It is still unclear whether prosecutions will follow the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

High on the list of those found guilty of gross human rights violations are former apartheid-era president P.W. Botha, ruling African National Congress's Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and the controversial right wing leader Eugene Terreblanche.

They all did not apply for amnesty and under the provisions of the TRC those who did not seek amnesty and are guilty of gross human rights violations will face legal action.

It is, however, politically inconceivable for the mavericks of South African politics to face the law.

"Frankly I don't think any of them will be prosecuted," says Steven Friedman of the Centre for Policy Studies. "There is no way Buthelezi will be prosecuted."

Friedman says the TRC is a commission and not a judicial body so government does not necessarily have to accept all its recommendations.

He says it is not realistic in the South African society that everybody who commits a crime can be prosecuted and in this case the politicians will pass the buck to the Attorney General.

"Politicians like the idea of shunting it all to commissions, or to the attorney general, to anybody else but themselves," Friedman told IPS. "We are not going to have a strict judicial process."

The TRC was established by an act of parliament nearly three years ago to investigate the human rights violations that occurred under apartheid - between 1960 and 1994. It depended on the consciences of violators to come forward and confess. Those who did not, or who failed to tell the full truth would be prosecuted upon recommendation by the TRC.

The Nuremburg-Trials body has, however, often been criticised as a toothless, useless, waste-of-resources investigation that should not have taken place at all.

Friedman, however, says the most important thing is that the truth is now out in the public domain and people know what happened under apartheid.

If the recommendations of the TRC on disqualification of public office bearers are anything to go by, those found guilty by the commission have nothing to fear.

According to the TRC Chairman Desmond Tutu, the commission considered the issue of disqualification of those holding public office very carefully and decided not to recommend it. "It is suggested, however, that when making appointments and recommendations, political parties should take into consideration the disclosures made in the course of the commission's work," he says.

Already the ANC has put Madikizela-Mandela's name on its electoral list for Gauteng province. General elections will take place in South Africa next year.

The TRC says it will submit the names of those who are guilty to the attorney general for further investigations and possible prosecution. It is, however, still carrying out the remainder of the amnesty hearings and only then will it have a complete list.

"A good place to start in concluding this process, and a very good test of his independent mettle, will be for the new super Attorney-General, Mr Bulelani Ngcuka, to start the investigation and prosecuting of the named offenders," says Democratic Party leader Tony Leon.

"His point of departure here should be to speed up the investigation of the prosecution of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, all the details of which have been languishing with the Attorney-General of the Witwatersrand for more than 11 months now," he says.

Madikizela-Mandela has been found guilty on 18 counts of gross human rights violations.

P.W. Botha who described the TRC as a circus, together with his defence minister Magnus Malan and law minister Adriaan Vlok, was held personally responsible for the atrocities and excesses of the apartheid state. Botha ruled South Africa between 1978 and 1989.

Buthelezi on the other hand was held chiefly responsible for the violations of his IFP party. The party was deemed responsible for most of the gross human rights violations in KwaZulu Natal between 1990 and 1994.

"There is the danger that future generations will say that too much time, energy and resources were spent by the TRC to unravel one side of the conflict of the past, and too little on paving the way towards reconciliation and a better future," says Marthinus van Schalkwyk, leader of the opposition National Party.

"South Africa needs reconciliation more than anything else at the present moment; we need to overcome alienation, so that a united South Africa can jointly tackle the most critical political, social and economic issues facing the country," Van Schalkwyk said in a statement.

The NP, which has been named as the biggest human rights violator during apartheid, was the architect and executor of apartheid since 1948 when it came to power, until 1994.

Political commentators on South Africa, however, say the country needs something more than just prosecutions, healing.

South African Press Association, 1998
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