/ 11 July 2015

Letters to the editor: July 10 to 16 2015

The Farlam commission investigated the Marikana massacre but its report has been met with fury by those who believe it didn't state clearly who was responsible for the killings.
The Farlam commission investigated the Marikana massacre but its report has been met with fury by those who believe it didn't state clearly who was responsible for the killings.

It’s right to rage about Farlam report

Tinyiko Maluleke is a very angry man. In his article on the Farlam commission report (Is this all that 44 men’s lives are worth?) he departs from his usually measured political commentary, asking whether it was “just a little atrocity … a mere diversion in the triumphal march of a state that is slowly developing a knack for intolerance of dissent, brutality and heartlessness toward the poor?”

His anger echoes that of countless others. Official statements at the time of the atrocity focused on exonerating everyone involved: policemen, commanders, politicians. This didn’t augur well for the report’s effectiveness. Now commentators’ concerns are confirmed; Maluleke expresses them vehemently.

He gives the Sharpeville massacre as the first of a “catalogue of carnage” but does not dwell on it. The similarities are instructive. Both were demonstrations by mainly migrant workers. Both produced profound shock and horror both locally and abroad.

The Farlam commission sat for three years and could have been an in-depth appraisal. The Wessels commission on the Sharpeville bloodbath produced a lengthy (for its time) report in six months. Both were justifiably berated for not apportioning responsibility or accountability.

Differences between Sharpeville and Marikana are also instructive. Sharpeville occurred 12 years into formal apartheid rule; Marikana 18 years into the new democracy. The former took place in a township established for migrant workers by the apartheid government (its houses are still occupied today). Migrant workers at the Lonmin mine, which had Cyril Ramaphosa, now deputy president, on its board, live in a squatter camp. At Sharpeville, the shooting was done by whites; at Marikana by blacks.

The Wessels commission and journalists at the scene reported no further shooting after the fusillade from within the police station perimeter fence. Medical assistance was called.

At Marikana, the world saw the main fusillade at scene one, but not scene two – where half of the total were killed and many more maimed in what looks very much like a deliberate hunt, with relentless executions by police, even of those surrendering. Many of the wounded were imprisoned without any medical attention.

That the time-consuming and costly Farlam report couldn’t come up with clear findings of responsibility for the atrocities at scene two, at least, should evoke holy indignation. Maluleke must be commended for voicing it loudly and authoritatively. – Balt Verhagen, Johannesburg

Presidential decree can’t change Egypt’s laws

I find it disappointing that an award-winning journalist such as Patrick Kingsley uses the recent terrorist attacks in Egypt to engage in subjective criticism of Egypt’s political leadership, government and people (Sisi targets those on death row).

Last month Egypt’s public prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated. Less than 48 hours later, terrorists carried out co-ordinated attacks on Egypt’s army and police units in the Sinai peninsula; similar attacks occurred at the same time in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

Kingsley extracted a few words from the Egyptian leadership’s statement at Barakat’s funeral to state the view that Egypt will use the war on terrorism to violate human rights and accelerate execution of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. This has no official foundation. Without a Parliament, Egypt’s leadership cannot enact laws to expedite executions. Such weakly founded presumptions insult the long-standing judicial, executive and legal institutions of Egypt.

If Kingsley took time to read about the Egyptian judicial system, he would realise due process of law can’t be altered by presidential decree. The Egyptian government respects due process of law as one of their international human rights commitments. The era of Egypt’s military and security courts ended with the June 30 2013 revolution.

Also, expediting judicial process doesn’t mean circumventing the law to mete out punishment. In any legal or judicial system, it implies attempting to expedite justice, a principle to which any civilised country aspires.

Kingsley accuses the Egyptian leadership of misguidedly creating links between the Brotherhood and the recent terrorist attacks, despite the Brotherhood not claiming responsibility for the attacks. Shortly after the assassination, Egyptian police raided an apartment in 6th of October City outside Cairo, where they engaged in a gunfight with Brotherhood radicals, later discovering documents with detailed plans for the recent attacks in Egypt and plans to create cells to carry out operations, ranging from attacking the national power grid to political assassinations.

The article tries to distinguish between radical groups and “moderate” ones like the Brotherhood. All groups share similar ideologies. Brotherhood member Ahmad al-Mogheer, confidant to the group’s deputy supreme leader, Khairat al-Shater, tweeted Barakat’s death – before it was officially announced. He threatened the new public prosecutor with the same. Some Western countries have put the Brotherhood on their terrorist watch list.

Kingsley warns that Brotherhood members will be executed because Egyptians shouted “Execute the Brotherhood!” after Barakat’s assassination. Have we forgotten how these people cried for former president Hosni Mubarak’s execution?

No matter the levels of public discontent, the law cannot be amended according to popular desire. Egypt will always respect the rule of law and its commitments under international human rights instruments. – Sherif Naguib, ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Pretoria