Apartheid-Era Tactic Of Disinformation To Sow Division Alive & Well

By Greg Mashaba

As I reflected on the recent events in our country, I could not help but recall the deployment of a cruel strategy of sowing confusion and mistrust within the ranks of the ANC, MK and the Mass Democratic Movement in the 1980s, through the intentional planting of false information. It is now a matter of historical record that this strategy caused immense suffering, including the labelling of dedicated cadres as apartheid regime informants and collaborators. Comrades such as Maki Skosana in Duduza on the then East Rand , and Ben Langa in Mgungondlovu were killed by their own comrades acting on the basis of false information which had been intentionally planted by apartheid security forces operatives.

Maki Skosana was killed in 1985 through the barbaric and inhumane necklace method after notorious Vlakplaats operative Joe Mamasela had spread false information regarding the death of a number of cadres as a result of use of booby-trapped hand grenades which were primed to detonate upon removal of the pin . Having handed the hand grenades to the young cadres, Mamasela spread false information that Cde Maki was responsible for their death. He rubbed his hands in glee as Cde Maki was mercilessly and brutally killed.

Ben Langa, the brother of the late former Chief Justice Pius Langa was assassinated in 1984 by his own fellow MK comrades, namely Lucky Payi and Sipho Xulu, on the instructions of the notorious apartheid agent Cyril Raymond, who, having successfully infiltrated MK outside the country, rose to being commander of the organisation’s Natal Machinery. In its submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) the ANC dwelt on the disinformation campaign of the racist regime and the effect that it had on the broad national liberation struggle: “In a few cases, deliberate disinformation resulted in attacks and assassinations in which dedicated cadres lost their lives. In one of the most painful examples of this nature, a state agent named ‘Fear’ ordered two cadres to execute Ben Langa on the grounds that Langa was an agent of the regime….Once the facts were known by the leadership of the ANC, President Tambo personally met with the family to explain and apologise for this action. (1)

At the funeral of the late former Chief Justice Langa, former president Jacob Zuma , also referring to the devious acts of Raymond and his apartheid commanders told mourners gathered: “They manipulated his friends and comrades into killing him, thinking that they were saving the movement….The wrong person happened to occupy a high structure so that when he told them to undertake this operation, they had no reason not to believe their commander. He was the wrong man and worked for the apartheid system..

“It is remarkable that despite this devastating incident, the Langa family never turned its back on the movement or on the struggle to build a better South Africa”. (2)

The family of Maki Skosana also appeared before the TRC regarding her death. Having listened to their painful testimony, the Chairperson of the TRC, Archbishop Desmond Tutu meticulously detailed the evil nature of the disinformation campaign of the apartheid regime: “We would like you to note that the death of Maki was a national shame. South Africa was looked upon internationally, more especially those who were fighting apartheid as beasts , as carnivores; and that the family managed to stand by Maki even at a time when everybody was saying ‘away with that family!’ We salute you, the family, more especially Maki. The passing of Maki vitiated all the noble efforts of the liberation struggle. Everybody was talking about the lack of order amongst the activists. In fact, it nearly made some of those people who were collaborators to look more noble than the noble people who were fighting the struggle itself. Maki and the family have emerged, after all these disclosures, as heroes.” (3)

The online dictionary, Dictionary.com, defines disinformation as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.” It also further defines the closely related (or synonymous), term ‘misinformation, as “false information that is spread regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.”

In closing , I wish to state that I welcome and support the establishment of the judicial commission on state capture. However there is a duty on the part of all South Africans to ensure that it does not become a tool for the persecution of one section of the South African populace to the exclusion of another. The lessons to be drawn from the tragic cases of Comrades Maki and Ben is that we cannot our in our quest to root out corruption degenerate into an orgy of labelling and accusing without proof those who hold views which are different from ours. We cannot allow our fragile democracy to mirror the era of McCarthysm which once plagued the US. I have great respect for Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. He is carrying out his work of chairing the commission under very difficult conditions, including deep divisions within the ruling party of which I am a member . Accordingly I call on all South Africans to give him all the necessary support to ensure that the commission is not usurped by racist, capitalist and imperialist agents.

  1. ‘Benjamin Johnson Langa’; sahistory.org.za /people/benjamin-johnson-langa
  2. ‘Zuma’s time to apologise ‘City Press 4 August 2013; news24.com
  3. justice.gov.za /trc/hrvtrans/5duduza/moloko.htm




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