South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid

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Truth Commissions and Interpretations of Violence

[7] At the same time, the experience of this male victim was more often than not relayed to the nation by a female family member: it was of some concern that, while mostly women made statements and gave testimony to the TRC, they largely spoke about the violations suffered by their men-folk, even in circumstances where women too had been victims of abuse (Ross, 1997; TRC, 1998c: 283, 285-287; Ross, 2003: 17-20). See also Bozzoli (1999), one of the few who have commented on the ways in which largely female, and often relatively apolitical, deponents mediated through their testimony the experience of township youths in the 1980s and 1990s.

[8] This is based on a perusal of the submissions to the parliamentary Justice Portfolio Committee.

[9] For example, several members of so-called "repossession units" attached to the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) applied for amnesty for acts of theft and armed robbery, claiming that such actions were politically motivated and aimed to provide the PAC with funds and/or arms. Where applicants were able to show membership in the PAC, some chain of command, and prove that the spoils of their crime were in fact handed over to the party, they were largely granted amnesty.

[10] Other factors were also responsible for the TRC fading from public view. The handover of the TRC report in 1998 was accompanied by increasingly strained relations between the TRC and the ANC. This followed the TRC's refusal to meet with the ANC to discuss certain negative findings it made regarding gross violations committed by the ANC. The ANC in fact launched an unsuccessful court action to delay the Report. Although the amnesty process continued for several more years, the rest of the TRC disbanded and its leadership dispersed. This effectively meant that the TRC was without any clear leadership aside from the bureaucrats and judges who oversaw the amnesty process, and that the dispute with the ANC remained unresolved. This undoubtedly contributed to a souring of opinion toward the TRC. These factors had far-reaching consequences and resulted in the TRC fading into near oblivion inside South Africa at the same time that it continued to be feted internationally.

Nicky Rousseau wrote this essay specifically for South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy. Roussean is a lecturer in History at the University of the Western Cape. For six years, she was a senior research analysis for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was one of the team of authors of the Commission's official Report.
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