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Individual and/or Social Justice after Apartheid? The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Verwoerd, Wilhelm
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) European Journal of Development Philosophy. 11(2): 115-140.

This article argues for the potential contribution of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to democratisation and development in post-apartheid South Africa. This argument requires a response to individual and social justice based on criticisms as well as an appreciation og the hard choices underlying the TRC process. While acknowleding the tensions between individual criminal justice and the TRC, the uncritical acceptance of conventional criminal justice as the yardstick by which to measure the TRC is challenged, especially when a new democracy has to deal with large scale politically motivated crimes. This challenge is deepened by supporting the TRC’s claim that ‘restorative justice’ is embodied in central aspects of its work. In terms of social justice and the TRC, tensions arising from the TRCs focus on a relatively small group of victims are acknowledged. On the other hand, the links between democritisation and aspects of the TRC process are clarified and a one-sided, ‘materialist’ notion of social justice is rejected by emphasising the human, psychological dimensions of true ‘development’.


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