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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 439

Paragraph Numbers 23 to 33

Volume 1

Chapter 12

Subsection 23


Statement taking

23 Statement takers acted as the front line of the Commission’s work with communities. Working in teams of up to five, their formal job description entailed only the recording of stories of gross human right violations. Yet statement takers often had to run education workshops, negotiate with local leaders, organise venues and take statements from those who arrived at hearings.

24 Statement taking fell under the banner of the Human Rights Violations Committee and was the primary information-gathering activity of the Commission. It was often the only channel open to victims to tell their story to the nation. The pressure this implied, coupled with having to listen to traumatic stories of victims under conditions that were often difficult, made the job of statement taking one of the most stressful in the Commission.

25 The designated statement taker programme was launched in 1997 in order to provide communities with greater access to the Commission. The aim was to involve NGOs, faith communities and community based organisations in taking statements and was particularly important in the light of the extremely low staff to population ratio in the office. Co-ordinated by the community liaison officer, almost 100 designated statement takers from twenty-three NGOs, faith communities and community based organisations in twenty towns and cities were involved in taking statements on gross human rights violations. Through this programme, almost 2 000 statements were collected.

Information flow

26 The Information Department managed the flow of information in the office from the starting point of statement taking to the point at which commissioners made findings. As discussed earlier, the weekly ‘Infocom’ meeting co-ordinated the process.

27 Once statements had been recorded, they were registered on the Commission’s database, and a letter of acknowledgement was sent to the deponent. Each statement was copied, the original was placed in the archives, and a copy was sent for processing and capture on the Commission’s database.

28 The Data Unit was initially divided into processors (analysts) and capturers. Late in 1996, however, an efficiency review recommended the merging of these tasks. The efforts of the co-ordinator of this unit and the constant vigilance of the information manager ensured the high quality and quantity of work produced.

29 The presence of the national information systems manager meant that the unit was able to participate in the development of the database, thereby enhancing its appreciation of the database’s uses and applications.


30 Towards the end of 1996, the concept of low level corroboration gained popularity as a way of fulfilling the Commission’s promise to do some investigation on every statement.

31 A Dutch investigator managed the process of conducting these administrative investigations. The low level corroboration team comprised one section of the Investigation Unit, the largest department in the regional office. It took responsibility for presenting a complete product to the Human Rights Violations Committee for a finding. The team initially included two local investigators who worked on amnesty applications and substantive human rights violations cases. Later, however, the team took on board up to twenty corroboration assistants.

32 Amnesty investigators spent much of their time tracking down the victims of perpetrators. Despite the heavy workload caused by the large number of applications in the area, investigators often carried the increased burden of having to make logistic arrangements for victims and their families to participate in the Commission’s work.

33 The Investigation Unit used section 29 of the Act to assist in its investigations. This section gave the unit the power to subpoena suspects to a hearing in which they were obliged to answer all questions.

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