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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 432
Paragraph Numbers 37 to 47
Reparation and rehabilitation
37 The Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee had a relatively small presence in the East London regional office, with a committee member based in the Port Elizabeth office and three staff members in East London. Although the size of the group made communications and sharing responsibilities easier, it meant that staff had to work under pressure, as there were large numbers of victims to deal with.
38 The Committee actively participated in briefing witnesses during and after hearings. It provided support and counselling services to victims and witnesses and found time for home visits in urgent cases. It focused on referrals of victims to psychological and counselling services, and worked on setting up structures to continue supporting victims beyond the Commission.
39 Work included the referral of children of deponents to various government departments for bursaries; accessing assistance from the Department of Health and Welfare and local universities; helping organise a youth hearing, and promoting the erection of monuments (as for the victims of the ‘Ngquza Hill massacre’ in Pondoland and the ‘Bisho massacre’).
40 Individual examples of the committee’s work included assistance to the family of murdered activist Phumezo Nxiweni, whose bones were exhumed from a farm in KwaZulu-Natal and reburied; and the accessing from private donors of a wheelchair and physiotherapy for activist Ernest Malgas.
41 The Committee held workshops with interested parties to feed into national reparation and rehabilitation policy. In addition, a local psychologist was retained as support for the emotional needs of staff members.
■ WORKING WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS
42 Public relations were crucial for the Commission throughout its life, but particularly in the difficult early months. Without either a communications or a community liaison officer, many of these tasks fell to the statement takers.
43 The most notable opposition came from the Biko and Mxenge families and their supporters and, while their right to oppose the Commission was respected, they continued to make their views known when they attended some of the Commission’s hearings.
44 In general, the East London office was extremely fortunate in the support it received from communities. However, staff did encounter a number of problems in outreach and fieldwork, including a great deal of ignorance about the Commission. Amnesty issues particularly needed explanation. Many NGOs in the region were closing down, and those that remained often did not have the resources to help. Some found that communities strongly associated the Commission with the government, rather than seeing it as an independent body. Finally, statement takers found that, in some areas, branches of the ANC were promoting the Commission as an instrument of their own party rather than as something for all.
45 A substantial number of those who made statements to the office were illiterate, which often affected their knowledge of the process and impacted on the Commission’s ability to stay in contact with them.
46 In 1997, the designated statement taker programme was set up and became a crucial addition to internal statement taking programmes, freeing staff to work in other areas. Three NGOs were contracted to assist with the programme: Lawyers for Human Rights, through its links with advice offices and the Paralegal Association, covered the eastern half of the province and the Tsitsikama area; the Institute for Pastoral Education in Grahamstown covered the Albany area and the Eastern Cape, and the Adult Learning Programme in Port Elizabeth covered the Karoo-Midland region. These three organisations provided forty-two designated statement takers.
47 Training of the designated statement takers went well, and the quality of the statements was high. However, the programme was very slow to get off the ground, due to time constraints and financial misunderstandings. Moreover, there were problems and delays in getting statements to the office. Unfortunately the programme was not very successful; by mid-July, fewer than seventy statements had been received from designated statement takers.