Revisiting the purpose and findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on the twentieth anniversary of the submission of its report (Mercury, December 3) is well and good. However, the impact of that report tends to be diminished when contextualised within the history of the past twenty years.
The purpose of the TRC was twofold: to catalogue the suffering experienced under apartheid and the wrongdoing that was inflicted; to chart the way forward to reconciliation and “a better life for all,” as the ANC phrased it. The TRC succeeded to some extent on the catalogue, although it trod lightly around ANC human rights violations in their camps and the violence within KZN in the 1980s. But to what extent has the TRC’s vision found traction since 1998?
Much is made of police brutality before 1994. Yet when statistics are compared, the result is disquieting. Between 1963 and 1985, there were 74 deaths in police custody. But between 2006 and 2011 there were more than 4,000 deaths in police cells (Daily News, March 4, 2013). Professor RW Johnson noted in his book How long can South Africa survive? (2nd edition) that “torture and maltreatment have skyrocketed” under the SAPS (p.177).
Crime has reached tsunami proportions with 57 murders perpetrated every day. Unemployment has surged from 3,4 million in 1994 to almost 10 million. Joe Slovo’s promise of an initial million new houses remains unfulfilled as informal settlements mushroom around all towns and cities. The political murders which characterised the KZN landscape in the 1980s continue to this day.
More people are mired in poverty than ever before. Corruption and dysfunctionalism is rampant at all levels of government. Two-thirds of municipalities are bankrupt. Seizure of control of the key organs of state has been exposed.
Instead of the reconciliation, the TRC envisaged, a blame game has taken root in an effort to divert attention away from the failed state of government with the charge of “racism” hurled at those who criticise the state of affairs.
Have those who suffered the pain of the past earned the mess that now prevails?
Sent into The Mercury and published, 4 December 2018.