• The President's Fund was set up in 1995 as a reconciliation initiative. It has grown to more than R1.4 billion, accumulating interest without making any major payments.
  • Regulations just gazetted revive a half-decade old attempt to use the money to rehabilitate communities.
  • These communities may now finally be in line for projects worth up to R30 million each.

Communities around the country may finally receive apartheid reparations worth around R500 million soon – from a 23-year-old fund set up for that purpose that has never managed to pay out relatively paltry amounts.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on Friday published a set of draft regulations for "community rehabilitation" under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, a piece of legislation dating from 1995.

In terms of the regulations communities could receive up to R30 million each "for the implementation of a community rehabilitation project".

Communities are to be identified based in part on the nature of the atrocities they suffered. After that, specific projects must be decided on in consultation with apartheid victims and civil society.

The actual nature of projects are not specified, but "those most directly affected by incidents of past atrocities and violence" must be given preference.

Each project must be approved by the minister of justice.

The rules also hold that projects should only be implemented as and when there is money available in the President's Fund – although that should not be a huge problem.

So far the government has identified fewer than 20 communities for rehabilitation projects, each capped at R30 million, for spending of around R500 million in total.

When the President's Fund last provided detailed information, in July 2017, it had more than R1.4 billion in assets.

The fund was created in 1995 as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process, with R800 million from national coffers and R200 million from the Swiss government. It has since earned far more interest on that money than it has made payments.

In 2003 the fund started making R30,000 once-off payments to around 17,000 apartheid victims identified through TRC processes, a total commitment of around R50 million. Another R1.3 million was spent on re-burying exhumed bodies since 2010, and R11.3 million in education expenses were paid to TRC-identified beneficiaries since 2014. 

Those payments, over the course of 15 years, are in total worth around half what the fund earned in interest in its last financial year.

An attempt was made in 2013 to create draft regulations for payments to communities, but those rules were abandoned in 2014. They have since been in limbo, until Friday.

The public now has until mid-August to comment on the new draft rules.

In July last year the department of justice said it had done needs analyses, with a view towards whole-community rehabilitation using the President's Fund, in these communities:

  • Gauteng: Alexandra, Mamelodi
  • KwaZulu-Natal: Bambayi, Mpophomeni
  • Free State: Tumahole, Thabong
  • Northern Cape: Paballelo, Seoding
  • Limpopo: Lulekani and Ga-Matlala
  • North West: Maboloka, Taung
  • Western Cape: Crossroads, Nyanga
  • Northern Cape: Pabello, Seoding
  • Mpumalanga: Ka-Nyamazane and Wesselton

Those communities are expected to be the first to benefit from payments under the new rules.

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