Perspectives: Understanding the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa

Today was one of the best days since I’ve been in Capetown. We began the morning at an Art Center in a township named Langa. The theater program there aimed to create opportunities in schools & the community for Black South Africans to express themselves and their own stories through the arts. We watched a performance exploring “dom passes” which were passes all non-whites had to carry to travel throughout the country. The two main actors included us, the audience, by randomly assigning us pass cards or green cards which have gained use in post-apartheid South Africa that require Black South Africans that entire gated communities, largely white, to show identification cards when requested. We were forced to look down & keep quiet as they asked for our names & reasons being outside of areas where our dom pass didn’t give us jurisdiction. The experience was a lot to take in & reminded me much of how my ancestors must have felt in similar experiences in America being Black. We interacted with many high school students at the Art Centers and I talked to students who say that life is still extremely hard for Black South Africans. The artists choice of word & movements evoked us all to glance back at history to offer context of the new reality of Black South Africans. Some Black people have found post-apartheid life far from substantial and many young people blame Mandela & the ANC. There is also another perspective provided by an older generation.

We met with Rev. Peter a pastor in Methodist church in Simon’s Town and heard his personal narrative on his work with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission & Mandela. He described three key reasons why he believes South Africa failed the TRC one was the lack of prosecutors unwilling to prosecute perpetrators following their confessions, economic reparations for Black folk being slow unlike amnesty for white perpetrators of crimes during apartheid, and whites unwillingness to move beyond their privilege and create a better South Africa. The TRC was a space where victims could share their stories and perpetrators could receive their amnesty from crimes committed under apartheid. Rev Peter argued it provided healing & forgiveness for a country ok the brink of Civil War. This helps to understand the implications of the TRC in the larger community & how I can learn from the incredible stories of strength to be able to forgive the perpetrators of such horrendous crimes.


Overall these experiences have shaped me personally in the ways I engage with my history in the States and how I can begin to unpack and use the history of South Africa to change and reshape my own communities.

Bobbye Hampton is a rising senior double majoring in Human Health & African American Studies pursuing education post her undergraduate degree.


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