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Purpose of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

"Only the truth can put the past to rest."
- Former President Nelson Mandela


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to investigate the violations that took place between 1960 and 1994, to provide support and reparations to victims and their families, and to compile an objective, comprehensive record of the effects of apartheid on South African society.  According to Mr. Dullah Omar, South Africa’s former Minister of Justice, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission functioned as “a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.”  By creating a direct link between amnesty and truth, the commission aimed to realize restorative justice, a justice unattainable through adversarial court cases.  For the commission, justice was about uncovering the truth and establishing a reality accessible to all South Africans.  A national project, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission bore witness to accounts from all sides of the apartheid divide, as a means of promoting national unity and preventing the reoccurrence of past atrocities.  The commission underscored the import of remembrance: the essentiality of assimilating individual memories and personal trauma into the collective history and consciousness of the nation.