Khulumani learned with dismay from SABC journalists in Parliament last Friday, September 30, 2011 that the Annual Report of the President’s Fund, detailed that officials of the Department of Justice had failed over the course of thirteen years to trace some 500 TRC-identified beneficiaries of reparations who had now been found to have passed away without benefiting from their designated reparations payments.
In the context of this extraordinarily long period of time and in the context of only 17,000 individuals having had to be found by the Department in the thirteen years since the TRC’s Human Rights Hearing closed, Khulumani finds this failure outrageous and unacceptable. The situation is compounded by the fact that the Department of Justice never responded to the many offers of assistance made by Khulumani Support Group to help with the tracing of beneficiaries through its community-based networks. The disclosure of this administrative failure compounds the situation that victims and survivors feel deeply let down by the Department of Justice and distrustful of its competence to serve those rendered most vulnerable by gross human rights violations.
Khulumani members reported listening with disbelief to the Department’s Spokesperson, Mr Tlali Tlali telling the nation on national media that the TRC had recommended reparations packages of R30,000.00 for TRC-identified victims. The truth remains that the TRC recommended reparations of R21,000.00 per identified victim per year for 6 years. Khulumani is disturbed that this may have been a deliberate distortion of the facts or perhaps a reflection that Mr Tlali himself remains unaware of the actual recommendations of the TRC. Khulumani asserts that the TRC recommendations for reparations remain the basis for still-to-be-held negotiations with the state on measures to begin to restore a future for victims and survivors of these past atrocities. This matter will not be closed until victims and survivors declare that it is closed.
The reparations agenda has been a major casualty of the state’s transitional justice programme with its predominant focus on providing amnesty to political offenders and others through a range of measures created for this purpose, together with the failure of the department to honour its promises to prosecute those who failed to secure amnesty.
It is not too late to begin these processes now as evidence from around the world shows. Khulumani reiterates its request for an urgent meeting with the Department of Justice to discuss a holistic and integrated resolution of outstanding reparations issues including the most appropriate use of The President’s Fund and the growing disputes about the failures of the Special Pensions as a declared reparations remedy.
Khulumani is advocating for a national dialogue on this “Unfinished Business”. In the meantime, we are requesting copies of the Annual Reports of the President’s Fund and of the TRC Unit from the Department of Justice.