The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) has called on its members to indicate if they are interested to participate in a project by the ANC to prosecute apartheid era crimes.
In a notice on Wednesday, the organisation informed its members that the ANC had requested help from the lawyers in pursuit of cases that served at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and were not concluded.
Last month, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte told the BLA in a letter that at the end of the TRC process in 2003, 350 cases were handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution against people who did not come forward to the commission and those who were denied amnesty.
“Very few of these cases have been prosecuted, with reasons ranging from old-guard prosecutors and security personnel obstructing the process to political interference in the process. As a result, 26 years after democracy, there are still families who have not received justice,” she said in the letter dated October 25.
Duarte said the ANC, the Foundation for Human Rights and the families of the victims had come together to ensure that justice was done and families get closure. She made a “special appeal” to BLA to avail legal expertise of its members to pursue private prosecutions of apartheid era crimes.
The ANC has also approached the National Democratic Lawyers Association, Advocates for Transformation and the Pan African Bar Association of SA.
BLA deputy general secretary Charlotte Mahlatji told the organisation’s members they were earmarked to be among those who can help in prosecuting apartheid-era crimes.
“We therefore invite interested members to advise us of their willingness to participate in this noble course…”
The ANC has come under heavy criticism from families affected by apartheid crimes, who feel the government failed to bring perpetrators who did not present themselves to the TRC to book. In June, the Joburg High Court ruled that the NPA had breached the constitution by allowing political interference to hamper prosecution of apartheid era cases.
Judge Jody Kollapen, supported by the full bench, rejected former security branch officer Joao Rodrigues’ stay of prosecution application for the 1971 murder of activist Ahmed Timol.
In her maiden appearance in the National Assembly’s justice portfolio committee, NPA boss Shamila Batohi said it was prioritising cases of apartheid era crimes.
She said the Hawks were investigating 37 cases of apartheid era crimes.