South Africa: Was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission a success?

South Africa: Was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission a success?

South Africa: Was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission a success?

A negotiated democratic South Africa envisaged correctly that the same contradictions it sought to resolve shall continue to characterize its evolution. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was but one of the instruments developed to forge national unity through reconciliation. The questions that will always occupy centre stage are:

(i) Was the truth told?

(ii) Have all the parties negotiated in good faith?

(iii) Has the commission produced the desired results?

Attempting to answer these critical questions require a tremendous amount of focus necessarily to prise open the clenched fist that hold key to South Africa’s future. The pitfalls incurred in the processing of the commission’s work will determine the tenacity of the people of South Africa in engaging unencumbered in order to correct the anomalies and to ensure that there is synergy in the making of this beautiful country. Whatever the hurdles of the moment only a dedicated commitment can be able to serve justice to all the people of South Africa especially the poor who continue to live in conditions of abject poverty.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In the end correct answers to the preceding questions will surely come from all South Africans irrespective of the colour of their skin. This is so especially that there are critical elements of the nation building project that need to be addressed to a satisfactory conclusion else they will remain a sore in the conscience of the country. Amongst these are the issues of the Land and the National Question. This is the reason we are today confronted by an unavoidable reality of the Land Question. It may be that the National Question was never dealt with in a holistic manner capable of healing the wounds of the past by bettering the lives of the downtrodden through fair redress on all fronts.

The country is now facing one of its toughest moments and only a determined people can resolve the pertinent issues. Postponing them to a later unknown time will virtually serve to aggravate the already simmering tensions. It is therefore necessary to find ways of bringing about real justice to those that are in the receiving end of the spectrum due to inequality, the widening gap between the haves and the downtrodden and economic exclusion. The piece meal measures that are now in place are not adequate enough to ameliorate poverty and the wretchedness of the masses of the people. In essence, there is more that needs to be done to put especially the rural areas onto a developmental trajectory. For instance, there has to be a committed programme to industrialize these former reserves. Subjecting them to agricultural activity alone is not enough to align them to the creation of a sound economic development.

Returning to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to interrogate the extent which it went we need to find ways of answering the most important questions fairly and constructively. Firstly, it is correct that race relations are still an unfinished story and instead there is a clear reversal of the progress made in the first few years of democratic South Africa. Secondly, it is not comforting that the governing African National Congress is preoccupied with the task of extinguishing its internal problems instead of building national unity. That the governing party itself is not united paints a bleak picture to the overall scenario on nation building. It may be that somewhere along the way the foot was taken off the pedal and all the instruments designed for nation building and transformation were left idle. The work of the TRC was one of such instruments which if it was followed up could have produced very positive results.

Whereas the TRC was established to deal with a particular political situation, it is irrefutable that it had a direct bearing on the overall situation in the country. It is only proper for society to acknowledge that inequality has a potential to ignite restlessness which will lead to impunity. The civil unrests that are plaguing our country is just but one form of a message to signal a downward spiral of stability. They cannot be brushed aside wishfully or labelled as just criminal acts. The reality is that for as long as the poor are witnessing the politicians and their connections getting rich by looting public resources, they will not sit back and wait for some magic wand to better their lot.

That said it is quite displeasing to realize that politicians are the ones that are dividing the people. They are busy fomenting divisions in every sphere in order to maintain their patronage status. It is worse in the rural local municipalities wherein there is a slight if not total absence of checks and balances. The councilors are mixed with the administrators to a point that it is difficult to separate a party political programme from a government programme. The most vulnerable members of the community are thus severely abused. These local municipalities have become sites for political dominance as a way of gaining access to public resources for looting purposes.

Was the TRC a success? Well, it got off to a good start and unfortunately its tenets were abandoned along the way resulting in a total breakdown of the original objective. A very classic illustration of this becomes clear once you look at South Africa today. The many elements of racial tensions, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the civil protests due to lack of service delivery, the escalating crime rate and the rampant corruption at the highest level of the state and the private sector. In a nutshell, the TRC failed to deliver the much anticipated social justice.

The TRC was meant to deal with certain specifics and to serve as a guide to the nation building project. The current situation points to a country in digression in terms of race relations. Unfortunately, even tribal conflicts of old are rearing their ugly postures as traditional leaders battle for the small pieces of land that they can claim. It is just a matter of time that these kind of conflicts escalate to higher levels of antagonisms thereby exploding into full scale tribal wars. The government needs to rise to the occasion and work tirelessly with the people to bring about lasting solutions. The fact that we are a constitutional democracy keeps the hope that with a committed political will, we can be able to resolve our differences and bring about the much needed social justice.


Goldrick Mafologela

015 0040 430

Politics & Governance


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