Blanket amnesty not the answer - TRC commissioner

Former Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) amnesty committee member Ntsikelelo Sandi said South Africans would do well to shy away from the idea of blanket amnesty as it would nullify the TRC’s reason and purpose.

He warned that general amnesty would cause incurable divisions in the country, especially among the formerly oppressed.

“The powers that be would be well advised to not even begin to consider general amnesty as an option after the TRC process,” he said.

Sandi also said he was in favour of 12 ANC members from Mdantsane being freed after a presidential pardon. He said that turning down their amnesty application and their continued incarceration was a good example that justice delayed was justice denied.

Sandi, who was the regional co-ordinator of Lawyers for Human Rights before joining the amnesty committee, said he visited the prisoners and assisted them to apply for indemnity in terms of the 1990 Indemnity Act.

In that capacity, he came to know many political activists in the border region very well and visited a number of prisoners, including Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Stofile.

In 1990, he spoke to Stofile about the political dimension of the Mdantsane 12.

“I had called him because I know that while he was being held at Middledrift Prison, Ciskei, they were his inmates.”

He said Stofile was quite convinced that the crimes committed by the men had been politically motivated.

Stofile is believed to have played a key role in the 33 prisoners’ release, most of whom were ANC and PAC prisoners. Sandi commented that those who were in the amnesty committee knew that the amnesty part of the TRC was far from perfect.

The committee dealt with all problems and suggested possible ways of dealing with them to the TRC, such as the possibility or potential for denial of justice in certain individual cases.

“The Mdantsane 12’s case is a good example that justice delayed is justice denied, “he said.

He said the “Killer Boys” had been attacked by the Mdantsane 12 during the apartheid conflict because police had not responded to the gang’s threats.
Some residents, especially those who were United Democratic Front supporters, believed the “Killer Boys” were somehow part of the former Ciskei regime.

Sandi accused the “Killer Boys” of killing and raping many people, but no action would be taken by police.

“The murder of Mkuseli Jwambi, who was a brother or cousin of one of the Mdantsane 12 prisoners, was the last straw.”

He said that on the day of the killing the “Killer Boys” were rounded up and taken to an open field in Mdantsane where they were assaulted and later killed.

Sandi said he had visited Middledrift Prison and took detailed statements from the 12 prisoners.

“I left there convinced that the crimes had been committed with a political objective.”

He said he was concerned when their applications for indemnity and amnesty were refused by the indemnity and amnesty committees. Their continued incarceration was an obvious injustice which haunted his sense of justice, he added.

Sandi said he had specifically asked President Thabo Mbeki to exercise his powers in terms of the Section 84 (2) (J) and pardon the 12 men whom he described as victims of the imperfection of the amnesty system. - Sapa

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