CONSTITUTIONAL COURT IN THE ROBERT MCBRIDE VERSUS CITIZEN NEWSPAPER CASE
The Constitutional Court is the anchor of us all, whose findings and pronouncements must bind us. At all times, it must stand as a beacon of our people in the course of our nation-building efforts. The ANC, as a political party and as a governing party, respects its pronouncement and decisions.
On the findings of the Robert McBride versus the Citizen newspaper case, that the former can be called a murderer as a statement of historical fact, may well be a victory for freedom of speech but it is a devastating blow for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and what it sought to achieve.
At the heart of this particular case was the objection by the Citizen of McBride's appointment to Ekurhuleni as the Chief of Police. At the time, former President comrade Thabo Mbeki, wrote in the ANC Today,
"It is fundamentally wrong for any person to be denied access to employment or appointed to a position for what they did during our struggle, apologised for and was granted amnesty for by the TRC."
It is also equally incorrect for the Citizen to state that in 1986 when the Magoos Bar bombing occurred "apartheid was in retreat". In fact, the opposite was true, as the banning were in place, many people disappeared - and are yet to be found, and repression had reached immeasurable heights.
The ruling by the Constitutional Court reopens afresh the wounds of the many who suffered losses of their families, who were tried, banned, detained, maimed and killed.
The freedom of speech victory claimed by the Citizen is an ephemeral one, which does not advance the cause of reconciliation and national unity the TRC sought to bring about. We can never undo the past. However, the TRC and its accompanying processes gave each one of us a thread of hope that over the years, both victim and perpetrator, including the nation at large, would overcome our individual and collective grief emanating from our volatile and painful past.
The essence of the TRC is that it provided amnesty to all those who made full disclosures, apologised and sought amnesty. In the case of comrade McBride, he appeared before TRC, made full disclosure, asked for pardon and was offered amnesty.
The decision of the Constitutional Court suggests that the noble process afforded by our country, through the TRC, to individuals such as comrade McBride, including perpetrators of apartheid atrocities, has been tragically lost.
The ANC calls upon all South Africans to respect the findings of the Constitutional Court, which we must do. We also call upon South Africans to equally respect the traumatic TRC process that granted amnesty to McBride and others, who made full public disclosure, asked for forgiveness and were granted amnesty, with the hope of enabling our country our people to move forward in unity and in peace.
We should refrain from hasty denials of the outcomes of the TRC by forever calling those who appeared before it and were pardoned as murderers, merely to be historically factual, without cause and concern for national unity and nation building. Let us not undermine the peace and reconciliation process afforded us.
Statement issued by Gwede Mantashe, African National Congress secretary general, April 13 2011
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