The Foundation for Human Rights says the ANC is yet to address the strategic solutions it had proposed to ensure progress with the investigations and prosecutions of Truth and Reconciliation Commission cases.

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, saying the students would require proper mentorship, effective management and oversight.

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 had sent UWC an email asking students studying law to volunteer for the process after it had held discussions with the FHR in September 2020.

The FHR told Wits Vuvuzela that it “welcomed the widespread response by the law students who expressed willingness to assist with research with respect to the TRC cases”. However, “We cannot really see how the ANC is planning to coordinate the work of 150 students or more in the investigation of cases.

“These are all serious and complex criminal cases often requiring an 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. There is too much at stake,” the foundation said.

The FHR has supported apartheid victims since the days of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which sat between 1996 and 1998, and has continued past the handing over to the president of the final report in 2003. That same year, it provided the first funding for the Missing Persons Unit which was set up within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The foundation told Wits Vuvuzela that it had been encouraged in 2020 by the ANC publicly stressing the importance of fast-tracking investigations, prosecutions and reparations for apartheid-era victims and their families.

“While we believe these are all very important and significant developments indicating a movement in a right direction, they do not address any of the strategic issues that we had discussed with the ANC and in particular the need to ensure a dedicated unit within the NPA [with] prosecutors and investigators dedicated to prioritising the TRC cases with a prosecutor led investigation. We also asked for a Special Director to head such a unit,” the FHR said.

Krish Naidoo, a former human rights 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