THE families of murdered anti-apartheid activists Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge and Justice Mbizana have welcomed last week’s Constitutional Court judgment that amnestied killers can still be called “murderers”.
The judgment came after former Ekurhuleni metro police chief, Robert McBride sued The Citizen newspaper for calling him a murderer though he had been granted amnesty for his role in planting a bomb in Magoo’s bar in Durban in 1986.
The high court and supreme court of appeal first ruled that amnesty wipes out a conviction, making it as if the murder never occurred, and therefore that people should not call McBride a murderer.
But the Constitutional Court overturned this, ruling that being granted amnesty did not erase the fact that McBride, pictured, had indeed committed murder.
Joyce Mbizana, the sister of Justice Mbizana who was abducted in 1987 by members of the apartheid Security Branch, tortured and murdered along with three other members of the “Mamelodi Four”, joined the case as a friend of the court, along with Mbasa Mxenge, eldest son of Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge.
Lawyer Griffiths Mxenge was murdered in 1981 by askaris working for the apartheid regime, who chopped him to pieces outside his home. His wife Victoria, also a lawyer, was shot and chopped up with an axe four years later by the apartheid security branch.
The killers of Mbizana and the Mxenges were granted amnesty, but their families, represented by senior counsel Gilbert Marcus and human rights advocate Howard Varney of the International Centre for Transitional Justice, argued that they should not be stopped from speaking freely about their murders.
The Mxenge’s eldest son, Mbasa, told Sowetan yesterday that the judgment would “allow us to tell our parent’s story to future generations.
“That is part of justice. If the ruling had gone the other way, it would have meant we would not have been able to tell our story. We are very happy about this judgment,” he said.
Varney said if the Mxenge and Mbizana families had been prevented from calling their families killers “murderers” for fear of being sued for defamation, this would have stripped them of their dignity.
“The effect of amnesty could not alter the historical facts.”
The South African Coalition for Transitional Justice said the ruling would protect the “right of victims and the public to express the full truth about South Africa’s past conflicts”.