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“Truth and Reconciliation: The South African Experience”

Meiring, Piet
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) The Expository Times. 114: 75-88

For five years – ever since the watershed announcement
of President F. W. de Klerk in February 1990
that the ANC and other liberation organizations
were to be unbanned, that all political prisoners,
among them Nelson Mandela, would be freed, and
that democratic elections involving the whole
South African population were to be held – the issue
of the past had been hotly debated. The debate was
on the agenda, too, of the multi-party conference
(CODESA) which prior to the 1994 elections had to
struggle with, on the one hand, the plight of the
thousands of victims of the apartheid years, and on
the other hand, the urgent needs of the many
perpetrators of apartheid who were guilty of gross
human rights violations in the past. A blanket amnesty would not work – it would have been a
total disregard and dishonouring of the pain and
suffering of the victims. At the other end of the
scale, Nuremberg-type trials where the victors
take the vanquished to court, to be convicted and
sentenced, were also not advisable – not if reconciliation
was the order of the day. One of the last
decisions taken by CODESA was to establish a Truth
and Reconciliation Commission.(excerpt)


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