Purpose

People & Committees

Impacts

Criticisms

Sources

The Truth & Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Looking into a dark past for a bright future...

The most infamous system of racial inequity since Nazi Germany dominated the first forty years of South Africa’s history.  In the wake of apartheid’s abolition and in accordance with the terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission emerged: a forum designed to promote national unity and reconciliation through truth and exposure.  Committed to the principles of transparency and public participation, the commission worked to rehabilitate South Africa, a society marred by the ills of racial division and oppression.  Both victims and perpetrators of apartheid testified before the commission in order to provide “as complete a picture as possible of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights committed” under the regime of apartheid."  Perpetrators already convicted came hoping for pardon.  Those whose crimes were still unknown faced the fear of being exposed.  Some came seeking redemption.  While critics have found its structure problematic, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has galvanized South Africans across political, racial and other divides to understand the importance of social memory to the processes of healing and rebuilding a nation tarnished by its own political systems.

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Brittany Finder • World Politics 116 • Spring 2009 • V. Ferraro