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A Need for ‘Truth’

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Amnesty and the Origins and Consequences of the trc Process

image of International Journal of Public Theology

The origins of the South African trc process, which made such a dramatic contribution towards opening up a new more inclusive political culture in post-apartheid South Africa, are usually found in the constitutional negotiations and settlement reflected in the Postamble of the 1993 Interim Constitution. This article starts from the apparent paradox that a secretive amnesty pact by political elites could have been responsible for a public truth process uncovering human rights violations in past political conflicts. It suggests that an alternative trc genealogy may rather be found in the public amnesty debate since mid-1992 that issued in a civil society-based proposal for a truth and reconciliation process. The ‘amnesty for truth’ compromise, conjoining the political elites’ concerns for amnesty with the human rights quest for a victim-based truth and reconciliation process, resulted in the incoherence of the actual trc process. The ambivalent legacy of the trc, shaped both by secretive elite political deals as well as by the quest for public truth in politics, still informs unresolved tensions in the Marikana Commission, and those between the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the controversial Protection of State Information Bill.

Affiliations: 1: University of Cape TownSouth


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