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Prosecution of Apartheid-Era Figures Stirs Controversy

  • Delia Robertson

Former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma is warning against waging a witch hunt in seeking out and prosecuting those suspected of apartheid-era crimes. Zuma, a possible presidential candidate, says there must be both truth and reconciliation in dealing with past atrocities.

The issue was brought to the forefront after the National Prosecuting Authority recently announced it would take legal action against several former high-ranking officials. However, some say the NPA is not going far enough.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Zuma’s comments.

“Jacob Zuma, I think, is playing it down the middle at the moment on this issue. And he is using every opportunity offered to him to speak out on a variety of issues, which is I think part of his campaigning to become president of the (ruling) ANC (party) at the ANC conference later this year. But there is a great deal of controversy at the moment since the National Prosecuting Authority announced it would prosecute Adriaan Vlok, who was safety & security minister, the former commissioner of police, Johann van der Merwe, and some senior police officials for the attempted murder of Rev. Frank Chikane,” she says.

Asked why more apartheid-era prosecutions could cause controversy, Robertson says, “The reasons cited by just about everybody on any side of the spectrum really is the effect it will have on reconciliation and the effect it will have on certain groups feeling that their groups are being targeted. I think that the NPA feels that it should prosecute people whom it can prove a case against. And that is not going to be possible in a great number of cases because of the lapse of time. Because at the end of the apartheid-era, the former government destroyed documents and records and files by the ton load. And because witnesses have dispersed or don’t want to be available, don’t want to be involved anymore. Some have passed on. So, it is going to be difficult for them to prosecute many cases.”

Robertson estimates perhaps only about a dozen apartheid-era cases might be prosecuted.