JOHANNESBURG: Scores of people, affiliated to the Khulumani Support Group, are currently camping outside the Constitutional Hill precinct, demanding the that government fulfil promises it made decades ago, on reparations for those who suffered apartheid atrocities.
The national protest, which also saw a similar protest in Cape Town, outside Parliament on Wednesday, saw people sleeping outside Constitutional Hill on Wednesday night.
The group wants reparations, of not less than R1 million, to be paid to all victims and survivors of apartheid.
They base their quest for reparations on a statement made by then President Nelson Mandela on October 29, 1998, after he received the initial report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
“It is for those who have suffered losses of different kinds and magnitudes to be afforded reparation, proceeding from the premise that freedom and dignity are the real prize that our sacrifices were meant to attain,” the Khulumani Support Group quoted Mandela as saying.
The group is mostly made of women, especially the elderly, and some men living with disabilities. The protesters come from different parts of Ekurhuleni, a region known for political killings during apartheid.
Khulumani Support Group national organiser Nomarussia Bonase said some of their members were part of the Truth and Reconciliation process, and others were not. She said they had raised the issue of reparations more than two decades ago, and had asked for at least R120 000, in 1998, therefore they now want a minimum of R1 million.
“The government then asked what could they do to heal our wounds after suffering under the apartheid government, we are aware that our loved ones will not return but families are suffering, physically and emotionally. The reparation would make things better and, after discussions, it was decided that each person should receive individual reparation,” Bonase said.
She said this reparation would have been used for proper education for their children, medication for individuals and their families, and the building of proper houses – but that did not happen and the government promised to erect symbolic community reparations to remember victims.
“In 1998, the suggestions were taken to Parliament, then, in came former president Thabo Mbeki as the new president at that time. He said, since this issue was being discussed in Parliament, they would give us interim reparation so that we go to bed with our stomachs full. The interim reparation was paid, but we did not know how they worked out the amount. Some people were given R2 900, others R5 000, but while we waited for proper reparation, we were poor, hungry, and dying,” said Bonase.
Bonase said that, in 1998, they tried to explain to the government that many more people than the State had identified, had suffered from atrocities perpetrated by the apartheid government.
“In 2003, there were further reparations paid out by the government, to those identified by the TRC as victims of apartheid, but there were many more claimants who had not been part of that process,” he said.
Bonase said that there was no consultation over reparations.
“We are tired of empty promises, we have been sent from pillar to post. A few years ago, President Jacob Zuma and Gauteng Premier David Makhura received our memorandums, but there has been no help.
“We are struggling to make ends meet, our children are unemployed, and we don't have houses. Our grandchildren cannot afford to go to university.
“When Ramaphosa undertakes world trips, he tells the world that our Constitution is the best, while we are suffering. We are traumatised when we see Ramaphosa speaking on television because he doesn't respect us, this is re-victimisation, our human rights are re-violated. This is painful, people are dying every day, some children of victims are dying while we are fighting. This is not a caring government,” said Bonase.
According to the Khulumani Support Group website: “Survivors and families of victims of the political conflict of South Africa’s past formed Khulumani Support Group in 1995. It was set up in response to the pending Truth and Reconciliation Commission, by victims who felt the Commission should be used to speak out about the past, to ensure that such violations never occur again. During the apartheid era there were many violations of human rights and it is important that we move into the future, with all South Africans being aware of the atrocities committed in our past.”