Former members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint a commission of inquiry “into the political interference that has stopped the investigation and prosecution of virtually all the cases referred by the TRC to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA)”.
In a letter addressed to Ramaphosa on Tuesday, the group also wanted him to apologise to victims of atrocities committed during apartheid who had been denied justice.
“We also call on you, in your capacity as president of South Africa, to apologise to victims of apartheid-era atrocities who have been denied justice for several decades and suffered considerable trauma as a result,” they wrote.
According to the former commission members, the families of those who suffered at the hands of the apartheid regime felt “justifiably betrayed by South Africa’s post-apartheid state which, to date, has turned its back on them”.
“We owe them answers and we owe them an apology.”
The letter also said that while compromises had to be made during the transition to democracy, this did not mean that crimes such as murder should go unpunished, especially where the perpetrators had failed to apply for or were not granted amnesty.
“Most victims accepted the necessary and harsh compromises that had to be made to cross the historic bridge from apartheid to democracy,” they wrote.
“They did so on the basis that there would be a genuine follow-up of those offenders who spurned the process and those refused amnesty. Sadly, this has not happened.”
As far as political interference was concerned, the group said that the SA Police Service and the NPA “colluded with political forces to ensure the deliberate suppression of the bulk of apartheid era cases”.
Despite the TRC handing over hundreds of cases to the NPA for further investigation, “virtually all were abandoned”.
As proof of the collusion, the group pointed to the 2015 case of Thembi Nkadimeng “who sought to compel the NPA to make a prosecutorial decision in the 1983 murder of her sister, Nokuthula Simelane, by Security Branch officers”.
This application revealed evidence of “gross political interference” and that “NPA officials were instructed and cajoled by cabinet ministers and the then Commissioner of the SAPS to stop all work on the TRC cases”.
In 2017, Ahmed Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Kajee, had to threaten the NPA with litigation to force the prosecuting authority to reopen the inquest into Timol’s death.
The inquest established that Timol, who was a school teacher, did not commit suicide in October 1971 – as was originally ruled in 1972 – but instead a victim of a brutal attack and killing after being pushed off the tenth floor of the notorious John Vorster Square building in Johannesburg.
He was just 29 years old.
The success of the Timol case emboldened human rights activists to place 20 more cases before the NPA and the Hawks in January 2018, the group said.
But it was later discovered that the officers leading the investigations were former Security Branch or associated with the Security Branch.
“As recent as 2018 it is still business as usual with the TRC cases ultimately controlled by forces from the past,” the letter read.
This was why they were asking Ramaphosa to institute a commission of inquiry – to investigate the political interference and identify those responsible for suppressing the TRC cases.
“The terms of reference should consider whether such persons have acted unlawfully, committed any crimes and what steps, if any, should be taken against them. The terms should also include the making of recommendations to prevent such manipulation taking place in the future.”
Alternatively, the former TRC members suggested that the state capture commission of inquiry or the Mokgoro Commission of Inquiry – which is probing the NPA – look into this matter as well.
Read the full letter here:
TRC members write letter to... by on Scribd