This is the sixth in a series of seven dispatches from a visit by students in the Southern Oregon University Honors College to South Africa.
“My father always used to say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.’ Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.”
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu
For the past several weeks now, these dispatches have focused on the historical, social, cultural, political and artistic life in South Africa. The dispatches are reflections of participants who visited South Africa recently as part of Southern Oregon University’s Democracy Project (DP). The DP is a comprehensive examination of democracy around the world in the 21st century. Some of the issues to be studied include the historical evolution of democracy, sovereignty, nationalism, citizenship, feminism, patriotism, imperialism, freedom, liberty, security and equality.
Towards this end, over the last the four years participants in the DP have traveled to Washington, D.C., India, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. In each location, the group learned and got a firsthand experience of how their respective democracies function, from federal to regional to village levels. The focus of this dispatch is South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which has attracted worldwide attention as a model for how to overcome, transcend and move forward as a nation, after experiencing horrific oppression, discrimination, and other atrocities.
In 1995, under the leadership of Nelson Mendala, the first president of post-Apartheid South Africa, the government passed a law establishing the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The central purpose of the commission was to, “promote re-conciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of apartheid by the full disclosure of truth.” Apartheid was the racial institution established in 1948 by the National Party that governed South Africa until 1994. It was a policy of segregation — political and economic discrimination — against the non-European groups in South Africa. The commission was given three principle tasks:
1. Discover the causes and nature of human rights violations in South Africa between 1960 and 1994.
2. Identify victims with a view to paying reparations.
3. Allow amnesty to those who disclosed their involvement in…