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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

C. The perception of the Commission

From the outset. the REC (as well as another organisation of former detainees formed in 1990 known as the Returned Exiles Coordination Committee) has sought to discredit the Commission. It has done so by a vigorous media campaign The principal basis of the attack has been that the members of the Commission are biased in favour of the ANC and are accordingly incapable of conducting a fair enquiry. It is alleged that Adv L. Skweyiya S.C., who was appointed Chairman of the Commission and Ms Mabandla are both members of the ANC and serve on its Constitutional Committee. Adv Skweyiya is also said to be a brother or cousin of Zola Skweyiya, a high-ranking official in the ANC's legal department. Adv Marcus is said to be related to Ms Gill Marcus, the ANC spokesperson. Apart from the latter suggestion, all the other allegations are entirely true. In consequence, the perception has been created that the ANC has appointed a "tame" Commission.

In rejecting the Commission, the REC has, from time to time, made its own demands. It has attempted to persuade the Government to appoint a judicial commission of enquiry. It has also called for some form of international enquiry and to that end has forged links with a German based organisation known as the International Society for Human Rights. More recently, the REC announced a campaign which could culminate in the assassination of ANC leaders and cadres who allegedly committed atrocities against detainees (City Press, 9 August 1992).

As indicated above, the effective operation of the commission was largely dependent on the willingness of witnesses to come forward. The majority of the group of 32 are under the sway of the REC. Strenuous and persistent efforts were made by Adv Revelas to secure the cooperation of the REC. To that end, she has communicated on several occasions with members of the REC in an effort to persuade them to allow their members to testify. On the suggestion of the REC, she communicated with the International Society for Human Rights. In a letter from the latter organization dated 10 June 1992, Robert Chambers, the Secretary General for the Society, stated that there could be no cooperation, since the Commission's terms of reference ignore "the blatant miscarriages of justice and misuse of powers that led to the detentions in the first place". In the event of the terms of reference being amended to allow such Investigation, the Society was prepared to "resume" communications. Surprisingly, on 4 August 1992, when, to the knowledge of the Society the Commission was scheduled to hear further evidence, Adv Revelas received a request from the Society to attend the hearings of the Commission. The request was declined by the Commission.

It is not for the Commission to comment upon the motives of the REC and whether or not its misgivings concerning the Commission are reasonable. The reality cannot be avoided, however, that the manner in which the Commission is presently constituted has created in the minds of certain persons the perception of partiality. The very fact of the perception (whether justified or not) has impeded the workings of the Commission to such an extent that the full and thorough investigation called for by the President of the ANC has simply not been possible. At the end of this report, we made recommendations in this regard.

Another factor inhibiting the work of the Commission has been what can only be described as a climate of fear. We were informed that certain potential witnesses feared for their safety. They feared repercussions from the very persons whom they accused of torturing them. These fears cannot, in our view, be disregarded as irrational or unfounded, particularly in view of the fact that several of the persons accused of committing acts of torture are presently employed in the security department of the ANC.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.