Tutu report legal move splits ANC

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The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICA'S ruling African National Congress has been split by its legal bid to block the report into apartheid-era atrocities by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The move was apparently opposed by President Nelson Mandela but was backed by his anointed heir, Thabo Mbeki.

On Thursday morning, just hours before the 3,500-page report was to be released, the ANC went to court to prevent the commission accusing it of human rights abuses, even though the alleged abuses were far less serious than those laid at the door of the former apartheid regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the TRC chairman, angrily accused the ANC of behaving like the white regime it had replaced.

Yesterday the archbishop, putting the TRC into recess until it reconvenes for the last time next summer, repeated his embarrassing warning to the government.

"The fact that they are the majority party in government does not give them privileges," he said. "I did not fight against people who thought they were God to replace them by others. Yesterday's oppressed could become tomorrow's oppressors."

Mr Mbeki earlier dismissed the report as "wrong, very wrong". But many ANC party members disagree. Yesterday some condemned Mr Mbeki, saying the attempted legal challenge was an authoritarian move. Many ANC supporters have contacted their local radio stations criticising the attack on the TRC, which the ANC itself established.

In another sign that racial reconciliation still faces many obstacles, South Africa's last white president, FW de Klerk, yesterday said apartheid was not a crime against humanity.

"The TRC has failed lamentably to carry out its mandate to establish the truth concerning the conflict of the past and to promote reconciliation," he said. Mr de Klerk said killings and torture carried out by state security forces were the work of rogue individuals and was never state policy.

The ANC's legal moves came after former white president F W de Klerk succeeded in forcing the TRC to remove allegations implicating him in state-sponsored terrorism.

The report called on the government to consider prosecuting human rights violators who failed to seek amnesty. It also urged the government to set up human rights bureaux in ministries, for restitution "for those who have suffered from apartheid discrimination", possibly through a levy on private businesses, and for the liberation movement to apologise to those whose human rights were abused by the movement.

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