Victims of apartheid crimes are accusing the government of using R540-million of their reparations money to buy votes ahead of next year's elections.
The Khulumani Support Group, established to assist victims of apartheid human-rights abuses, claims that the government wants to splash the money on, among other projects, building schools, infrastructure development, skills development, and healthcare and social services.
Two weeks ago the Department of Justice published a draft document setting out how the government planned to spend R540-million from the R1.13-billion President's Fund on 18 township projects, starting in March.
The public has until the end of next month to comment. Each township will receive R30-million from the fund.
Khulumani national director Marjorie Jobson said such spending would be irregular.
"Everything about this is suspicious . from the timing of the publication of the draft to the projects' implementation date."
She asked why the government wanted to dip into the President's Fund.
"The President's Fund is meant for victims identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not for infrastructure projects," said Jobson.
The fund was created in 1995 to support victims of apartheid abuses. Since the end of the TRC hearings in 2003, 16781 victims or their next-of-kin have each received a once-off grant of R30000. About R553-million has been paid out.
Fifty-five victims are still to be paid reparations amounting to R1.6-million.
"As for the projects' implementation date [March 1], we believe it was specifically chosen to buy votes ahead of next year's elections," Jobson said.
The draft stipulates that money may be used only for projects that will contribute to healing divisions caused by human rights violations.
Jobson said the Khulumani Support Group was mobilising communities and would convene meetings at which submissions opposing the draft proposals would be gathered.
"The victims don't want this. We will stop the government, if not through submissions then through litigation. We will not allow genuine victims to continue to be abused," Jobson said.
Khulumani had learned that the ANC-align ed SA National Civic Organisation had been chosen to assist in the implementation of the projects.
"If this happens it [will be] clear that the money will not go to those who genuinely deserve reparations."
Jobson said the needs of apartheid's victims were huge.
"They include psychosocial rehabilitation, skills training, housing and centres of memory, which, for the victims, are a big priority.
"For the ANC and the government, this is not about addressing victims' needs ... it is about buying votes, appeasing cadres."
Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga yesterday dismissed Khulumani's accusations.
"The process was not influenced by the forthcoming elections."
He said the 18 communities were among the 128 the TRC had recommended for rehabilitation.
"The department commenced with the 18 based on selection criteria approved by the minister. The process will continue until all 128 have been covered," Mhaga said.
He said the objective of the "community engagement needs-analysis phase of the rehabilitation programme" was to identify the rehabilitation projects preferred by the communities.
"The implementation will begin as soon as the regulations have been promulgated. An intensive consultation process, which began earlier this year, is being followed ... all community members and interest groups are invited to participate," he said.
He said that, in making decisions on TRC recommendations, the ad hoc joint committee on reparations identified community rehabilitation as essential.
"The committee viewed recommendations on community rehabilitation as a means to seek redress . in a more holistic manner by focusing on human-rights violations inflicted on whole communities."