June 6, 2003

SOUTH AFRICA: Parliamentary Committee on Apartheid reparations

A special parliamentary committee to finalise reparations to apartheid victims and process potentially controversial new legislation on immunity for perpetrators is to be formally constituted today. Speaker Frene Ginwala said that after some delay she was given the names of 19 members of the National Assembly and nine of the National Council of Provinces who will make up an ad hoc committee on Reparations, which would take the work of the Truth and Reconciliation commission further.

On April 15, following a debate on the Final TRC Report, Ginwala announced that Parliament would set up a committee in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, which guided the TRC process. “This committee will … take matters further and specifically consider recommendations with regard to reparations for victims as required by the legislation,” she said. Addressing the joint sitting, President Mbeki announced that each of the approximately 22 000 individuals or surviving families who appeared before the commissions will receive a once-off grant of R30 000. “We intend to process these payments as a matter of urgency, during the current financial year,” Mbeki said.

One of the problems the committee is likely to face is a strong submission against Mbeki’s reparations proposals by victims’ representative groups, Khulumani and Jubiliee, who are suing foreign banks and firms for compensation for their co-operation with the apartheid state. Miranda Malele, Jubilee’s national co-ordinator, said both groups have said in their submission that the R30 000 is inadequate and “basically rejected the President’s offer of a none-off payment”. Justice Ministry spokesman Paul Setsetse said yesterday a draft Bill on reparations previously in the pipeline was superseded by Mbeki’s announcement and would no longer be referred to Parliament. “There is no need for a Bill in the Act,” Ginwala said, adding that Parliament could recommend that the cabinet’s decision is accepted, or propose something else.

The committee is also likely to deal with another draft Bill being prepared by the Justice Department on the immunity process announced by Mbeki for perpetrators who failed to co-operate or comply with TRC amnesty process. Mbeki said the government decided against a general amnesty as it would fly in the face of the TRC’s efforts to establish accountability. “We also have to deal with the reality that many of the participants in the conflict of the past did not take part in the TRC process”, he said. The 28 members of the committee which has now been appointed include the chair of the justice committee, Johnny de Lange of the ANC, and the Democratic Alliance’s spokesman on human rights, Dene Smuts. (Pretoria News)

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