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  • Written by  Mail&Guardian
  • Published in In the News
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Go-betweens keep the truth body working

MAGGIE Friedman, partner of assassinated academic David Webster and founder member of Khulumani, says her organisation has constantly stated that the full involvement of victims in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is vital for its success.

Sylvia Dlomo-Jele, co-founder of Khulumani whose son, Dlomo, went missing in the 1980s, echoes these sentiments. "Most of the time we are the people who introduce the truth commission to the victims," she says. "By itself I doubt it would cope. It cannot go down to the victims. We are the ones who know how to go to them because the victims are among us."

Khulumani was initially started as a support group for victims. It has been built into a nationwide body. But there has been no process of building a strong and powerful working relationship between victim groups and the truth commission. Friedman says victims have experienced problems working with all three truth commission committees. "For instance, when amnesty hearings started for the five security policemen who have applied to be indemnified for their role in a number of murders, including the Duduza hand-grenade operation, many of their victims' families were not informed. "Although victims have indicated the need for reparations is desperate, it is ridiculous that the reparations committee will only be able to start with urgent payments 15 months into the process."

The Human Rights Violations Committee has done quite well with public hearings, she says, but there has been a lack of information and outreach programmes both before and after hearings. This leaves community members frequently confused about the role of the truth commission.

Dlomo-Jele believes the lack of active participation by victims in the truth commission, and a bureaucratic response to requests for help from their families, is reinforcing perceptions that perpetrators stand to gain most from the process.

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