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Saturday, August 14, 1999 Published at 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK

World: Africa

Truth commission admits failures

The TRC report: 'Compromised by lack of time'

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has admitted it failed to give a full and balanced account of abuses under apartheid.

The commission was set up to investigate atrocities committed both by the apartheid government and by anti-apartheid forces between 1960 and 1994, and to foster reconciliation among South Africans.

But recently it has been accused of failing in both these tasks.

A commission official, Charles Villa-Vicenzio, told a seminar in Cape Town that infighting, political pressure and a lack of time had compromised its final report, which was presented to the then-President Nelson Mandela last October.

Incomplete history

[ image: More than 17,000 people testified before the commission]
More than 17,000 people testified before the commission
"We realised quite soon that we could not, as our mandate demanded, write the history of the years between 1960 and 1994," Prof Villa-Vicenzio said.

He said he hoped the TRC had found "some truth".

Prof Villa-Vicenzio was responding to criticism by sociologist Colin Bundy that the 3,500-page report was an incomplete "unintegrated, historically fragmented" work.

The TRC has also been accused of basing its report on hearsay, since not all of the 17,500 people who testified before the commission were directly the victims of human rights abuses.

Reconciliation questioned

Another member of the commission, Mary Burton, warned that if the government failed to act on the recommendations contained in the report, the prospects for reconciliation could be badly damaged.

She said the treatment of victims who had appeared before the commission had left her "bitterly angry and ashamed".

The TRC's deputy chairman, Alex Boraine admitted that divisions remained between South Africans of different races.

"It is true - most whites do not like or trust blacks. And likewise most blacks are deeply suspicious of whites - with some cause," Dr Boraine said.

He added though that the TRC's critics had a "rather romantic understanding of reconciliation".

Newspaper editor Kaizer Nyatsumba said that while the TRC had produced "a few moving examples" of reconciliation between human rights abusers and their victims, "such reconciliation had not found resonance across the country".

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