Pretoria - ANC member and Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus has accused the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of dragging its feet when it has to prosecute apartheid era crimes.
This comes after Judge Motsamai Makume ruled on Friday in the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, that the 1982 death of trade unionist Dr Neil Aggett was not suicide.
Makume ruled that the death was murder by the old apartheid security police, four decades after Aggett’s body was found hanging in his cell at John Vorster Square police station.
The long-awaited judgment at the reopened inquest into Aggett’s death placed the blame at the feet of the security police.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, Niehaus said despite the positive ruling, the NPA should not be claiming the glory because there were many other cases that they were “dragging their feet” on in prosecuting.
Some of the cases he referred to included the case of the murdered Cradock Four anti-apartheid activists Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, who died in 1985. Their families have since turned to the courts to have those behind their deaths prosecuted.
Another case was of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, who lost his life 50 years ago at the same police station.
Former apartheid police officer Joao Rodrigues was suspected to have killed Timol but he died before being found guilty.
Niehaus said: “The NPA had been persistent in dragging their feet and have not shown any pro-active understanding of the need to prosecute all apartheid criminals and those who are responsible for 48 deaths of those who have been in detention at the time.
“This should not be forgotten and the NPA should not be let off the hook. We must not forget the anger of the family of Fort Calata and the family members of the Cradock four who feel they have been failed dismally by the NPA.”
Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, agreed with Niehaus, saying justice was being delayed, while also blaming the NPA for dragging its feet in prosecuting these matters. “Justice delayed is justice denied.
“There is a clear history of the NPA dragging their feet. What sort of institutional reform has taken place in the NPA? Whose interests are they serving?” Cajee asked.
He said in both Aggett and Timol’s cases there was a lack of interest in the NPA’s ranks.
“I remember the NPA failed to find Rodrigues, who was suspected to have killed my uncle. It was his daughter who contacted me and handed him over to the police and he was eventually charged.
“If it wasn’t for his daughter we would still be at one place,” Cajee said.
The NPA and the Hawks said last year that they had adopted a strategy to create dedicated and sustainable capacity to investigate and prosecute apartheid-era atrocity crimes.
They said the government institution was in the process of setting up a specialist unit to deal exclusively with these matters, and would be appointing former experienced prosecutors.