Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?

By Lyn S. Graybill | Go to book overview

5
Amnesty:
A Controversial Compromise

Amnesty may be understood as the secular counterpart of forgiveness. The view is shared by a minority of theologians and a majority from the legal/human rights community that South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was wrong to offer amnesty to perpetrators. For them, what was needed was punitive, retributive justice, without which reconciliation would be impossible. Victims’ pent-up anger had to be addressed and channeled in a constructive way, which required nothing short of a court of law.

Theologian Willa Boesak declared that at least those at the top who gave the orders—“the Magnus Malans of the world”—could not expect mercy. (Ironically, Magnus Malan—the former defense minister charged in connection with the creation, training, and deployment of a secret hit squad that massacred thirteen people in 1987—was tried in Boesak’s preferred forum, a court of law, and was acquitted.) Boesak argued that whites expected blacks not to succumb to bitterness or anger and that this “unnatural … patience or reasonableness” was not Christian but a distorted ethos of submissiveness. The wrath of the marginalized reflects the wrath of God, and the evildoer must be punished. Boesak drew a distinction between wraak (revenge, vengefulness, blind destructive fury, vindictiveness) and vergeldig (recompense, requital, retribution, reward). The distinction was between subjective and objective punishment, the latter finding its fulfillment in a court of justice where God’s rightful avenger would become the civil authorities.1

Wolfram Kistner has rejoined that there are two theological approaches to reconciliation and justice. The classical approach (Boesak’s “theolo

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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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