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Title: Fourteen years on: The legacy of giving testimony to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission for survivors of human rights violations
Authors: Faku-Juqula, Nthabiseng Anna
Advisors: Reynolds, F
Nicholls, L
Aymer, C
Keywords: Truth commissions;Legacy of apartheid;Human rights atrocities;Forgiveness and reconciliation;Reparations and emotional healing
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Brunel University School of Health Sciences and Social Care PhD Theses
Abstract: OBJECTIVES : This study focused, unusually, on the experience of people who gave testimony in person to the TRC many years previously. The study’s objectives were firstly to explore the personal, social and political events that participants recounted as motivating them to testify to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and secondly to analyse the meanings that participants gave retrospectively, about fourteen years later, to testifying before the TRC. METHOD: 30 participants were recruited, from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces, South Africa. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in participants’ preferred SA languages. Data were analysed using principles of modified grounded theory. FINDINGS: Participants from the two provinces testified through shared hopes for change but differed in the specific political and violent events that they wished to make public. Looking back, many participants expressed disillusionment with the TRC’s effectiveness. Participants were concerned by unfulfilled promises, inadequate reparations and lack of socioeconomic improvement. Memories of horrific abuses were still vivid, and most doubted that the TRC process could result in forgiveness, amnesty, reconciliation and healing. Participants felt unacknowledged, invalidated and inadequately recompensed, symbolically and monetarily. Nonetheless, participants expressed suspended hope, if not for themselves but for the future generations. ‘Misrecognition’ emerged as the overarching theme, an experience of feeling ignored and dismissed, finding promises for material recompense broken, and their contribution to the seemingly successful TRC processes not recognised. CONCLUSION: The TRC process neglected the abuse of the apartheid period, which has left a legacy. This study has shown that many participants continue to struggle with the legacy of a very unequal society, and further follow-up research is vital to review participants’ long-term needs. Lack of improvement in social and economic conditions has led some people in South Africa to question the effectiveness of the TRC.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University.
Appears in Collections:Social Work
Dept of Clinical Sciences Theses

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