30 May 2011

Draft regulations released for payment of reparations to apartheid victims

On 11 May 2011 the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development gazetted regulations for the payment of educational assistance and health benefits for victims of apartheid from the President's Fund. The regulations, gazetted after only a very superficial consultation process with victims and other stakeholders, do not address the key concerns expressed by stakeholders. Most notably, under the regulations only those victims that were identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) qualify for reparations, discriminating against tens of thousands of victims who suffered often identical human rights violations.

Only 22,000 victims of gross human rights violations were identified by the TRC. Members of the SACTJ have identified tens of thousands of further victims who were unable to attend the TRC for various legitimate reasons. Indeed the limited nature of the TRC's work with victims was recognised by members of the TRC who recommended that the list of victims remain open after the closure of the TRC.

On 27 May 2011 the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ), of which SAHA is a member, held a press conference in Johannesburg to raise awareness regarding the proposed regulations and the failure by the government to deliver on its obligations to make reparations to all victims of gross human rights violations.

It is now 13 years since the closure of the TRC. There is almost R1billion in the President's Fund, a fund established solely for the payment of reparations to victims of gross human rights violations during apartheid. Yet at the press conference held by SACTJ, victims (both those who were identified by the TRC and those who were not) spoke of their continuing socio-economic isolation and the failure by the government to recognise their position. Victims spoke articulately about their needs and the needs of their communities both in terms of healing and socio-economic transformation, many of which are not reflected in the proposed regulations.

The Department has provided civil society until 8 June 2011 to provide written comment on the proposed regulations. SACTJ is demanding that the current process is stopped until meaningful consultations are carried out with victims and interested parties.

In the meantime SAHA has submitted a request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for access to information related to the regulations and the proposed reparations. In particular, SAHA has requested details of reparations payments made from the fund to date, including the recipients of those payments, and records relating to the development of the proposed regulations, including details of any consultations undertaken and opinions obtained to determine the eligibility of victims and the nature of the reparations.

The release of these records is necessary to enable victims and civil society organisations, such as SACTJ, to make fully informed submissions in relation to the reparations regulations and to engage meaningfully in discussions with the Department on a way forward that meets the needs of victims.

For a copy of the regulations or for details on how to make a submission click here.