The ANC is on a mission to pursue private prosecutions of people implicated in apartheid-era crimes who were yet to face the might of the law despite mounting evidence presented 26 years ago before Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Resources are being put together to pursue private prosecutions through partnership with progressive lawyers’ groups as it appeared that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which was handed the responsibility to go after the perpetrators of hateful racial crimes, was failing in its duties.
Among the top legal minds lobbied to come on board are the Black Lawyers’ Association (BLA), the National Democratic Lawyers Association, Pan African Bar Association of SA and Advocates for Transformation.
This week the BLA took to the initiative with enthusiasm, sending out a notice to its members on Wednesday asking for assistance to prosecute apartheid crimes.
In the letter, BLA deputy general secretary Charlotte Mahlatji wrote: “Many of these cases are still not finalised therefore the ANC, the Foundation for Human Rights and families of those that were affected are at pains to see these matters prosecuted to ensure that the families of the aggrieved find closure.”
The governing party is looking to take on at least 350 cases that were handed over to the NPA at the conclusion of the TRC in 2003. It said efforts to bring the perpetrators to book were seemingly being obstructed within the prosecuting authority.
These cases were presented before the TRC, but could not be finalised. They were handed over to the NPA, which was expected to pursue prosecutions of those individuals who did not come forward and those who were refused amnesty.
For private prosecutions to take place, the NPA would have to issue nolle prosequi certificates to the effect that it has considered the matters and declined to prosecute.
The ANC, together with the Foundation for Human Rights and representatives of families of victims of apartheid-era crimes, have come together to “explore ways of ensuring that justice is done and that families are given closure”, according to a letter that ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte wrote to the BLA on October 27.
The collaboration is intended to lend support to the Foundation for Human Rights, which has over the past 15 years taken up this responsibility with limited resources.
Because of lack of progress by the NPA the ANC turned to the BLA in the bid to go after the alleged perpetrators of racial crimes.
“Very few of these cases have been prosecuted, with reasons ranging from old guard prosecutors and security personnel obstructing the process to political interference in the process,” Duarte wrote to BLA president Mashudu Kutama.
She said the ANC was counting on the BLA for support because “26 years after democracy, there are still families who have not received justice”.
“The ANC makes a special appeal to your organisation, as progressive lawyers, to assist in this initiative and make available the legal expertise of your members to institute private prosecutions in these apartheid-era crimes using section 38 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act and other legal interventions so that these families and broader society can get closure,” she said.
Mahlatji said the BLA was identified as one vehicle with the capacity and qualified to assist in this process.
“We therefore invite interested members to advise us of their willingness to participate in this noble cause by sending their details to the office of the BLA administrator, accompanied by a short resumé.”