Messers Desmond Tutu, Sisi Virginia Khampepe, Wynand Malan, Yasmin Sooka, et al.
I write this letter having had good cause to reflect upon several events of this past year on Reconciliation Day.
It should be noted that Reconciliation Day, formerly ‘Day of the Vow’, or ‘Day of the Covenant’ or ‘Dingaan’s Day’ became the source of some controversy this year when a well-known pastor made a reference to the Covenant within racist terms that brought back memories of the quasi-religious holiday commemorating the ‘Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838′.
As a secular humanist of Jewish origin, I have on more than one occasion, rejected theological justifications for race segregation, in particular the apartheid euphemisms used to justify separate development as a mere ‘accident of nature’, or a ‘miracle of sameness’ and the like.
My beliefs and faith (or lack thereof) unfortunately became the subject of a race-based interrogation of my Jewish identity during the course of an unfair proceeding in 2010 in which absolutely nothing was done to protect my rights. The least of which is that the TRC itself was under the machinations of senior council reduced to ‘merely a commission’, and your report ‘merely a report’. And where those selfsame euphemisms were trotted out to justify racism.
It was thus within a bizarre inversion of reality, that I was deemed not to ‘be a credible person’ on the basis of my ‘opposition to apartheid’, by a corrupt adjudicator presiding, it appears, without the necessary authority, over a matter effecting not only his own client, but also his business partners. All explained away in a report to the Cape Law Society in which a corrupt relationship is justified on the basis of a decision in Bernert v Absa Bank Limited.
The labour proceeding against Media24, was anything but a fair hearing, an ‘irregular proceeding’ if you will — not only did I not possess an attorney (following the group’s 2007 gagging attempts which put paid to my legal insurance), but I was further restrained from calling any witnesses. I was therefore not present when the decision was handed down, was not granted leave to appeal, nor did I secure a successful petition to appeal to the Labour Appeal Court. This after the respondent’s ecclesiastical case alleging inter alia, I was more than simply a “Jew in breach of my religion” but also ‘guilty of driving a car on a Friday night, and/or attending a mixed race nightclub apparently in violation of my religion’. Nothing less than a piece of savage quackery, written up by the respondent and cut and pasted, and handed down as the purported decision of the court.
In 2015 I thus filed a distantly related complaint before the Equality Court against then Min. of Justice Micheal Masutha and also Naspers, the holding company of Media24, citing the former’s failure to exercise powers in terms of the TRC Act and thus the astonishing failure of the TRC Unit to defend both the TRC and its recommendations from ongoing acts and omissions in the face of racism and a culture of impunity.
My filing sheet thus also listed an apartheid media company named as a ‘gross perpetrator of human rights violations’ in the final report that all TRC commissioners signed off on. It was filed two days before Media24 issued a mea culpa to the heavens referencing one case-limited example of a single ’employee of colour’, Conrad Sidego, who had apparently experienced problems with separate amenities.
It further went on to list several shortcomings of the first TRC, in particular the failure to deal with extra-curial evidence — evidence arising after, and subsequent to the first commissions winding up. It noted other failures, including errors with acronyms, Congress of South African Writers ( COSAW) is not Congress of South African War Resisters (COSAWR). It may be demonstrated that TRC One represents the absence of an in-depth inquiry into the role played by women, war resisters, the struggle press, the environmental movement, the use of technology by the state, coercive psychiatry and so on.
Despite the merits of the case, I once again found myself in court sans attorney and I was eventually granted leave to formerly seek legal aid by Judge Bozalek after the Equality Court had previously acted under Judge Veldhuisen to deny me access to legal aid.
I thus sued Legal Aid SA in a collateral matter before the High Court, Western Cape, which took some three years of my time.
It was more than a little alarming to find that in the interim, ‘apartheid memory’ had been relegated to the dust-heap by our judiciary, alongside our constitution. That portraits of apartheid and colonial judges still hung from chambers, and AJ Martin of the High Court of SA, now agreed with a racist merit report by John van Onselen, of Legal Aid SA, stating in his decision of 2019, that he was now ‘entirely satisfied that the TRC report would take a long time to read, and may thus be ignored’.
Despite my application for leave to appeal the racist decision, and despite oral testimony citing the High Court’s misreading of the Separation of Powers, (Legal Aid SA is not a constitutional entity as such, but rather directly answerable to parliament — a result of the Legal Aid Act, which makes LASA subject to the Public Finance Management Act, as a Schedule 3 entity alongside Boxing SA) both the application for leave and for Martin’s recusal from the proceeding were rejected out of hand. In the process a racist exclusion to the Preamble was created, one which has had the deleterious effect of derogating rights commonly held under our constitution.
As we near the end of 2019 following a troubling period in which several well-known activists of my generation have passed away, including Peter Horn, Sandile Dikeni and Ben Turok, I find myself reaching out to a public case that has been at the back of my mind ever since the TRC Report was released.
Surely, you as commissioners knew that when you signed your name to the report, that it was an incomplete report at best, and would require further redress in the future?
Surely, you as commissioners, knew that when the TRC Act was promulgated under the interim constitution, that it was a necessary pre-condition for the constituent assembly to pass Act 108 of 1996, in other words our Constitution, whose Preamble says, ‘recognising the injustices of the past’?
Surely, TRC commissioners are aware that if you did not broker any guarantees from the state, to make good on the recommendations issued that you would be opening the doors to accusations that you are yourselves complicit in a crime against humanity and the after-effects thereof?
Surely you as commissioners are aware that in doing nothing except write letters to our President, of which there have been quite a few following the winding up of the first inquiry, that you would indeed, stand accused, as you do now, of doing absolutely nothing of any consequence to uphold the legal framework upon which the entire transitional justice arrangement was based, and that anyone wishing to bring civil litigation to defend rights in law is now faced with the odious task of defending the public record left by yourselves?
I therefore have no hesitation in stating here on Reconciliation Day, that the current TRC process is an abject failure.
Not simply because of the conduct of the Minister’s TRC Unit, but because of the collective conduct of the TRC commissioners.
Instead of defending the report to which you have placed your signature, you have instead been regaling all and sundry on the joys of turning the other cheek, travelling the world like religious pilgrims claiming to have discovered a novel process of reconciliation.
Engaging conference after conference and airtravel that merely pumps out CO2 while promoting your own estate as a national treasure and depriving the victims of restitution.
Those persons like myself, who were never called to testify, and yet suffered the consequences of apartheid dirty tricks need to be told the truth.
Future generations and ordinary South Africans need to be told the truth of what has occurred in the name of the TRC and in the the name of justice.
I beg your forgiveness, as fellow citizens, it may no doubt still be in the public interest to motion for yet another TRC process, TRC Two.
D R Lewis