Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights
19 August 2021
Another blow to Justice and Accountability – Eric Winter Dies
Eric Winter, one of the individuals implicated in the abduction, torture and murder of Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli, and Sparrow Mkonto (known as the “Cradock 4”), died yesterday morning in Pretoria.
Eric Winter was a former head of the Security Branch in Cradock and played a leadership role in Special Operations K Unit of the Security Branch known as Koevoet (Crowbar). Winter was implicated in the murder of the Cradock Four by one of the operatives responsible for the killing of the Cradock 4, the late Johan Martin (Sakkie) Van Zyl who stated that Winter was “in charge of the mechanical means of spying on Mr Goniwe’s home.” Indeed, Judge Neville Zietsman ruled in the 1994 Inquest that a case of suspicion for the murders of the Cradock Four had been made out against him. Winter did not apply for amnesty for his role.
On 20 July 2021 – on the anniversary of the Cradock 4 funeral, Lukhanyo Calata (son of the late Fort Calata) and the widows of Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparrow Mkonto launched an application to compel the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SASP) to finalise the investigation into the murder of the Cradock 4, and to make a prosecutorial decision. The application cites Eric Winter as the seventh respondent. Eric Winter’s death makes truth recovery and justice even more challenging for the Cradock 4 families as he was one of the few witnesses alive who could tell the full story.
The death of Eric Winter and untold truths that he took with him to his grave are reflective of the prevailing impunity in South Africa for the apartheid-era crimes. The inability and unwillingness of the South African government, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks to fulfil their constitutional mandates to promptly investigate and prosecute those implicated in the Cradock 4 murders, have left victims and their families in contining anguish. The delay in bringing those implicated in the murders of the Cradock 4 must be laid squarely at the feet of the Executive and the NPA.
The families of apartheid era victims who gave their lives to the struggle for freedom have waited for more than 23 years since the TRC ended its work. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission handed over a list of around 300 cases to the NPA where the perpetrators of human rights violations did not apply for amnesty or were refused amnesty for further investigation with a view to prosecution.
As a result of the relentless pressure from the Timol family the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol was reopened in 2018 but not before the key interrogators implicated in his detention and death had died; Hans Gloy died in 2012 and Captain van Niekerk in 2006. Judge Mothle who presided over the reopened Timol inquest also ordered that Captain Sons and Captain Els be charged with perjury for misleading the court. The NPA and SAPS have yet to act in accordance with the inquest court judgment handed down in 2017, four years ago.
In another reopened inquest into the death of Nel Aggett inquest, his main interrogator Lieutenant Whitehead died on 23 April 2019, a day after the Minister of Justice agreed to the reopening of the inquest. Whitehead was the last policeman to interrogate Neil Aggett before his death in detention at John Vorster Square police station. The family of Nokathula Simelane, who have also waited for more than thirty years for justice have seen the trial postponed and a key accused implicated in her murder dying before he stood trial. Indeed, in the Haffejee inquest which reopened on 16 August 2021, after a wait of almost 34 years the parents of the late Hoosen Haffejee are deceased and therefore unable to finally hear of his torture and the circumstances that led to his death in detention. Furthermore, Colonel James Taylor, a key witness implicated in the torture and death of Hoosen Haffejee died on 19 August 2019 taking with him testimony that could have provided answers to the inquest.
The NPA, Hawks and the democratic state have much to answer for in their alleged obstruction of justice. Is it any wonder that the families of victims feel abandoned by the State and in particular the NPA and SAPS, who have failed to act in accordance with their constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting accused without fear or favour.
For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at email@example.com and 082 634 7154
For more information about the FHR’s Unfinished Business of the TRC Programme contact:
Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) is a grant making institution supporting civil society organizations in South Africa and the region that implement programmes which promote and protect human rights. The Foundation’s mission is to address the historical legacy of apartheid, to promote and advance transformation in South Africa and to build a human rights culture using the Constitution as a tool. Over the last two decades FHR has played a major role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes through supporting the recommendations of the TRC including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations and access to the TRC archives.