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NPA to prioritise murders of anti-apartheid activists

09 May 2018 - 17:39 By Andisiwe Makinana
Shaun Abrahams. File photo.
Shaun Abrahams. File photo.

The National Prosecutions Authority is to prioritise prosecutions of those who were linked to the murders of activists against the apartheid regime stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams revealed in Parliament on Wednesday that there were about 15 cases that the state was considering for possible prosecutions‚ including the murders of Victoria Mxenge‚ the Cradock Four and trade union leader Neil Aggett‚ among others.

“We are absolutely committed to delivering justice to the victims of crime‚ especially the victims of past atrocities‚” Abrahams told journalists at a media conference held ahead of the presentation of the budget policy statement of the justice department by minister Michael Masutha.

Abrahams said it was regrettable that matters arising from the TRC had not been given “the preference they should have been given in years gone by” but that significant progress has been made in the last three years in addressing them.

“I personally made a decision that the perpetrators in respect to the disappearance of Nokuthula Simelane must be prosecuted. I personally had to make the decision and recommendation to the Minister of Justice in relation to the reopening of the inquest in the Ahmed Timol matter‚” he added.

The inquest into Timol's death was reopened last year and it found that he was murdered and did not commit suicide. It also recommended that three individuals be investigated for possible prosecution.

“I am being briefed on those investigations‚ in fact I was briefed yesterday on this very matter‚” said Abrahams.

John Jeffery‚ the deputy minister of justice‚ added that he had been raising concern regularly with Abrahams as there were recommendations for three people to be charged.

"The Nokuthula Simelane matter is in court‚ those people have been charged but there are delays as there is dispute around legal representation‚" said Jeffery.

Abrahams said “challenges” within the criminal justice system‚ including lack of resources and investigative capacity on the police's side and in the NPA‚ were hampering their work.

Abrahams said the identified cases‚ of which there were about 15‚ would be decentralised to the directors of public prosecutions' offices where they could personally give greater attention to the matters as opposed to leaving them with the priority crimes unit.

Abrahams revealed that recommendations have been made to him in respect of the Neil Aggett murder and he has referred the matter back to the prosecutors and directed that further investigation be conducted to be in a position to make a decision.

He also sought to assure SABC journalist Lukhanyo Calata that the “TRC matters” were high on the NPA's priority list. Lukhanyo‚ the son of Fort Calata‚ a UDF activist who is one of the Cradock Four murdered by the South African police in 1985‚ had asked Justice Minister Michael Masutha about government's commitment to ensure justice for victims' families.