Civil rights group AfriForum has warned the government against one-sided prosecutions of apartheid-era crimes.
Following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s dismissal of the now late former apartheid policeman João Rodrigues’ application for stay of prosecution, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Hawks announced plans to prosecute other perpetrators of apartheid-era crimes where there is sufficient evidence, and where prosecutions have not taken place.
“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,” said the two units in a joint statement.
“To ensure that justice is delivered, and to bolster the NPA’s capacity to prosecute these TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] 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.”
The NPA said at the time that it was in the process of setting up a specialist unit to deal exclusively with cases dating back to the early ’60s.
“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,” said Adv Shamila Batohi at the time.
In response, AfriForum says the prosecutions must not be one-sided.
“Such steps will once again create polarisation in the country. It has been proven in practice that, in terms of prosecutions, the state fails to prosecute high-ranking ANC members who did not receive amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for orders that they had given for the execution of acts of terrorism,” said CEO Kallie Kriel on Monday.
“AfriForum is of the opinion that the book of the past must be closed. If the state indeed continues with these prosecutions, it should also prosecute members of the ANC and its partners, who are responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of people.”
If the prosecutions turn out to be one-sided, AfriForum said it would pressurise the NPA into prosecuting ANC leaders.
“If this fails, private prosecution will be strongly considered. There seems to be grounds for prosecution in many of the cases in which ANC members and their allies are the suspects,” said Adv Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit.
“If so, and if the state were to prosecute selectively, the private prosecution unit will consider private prosecution in line with our focus on equality before the law.”