• Written by  NCE Mkhize -
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Apartheid victims wait in vain for share of R1bn fund - Business Day

Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Victims of apartheid-related violence and atrocities will spend another black Christmas this year as they wait in vain for reparation and compensation.

This is despite the fact that the President’s Fund — established in 2003 under President Thabo Mbeki and ring-fenced to compensate apartheid victims and has since accumulated over R1bn — lie in government coffers unused.

The fund was established in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, also commonly known as the TRC Act. According to the compensation arrangement of TRC, if you sustained minor injuries during torture or violence during this period, you were to receive R17,000 per year. Those who sustained major injuries qualified for R24,000 per annum.

Many apartheid victims – some identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to receive compensation – have not received a cent, more than 20 years after the (TRC) process completed its work.

Victims say many of their peers and comrades have died while waiting for compensation due to them.

Thulani Zitha was arrested in Standerton in 1976 for his political activities. He later went to exile in Lesotho but was abducted by the apartheid operatives, brought to South Africa and detained in Ladybrandt in the Free State.

"I was taken to Bloemfontein on a regular basis and tortured severely. I think they would have killed me if the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity did not make queries about my whereabouts," he said.

Zitha said when the TRC process ended he was hopeful that compensation would soon follow.

"We have been waiting ever since. Some of our compatriots died waiting for reparation. I am struggling to educate my children who are studying at university. This money would help me at least towards my children’s education."

He is one of the victims of apartheid who were instrumental in instituting a civil suit against US and Western companies who were doing business in apartheid South Africa, refusing to dis-invest in the country even during its most repressive period.

Marjorie Jobson, the national director of Khulumani Support Group, a non-governmental organisation fighting for the compensation of apartheid victims, said the victims continue to carry the scars of apartheid discrimination, gross human rights violations and inherited disadvantage.

She said government leaders’ lack of political will was behind the non-payment of reparation to the victims.

She said there is strong evidence that the TRC process was very limited and did not cover even a quarter of the victims of atrocities.

"The victims of apartheid atrocities will be having a black Christmas again this year. Even people who obtained TRC’s Truth, Rehabilitation and Reparation numbers have not got any compensation whatsoever.

"This is very sad because people who are in charge of government come from a liberation struggle background and should have prioritised these issues. Instead, government intransigence has created the situation we find ourselves in today," Jobson said.

She added that South Africa has even been overtaken by countries such as Ivory Coast, which suffered from a civil war between the north and the south of the country about 10 years ago, but has now managed to compensate victims of political violence.

Last week Khulumani Support Group met the parliamentary advisory panel — chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe — that is tasked with assessing key legislation that was passed by Parliament since 1994.

The 17-member panel comprises of a wide array of experts from various sectors, including former Auditor-General Terence Nombembe, former Minister Brigitte Mabandla, former First Rand CE Paul Harris, Former Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni, SA Youth Council President Thulani Tshefuta and others.

"We told members of the panel about the plight of the victims of apartheid and we hope that they will intervene and ensure that compensation reaches its intended beneficiaries," Jobson said.

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