Families of freedom fighters killed in the struggle for a democratic South Africa can now turn to a non-government organisation (NGO) for assistance.
The Ex-Combatants Foundation was officially launched earlier this month by Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla under the banner “promoting nation building and reconciliation”.
“The establishment of the Foundation is an important milestone for military veterans and the Department of Military Veterans. It will go a long way in helping the Department advance its objective of providing effective and efficient counselling services, honouring and memorialising veterans as well providing burial support as stipulated in the Military Veterans Act,” the Deputy Minister said.
“The Foundation is an NGO formed specifically to assist the families before, during and after exhumations of freedom fighters and those who lost their lives during the fight against apartheid. The Foundation focuses on the welfare of the families of former liberation freedom fighters, the majority of who are military veterans.
“The role of the Foundation is to assist in bringing closure to the pain inflicted by the state-sponsored violence of apartheid regime. The Foundation works on both internal and external cases of persons missing following the liberation struggle as well as those who were buried in exile,” a statement said.
The Foundation works in partnership with the Missing Persons Person Task Team (MPTT) of the National Prosecuting Authority and the Argentinean forensic anthropology team working on exhumations of the graves of known freedom fighters. It will also take on cases outside the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which cannot be funded by government as per the current regulations.
“The Foundation will handle non-TRC cases to ensure all who were part of the liberation struggle are treated equally and given the same honour and respect through the mobilisation of the necessary financial, technical and social resources within and outside government. We want to make sure there is no difference in the eyes of the general members of the public between those who fell in the liberation struggle who are TRC and non-TRC cases,” said Foundation chief executive Brian Ndlovu.
His plans for the Foundation include the proper recording of liberation struggle history, the promotion of reconciliation and the “closure of a painful chapter among scores of families who lost loved ones during the struggle”.
In the immediate future the Foundation, apart from extensive fundraising, will be concentrating its efforts on assisting with exhumation and reburial of remains both inside and outside South Africa.