29 October 2014

16 years on, South Africa is in danger of forgetting work of TRC

"It is for those who have the means, to contribute to the efforts to repair the damage wrought by the past.

It is for those who have suffered losses of different kinds and magnitudes to be afforded reparation, proceeding from the premise that freedom and dignity are the real prize that our sacrifices were meant to attain.

Free at last, we are all masters of our destiny.

A better future depends on all of us lending a hand - your hand, my hand."

Statement by Nelson Mandela on receiving Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, 29 October 1998

As we commemorate the anniversary of the handing over of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report to Parliament on 29 October 1998, it is sobering to consider how very little has been done to build on the ideals that underpinned the TRC’s initial establishment.

A persistent lack of political will and resolve to follow up on the recommendations made in the TRC Report in relation to prosecutions, ongoing truth recovery and the ongoing inaccessibility of the TRC archive prevails. Most urgently, the President's Fund intended to provide reparations to victims and survivors of apartheid-era gross human rights violations, remains undispersed and at risk of being re-allocated.

Unless South Africans take the time to lend a hand by reminding government of their obligations to follow the roadmap laid out by the TRC, to continue the long and difficult journey towards a post-apartheid reconciliation by exploring and acknowledging the harsh realities inherited from the past, that "better future" imagined by Nelson Mandela as he received the TRC report 16 years ago will remain elusive. 

Learn more about the President's Fund and what you can do to support the call for long-overdue justice for victims and survivors of apartheid-era gross human rights violations

Visit the PAIA tracker to view the Auditor-General's financial statements of the President's Fund for 2004-2006; President's Fund annual report for 2008/2009, released to SAHA in terms of PAIA and now archived in SAHA Collection AL2878

Read Simon Allison's recent article, published in the Daily Maverick on 14/10/2014 - "The President’s Fund: "Where is the money for Apartheid victims actually going?"

Learn more about the ASIKAQEDI CAMPAIGN, launched by Khulumani on 29 October 2014

SAHA’s past and ongoing activism around the unfinished business of the TRC

To learn more about the unfinished business of the TRC, please consult the various archival collections and TRC-related projects and products produced in the course of SAHA's archival activism over the past decade, as outlined below:

Guide to Archival Sources relating to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

In 2003 SAHA embarked on a TRC Archives Project with Historical Papers, the historical archive at the University of the Witwatersrand, to locate records relating to the TRC. The aim was to increase access to material relating to the TRC before it was discarded or lost. While the official TRC records were deposited at the National Archives of South Africa, the records sought through this project would include records from individuals and organisations that participated in the TRC process.

The TRC archival audit resulted in two significant resources: a directory of TRC-related holdings in institutions across South Africa entitled Guide to Archival Sources relating to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Traces of Truth website. The latter makes accessible a selection of digitised TRC documents identified during the audit.

Many of the collections located during the project came to be housed at SAHA. The inventories for these collections are accessible in the TRC collection category on the SAHA website and can be consulted by the general public. 

Since the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) came into effect in 2001, SAHA has been using this law to test the accessibility of the official TRC archive to the public. While this lengthy and tedious battle, documented in part in the SAHA publication Paper Wars and more recently online in a case study - Opening the TRC archive - published by the Archival Platform, has unfortunately not managed to set a legal precedent around the access of the TRC Archive due to last minute out-of-court settlements, it has forced government departments to release some of the records to which access was initially refused. These released records are now archived in SAHA’s Freedom of Information Programme collection (AL2878), and can be consulted by the general public. 

Cover of The Battle Against Forgetting: human rights and the unfinished business of the TRCIn 2010 SAHA developed an exhibition and accompanying publication to explore the unfinished business of the TRC, entitled The Battle Against Forgetting: human rights and the unfinished business of the TRC. To mark the 10th anniversary of the handing over of the final report to parliament,  SAHA in conjunction with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), launched the Truth Commission Special Report website on the work of the TRC, centering on the 87-part ‘Truth Commission Special Report' television series. 

Visit the TRC Archives Project page

See inventories for SAHA's TRC collections

See SAHA's publications and products relating to the TRC

Visit the SAHA / SABC Truth Commission Special Report Website