New hope for prosecution of outstanding TRC cases, now a top priority for NPA

Former TRC commissioner Senior Counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza to review the measures that have been adopted to deal with and prosecute TRC matters. File photo

Former TRC commissioner Senior Counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza to review the measures that have been adopted to deal with and prosecute TRC matters. File photo

Published Jan 16, 2023


Cape Town - There is a little more light at the end of the tunnel for families of victims of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) cases now that the NPA has made a review of its non-performance with respect to the prosecution of long-outstanding matters a top priority.

Families and the former TRC commissioners have asked the president four times since 2019 to appoint an independent and public commission of inquiry into the suppression of the TRC cases.

The former commissioners said: “It seems the state is fighting a rear-guard action to avoid public scrutiny on this issue.”

Announcing the appointment of former TRC commissioner and senior counsel Dumisa Ntsebeza to review the measures adopted to deal with and prosecute TRC matters, the NPA said they had engaged with the executive, which was expected to release its own statement in due course.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said Ntsebeza had three months to finalise his report and recommendations.

Mhaga said: “The NPA will provide the necessary support to ensure that this timeline is kept and relevant interventions and improvements are implemented without delay.”

He said should Ntsebeza find evidence that could amount to a violation of the NPA Act, the matter would be escalated to the National Director of Public Prosecutions and, if necessary, referred for criminal investigation.

Born in the Eastern Cape, Ntsebeza, who is currently chancellor of the University of Fort Hare, represented several political prisoners throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1995 he was appointed as commissioner of the TRC, where he became Head of the TRC’s Investigative Unit and Head of its Witness Protection programme.

Ntsebeza’s credentials include his part in the founding and leading of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) and the Black Lawyers Association (BLA). In 2012 he was appointed by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) as lead counsel on behalf of the families of the 37 Marikana miners killed by the police.

In its final report, published two decades ago, the TRC recommended that approximately 300 apartheid-era cases, in which perpetrators had not applied for or been granted amnesty, should be investigated with a view to prosecution. But for nearly 20 years, no cases were investigated.

Welcoming the appointment, GOOD Party secretary-general Brett Herron said: “The state’s failure to follow through on the TRC matters, combined with revelations of the alleged existence of an informal agreement on non-prosecutions between representatives of the old South African government and the new, is a betrayal of post-apartheid morality.”

Herron said victims’ families had been marooned without closure or any sense of justice, and the integrity of the TRC had been severely damaged.

Meanwhile, Imam Haron family advocate Howard Varney has confirmed that closing arguments in the reopened inquest into the 1969 death in police custody of the anti-apartheid struggle activist will be delivered in court on April 24 and 25.