01 April 2016

TRC's Victims Database released by the Department of Justice.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Victims Database has finally been released by the Department of Justice, but still not publicly available.

It has taken a decade, two Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) requests, the initiation of litigation and constant pressure by SAHA on the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (the department) to obtain a copy of the entire TRC Victims Database (the database). SAHA is finally in possession of the database, having agreed in principle to an out of court settlement with the Department. Unfortunately SAHA is not in a position to make the database public as the settlement negotiations have not been finalised yet. SAHA anticipates that the settlement negotiations will conclude shortly and has already begun conducting research and development that will allow the database to be accessed by the public and while this may take a while, we should be in a position to make it accessible later this year.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was privy to victims of apartheid’s tales of desperation, abuse and horror. These tales were all recorded in a systematic manner that enabled the creation of a database encapsulating details of the violations. Persons, sources, acts, perpetrators, witnesses and events were the core categories used in the database which provides a wealth of potential data that could be used to analyse, for example, patterns of abuse under apartheid. It is for this reason amongst others that the TRC in its final report declared that the records of the TRC belong to all South Africans.

The court papers for the South African History Archive v Minister of Justice and Deputy Information Officer: Department of Justice Case No. 39650/2015 matter are available on SAHA’s Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) website:

Access the Notice of Motion here

Access the Founding Affidavit here

Access the Confirmatory Affidavit of G Razzano here

Access the Confirmatory Affidavit of T Erasmus here

As mentioned above, SAHA is currently involved in consultation with experts, including one of the designers of the database Mr Gerald O’Sullivan of the Foundation for Human Rights, in order to devise a method of uploading the database to the SAHA/SABC TRC website and making it public facing so that it can be used to find, link and crosslink different information, documentation and audio/visual data. Watch this space for further news and developments. 

SAHA would like to thank our attorneys, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Pro Bono and Human Rights Practice, counsel on this matter Howard Varney and Francis Hobden as well as expert advisors Patrick Ball and Gerald O’Sullivan for their support, advice and representation in this matter, without which we may not have succeeded.