Ramaphosa under pressure to support reparations for apartheid victims

Victims of apartheid-era atrocities have demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa include some 80 000 people as beneficiaries of the President’s Fund, so they may receive reparations and have their dignity restored.

In a letter to Ramaphosa, the Khulumani Support Group — an organisation which supports apartheid-era victims and activists — has urged that a meeting must be held to address victims of apartheid who have been excluded from receiving reparations.

“We request your intervention in the stalled process of delivering on an inclusive reparations policy that has kept the lives of our members in bondage since the release of the TRC recommendations twenty years ago,” the letter, dated December 14 2018, reads.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had recommended that victims of apartheid should receive a monthly grant of up to R2 000 for a period of six years.
But, during former President Thabo Mbeki’s term, it was decided that a once-off payment of R30 000 would be made to victims who claimed reparations. Initially, the government had only offered to hand out an “interim” payment of R2 000. The money for claims are held in the President’s Fund, which was established for reparations and the rehabilitation of apartheid victims.

Payments have so far been made to 17 408 beneficiaries, but Khulumani claims that there are 80 000 more victims who have yet to be listed as claimants.

“We are appealing to you to intervene so that a coherent and inclusive policy on reparations is finally developed to restore the dignity of the thousands of ageing struggle activists organised as Khulumani Support Group,” Khulumani said in its letter to Ramaphosa.

The President’s Fund currently holds R1.4-billion. According to the fund’s annual report for 2017/18, R1.9-million had been spent on exhumations and burials of anti-apartheid activists and victims. There had been R14.5-million spent on basic education for those victims who made claims, and R6.5-million had been spent on higher education since 2014.

For many activists, however, the use of the fund has been seen as a damning display of disregard for the lives of victims and activists of the apartheid-era. Duma Kumalo, one of six people accused of killing a councillor despite insufficient evidence, said the R2 000 was an insult to the dignity of anti-apartheid fighters.

“We have been betrayed,” Kumalo told The Guardian in 2000.

“The previous government gave [Adriaan] Vlok and the killers golden handshakes and the present government gave them amnesty. [But] the victims have been left empty handed.”

Kumalo said that while he was falsely imprisoned for seven years, he could not afford to send his children to school. He believed it was the obligation of the state to help him send his children to school and provide them with houses.

Kumalo died in 2006, but the Khulumani Support Group has continued to advocate for proper reparations for all victims of apartheid who can make claims.

In October 2018, twenty years after the TRC released its recommendations, Khulumani wrote a letter of demand telling the Presidency to include the 80 000 claimants and to consult with victims before reparation policies were made. Their letter in December to request a meeting is a follow-up of those demands.

The organisation says it hopes to receive a response from Ramaphosa as early as possible in the new year. 

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