Source: (2000) Cape Town: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
Since the inception of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the twin projects of ‘healing’ and ‘reconciliation’ have gained prominence as key elements of a particular model of socio- political transformation being articulated in South Africa. Though by no means universally accepted, an emphasis on the ideas of healing and reconciliation formed the focus of much of the TRC’s self-presentation, the government’s support for the TRC and the media’s representation of its work. As the most public, most publicised and best funded and supported of healing and reconciliation projects, the TRC provided both the impetus and the model for many of the parallel and subsequent projects in civil society that have tried to add to, complement, extend and critique the work initiated by the TRC. As Undine Kayser mentions, however, there remain ‘few institutionalised post-TRC spaces for South Africans to practically engage with personal memories and the apartheid past’ (Kayser, 2001, p. 3). This report considers one of those institutionalised spaces: the Cape Town Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture and the Western Cape Branch of the Khulumani Support Group that grew out of the work of the Trauma Centre.
Like the TRC, these two groups confront past memories of violence and abuse in an attempt to heal from and overcome the emotional toll these memories continue to exact. However, the contexts examined here are different to that of the TRC and the work, at least of the support group, is often oriented towards meeting longer-term economic survival and political advocacy needs as much as to enabling psychological recovery. Though the Trauma Centre facilitates a range of programmes that might be considered part of the broader project of healing and reconciliation, this report will focus on one of its programs, the Torture Project, and in particular, the now-independent victim support group that grew out of the work of that project. What follows is both a description of the development and current activities and organisation of these two groups as well as a consideration of the impacts of their work, the challenges they face and the broader issues they raise about the problems of bringing about personal, social and political change in post-apartheid South Africa. This report will focus on the work of the support group, and in particular, on the work and perspectives of the group’s executive committee. (excerpt)
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