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Tutu voices fears over apartheid prosecutions

Former chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Desmond Tutu says he has doubts over the prospects of success in looming prosecutions of apartheid-era perpetrators of gross human rights. "I worry that we ... could quite easily set ourselves up where you have cases that go on for a long time, that evoke all kinds of emotion, then the people are acquitted," he told a panel discussion in Cape Town on Thursday night on the 10th anniversary of the first TRC hearing.

Former chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Desmond Tutu says he has doubts over the prospects of success in looming prosecutions of apartheid-era perpetrators of gross human rights.

"I worry that we ... could quite easily set ourselves up where you have cases that go on for a long time, that evoke all kinds of emotion, then the people are acquitted," he told a panel discussion in Cape Town on Thursday night on the 10th anniversary of the first TRC hearing.

"I think that would be very traumatic for the victims ? who know that that guy is lying, and he knows that they know that he's lying. And they walk free."

Tutu's concerns come in the wake of the National Prosecuting Authority's release in January of a policy to guide it on the prosecution of perpetrators not granted amnesty in the TRC process.

The TRC handed the NPA a list of 300 names when it reached the end of its life and national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli said in January that the NPA had "five cases that are prosecutable and others that require further investigation".

Tutu said his concern was whether investigators would be able to uncover evidence that would prove beyond reasonable doubt that people had committed particular deeds.

"I have to say, I have my doubts. I mean these guys were very adept at hiding evidence, incriminating evidence. And you've got all of these years that have gone ... there's a lot of documentation that disappeared."

He said prosecution could not be seen as retribution in a context where perpetrators had been given every opportunity in the amnesty process to come forward and show that their crimes were politically motivated.

"Whose fault is it if they don't come?" he asked.

Tutu also said he thought in retrospect that the TRC should have refused to operate in the way it did, and should have had a budget for reparations that would have allowed it to make awards with the same immediacy that amnesty was granted to perpetrators.

"I want to say I am disappointed with us as a nation. I think we have been incredibly ungenerous in the reparation we have given to people who came before the commission," he said.

He understood perfectly that South Africa had many priorities to deal with.

The commission had made proposals -- R17 000 to R23 000 a year for six years for something like 22 000 people -- it thought the country could afford. Even if the exchequer had not been able to afford it, there had been agreement in the business community on backing the plan.

"I think, myself, we didn't do as generously as we should. I mean, R30 000 ..."

Adding insult to injury were those who told victims they had not been in the struggle for monetary gain.

"When it is said by people who are earning over R20 000 a month, it's awful. I think they should shut up," he said.

"I still hope that we may be able to persuade ... Parliament now that we're getting six percent growth rate, let's do something."

He said though the TRC had been "thoroughly flawed in many ways", it was today the benchmark against which every other truth and reconciliation commission in the world was measured.

"The TRC has made the world say there is a different way of dealing with post-conflict situations," he said.

Because of the TRC, other countries now believed South Africans carried some kind of magic wand.

He said that in the apartheid era, spying policemen had climbed trees and felt bed sheets to enforce the Immorality Act prohibition on interracial sex.

"Nowadays you see couples in a clinch, you can't even put a razor blade between them. One of them is black, one of them is white. So far as you can make out, the sky is still in place. Incredible, incredible where we come from, that we should be as we are." - Sapa

Source This article appeared on the Mail&Guardian Online website

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