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SACTJ calls for a national conference to develop a reparations policy

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice calls for a reparations policy for those who have experienced gross human rights violations

As the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice, we note with deep concern the press reports dated 1 October 2021 that the Department of Justice’s plans to change regulations covering educational benefits provided as reparation for people who suffered gross human rights violations during apartheid, without consultation with victims and survivor groups as well as other stakeholders.

The SACTJ is well aware that existing regulations cause difficulties, delays and denial of access to educational benefits for many people who qualify for reparation for apartheid crimes. For two decades since the closure of the TRC, civil society organisations and stakeholders have decried the inadequacies and broken promises of post-TRC reparations and redress. These problems cannot be resolved by tinkering with individual clauses: we need to rectify the systemic faults that underpin the unfinished business of the TRC today.

Nearly a year ago in December 2020, the SACTJ called upon government to hold an urgent national conference of civil society organisations and stakeholders that would be tasked with formulating government policy to ensure provision of redress, reparation and justice for apartheid violations. (See Appendix A: Letter to President Ramaphosa and Minister Lamola re: problems experienced with the current education assistance regulations.)  This policy would provide a framework to address all outstanding issues, including those affecting education benefits, the lack of regulations covering medical benefits, the draft ‘community rehabilitation’ regulations that civil society organisations have repeatedly rejected, and the exclusion of so many people from accessing benefits through the so-called “closed list” -- the current regulations deny reparation and benefits to anyone who is not certified as a victim by the TRC).

The SACTJ’s letter of December 2020 points out that existing regulations, TRC-related benefits are open to legal challenge for failing to comply with basic provisions of the South African constitution, the Provision of National Unity Act of 1996, and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA). This is in clear violation of the country’s international and domestic obligations including those spelled out under the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law. 

To date, the Presidency and DOJ have not responded to our request to hold a national conference to develop a reparations policy. This deafening silence echoes the DOJ’s failure to honour its commitment to address demands of SACTJ’s member organisation Khulumani Support Group, when the members held a sleep-in at the Union Buildings in October 2020 demanding long-delayed and denied reparation.

Instead, we learn through the media that the DOJ intends to tinker with existing regulations rather than repairing the whole faulty structure of post-TRC reparation and redress. These latest attempts to “fix” the education benefits follow upon the DOJ’s continuing efforts to pass into law draft regulations for community rehabilitation programmes, using money earmarked for reparations in the President’s Fund.  This is a direct rejection of our plea for a national engagement to develop a just and equitable way forward for the unfinished business of the TRC.

The SACTJ calls upon the President and the Minister of Justice, to urgently hold a national conference with civil society organisations and stakeholders to create a mandated national policy covering the long-promised reparation and redress to those who suffered from apartheid human rights violations.  As the SACTJ, we offer to partner with government to assist in organising this conference. We call on government to hold this conference before December 16th 2021 -- one year after we proposed it, two decades after government imposed the current flawed system of reparations.  As our nation engages in democratic local elections that depend upon trust between government and citizens, we cannot continue promoting regulations without a mandated policy in place – the lack of which is a serious legal transgression and a denial of our hard-won democratic rights.

We request your response by 15 October, 2021.

Endorsed by South African Coalition for Transitional Justice organisational members:

  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)
  • Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
  • Foundation for Human Rights (FHR)
  • Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC)
  • Imam Haron Foundation (IHF)
  • Institute for Healing of Memories (IHOM)
  • Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
  • Khulumani Support Group  (KSG)
  • Open Secrets (OS)
  • Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)
  • Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture Trust (TC)
  • Violence Prevention Agency (NPC) 

Endorsed by the following Individual members:

  • Yasmin Sooka
  • Salim Essop
  • Howard Varney
  • Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh
  • Haroon Gunn-Salie
  • Christopher Gevers
  • Steve Kahanovitz
  • Mary Burton
  • Neafa Kahn

Please contact the SACTJ at: