A PETITION circulated by Nyasha Mboti, asks: “Why are there no Apartheid Studies in South Africa, or in any other country across the globe? In 1994 Nelson Mandela said “Never, never and never again” to apartheid. But how do you say “Never again” to something that you do not study?
Mboti adds: “There has been no interest in provisioning for the formal study of apartheid. There is no degree programme, or even an apology of a course or module, even at 1st year level only, called Apartheid Studies. There is not a single Centre for Apartheid Studies, or Institute of Apartheid Studies, or Research Chair in Apartheid Studies, at any of the 25 South African universities – or anywhere around the globe. The universal absence and neglect of Apartheid Studies is a blot on the world’s conscience.”
The reluctance to tackle South Africa’s past has lead to denialism within our nation’s institutions and a general lapse of constitutional provisions within the justice system. Is the constitution even worth the paper it is written on?
The matter is compounded by the NPA’s failure to prosecute perpetrators, amidst a collapse of the amnesty provisions of the TRC Act. This has lead to crimes under apartheid being treated as if the were mere petty offences, or had simply occurred under the current dispensation, and thus lack the necessary characteristics that accompany the crime against humanity, known as apartheid.
Sipho Ngwema, NPA spokesperson for example, issued an irrational statement last month in regard to the Timol inquest, falsely claiming that the law of prescription applied: “As far as the assault charges at John Vorster Square are concerned, prescription has set in, as a period of 20 years has passed since the commission of the offences in 1982/83.”
This without any word about the actual murder of Timol, a capital crime for which no prescription period is applicable.
The NPA statements echo equally false statements, issued in writing by Legal Aid South Africa, and follow a racist decision handed down in March last year by AJ Martin of the High Court, impugning the TRC Act and essentially refuting the Preamble to our Constitution.
Despite the shoddy legal environment in which apartheid crimes are effectively lauded by the authorities, even if the delicts may be ongoing and the impact and effects, immediate, there remain public calls to charge perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.
Shannon Ebrahim writing in the Cape Times says: ” In the case of South Africa, the liberation movements showed great magnanimity by agreeing to allow the perpetrators of similar brutality under successive apartheid regimes to receive amnesty if they fully disclosed their crimes at the TRC.”
“While many did come forward and admit to their crimes, there were rarely full disclosures, and far too many senior members of the military and police failed to apply for amnesty, believing they would never be found or prosecuted.”
It is the gross failure to take action against those who did not receive amnesty, alongside a stark refusal to provide legal aid for the victims, which is particularly troubling. The result is denialism, denial that a crime occurred, then followed by denial of justice.
Hopefully the call for the institution of apartheid studies on our nations campuses alongside renewed interest in the body of evidence that begins with the TRC Report, will result in corrective action being taken to reinstate the constitutional framework. One which begins, by stating, “recognising the injustices of the past”.