Johannesburg - The family of anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron, another murder victim of apartheid-era crimes, have pleaded with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute the perpetrators or suspects with urgency since they’ve waited 53 years for justice.
Justice Ronald Lamola announced on Wednesday that he had requested the judge president of the Western Cape Division of the High Court to designate a judge to reopen the inquest into the death in detention of Haron.
Haron’s daughter Fatiema told IOL that while the family welcomed the decision and were looking forward to finally learning the truth behind her father’s death, the lack of communication from the NPA left much to be desired.
Speaking to IOL shortly after the NPA presented an update on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) cases to Parliament, Fatiema said her family had learnt via social media about the decision to reopen the inquest into her father’s death.
“It was shocking. It felt like thunder under my feet when I saw this on social media (on Tuesday) night. Where is the respect? We expected some sort of compassion,” she said.
Haron died while in police detention on September 27, 1969 after being held incommunicado for 122 days. He was detained by the security branch, under section 6 of the Terrorism Act. He died at Caledon Square police station in Cape Town.
The apartheid regime held an inquest in 1970 but its findings that Haron died as a result of falling down stairs were primarily based on reports from medical experts and police witnesses.
“It definitely gives our family hope that my father’s story and fight for freedom will be told factually. That the history books can now be corrected with facts,” Haron’s daughter said.
She said that shortly before her mother died – exactly 50 years after her father was buried – the matriarch gave the family her blessings to look into Haron’s death.
“My father’s body was brought home with 27 bruises and it was clear to all of us that this was not caused by a fall down a few stairs.
“As sad and painful as it will be to sit through this inquiry, we are prepared. We have waited for too long and we want justice,” she said.
The crimes of apartheid, as declared in 1966 by the UN, has largely gone unpunished over the years.
The TRC handed over a list of more than 300 cases to the NPA, with the recommendation that they be investigated further, with a view to prosecute. However, the NPA has been criticised for dragging its feet.
In a briefing to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Wednesday morning, NPA Head Shamila Batohi gave an assurance that they were doing everything in their power to process the cases speedily.
She said that their efforts were paying off as the NPA had since reopened 38 new investigations into deaths of detainees, while 167 identified missing persons’ remains were returned to the affected families.
She said 97 matters were under investigation.
“This is a top priority for the NPA and we are acting with a sense of urgency,” Batohi said.
When questioned about who were responsible for previous delays in prosecuting TRC cases and what consequences they faced, Batohi said Minister Lamola was considering a high-level panel to investigate and understand what caused such delays in justice.
“We know there’s been public information around this regarding the lack of action on the part of politicians. The NPA was in fact hampered from doing its work in many ways,” she said.
“It’s an absolute travesty of justice that victims of these atrocities committed during apartheid era are still waiting for justice either in form of prosecution or inquest that has been opened,” Batohi said.