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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 396
Paragraph Numbers 23 to 30
■ WORK OF THE REGIONAL OFFICE
23 The daily work of the Commission was divided into five areas: statement taking, information flow, investigations, hearings and co-operation with other organisations.
24 To ensure that statement takers covered the Western and Northern Cape effectively, the area was divided into eleven manageable sub-regions that were each visited by a team of statement takers over a period of two to three weeks. Where there were sufficient statements to warrant it, a hearing was held at a central point in that sub-region.
25 The Research Department supplied statement takers with a chronology of political events and a brief account of documented cases of gross human rights violations giving them a useful point of entry. In addition, workshops were held for Commission staff statement takers and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations before statement takers worked in a sub-region. These workshops helped further familiarise statement takers with political events and with the people in the community who had been involved in these events, as well as engaging useful assistance from the organisations invited to the workshops.
26 In 1996, statement takers followed a demanding schedule of visiting the various sub-regions or, alternatively, taking statements from people at the regional office. Towards the end of the year, the sub-regional visits were near completion while, at the same time, the number of people arriving at the regional office to make statements began dropping off.
27 It was observed that large numbers of people on the Cape Peninsula itself were not coming forward to make statements and that a more proactive strategy would need to be pursued. The approach adopted was to research newspapers for the period under review for articles and reports on political violence as a basis for creating specific chronologies of events for each part of the Peninsula. In addition, community-based organisations were asked for information in order to locate potential deponents. The voters’ roll was used to try to establish their current whereabouts.
28 This shift from passive to proactive statement taking involved a change in the job requirements of the statement takers. There was also a need for more caution as they were now required to approach potential statement givers, rather than receiving statements from people who had come forward of their own volition. This new direction also required more managerial supervision from an already overstretched information manager who could not always meet the increased demands.
29 In line with this more proactive stance, the team of statement takers analysed the many misconceptions and fears they encountered from people who were reluctant to make statements. They tried to address these by producing a radio play, based on the enactment of a statement-taking interview. Fears that had been identified, such as the need for confidentiality in areas that were still feeling the effects of conflict, as well as the problems of facing the overwhelming publicity of a televised hearing, were talked through in the play. In this way, it was hoped that some of the reservations would be overcome. The radio play was broadcast in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans.
30 The Commission’s narrow mandate was disappointing to some, especially in the rural areas, where many people had to be turned away from making statements on matters that fell outside the Commission’s mandate. Issues such as the abuse of farm labourers, loss of land rights, police thuggery and racial beatings were raised, and it was difficult for statement takers to explain to the victims of these experiences that, in most cases, they could not take their statements. Referrals to other organisations were made where possible. In many cases, however, there was no obvious possibility of redress of any kind.