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Friday, December 5, 1997 Published at 08:19 GMT


P W Botha defies Truth Commission

P W Botha faces charges if he does not appear before the Truth Comission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa has failed in its latest attempt to secure the personal testimony of the former president, P W Botha.

The attorney general ruled that a subpoena served against Mr Botha was invalid because of a technical error.

The chairman of the Truth Commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had made a formal complaint against the former president for failing to attend a Commission hearing.

But the complaint failed because the subpoena did not specify a time for Mr Botha's appearance. A new subpoena is being issued for him to appear on December 14th.

"No one should be regarded as above the law," said Archbishop Tutu. "We are not sniffing for blood. We have asked him to come and talk to nice people."

He said the Commission's aim was not to have the former president prosecuted. He said it was to promote the healing of the nation and it was important for Mr Botha to assist in that process.

This is the third time the Truth commission has summoned him to testify about alleged abuses dating back to the apartheid era.

The former president believes the hearings are a witch hunt against Afrikaners. Last month he described the Truth Commission as a circus.

Mr Botha and his lawyers have offered to answer questions in writing. The Commisssion has stated that written answers are not a suitable substitute for a personal appearance.

[ image: The Turth Council moves to Cape Town for further hearings]
The Turth Council moves to Cape Town for further hearings
He has been called to testify about alleged human rights abuses dating back to his time in office during the apartheid era. The Commission wants to ask Mr Botha, who was President between 1978 and 1989, about his role as head of the State Security Council.

It was during his leadership in the 1980s that township unrest escalated. In response, Mr Botha imposed a state of emergency, and thousands of people were detained.

Nine days of hearings involving Winnie Mandela, President Mandela's former wife, ended yesterday with her expressing deep sorrow to the families of some of her alleged victims.

She denied allegations of kidnapping, torture and murder, saying they were part of a conspiracy against her.

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