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First on EWN: Former TRC commissioners reflect on its role 20 years on

Dumisa Ntsebeza & Fazel Randera are part of 13 commissioners interviewed by EWN as part of a special series.

FILE: Dumisa Ntsebeza, former head of the investigative unit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is pictured on 30 October 1997. Picture: Anna Zieminski/AFP.

CAPE TOWN - A former Truth and Reconciliation commissioner says part of the strength of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was its ability to restore dignity to some of the victims of apartheid.

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza is one of 13 former commissioners interviewed by Eyewitness News as part of a special podcast series examining reconciliation in South Africa.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the first human rights violations hearings, held by the TRC.

Ntsebeza says they treated apartheid victims with a level of respect they had never experienced prior to the hearings.

LISTEN: _What can we learn from the TRC 20 years later? _

Nonhle Mohapi was first to testify before the Human Right Violations Committee in East London in 1996.

She was the widow of black consciousness leader Mapetla Mohapi, who was detained in 1976.

The close associate of Steve Biko died two months later.

Police claimed he'd hanged himself in his cell.

His widow sued the police minister, but lost the case.

She told the TRC that while the apartheid system treated her with contempt, she felt the commissioners were listening.

"For the first time she was talking to a group of people who believed her, for the first time she said she was treated with respect," Ntsebeza says.

He says the TRC helped to restore civic and human dignity to the victims of apartheid.

'ANC MAY BE COMPROMISED BY IT'S OWN PAST'

Ntsebeza has told EWN government may have deliberately blocked prosecutions of apartheid perpetrators because the ANC may be compromised by its own past.

He's queried the length of time it took to charge those implicated in the abduction, torture and murder of Nokuthula Simelane.

The ANC courier was 26 when she was snatched from the basement of the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg.

Simelane was taken, first to a flat, and then to a farm in what is now the North West, where she was tortured so badly that, according to witness statements, she could not walk.

She was allegedly shot and buried near Rustenburg.

Eight police officers applied for amnesty, and four succeeded.

Ntsebeza says an affidavit confirms the former NPA head was pressured politically not to pursue the case.

"[Vusi] Pikoli says he was told not to prosecute. [It was] strongly suggested that there would ramifications even for ANC people."

Only in February this year, following years of efforts by Simelane's family, did the NPA charge four former officers with her murder.

FAZEL RANDERA

At the same time, Doctor Fazel Randera, who also served as a TRC commissioner, says although some former apartheid leaders apologised for apartheid, the widespread denial by many institutions has contributed to the lack of social cohesion in the country today.

He says the reluctance of apartheid-era bodies such as the South African National Defence Force to come before the commission was partly to blame.

"I think all of that continues to contribute towards a lack of social cohesion in society. We have moved from reconciliation to it is that makes a society comfortable and happy."

Click here to view ' History for the Future', a special feature to commemorate 20 years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.