TRC: No to Naspers dirty tricks


On 26 September 1997 a group of journalists from Naspers made a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ‘apologising for their role in the apartheid years’. The submission endorsed by journalists, in their individual and private capacities, from ‘Beeld, Die Burger, Rapport, Volksblad, Insig, Huisgenoot, Sarie, You and Fair Lady’ was not made on behalf of the company, but rather against the wishes of management. Ton Vosloo, then managing director, had taken a dim view of the commission calling it a ‘liegscommissie’, while former Naspers directer, PW Botha had successfullly opposed a subpoena to appear before the TRC in court.

Editorial comment in the majority of the Afrikaans papers was highly critical of the TRC, especially in Die Burger and Rapport” writes Tim du Plessis in the Nieman Report. “They accused the TRC in emotional language of a lack of balance and of severe prejudice against the Afrikaners and their institutions. On the editorial pages, the Commission was scathingly referred to as “Tutu se bieg en liegkommissie” (Tutu’s Commission of confessing and lying).”

Editorials and political columns branded the Commission a “witch hunt” against Afrikaners. Allegations of undue sympathy for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) were leveled at the Commission which, according to these papers, resulted in a lack of will by the TRC to investigate abuses of human rights in ANC ranks.”

This calumny against the commission is not surprising, since in mid-1980s, PW Botha had handed his associates a license to launch South Africa’s first commercial pay-television platform.

The result was the creation of a media behemoth, with assets around the globe. The same company which had been instrumental in the race-based apartheid state. Successive Prime Ministers, including DF Malan and HF Verwoerd, all had links to the corporation responsible for the Afrikaans language newspapers Die Burger and Rapport. The organisation is referred to as the ‘tap-root of the National Party’ by investigative reporter Hennie van Vuuren, who demonstrated the links between the Botha government and Naspers whilst researching his book ‘Apartheid Guns and Money.

Two days after lodging a complaint in regard to a racist cover-up before South Africa’s Equality Court, during July of 2015 the company decided to issue a public apology referencing one case-limited example of a journalist Conrad Sidego who had experienced problems with separate facilities in Naspers newsrooms. The apology, ostensibly issued to the heavens, failed to note the dispute, and made no mention of the earlier submissions made by a group of apartheid collaborators who had succeeded in turning themselves into ‘conscientious journalists’ under the machinations of the commission — nor the findings of the commission itself which had essentially found the company guilty of gross violations of human rights. 

Media24 manager Ishmet Davidson, then proceeded to claim on camera that the corporation had in fact made submissions before the TRC and had ostensibly been cleared by the commission. The public statement was far from the truth, since what had occurred was in reality an elaborate public relations exercise, in which the media proceeded to rewrite history while ignoring the damning evidence of open collaboration and support for the apartheid state.

Thus on 22 September 2017 Justice Bozalek issued an order in regard to my right to legal representation in the matter brought to defend the TRC Report:-

It is ordered that the plaintiff’s application to review the Legal Aid Board’s decision to refuse the plaintiff legal representation is not properly before this Court. The plaintiff is directed, if he wishes to pursue that ‘application’ or to exhaust his right to appeal the Legal Aid Board’s decision to its CEO, to take such steps inter alia by launching a review application against the Legal Aid Board in the Western Cape High Court.”

The matter against Legal Aid SA (LASA) was heard on 28 February 2019 and a decision handed down by AJ Martin on 11 March 2019, in which Martin proceeded to agree with Legal Aid SA determinations that it would ‘take a long time to read the TRC report’ and therefore it may be ignored. 

At para 5 the decision records the words of John van Onselen’s merit report:

to enable Legal Aid SA to prepare a substantive report it would be necessary to consider all the various pieces of legislation applicable, the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission together with any relevant documents”

To which AJ Martin concludes:-

I am also satisfied that Legal Aid SA justifiably concluded that ‘to do so would take a lengthy period of time”

LASA legal executive Themile Mtata has stated in his explanation of a further determination of no prospects, that ‘the matter has prescribed since the commission wound up its work some time ago.’

AJ Martin thus concurred with the racist determinations and explanations made by LASA in its merit report, in the process creating an unlawful and racist exclusion to the Preamble to our Constitution. 

The decision in Lewis v LASA (2019) unlawfully abrogates our constitution and the current democratic dispensation by failing to recognize the status of the TRC report, a foundation to our democracy, and thus the injunction:

We, the people of South Africa,

Recognise the injustices of our past;

Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;

Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and

Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

[…]

so so as to ­

  • Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
  • Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
  • Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
  • Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

Although promulgated in terms of the Interim Constitution of 1993, the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 was a necessary pre-condition for the enactment of the Constitution of the Republic, signed by President Nelson Mandela on 18 December 1996 and which came into effect on 4 February 1997.

To provide for the investigation and the establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights …

The rejection of the facts before the Equality Court and High Court and thus the trivialisation of the TRC report, flies in the face of natural justice and ignores the substantial injustice and unfairness which is being experienced by the Applicant not possessing legal aid with regard to the odious task of defending the public record. Section 39(2) of the constitution directs every court or tribunal – when interpreting legislation or developing common law or customary law – to promote the object, purport and spirit of the Bill of Rights.

To state that the High Court ‘finds some displeasure’ at the manner in which the communication of the ‘reasons for refusal of legal aid’, was conveyed but nothing ‘deficient, invalid or unjustified’ in the resulting determinations, ignores the many deficiencies in procedure, in which the facts of the TRC report are reduced both in stature and levity by the Respondent, and consequently the Court itself.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Traction on TRC-related cases | Medialternatives

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