chapter  7
34 Pages

Crossing the Rubicon: “The gloves come off ” for a total counter- revolutionary strategy, 1985–1990

The assassination of the “Cradock Four” on 27 June 1985 was to prove, in retrospect, a kind of turning-point; three weeks later, on 21 July 1985, the same day as their funeral, protest reached such a pitch that Botha declared the first state of emergency in 36 magisterial districts of South Africa, approximately one-third of the country. This marked one of the turningpoints of the 1980s: while instituting nominal political reforms domestically, most of these were regarded as window-dressing – at the same time as South Africa’s domestic opposition increased dramatically its violent actions against the apartheid regime, resulting in the securocrats’ – mistaken – belief that the ANC (and its domestic ally the UDF ) had entered “third-stage revolutionary warfare”. As a result, Botha and his security leaders declared “the gloves off ” in their counter-revolutionary strategy against the liberation movements, both domestically and across the Frontline States and abroad. Botha authorised the intelligence services to take all necessary steps to crush the insurgency (i.e. the liberation movement) once and for all. With the increased deployment of SAP and SADF personnel into the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, and large sectors of the Witwatersrand, their powers also increased dramatically, signalling the first stage of the “gloves coming off ” which would determine the counterrevolutionary direction from this point onwards for the highest levels of the decision-making.