Desmond Tutu is archbishop in the Anglican Church in South Africa and head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this article he gives his own account of the commission's efforts to work toward reconciliation in his native land. It is adapted from a speech he gave to the South African Press Club, October 1997.
Sadly, there are significant sectors in South Africa that have made it their business to denigrate, vilify, ridicule, and misrepresent the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and its work. They decided long ago, in advance of any evidence to support their position, that the commission was a witch hunt directed at one particular community, that a certain group had already been condemned collectively, that it was really an instrument to advance the political interests of one political party, and that in its composition the TRC was heavily weighted in favor of those who supported that political party. Evidence to refute these allegations and accusations has not made any difference at all.
Almost all those who oppose the TRC benefited from apartheid. Nearly every party has criticized the TRC whenever our spotlight has revealed something embarrassing to that party. Most of the victims, black and white, have largely been supportive of the TRC process.
There have been those who have been vociferous in asserting that the TRC, far from promoting reconciliation, has in fact done the opposite. They say it has engendered resentment and anger, opened old wounds, and fostered alienation. I have challenged those who have made these assertions to provide evidence that would support their claims, because our experience has been the direct opposite. It has been almost breathtaking, this willingness to forgive, this magnanimity, ...