NPA admits to political interference in prosecutorial decisions

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has admitted that political interference by senior politicians in government has led to delays in the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes.

An explosive affidavit by Torie Pretorius, the head of the Priority Litigation Crimes Unit (PCLU) in the NPA, details how the prosecuting authority allowed politicians to affect prosecutorial decisions — which is a violation of the NPA Act.

Pretorius, who filed the affidavit earlier this week in the ongoing case into the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol at the Pretoria high court, claimed, however, that the NPA could not be blamed for the delays in justice for victims of apartheid.

His affidavit comes after Imtiaz Cajee, Timol’s nephew who has been pursuing the truth behind his uncle’s murder for more than two decades, filed court papers accusing the NPA of delaying the prosecution of cases which were not resolved at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“The first respondent [the NPA] does not deny that the executive branch of the state took what one can describe as political steps to manage the conduct of criminal investigations and possible prosecution of the perpetrators of the political murders such as that of Mr Timol,” Pretorius said in his affidavit.

Former NPA officials, such as the former national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli, have made similar allegations of political interference in TRC-cases which led to the investigations into the cases coming to a complete standstill in 2004. Senior members of Cabinet and former police top cop Jackie Selebi were implicated in the efforts to quash the cases. Pikoli said that politicians inside the ANC had said they feared their own actions during the struggle against apartheid could be investigated and lead to members being prosecuted.

READ MORE: How Timol’s family fought to be heard

Cajee has called for an inquiry to be held into the conduct of the NPA and the delays of prosecutions in TRC-related cases. He said the victims of apartheid had waited long enough to see justice for their loved ones who are believed to have been murdered by the apartheid state.

“The record speaks for itself. How many TRC cases has the NPA investigated and actually moved forward? And the only other names that comes to mind is that of the murder of Nokuthula Simelane and the death in detention of Dr Neil Aggett,” Cajee told the Mail & Guardian.

Pretorius says, however, that Cajee is pointing fingers in the wrong direction. In his affidavit, the PCLU said that while the Timol family was calling for a probe into the NPA, members of the apartheid state who covered up Timol’s murder and Joao Rodrigues — the former Security Branch clerk accused of his murder — are not facing the same pressure .

“It is surprising that the fourth respondent does not take issue with the people responsible for the cover-ups and does not seek any punishment against them. He, however, seeks to lobby for an inquiry to be conducted in relation to certain officials of the first respondent, which officials he accepts were subjected to severe political constraints and interference,” Pretorius said.


Rodrigues did not come forward to the TRC and prior to a court ruling that Timol was murdered, he maintained the Security Branch’s version of events that Timol committed suicide while he was detained at John Vorster Square, now Johannesburg central police station, in 1971.

There are families who lost loved ones during police detention in the apartheid-era and are now watching the Timol case closely. The family of Dr Hoosen Haffejee, who was found dead in a police cell in Durban, and Matthews Mabelane, whose body was found at John Vorster Square, have echoed their support for the Timol families pursuit of justice.

They are hoping that the case could set a precedent that will finally see an apartheid cop prosecuted for an activist who died under their watch in police custody.

Calls for Ramaphosa to apologise during Sona

Former TRC officials, including former Commissioner Yasmin Sooka, have now written a letter to Ramaphosa requesting an inquiry into the “political interference that has stopped the investigation and prosecution of virtually all the cases” related to the TRC.

“In our view, it can safely be concluded that the SAPS and the NPA became captured by political forces in respect of TRC cases,” Sooka wrote to Ramaphosa on February 5.

Sooka also said that the victims of apartheid deserve an apology from the state for the “betrayal” of the failure of justice after all these years. She said that Ramaphosa should deliver this apology in his State of the Nation Address.

“We as the former commissioners are deeply outraged by the actions of those who purport to serve the state and who are in fact compromising it,” Sooka wrote. “No expression of regret, remorse or apology has been offered by anybody in authority for the deep betrayal of victims of past atrocities.”

Rodrigues is attempting to halt the prosecution in his case and has made a court application to this end. Pretorius and the Timol family filed their affidavits in response to his application and both have opposed it, saying Rodrigues must face justice. The matter is set down for March 28 when it will be heard by a full bench at the Pretoria high court. 

TRC Letter to the President… by on Scribd

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.
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