Open Debate on Transitional Justice
United Nations Security Council
New York – 13 February 2020
Ms Yasmin Sooka
I would like to thank the Belgian government for inviting me to participate in this important Open Debate on Transitional Justice.
I come from a country where during the years of apartheid, scores of detainees were said to have jumped out of windows at police headquarters, hanged themselves in cells, died hitting their heads against police filing cabinets or fatally slipping on bars of soap. Inquests held under the apartheid system found nobody responsible for their deaths. Two decades after South Africa’s transitional justice process, these inquests are at last being reopened. Families now have hope for justice.
Taking truth to another dimension
As a nation we must take care not to forget the dark things that happened under apartheid, and those things that victims saw with their own eyes. These things must not fade from our minds, and we must teach them to our children and our children’s children.
Since the end of the TRC the only former Security Branch policeman who has voluntarily offered to tell the truth about the horrors of the 1980s and early 1990s at John Vorster Square is Paul Erasmus. In the Ahmed Timol Inquest, we heard Neville Els and Seth Sons claim that they had never been involved in the torture of detainees, but that they had only heard rumours of such things.
Meantime, the ANC’s ranks are full of activists who claim that they suffered brutal interrogation at the hands of these men. At the TRC the security police only offered enough information to satisfy their amnesty claims and nothing more.
The foot soldiers of the apartheid security apparatus are intent on maintaining their laager mentality and conspiracy of silence.