receives very little further attention in his book.
All the more is it a subject in need of scrutiny, however, given the revelations of human rights abuses by SWAPO against its own members in exile in its camps in Zambia and Angola, as reported in published sources as early as 1977 , and later by the Internationale Gesellschaft fuer Menschenrechte (Frankfurt-am-Main) in 1985  and Amnesty International (London, 1987) .
There are, it is true, a number of valuable biographies of LPSA leaders. Among them, in order of date of publication, are: CJ Driver, Patrick Duncan: South African and Pan-African(1980) ; Peter A. Alexander, Alan Paton: A Biography(1994) ; and most recently, Michael Cardo, Opening Men’s Eyes: Peter Brown and the Liberal Struggle for South Africa(2011) . None of these studies, however, gives adequate attention to the significance, possible consequences and “after-life” of the dissolution of the LPSA.
The party’s dissolution followed the coming into law in 1968 of the Prohibition of Improper Political Interference Act, framed by Prime Minister BJ Vorster to outlaw non-racial political organization. Following discussions within the LPSA in April and May 1968 immediately after the coming into operation of the Act, the National Committee dissolved the party in light of the commitment in its constitution to “constitutional means only”. (Vigne, Liberals against Apartheid, p. 34) By the time sections of the Act prohibiting nonracial political parties were repealed in 1985 by the Constitutional Affairs Amendment Act, and the Political Interference Act had been renamed, the Liberal Party had been defunct for 17 crucial years.
In effect, there was conflict between these two crucial elements in the LP’s constitution – (a) its rejection of “all forms of totalitarianism such as communism and fascism”, and (b) its commitment to non-violent and “constitutional means only”- as a result of which the LP by its own decision removed itself from South Africa in 1968 as an organised political presence. Criterion (b) knocked out criterion (a). The party effectively in 1968 refused an option to conduct itself in terms of South African law in the manner of Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India, as well as Martin Luther King in the United States, and later Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet Union: that is, in terms of non-legal, peaceful opposition to laws perceived as unjust or a state perceived as unconstitutional. Its outcome was to leave the SACP as the only fully non-racial political party in the South African polity, in contest with the apartheid state.  In this sense, the development of the ANC through successive stages into a fully non-racial political party in terms of access to membership at all levels by people of all races was the work principally – perhaps, even solely – of the SACP. The LPSA had no influence. The transformation into a non-racial organization of the governing party of South Africa of the past 18 years was the work not of the Liberal Party but the Communist Party.
Although the United Democratic Front to some extent filled this void in South Africa from the mid-1980s until 1990, becoming the most successful inclusive political movement in South Africa’s history, the nature of the UDF’s relationship to the ANC (and thus also to the SACP) did not repair the absence of the LP as an organized political body. As the head of the ANC delegation in the German Democratic Republic, Tony Mongalo, reported – cited in a document of the Stasi secret police force, marked “Streng geheim” (top secret), dated 22 February 1984 – the National Executive Committee of the newly-formed UDF consisted of 11 members, “all members of the ANC.” 
Important consequences followed, given the SACP’s commitment since its foundation in 1921 as the Communist Party of South Africa to Karl Marx’s advocacy in his Critique of the Gotha Programme(1875) of the necessity of a “political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” The dissolution of the LPSA in 1968 was to leave the SACP – a party it regarded as totalitarian in philosophy – as the sole non-racial political party.
There is still no study which properly explores this conjuncture in South African history.
There are further serious gaps in research.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no published biography of Henry Selby Msimang (1886-1982), an executive member of the Liberal Party up till its dissolution in 1968 who had attended the founding conference of the Native National Congress in 1912, who had been a senior executive member of the ANC and of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), and was the foundation member of the ANC who lived the longest towards the time of its unbanning. In terms of the ANC’s policy of “dual membership” (which applied mainly but not exclusively to black members of the SACP), Msimang was simultaneously a member of Liberal Party and of the ANC.
There is similarly no full-length study of the life and thought of a vice-president of the LPSA, Jordan Kush Ngubane (1917-85), despite his four books, and his work as assistant editor of Ilanga lase Natal, as editor of Inkundla ya Bantu and as co-author of the ANC Youth League Manifesto of 1944.
This suggests an extraordinary lacuna in scholarship. Especially given the philosophical importance between 1953 and 1968 of the LP’s critique of the totalitarian heritage of the SACP – which later greatly increased its influence on the ANC in exile, after the LP’s self-dissolution – a vital element in interpreting the process leading to South Africa’s first democratic Constitution and the resulting state is missing.
It is not possible, of course, in a paper such as this to canvass adequately the entire existing field of study relating to the LPSA. This essay will now examine a single thread in the after-life of the Liberal Party, following its demise as a functioning political body. It concerns the Namibia Support Committee in London, in which Randolph Vigne – an exile in flight from South Africa since 1964 – was its most important figure from beginning to end.
In making some very general comparisons between the LPSA and the Communist Party as political organizations facing extreme legal sanction by the apartheid state, this paper now seeks to evaluate the philosophical and moral heritage of these two opposed non-racial parties, especially in light of the self-dissolution of the Liberal Party. It seeks to raise questions concerning the past, in counterpoint with the philosophical/historical inquiry by RW Johnson in his address last year to the South African Institute of Race Relations, “The Future of the Liberal Tradition in South Africa”. 
This is placed in context of Randolph Vigne’s authoritative statement that there was an “enduring association” between SWAPO of Namibia and former members of the LPSA in exile, receiving organisational form in the Namibia Support Committee. Concealment by the NSC of factual evidence of human rights abuses in SWAPO’s camps in exile is considered in the light of the Liberal Party’s demise.
- A “SWAPO-Liberal Party Alliance”
In his book, Liberals against Apartheid: A History of the Liberal Party of South Africa, 1953–68, Vigne writes about the “cementing” of a “SWAPO-Liberal Party alliance” in the late 1950s, which, he wrote, “lasted for the rest of the Liberal Party’s short life and formed the basis of an enduring association, mainly among Liberals and SWAPOin exile, and later in independent Namibia.” (p.186)
Vigne was a major leader of the Liberal Party within South Africa in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to having been elected national deputy chairman of the Party in a very fraught period of South Africa’s political history, he was the literary editor in Cape Town during this period of the Liberal Party newspaper, Contact, a co-founder and editor of the journal The New Africanin Cape Town and later London; and a principal founder in 1961 in South Africa of a non-Communist sabotage organisation, the National Committee for Liberation (NCL), which later called itself the African Resistance Movement (ARM). Banned from political and social activity in 1963, he fled South Africa the following year, narrowly escaping arrest. In exile in London he became a founder and a “key figure” in the Namibia Support Committee (NSC), first as president and later as honorary secretary. (The phrase “key figure” is from Chris Saunders, in his study, “Namibian Solidarity: British Support for Namibian Independence”. )
Vigne’s Liberals against Apartheidremains the sole significant book-length study of this important South African political party, and gives an outline record of Vigne’s political life prior to his escape from South Africa. A valuable study by the late Magnus Gunther  gives an account of Vigne’s role in the initiation of violent resistance to the apartheid regime in South Africa as a leader of the NCL/ARM, following the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, albeit as a leader of a body committed to actions directed against targets such as electricity pylons, but not the human person.
Invited in 1994 to deliver the Alan Paton Lecture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, held in commemoration of the National President and founder of the Liberal Party (and author of Cry, The Beloved Country ), Vigne stated that when he arrived in London as an exile in 1964, “I was approached by SWAPO[the South West Africa People’s Organisation] to act for them in Britain…and did so until 1969 when with others, including two Liberal Party colleagues also in exile, Neville Rubin [a former president of the National Union of South African Students, NUSAS] and Ann Tobias, [I] formed a support organization, later called the Namibia Support Committee. …We were recognised as such by the United Nations and remained close to SWAPOthrough to independence.” 
Vigne argued strongly in this address that the 1990 Constitution in Namibia represented the best possible validation of liberal principles, to which he and his former Liberal Party colleagues in the Namibia Support Committee had made an important contribution. This is not the place, however, to try to evaluate the potentially despotic implications of the decision of the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to recognize SWAPO as the “sole legitimate representative” of the people of Namibia, a matter not considered by Vigne.
Saunders’s paper, “Namibian Solidarity: British Support for Namibian Independence”, published in June 2009, is revelatory in a very different sense, and a major event in southern African studies. It has been clear for more than 20 years that exile leaders of the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress participated in and concealed a practice of human rights abuses in ANCprison camps in exile in Angola and other countries. Saunders, however, provided proof that Vigne, as a former leader of the South African Liberal Party, publicly shielded senior leaders of SWAPOfrom truthful accusations concerning crimes committed in exile under their authority, and further: supported fallacious allegations by SWAPOthat a huge range of its victims were spies, or “agents”, of the South African apartheid regime.
Saunders’s research shows that at the time of writing the article “SWAPOof Namibia: A Movement in Exile”,  published in January 1987, and quoted at the head of this article, Vigne was in possession of a truthful plea from relatives of members of SWAPOwho had been murdered, or tortured and imprisoned, in a political purge conducted by SWAPOleaders in its camps in southern Angola. Through his research, Saunders has provided a missing link that helps explain one of the abiding mysteries of southern African history of the past 40 years: how it came to pass that the Christian churches in Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and other countries, as well as the United Nations and other organisations, in addition to governments, failed to register outrage, or at least concern, in response to appeals for help by the families of SWAPO’s victims, backed up by truthful reports of ongoing atrocities.
This was an unsolved mystery which I discussed in “SWAPOand the Churches: An International Scandal”, in a banned exile journal, Searchlight South Africa,in July 1991.  Proof of the process by which the churches were induced to fail in their calling was not available until publication of Saunders’s paper, the first to make a thoroughgoing study of the NSC, carried out with assistance and “helpful comments” from Vigne and others, as well as “insights” derived from Vigne in “numerous discussions.” (Saunders, p.438, n.4)
The crucial evidence provided by Saunders lies on page 450, note 49, of this issue of JSAS. (The issue contains also several other papers by other authors which provide new information about the ANCand the SACPin exile). Note 49 of Saunders’s paper refers to a passage in his text which states that in a
context of growing suspicions and paranoia…news reached NSCin 1985 that members of SWAPOwere being detained by the organisation in Angola, allegedly for being spies, and that horrific torture was being used to extract “confessions” from them. Erica Beukes and other relatives of those detained wrote to NSCand other organisations, asking them to put pressure on SWAPOto halt further maltreatment of those detained. (p.450)
Note 49 to this text reads:
NSC Papers, 23/3, E. Beukes et al., letter dated 9 July 1985. Another letter of 20 September spoke of the terrible conditions at Lubango, Angola, and the forced confessions, and asked that the UNbe allowed to investigate conditions in the camps.
This note proves that letters from Erica Beukes, in Windhoek, written in 1985 on behalf of relatives of SWAPO’s victims, were indeed received and filed by the NSCin London. (Erica Beukes’s brother, Walter Thiro, was one of the many who died in SWAPO’s Gulags in southern Angola. She herself, and a colleague, Attie Beukes — not a relative — were then sacked from their positions in Windhoek as employees of the Council of Churches in Namibia several months later, as a direct consequence of their having sent these appeals to the NSCand other bodies, especially to churches).
In the final paragraph of his paper, Saunders, then teaching in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, makes an obvious point: that the NSC“failed to take a stand on the detainees issue when it should have done…”. (p.454)
Vigne’s response to these appeals can be read in his article, “SWAPOof Namibia”, published more than a year after the NSChad received these appeals from Erica Beukes, as one of a number of signatories. These letters of 9 July 1985 and 20 September 1985 were published in Namibia the following year, prior to the publication of Vigne’s article, in a book privately produced and distributed by Erica Thiro-Beukes, Attie Beukes and Hewat S.J. Beukes, Namibia: A Struggle Betrayed(1986, pp.145–155).  (They were later reproduced in a trustworthy collection of documents edited by Nico Basson and Ben Motinga. )
Saunders continues: “In July 1989, former SWAPOdetainees who had returned to Windhoek went public about SWAPO’s treatment of them, and in October that year an internal NSCbriefing finally tackled the issue, saying that the way the detainees had been treated must be condemned, but that it would be ‘a grave mistake to allow South Africa and its allies to use the issue as a smokescreen to hide their far more hideous crimes’, and that ‘all human rights issues must be dealt with openly by Namibian people themselves’.” (pp. 450–451)
Note 52, added to this passage, then reads:
NSC Papers, Box 23/3., Internal NSCbriefing, 17 October 1989. It was not until the appointment of Solomon “Jesus” Hawala, who had acquired the nickname of ‘butcher of Lubango’, as head of the army in 1990 that NSCand CAN[Church Action on Namibia] were led to write to SWAPOto protest. See J. Saul and C. Leys, “Lubango and After: ‘Forgotten History’ as Politics in Contemporary Namibia”, JSAS, 29, 2 (June 2003). (p. 451, n.52) 
This means that no protest was issued by the NSCand its sister organisation, Church Action on Namibia (formed in 1984, and based in London), until after SWAPO’s security officials had already done their work, and had returned to Namibia as the security personnel of the new state, and after their surviving victims had already been released. This long silence permitted Hawala, the head of SWAPO’s KGB-type security apparatus in exile, to be rewarded bySWAPO— now the government of Namibia — in a new posting as head of the principal apparatus of coercion in the state.
There is a great deal more that can and should be added to this analysis. For the time being, though, it is worth noting principally the following points.
- The NSCand the British government
Randolph Vigne’s personal contacts extended right to the top of the British government during at least one crucial period involving SWAPO’s purges of its members. Saunders writes that:
Vigne added gravitas to NSCwork…his connections to establishment figures in Britain enabled him to interact effectively with members of parliament and the officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)with whom NSCmet regularly. In July 1977, for example, Vigne, [Roger] Murray and Barbara Rogers met the new Labour Foreign Secretary, David Owen…. (p.445)
Saunders reports a letter dated 18 June 1977, in which Vigne told Sam Nujoma, the SWAPOpresident, “that David Owen, the new Labour Foreign Secretary, had asked him why SWAPOdissidents were in prison in Tanzania, and he had had to say that he did not know, and that he feared the matter would be used by SWAPO’s enemies.” (p.449)
The issue here was SWAPO’s repression, supported by the governments of Zambia and Tanzania, of its own exiled members on a mass scale, following their criticism of the collusion of SWAPOleaders with the South African Defence Force in its invasion of Angola in 1975. There is still no adequate and comprehensive investigation of what took place, and its consequences.
This crucial but little known episode in the history of southern Africa was reported and analysed truthfully very shortly afterwards by the South African academic and journalist, R.W. Johnson, in a book issued by a leading publisher in Britain in 1977, the same year as Vigne’s discussion with the Foreign Secretary, Dr David Owen. (Johnson had escaped the attentions of the security police in South Africa in 1964, the same year as had Vigne). In his almost contemporaneous study, How Long will South Africa Survive?(1977, with a preface dated April 1977) , Johnson wrote that since late 1975, SWAPOhad been
racked by a major split. A large section of the leadership had launched a bitter attack against [the SWAPOpresident, Sam] Nujoma for refusing to call a party congress (the last had been in 1969). Among the allegations they wished to ventilate were their claims that the leadership had connived in Zambian support for UNITA[the Union for the Total Independence of Angola, led by Dr Jonas Savimbi, which came to collaborate with the SADF]; that arms meant for SWAPOhad been diverted by Kaunda [Kenneth Kaunda, the President of newly independent Zambia] towards UNITA; that SWAPOforces had actually been ordered to fight alongside UNITAand the invading South African columns in Angola; that the guerrilla movement [i.e., SWAPO – PT] was deprived of all modern arms, medicine and even food; and that the movement’s leadership was riddled by corruption and inefficiency. (p.254)
This resulted in the detention without trial in Zambia, and later in Tanzania, of eleven top SWAPOleaders, including Vigne’s close friend from their joint political work in Cape Town in the late Fifties, Andreas Shipanga. Vigne had expressed concern about Shipanga’s detention in letters to Nujoma, though in guarded terms. (Saunders, p.449. Note 43 reads: “Vigne Papers, Box 3, Vigne to ‘My dear Sam’, 6 May and 18 June 1977.”).
Almost a thousand members of theSWAPOarmy, PLAN, and members of the SWAPOYouth League, who had dared to criticise Nujoma, Hawala and their colleagues were then, as Johnson continued,
kept under armed Zambian guard in a prison camp. An attempted break-out by the starving prisoners in August saw Zambian soldiers fire upon them, killing several. Nujoma, meanwhile, strengthened his links with the Angolan regime and the Soviet bloc, and began to give increasingly radical and marxist speeches. Of the dissidents he declared that they were all guilty of high treason; that there was no need for their open trial; and that the only suitable punishment would be death by firing squad. (pp.254–255)
There is no reference to this crucial turn in southern African history in “SWAPOof Namibia: A Movement in Exile”, Vigne’s article of January 1987, even though this article appeared tens years after the publication of Johnson’s book. There is no citation for Johnson’s book, either, in the reading list for Randolph Vigne, “The Namibia File”, published in April 1983. 
There was no reference either to the issue of SWAPO’s detainees, or its atrocities generally, in “Standing by SWAPO: British Campaigning on Namibia, 1969–1990”, Vigne’s address at an international conference, “Celebrating the Role of the International Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa’s Freedom Struggle”, held in Durban in October 2004.  He did however mention the NSC’s
presence at meetings of the UNCouncil for Namibia and the General Assembly, such as the 1984 commemorative meeting, when I had the honour to be nominated by SWAPOas rapporteur and the great pleasure of introducing from the podium the SWAPOSecretary-General, Andimba Ya Toivo, freed from Robben Island, to the delegates.
Vigne noted in conclusion that he had been “asked by the government of the Republic of Namibia to set up an Anglo-Namibian friendship association in Britain and to call it the Friends of Namibia Society.” He became founding chairman of the Friends of Namibia Society in 1996.
Directly relevant to the history of the period of Randolph Vigne’s role in the NSC and the subject of this paper, the Namibian journalist David Lush made a major contribution in an interview published last year. His interview was with a leading PLAN commander based in southern Angola who was SWAPO’s envoy with UNITA forces in the mid-1970s, retired police commissioner Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba. In this interview, published in the Namibian monthly, Insight Magazine,in February 2011,  and accompanied by David Lush with a valuable context-setting essay, Haulyondjaba confirmed (with one exception) the accuracy of the account of SWAPO’s history in southern Angola over that period, as reported by Johnson in 1977 and explored further by myself in an essay published in Searchlight South Africain 1990 and 1991, republished in my book Inside Quatroin 2009.  After reading my book at his home in northern Namibia, Commissioner Haulyondjaba denied only that SWAPO forces had fought against the military forces of the MPLA, then as now the ruling party in the Angolan capital, Luanda. The report as reproduced in Inside Quatrowas, he stated, “95 percent true”. The trouble in Namibia, he added, “is that we don’t want to tell the truth.” 
The NSCand the Churches
According to Saunders, the solidarity organisation Church Action on Namibia (CAN)worked with the British Council of Churches, the charity Christian Aid and the NSC, as well as with the Council of Churches in Namibia(CCN). (p.451)
In an essay first published in July1991, I wrote that:
Despite the mass of evidence about SWAPO’s purges, …the Africa Secretary of the British Council of Churches, the Rev Brian Brown, made submission to a hearing of the WCC[World Council of Churches] in Washington DC on 3 May 1988 that “both church and SWAPOare people’s movements…partners in opposition to the South African occupation”. [According to Brown, it] was not true to say that “the church is SWAPOand SWAPOis the church”; a more accurate description was that “the ‘people’ are SWAPOand the ‘people’ are the church”. Nicely, he declared that the churches “endorse SWAPO’s purposes, if not all of its methods”. The Christian churches, in Brown’s words, had “become an integral and important part of SWAPO”.
With these semi-totalitarian semantics, the men of God sprinkled incense on the torture pit. Without any hint of qualification relating to SWAPO’s own admission that it held large numbers of members as prisoners, despite the testimony of [Pastor Siegfried] Gröth and the appeals of the Committee of Parents, the WCCreported formally in tones worthy of a stalinist regime. It stated that
The illegal occupation of Namibia has been facilitated by Namibians who have collaborated with South Africa and have been traitors to the cause of a free Namibia. Yet SWAPOis willing to accommodate these people in a free Namibia and forgive their misguided behaviour.
— “SWAPOand the Churches: An International Scandal”, Searchlight South AfricaNo. 7, p.77, and Inside Quatro, p.173. 
A reading of Vigne’s article, “SWAPOof Namibia”, of January 1987 provides a guide as to how concepts such as these entered into the language of the Christian churches. His use of language here belongs to a species which I referred to in my article on SWAPOand the churches as “Orwellian Newspeak”, and should be studied with care. He wrote:
[In] the bleak period of the mid-1980s …South Africa’s new offensive has not been exclusively directed at PLANmilitarily, and internal and external SWAPOpolitically. Linked to the new attack is the story of the recent uncovering of agents infiltrated into PLANand the camps, many of them broken by blackmail or threats to family hostages. SWAPO’s neutralising of the agents is bad for South Africa but already the propaganda composed of stories of SWAPO’s response is yielding dividends of another sort.
TheSWAPOleaders in exile and at home, and the growing numbers of young trained men and women serving with them, are not dismayed by the latest version of the long campaign to traduce their organisation. (p.104)
Vigne is stating here that SWAPO was confronted by “propaganda composed of stories” fictitiously designed by the apartheid regime in a “campaign to traduce their organisation”, following “SWAPO’s neutralising of the agents…infiltrated into PLAN and the camps.”
There was an important precedent for language of this kind. In an internal instruction manual for the “development and strengthening of the revolutionary security departments of the ANC and SWAPO”, titled Lehrkonzeption(Instruction Concept)  dated Potsdam, 1 September 1982 – developed for the training of ANC and SWAPO security personnel in the former German Democratic Republic – the Stasi (Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit) very specifically listed “Unruehestiftung” (causing of unrest) and “Geruechteverbreitung” (spreading of rumours) among signifiers by which alleged agents (“feindliche Elemente”) of the South African apartheid state embedded among SWAPO members in exile should be identified as seeking to “weaken the fighting strength” of the organization. (pp.5, 26, 46) With these vague and cloudy categories, it instructed its SWAPO and ANC security trainees that the “main thrust of subversive ideological attacks” within their ranks were directed at the “consistent Marxist-Leninist forces in the organisation”, and urged them to beware of “ideological diversion.” Direct reference was made to “the experience of the Cheka” [the forerunner of NKVD, OGPU and the KGB] as the exemplar in security work. (p.16, 54, 23).
Vigne’s use of the word “agents”, repeated twice in the short passage above, replicated the KGBand Stasi language of the SWAPOtorturers. His phrase, “neutralising of the agents”, turned a human rights atrocity into a moral-less technicality, at the same time as it gave the appearance of a proven fact to a cruel allegation. In the strangest of ways, the mindset of the Stasi would appear to have transferred itself to the language of one of the strongest adversaries of the SACP among the exile opponents of the apartheid state. This was the most strange “Liberal legacy” of all, to use a phrase in the title of Vigne’s Alan Paton Lecture of 1994 at the University KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, albeit posed in his title with a question mark. 
His language in his paper of 1987 is at odds, also, with a passage in his Alan Paton Lecture in 1994. In this Alan Paton lecture,  Vigne expressed irritation at a “very critical” study of SWAPOby the Canadian academics Colin Leys and John Saul in their paper, “Liberation without Democracy? The SWAPOCrisis of 1976”, published in March 1994.  In this lecture in 1994, he would seem to be saying the opposite about SWAPO’s human rights abuses, by comparison with his “SWAPOof Namibia” article of 1987. Much of the study by Leys and Saul, he told his listeners in Pietermaritzburg, was “devoted to presenting evidence of SWAPO’s alleged ‘hierarchical and authoritarian’ character, the excesses of the ill-treatment by its securocrats of their fellow SWAPOmembers in exile, falsely, in almost all cases, accused of being South African agents…”. (p 8)
Spoken in defence of the “liberal legacy which was left to the Namibian people from so many sources” (p 8), this was a significant revision of his previous stance concerning those whom he had previously traduced as “agents”. Confused, unclear and self-contradictory, it does seem nevertheless to be an acknowledgement that SWAPO’s (and his own) accusations about the victims in SWAPO’s camps were false.
This is now beyond question. Published last year, A History of Namibia: From the Beginning to 1990by Marion Wallace (who had been active in Britain in support of SWAPO) makes clear that during the 1980s there was an “extreme escalation of human rights violations within SWAPO, which detained and tortured hundreds, and possibly thousands, of its own members, accusing them of spying for South Africa. …Hundreds were imprisoned in ‘dungeons’ in Lubango in Angola, where some died as a result of the harsh conditions. …[Both] SWAPO’s long-standing authoritarian culture and the increasing power of its Security Organisation were crucial factors in the tragedy.”  The totalitarian ethos of the Stasi in its training of SWAPO’s Security Organisation, under the malign direction of Solomon ‘Jesus’ Hawala,  can only have been a contributory factor.
This points in a conclusive way to the relation between the core values of the Liberal Party of South Africa and the subsequent moral deportment of both Randolph and Neville Rubin, at the head of the Namibia Support Committee.
There is no question of Randolph Vigne’s consistent opposition to the totalitarian state form of the Soviet Union and its fellow states, whether as deputy national chairman of the LPSA, as leader of the ARM or as founder and senior director of the Namibia Support Committee in London. The Trotskyist Baruch Hirson, who served nine years in prison for his leading role in the ARM, gave witness to this when he recalled Vigne’s standpoint in secret discussions between the two men in the early 1960s preliminary to Hirson bringing his small group of fellow thinkers into the ARM. Hirson wrote in his autobiography that his Trotskyism “did not bother [Vigne] as long as I was not connected with the SACP.” 
A former Republican Intelligence research officer, PC Swanepoel, has provided evidence of the funding of the Classicand the New African, two journals of which Vigne and Neville Rubin – Vigne’s colleague in the LPSA, the NCL/ARM and in the NSC – were publishers in South Africa in the increasingly fraught years before Vigne precipitously left South Africa in mid-1964. (By that time, Rubin was already in exile). Swanepoel provides information that the Classicreceived funding from the Farfield Foundation, while the New Africanreceived funds from the Congress for Cultural Freedom, United States-based institutions both revealed in the US journal Rampartsin June 1969 to have been funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.  There are no grounds for thinking that Vigne or Rubin were aware at that time of this indirect funding by the CIA. The likely guiding principle of their later conduct of the NSC does appear, however, in a statement of intent by Vigne from the journal Africa(20 November 1964), cited by Swanepoel (p.174): “…to break the Communist Party’s virtual monopoly of the African cause.”
A dominant rationale for both Vigne and Rubin in their conduct of the NSC was a Realpolitiker determination that SWAPO should not be driven into complete dependence on the Soviet Union – the destination of Nujoma’s mission of reconciliation and appeal for support after SWAPO had been wrong-footed in its alliance with UNITA during the SADF invasion of Angola in 1975. Vigne and his colleagues developed a relationship with SWAPO which in some respects mirrored that between the SACP and the ANC, but which protected SWAPO from dependency on the SACP. Above all, the NSC restrained SWAPO from dependency for international support on the Anti-Apartheid Movement, which Vigne – rightly – perceived to have been founded and governed under very strong influence of the SACP. 
This was the most likely reason why both Vigne and Rubin were prepared to swallow the spirit and letter of their liberal principles by suppressing truthful evidence of SWAPO’s treatment of its own members.
The reality is that in its cover-up of SWAPO’s abuses, the NSC and Vigne’s role as a “key figure” within it helped to further an environment in which the protection of human rights in southern Africa was made more difficult, probably for a long time to come. The “liberal legacy” of opposition to repression of all kinds, as Vigne called it, was compromised. Given Vigne’s courageous role as a former leader of the Liberal Party and the ARMwithin South Africa, this tradition was used to opposite ends, to sanctify a despotic practice of repression within SWAPOin exile.
For all the NSC’s honourable and high-minded hard work on behalf of Namibian independence, in opposition to the tyranny that ruled in former South West Africa, this was a shameful legacy.
Alan Paton would not have looked kindly on it.
In her book, The Liberal Slideaway the Liberal Party activist of the late Fifties and Sixties and subsequent national vice president of the Black Sash, Jill Wentzel, proposed a grim question: “What were the reasons for the slideaway of so many white liberals?” (p.279)
A related question has to be asked of Vigne, the most prominent and most engaged of the Liberals of the exile.
Yet how does one gain a measure of Alan Paton, the founder, president and most eminent member of the Liberal Party, writing as follows in the Epilogue to Journey Continued, volume two of his autobiography? –
After the death of the Liberal Party in 1968 I never saw the security police again. Nor did I ever join any political organisation. I became a political observer and my opinions were treated with respect because I had no partisan loyalties. It was for me a time of a kind of intellectual freedom…. 
And this in that year of “revolutions”, 1968 – the year after the first real military engagement by Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC and the SACP, at Wankie and Sipolilo in what was then Rhodesia; the year before the Morogoro conference of the ANC brought the SACP into still more powerful authority within the organisation; the year after black students broke away from the National Union of South African Students, NUSAS (in which influence of the LPSA had previously been predominant), and the year before the Black Consciousness Movement got under way, with the formation of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) for black students only; the year of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. A turn to political quietism….
By comparison, having dissolved itself early in 1950 in advance of being banned by the National Party government, the Communist Party reconstituted itself within four years as an organised illegal body, and was never more effective. It is hard to make judgements about the range of differences between two such philosophically and morally different political bodies as the LPSA and the SACP. Still more, though, an absence– a non-presence, such as that of the LPSA after 1968, and even from some years before that – is exceptionally hard to make sense of, in attempting an appreciation of such a complex of “actually-existing” history. The “what if?” is so much less substantial than the “what?”. It is not hard, however, to think that something very profound happened in South Africa with the loss of the Liberal Party, and that this included the loss of a centre of moral compass. The disappearance of South Africa’s sole political party opposed in its constitution to “all forms of totalitarianism” was an unquantifiable loss.
The conduct of the Namibia Support Committee in London should be considered in this context.
There is no doubt that the turn of many of its activist younger members to the NCL/ARM, their wholesale departure to prison or to exile in mid-1964 and – above all – the Johannesburg station bombing carried out by a Liberal Party member in the ARM, John Harris, on 24 July 1964, causing the death of an old woman and the maiming of a young girl, leading to Harris’s trial and execution on 1 April 1965, brought about a very severe crisis for the LP: in great measure a moral crisis, a crisis of identity perhaps, maybe also a crisis of nerve. Immediately after Harris’s execution, Paton wrote in Contact(April 1965) that Harris’s station bomb had done the LP “incomparable harm”.  In Journey Continued, published almost a quarter century later, he added: “It is my life that I am writing, and the A.R.M. and the station bomb were two of its most painful events.”  Vigne, he wrote, had been “frustrated by the sedate and constitutional activities of the Liberal Party. He had an imperious personality….He had also a quality of ruthlessness…”. 
David Evans – a journalist member of the LPSA who worked as a researcher for Paton on his biography of the South African political figure JH Hofmeyr, and who served five years in prison in Pretoria as a member of the ARM between 1964 and 1969 – believes that the dissolution of the Liberal Party while he and fellow ARM members were in prison amounted to an “abdication”.  He writes:
Maybe the LP just lost its activists to ARM and bannings, was spykered [spyker: “nail” in Afrikaans] on the horns of its dilemmas about action and legality anyway and just splintered under the pressure of its contradictions and so missed the ‘historic chance’ to get a sufficiently wide base to matter. Also there was this attitude of gradualism among the older ones, I think. Reluctant leadership from Paton and others. Don’t break the law. Stay out of jail. Leave the action to the lower ranks. Good theory in the main. Decent values. But one way or another they lost the radicals who power any effective movement. Where did they go? A nice question to which I don’t know the answer.
Whatever the answer, the mainly white, English-speaking, British-derived, liberal culture from which the Liberal Party was born and which provided its identity in its 15 years’ existence took a very different turn, faced with attrition from the state, and had a very different 20thcentury outcome, than did the strongly Jewish, originally Yiddish-speaking, east European- and Russian-derived, shtetlmilieu out of which the SACP derived much of its strength of purpose: the party of Joe Slovo, Michael Harmel, Ronnie Kasrils and Ray Alexander. When former ARM members came out of jail, or when unease developed among ANC members about the ideology and influence of the SACP, or when the Black Consciousness generation of the 1970s entered prison en masseand went into exile, there was no organized centre of liberal political philosophy to which they could rally, even if only a few of them. The dynamic, combative Liberal Party of the late Fifties and early Sixties had sunk beneath the waves. It was not former members of the LPSA who later uncovered the practice of human rights abuses in the ANC and SWAPO in exile, as it should have been (although Anthea Jeffery’s People’s War, written very much in the liberal tradition, is a powerful indictment of the methods of the ANC and the SACP in the low intensity civil war in Natal and elsewhere in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s).
Compared with its activity in its heyday, there was no Liberal Party – even as an illegal nucleus of just a few brave individuals, preserving continuity with the LP’s founding principles – when the trade union movement revived in South Africa the 1970s and the Black Consciousness Movement came into being, or when the United Democratic Front became widespread in the Eighties. A strange absence haunted.
One thinks of George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England, a major study in political history.  But more strange, and still unexamined, was the demise of Liberal South Africa.
- Vigne, Randolph (1987), “SWAPOof Namibia: A Movement in Exile”, Third World QuarterlyVol. 9, No. 1, January 1987.p.104.
- Steenkamp, Philip (1995), “The Churches”, in Colin Leys and John S. Saul, Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-edged Sword(James Currey, London/Ohio University Press. pp.106–107
- Saunders, Chris (2009), “Namibian Solidarity: British Support for Namibian Independence”, in Liberation Struggles, Exile and International Solidarity— a special issue of Journal of Southern African Studies(JSAS) Vol. 35, No. 2, June 2009. pp.441, 445.
- Vigne, Randolph (1997), Liberals against Apartheid: A History of the Liberal Party of South Africa, 1953–68, Macmillan, London.
- Nujoma, Sam (2001), Where Others Wavered: The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma, Panaf Publishers, London.
- Johnson, RW (1977), How Long will South Africa Survive?, Macmillan, London.
- Luetzenkirchen, Willy, and Joern Ziegler, (eds) (1985), Menschenrechte im Konflkt um Suedwestafrika/Namibia – Dokumentation, Internationale Gesellschaft fuer Menschenrechte, Frankfurt-am-Main.
- Amnesty International (1987), Amnesty International Report 1987, Amnesty International Publications, London.
- Driver, CJ (1980), Patrick Duncan: South African and Pan-African, Heinemann, London; paperback, David Philip, Claremont/James Currey, Oxford, 2000.
- Alexander, Peter A (1994), Alan Paton: A Biography, Oxford University Press /paperback 1995, Oxford.
- Cardo, Michael (2011), Opening Men’s Eyes: Peter Brown and the Liberal Struggle for South Africa, Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg.
- This paper does not even attempt to begin to explore the heritage and complexities of the Non-European Unity Movement in South Africa, and its successor the African People’s Democratic Union of South Africa, a number of whose members experienced long prison terms.
- Archiv der Zentralstellen, Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit, MfS –ZAIG. Nr 6745. BStU 000017. Haupabteilung 11/. 22.02.84 Informations-Nr: 898/84. Informationzur innenpolitischen Lage in der Republik Suedafrika. “Das ‘National Executive Committee’ setze sich aus 11 Mitgliedern zusammen. Alle sollen dem ANC angehoeren…”. (p.1)
- Johnson, RW (2011), The Future of the Liberal Tradition in South Africa, Forty-second Alfred and Winifred Hoernle Memorial Lecture, Johannesburg, delivered 17 August 2011. South African Institute of Race Relations.
- Saunders, ibid. p.445.
- Gunther, Magnus (2004), “The National Committee for Liberation (NCL)/African Resistance Movement (ARM).”Chapter five in The Road to DemocracyVol. 1, 1960–1970, South Africa Democracy Education Trust.
- Paton, Alan (1948), Cry, The Beloved Country, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.
- Vigne, Randolph (1994), “Namibian Democracy: A Liberal Legacy?”, Alan Paton Lecture, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1 September 1994. p.4. Available at: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/unp/library/alanpaton/vigne.pdf
- Trewhela, Paul (1991), “SWAPOand the Churches: An International Scandal”, first published in Searchlight South AfricaNo.7, London, July 1991. Republished as chapter 12 in Paul Trewhela (2009), Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO, Jacana, Auckland Park.
- Thiro-Beukes, Erica, Attie Beukes and Hewat S.J. Beukes (1986), Namibia: A Struggle Betrayed, Rehoboth, Namibia, n.d. .
- Basson, Nico and Ben Motinga, eds. (1989), Call Them Spies, African Communications Projects, Windhoek/Johannesburg, pp. 43, 45–46. Basson’s role in this publication as a member of the South African state security services does not invalidate the authenticity of the documents included here.
- Saul, John and Colin Leys (2003), “Lubango and After: ‘Forgotten History’ as Politics in Contemporary Namibia”, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol.29, No.2 (June).
- Vigne, Randolph (1983), “The Namibia File”, Third World QuarterlyVol.5, No.2, Africa: Tensions and Contentions(April).
- Vigne, Randolph (2004), “Standing by SWAPO: British Campaigning on Namibia, 1969–1990”, delivered at international conference, “Celebrating the Role of the International Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa’s Freedom Struggle”, Durban, October 2004. Available at: http://scnc.ukzn.ac.za/doc/AAmwebsite/AAMCONFpapers/Vigne,%20Randolph.doc
- Lush, David (2011), “Caught in the eye of a Cold War hurricane”, Insight Magazine, Windhoek. (February). Available online at:
Context-setting essay, David Lush (2011), “Brothers-in-arms”, Insight Magazine, February.
David Lush is the author of Last Steps to Uhuru: An Eye-witness Account of Namibia’s Transition to Independence, New Namibia Books, Windhoek, 1993.
- Trewhela, Paul, “The Kissinger-Vorster-Kaunda Détente: Genesis of the SWAPO ‘Spy-Drama’” (1990/91), in two parts, Searchlight South AfricaNo. 5, London, July 1990, and No.6, January 1991. Republished as chapter 13, “The Kissinger-Vorster-Kaunda Détente”, Paul Trewhela (2009), Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO, Jacana, Auckland Park. The cited passage from RW Johnson in How Long will South Africa Survive? was reproduced in Trewhela, “The Kissinger-Vorster-Kaunda Détente: Genesis of the SWAPO ‘Spy-Drama’”, Searchlight South AfricaNo.6, January 1991, and republished in Inside Quatro, op.cit., note 14, p.221. A similar point is set out on p.213.
- In his interview with David Lush, former police commissioner Haulyondjaba (who is mentioned in Inside Quatro, op.cit., p.213) stated that the historical record concerning SWAPO in Inside Quatro– which includes the cited passage from RW Johnson – was “95 percent” true. He added however that the report quoted by Johnson, and reproduced in my essay, was not accurate in having stated that PLAN fighters had fought beside UNITA against the MPLA during the SADF invasion in 1975.
“We fought battles with Unita against the Portuguese, but we never fought with Unita against the MPLA”, Haulyondjaba says adamantly. Otherwise, “95 percent of the book (Inside Quatro) is true.”
In the context-setting essay which accompanies the interview, David Lush quotes Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba as follows:
Now a farmer, free from the constraints of public office, Haylyondjaba refers to SWAPO’s close relationship with Unita as “an open secret”. “The trouble in Namibia is that we don’t want to tell the truth,” says Haulyondjaba.
“Until when must we go on hiding? You can’t hide things forever. If something happened, it happened. Some people suffered unnecessarily (during the liberation struggle). Let’s tell the truth.”
Former commissioner Haulyondjaba’s call for truth-telling is a splendid achievement of moral integrity. It has great importance in Namibia – where there has been no Truth and Reconciliation Commission – just as in the region generally, and is directly pertinent to the theme of this paper.
- Archiv der Zentralstellen, Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit – JHS Potsdam, Mikrofilmstelle (1982), Lehrkonzeption fuer Grundlehrgaenge auf dem Gebiet der politisch-operativen Sicherung von Befreiungsorganisationen des suedlichen Afrika, Berlin, 1 Sept. 1982.
“..Beitrag beim Aufbau der Entwicklung und Staerkung der revolutionaren Sicherheitsapprate des ANC und SWAPO zu leisten” (p.5);
“..Unruhestiftung versucht, die Kampfkraft der Befreiungsorganisationen zu schwaechen” (p.46);
“…Geruechteverbreitung und andere Verbrechen gegen die Lager bzw. in den Lagern durchfarhren” (p.26);
“Der Hauptstosz der subversiven ideologischen Angriffe richtet sich dabei gegen die konsquent marxistisch-leninistischen Kraefte in der Organisation…” (p.16);
“5. Das Wesen, die Ziele und Methoden des psychologischen Kriegsfuehrung und der ideologischen Diversion gegen die Befreiungsorganisationen im suedlichen Afrika.” (p.54)
“Ausgehend von der Erfahrungen der Tscheka…ist vor allem zu klaeren, das die Wichstigste Waffe im Kampf gegen dem Feind die Arbeit mit Information ist.” (p.23).
- Leys, Colin and John Saul (1994), “Liberation without Democracy? The SWAPOCrisis of 1976”, Journal of Southern African StudiesVol. 20, No. 1, March.
- Wallace, Marion, with John Kinahan (2011), A History of Namibia: From the Beginning to 1990, Hurst & Company, London. (p.298)
- Hirson, Baruch (1995), Revolutions in my Life, Witwatersrand University Press.
- Swanepoel, PC (2007), Really Inside BOSS: A Tale of South Africa’s late Intelligence Service (And something about the CIA),privately published, Pretoria. (pp.170-71, 215-16, 218-19).
- Elected treasurer at the first meeting of the Anti-Apartheid Committee (re-named the Anti- Apartheid Movement three weeks later) in London on 6 April 1960, Vella Pillay – a South African exile and official at the Bank of China – was the SACP’s principal emissary in western Europe in the 1950s and early 1960s, responsible for liaison with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China. Pillay made the earliest arrangements for military training of members of Umkhonto we Sizwe in the German Democratic Republic and in China, and took part in a private meeting with Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1960, the year in which he helped to found the AAM. See Ellis, Stephen, The External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990, Jonathan Ball (forthcoming, 2012). The first chapter, “Call to arms”, expands on Pillay’s role as international representative of the SACP by comparison with Ellis’s paper, “The genesis of the ANC’s armed struggle in South Africa 1948-1961, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol.37, No.4, December 2011.
The deputy executive secretary of the AAM from 1986, Alan Brooks, was also a former member of the SACP.
- Wentzel, Jill (1995), The Liberal Slideaway, South African Institute of Race Relations, Johannesburg. There is oddly no reference to this crucial, interrogatory study of the later history of the Liberal experience in South Africa, published in 1995, in Vigne’s more comprehensive history, Liberals against Apartheid, published two years later, in 1997.
- Paton, Alan (1988), Journey Continued: An Autobiography, Oxford University Press; paperback, 1989, p.287.
- Paton, op.cit,. p.240.
- Paton, ibid.
- Paton, op.cit., p.224.
- Evans, David (2012), Email communication, Liverpool, 27 March 2012.
- Jeffery,Anthea (2009), People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa, Jonathan Ball.
- Dangerfield, George (1935), The Strange Death of Liberal England, Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, New York; Constable, London, 1936.