- Nelson Mandela signed the bill to establish the TRC on this day in 1995
- The Commission aimed to uncover abuse of human rights during the apartheid era
- However, many believe that the TRC did not accomplish its aim
On this day, in 1995, then-President Nelson Mandela signed a bill to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC became an integral and part of the post apartheid era.
The role of the Commission was primarily to uncover human rights abuses during apartheid, through public hearings.
The lack of racial harmony in the country between 1960 and 1994 together with the injustices caused by the apartheid government led to the creation of the TRC. The first democratically elected government, with Nelson Mandela at its head, believed that the truth of what had occurred being told would lead to healing. To this end in 1995, the commission inquiry based in Cape Town was created.
Mandela then appointed Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chair for the commission. The commission was tasked to investigate all apartheid-related crimes with the objective of all wounds. It further promoted reconciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of apartheid by the full disclosure of truth.
The hearings were initially set to be heard in camera, but the intervention of 23 non-governmental organisations eventually succeeded in gaining media access to the hearings. On 15 April 1996, the SABC televised the first two hours of the first human rights violation committee hearing live. Additional high-profile hearings, such as Winnie Mandela's testimony, were also televised live.
The rest of the hearings were presented on television each Sunday, from April 1996 to June 1998, in hour-long episodes of the Truth Commission Special Report.
On receiving the TRC reports in 1998 Mandela commended the TRC for their success.
However, a 1998 study by South Africa's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation & the Khulumani Support Group found that most felt that the TRC had failed to achieve reconciliation between the black and white communities. Many believed that justice was a prerequisite for reconciliation.
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