Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Positive Affect and Social Harmony

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Positive Affect and Social Harmony

Article excerpt

Post apartheid South Africa has provided the world with a model for post conflict nation building based on reconciliation between former adversaries through the institution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The model was based on the importance of maintaining the multi- cultural, multi-ethnic character of the country and the fact that each of the constituents of the country was equally important.

Apartheid was a system of racial segregation and oppression in South Africa between 1940s and 1990s, under which the majority (largely non-white) was subjected to tyranny and loss of rights as compared to the minority white population. The White population followed a policy of racial segregation and discrimination and classified inhabitants into racial groups ("black", "white", "colored", and "Indian"), and residential areas were segregated. Starting 1958, black people were also deprived of their citizenship. The apartheid regime also separated the social and public services like the educational system, medical care, and other public services, and black population was left to make do with inferior services.

The widespread strife and civil unrest in the apartheid era South Africa resulted in millions of blacks being removed to make room for white cities, white suburbs, and white farms. Violence, intimidation, detention deaths, misappropriation of public moneys, rioting, discrimination, restrictions on political activity, segregation of residences and public spaces, removal of blacks from squattings, arbitrary and oppressive preventive detention laws, etc were the defining features of apartheid era South African society. As internal resistance and violence increased, the state became more repressive and violent in its response. Nelson Mandela along with hundreds of other anti-apartheid activists was put in prison.

The resistance and political pressure by the world paid off and culminated in democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela. Immediately after the new government was formed there was acute pressure on Nelson Mandela to initiate action and take revenge against the white minority that had violated the rights of the majority population for a long time. Faced with this challenge, but with a statesmanship like approach, the government of new South Africa, under Nelson Mandela sought the opinion of its citizens and other world community members on how best to deal with the issue of accountability for the past repressive regime. This process lasted a year and led to the enactment of the 'Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995' that established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The main purpose of the TRC was to give a voice to those whose rights were violated by the apartheid regime as well as give an opportunity to the perpetrators to voice their opinion on the circumstances of their actions and seek amnesty and pardon for their acts. The hearings of the TRC were public and often broadcast on television for people to participate in the process. Thus, a participative process for the restoration of justice in the new South Africa was initiated through the TRC.

In order to bring the Nazi war criminals to justice, Germany had conducted what are popularly known as the Nuremberg trials ( 1946-1949) under which several 'war criminals' were put through a trial and then executed. The South African TRC was different from the Nuremberg Trials in the sense that this was a major innovative model for providing justice by not taking revenge and execution, but by bringing out the truth to help in reconciliation. "The South African TRC has provided the world with another tool in the struggle against impunity and the search for justice and peace" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010).

As Bishop Desmond Tutu remarked, "Having looked the beast of the past in the eye, having asked and received forgiveness and having made amends, let us shut the door on the past - not in order to forget it but in order not to allow it to imprison us. …

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