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TRC wants wealth tax for apartheid victims

A once-off wealth tax should be imposed to help compensate victims of apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended on Friday.

This should come out of the pocket of South African business and industry, says the TRC in two final volumes of its report released in Pretoria.

The body’s reparation and rehabilitation committee says voluntary contributions by business for the compensation of apartheid victims has been disappointing so far.

A Business Trust, set up for this purpose, has so far received a total of about R800-million from the private sector.

”This is a paltry amount when one considers the massive amount needed to repair the inequities and damage caused to entire communities.”

The committee also reminded government of its obligations. ”Today, when the government is spending so substantial portion of its budget on submarines and other military equipment, it is unconvincing to argue that it is too financially strapped to meet at least this minimal commitment.”

The government has so far made reparation payments totalling R50-million to about 18 000 South Africans. It has been saying that a long-term approach to reparations would be finalised once the TRC has submitted its final report.

The first five-volume report of the TRC was submitted the government in October 1998.

Creative ways should be considered to generate money for reparation and rehabilitation, says the committee. These could include tax incentives to encourage business to contribute.

A case could also be made out for reparation contributions from Swiss banks, which the committee argues profited from apartheid over decades and helped to prolong the system.

”Swiss banks are not the only lenders whose support for and enrichment under apartheid may provide grounds for reparations,” says the committee.

”British, German, French and North American banks are among those that financed Pretoria during the 1970s and 1980s.”

The committee restated compensation proposals in its first report, including a surcharge on golden handshakes given to senior public servants since 1990, and a retrospective surcharge on corporate profits extending to a date to be determined.

Further ways to generate money for reparation could include a restructuring of the state pension fund to release assets for social development, and a restructuring of service charges on parastatals.

The TRC recommended that a Reparation Trust be set up. It should be managed by the government, organised local and international business, and civil society.

This trust should raise funds, audit the budget for victim support, and be responsible for financial controls and accounting. A secretariat should be set up in the presidency to oversee the whole process.

All beneficiaries of apartheid should make a contribution to the reparation fund.

The TRC called for all government ministers dealing with portfolios that relate to apartheid victims to be compelled to give parliament an annual report on the status and circumstances of such individuals.

The Department of Education should arrange for a special entry to tertiary institutions for people whose tertiary education was interrupted by the struggle against apartheid.

The TRC urged the government to hold a conference aimed at ”healing the memory” with regard to those who died in the struggle.

A second conference should convened in memory of anti-apartheid fighters whose dedication to their organisations was ”deliberately slandered by others” because of the circumstances in which they died.

”(This) often cause their families and friends distress … sometimes leading to the death and torture of family members.” ‒ Sapa

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