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TRUST FEED Crime, Truth, and Forgiveness. Dr. Alex Boraine served as the Vice Chair of the TRC in South Africa. He is a former President of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and was a Member of Parliament in the opposition Progressive Party from 1984-1986.

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TRUST FEED Crime, Truth, and Forgiveness

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TRUST FEEDCrime, Truth, and Forgiveness

Dr. Alex Boraine served as the Vice Chair of the TRC in South Africa. He is a former President of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and was a Member of Parliament in the opposition Progressive Party from 1984-1986.

He is currently the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice.

More information is available at

For more on the Trust Feed Massacre and Brian Mitchell, see the following tapes in the Yale Law School Truth and Reconciliation Commission Videotape Collection:

TAPES 13, 22, 24, 32, and 46

More information on this collection is available at html/index.htm


The South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) was an armed resistance movement that opposed the South African occupation of South West Africa (present day Namibia). During its 75-year occupation of South West Africa (1915-1990), the South African government imposed apartheid policies on the territory.


In 1976-1977, the South African government militarized the country in response to increasing black resistance to apartheid. Hundreds of protesters were killed during several days of violence in Soweto Township, and resistance leader Steve Biko was murdered at the hands of police. …

As a result of the escalating violence and increased attacks by the South African security services, many resistance leaders fled into exile in Angola and other neighboring countries.


The intense black resistance of the 1970s led the South African government to believe that the country was on the verge of a civil war instigated by communists. “To emphasize the comprehensive nature of this threat, they referred to it as the ‘Total Onslaught,’ and to counter it, they developed the ‘Total Strategy.’” …

The Total Strategy “called for [creating] an elaborate national security apparatus encompassing the defense establishment, the paramilitary South African Police (SAP), numerous intelligence agencies, [and] a growing number of government agencies with security concerns. …

“By the end of the 1970s, the military was at the center of the country's domestic and foreign policy, implementing its Total Strategy to outmaneuver external and internal enemies of the state.”*

*From South Africa: Air and Naval Forces, U.S. Library of Congress Country Studies: South Africa, available at @field(DOCID+za0131)


The “Third Force” was a strategy of the South African security forces to incite violence between black resistance organizations. The members of one resistance organization were recruited by the police to help eradicate another organization. …

As an additional part of this strategy, black special constables (“kitsconstabels”) were introduced into areas of internecine conflict to assist the white police.

United Democratic Front (UDF)

The UDF was an organization of churches, civic groups, and student associations formed in 1983. It functioned as an affiliate of the African National Congress (ANC), which was banned in South Africa at the time.

The UDF quickly became one of the leading resistance organizations in South Africa. Its mission was to secure the release of imprisoned black leaders, the return of those who had been banned or fled into exile, and an end to apartheid.

In furtherance of these goals, the UDF urged its members to refuse to cooperate with the white government in any way.


The Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement was founded in 1975 as a Zulu nationalist, paramilitary resistance organization.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Inkatha was the largest legal black organization in South Africa. Today it exists as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a major political party.


David Ntombela was the leader of Inkatha in the Natal Midlands (including Trust Feed). He collaborated with the local apartheid officials in a plot to drive the UDF and ANC out of KwaZulu-Natal. He is now an Inkatha Member of Parliament.

Inkatha’s main base of support was in the traditional Zulu homeland of KwaZulu-Natal, governed by Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Butheleziunder the ultimate control of the white government. As the ANC and UDF began organizing efforts in the region, Inkatha resisted, and the resulting violence killed thousands in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.

Cameras sometimes captured what the regime chose to ignore: Police terror as a means of enforcing apartheid.


The Trust Feed Massacre was investigated by Major Frank Dutton, the head of the Riot Investigation Unit in KwaZulu-Natal. He carefully amassed evidence against Mitchell and his officers. …

The court that tried Mitchell commended Dutton for his honesty and integrity in conducting the investigation.

Dutton’s reputation for honesty in the Trust Feed investigation propelled him to national prominence after the fall of apartheid. …

Dutton became head of the Investigation Task Unit in the Mandela government, investigating corruption and criminality in the police and security services nationwide. He then went on to be a lead war crimes investigator for the United Nations in Bosnia, and recently returned to South Africa to head the Directorate of Special Investigations, the South African equivalent of the FBI.

Tim McNally, Attorney General of KwaZulu-Natal, was accused of deliberately losing a 1996 case acquitting former defense minister Magnus Malan, former head of military intelligence Gen. Tienie Groenewald, and 18 others.

Evidence that might have been brought at their trial was lost, and could not later be brought to bear to induce several former army officials to disclose their acts before the TRC.

At his trial, Mitchell claimed that the attack was a mistake, and that he should not be punished because the massacre was the result of an arrest operation that simply went wrong.

During his trial, Mitchell’s wife Karen attempted suicide three times. She was placed in a psychiatric hospital. The couple’s three children, aged 9, 7, and 3, were sent away to live with Karen’s parents.

Mitchell was convicted and sentenced to death. On April 24, 1994, less than a month before leaving office, President F. W. De Klerk commuted Mitchell’s sentence to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The amnesty process was governed by the South African Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of 1995.

For the text of the law, see the web browser below, or go to



Amnesty applicants must have had a political motive for their crimes. This means, essentially, that they must have committed their crimes with a motive and objective that related to undermining or upholding the apartheid state. The crime cannot have been for personal gain or revenge.

The perpetrator need not have successfully achieved his political objective, nor must he have professed such an objective prior to seeking amnesty.

For example, Brian Mitchell defended himself at his trial by claiming that the massacre was a mistake. At his amnesty hearing, Mitchell claimed that the massacre was part of a political strategy to divide the UDF and Inkatha.


In order to qualify for amnesty, an applicant must also make a full and truthful disclosure of all relevant facts related to his crime. He must:

  • Identify the victims and tell what happened to them.

  • Name others who were complicit in the crime.

  • Take full responsibility for his role in the crime.

Judge Hassen Mall (1922-2000), chairman of the TRC’s Amnesty Committee was the first person of color to become an advocate in South Africa. He became a senior counsel in 1978 and was appointed judge in 1994.


Upon full disclosure of a crime committed with a political objective, an applicant was eligible for amnesty. If the Amnesty Committee granted him amnesty, he was immune from criminal and civil liability for that crime. If he was imprisoned at the time, he was immediately set free.


Applicants were not required to express remorse for their crimes in order to qualify for amnesty for fear that such a requirement would lead to disingenuous expressions of emotion and contrition.

Nonetheless, forgiveness and reconciliation were driving forces behind the creation of the TRC, and many applicants sought forgiveness for their crimes.

When Brian Mitchell was granted amnesty, the ANC expressed its hope that the TRC would nevertheless eventually find Mitchell guilty of crimes against humanity.

If Mitchell were found to have committed grave crimes against humanity (known as jus cogens crimes in international law), he would have been subject to arrest and trial in any country that recognizes universal, worldwide jurisdiction to try and punish the perpetrators of such crimes.

Indeed, some truth commissions, such as that of Rwanda, have refused to grant full amnesties on grounds that to do so would deny victims their right to have perpetrators of jus cogens crimes punished.

The debate over whether or not to grant amnesty to perpetrators of grave human rights abuses is one of the most significant contentions in transitional states.

For more information on this debate, see the website in the browser below.


No Future Without Forgiveness (1999), pp. 270-73

“Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. …

DESMOND TUTUNo Future Without Forgiveness (1999), pp. 270-73

“In forgiving, people are not asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again. … Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. It means taking what happened seriously and not minimizing it….

DESMOND TUTUNo Future Without Forgiveness (1999), pp. 270-73

“[It means] drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence. It involves trying to understand the perpetrators and so have empathy, to try to stand in their shoes and appreciate the sort of pressures and influences that might have conditioned them. …

DESMOND TUTUNo Future Without Forgiveness (1999), pp. 270-73

“Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim. …“[W]e will always need a process of forgiveness and reconciliation to deal with those unfortunate yet all too human breaches in relationships. They are an inescapable characteristic of the human condition.”

At a renewal ceremony in Trust Feed in 2003, South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma commended Brian Mitchell on his fundraising and development efforts on behalf of the people of Trust Feed.

Brian Mitchell continues to help rebuild the community of Trust Feed to this day.

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