Charles Villa-Vicencio and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela —
Truth and Reconciliation

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) held public sessions from 1996 to 1998, and concluded its work in 2004. In an attempt to rebuild its society without retribution, the Commission created a new model for grappling with a history of extreme violence. The basic premise of the Commission was that any individual, whatever he or she had done, was eligible for amnesty if they would fully disclose and confess their crimes.

Victims were invited to tell their stories and witness confessions. Through the TRC, many families finally came to know when and how their loved ones died. By the end of the hearings, the Commission took statements from more than 20,000 victims of Apartheid and received applications for amnesty from 7,100 perpetrators.

We explore the religious implications of truth and reconciliation with two people — one black, one white — who did the work of the Commission in charge of it.

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Charles Villa-Vicencio

is executive director of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, and the former National Research Director for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

is a psychologist who served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and author of A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness.

Selected Readings

Nelson Mandela's Address to the People of Cape Town on the Occasion of his Inauguration as State President

Read and listen to the South African leader's momentous 1994 speech that was given the day of his inauguration in Cape Town, South Africa.

Selected Audio

Unheard Cuts

» "Desmond Tutu at the National Press Club" (RealAudio, 32:12)
Listen to the Nobel Laureate and former Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, address the National Press Club in 1999 and participate in a question-and-answer session conducted afterwards.

About the Image

This photo was one of many images included in the final report issued by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. All photo captions in the report were intentionally omitted, Thandi Rhathete of the South African Department of Justice says, as these photos are part of the representative whole who oftentimes go nameless.

(Courtesy: South African Department of Justice)

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we need a truth and reconciliation commission here in the u.s. 9/11 was a big ugly lie, and everybody knows it. "truthers," as we are called by the enemies of truth, face ridicule, resentment and rejection by our society, just for asserting that the laws of physics are constant, that they were not suspended on 9/11/01. world trade center building 7 fell at 5:20 in the afternoon. this forty-seven story steel-framed structure collapsed in just 18 seconds, fell at a rate indistinguishable from free-fall acceleration for 2.23 seconds.

i would rather be a "truther" than a "liar."

Thank you for offering the richness of these voices and experiences so generously--this 2004 broadcast is relevant for 2016 where I feel a growing need and movement towards what Patrisse Cullors spoke of last week with you: the collective and intimate healing not accomplished in policy change.