15 September 2009

Are these the winds of change?

SAHA will soon be in possession of a masked version of the TRC's victims database as well as a copy of Eugene De Kock's amnesty application.

The above documents have been part of an on-going three year engagement (or should that be ‘fight') between SAHA and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ are the custodians of the TRC's records, and have up until now been overly protective of these records.

In 2006 SAHA sought to attain, amongst other records: a copy of Eugene De Kock's amnesty application; a copy of the TRC's victims database; and transcripts of the TRC's section 29 in-camera hearings. All three requests were blanketly refused, as were the subsequent internal appeals. Although SAHA pointed out time and again - through internal appeals, letters of plea and in meetings with the DOJ - that the TRC was a public process, and hence the bulk of the material that went before the TRC should be susceptible to being accessed through PAIA, the DOJ had been unmoved in their protectiveness of TRC records.

SAHA have also pointed out, on numerous occasions, that we did not seek access to personal details on the victims database, but rather generic information that could be used for statistical analysis. Nonetheless, the DOJ have continued to cite the presence of personal information on the database as the reason for refusing access to the database. In other words, rather than masking the personal information in question and releasing the requested generic information, the DOJ has seemingly gone out of their way to be obtrusive.

However, last week the Minister in the DOJ (Jeff Radebe) ordered that a masked copy of the TRC's victims database as well as a copy of Eugene De Kock's amnesty application be made available to SAHA. This ruling, presumably, sets a precedent for other of the TRC's records; including, hopefully, the amnesty applications of other apartheid regime perpetrators. SAHA still await a ruling from Minister Radebe on the amnesty applications of both Janus Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis.

Although the transcripts of the section 29 in-camera hearings are still being withheld, SAHA are hopeful that the positive rulings last week are indicative of a mind shift in the DOJ' s approach to the TRC's records.