15 April 2012

This week marks 16 years since the first Truth and Reconciliation hearing was held

Sunday Times Heritage Project memorial to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairperson of the TRC, outside the city hall in East LondonOn 15 April 1996, the TRC delegation descended upon the East London City Hall to preside over the first public hearing of the TRC in a process many South Africans hoped would uncover the truth, bring closure, heal wounds and facilitate a reconciliatory path forward.

Desmond Tutu, who was the chairman, reportedly said "The truth is going to hurt"; little did he know that on the very next day the truth would become too much for him to handle. Whilst listening to a wheelchair-bound victim's testimony on how he was tortured by the apartheid security forces, Tutu broke down. The victim's name was Singqokwana Malgas, who suffered a stroke in the late 1980s and he believes it was a result of prolonged torture and harassment.

The court-like restorative process of the TRC was deemed a necessary step in facilitating restorative justice and a crucial component of the transition into democracy. Victims of human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.

In line with SAHA's commitment to justice and accountability in South Africa, the organisation has actively collected archival materials relating to the TRC and runs various workshops and exhibitions among other initiatives.

SAHA, in conjunction with the SABC, has also produced a multi-media product to support history, heritage and reconciliation education, and outreach initiatives. This product features the TRC Special Report television series which has been brought out of the archives and repackaged as an interactive tool to make the work of the TRC more accessible.

This product is aimed at non-profit institutions engaged in educational and outreach work, including universities, heritage organisations, civil society organisations working in the field of transitional justice locally and abroad, as well as those working with trauma support groups in affected communities.

SAHA, in partnership with the SABC is also planning to launch a website which features all episodes of the TRC television series, the TRC Special Report and all related resources.

In line with SAHA's commitment to facilitate the completion the unfinished work of the TRC, SAHA is also currently running an exhibition entitled ‘The Battle Against Forgetting: Human Rights and the Unfinished Business of the TRC'  in the ramparts of the Old Fort at Johannesburg's Constitution Hill complex in Braamfontein.

Learn more about the TRC Special Report multimedia product.Visit SAHA's TRC Archive Project.
Visit SAHA's collections related to the TRC