Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?

By Lyn S. Graybill | Go to book overview

13
Afterword:
Miracle or Evil Compromise?

“No institution for dealing with the past anywhere in the world has taken on as ambitious a portfolio,” asserts Tina Rosenberg of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).1 How successful was it in realizing its goals? Rosenberg believes that “it seems to have been more successful than anything else yet tried.”2 Perhaps that is as complete a summation of this extraordinary process as is possible to make.

The TRC was certainly not perfect by any means. It was a compromise between the morally ideal and the politically possible. As Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us, neither perfect love nor perfect justice is fully attainable in political communities, and society’s best solution can only be an “approximation of brotherhood under the conditions of sin.”3 But if justice depends upon groups agreeing to a tolerable solution to inevitable conflict, the TRC met that requirement. Though the commission was flawed and subject to criticism, its appointment marked an important stage in the process of coming to understand South Africa’s past. It may yet lead, if not to perfect reconciliation, then at least to the possibility of coexistence in this once deeply divided society.

Only time will determine the TRC’s ultimate effectiveness in reconciling the South African nation. Certainly much more will need to be done over a period of many years, for the wounds are too deep to be “trivialized by imagining that a single initiative can on its own bring about a peaceful, stable, and restored society.”4 As Nelson Mandela reminded his countrymen during the parliamentary debate on the TRC: “Long after the Commission has folded and its offices closed, political leaders and all of us in business, the trade union movement, religious bodies, professionals

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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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