Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-26 Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

'Sensitive' TRC Files Under Lock and Key



The Star

Date 2003-09-26


Christelle Terreblanche

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Boxes of sensitive Truth and Reconciliation Commission files have finally found their way to the national archives after they went astray to the Intelligence Ministry around 1999.

But it is still uncertain when and whether access would be possible to the files, which include the TRC's collection of names of apartheid informers, probes of the chemical and biological warfare programme, and various investigations such as those into the deaths of Chris Hani, Dulcie September and Samora Machel.

The Department of Justice revealed yesterday that officials had transferred the 34 boxes of "sensitive" files, including the names of former apartheid informers, to a vault in the archives in Pretoria earlier this month.

Justice official David Perogo said they had started analysing the files in order to accede to a number of applications for access to information. "The process has started," he said.

The main application for access came from the SA History Archives (Saha), which took the government to court last year after numerous applications to peruse the contents of the boxes failed.

Saha director Vernon Harris finally reached an out-of-court settlement with the Justice Department in May, and an agreement stipulated this week as the first deadline for delivery of the boxes.

Yesterday, after a first deadline lapsed, the department, however, asked Harris for an extension.

Harris said Saha was happy to accept the new offer, in terms of which the information will be transferred in six batches, between October 3 and November 28.

However, he reiterated that if all the information was not made accessible by the end of November, Saha would go ahead with a further court case against the government in January.

In addition, the family of Dulcie September had mandated Saha to pursue legal action against the government if the files pertaining to the investigation into her death were not made available.

Harris said the Access to Information Act made provision for the department to delete information in the files that must be protected, such as the names of informers, before access is provided.

Last week, historian Professor Ben Magubane, the chair of a special intelligence committee on the classification and declassification of sensitive documents, said 95% of the files in the secret boxes were likely to be declassified entirely.

Magubane said the committee would hand over its report on intelligence classification guidelines by the end of the month.

The TRC instructed that all information collected by the commission should be held by the national archives to make it available to historians, researchers and other interested parties.

With acknowledgements to Christelle Terreblanche and The Star.