After the historic case of apartheid teacher and activist Ahmed Timol was finally brought to light last year, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) is calling for the Hawks to re-open the case of Ashley Kriel’s deaths after thirty years. Ashley Kriel, who was a 20-year-old student activist from Bonteheuwel, had been identified as one of the most iconic student and youth activists from the 1980s from the Cape Flats.
He had just returned home after receiving military training in exile, when the security police in July 1987 tracked him down at a house in Hazendal, Athlone where he agedly murdered. According to the then police captain, Jeffrey Benzien, Kriel had a 22 pistol, and there was a scuffle between the police and Kriel which led to the shot being fired, that hit Kriel in his back killed him.
The IJR’s Stan Henkeman said in recent years the family has been pleading to re-open this case, due to new evidence coming to light. The conclusion of the Ahmed Timol case has given them hope that if through persistence, the truth will come out. He said even though Jeffrey Benzien was granted an amnesty, he was not honest at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It is suggested that some details on crimes and oppressions of the apartheid regime remain swept under the rug as the case of Ahmed Timol showed in 2017. Forensic scientist, David Klatzow has been investigating Kriel’s case for 29 years and suggests that he was shot from afar while his hands were handcuffed. The apartheid security forces had always “planted evidence” to criminalise and murder anti-apartheid activists, added Klatzow.
“There has been forensic evidence that the version given by Benzien was not true, so he received amnesty on false permits. The other aspect is the legal aspect. Just because the truth commission has exonerated people, doesn’t mean the truth came out,” said Henkeman.
Kriel’s sister Michel Assure informed the IJR that the family received a visit from the Hawks, late last year regarding the inquest. She has also contacted the NPA, however, the family has not yet received further information from both the investigative structures.
“The perpetrator was not repentant and he showed no remorse. He had the chance to be truthful at the TRC proceedings. Now, justice must take its course,” said Assure.
She added that Klatzow is more than willing to corroborate with the Hawks and make his findings public which “suggest Kriel was murdered”.
As a civil society organisation, their main motivation for this case is to seek justice and fairness.
“People are saying we have been taken for a ride for so long, we have bent over backwards to do our bit for reconciliation. It has become a burden for those who have been previously oppressed. We are not going to stand for this. We want a message for the next generation that we will not allow people to abuse us,” he stressed.
The matter which was requested by the family to be re-opened has no ulterior motive he says.
“Many more cases like this will come out. Hundreds if not thousands of cases will come out. It is not about the profile of the person but the justice, we need to draw a line. We cannot build our future if we have not dealt with our past. We cannot build a future based on lines of the past. The system needs to work for every South African,” explained Henkeman.
“There are people out there who might have families who had not received justice; they need to approach organisations such as the Legal Resource Centre, and the human rights commission. They will point people to the right places.”
He said families need to go to organisations that will not use this for political reasons.
“To say farewell in a dignified way, if you don’t know how your loved one died, then there will always be question marks. People want to close chapters and books and they want to say goodbye in a proper way,” he added
If the Hawks does reject the application, they will need to give very good reasons as to why they did.
“As Kriel’s family seeks closure, we should remember the words of Desmond Tutu, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. VOC