People & Power

South Africa: My Father Died For This

Can the perpetrators of a notorious apartheid-era crime finally be brought to justice in South Africa?

As South Africa’s apartheid government fought to cling onto power in the latter half of the 20th century, it routinely imprisoned, tortured and murdered its opponents in the liberation movement.

Controversially, in the years that followed the end of white minority rule, many of those crimes went unpunished.

In 1995, President Nelson Mandela’s new African National Congress (ANC) administration established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help heal the country by revealing the facts about the era’s gross human rights violations.

However the commission’s emphasis was on gathering evidence, publicly acknowledging abuses and hearing testimony from victims, rather than on prosecuting the perpetrators – many of whom were granted amnesty in return for participating in the process.

The reconciliation hearings helped unify the new South Africa but they also disillusioned and frustrated many survivors and victims’ families who wanted more than mere acknowledgment of their suffering – and who have never given up hopes of justice.

Lukhanyo Calata is one of them. His father was part of a group of anti-apartheid activists – famously known as the Cradock Four – who were assassinated by security forces in 1985. No one has ever been prosecuted for orchestrating or committing the murders, but as this episode of People and Power reveals, Lukhanyo remains utterly determined to hold his father’s killers to account.

(Material from The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa has been used in this programme)