ANC takes on ConCourt over McBride
Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court ruling which upheld the Citizen newspaper's appeal in a defamation case by former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride, was a blow to "national unity", the ANC said on Wednesday.
"The ruling by the Constitutional Court reopens afresh the wounds of the many who suffered losses of their families, who were tried, banned, detained, maimed and killed," the party's secretary general Gwede Mantashe said in a statement.
"The freedom of speech victory claimed by the Citizen is an ephemeral one, which does not advance the cause of reconciliation and national unity the Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to bring about."
The commission gave perpetrators of apartheid atrocities the opportunity to receive amnesty for their crimes, in exchange for full disclosure. Mantashe said the past could not be undone, but that the commission had given people hope.
"In the case of comrade McBride, he appeared before the TRC, made [a] full disclosure, asked for pardon and was offered amnesty.
"The decision of the Constitutional Court suggests that the noble process afforded by our country, through the TRC, to individuals such as comrade McBride, including perpetrators of apartheid atrocities, has been tragically lost," he said.
The ANC urged South Africans to respect the findings of the court and equally respect the "traumatic TRC process" that granted amnesty to McBride and others, who had made full public disclosures and were pardoned.
"We should refrain from hasty denials of the outcomes of the TRC by forever calling those who appeared before it and were pardoned as murderers... without cause and concern for national unity and nation building.
"Let us not undermine the peace and reconciliation process afforded us," he said.
On Friday, the court held that the Reconciliation Act did not make the fact that McBride committed murder untrue. It found that the Act did not prohibit frank public discussion of his deed and did not prevent him from being described as a "criminal".
The Citizen's main appeal was upheld and the court dismissed McBride's cross-appeal. It nevertheless found the newspaper had defamed McBride by claiming falsely that he had not been remorseful.
McBride was afforded R50 000 for this, reducing his damages awarded by the lower court from R150 000.
The case stemmed from a number of articles and editorials published in the Citizen in 2003, questioning McBride's candidacy for the head of the Ekurhuleni metro police.
According to the articles McBride was unsuitable for the job because he was a "criminal" and a "murderer".