The Foundation for Human Rights says the ANC is failing to address strategic issues agreed upon in pursuing prosecution of apartheid-era crimes.
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) has questioned the involvement of 150 or more students who have volunteered to help with prosecuting apartheid–era crimes, and says this will do nothing to move the process forward.
On May 23, City Press reported that students from University of Western Cape (UWC) had volunteered to aid in investigating and prosecuting apartheid–era crimes, a process set to take place as soon as covid-19 conditions allow.
The ANC sent UWC an e–mail asking students studying law to volunteer for the process after it had held discussions with the FHR in September 2020.
The FHR has been working on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) cases since 2003. When it approached the ANC, it was in discussions to persuade the President’s Fund to make resources available for the private prosecution of some cases.
Katarzyna Zdunczyk, a senior researcher for the FHR, told Wits Vuvuzela a special unit had been requested from the ANC. The FHR failed to see how the help of law students could be channeled to boost the process, as they would require proper training, coordination, mentorship and oversight. .
“These are all serious and complex criminal cases often requiring expert knowledge in terms of law and facts that cannot be easily handed over to hundreds of students without an adequate plan in place, effective management and oversight mechanisms,’’ Zdunczyk said. ‘‘There is too much at stake.”
The FHR approached the ANC, as the leading political party, to advocate for strategic solutions and address the little or no progress made with investigations and prosecutions of TRC cases.
Zdunczyk told Wits Vuvuzela it is necessary that the ANC formally and publicly generate political will by expressly stating that prosecution of TRC cases and other apartheid-era crimes is high on its political agenda. Another strategic solution was getting political support from the ANC in terms of addressing interference by the executive in the work of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Hawks. This interference resulted in hundreds of cases being suppressed.
Furthermore, the ANC was urged to formally support the proposal made in 2019 to the NPA and Hawks, that a dedicated unit be set up to probe and prosecute exclusively TRC cases and that the ANC ensure sufficient funding of the cases.
The FHR said it appreciates the help of the students as requested by the ANC, but sees the move as not addressing any strategic solutions, particularly the need to ensure a dedicated unit within the NPA: Prosecutors and investigators should be dedicated to prioritising the TRC cases through prosecutor-led investigation.
Krish Naidoo, former human rights and struggle lawyer and the ANC’s legal guru, told Wits Vuvuzela there are many cases that need to be prosecuted. Collection of data is a major part of the process, he said, and it is time-consuming and costly. Using students prepared to work for a stipend would mitigate those costs.
“Law students who have volunteered to be part of this project will assist with research, in particular searching for court records and archives of institutions. If a case goes to court, the students will have the benefit of being part of the private prosecutions team as support staff,” Naidoo said.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Foundation for Human Rights would like the government to dedicate prosecutors and investigators to prioritising the TRC cases. Photo: Provided
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