Source: (2001) Journal of Modern African Studies. 39(3): 525-546.

Following a negotiated transition to democracy in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to deal with crimes of the past regime. Despite the detail of submissions and the length of the Final Report, this article highlights the partiality of truth recognised by the Commission. The usefulness of acknowledged truth to deal with South Africa's past is shown to have been neutralised by wider concerns of social and criminal justice. In detailing the governmental reticence to provide reparations, the judicial disregard to pursue prosecutions, and the dismissal of responsibility for apartheid at a wider social level, the author argues that opportunities for reconciliation and developmental change are limited. Against the problems of crime, violence and unresolved land issues, the potential of the TRC to build a ‘reconciliatory bridge' is called into question. The truth offered by the Commission increasingly appears of limited value. Author's abstract.