Foundation for Human Rights and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Some 35 years ago on 27 June 1985, community activists Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli (known as the Cradock Four) were brutally murdered near Port Elizabeth by members of the Security Branch of the erstwhile South African Police. The instruction for their elimination was issued at the highest levels of the Apartheid government. Notwithstanding the fact that the 1994 Zietsman Inquest concluded that the murders were carried out by the security forces; and the fact that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) disclosed the identities of the suspects in 1998 and recommended to the NPA in 2002 that prosecutions proceed, no such decision has been made. Indeed, the investigation docket has gone missing.
The families of the Cradock 4 have refused to give up their quest for justice and are determined to see justice done. They are demanding that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecute those behind the murders of their loved ones. A mix of indifference, negligence and gross political interference in the work of the NPA and SAPS has suppressed justice in the Cradock 4 case, as well as virtually all the 400 cases referred by the TRC to the NPA. Notwithstanding calls for a commission of inquiry into the suppression of the TRC cases the government has so far failed to institute an inquiry or even acknowledge such suppression or apologise to victims and their families for the mass denial of justice.
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) has been actively involved in supporting the families of the Cradock 4 – in particular, Lukhanyo Calata – to ensure that those responsible for the murders who were not amnestied are held to account. The Cradock 4 investigation docket went missing from the offices of the NPA nearly 2 years ago. It appears that no investigation has been instituted into how the docket into one of the most serious crimes in South Africa’s history disappeared. Family members are deeply concerned that the removal or concealing of the docket is possible indication of an ongoing cover-up or obstruction of justice. During 2019 the FHR’s private investigator reconstructed the docket which has been shared with the NPA and the SAPS. However, there has still been no decision by the NPA.
Last week, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH), which acts pro bono for the Cradock 4 families, demanded in writing that the NPA investigate how the criminal docket went missing. CDH also rejected various excuses put up by the NPA for the long delay in finalizing this case noting that such excuses would justify an ad infinitum delay – notwithstanding the fact that the murders took place 35 years ago and suspects, witnesses and families are elderly and dying.
CDH further noted that the opportunity to hold anyone accountable for one of the most notorious crimes committed in South Africa’s history fades with each passing day. CDH accordingly demanded that the NPA decide by no later than 10 July 2020 whether to prosecute the known suspects in the murder of the Cradock 4. Should no decision be made by close of business on Friday, 10 July 2020, CDH will launch legal proceedings in the High Court to compel a decision.
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