President Kgalema Motlanthe will face a legal showdown if he goes ahead with plans this month to pardon some of South Africa’s most notorious apartheid agents.? Victims’ rights groups claim the presidential pardon process is a sham which could allow apartheid heavyweights such as Adriaan Vlok, police boss Johan van der Merwe and hit man Ferdi Barnard to get away with their crimes without coming clean.
The three are among 2300 applicants who have requested presidential pardons as part of a process initiated by former president Thabo Mbeki in early 2008.Attorneys representing the victims’ rights organisations say the process is fatally flawed because it has:
- Failed to secure full disclosure on human rights abuses;
- Been hidden from public view; and
- Denied victims a voice in the pardon process.On Thursday the seven organisations, including the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the Khulumani Support Group and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, vowed to go to court should Motlanthe grant the pardons under the current process.Last month attorneys wrote to Motlanthe asking him to stop the pardon process, failing which urgent legal action would be brought. Motlanthe responded, saying he would seek advice from minister of justice Enver Surty before responding.
But this week Motlanthe’s spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said the president would not halt the process and would accept a final report containing recommendations drawn up by the Presidential Reference Group, chaired by the Democratic Alliance’s Tertius Delport, at the end of the month, as arranged.
Masebe said Motlanthe would “consider legal advice” before acting on the recommendations.
The reference group, comprising representatives from all political parties, screens pardon applications. It works behind closed doors, does not include representation from victims or require full disclosure. So far, it has recommended pardons for some 105 applicants.
The CSVR’s Hugo van der Merwe said: “The political pardons process is unconstitutional and is in conflict with the principles underpinning the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
Delport said the presence of diverse parties had created “balance” and prevented a conflict of interest.
- Former Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok – 10-year suspended sentence via a plea bargain for the plot to poison Reverend Frank Chikane in 1989;
- Civilian Cooperation Bureau hitman Ferdi Barnard – life imprisonment for the murder of anti-apartheid activist David Webster;
- UDM member Bob Ndlovu, life imprisonment for the Richmond tavern massacre;
- PAC armed wing commander Letlapa Mphalele – ordering the St James Church and Heidelberg Tavern massacres and
- Former police commissioner Johan van der Merwe – 10-year suspended sentence via a plea bargain for the plot to poison Chikane.