20 years on, apartheid victims' families ask Cyril Ramaphosa for closure
The families of apartheid victims have asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to prioritise the 300 cases that were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further investigations 20 years ago.
At the end of its work in 1999, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) referred to the NPA for further investigation and prosecution more than 300 cases of people who were denied, or did not apply for, amnesty.
However, only one case has been brought to court during that period; that of João Rodrigues, the former security policeman implicated in the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971.
Rodrigues was charged after a reopened inquest into the death of Timol in 2016 ruled that Timol's death was not caused by suicide, as had been claimed by the government.
A number of families, including those of Steve Biko, the Cradock Four and Timol, said they had been appalled at the manner in which the unfinished business of the TRC was handled by previous governments.
In an open letter to Ramaphosa on Wednesday they said they had had faith that the previous governments would address the cases of atrocities that had taken place during the apartheid era.
“At present we, as family and friends of apartheid victims, are of the view that ‘justice delayed is indeed justice denied’.”
The families asked Ramaphosa to prioritise these TRC cases that were ignored for decades.
They also drew Ramaphosa’s attention to a letter dated February 5 this year, written by former TRC commissioners.
The commissioners asked Ramaphosa to apologise to victims of apartheid-era atrocities who had been denied justice for several decades and suffered considerable trauma as a result.
The former TRC commissioners had also called on Ramaphosa to appoint a commission of inquiry into the political interference that had stopped the investigation and prosecution of virtually all of the cases referred by the TRC to the NPA.
“According to our records, it was observed that these members have to date not received any response to the above correspondence and for us, being family and friends of victims of that vicious inhumane system that disregarded our family members and friends’ human rights, this is very disconcerting.”
The families asked Ramaphosa to address them during Thursday's state of the nation address.
“Essentially, we would like to drive home the point that as you address us all during the opening of parliament on June 20, that you remember – even by mentioning some of the names - all of these martyred men and women,” the families said.