Documents @EN

🇿🇦 The Commission delivers an unsorted heap of paper

The good news first: the CRL Commission’s documents have arrived! The bad news: they consist of five ring binders and four small office files, which are a wild mess in terms of organisation, form, and content. After looking through the material, it seems clear that no competent report on the serious abuses at the Kwa Sizabantu mission could be compiled from such a heap of paper rubbish. And now?

To summarise once again: The CRL Commission took almost three years to conduct so-called investigations into the allegations of abuse at the KZN mission. It constantly delayed the hearings and postponed the publication of its final report several times with windy excuses. In the end, it was presented after a mandamus application had been launched to compel delivery. The Report was then an amateurishly cobbled-together conglomerate that completely disregarded the numerous witnesses to the abuse and mysteriously concluded that no finding on these gross excesses could be made as the scandalous mission denied any wrongdoing.

Since then, a group of witnesses to the evil practices at KSB have endeavoured to sift through the documents produced in the course of the CRL Commission’s investigations in order to have the final report quashed. However, the Commission initially refused to deliver its documents in spite of the express obligation imposed by the Court Rules to do so. It even failed to honour an order by the Pretoria High Court to hand over the documents, which earned it a criminal complaint for contempt of court. From March to the end of May 2024, the disgraceful game of the commission around Prof Mosoma continued – until the High Court finally ordered the release in a somewhat harsher form following an urgent application by the witnesses. This time, the Commission was threatened that the sheriff of the court would seize the documents.

 The court’s decision was now effective. However, the lawyers for the plaintiffs against the CRL – including former KSB employees Koos Greeff and Peet Botha – had barely received the papers when they realised that they were a completely unsorted pile of paper. In an immediate reply from the lawyers to the Commission, they stated, among other things: “The transcript – if that is the correct word – of the evidence of some witnesses is completely unacceptable. It is incomplete, no question put to any witness has been transcribed; … the content jumps irrationally between witnesses of whom many are unidentified and the recording is incomplete. No transcript of any witness who testified on behalf of the Mission has been included. There is no correspondence disclosed which should be produced fully and completely; only the responses of the mission’s lawyers are produced.” Shortly afterwards, the CRL also admitted, when asked, that it had no records of internal meetings, correspondence, emails, or notes relating to the preparation of its final report on the mission scandal.

An affidavit by one of the witnesses against KSB, which is now before the Gauteng court, vividly describes the chaotic functioning of the CRL and the appearance of the Commission’s now delivered file rubbish. It says: “The documents handed over to the applicants’ law firms consist of a total of 9 files, 5 ring binders and four small office files. I have personally inspected each of these files and ring binders and can testify to the deplorable condition in which they were delivered. Not a single file is indexed, no file is consistently paginated, and many of the minutes are missing details of participants in the hearings. Several witness statements were not fully transcribed, and witnesses and other persons participating in the evidence or discussion are referred to as “participant one” or “participant two” and so on. There are at least twenty-five duplicates of transcribed evidence and documents. None of these are in chronological order, and many contain truncated portions of evidence or discussion that are difficult to decipher and follow. Some pages have been typed so superficially that they are barely legible. There is no logical order in these presentations. None of the files have been numbered, and only a few portions of the evidence have been labelled with dates or numbers.”

Now, the Claimants argue that the portions relevant to the proceedings to quash the CRL Final Report are not identifiable in terms of what should have been a proper procedural record. For this reason, Claimants have made use of the copies provided to their counsel of record and have extracted from the copies in their possession any additional evidence they wish to present to the Court in support of the petition for a review of the Report issued by the Commission.

 Apart from all the legalities, observers of the scene are faced with the puzzle of how and in what way the CRL Commission’s meagre final report came about in the first place. So far, there is hardly any connection between the documents and the final report. The recommendations made in the final CRL report on the investigations as a summarising conclusion are in any case so meagre that no meetings, hearings, television appearances or similar would have been necessary. Nor, in fact, nine chaotically organised files. So, what was all the fuss about??

It seems that the CRL affair is increasingly becoming a disaster for an organ of the Republic of South Africa. The CRL Commission, which nobody had called upon to participate in the investigation into the abuses at the KSB Mission and which thrust itself unasked into the centre of the affair, has disgraced itself to the bone through repeated sloppy procedures in a bitter human rights affair at one of the largest missions on the continent. The airs and graces she displayed were just as conspicuous as her dilettantism. At no stage of the entire process did the CRL Commission even come close to adopting an attitude befitting the dignity of a constitutional institution representing the state of South Africa.

The Commission, which has since replaced its previous lawyers with new ones, may now file a plea or statement of defence. Once – and if(!) – that pleading has been submitted, the plaintiffs, i.e. the witnesses against KwaSizabantu, can submit a response to it to the court. Written arguments will then follow. Finally, in September, the court could make a final decision on whether the report of the constitutional institution CRL should be annulled.