Facing the Apartheid Past: The TRC, Race and the New South African Society

Shaddox, Rachel
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
“But this proved to be only the beginning; I realized we had not thoroughly prepared for all that was about to happen... I raised my right fist and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for twenty-seven years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy.”1 These are the words of Nelson Mandela, the leader of the ANC and future president of South Africa, as he was released from prison in 1990 after almost three decades. With the end of apartheid in 1994, the new leaders of South Africa faced a dilemma of how to reconcile the various racial groups in the country that had been so drastically separated. Following the example of other nations’ efforts at reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to uncover the truth about the past and encourage forgiveness. The TRC was made up of three parts: the Human Rights and Violations Committee, the Reparation and Rehabilitation Committee, and the Amnesty Committee. During the time of its operation from 1996-1998, public trials were held which allowed victims to give a detailed account of their experiences and perpetrators to confess to their crimes. The goal of the TRC was to uncover the truth regarding the widespread brutality during apartheid. In addition, a second objective of the commission was to promote a national environment of reconciliation and respect toward human rights. During its operation, the commission uncovered a multitude of atrocities that occurred during the apartheid years, and its Final Report comprises a detailed account of atrocities committed by both the apartheid government and liberation forces.
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