We wish you and your newly appointed Cabinet well as your term gets underway to lead our nation. As citizens of this beloved country, we are fully aware of the responsibility that you carry and we do sincerely hope and fervently pray that your respected team under your able leadership will overcome the various challenges that you inherited and that lay ahead.
While we, as citizens, do value and continue to celebrate the freedom that we have so far experienced since spaces were opened up for us all to elect a democratic government during the early part of 1994, we are still very much haunted by our country’s past. It is, we stress, a lingering past that has not disappeared from our memories and one that we all acknowledge remains unforgettable.
Mr. President, as you opened your State of the Nation address, you indeed started off on an important note when you reminded us all about the notorious ‘Native Land Act’ of 1913 and the ‘grave injustice’ that it wrought as the decades rolled by thereafter. As a matter of fact, we expected you to have continued in the same vein by recollecting in, at least, a few lines the inhumane apartheid state’s atrocities; a series of reprehensible acts that we all know wreaked havoc among our communities and that have severely wounded us all.
So far, we all are fully aware of the fact that the effects of that repressive state’s – that never represented any of the oppressed communities – disgraceful deeds most of us have not been able to shake them off psychologically and socially; they are ingrained in our beings. We were, therefore, somewhat dismayed that you made no reference to the battery of dishonorable Acts that the apartheid regime devised and enforced on our communities.
As we collectively pen this letter to you, Mr. President, we wondered why you failed to mention the socio-economic injustices that were perpetrated by that discriminatory regime; a racist administration that had caused permanent social scars and unfathomable inequalities that have deeply harmed our nation. To this very day, we all continue to sadly witness extreme communal disparities across the country; a point that you mentioned in your speech.
Permit us, Mr. President, to ask your Excellency the following question: Why did you not take the opportunity of saying something about that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) unfinished business that still needs urgent attention? On this note honorable President, we have been appalled at the manner in which the TRC’s incomplete tasks were handled by our previous governments.
For the record, when the previous democratically elected governments under Mr. T. Mbeki and Mr. J. Zuma came into power we had faith that they would ardently tackle the string of terrible apartheid cases to, at least, try and overcome the past’s misconducts. We, in fact, had the confidence that these democratically appointed governments would give particular attention to all apartheid’s victims especially those who were killed at the hands of the infamous Security Branch. Mr. President it is as a result of their deliberate – if we may describe it as such – inaction that our current status has been sorely affected on different levels. At present we, as family and friends of apartheid victims, are of the view that ‘justice delayed is indeed justice denied.’
Returning to your speech Mr. President we thus wish to pose a few other questions: How can we, as a nation, become a socially safe & cohesive society and an ethically conscious nation if we haven’t appropriately dealt with the past? Would it ever be possible to clearly define ourselves as a nation when we cognizant of the fact that we did not effectively tackle past crimes? In which way would we be able to truly transform and actually attain Vision 2030’s noble goals when the past offences, which have caused so many traumas, still stay within our nation? And while we definitely agree with you Mr. President that ‘through our collective action we determine our collective destiny’, do you honestly think that this would be achievable when our former representative governments shrewdly sidelined and calculatingly canceled the racist state’s wrongdoings of the past?
In the light of these remarks that include an array of unanswered questions, we take this opportunity of genuinely imploring you and your esteemed cabinet to consider prioritizing the more than 300 TRC cases that were – for some uncanny reason – ignored and that were forwarded to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) for further investigation and prosecution.
…We write to you as former Members of the … TRC to call on you to appoint a commission of inquiry into the political interference that has stopped the investigation and prosecution of virtually all the cases referred by the TRC to … NPA. We also call on you, in your capacity as President of South Africa, to apologize to victims of apartheid-era atrocities who have been denied justice for several decades and suffered considerable trauma as a result….
According to our information, it was observed that these members have to date not received any response to the above correspondence and for us, being family and friends of victims of that vicious inhumane system that disregarded our family members and friends’ human rights, this is somewhat very disconcerting.
Nonetheless, very recently the nation publicly heard and read the decisive Judgment(attached and PR from the Steve Biko Foundation) that was issued by a Full Bench of the South Gauteng High Court on the 3rd of June 2019, Case Number 76755/2018; this was a matter between JOAO RODRIGUES (Applicant) and THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS and others in relation to the murder of Ahmed Timol during 1971. Here again we note with concern the following pertinent extracts:
“The court was faced with the issue of political interference in the National Prosecution Authority in finalising the prosecution of the applicant. The period in question was considered to be the period between 2003 and 2007. The court directed that the conduct of the relevant officials and others at the time needed to be brought to the attention of the National Director of Public Prosecutions for her consideration so that she may take any necessary action. The court concluded that although there was political interference, investigating it further in this court was not necessary.”
On top of this historical verdict, a submission has been made to the Zondo Commission (see attached) by Lukhanyo Calata (dated 17th of April 2019); he, representing other victims of apartheid-era crimes too, made a special request that an investigation be undertaken regarding the political interference that resulted in the suppression of virtually all the 300 cases; you might recall that this was an issue that was already referred to by the TRC to the NPA.
We, family and friends of apartheid’s victims who were unjustly killed, thus use this opportunity to petition you, as our country’s State President, to do the very least and that is to honor the souls of our country’s martyrs; individuals who had valiantly sacrificed their lives to attain social justice for us all.
Although we only remind you of the names of Imam Abdullah Haron, Nicodemus Kgoathe, Simon Modipane, James Lenkoe, Caleb Mayekiso, Michael Shivute and Jacob Monnakgotla since this year (2019) is the 50th year of their killings while they were held in detention, we should not forget the names of many others such as Steve Biko, Mapetla Mohapi, Matthews Mabelane, and Neil Agget.
Essentially, we would like to drive home – now that you have addressed the nation – the point that as a nation that we not only repeatedly recall the critical contributions of, inter alia, Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, and Robert Sobukwe, but that we too remember all of the martyred men and women; however, in order for us to do the latter we genuinely beseech you and your cabinet to take immediate action by opening their cases and all other related ones so that they may help to reconcile the festered injuries and heal the grief-stricken hearts.
So we, the undersigned, as victims’ families and friends openly demand that you firmly intervene so that your office can assist to bring about some form of justice to many of the affected families and friends. More importantly, however, we want you, as our State President, to bring some measure of closure to not only the traumatized families and friends but to help heal our deeply troubled nation.
We want you to pursue these basic socio-legal obligations in order that we all may continue to enjoy the fruits of our democratic South Africa; a country wherein accountability should be one of our nation’s hallmarks in all social sectors and one in which you, as our elected president, demonstrate audacious leadership from which we all can draw courage by giving ‘hope to the hopeless’ and offering genuine comfort to those who had lost their dear ones throughout the apartheid era.
Let us end off by stating that we subscribe to the view that we should all strive together towards constructing a protective and safe society within a secure environment and – drawing on your wise words – ‘working together … (to) build a country in which all may know (and harmonize their lives with) peace and (in which they may reside in reasonable) comfort and (ample) contentment.’
SIGNED BY THE FOLLOWING:
NICODEMUS KGOATHE, SOLOMON MODIPANE and JACOB MONAGOTLA
CHIELF ALBERT LUTHULI
Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee
DR. HOOSEN HAFFEJEE
Distributed for the Victims Family Group by Oryx Media, 23 June 2019