Tag Archive: TRC


So i know i said i would share three sections of the book ‘Begging to be Black’ by Antjie Krog that i have just finished, but i couldn’t not share this bonus piece [which EVERYONE should read, regardless of where you are from] and then you really should get hold of the book, because four short extracts do not do it justice… but this is powerful stuff, prepare yourself…

This is from a trip Antjie did to Turkey and more particularly, Istanbul:

‘We walk down the street toward a recommended place called Güllüoğlu, established many years ago and still using a recipe for baklava, so we are told, brought from Damascus.4

‘Why does it sound so wonderful, a recipe from Damascus?’ I ask.4’The place of revelation, scales falling from Saul’s eyes,’ suggests the professor, as we pass a large demonstration taking place under massive police presence.

‘It is such a relief that my country has said sorry,’ he says. ‘At last the discussions about reparation have begun.’

‘It somehow seems to me that it is easier to say sorry when you are in power and in the majority. It is very confusing with us. Instead of whites being asked to pay back, they were asked to step back. Instead of being taxed, they’re being blamed.’

The baklva is indeed an experience worth a thesis. Three small wedges arrive on a plate. After the first mouthful we fall into sublime silence – no talking, no academic thinking, only deep, intense, empirical abandon. Our tongues verify the menu: the syrup of Turkish baklava is made not from honey but from special sugar; the pistachios super-finely grated on top were handpicked in Barak; the butter in the pastry comes from Şanlıurfa. It is sheep’s milk butter ‘made clear’ in the heat of the sun.

We sit enraptured. Speechless we drink the Turkish coffee. The money we hand over seems immaterial. The professor goes to a bookshop and I rush back for my panel discussion with a Turkish journalist and a Greek journalist who uncovered mass graves and atrocities on Cyprus. Their governments don’t like this debunking of ‘official explanations’, ad the two journalists are being harassed in terrible ways. Both of them look anxious and stressed out.

My input starts with a quote from Cynthia Ngewu, one of the mothers of the Gugulethu Seven, which I used in my book about the Truth Commission:

This thing called reconciliation… if I am understanding it correctly… if it means this perpetrator, this man who killed [my son] Christopher Piet, if it means he becomes human again, this man, so that I, so that all of us, get our humanity back… then I agree, then I support it all.

‘Let me set out what this amazing formulation says: it says that Mrs Ngewu understood that the killer of her child could, and did, kill, because he had lost his humanity; he was no longer human. Second, she understood that to forgive him would open up the possibility for him to regain his humanity, to change profoundly. Third, she understood also that the loss of her son affected her own humanity; her humanity had been impaired. Fourth and most important, she understood that if indeed the perpetrator felt driven by her forgiveness to regain his humanity, then it would open up the possibility of the restoration of her own full humanity.

‘In the TRC final report, Mrs Ngewu’s response on prison sentences for the perpetrators reads as follows: “I think that all South Africans should be committedto the idea of re-accepting these people back into the community. We do not want to return the evil that the perpetrators committed to the nation. We want to demonstrate a humanness [ubuntu] towards them, so that [it] in turn may restore their own humanity.”

‘This was being said at the end of a century dominated by revenge: that to punish would be to perpetuate inhumanity. Analysing the sentences in TRC testimonies about forgiveness, one picks up how both literate and illiterate black people formulated forgiveness in terms of this interconnected humaneness.

‘What I am trying to say is that Christianity (or human rights, restorative justice, or, for that matter, the theology of Tutu and the politics of Mandela) is not simply linked to, or an add-on to, a kind of African interconnectedness, but is in fact imbedded therein.

Interconnectedness forms the interpretive foundation of southern African Christianity, and it is this foundation that enabled people to reinterpret tired and troubled Western concepts such as forgiveness, reconciliation, amnesty and justice in new and usable ways.

‘In other words: these concepts moved across cultural borders and were infused and energised by a world view of interconnectedness-towards-wholeness to assist people to break out of their past and make a new future possible.

‘So what would be the difference? Christian forgiveness says: I forgive you because Jesus has forgiven me. The reward will be in heaven. “African” forgiveness says: I forgive you so that you can change and I can begin to heal and all of us can become the selves that we were meant to be. The reward is here on earth.

‘Forgiving is therefore never separate from reconciliation, but the first personal step. It demands a response from the forgiven one, to change, to become human, to share. Forgiveness is thus not an uninformed embrace of evil, it is not a miracle brought about by an individual, but an interconnected act that makes a changed relationship possible, a future, a new way of being.’

But I see the audience sitting in front of me: a fierce gleam of hurt, anger and bitterness in their eyes. The world will never learn anything from Africa, my friend Sandile Dikeni once said. We are just something cute, a mask to hang in a television lounge, but we will never be recognised for having contributed something worthwhile to the world.


[To return to the beginning of this series and read some other powerful extracts from this book, click here]


Mamelani. Listen Up.  Kom ons Luister… all of us.

If I had the mic for just a moment, and the audience was a country that I am yearning to see at peace and functional and prosperous – what would I want to say?  In just 3 – 5 points?

This should be so easy and yet the noise in my head has made this complex.  This is my start actually.

There is too much noise.  We shout at each other: based on skin, class and gender.  We assume agendas: religious, political and economic. We let the preconceived unspoken perceptions and understandings of the other – whoever the other is – control our interactions, whether on social media, in face to face (oh that there were more) dialogues with ‘the other’ and in the positions we take when we are with people who think and talk like us. My first thing I wish we would do is quieten so that we can hear each other without prejudice.

  • Hear each other’s questions
  • Hear each other’s frustrations & anger & hurt
  • Hear each other’s hopes and dreams and desires

In quietening I have learnt about the pain and trauma people close to me have experienced – because of losing their family homes (these are my peers & not ‘some random people who must get over it’), because of family members being treated in ways that still carry deep wounds.  We can’t change this part of our history but by acknowledging the pain of this and being willing to really listen and say “I am sorry that you had to go through that, it wasn’t right”, we might begin to see each other.

I have also witnessed people express that they didn’t know.  And while some may say that there is NO excuse, people genuinely still live in ignorance of the stories of the other.  I have seen grown men weep in response to movies like RED DUST (based on the TRC) who really didn’t know; whose narratives weren’t questioned.

In doing this I am fairly convinced that we would find each other and then actually have a chance of getting somewhere peacefully, functionally and in a way that prospers us as a nation.

It is 21 years since our first “free & fair elections” happened – in which a nation was taken across a bridge but the systems weren’t really.  The longer I sit with this notion (the words of which are Frank Chikane’s not mine), the more I think about what does this mean for my life story – but also what does that mean for someone who is effectively free in theory but the structures keep them, in their life story, stuck on the other side of the proverbial bridge.   21 is often seen as a coming of age – My second wish is that as a country we come of age to a place where we can look at the bridge and figure out who sits where on it.  Without it becoming a place where people defend& attack rather than listen to each other.  Where we can all acknowledge that race, gender and class put us in different positions of power and privilege on this bridge – and that brings with it some responsibility to get the rest of us across the bridge too.

Maybe it’s time to challenge and acknowledge the objective and subjective realities that people, all of us, find ourselves in? This challenge isn’t about “guilting” anyone but rather acknowledging that it does exist.

Lastly, I would hope that each person adopts an attitude of every life matters – so that each person knows that they have worth: That the inherent dignity of each person is honoured.  That this forms a ripple effect in our education policies, in our safety and security and health and welfare policies.  That in speaking to people, rather than ‘them’ or ‘they’ regardless of who they are (rich, poor, coloured, indian, black or white), that we are able to see value in each other’s story.  Even if it’s foreign to us.  Even if it feels like it doesn’t fit with what we have experienced.  I would hope that as we start counting all life as valuable, that our systems can be transformed, that our economic policies are ethical and that each of us can be heard.

[For more from Alexa, head on over to her blog over here: theoutrageousintrovert.wordpress.com]

[To hear what Sindile has to say to South Africa in 2015, click here]

Tutu and No_bob


Continuing with my share from  ‘Revisiting The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Faith Community Hearing’ as we look at some of the messages that came out of the second day:


While 140 character messages don’t capture the whole of what was experienced, hopefully they will help you to catch a bit of a glimpse:

General buzz in the air. Today it is a lot of testimony from other faith groups so should be interesting.

In our hunger for reconciliation maybe justice was held at bay. Economic justice. Restitution.

It’s as if, with the advent of democracy, we gave our mission and ministry to the government.

Without love, without justice, without genuine fairness, there can be no reconciliation.


Thulani Ndlanzi (Cong): we have promoted a non-racial community rather than a multi-racial community.

 [Thulani Ndlanzi just raised the bar with that presentation recognising so many vital local issues.]


Have we lost our minds? Link back to earlier devotion. Where we have grown complacent and normalized injustice.


 [Really enjoying Thulani Ndlanzi. Speaking it like it is. ‘it should be a given that when we drafting laws we focus on women’s rights.’]

Thulani Ndlanzi: We need to bring God back into schools. What good is it to have a good mathematician with no ethics?

Thulani Ndlanzi: What good is it to produce a great scientist who has no morals?


Nadine Bowers du Toit (TEASA): South Africans for the most part seem to have a love hate relationship with reconciliation.


Brigalia Bam (SACC): Quoting Mandela – You will need to re-interpret your theology that allowed you to accept apartheid.

Brigalia Bam quoting Mandela -Now is not the time for the churches to return to the cosiness of the sanctuary.


Malusi Mpumlwana (SACC): We hear more about social cohesion than we do about national reconciliation.


Hlengiwe Mkhize [panel]: Reconciliation is a generational issue.


Wow, Thandile Khona, black guy, really giving it to the Muslims in terms of black inclusion within Muslim leadership.

Thandile Khona is President of Muslim Youth Movement. Really interested to hear what Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie has to say next.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie (Sect Gen Muslim Traditional Council): We believe South Africans are waiting on the religious leaders today.

Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie: As a religious community we have to be critical of our govt when it comes to corruption.


Yasmin Sooka: We all have our internal contradictions & in religion this often relates to how do we treat those who are different.


 [Really interesting session listening to the muslim representatives. Some great points.]


Nalini Gangen (Maha Sabha) just made it clear that all Indians should not be seen through the lens of that one family. #GuptasArentUs

Nalini Gangen: Hindu marriage not being recognised. Sale of house documents for eg would reflect them as unmarried.

Nalini Gangen: How we react to what happens and is happening is based on what we have seen.


Reuben Shapiro from South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace. This just got political. Gaza statement happening.

Reuben Shapiro – The Jewish voice in South Africa is not homogenous.


Big moment of humour as Tutu goes to a mic way too high for him and does a huge jump ‘to reach it’. [TbV hysterical].


 Tutu recounting story of man being tortured – ‘These are God’s children & they need me to help them recover the dignity they are losing.’

Tutu: As we listen i hope we hear more than just the words. That we remember that we are surrounded by some incredible people.

 [Inspirational break as Tutu gets up and recounts some stories of some of the people in the room.]


The post apartheid generation. Not sure where the segregation comes from. We need to create spaces to share our stories.


Frank Chikane: The job is not yet finished. South Africa has a long way to go to deal with the pain of the past. Black and white pain.


Imam Rashied Omar – It’s not the job of the state to do forgiveness.

Rashied Omar: Bicycle theology. You stole my bicycle. Years later you are sorry. But where’s my bicycle?

[Loved that analogy – found it really helped get my mind a little more about the idea of Economic and Land Reparation that still needs to happen]

Rashied Omar: Too much co-operation with the state. But we were co-opted by the state. Don’t fly flags in the church.


Eddie van der Borght (Amsterdam): The urgency of this moment, the momentum, should not be lost.


Nico Koopman – I think one of the reasons we live so distant from each other is because we still live with stereotypes of each other.

Nico Koopman – Please notice the abnormality in the normality.

Nico Koopman – Words are important because words create worlds. But we need to move beyond words to other types of action.

Nico Koopman. Forgiveness paves the way for reconciliation, restitution and reparation. It makes us hungry for more.


Tutu: This is one of the maddest countries. #TellingStoriesOfInsaneForgiveness

Tutu: This thing we are talking about [TRC] was a broken instrument. But God used it.

Tutu: We should be taking off our shoes. Cos this is holy ground.

Tutu: We are a country that is meant to show the world how we are supposed to be a family of God.

Tutu just threw away his closing address and is winging it by the Spirit. #PowerfulEnd


And let me close with some other Tweets from some others who were there:


@rogersaner “Somehow we haven’t been able to translate the large religious presence in SA into justice.” –

@changeagentSA “: Nyobole: “In the past we have neglected our role in education but are reclaiming our role”

@tutulegacy The biggest beneficiaries of apartheid were the business communities.

@tutulegacy Pillay: “Unity is a gift given to us by God. We need a bigger vision. Jesus calls us to be one.” 

@rogersaner An obvious need coming out of today is for white South Africans to do some serious work to face and own the past and privilege

@digitaldion ‘Now is not the time for the Churches to retreat to the safety of the sanctuary’ Nelson Mandela comment in 1997. Still true today!

@val_c_anderson We need a different kind of theology that can underpin action – “contextual theology”. 

@val_c_anderson “There’s no such thing as apolitical religion.” ~ Dr Rashied Omar. 


So there you have it. Does not do what happened the last two days immense justice, but hopefully gives glimpses and some challenging ideas and concepts to reflect on and wrestle with.

A big thing that came out looking back at the original TRC is that perhaps we focused too much on Truth that we overlooked justice.

Another big idea that was said on many occasions was the need for reparation and land reform [of which fairly little has been done] to add to the reconciliation and justice that did happen.

A big failure was that the church/faith communities as a whole seemed to sit back and hope the government would take the lead on Reconciliation , whereas the Government had initially hoped that the church would pick up and continue the work of the TRC in hundreds of little TRC’s all over the country [which never really happened and quite possibly because it was not well communicated enough]

The church/faith communities as a whole has failed to be involved enough in areas of Reconciliation and has a lot of work to do. The majority of the people in South Africa would fall into some kind of faith community and so it seems to make a lot of sense that if the faith communities as a whole got serious about this stuff it should and would happen.

And more… we closed off by singing the national anthem together which was a powerful moment.

[To return to the beginning of my reflections on these two days, click here]






Tutu and No_bob

So former Archbishop Desmond Tutu [or present Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, whatever an Emeritus might be] must be the most famous purple-dress-wearing man in the whole of Africa.

No_bob the yellow-and-white [yes, he’s still not nor ever has been blue] stuffed dolphin, is the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin [largely because the competition in that particular field is highly limited] and called No_bob because he doesn’t, well, bob.

It was inevitable that one day the two would meet. And by ‘inevitable’ i mean ‘highly unlikely’.

Yet, somehow they did.

And it really was one of the smallest and least significant moments of the last two days [but still quite fun, especially when you look at the panic’d GET-ME-OUT-OF-HERE look on his face]


For the last two days i was really privileged to be a witness to a meeting that was titled, ‘Revisiting The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Faith Community Hearing’ which was ‘a Consultation presented by the Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University in collaboration with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.’

The original TRC, according to Wikipedia, ‘was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid. Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.’

A seeking out of Truth and Reconciliation after the tragic years of apartheid and following the miracle of the peaceful release of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the ANC and other organisations and the first free and fair elections that the majority of South Africans were for the first time eligible to take part in.

At the same time there was a TRC that happened specifically with the Faith Communities in mind in 1997, and this particular meeting was revisiting that in some way, giving Faith community representatives the opportunity to remember the testimony they had given then, as well as share where their community found themselves now in the process.

According to the Faculty of Theology in Stellenbosch website,

The aims of the re-enactment hearing are:

  • To put the process of reconciliation back on the main agenda of all faith communities in South Africa;
  • To make a significant contribution to reconciliation and national unity in the current South African context;
  • To contribute to the development of responsible and realistic reconciliation strategies for the faith communities, and offer practical suggestions on how to address the challenges of reconciliation and nation building in our land.


There is no way i can effectively put into words even a good summary of the last two day’s events, but i felt i needed to write something and so hopefully i can give some small glimpses and highlights or key points that came out.

The format, sandwiched between and introduction and closing remarks by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu [who i will refer to from now as ‘The Arch’ as everyone else seems to – he’s held No_bob so we should pretty much be on a nickname basis] and a time of reflection and audience participation at the end, was a large number of sections of different church denominational representatives, other faith representatives and one or two denominational network representatives sharing their thoughts both on the past meeting and where their group was now.

Each group was given thirty minutes which was meant to comprise 15 minutes of sharing and then some engagement and Q and A with the panel which was made up of Ms Yasmin Sooka, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Ms Glenda Wildschut and Prof Piet Meiring, asking some questions and a time of response. Putting ministers and church leaders in front of a mic in a South African context meant that didn’t always happen to the program, but we did get through most of what was planned with some creativity and improvisational tea breaks.

As far as denominations went, among those who shared were the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Congregational, AFM and a number of the more traditionally Afrikaans churches like the NGK, NHK and more.  Then both TEASA [The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa] and SACC [The South African Council of Churches] shared as well as representatives from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities. There were a few foreign representatives from Germany, Holland and Americaland who also played a smaller role in the program as well as some special guests who were invited to be witnesses and then comment towards the end.


As i said, it is hard to even give a summary of the event, but it was an incredible one to be a part of. I went to both days and the beautiful Val [tbV] accompanied me on the second day , which was great as she got to meet the Arch who is one of her heroes and get a picture taken with him. But Desmond Tutu’s presence was definitely a highlight to proceedings. From the moment he grabbed the mic, he invoked a sort of stand-up comedy routine but had the abaility toimmediately became significantly serious, often in a moment, when he needed to.

From his opening line of, “I think God is very clever sometimes'”which had everyone in stitches, to the poignantcy of,“Sometimes we do have a nostalgia for when it was simple and you knew who your enemies were”.

From the comedy of, “I don’t know how many of you watched Special Assignment on Sunday night? No? Probably because you don’t like SABC very much” to an absolute room-stopping moment of silence and recognition of the various tragedies taking place around the world, “Our God is standing there crying. (Lists places with conflict around world) Because His children are so terrible sometimes.” The Arch knew how to use silences and pauses to really allow the truth to hit home and for that truth to be allowed to impact you deeply.

And finishing off his opening address with the question and invitation of: Can we try to find a way to wipe the tears from His eyes?

From creating moments of outright mirth during the middle of serious testimonies as someone says something slightly funny or perhaps ironic and suddenly a loud high-pitched ‘Hee Hee Hee’ breaks the silence from the front row where he sat watching… to standing up to go and hug the Afrikaans pastor who has broken down in tears after sharing a hectic testimony on behalf of a church who refused to take part in the 1997 meetings and would only allow him to attend the meetings in his personal capacity… to bringing the meeting full circle by announcing towards the end, that as the man who has ‘a hotline to God’, “I can see God smiling through the tears.” Conveying a sense of absolute hope without reducing the significance of the  huge walls and immense work that still needs to be done.

And of course agreeing to pose with a yellow-and-white stuffed dolphin for this strange white dreadlocked guy who managed to corner him.

[To continue to some of the live tweets that i composed that give a glimpse into some of the ideas that were shared, click here]


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