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Khulumani Support Group Expresses Outrage at August 17 Pretoria High Court Charade

Johannesburg, August 17, 2007

Khulumani Support Group distances itself from the charade that played out in the Pretoria High Court today and fundamentally challenges the regulations that were used to bring former Minister Vlok and his five associates to court. Khulumani believes that the half-day trial ending in suspended jail sentences for all five defendants, has been a public relations exercise that has done nothing to build the faith of ordinary South Africans in the justice system. Khulumani fears that the precedent set today might prevent scores of potential criminal prosecutions for perpetrators of the crimes of the past, from seeing the light of day. Although there was a brief appearance in court by today's high profile defendants, this is not in fact required by the amended prosecutions guidelines. Perpetrators of the crimes of the past, in terms of the guidelines, may be handled administratively, rather than judicially, with no guarantees that victims will be involved in or informed about the proceedings.

Khulumani fears that today's case represents a serious setback in the struggle to build a justice system that treats everyone as equal before the law. We fear that today's outcome may well be a loss that we may live to deeply regret. It is for this reason that Khulumani Support Group with its partners, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Legal Resources Centre and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, have challenged the amended prosecutions guidelines. It is unfortunate that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has pursued the case against Mr Vlok and his associates before the resolution of this legal challenge to its amended prosecutions guidelines. Contrary to what has been stated by Mr Panyaza Lesufi, spokesperson for the NPA, justice has not been done for the victims and survivors of apartheid crimes.

Khulumani rejects the suspended jail sentences awarded to defendants this morning for their roles in the attempted murder of Reverend Frank Chikane. While the acknowledgment of apartheid government officials of their complicity in the perpetration of crimes in the past, is to be welcomed, the 'symbolic' sentencing of Mr Vlok and his associates, does nothing to contribute to the resolution of the nation's "unfinished business". Today's 'hearing' failed to bring any new information to light. The judgement furthermore made no contribution to the facilitation of reconciliation in South Africa in the long term. Unfortunately, the court failed to grasp an important opportunity to breathe life into the principles of restorative justice, which underpinned much of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Khulumani asserts that if reconciliation is to be achieved in South Africa, a social dynamic will have to be unleashed within the country that ensures that the suffering of victims is redressed and that the actions of perpetrators are directly linked to the consequences of these actions on victims and survivors. Today's judgment failed to advance this critical agenda. It was for this reason that Khulumani chose today to launch its Charter for Redress (www.khulumani.net).

Khulumani regrets the failure of today's proceedings to assist the healing of our nation. It did not require the perpetrators of the crimes of the past to engage directly with victims and survivors; nor did it create opportunities for present beneficiaries of democracy, such as the Reverend Frank Chikane, to become directly involved in this important agenda. Most South Africans who are presently doing well, have largely overlooked opportunities to collaborate with apartheid victims and survivors to redress the damage done to them.

Khulumani therefore calls on South Africans to:

a.. acknowledge their different roles in enabling apartheid to survive for so long;
b.. acknowledge the damage caused to victims and to the nation;
c.. apologise to the survivors of gross human rights abuses for their essentially unnecessary suffering;
d.. thank those who released the understandable desire for revenge;
e.. become involved in practical action to redress the consequences of our past;
f.. work together to uplift the lives of those left worst-off by apartheid
g.. provide generous funding for community rehabilitation programmes to compensate survivors for giving up their right to civil action against perpetrators through the amnesty process; and
h.. refuse to accept any effective self-granted amnesty as have some corporates who failed to engage with the TRC process.

and on the South African government to:

a.. disclose its policy proposals on community reparations;
b.. adopt Khulumani's Charter for Redress as a baseline working document for addressing the nation's "unfinished business";
c.. end the impunity provided by the current amended prosecutions guidelines;
d.. participate in a Dialogue on Dealing with the Nation's Unfinished Business;
e.. ensure the participation of victims and survivors in all decision-making processes that affect them: and
f.. rigorously consult with victims and survivors about their urgent unmet needs.

Khulumani hereby invites Reverend Frank Chikane and all apartheid victims of all backgrounds to join it in working for the resolution of the nation's "unfinished business" and the nation's healing. In choosing to launch its Charter for Redress today, Khulumani Support Group seeks to make visible the broken promises and the failures of the TRC to impress on government the sacrifices made by victims and survivors and the need for the rehabilitation of their lives. Today's judgement has in fact made a mockery of the TRC.

Issued by Khulumani Support Group: For information or for comments, please call:
Mr Tshepo Madlingozi, Advocacy Coordinator 082 496 9914
Ms Nomarussia Bonase, East Rand Coordinator 082 751 9903
Mr Zweli Mkhize, Liaison Officer 073 704 6414
Dr Marjorie Jobson, Acting Director 082 268 0223

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