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This report is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Letter from Cape Town Stephen Watson

There is one story, and one story only, in South Africa at the moment: the daily revelations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a body set up by President Mandela to unearth and document the atrocities committed largely by the state during the apartheid era.

In recent weeks and months, South Africans - those that have bothered to listen, that is - have heard in clinical detail how undercover agents of the state went about their murderous business. Suffocating their alleged opponents with rubber tubing, ramming burning sticks up their anuses, dragging them by the penis around a police-cell - all the crudities, as well as refinements, of the arts of torture, South African-style, have been on public display as never before. We have been told how one ANC cadre was poisoned, then shot because the poison did not work fast enough, his body subsequently burned for nine hours on a pile of tyres. (A former policeman related that while the corpse was burning he joined his fellow policemen in drinking beers. Apparently, 'Sizwe's flesh was smelling good. Just like a barbecue,' he told the Commission.) we have heard the wife of another murdered man pleading with the Commission to secure the return of her husband's hand, hacked off by his white assassins, and which she said was apparently being kept in a bottle by the police in Port Elizabeth… Such has been the accumulation of horrors recounted over the last few months that at the recent ...

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