My Father Died for This, an Al Jazeera People & Power documentary, follows Lukhanyo Calata’s ongoing struggle to compel the South African authorities to prosecute those responsible for his father’s brutal murder at the hands of the apartheid regime. Lukhanyo’s father Fort Calata was one of the Cradock Four (alongside Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli), a group of black activists from the town of Cradock who were abducted, tortured and murdered in 1985. Why, 25 years after the democratically elected ANC came to power, has this case (and an estimated 400 other apartheid era murders) remained unprosecuted? Naashon Zalk and Hamilton Wende investigate for Al Jazeera’s People & Power.
My Father Died for This airs from THURSDAY, 6 MAY – SUNDAY, 9 MAY 2021
The story begins by revisiting the infamous Cradock Four murders in June 1985. Lukhanyo Calata was just three years old when his father was assassinated. Now in his late thirties, he remains determined to obtain justice for his father’s death.
Unsurprisingly the apartheid government never prosecuted those responsible for the murders of the Cradock Four. But, after apartheid ended in 1994, a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) was set up to hear victim stories and allow perpetrators to seek amnesty. Through this process the Calata family came to know the identities of Fort’s killers and more about who ordered the Cradock Four murders and other assassinations. They are convinced that the chain of command went right to the top, allegedly implicating senior apartheid figures such as Adriaan Vlok, Minister of Law and Order, Johann van der Merwe, national Police Commissioner, and possibly even FW de Klerk, Education Minister at the time, and later South Africa’s president – although the latter has strongly denied any involvement.
After the TRC ended its work in 2003 the commission forwarded an estimated 400 apartheid murder cases to the prosecuting authorities. The Calata family had high hopes that the perpetrators would finally be indicted. But, nearly two decades later, virtually no such prosecutions have ensued. In fact, since 2003, there has been only one prosecution of high level apartheid figures. In 2007 Vlok and van der Merwe (and three others), as part of a plea bargain, received relatively light suspended sentences for their role in the attempted murder of anti-apartheid activist Frank Chikane.
Next we delve into accusations that there was high level political interference in the Chikane case. We interview Vusi Pikoli, the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He claims he was instructed by senior government officials not to prosecute Vlok and van der Merwe. He went ahead anyway, albeit agreeing to a government directed plea deal. Later, he was fired as head of NPA.
Disturbingly, the alleged interference in the Chikane case was not an isolated incident. It also now seems likely it was preceded by attempts by the ANC government to push through a secret amnesty arrangement which would pardon apartheid era and liberation movement perpetrators alike. We interview Ole Bubenzer, a German legal researcher and lawyer, who gained exclusive access to some of the former apartheid officials who negotiated with the government in search of an amnesty arrangement. After such proposed legislation was ruled to be unlawful the ANC appears to have settled on an informal policy not to back prosecutions of TRC cases.
Lukhanyo has fought long and hard against this state imposed stasis. This year, after a long legal battle to force the NPA to reinstitute the Cradock Four murder docket (it had mysteriously disappeared from their headquarters), another prosecuting body, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), finally agreed to pick up the case.
The prosecution team believe that with one exception all the Cradock Four killers are deceased; the possible sole survivor being Eric Taylor, the man who personally killed Fort Calata. But when we tried to track down Taylor we unearthed some bad news for the Calata family: he too is now dead.
Lukhanyo returns to Cradock to update his family about these developments, stirring up deep emotions.
Thu 6 May at 12:30AM
Thu 6 May at 11:30AM
Fri 7 May at 5:30AM
Sat 8 May at 6:30PM
Sun 9 May at 7:30AM
A few hours after first broadcast the films will be available to view on People and Power’s web page: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/ and YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/show/peoplepower. People and Power can also be followed on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AJPeopleAndPower/
For further information contact:
Naashon Zalk, Director/Producer
Hamilton Wende, Producer