chapter  4
25 Pages

From stereotyping to ideology

In the townships they call him the Beast…. If there is one man in South Africa who could be said to represent the philosophy of hard-line policing, it is Brigadier Swanepoel. The chief interrogator of the 1964 Rivonia trial-which put Nelson Mandela and others in gaol for life-and…best known as the officer who crushed the Soweto revolt which exploded 10 years ago today. He remembers June 16, 1976, with a sense of regret…:

‘It’s always difficult. It is not easy if you are in command and things get out of hand. You are trying everything to pacify the rioters and you see things are already completely out of control and it’s not so easy to psyche yourself up to give the command to fire and say: “Right, pick off the leaders and shoot them”. Talk was out of the question. You must realise that we were dealing with black people, we are dealing with a very emotional person. Whereas other racial groups would give you an opportunity to talk, with the blacks when they are out of control they are completely out of control. The only way you can get them under control is to use force-more force than they can take.’