Now that all is said and done: Reflections on the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa

Louise Bethlehem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The witness: speaking out In 1998, four years after the transition to democracy in South Africa, a five-volume Report answerable to the formal mandate of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was tabled on the public agenda there. The Commission, a crucial dimension of South Africa's negotiated settlement, was empowered to grant amnesty to politically motivated perpetrators of all affiliations in return for the full disclosure of their offences. But the Commission's power to confer amnesty did not exhaust its role. No less significantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was instituted in order to ”[afford] victims an opportunity to relate the violations they suffered” and was required to ”[report] to the Nation about such violations and victims.” Through the workings of its various committees, the TRC called forth individual and collective acts of testimony on an unprecedented scale. The narratives of approximately 22,000 victims were elicited and processed. Roughly ten percent of these were heard in the public hearings across South Africa which became the hallmark of the TRC. Such acts of breaking silence were integral to the ”restorative justice” that the Commission sought to implement. In the words of its Report, ”People came to the Commission to tell their stories in an attempt to facilitate not only their individual healing process, but also a healing process for the entire nation.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationShadows of War
Subtitle of host publicationA Social History of Silence in the Twentieth Century
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780511676178
ISBN (Print)9780521196581
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2010.


Dive into the research topics of 'Now that all is said and done: Reflections on the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this