The Cradock Four garden of remembrance in Lingelihle township Cradock. It pays tribute to political activists Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, who were killed by the apartheid-era police. Picture: File
The Cradock Four garden of remembrance in Lingelihle township Cradock. It pays tribute to political activists Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, who were killed by the apartheid-era police. Picture: File

Cradock Four families want answers

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Sep 29, 2021

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Pretoria - The National Director of Public Prosecutions may be forced to deliver the full record of its refusal or failure to prosecute those responsible for apartheid-era murders.

This is according to the families of the so-called Cradock Four, who said they would ask the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria to compel the prosecution to give answers on the matter. They earlier filed an application in which they ask the court to declare that the ongoing failure to finalise the investigations and bring the matter to trial be declared unlawful.

Cradock Four – Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparrow Mkonto – were kidnapped, tortured and murdered on June 27, 1985. In the early 1990s, the Zietsman Inquest found the apartheid security forces were responsible for the murders, but no action was taken. Six of the killers were denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have to date not yet prosecuted anyone for the murders. The families now want the court to issue an order forcing the NPA and the SAPS to finalise their investigations and to make a prosecutorial decision in respect of the Cradock Four case. The families will further ask the court to review and set aside the failure or refusal of the NPA to take a prosecutorial decision in the Cradock Four case.

The application was served on the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, National Commissioner of the SAPS and the Minister of Police during July and August.

According to the Foundation for Human Rights, the four state respondents filed their notices of opposition to the application in August.

Attorneys for the 12 potential suspects - several of the apartheid era’s top brass - gave notice that their clients will not oppose the application.

These suspects include former army officer Christoffel van der Westhuizen and former security branch officers Hermanus du Plessis, Craig Williamson, Gerrit Erasmus, Izak Engelbrecht and Johan van der Merwe. It also includes former ministers, deputy ministers and functionaries who sat on the State Security Council. Some of the names mentioned include Adriaan Vlok, Barend du Plessis, FW de Klerk, Lukas Barnard, Daniel Nel and Samuel de Beer. Another suspect, Eric Winter, who was the former head of the Security branch in Cradock, meanwhile died in August.

The foundation said in a statement that his passing before he faced justice robbed the families of the opportunity to hold him to account.

“This deep injustice underscores the need on the part of the authorities to act with great urgency. Other respondents are elderly and unwell. With every passing day the risk of more murder suspects escaping justice increases exponentially,” the foundation said.

As part of the order sought by the families, the NPA was required to file its record in the Cradock Four case on August 27. The NPA failed to deliver its record, thereby forcing the families’ attorneys, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, to issue a notice earlier this month, requiring compliance by September 20. The foundation said the NPA also did not make this deadline, which now forced the families’ attorney in the latest step to file yet another application to force the prosecuting authority to produce the record.

Should the NPA also fail to comply with such an order, the families may apply for an order striking out the NPA’s defence, the foundation said.

Once the NPA’s record has been filed and considered, the families are entitled to supplement their founding papers within two weeks of the filing. The state respondents will then have 30 days to supplement their answering affidavits.

The foundation said the failure of the NPA to adhere to the deadlines up to now, was regrettable, as it was delaying the proceedings and placing more obstacles on the long road to justice.

The families view the approach of the NPA in opposing their application, rather than committing to a date for the making of a prosecutorial decision as unfortunate.

The NPA was asked for comment, but had not yet responded.

Pretoria News

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