Source: (2005) International Political Science Review. 26(4): 341-361

South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process is perhaps the best-known example of an institutionalized attempt to build a more democratic future by confronting human rights atrocities from the past. Yet the South African case is often quite misunderstood, with many misconceptions widely accepted and asserted. This article addresses five facts about the South African experience. Using data from a large national survey of ordinary people, it demonstrates both that the truth and reconciliation process is viewed as effective by most people and that in fact systematic evidence indicates that the process achieved several of its primary goals. From the South African case we learn that, despite their various shortcomings and compromises, truth processes can attain legitimacy among ordinary people in transitional systems and that they can contribute to societal reconciliation.