Prior to one hearing of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, commission officials confronted Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His conduct of hearings, they claimed, had been too religious. The commission was supposed to be a judicial body. It had been enacted by the new South African constitution, enabled by parliamentary legislation that carefully set forth its legal basis, and carried critical legal consequences, especially for amnesty applicants. Should not Tutu separate his role as head of this legal body from his role as a Christian pastor?
Not only did he figuratively wear two hats, but he literally wore full episcopal regalia, including purple robes and a pectoral cross. His interlocutors could do little about his attire. They hoped, though, that he could put to rest the opening prayer, the frequent hymns, and the religious appeals. Tutu assented to begin daily hearings with a moment of silence rather than a prayer. However, as commission official Piet Meiring describes, his concession was reluctant and short lived:
When the clock struck nine the witnesses and their families were escorted into the crowded hall. Tutu followed with his colleagues. Chairperson shook hands with victims one by one. Then he proceeded to the platform where he took his seat. He asked for half a minute of silence. The first witness was brought to the table and sworn in. But Tutu could not get under way. He sat down. He moved his papers from side to side. Visibly uncomfortable, he looked at the victims, at the audience in the hall. "No, this won't work! We really cannot start like this," he said over the loudspeakers. "People, close your eyes so that we can pray!" A long, earnest prayer, followed—to ...1