Q & A with Jeremy Vearey

by Nov 13, 2013Magazine

A!: Maybe you’d like to introduce yourself and your capacity.

JV: I am Jeremy Vearey. I am also a Major-General in the police service. I am responsible for the gangster activity in this province. I’ll go into what that distinctly is, different from the way where we normally do. Apart from that I think in the interview it will become clear that I have a totally different perspective from what you officially would see, that primarily comes from my Marxist part, as a Marxist within the ANC, the ANC tradition and particularly within the Western Cape, coming from also initially before uMkhonto weSizwe [became] particularly involved in the civic movement and the youth movement in Elsies River – and so I come from a totally different background. My parents were activists, who are deceased now. My mother was part of that shift from the old GAWU to form the SACTU with Patel. And she wasn’t ANC, she had what might be termed a ‘workerist’ approach while my father was more of a Congress chap; he ended up being an alderman, one of the first counsellors for the ANC in the Theewaterskloof region in the Genadendal area. So that’s the kind of background – so when I speak so that you just understand that that’s the first thing. Secondly, when I do speak to you, I would as far as possible, the fact that I’m a police officer is anecdotal to what I’m going to tell you; it’s not the defining thing and I for one would not want it to be projected that are speaking to a person and you define the person as a general police and that’s it, based [indistinct]. So that is the type of thing I think just to tell you – that is the background. I am in my fifties, I’m fifty years old, so I’ve been around.

A!: Can you talk about your political background?

JV: Yes, yes, initially if you understand my political history in Elsies River, Elsies River in the time I grew up, the dominant trend in the late seventies, early eighties was and that’s understandable we had guys like Peter Isaacs and all those guys who were staying [indistinct]. The predominant influences were BC. It was only during the early eighties when Johnny Issel as part of his banning ended up living in Elsies River that the tradition sort of shifted and more Congress influence came in, and ,with the formation of CAHAC, CAYCO and all those organisations it became much more pronounced. And during that time the start of CAHAC and all those kind of sub-structures within that area it became a much -. But the identity and history of what shaped people particularly is not necessarily singular – that’s what I want you to understand clearly. It is also distinctly left, but there was not a strong Unity Movement present; so all my teachers were Unity Movement, John Ramsey in Elsies River and all those kinds of things. So those were the teachers and all those guys. But that was the type of environment. So I didn’t have a definitive organisational identity with them.

Around about 1983 I was recruited into uMkhonto weSizwe but that had to do with a different process, with a process that exposed me to certain figures who were active and therefore interested in my involvement, which was much more clandestine. So I ended up in ’87 getting caught, going to Robben Island. I was a teacher also at some point in ’85 in Elsies River and I got involved with the type of alternative education work that Neville Alexander was involved at South African Council. It involved taking subjects like geography and translating it into an analysis of urban transformation and development on the Cape Flats from a Marxist perspective. So there’s no sectarian clear line – that’s what I’m trying to say. On the positive side it’s partly why myself and a few others, even on Robben Island when we were there, we were able to represent more of the critical left although we ended up in the SACP, but it was more of a critical left, there was a counter to the kind of misunderstandings of organisation and those things. So we had a totally different way of looking at things. The advantage of the mass background as opposed to the insular Party underground structure – we were being exposed to Marxist thinking – is that one’s understanding of the way one relates to mobilisation and to civil society was much more Gramsci in a way, as opposed to distinctly Lenin or Party. A structuralist kind of model. So that’s the one advantage I think that comes with that. But I think the second thing was that one’s approach to the readings that one read was much more eclectic. If you were in the Party we’d probably only be exposed to Lenin. One of the more disturbing things some comrades from Robben Island and I found was the insular intellectual culture that came with sectarian party political politics. We were widely exposed in Elsies to Healey’s writings and to people like David Harvey. Something a normal Leninist would be called [dederidu – sounds like] – that’s what I’m trying to get to. So we had a much more wider thing as a result of that, it was the benefit.

A!: When did you start getting involved in the SAPS?

JV: I integrated into the SAPS. After I came out of prison (I was released in June 1990), I was immediately absorbed into the ANC’s intelligence structures. I had intelligence training and all those kinds of things too. So I was absorbed immediately into that and I ended up basically doing that all over the country, in addition to the ID protection of certain ANC leadership figures, but most of my work involved intelligence and security-related work.

Our mission at DIS then was preventing infiltration into the ANC by hostile intelligence agencies; counter ‘third force’ activities by the apartheid security forces in the wars in KwaZulu-Natal, East Rand and Khayalitsha; counter destablisation of the ANC in the Western Cape through the use of street gangs. Our intelligence work was seminal to empowering the TRC with the correct information on security force activity.

But in the process at a crucial time when the organisation and the irony is to [indistinct] Margaret Thatcher is through then trying to influence policy or security [indistinct] tried to approach the ANC to say that we need some your people and we can train them in that environment and Canada also wanted and the States. And the irony was they needed cadres who would not be swayed by that type of agenda, who were more ideologically grounded, if I should put it that way, in left, to be pressed by all the trappings of that. So I was part of this group of cadreship. Some of us went to France and some went to [Germany – possible unfinished word] and I ended up in the UK, sort of [indistinct]. But I ended up with them and we spent time training there. I ended up also being sent to Canada and certain places to research different policing models from the west because our understanding of policing was primarily influenced by [however the ANC works/whatever the ANC wants – unclear]. So that was the type of tradition of policing. This is a totally different approach in some cases. So that’s essentially how it comes to that point.

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