TO: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For immediate release
Tuesday, 20 July 2021
Cradock Four Families go to court
Press Statement by the Foundation for Human Rights and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Today, on the 20th July 2021, Lukhanyo Calata on behalf of Calata, Mhlauli and Mkonto families filed an application in the Pretoria High Court. The application seeks to compel the National Prosecuting Authorities (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to finalise the investigation and to make a prosecutorial decision with respect to the torture and murder of Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli, and Sparrow Mkonto (also known as ‘Cradock Four’). The application is supported by the Foundation for Human Rights as part of its Unfinished Business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Programme and by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr which is acting pro bono as attorneys for the applicants.
The 20th of July is of a great symbolic value to the families of Cradock Four, as it marks the 36th anniversary of the funerals of Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli, and Sparrow Mkonto. Their funerals were attended by thousands of mourners from across South Africa, who came to pay tribute to the four exceptional anti-apartheid activists who were murdered by the Security Branch of the South African Police (SAP) on 27 June 1985.
The application has been launched on the instructions of Lukhanyo Calata (son of the late Fort Calata) and the wives of Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparrow Mkonto. Sadly, Nyameka Goniwe, the wife of the late Matthew Goniwe, died in August 2020 without experiencing either the truth or justice and was not able to find closure.
In the statement issued earlier today, the Fort Calata Foundation announced that it “hopes that the above-mentioned application will finally begin the long, outstanding process of bringing those behind the murders of our leaders to justice.”
In 1987, the first inquest into the torture and murder of the Cradock Four found that there was no one to blame. This was a total cover-up by the police, the presiding magistrate and state officials. In 1994, the second inquest presided by Judge Neville Zietsman found the security forces responsible for the murders of the Cradock Four and established that a case of suspicion had been made out against SAP officers and South African Defence Forces (SADF) members. Notwithstanding these findings, no steps have been taken against the SAP officers and South African Defence Forces (SADF) members.
Eight individuals, including Eric Alexander Taylor, Hermanus Du Plessis, Nicolaas Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, Harold Snyman, Ms Gerhardus Johannes Lotz, Ms Johan Martin ‘Sakkie’ van Zyl, Jacob Jan Hendrick (Jaap) Van Jaarsveld and Eugene De Kock applied for amnesty in relation to the murders of Cradock Four. Only De Kock and Van Jaarsveld were granted amnesty, yet no action was taken against those who were denied amnesty. The TRC Amnesty Committee findings demonstrated that there was a prima facie case of kidnapping and murder against the perpetrators who were refused amnesty, however, again no action was taken. Since then, all of the alleged murderers on the scene have died. However, some suspects up the chain of command are still alive.
The founding affidavit by Lukhanyo Calata sets out in detail how the chain of command in respect of how the murders of the Cradock Four were authorised and how the state security (in particular the State Security Council) operated. In his affidavit Lukhanyo Calata observes:
…. It can be safely assumed that those serving on the SSC [State Security Council] and its structures were either party to the issuing of instructions, such as the elimination of the Cradock Four and its cover-up, or were kept informed of such plans and what transpired in the aftermath. (par. 169).
In light of the above, the founding affidavit concludes by emphasizing that
…even if SSC members were not directly involved in such operations, they must still be held to account for their roles in tacitly approving the operations and deliberately choosing not to take steps to stop them and punish the perpetrators. (par. 170).
For the reasons stated above and as detailed in the founding affidavit, the surviving former members of the State Security Council are cited as they have a legal interest in these proceedings. These include Frederik Willem De Klerk, Neil Barnard, Barend Jacobus Du Plessis, Adrian Johannes Vlok, Daniel Louis Nel and Johan van der Merwe. The evidence indicates that some of them were present at the infamous meetings of the State Security Council on 19 March 1984 and 10 June 1985.
The families of the Cradock Four are not unique in their anguish and suffering. They reflect the pain and suffering of other apartheid-era families who reluctantly made peace with transitional amnesty but did so in the belief that the truth about who perpetrated and ordered the murders of their loved ones would be established.
The Cradock Four matter is emblematic of the grave failure and betrayals by the SAPS and NPA to act on their constitutional mandate to duly investigate and prosecute without fear or prejudice the gross violations of human rights. It was more than just the failure.
No action was taken by the authorities because the Cradock Four case was one of several hundred murder cases referred by the TRC to the NPA, which were suppressed by senior government officials following the winding up of the TRC. The evidence exists indicating that the interference came from cabinet level. The victims’ families associated under the Apartheid-Era Victims’ Families Group (AVFG), former TRC commissioners and civil society organisations approached President Cyril Ramaphosa multiple times requesting that the political interference be duly investigated by an independent commission of inquiry. All requests to the President for a commission of inquiry into this scandalous denial of justice have been ignored.
In addition to the failure by the NPA and the Hawks and intentional suppression of investigations and prosecutions into the TRC matters by state institutions, the original investigation docket into the Cradock Four murder astonishingly went missing from the offices of the NPA, which is typically a sign of obstruction or a deliberate cover-up. While Lukhanyo Calata, opened a case of theft with great difficulty in 2020, we are not aware of any investigative steps being taken.
The fact that the Calata, Goniwe, Mhlauli and Mkonto families suffered under the criminal apartheid-era state is not surprising. However, it is more bitter that they have been deliberately failed by the democratic ANC-led government, which took a policy decision to suppress investigations and prosecutions of apartheid era crimes. After decades of pleading with the state, the NPA and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations (DPCI), the families of Cradock Four have finally turned to the judiciary to compel the SAPS and NPA to do their jobs.
The application would have not been possible if not for the pro-bono work of legal counsel, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Retired Brigadier Clifford Marion. The application was made possible thanks to the funding by and efforts of the Foundation for Human Rights, as well as a number of domestic and international donors.
For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at email@example.com and 082 634 7154
For more information about the case and proceedings contact:
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr: Tim Smit Tim.Smit@cdhlegal.com .
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.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and specifically its Dispute Resolution and Pro Bono & Human Rights practice groups contribute to solving South Africa’s developmental challenges by promoting constitutional values and facilitating access to justice for the disadvantaged and vulnerable. CDH offers a range of legal services to individuals, non-profit organisations and other entities engaged in human rights or public interest work.