TRC failed to bring justice to all

From left are Ayanda Nyoka, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) project leader, Phumeza Mlungwana, Social Justice Coalition ( SJC) secretary, Chumani Sali, member of SJC, Gcobisa Yani, student at University of Stellenbosch and Mbali Matandela, student at the University of Cape Town who were the panellists interacting with the audience.

Advocacy groups and Khayelitsha residents gathered at Isivavana hall, in Khayelitsha, where the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) held an event where the role played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in bringing justice to the victims of apartheid, was discussed.

The event, which took place on Wednesday June 22, was aimed at providing a platform for the residents to assess the success of the TRC and its flaws, while allowing them to raise their suggestions of how things should had been done.

Under the theme “Economic and Social Inequalities”, the discussion was also aimed at sparking debate about the issues facing the current generation.

IJR project leader Juzarda Sewalin said they felt that it was essential to allow ordinary people to evaluate the work of the commission and to find out whether people felt it had achieved its objectives.

Ms Sewalin said they had also done research about the issues facing Khayelitsha residents. “Given the current situation about social inequalities in our communities and with the recent wave of racist slurs being uttered, we thought it was fitting to host this dialogue.

“It has been 20 years since the commission concluded its work and yet we are still grappling with the imbalances of the past, particularly about social inequalities that need to be addressed.

“This debate allows ordinary people who had not been given an opportunity to ask critical questions about the impact of the commission,” she said.

Gcobisa Yani, a student at the University of Stellenbosch and a member of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, said the purpose of the TRC was about telling the truth and people had to be told the truth about what had really happened.

While the commission had strived to rebuild the nation, it had failed to do so or to bring about justice for all.

“How do you rebuild the nation and close social inequalities that have plagued the country when black people continue to live in informal settlements and in awful conditions?

“How do you rebuild the nation when black students are kicked out of universities because they can’t afford to pay the expensive tuition fees?

“How do we really find it in our hearts to forgive white people while we are still called by racist words and our people still feel inferior to white people?

“This shows that some white people do not acknowledge the wrongdoings of the apartheid system and yet we, as black people, must forgive them. Well, the TRC (didn’t bring justice) to those families affected, but it gave amnesty to the perpetrators.

“We still have APLA soldiers who fought for freedom still imprisoned in this so-called democratic country of ours. “We have yet to receive real freedom,” she said.

Social Justice Coalition, (SJC) secretary, Phumeza Mlungwana, echoed the same sentiments, highlighting that Khayelitsha residents were still living in appalling conditions.

Ms Mlungwana said Khayelitsha’s police service was incredibly under-resourced, particularly when compared to areas like Camps Bay where there is less crime than there is in Khayelitsha.

She said they had made many desperate calls to the South African police services to deploy more police officials to Khayelitsha, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

This was at the centre of an independent commission of inquiry, which was established in August 2012 to investigate complaints received by the Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, relating to allegations of inefficiency of the South African Police Service (SAPS) at three police stations in Khayelitsha. The commission completed its work and handed over its report and recommendations two years later.

“We are appealing to the government to change the allocation of police resources to township areas and deploy foot patrol police officers in informal settlement areas in order to curb the grinding crime levels.”

Furthermore, said Ms Mlungwana, “Black people are still using portable toilets to relieve themselves and we still see thousands of people living in informal settlements – and yet we say that we are living in a democratic country whereas white people live in suburbs and don’t experience these daily challenges we face here.

“Unless government returns the land to its rightful owners, it won’t win the fight against social inequalities – and capitalism needs to be abolished,” she said.

Ms Mlungwana accused the government of dragging the dignity of the black people through the mud by building them RDP houses and failing to improve the standard of education in township schools.

She believed that there was a lot that still needed to be done to breach the massive gap between the rich and the poor, adding that government needs to implement progressive programmes solely aimed at restoring the dignity and integrity of black people.