Press Release by the Foundation for Human Rights Another blow to Justice and Accountability – Eric Winter Dies

TO: All Media
ATT: News Editors, Human Rights Reporters
For immediate release
Tuesday, 19 August 2021

Eric Winter, one of the individuals implicated in the abduction, torture and murder of Fort
Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlauli, and Sparrow Mkonto (known as the “Cradock 4”),
died yesterday morning in Pretoria.


Eric Winter was a former head of the Security Branch in Cradock and played a leadership role
in Special Operations K Unit of the Security Branch known as Koevoet (Crowbar). Winter was
implicated in the murder of the Cradock Four by one of the operatives responsible for the
killing of the Cradock 4, the late Johan Martin (Sakkie) Van Zyl who stated that Winter was “in
charge of the mechanical means of spying on Mr Goniwe’s home.” Indeed, Judge Neville
Zietsman ruled in the 1994 Inquest that a case of suspicion for the murders of the Cradock
Four had been made out against him. Winter did not apply for amnesty for his role.


On 20 July 2021 – on the anniversary of the Cradock 4 funeral, Lukhanyo Calata (son of the
late Fort Calata) and the widows of Sicelo Mhlauli and Sparrow Mkonto launched an
application to compel the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police
Service (SASP) to finalise the investigation into the murder of the Cradock 4, and to make a
prosecutorial decision. The application cites Eric Winter as the seventh respondent. Eric
Winter’s death makes truth recovery and justice even more challenging for the Cradock 4
families as he was one of the few witnesses alive who could tell the full story.


The death of Eric Winter and untold truths that he took with him to his grave are reflective of
the prevailing impunity in South Africa for the apartheid-era crimes. The inability and
unwillingness of the South African government, the National Prosecuting Authority and the
Hawks to fulfil their constitutional mandates to promptly investigate and prosecute those implicated in the Cradock 4 murders, have left victims and their families in containing anguish.


The delay in bringing those implicated in the murders of the Cradock 4 must be laid squarely
at the feet of the Executive and the NPA. The families of apartheid era victims who gave their lives to the struggle for freedom have
waited for more than 23 years since the TRC ended its work. The Truth and Reconciliation
Commission handed over a list of around 300 cases to the NPA where the perpetrators of
human rights violations did not apply for amnesty or were refused amnesty for further
investigation with a view to prosecution.


As a result of the relentless pressure from the Timol family the inquest into the death of
Ahmed Timol was reopened in 2018 but not before the key interrogators implicated in his
detention and death had died; Hans Gloy died in 2012 and Captain van Niekerk in 2006. Judge
Mothle who presided over the reopened Timol inquest also ordered that Captain Sons and
Captain Els be charged with perjury for misleading the court. The NPA and SAPS have yet to
act in accordance with the inquest court judgment handed down in 2017, four years ago.


In another reopened inquest into the death of Nel Aggett inquest, his main interrogator
Lieutenant Whitehead died on 23 April 2019, a day after the Minister of Justice agreed to the
reopening of the inquest. Whitehead was the last policeman to interrogate Neil Aggett before
his death in detention at John Vorster Square police station. The family of Nokathula
Simelane, who have also waited for more than thirty years for justice have seen the trial
postponed and a key accused implicated in her murder dying before he stood trial. Indeed, in
the Haffejee inquest which reopened on 16 August 2021, after a wait of almost 34 years the
parents of the late Hoosen Haffejee are deceased and therefore unable to finally hear of his
torture and the circumstances that led to his death in detention. Furthermore, Colonel James
Taylor, a key witness implicated in the torture and death of Hoosen Haffejee died on 19
August 2019 taking with him testimony that could have provided answers to the inquest.


The NPA, Hawks and the democratic state have much to answer for in their alleged
obstruction of justice. Is it any wonder that the families of victims feel abandoned by the State
and in particular the NPA and SAPS, who have failed to act in accordance with their
constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting accused without fear or
favour.

For media enquiries contact:
Lindiwe Sibiya, Media and Communication Officer, FHR at lsibiya@fhr.org.za and 082 6347154

For more information about the FHR’s Unfinished Business of the TRC Programme contact:
Ahmed Mayet at amayet@fhr.org.za and/ or Katarzyna Zdunczyk at kzdunczyk@fhr.org.za

Foundation for Human Rights
The Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) is a grant making institution supporting civil society
organizations in South Africa and the region that implement programmes which promote and
protect human rights. The Foundation’s mission is to address the historical legacy of
apartheid, to promote and advance transformation in South Africa and to build a human rights
culture using the Constitution as a tool. Over the last two decades FHR has played a major
role in promoting the rights of victims of apartheid crimes through supporting the
recommendations of the TRC including justice and accountability for past crimes, reparations
and access to the TRC archives.

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