Dedicated team of prosecutors, cops to tackle apartheid-era TRC crimes
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Johannesburg - The government is setting up a team of prosecutors and Hawks investigators to deal with unresolved apartheid-era crimes emanating from the evidence presented at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola made the announcement at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol outside the Johannesburg Central police station, formerly the notorious John Vorster Square.
”The Hawks have appointed 34 investigators to deal exclusively with TRC cases. The NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) has obtained special approval from the Department of Public Service and Administration to have 23 prosecutors dedicated to TRC cases that are earmarked to be prosecuted within three years,” Lamola said.
He added that this came as a result of the public pressure from the families of the victims.
”I present these matters to you because the institutions we seek to build in a democratic South Africa must be transparent and accountable to the people. We must resolve criminal conduct that resulted in the killing of many innocent people like Ahmed Timol.
“This will bring closure to many families who are crying out for justice,” he explained.
According to Lamola, it was made clear that TRC cases would receive priority attention from the NPA, the Hawks and the SAPS.
”This resulted in 43 cases throughout the country receiving attention. As a result of the work done by the priority crimes litigation unit (PCLU) the number of cases has increased to 53,” he said.
Lamola said during the lockdown period, the head of the PCLU conducted an audit of all the deaths in detention cases reported by the TRC between 1963 and 1990, resulting in a further 57 cases being identified.
Following representations from relatives of the victims, a further three cases have been opened.
Lamola also stated that steps were being taken to have the inquests into the deaths of Soweto anti-apartheid activist Ernest Moabi Dipale and KwaZulu-Natal inyanga Bayempini Mzizi reopened as their deaths, also in detention, are connected to those of Dr Neil Aggett in 1982 and dentist Hoosen Haffajee in 1977.
Dipale died at the John Vorster Square police station six months after Aggett in 1982.
Mzizi had links to uMkhonto weSizwe and was found hanging in his cell in a Durban police station in 1977.
Lamola said an audit of TRC statistics revealed that 7 116 amnesty applications were made and 5 408 came from convicted prisoners.
”This is a reflection of the work done by the NPA in prosecuting those cases. A very high number of amnesty applications were successful, resulting in a significant number of cases the NPA sought to pursue falling away,” he explained.
Lamola said former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka referred TRC cases that had not been finalised to the PCLU and a new head of the unit was appointed.
It was mandated to implement a decentralised model in which investigations and prosecutions would be managed by the director of public prosecutions where the crimes were committed, with the PCLU providing crucial support and oversight.