Thabo Mbeki denies interference in prosecution of apartheid-era crimes

Former President Thabo Mbeki during the launch of the African Leadership Institution short course at Unisa. Picture : Masi Losi/IndependentNewspapers

Former President Thabo Mbeki during the launch of the African Leadership Institution short course at Unisa. Picture : Masi Losi/IndependentNewspapers

Published Mar 1, 2024


Former President Thabo Mbeki has denied he interfered in the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes that were referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Mbeki said allegations that he interfered were a fabrication and no National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) ever raised this with him when he was President that he had been instructed by a Minister to stop the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes.

He said the report by News24 last week that he interfered in these prosecutions was not accurate.

He said the NPA must come clean on who gave instruction from his Cabinet at the time to stop the cases referred to it by the TRC.

The NPA must publish this instruction if it exists, said Mbeki.

He said why would the NPA take such an instruction because it was an illegal instruction.

The government did not interfere in these cases.

He called on the NPA to investigate and prosecute these cases that were referred to it by the TRC.

When he was in government, from the time he was deputy president until he became president, there was no instruction from any member of the Executive to get involved in these matters and halt the prosecutions.

“During the years I was in government, we never interfered in the work of the NPA. The executive never prevented the prosecutions from pursuing the cases referred to the NPA by the TRC.

“I insist on this despite a 2021 Supreme Court of Appeal judgment which found on the strength of uncontested submissions by former NDPP Vusi Pikoli, that the NPA ‘investigations into the TRC were stopped as a result of an executive decision’ which amounted to ‘interference with the NPA.

“I repeat, no such interference ever took place. If the investigations Pikoli referred to were stopped, they were stopped by the NPA and not at the behest of the government as alleged by Pikoli. There is no record of a single instance when the NPA stopped investigating and prosecuting any case on account of the so-called ‘executive interference’, at least not during the period 1999-2008,” said Mbeki.

The former president also denied there was back door amnesty for those implicated in the atrocities committed during apartheid.

He said after the TRC concluded its work government was approached by people claiming to be political prisoners, but had not applied for amnesty to the TRC.

“The government thought that rather than ignore these approaches, it should institute a process akin to what was pursued by the TRC Amnesty Committee to allow these prisoners to make presentations. After studying the submissions and using his Constitutional powers, the president would decide whether to grant amnesty to any of the prisoners.

“Ultimately this did not happen because the courts ruled that the intervention would violate the TRC Act. But there was nothing ‘back door’ about this process. I addressed a joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament on this matter on November 21, 2007,” said Mbeki.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza has made serious findings against the NPA that it failed to prosecute apartheid-era crimes.

The report was released by the NPA last week.

Ntsebeza was commissioned by the NPA in 2022 to conduct a review on these cases.

In 2022 the NPA told Parliament’s justice committee it had referred 129 apartheid-era crimes to the Hawks.