NPA probably won't prosecute all TRC cases 'because of various challenges', admits Batohi

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  • NDPP Shamila Batohi said there "probably" won't be prosecutions in many TRC cases.
  • The NPA conceded that it should have handled the matter of the Cradock Four differently.
  • MPs are concerned about the slow pace of bringing justice to families of apartheid's victims.

National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi said there probably wouldn't be prosecutions for many of the cases of apartheid-era crimes stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Batohi and other senior members of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on their slow progress in prosecuting TRC cases.

This, after the committee learnt last week that the NPA failed to keep by its undertaking to update the families of the so-called Cradock Four on whether it would prosecute the murders by the 2 December deadline.  

The families of some of the Cradock Four had taken the NPA to court to get a firm commitment with timeframes to resolve the matter.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said: "The undertaking was given to a judge, no less, which in my day carried some weight."

READ | NPA brings in 25 prosecutors to investigate over 60 TRC cases

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock admitted that the matter should have been handled better and committed the NPA to work with victims' families and their representatives.

He said the prosecutors should have indicated earlier that they would not meet the deadline.

Cradock Four wives Sindiswa, Nomonde and Nyameka
Cradock Four's wives: From Left, Sparrow Mkhonto’s wife Sindiswa, Fort Calata’s wife Nomonde and Matthew Goniwe’s wife Nyameka in 1985.

Several committee members were concerned with the slow pace of TRC-prosecutions 27 years into democracy.

"We also want to see perpetrators of apartheid in orange overalls, old as they are," said ANC MP Nomathemba Maseko-Jele.

Batohi said: "I agree with all committee members who say it is unacceptable where we are with the TRC matters."

"What happened in the past is completely unacceptable."

She said the NPA did not investigate; it prosecuted. They worked closely with the Hawks. She said they would continue to work with the families.

She said:

We are trying to bring justice for the families. But the reality is that in many of these cases, there probably won't be prosecutions because of various challenges.

De Kock said where they were unable to prosecute cases, they would ensure that all evidence was placed before a competent judge to bring closure to families.

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola said the Hawks appointed 34 investigators, and the NPA obtained special approval for 23 prosecutors to deal with these matters.

Breytenbach questioned whether there were enough investigators.

READ | 'Cradock Four' families sue NPA, police over failure to prosecute their killers, cite De Klerk

Lamola also said a judge would be appointed to investigate whether there was political interference in the cases not being investigated since the dawn of democracy.

Former Constitutional Court judge Justice Kate O'Regan was approached for this position, but she declined due to her involvement in academia.

The committee said a judge must be appointed urgently and wanted an update when Parliament reconvened at the end of January.

The committee also wanted quarterly updates on progress with the TRC cases.

Fallen heroes

"It is regretful that we have made so little progress. We could have done more for the families and our fallen heroes. It is further worrying that these families were not informed prior to the time that the NPA would not meet the deadline," committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said, according to a statement released after the meeting.

The Fort Calata Foundation said in a statement released after the meeting that it was encouraged by the meeting.

"We're happy that the long outstanding matter of the Cradock Four is finally receiving the attention it deserves, and we hope that it will open the doors to all other outstanding TRC cases," said Lukhanyo Calata.

He also said they would hold Batohi and De Kock to the commitments they made in the meeting.

"We also note the political will of the ANC to finally get grip on TRC cases."

Calata is the son of Fort Calata, who, with Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, the apartheid security police murdered in June 1985. They were called the Cradock Four, as they all hailed from the town in the Eastern Cape.

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