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Regardless of age, apartheid torturers must be prosecuted

Regardless of age, apartheid torturers must be prosecuted
August 11, 2020
August 11, 2020 August 11, 2020

CASSIEM KHAN declares that perpetrators of crimes against all anti-apartheid activists must come clean; they should publicly confess by revealing who gave the orders, how and why their loved one’s were killed; and they should do it now, regardless of the perpetrator’s age.

IN the August-September 2019 edition of Muslim Views, I asked: where have all the apartheid era torturers and perpetrators of heinous crimes gone?

It would seem like the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) not only knows where they are but has become quite adept at working towards exonerating these perpetrators of heinous crimes based on their age.

On May 21, 2020, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate George Baloyi, informed Ahmed Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Cajee, that the NPA would not be prosecuting former security police officers Seth Sons (83) and Neville Els (85) on the charges of assault, torture and perjury based on their age: ‘Their advanced age will mitigate against a finding that they are deliberately lying.’

In the re-opened inquest into the murder of Ahmed Timol in 2017, former detainees identified these two security policemen as being directly involved in torture at the notorious John Vorster Square.

Judge Billy Mothle, who presided over the 2017 inquest, recommended that Sons and Els be charged with perjury for lying.

The South Gauteng High Court, on June 3, 2019, on the matter between former security policemen Joao Rodriques and the NDPP ruled that his advanced age is not a factor and that he too should face the charges against him.

Rodriques is of the view that if there was a case against him, that this should have been dealt with a long time ago and that the delays have disadvantaged him. Nazi war criminals and even a former tennis coach, Bob Hewitt, have all faced charges against them despite their ages.

So, too, does 84-year-old F W De Klerk, who recently maintained his position that apartheid was not a crime against humanity, have a case to answer as he was a member of the State Security Council.

A recent newspaper article by former TRC commissioner, Yasmin Sooka, and University of KwaZulu-Natal International Law lecturer, Chris Gevers, refers us to the TRC’s Final Report (Volume 5) which dealt with the systematic pattern and practice of killing, or ‘eliminating’, activists in the 1980s, which the TRC found was ‘the expressed policy of the (State Security Council).

‘This was the most influential body in South Africa at the time.’ Throughout the 1980s, former president De Klerk sat on the State Security Council (SSC) and, as president, was its de jure leader.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did not exonerate De Klerk. The TRC published (2003) his role in the Khotso House bombings, a fact which De Klerk wanted to prevent becoming known when he tried to suppress the matter by taking the TRC to the Western Cape High Court, in 1998.

Just a few weeks ago – June 27, 2020 – marked the 35th year since the killing of the Cradock 4: Fort Calata (28), Matthew Goniwe (38), Sicelo Mhlauli (36) and Sparrow Mkhonto (33). De Klerk was part of the State Security Council meeting that decided the Cradock 4 be permanently removed from society.

Fort Calata was 28 years old. Ashley Kriel was murdered at the age of 20, Ahmed Timol at the age of 29, Steve Biko at 33 and Imam Haron at 45. Was there any consideration of the ages of our leaders and family members?

‘Leave him alone; he has one foot in the grave,’ is the answer that we are constantly getting from our own comrades. We know that comrades were compromised, coerced and threatened by the security police.

But some comrades preferred and believed that political expediency trumps the principle of non-collaboration with the enemy and their agents during the struggle. This shame and guilt of collaboration must be addressed.

But the understanding and empathy towards our comrades who were compromised has started to wane given that even comrades who were themselves imprisoned and tortured are becoming apologists for the murderers of anti-apartheid activists because they are constantly referring to the issue of age.

This June 2020, the Apartheid-era Victims’ Families Group (AVFG) again wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, calling on him to apologise for the delays in (re)opening inquests, to undertake further investigations and to prosecute, as recommended by the TRC to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), each one who was guilty of apartheid crimes.

The AVFG also petitioned and asked the president to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate blatant political interference. This was a callous act that resulted in the suppression of more than 300 NPA cases, each of which had been referred for further investigation but had wilfully been denied that opportunity.

Sadly, neither the president nor the current minister of justice has acknowledged the letters – the previous and the current one – that were sent.

Perhaps one should ask the president and those whom he succeeded: why have they been conspicuously silent about all these cases, and what would they lose if each one is given their rightful and deserved attention in our democratic courts?

And why not address the AVFG’s simple request?

The president and those who served our successive democratic governments are cognizant of the fact that AVFG not only represent their loved ones who were killed while in police custody but it also speaks on behalf of those leaders who were killed extra-judicially.

And they are well aware of the fact that up to this very day, none of us witnessed one noteworthy arrest and nor did any of us see anyone of those who killed our loved ones, being publicly sentenced.

The president’s office knows too that the AVFG drafted a charter that informed who they are, what they want and what they are prepared to do.

Since the president’s office chose to ignore and remain quiet, the AVFG decided to now turn to the public to participate in an online petition that will again be addressed to the president and the NPA.

The AVFG position is that perpetrators of crimes against all anti-apartheid activists must come clean; they should publicly confess by revealing who gave the orders, how and why our loved one’s were killed; and they should do it now, regardless of the perpetrator’s age.

Cassiem Khan is co-ordinator of the Imam Haron Foundation.

Featured image: The man who was ostensibly the last person to see Timol alive, Joao Rodrigues, is captured in a police photograph of the room in which Timol was being held, standing with his back to the camera. (Photo WWW.AHMEDTIMOL.CO.ZA)

This article first appeared in the July 2020 print edition of Muslim Views.

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