TRC failed to meet needs of victims - Tutu

By Time of article published Apr 21, 2006

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By Karen Breytenbach

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is dismayed at the "ungenerous reparations" to victims of apartheid who appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and has appealed to white businesses to contribute funding.

On Thursday night Tutu addressed an audience of TRC participants and local and foreign dignitaries, politicians, academics and media in the cavernous Whale Well in the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town on the TRC's 10th anniversary.

His co-speaker and former TRC commissioner Yasmin Sooka said it was time for former president FW de Klerk to come forward and admit the apartheid state had engaged in criminality.

Tutu and Sooka both suggested the white business community contribute financially, as they had "profiteered while propping up the apartheid state".

The dialogue was led by talk show host Tim Modise.

Former TRC deputy chairperson Alex Boraine was also to participate, but was ill at home with prostate cancer.

The audience heard harrowing accounts by Nohle Mohapi, the TRC's first witness, and Thembisa Simelela, sister of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) member Nokuthula Simelela, who disappeared after two months of torture.

Mohapi spoke about the pain of her MK husband's disappearance in 1976 and the frustration at never having received feedback after testifying at the TRC. Tutu apologised to her on the TRC's behalf.

Simelela spoke of her aged mother suffering nervous breakdowns and still being unable to cope with her sister's disappearance in 1983.

Tutu said "South Africans are tremendous people" and the successes of the TRC had set an international benchmark in dealing with post-conflict situations, yet it failed to meet the needs of victims or reveal the full truth in many cases.

"My own concern is if we'll be able to uncover the evidence (of atrocities). I have my doubts. The apartheid government was very adept at hiding and destroying evidence. Cases go on for a long time and then people are acquitted and I fear it is traumatising for the victims," he said.

"We probably shouldn't have operated as we did. Amnesty was granted with immediate effect. We should have had a budget (for victims) and estimated what they should get, with immediate effect," Tutu added.

"Some people waited five years. They humbled us. Many only wanted a tombstone or money for their child to go to school."

Sooka said the commission "maybe should have focused on community reparations" instead of individuals only.

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