The sisters of Ashley Kriel, the slain Umkhonto we Sizwe guerrilla, are considering whether to present evidence gathered by forensic investigator Dr David Klatzow to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for possible prosecution, but both are concerned about the financial implications and the thought that their family might be denied justice for their brother’s death a third time.
Apartheid security police said the 20-year-old Mr Kriel, an ANC activist from Bonteheuwel, had been accidentally shot at a house in Albermarle Street in Hazendal in July 1987 during a scuffle.
His sisters, Michel Assure and Melanie Adams, however, always
believed he was murdered.
The sisters said their family had been denied justice twice before – at the police inquiry, shortly after his death, and by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
In his submissions to the TRC, police captain Jeffrey Benzien said Mr Kriel had produced a .22 pistol during his arrest at the house in Hazendal.
He told the TRC he had tried to take the gun away from Mr Kriel, but a scuffle ensued, during which Mr Kriel was shot in the back.
Mr Benzien said the shot was fired from Mr Kriel’s pistol. Mr Benzien was granted amnesty.
Forensic scientist Dr Klatzow, who was hired by the family’s legal representative shortly after Mr Kriel’s death, has been working on this case for almost 29 years.
His photographic evidence suggests that Mr Kriel was murdered.
Asked why he had spent so much time on this case, Dr Klatzow said: “This was an injustice that was never remedied, and it sticks to my gut.”
Referring to the police inquest conducted shortly after Mr Kriel’s death, Dr Klatzow said: “The magistrate was dishonest, the policemen were dishonest and the pathologist never did a proper job – it’s pathetic.
“It’s difficult to know whether the pathologist was incompetent or was also dishonest.”
A research document titled The Preservation and Access to Records and Stories relating to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – a joint Historical Papers (The Library, University of the Witwatersrand) and the South African History Archives Project, said chapter four of the TRC’s founding legislation “outlined the mechanisms and procedures of the amnesty process”.
The document further reads: “These provided for the establishment of an amnesty committee (the committee) and empowered it to consider and decide on applications for amnesty.
“The act provided that the committee could grant amnesty where it was satisfied that the application complied with the formal requirements of the act; that the incident in question took place within specific time parameters, that it constituted an act associated with a political objective, that the applicant had made full disclosure of all the relevant facts, and that the nature of the violation was proportionate to the objective sought. The act provided for immunity from criminal and civil prosecution for those granted amnesty.”
Dr Klatzow, however, said if evidence found that Mr Benzien had lied to the TRC, then the case could be re-opened.
Ms Assure said she felt the TRC hearing into her brother’s death had been almost a “replica of the apartheid-era inquest”.
“Benzien showed no remorse, and he didn’t come clean. How can he live with his conscience?
“If the truth comes out, then we can at least find closure. I said all along that the scene at that Albermarle house was not consistent with the police’s version of what happened there.
“There were blood stains on the walls and floors. I found blood-stained clothing, a towel with a blood clot, a cap with blood and a spade with blood, and Ashley had a gash on his head – and according to the police everything happened within seconds. He was brutally murdered,” Ms Assure said.
Ms Adams said justice was not yet served, and because of this they had not been able to start the healing process and forgiveness “of the man we believe killed our brother”.
Dr Klatzow said he believed Mr Kriel had been shot from behind, “from a distance”, while his wrists were handcuffed behind his back.
The ANC in the Western Cape plans to approach the NPA with the evidence.
The party’s acting provincial secretary Thandi Manikivana said: “The arm of the law is long, and those who chose not to take the opportunity to speak all truth, but received unjustified amnesty, will never hide forever. The law will find them, and they shall be prosecuted. Nelson Mandela, in his first speech in Cape Town on his release from prison in February 1990 made it very clear that the ANC holds Ashley very dearly, and we consider his death a crime against the people of this country who longed for a country that did not treat its people as subhumans in their own land.
“It is these crimes against the people of this country that necessitated the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which did outstanding work in giving this country a leap forward and a reason to believe in the possibility of moving beyond our fractured society.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted amnesty to those who spoke nothing but the truth, and we took comfort in knowing the truth, however, painful the truth was.
“We accepted that Ashley Kriel was shot in the back by the apartheid security policeman Jeffrey Benzien, after the so-called scuffle with Ashley, and Benzien was then granted amnesty.
“Where there is evidence, however, that Benzien did not tell the truth about the death of Ashley, as forensic scientist David Klatzow, who has been working on the case for 29 years, suggests, we will have no choice but to approach the National Prosecuting Authority to look into the evidence and reopen the case for prosecution.”
The Athlone News sent a list of questions to NPA spokesman Eric Ntabazalila, including whether Mr Benzien can be prosecuted, if it is found that he had lied during the TRC commission hearing, but, Mr Ntabazalila had not responded at the time of publication.