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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 400

Paragraph Numbers 45 to 53

Volume 1

Chapter 12

Subsection 6

Hearings

45 In order to reach as many people as possible and to involve local communities and organisations, the regional office held as many hearings as it could. These covered the Peninsula, Boland, Southern Cape, Karoo, Northern Cape and West Coast. Decentralised hearings were also held in many suburbs and rural towns.

46 For hearings purposes, the region was divided into six geographical areas: the Northern Cape, the Peninsula, the Boland, the south-western Cape, the Karoo, and the West Coast/ Namaqualand. Staff and commissioners were divided into three teams, each consisting of a Human Rights Violations and a Reparation and Rehabilitation commissioner or committee member, two statement takers, a briefer, a driver, a researcher and a logistics officer, later joined by an investigator. Each team was co-ordinated by the logistics officer who was responsible for administration and logistical support, and a commissioner who was largely responsible for information flow (`Infocom’) and helping to set themes for the hearing. Administrative staff members were not officially part of the team, but were integrated at different levels to ensure the smooth running of the hearing. At times, for example in the rural areas, the media (whose presence was crucial at hearings) were treated as part of the team.

47 Each team worked within a ten-week cycle that consisted of a pre-hearings, hearings and post-hearings phase. During the pre-hearings phase, the team held meetings with strategic people in the various towns. It also held public education and information meetings and set up the process of collecting statements from witnesses. Researchers prepared information to help each team decide where to focus on statement taking and in which towns to hold hearings. Each team passed on the statements it collected to the ‘Infocom’ group for processing.

48 During the hearings stage, the team planned, set up and held hearings in selected towns. The availability of suitable venues and the need to accommodate the needs of the media determined where hearings were held. Occasionally, however, the chosen location proved inaccessible. This limited the participation of communities. For example, it was decided on the basis of the aforementioned criteria to hold the southern Cape hearing in George, without taking into account the fact that human rights violations took place predominantly in Oudtshoorn. This limited the involvement of members of the Oudtshoorn community and informed a later decision to hold a reparation and rehabilitation programme in Oudtshoorn in February 1997.

49 The post-hearings stage included individual follow-up of people who had testified, as well as referrals. In addition, community workshops were held after each of the public hearings. These focused on the community’s experiences of the Commission’s activities in the area, possible ways forward and workshopping of possible human and financial solutions that could be implemented using local resources. In many instances, these workshops became the vehicle to start addressing the issue of reconciliation in a community. For example, the hearing in Paarl and the special reparation and rehabilitation programme in Oudtshoorn focused specifically on ways in which reconciliation and rehabilitation could be addressed, and on how to initiate discussions and make constructive links to the everyday experience and life of people in these communities.

50 The teams met weekly to plan, implement and evaluate the various stages of work. Special attention was paid to ensure that commissioners were as prepared as possible for hearings in regions where it was believed there might be an additional opportunity for investigation. Participating commissioners were provided with a ‘case file’, which contained statements, the Investigation Unit report and research notes. Commissioners were given a final briefing on the eve of each hearing. In the case of the event hearings, commissioners on the panel were also furnished with a specific set of questions for the witnesses assigned to them.

51 During 1996, the work of the Commission was largely driven by hearings. Later in the year, this strategy came under criticism because of the low number of statements collected in comparison to other regions. The Commission found that a hearings-driven approach militated against the collection of statements, since the team was only able to set aside two of the ten weeks of each cycle to statement collection.

52 The introduction of the designated statement taker programme was seen as one way to overcome this problem. In addition, in November 1996, the region decided to divide its workforce into two teams - one for hearings and one for statement taking - in order to ensure equal attention to and promotion of proactive statement taking. Thereafter, the hearings team became responsible for all the hearings which had been diarised by the region earlier that year.

53 Two hundred and eighty-nine cases were investigated for presentation at twelve public hearings. In general, cases at these public hearings were chosen to highlight human rights violations that had been committed in each sub-region. There was criticism that the Cape Town office showed a bias towards investigations and hearings on violations committed by the security forces rather than those committed by the liberation movement. However, 90 per cent of statements demonstrated the involvement of the security forces in human rights violations.

 
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