Monday, 28 June 2021
Pretoria: Perpetrators of heinous apartheid era atrocities that came to light in late 90s’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will soon have to face the full might of the law.
At the weekend, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI/Hawks) confirmed that these cases would be revived.
The former has established dedicated capacity to ensure that those who are responsible for the crimes be held accountable in a fair and transparent process.
“To ensure that justice is delivered, and to bolster the NPA’s capacity to prosecute these TRC cases, the NDPP transferred the cases to the relevant Directors of Prosecutions (DPP) in the regions where the crimes were committed, with support from a National Office capacity.
“This approach increased the number of experienced prosecutors available to handle these complex cases.”
In the past 12 months, the number of cases has increased from 4 to 53.
The move comes after last week’s judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in the Rodrigues matter. A full bench of the SCA dismissed an application of stay of prosecution, citing a delay before the accused was indicted.
The NPA and Hawks in a joint statement said the SCA ruling was important.
An earlier Joburg High Court judgment directed the National Director of Public Prosecutions to enquire into improper influence brought to bear on the NPA.
“This is a complex and complicated matter and the NDPP has been engaging with the Minister of Justice to determine the most effective course of action,” they said.
“The judgment is an important step towards honouring those who gave their lives for our constitutional democracy.
“It aligns with both the Hawks and NPA’s commitment to end impunity as it enables the NPA to move ahead to prosecute Rodrigues and other perpetrators of apartheid era crimes where there is sufficient evidence, and where prosecutions have not taken place, for various reasons.”
This judgment, reads the statement, bolsters the NPA’s determination under the current NDPP, Adv Shamila Batohi and unwavering commitment of National Hawks Head, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, to revive these investigations and initiate prosecutions.
The two agencies said South Africans in general, and families of victims in particular, need to understand why these crimes were not prosecuted in the past.
“This will also provide important lessons regarding the need to ensure a robust framework to protect the independence of the NPA.
“The NPA acknowledges that the unmerited delay of prosecutions of these cases amounts to the denial of justice to the victims of apartheid era atrocities.
“The NPA, as lawyers for the people and defenders of those who suffered from injustice, has established dedicated capacity to ensure that those who are responsible for atrocities can be held accountable in a fair and transparent process.”
To bolster the NPA’s capacity to prosecute the TRC cases, the NDPP transferred the cases to the relevant Directors of Prosecutions (DPP) in the regions where the crimes were committed, with support from a National Office capacity.
The two agencies have adopted a TRC investigation strategy that will see the creation of a dedicated and sustainable capacity to investigate and prosecute the crimes.
The NPA is in the process of setting up a specialist unit to deal exclusively with these matters, and will be appointing former experienced prosecutors in offices which require additional capacity. A dedicated national office capacity will provide specialised advice, coordination, and monitoring and support
In April, the Hawks appointed 34-members; competent and highly skilled former police detectives to probe these matters.
The investigations will be conducted on a fulltime basis by the team.
“Our collective efforts are starting to pay off and a further 59 cases have been identified,” they said.
“The inquests into the deaths in detention of Neil Aggett and Ernest Dipale, which were reopened have reached an advanced stage. The NPA has also obtained Ministerial approval to open another inquest. Moreover, work is being done on other matters which would enable consideration for those cases to be reopened as well,” reads the statement.
Cases under consideration all date back to the early 1960s.
The agencies, however, acknowledge that challenges posed to the investigations cannot be underestimated.
“The work to investigation, without fear, favour or prejudice on all other remaining cases is continuing. The capacity of the team will be enhanced as the need arises. The DPCI shall have built sufficient capacity to carry out any processes that may be left pending,” said General Lebeya.
Despite these challenges, the two said they would remain focused to ensuring accountability for the crimes.
“The victims deserve nothing less,” he said.
Batohi said: “Time is not on our side. We have a small window to address this; loved ones need to see justice being done; and justice will not be served until we act decisively against those that the NPA was once powerless to hold to account.”