Prosecuting South Africa’s Apartheid-Era Crimes – Will it Help or Hurt Reconciliation?

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

For more than 20 years after the transition to democracy in South Africa, only a handful of perpetrators of human rights violations during the Apartheid era were prosecuted. In June 2019, in a case that flowed from the re-opening of the inquest into the murder of anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Timol by security police in 1971, the South Gauteng High Court stated that all cases of human rights violations during Apartheid should be prosecuted. The Timol family, the driving force behind the case, is now advocating for the re-opening of other similar cases. The family called upon the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi to prioritise apartheid-era cases. Whereas some are applauding the start of a new wave of cases, it is not clear that such prosecutions will aid nation-building and reconciliation. This presentation will examine the arguments for and against the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes.