Journal Article

PUBLIC DISCOURSE, THEOLOGY AND THE TRC: A THEOLOGICAL APPRECIATION OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

Fanie du Toit

in Literature and Theology

Volume 13, issue 4, pages 340-357
Published in print December 1999 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online December 1999 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/13.4.340
PUBLIC DISCOURSE, THEOLOGY AND THE TRC: A THEOLOGICAL APPRECIATION OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

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In calling for renewed debate on the issue of national reconciliation in the National Assembly in May 1998, Deputy President Mbeki identified two ‘interrelated elements’ constitutive of the process of the reconciliation needed between what he calls the ‘two nations in one country’, one which is ‘white and relatively prosperous’ and the other which is ‘black and poor’.1 The first element of Mbeki's analysis of the challenge facing South Africa, is the creation of a material base whereby the ‘grossly underdeveloped’ black nation may be assisted to elevate themselves from the vastly inferior material living conditions they were forced to accept during Apartheid. The second challenge that Mbeki identified, interestingly for our purposes, is the promotion of a ‘subjective factor, which must take the lead in sustaining the hope and conviction among people that the project of reconciliation and nation building will succeed’. According to Mbeki's thinking therefore, reconciliation depends on a long gruelling reconstruction and development process, but also on the hope of people that this process will be successful. Now one such symbol of hope, one ‘subjective factor’ commissioned to be a beacon along the way to restoration and reconciliation, was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The creation of this Commission thus represented an important recognition on behalf of the government, namely that although the material and subjective factors comprising reconciliation are very closely related and interdependent, they also need to be distinguished and acknowledged separately. Entering from a theological angle specifically, it is exactly on the discourse feeding this ‘second factor’, namely the sustenance of a hope in the sustainable development of society, that this paper will focus. I will investigate one possible theological interpretation of the TRC's contribution to the public discourse in South Africa aimed at sustaining hope, drawing from the Christian notions of the need for legitimate political authority, hospitality to the stranger and prioritising the voices of the marginalised.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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