South Africa reopens inquiry into four decades old killings of anti-apartheid activists

The South African Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun an inquiry to reopen the murders of four anti-apartheid activists killed almost four decades ago.

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The South African Department of Justice (DOJ) has begun an inquiry to reopen the murders of four anti-apartheid activists killed almost four decades ago.

The anti-apartheid activists known as the Cradock Four were Mathew Goniwe, Sparrow MkontoA, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli.

The four were last seen on June 27, 1985, on their way home to Cradock, a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Their bodies were found days later, severely burned and covered in multiple stab wounds, the DOJ reported.

According to the statement released by the DOJ, two inquests held in 1987 and 1993 were inconclusive. The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1996 to investigate the atrocities committed following the end of apartheid in 1994 uncovered new evidence.

“The Commission finds that in the late 1980s the South African Police (SAP), and particularly its Security Branch (SB), embarked on a programme of assassinations of political activists. The evidence before the Commission indicates that the resulting deaths and disappearances of activists were part of a systematic pattern of abuse involving premeditated planning by members of the SAP, for which the SAP and the South African government are held responsible,” the TRC stated.

“The privilege of presenting evidence in a democratic South Africa must be exercised. In the previous inquests, the voices of the families and those affected have not been heard. It is time for confidence in the justice system to be restored,” said South African Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola in a statement.

Mathew Goniwe was a teacher, Sparrow Mkonto a railway worker, Fort Calata an educator and Sicelo Mhlauli a headmaster of a local secondary school.

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