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South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission accused of delaying justice

South Africa

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in 1996 to give perpetrators, victims and their families an opportunity to reconcile after the apartheid regime.

But South Africans say 20 years after the establishment of the commission, hundreds of political crimes including murder, kidnapping and torture that happened during the apartheid era remain unpunished.

In exchange for full disclosure before the commission, police officers, soldiers and ministers could be granted amnesty for their political crimes.

Those identified as victims of gross human rights violations and witnesses were invited to the commission to give their statements and evidence if any.

Perpetrators could also give testimony and request pardon from both civil and criminal prosecution.

More than 300 cases were recommended for prosecution when amnesty was denied. But two decades on, many of those remain untouched.

South Africans are of the opinion that the current government turned its back on its people by not dealing with the cases of abuse.

“There’s almost a view in South Africa 20 years down the line (that) we should move on, but of course if you speak to family members, they can’t move on … how can the party that set up the Truth Commission, which was seen as the great moral mechanism of the 1990s – it took the world by storm – how can you not follow through on what you’ve committed yourself to in legislation,” said Yasmin Sooka, a former member of the TRC.

Of the 7,000 amnesty applications received from 1996 to 1998, the TRC granted about 1,000.

The weighing in of South Africans on the outcome of the TRC was sparked by a recent announcement by the South African Prosecution Authority that it would formally charge four police officers who kidnapped and killed a political activist in 1983.

Nokuthula Simelani was abducted and tortured, but her body was never found.

The trial is set to begin on July 25 and has sparked hope among families of other victims.

The prosecuting authority said it was investigating why these cases were taking so long to conclude, adding that they were “very complicated” as many had to be started from scratch.

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