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  • Written by  Mail&Guardian
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Apartheid victims' families still wait for reparations

By Marianne Merten. In December 1986 Benjamin Olifant was on his way to visit his mother when Klerksdorp police arrested him for "causing unrest". He was shot dead in a police cell. Elsie Olifant received interim reparations of R2000. More than 30 months after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended various forms of reparations for about 21000 survivors of apartheid-era human rights violations, organisations such as Khulumani ? a survivor support group ? are frustrated over the government's apparent lack of action.

"We want the government to tell us who is going to administer the funds," said Khulumani deputy manager Ntombi Mosikare. Khulumani, several TRC commissioners and other NGOs are meeting in Cape Town until Friday to discuss timeframes and implementation structures for reparations and how to overcome the delays that have riddled the process to date.

Guidelines on final reparations were handed to the Cabinet committee for the social sector on Wednesday, almost a year after the drafting process started. They must first be approved by the Cabinet and endorsed by Parliament before being implemented. Ministry of Justice representative Paul Setsetse said final reparations may be some time off. "The government is looking at the situation in a broader context: how best can it restore the dignity of victims of violations of human rights. It's not about money. It's about restoring the dignity of victims and there are many ways to do it."

TRC commissioner Yasmin Sooka said: "We need to put in place structures like the interministerial committee to coordinate the budgets of each department for reparations." Establishing a national tracing agency to deal with the hundreds of missing people is crucial, as are exhumations and reburials, to help families find closure. National structures must be set up in terms of the TRC ethos of healing and reconciliation, otherwise we will be making huge mistakes, said Sooka.

On October 29 1998 the TRC recommended survivors receive a yearly payment of between R17 000 and R23000 for six years. But the commission also recommended symbolic reparations and institutional reparations, such as educational and medical support. Other recommendations include the issuing of death certificates, exhumations and reburials, and payment for tombstones.

In 1998 the President's Fund was established to administer the recommended urgent interim reparations, a once-off payment ranging from R2000 to R6 000. According to the justice ministry, R42-million has been paid to 13 504 survivors. The fund stands at R824-million following Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel's budget speech announcement that the government had committed an additional R500-million. The TRC had estimated that R3-billion was required.

Current speculation is that survivors will receive a single payment of R45 000, based on dividing the fund's money by the number of survivors. "If this is really the final reparation, we are not happy with it. It's not even half of what the TRC recommended," said Mosikare, adding that this approach failed to consider beneficiaries' individual circumstances.

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