Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?

By Lyn S. Graybill | Go to book overview

2
Nelson Mandela:
Pragmatic Reconciler

The establishment of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was but one manifestation of the move toward reconciliation that motivated the country after Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994. Indeed, more than any other individual, Mandela set the example of the great reconciler, amazing the world with his lack of rancor or bitterness against his former oppressors despite a twenty-seven-year imprisonment. When asked how it was possible for him to be so magnanimous toward his oppressors, Mandela simply said, “I could not wish what happened to me and my people on anyone.”1

How was this man able to endure nearly three decades of prison without becoming rancorous, without demonizing the enemy? This is an important question for divided nations to ponder, for if the answer is that Mandela is a unique individual, a veritable saint as some suggest, and if his example of leadership cannot be replicated, then war-torn countries and those stricken by ethnic conflicts will need to look elsewhere for solutions. If, on the other hand, the conditions that produced a Mandela are not unique, there is value at looking at his life and the way his experiences shaped his thinking. Some reflections from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (a national bestseller in South Africa translated into dozens of languages), indicate how his philosophy of nonracialism, forgiveness, and reconciliation developed.

Mandela had little contact with whites as a young boy in the tiny village of Qunu in the Transkei, but when his father died, he became part of the household of his uncle, the acting paramount chief of Thembuland, in the Great Palace at Mqhekezweni. Mandela adopted his uncle’s benign

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Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa - Miracle or Model? iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Setting Up the Trc 1
  • 2: Nelson Mandela: Pragmatic Reconciler 11
  • 3: Tutu’s Theology of Reconciliation 25
  • 4: Forgiving the Unforgivable 39
  • 5: Amnesty: A Controversial Compromise 57
  • 6: Storytelling 81
  • 7: Women’s Testimony Before the Trc 97
  • 8: Innocent Bystanders? 113
  • 9: Media Hearings 125
  • 10: Wounded Healers: the Churches Respond 133
  • 11: The Rest of the Story 145
  • 12: A Workable Model? 163
  • 13: Afterword: Miracle or Evil Compromise? 177
  • Chronology 181
  • Glossary 187
  • Acronyms 189
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 219
  • About the Book 231
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