- On Monday August 30, 2004, International Day of the Disappeared will be commemorated for the first time in South Africa at a public gathering to be held in the Library Gardens, Johannesburg between 12:30 and 13:30 on Monday, August 30, 2004. This gathering will highlight the disappearances which occurred in our country during Apartheid. You are warmly invited to attend.
Who is a disappeared person? "A disappeared person is a person arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of his / her liberty by officials of different branches or levels of government or by organized groups or private individuals acting on their behalf, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fact or whereabouts of the person concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of his/her liberty, thereby placing such persons outside the protection of the law." Draft International Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearance.
While the Draft Convention provides a legal definition of a ?disappeared person', it does not explain the impact that a case of disappearance has on the lives of family members of the disappeared. "...living in a vacuum caused by the uncertainty about what happened to their family member is a daily torture. There can be no rest, no mourning, no closure as long as the truth has not emerged. This search for the truth is extremely frustrating and painful, and family members are often completely alone in their despair." - Ewoud Plate, Coordinator of the Project Linking Solidarity.
The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa states that the TRC received more than 1500 victim statements concerning persons who went missing or who disappeared after being forcibly abducted during the period between 1960 and 1994. Some of these cases were resolved as a result of various amnesty hearings for perpetrators.
In 477 cases, some investigations have been conducted without determining the actual fate of the persons named. The remaining cases have not been investigated or resolved. These cases represent one aspect of the Unfinished Business of the TRC. "The resolution of [...] disappearance cases is perhaps the most significant piece of unfinished business for the commission. The commission is therefore of the view that these cases should not simply be abandoned, but that further mechanisms should be put in place to finalize them." Volume Six, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report.
The Project on Disappearances, ?The Voiceless Silent' launched by Khulumani Support Group (KSG) is one "mechanism" towards securing some closure on these matters for family members. The project was established for the purpose of helping the families of disappeared South Africans to deal with the medical, legal, social and psychological effects of having a loved-one disappear and to support them in the process of trying to find out what really happened.
Khulumani Support Group is a membership organisation of people who were the direct or indirect victims of apartheid violence and gross human rights abuses. Its mission is the re-empowerment of these survivors and their reintegration into mainstream society. The organisation has a national database of information about disappeared South Africans, which is being used towards filling some of the gaps for family members.
Our partners in this work nationally are the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and the Task Force on Disappearances of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Khulumani Support Group is also a founding member of RADIF, R?seau Africain Contre les Disparitions Forc?es (RADIF), an African-based co-ordinating body for the network of African NGOs working in the domain of enforced disappearances, which was established in June 2003. Work is underway to develop a Southern African Network on Disappearances (SANAD) to link relevant organisations in this region.