On the 15th of December 1995, President Nelson Mandela chose 17 South Africans to investigate human rights violations committed under apartheid between 1960 and 1994. During the seven-year Truth Commission, more than 28 000 victims and perpetrators shocked everyone with their accounts of unimaginable abuses.
The 10th anniversary of the Truth Commission will be commemorated at the Freedom Park heritage site in Pretoria on Reconciliation Day tomorrow.
Tutu guides Africa in facing its past
Under the spiritual and moral guidance of Desmond Tutu, the Truth Commission chairperson, South Africa faced its ugly past.
The Truth Commission created a space for South African antagonists to speak and listen to each other. It set international standards for the testimonies of victims and perpetrators to be heard in public. A historical narrative of the causes, nature and extent of the abuses was recorded in seven hefty volumes. As a result, no one can deny what happened.
With the benefit of hindsight though, Jody Kollapen, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, says the TRC space could have been broadened to explore previous labour policies, forced removals and land dispossession.
Govt has ignored recommendations on reparations
Ahmed Motala, the director of the centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, says government has basically ignored the Truth Commission’s recommendations on reparations. Motala said: “Although victims and survivors were paid a small amount of money, there hasn’t been the broad communal reparation that was promised by the government during the TRC process. There hasn’t been support for those who need psycho-social counselling, for example, educational, support and broad institutional transformation that one would have expected, coming out of the TRC.”
Yasmin Sooka, the former Truth Commissioner, says South Africa’s human rights culture looks very promising ten years after the TRC’s appointment. But she’s still concerned about apartheid victims and survivors not being fast-tracked for social benefits.
Charles Villa-Vicencio used to be the Truth Commission’s research director and now heads the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. He says: “I think the TRC, in retrospect, should have probably spent more time talking to politicians, government leaders, political parties than what it did. It stood perhaps a little aloof and should have been more ready to engage government, knowing that ultimately it was government that would need to carry out its recommendations.”
Jody Kollapen says South Africa has done remarkably well for a country that was so steeped in human wrongs. But poverty and under-development are two red flags flapping on the horizon.
The former TRC gave South Africans a roadmap of their horrendous past and another one for their potential future. South Africans now realise that they share a common destiny and that, says Kollapen, “is a wonderful tribute to the human rights culture taking root.”
Source Full article “TRC still strong 10 years on” appeared on the sabcnews.com website