Original Research

Reconciliation: The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s contribution to dealing with the past, reconciling and building the nation

S. Barry
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 40, No 4 | a365 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v40i4.365 | © 2006 S. Barry | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2006 | Published: 30 July 2006

About the author(s)

S. Barry, School of Ecclesiastical Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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International experience has shown that addressing past human rights violations is a necessary step in the process of reconciliation and nation building. How was post-apartheid, democratic South Africa to deal with its past human rights violations? Would it go the way of retribution in order to settle the scores of the past? Would it go the way of blanket amnesty in the name of political expediency and ignore the fate of its victims?


The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation, Act 34 of 1995, which established the TRC envisaged that national unity and reconciliation could be promoted by determining the extent, and the fate and whereabouts of the victims, of such human rights violations; giving opportunity for story-telling; recommending reparations and measures to prevent future violations; and by providing a full report. In order to do so the Commission had the power to grant amnesty to those making such disclosures.


This article, while not uncritical of the Commission, is generally positive about its contribution both in attempting to deal with the past, and in building a democratic, human rights and restorative justice culture based on the rule of law. It examines the definitions of reconciliation that emerged during the Commission in the light of a Christian definition where reconciliation is seen to be between God, others and self, and involves integration with the human community. This integration involves taking responsibility for the past, confession and repentance, forgiving and being forgiven, making restitution where possible, ongoing transformation in the present and hope for the future.


Human Rights Violations; Reconciliation A Christian Definition; Reconciliation According To The TRC; Retributive Vs Restorative Justice; Truth And Reconciliation Commissions


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