09 July 2019 – 20:01 BY ANDISIWE MAKINANA (Timeslive.co.za)
The state is prioritising the prosecution of apartheid crimes, where alleged perpetratorswere denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In her maiden appearance before parliament, national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi told MPs that there were 37 active investigations of these cases by the directorate for priority crime investigation, commonly known as the Hawks. She said that a task team of the national prosecutions authority was also reviewing the cases.
Batohi was addressing the national assembly’s justice portfolio committee, to which the NPA accounts.
She reminded MPs that the TRC had recommended that the NPA prosecute cases where people were refused amnesty by the commissions for “apartheid crimes”.
“The NPA is looking at cases where amnesty was refused and cases where amnesty wasn’t applied for,” she said.
She said the judgement in the João Rodrigues matter had strengthened her hand because in it, the judge ordered the national director of public prosecutions to consider whether action should be considered against officials in and outside the NPA at the time for possible interference with the work of the authority.
Batohi said the judge had found that there had been interference in the NPA being able to do its work with regard to prosecuting certain individuals.
This, she said, placed an onus on her to put in place a mechanism that will look at what happened which led to the NPA not being able to conduct its mandate.
The high court in Joburg dismissed Rodrigues’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution last month ruling that he should face trial for his role in the 1971 murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol.
Rodrigues, 80, is facing a charge of premeditated murder and another of defeating the ends of justice. He is seeking to appeal the decision.
Batohi said they were also looking at having one coordinated process to deal with the issue.
“It’s pointless having parallel tracks looking at the same thing. In order to also deal with resource constraints, at the moment there is a court directive for the NPA to look into this but there are calls for a commission of inquiry and the Zondo commission to look into these issues,” she said.
Some victims’ families wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa last month calling for the appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the suppression of the TRC cases. Other families have written to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo asking his state of capture inquiry to investigate their cases.
Batohi said while some families had successfully lobbied for some inquests to be reopened, the NPA would look at all 69 deaths in detention and not only react when families who have the means approach the authority.
She revealed that as the NPA was about to reopen the inquest into Neil Aggett’s and Hoosen Haffejee’s deaths, they discovered that there were two other detainees who were detained at the same time under similar circumstances and in the same police station.
“We are looking at bringing them all together, then deal with it collectively as opposed to individual acts,” she said.
She however, lamented what she termed “serious capacity issues” and resources shortages, saying the priority crimes litigation unit within the NPA which was dealing with the investigation had “about four people”.
Another complication was that the cases were very old.
“You look at the availability of accused persons, witnesses, location of dockets, court records and some of these inquests were destroyed after 10 years. We are looking to reconstruct these issues, which takes a lot of effort,” she added.