There were many disappearances during apartheid and most of these cases remain unresolved. Disappearances are an ongoing worldwide phenomenon. Being a family member of a disappeared person is a kind of daily torture. ?There can be no rest, no mourning, no closure as long as the truth has not emerged. This search for the truth is extremely frustrating and painful, and family members are often completely alone in their despair,? says Ewould Plate of the Project Linking Solidarity, which coordinates the lobbying activities of civil society around the world on the issue of enforced disappearances.
This convention calls on all States to acknowledge the autonomous right of every person not to be disappeared and to recognise enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity for which there should be no impunity. It also acknowledges that disappeared persons are those who have been taken into custody by agents of the state, yet whose whereabouts and fate are concealed, and whose custody is denied (Daan Bronkhorst, Amnesty International).
The practice of justifying the refusal to disclose the whereabouts and condition of a person taken into custody by an agent of a state, on the basis of national or public security, must be vigorously opposed, particularly at this time of the so-called ?global war on terrorism? A system of monitoring disappearances must be implemented globally.
The worldwide movement was initiated in 1981 by Latin American families of the disappeared, united as members of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared-Detainees (FEDEFAM),. Since then family members of disappeared persons from Asia, Africa en Europe and the Middle East have joined them in a world movement campaigning for the adoption of a legally-binding instrument against forced disappearances. The vulnerability of many people of becoming a victim of enforced disappearances has become even more acute and every effort must be made to advance the right of all persons not to be disappeared.
In South Africa, the recent handing over of the remains of five members of Mkhonto we Sizwe to their families on July 10, 2005 at Freedom Park highlighted the fact that more than a thousand cases of enforced disappearances remain to be resolved in South Africa alone. At the gathering, Minister of Justice, Brigitte Mabandla confirmed in her address to that gathering, ?There is a great deal of anger about how people died for justice? She added that ?These people have been Africa?s priceless heritage to humankind.?and should be appropriately honoured for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families.
Minister of Defence, the Honourable Mosiuoa Lekota, continued by stating that ?this moving occasion raises questions few have faced before. We want to express without fear our admiration of what your children did These giants lived for others. You are some of the leading families of our nation.?
On August 30, 2005 at Vlakplaas, family members of the disappeared will make their very first visit to Vlakplaas to mourn their loss at the hands of state security agents and to commit themselves to the ongoing struggle to protect all persons from the fate of an enforced disappearance.
The gathering will be addressed by Ms Yasmin Sooka, former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Ms Madeleine Fullard, investigator into forced disappearances for the National Prosecuting Authority.
Please join Khulumani Support Group for this commemoration with families of the disappeared between 11:00 and 14:00 at Vlakplaas outside Tshwane.
For more information, please contact Khulumani?s Disappearance Officer, Mr Tshiamo Moela on
Tel: (011) 403 4098 or on Cell: 083 485 7790
Directions to Vlakplaas:
Start at the intersection of Church Street and Potgieter Street in Pretoria Central. Travel west along Church Street West for 5 kilometres. Turn left at Quagga Road following the signs to Laudium and Proclamation Hills. This road becomes the R55. Travel for 3 kilometres passing Laudium on your right. Turn right to ERASMIA and continue until you see the sign for the Hoogland Hydro. Turn right onto Grey Street at the corner of the Sherzan Centre in Erasmia. Continue on this road as if you were travelling to the Hoogland Hydro. The road changes its name to Von Melle Street. 4 kilometres after turning onto Grey Street, it becomes a dirt road. Continue on this dirt road. Pass Dockrat’s Farm and a farm where there is a Hindu Temple. After 4 kilometres, turn left onto a farm track leading to a cluster of small buildings with red roofs alongside the Hennops River. There is a bridge over the Hennops River. Vlakplaas is just before this bridge on the left.