Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
Events leading to the application for an interdict against the TRC
3 November 1998
The Office of the Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC) would like to inform and clarify, for the benefit of those within the organisational structures of the ANC as well as those outside the organization, the events and context leading to the application for an interdict against the TRC, in respect of the publication of “Findings On The African National Congress” by Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Summary of Events
From the 8 September 1998 the ANC sought a meeting with the TRC, to discuss the contents contained in a seven (7) page document dated the 24 August 1998, sent by the TRC, on the various “findings” contemplated against the ANC. Throughout this period, leading to the handing over of the final report on the 29 October 1998, through written correspondence arid telephonic conversations, the TRC consistently stated that it was not prepared to meet with the ANC. The TRC feared the possibility of being accused of bias in favour of the ANC, as they had already tumed down similar requests from other parties and individuals. They further advised that to hold such a meeting would not be in the interest of the organisation. The TRC rather urged the ANC to submit written responses to these contemplated findings. A submission responding to these “findings” was dispatched to the TRC after a special NEC; meeting, on the 19 October 1998.
Receipt of the ANC’s submission was acknowledged by the Acting Chairperson of the TRC on 26 October 1998. This letter also stated that the submission had been received too late for consideration in the Final Report, however, copies of the ANC’s submission had been circulated amongst the various Commissioners. This correspondence further stated that while the submission was “helpful” inasmuch that it had assisted in pointing out certain factual errors, some Commissioners had a “preliminary, but firm view” that there did not seem to be anything that would materially affect the findings of the Commission.
On the 27 October 1998, the ANC sought clarification on when the entire Commission would consider its submission.
In the TRC’s response (dd. 28 October 1998) to this correspondence, it noted that the ANC’s submission had been received too late for consideration before the publishing of the Final Report. This decision was only conveyed to the ANC on the eve of the handing over ceremony of the Final Report.
After considering all options available to itself in order to persuade the TRC to consider the submission, the ANC, as an aggrieved party had no option but to seek an interdict.
From the correspondence received and from discussions on the matter with Commissioners, it was believed that the ‘”findings” on the ANC were still preliminary and not final. It also believed that discussions would be necessary to clarify and correct various aspects of the findings.
In the absence of such discussions and clarifications, and after every possible channel had been exhausted whereby the TRC would be compelled to consider the ANC submission, an interdict was sought. This interdict sensed not to prevent the publication of the Final Report or to gag the TRC as has been portrayed, but to ensure that its responses to the findings would be considered prior to publication.
It is now common knowledge that the Judge, on the 29 October 199B at 10h10, dismissed the application with costs, without giving reasons.
Justification of the Action
Despite the glib utterances of the Chairperson of the Commission, to the effect that the ANC as the leading political party is attempting to receive special treatment and portrays various aspects of tyrannical behavior the ANC believed that it had the democratic right, as an aggrieved party to use the only mechanism still available to it, to ensure that its submission was heard.
On analysing the power relations between the two parties in dispute, it is clear that it is the TRC that is the dominant power, while the ANC is the victim. When the TRC stated on the 28 October 1998 that it would not consider the ANC’s submission, the ANC was aggrieved, such as any other, individual of organization, and appealed for the right to be heard and for relief. According to the TRC, applying for such relief constitutes a cardinal sin. How can a democratic party after establishing a democratic country, be likened to tyrants? It is unfortunate that through these utterances, the real tyrants are exposed. It is further unfortunate that the media has joined this cacophony, bad-mouthing basic principles of democracy and basic rights.
When the ANC’s position was ignored, the organization did not request government to intervene – should this have been done, it would almost certainly have been an abuse of power. The ANC is an organization of unquestionable integrity and has always drawn a clear distinction between the government and the ANC itself.
On the 28 October 1998, the only information that the ANC had in relation to the TRC report was the 7 page document that had been sent to the ANC. The interdict for which the ANC applied for was not to stop the publication of the findings, but rather to delay its publication until such time that the ANC’s response to this 7-page document had been heard. Now that the Final Report has been made public, the ANC will have an opportunity to study the Report in its entirety and will respond and criticise it accordingly, especially where it findings in relation to the ANC are incorrect, as is its right.
Having said all this, the ANC remains committed to the principles governing the establishment of the TRC. It is common cause that the TRC is in fact the brain-child of the ANC and that the ANC has supported the TRC and its processes throughout its existence. This does not however mean that the TRC is infallable or that the ANC cannot or should not question the Commission or its activities.
The Context of the Truth
The ANC, out of its own quest and love for the truth, had instituted various Commissions of inquiry. These findings of the Commissions were submitted to the TRC in total. The NEC had accepted full responsibility for all these Commissions’ findings.
Unfortunately the TRC document contained various inaccuracies in regard to the findings of these Commissions and it was important to rectify such.
Furthermore, the period under review by the TRC was the period during which the ANC remained a banned organisation. During this time the Apartheid State had at its disposal elaborate machinery to infiltrate, maim, torture and murder its enemies. It even resorted to cross border raids, as far afield as Paris.
In accordance with the Geneva Convention, the ANC waged a just and heroic struggle against the Apartheid State. Apartheid has been accepted by all as a crime against humanity. It was through the courageous actions of our cadres that this evil system was defeated. To accuse these heroic fighters of “gross human rights violations” in a lawful and just war is a slap in the face.
To equate the ANC’s struggle with the abuse of power of the State is immoral and unacceptable. To fail to put the ANC’s struggle in the correct context would be to desecrate the graves of all those comrades who laid down the lives for the freedom that we now have. Unfortunately, without the context of the struggle waged by the ANC, the “findings” of the Commission criminalises the struggle for liberation – and it is this that we cannot accept. We are proud of our steadfastness in the battle and we honour those who fought this righteous war – to accept these findings wholesale, as they were presented to the ANC would be tantamount to selling out the people of this country and to trivialising their suffering under apartheid.
It remains the ANC’s view that the TRC has failed in its statutory duty to properly consider the ANC’s submission as it is obliged to in terms of the Act governing it.
Furthermore, at no time was it reasonably evident that the TRC would not consider the ANC’s submission prior to the publication of the Final Report, even if the Commission consistently refused to meet with the ANC to discuss the provisional findings against the ANC.
Unfortunately for the people of this country, this report was impoverished by the omission of the ANC’s submission and the ANC will find ways and means to engage the public and enrich it with the proper context.
It must be known that the ANC will always oppose any attempt to demonise the proud and heroic history of this truly great organisation.
What Is To Be Done
Be the above as it may now that the process issues have been finalised, with the court judgement going against the ANC, the nation must confront the Report. The TRC process is but one verse in the long book of nation-building and reconciliation, but an important verse where the nation used the TRC to continue down that road.
It is the understanding of the ANC that, ‘by knowing what happened and why it happened! South Africa will be better placed to ensure that the evil deeds of the past are never repeated”.
The nation as a whole now has the responsibility, every individual, group, organisation and institution to push forward, hand-in-hand, along this precarious route towards the building of a new nation.
Reconciliation is not an event, or a report, but a coherent democratic action by a committed people saying never again. Wounds have been opened how do we heal them?
The ANC on its part is committed to be part of that people in motion on their path to a new nation.
The ANC will study the report in its entirety and will present its response and proposals to the nation within a period of 1 week.
The TRC is the product of the people of South Africa, and the report must therefore reside within the people of South Africa. The report should be made available to all people, and in this regard we call upon all those with resources to assist in making the report easily consumable and translated into all languages, to ensure that it is owned by each and every individual on the path to nation building