02 September 2015

Transitional justice and the TRC: an RTT presentation

The Right to Truth team was invited to present at the Wits Justice Project / Wits School of Governance Justice for Breakfast roundtable series. The topic under discussion was transitional justice, and the concept of "right to truth" in South Africa. 

Right to truth as a discrete concept grew out of the international work on forced disappearances during repressive regimes; and highlights the importance of securing witness and victim testimony in order to build a picture of the truth. This presentation highlighted South Africa's efforts at truth recovery, namely, our Truth and Reconciiation Commission (TRC); and discussed some of the unfinished business of the TRC. The TRC’s final report made it clear that it expected all sectors of society to continue building the foundations it had laid, and that the TRC was positioned at the start, not the end, of truth-telling in South Africa.

Accessibility of TRC records; post-TRC prosecutions; and the gap in investigating structural inequality under apatheid were the main points raised. SAHA's work in on-going truth recovery, through using PAIA to obtain TRC records that can be placed in the public domain, was highlighted, using the recent Section 29 inquiry transcripts release as an example. 

The right to both tell and hear the truth about past atrocity is not a nice-to-have,  well-meaning intervention - it is profoundly linked to how South Africans view ourselves and each other, every day. Questions after the presentation raised issues of amnesty for apartheid crimes; ongoing truth recovery and what that looks like in today's South Africa; and how to kick-start South Africa's reconciliation agenda.