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Justice on track with its work to assist apartheid victims

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Unit in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, continued with its sterling work of assisting families reconnect with their loved ones who were brutally killed by Apartheid Security Forces.

The TRC Unit has a committee that is also responsible for the reparation and rehabilitation of victims. This committee provides victim support with a view of restoring victim’s dignity. It also proposes policy and makes recommendations on the rehabilitation and healing of survivors, their families and the community.

Since the tabling of the last Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations in Parliament in April 2003, government has undertaken various initiatives to implement approved recommendations relating to reparations of victims.

In respect of reparations to victims, a Joint Parliamentary Committee identified four key recommendations from the President’s speech in April 2003, namely final reparations (once-off individual grant of R30 000), medical benefits and other forms of social assistance, community rehabilitation, symbols and monuments. These recommendations were approved by Parliament on 26 June 2003.

Reparations to victims are payable from the President’s Fund, established in accordance with the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, 1995 (the Act) in terms of regulations made by the President. The Office of the President’s Fund is located within the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Of the 21 769 persons who were deemed eligible for final reparations by the TRC, 16 837 beneficiaries applied for such reparations and to-date, 16 397 have been paid and a total of 440 still remain to be paid.

However, an obstacle for the finalisation of these onceoff payments of R30 000-00 has been the relocation of beneficiaries and the fact that some are deceased. In the case of deceased beneficiaries, payment should be made to the rightful next-of-kin. The process of determining the rightful next-of-kin is often complicated and time-consuming.

Through the years, the department embarked on several exercises to trace outstanding beneficiaries or their rightful next-of-kin. These exercises yielded limited results. These included a recent tracing campaign in the form of a “letter writing” utilising the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) databases. It included physical searches which were being conducted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s regional offices and newspaper supplements. This number is decreasing constantly as more and more beneficiaries or their rightful next-of-kin are continuously found and paid.

Other government departments involved in the TRC process with regard to the provision of social relief to the families of the victims include Departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Higher Education and Health. Five million was set aside by the then Department of Education through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to
assist TRC identified victims.

Relevant regulations are still being developed on how victims or their families can be assisted in terms of medical, housing and special pensions for victims of apartheid regime. Government is also involved in the implementation of community rehabilitation measures in order for the affected families to find closure in their ordeal. This forms part of efforts undertaken by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in making sure that victims of apartheid find closure in their bad experiences brought by the apartheid regime.

By Benson Ntlatleng
Justice Today 2012, Issue 1, p16