South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Topics: Human rights, South Africa under apartheid, Truth and reconciliation commission Pages: 6 (2336 words) Published: March 14, 2009
After many years of violence, discrimination, and white supremacy, South Africa was finally determined to change its political system from an apartheid government into a democracy. In 1948, with the National Party in power, the apartheid legislation was established. It was not an easy road for those who, since the beginning, wanted to end this political separation. Racial groups were forbidden, in any case, to have any public or private contact with white people. Therefore, blacks and ethnic people were banned to step in an “all white” territory. This program caused political violence between white people and the majority population in South Africa; organized riots took place to seek justice and government reform (the ANC was one group that fought for equal rights). Finally in 1994, after many years of violence, the African National Congress won elections and established a democratic government where whites and blacks now were going to be treated equally. A truth commission is a form of justice, a justice that can either be accepted or disapproved by the victims. The main focus of a truth commission is to investigate previous atrocities that took place in the country and to offer a political reform that will set an ongoing process of change. On December 1995, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established by parliament and was closed on 2000. The TRC investigated killings by police, disappearances, torture, abuses, and violence. The TRC had three committees: The Human Rights Violations Committee, The Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, and The Amnesty Committee. The Human Rights Violations Committee investigated the crimes committed during the apartheid era. The Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee gave assistance to victims and promoted forgiveness. The Amnesty Committee gave the perpetrators the opportunity to confess their participation in the abuses that went on from 1960 to 1994. Those who wanted a pardon had to fully say the truth about their participation, but they didn’t need to show remorse. The TRC was criticized because it did not force the government to remove perpetrators from government jobs, it did not investigate abuses legalized under the apartheid system and it did not investigate abused prior to 1960. They were successful in televising public hearings of perpetrators confessing their involvement in violent events. They also had wider set of goals like aiding individuals and the community, and encouraging national reconciliation. These goals were beneficial to the democratic nation because they believed that the nation needed to reconcile in order for a nation to become a union rather than a division. The Truth and Reconciliation Report was not widely available and the majority of citizens were not literate. Their banner was “Truth: The Road to Reconciliation” and its meaning signaled a political accord to end antagonism. The TRC decided to identify the names of the perpetrators who were involved in “gross human rights violations.” The powers that the TRC were using were challenged in the judicial branch; therefore, their investigations were limited. Though they encounter government battles, their main message, unlike court trials, was for the perpetrators to apologize in public and to acknowledge those who were victimized for such atrocities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a distinctive form of justice and was designed to find the truth and acknowledge the truth in public. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to enforce the new policies of the government. Jacobs states, “the focus however will be on the future rather than on the past [if South Africa wanted a] better dispensation [for all the people]” (1986, 3). This is the same goal that the TRC wanted for the country, even though, ironically, they concentrated on retaliation. They believed that first the past about the country’s atrocities needed to be reminded in order for it to be forgiven and move...
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