The idea for South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission-the topic of the interview that follows-sprang from the same political negotiations that led to elections in 1994, and the creation of the first democratic nonracial South Africa. There was a keen awareness in the country at the time that the need for justice and reconciliation went beyond simply the installation of a new government.
In 1995, the new democratically elected Parliament enacted The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. It provided for a commission whose objectives are to promote understanding and overcome the conflicts and separation of the past.
The commission has seventeen members, representing South Africa’s different constituencies. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the former primate of the Anglican church in South Africa, is chairman. The commission is divided into three committees that deal respectively with human-rights violations, amnesty, and reparations and rehabilitation.
The commission has attempted to establish as complete a picture as possible of the nature and extent of gross human-rights violations committed from March 1960 to May 1994; to facilitate the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all the facts related to acts associated with political objectives at the time; to establish and publicize the fate and whereabouts of victims, and to restore their...