The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SATRC) was operatively established in 1996 and operated in public for about two and a half years. Its aim was to disclose the truth about the past, reconcile the people and prevent the Apartheid past from happening again. When the Commission handed in the preliminary Final Report in October 1999, it had not accomplished the tasks set forth. Still, thousands of South Africans have not been given the support they were promised upon referred to the Commission. This thesis focuses mainly on two cases extracted from the public hearings run by the Amnesty Committee of the SATRC in Cape Town 1997, and on one case from a workshop which I took part in early 1998, in Stellenbosch outside Cape Town. Thematically I have centred on two topics: memory and narratives. In extending this thematic field I further focus on the concepts of truth, intersubjectivity, conflict and transformation.
By revealing the material from the hearings and the workshop I make explicit that the non-arbitrary narratives voiced in these intersubjective arenas aid the negotiation and recreation of memories and challenge the recorded (hi)story of South Africa. The latter necessitates a re-writing of the Master narrative of the country, and the former involves the individual subject to connect to the present and reclaim the narrative voice. Due to the segregating former regime and its constitutional rules of excluding and violating conduct, the people of the country re-experiences the traumatic past as it is compellingly opened on the stage of the SATRC. Hence, traumatic memories saturate the communicative fields and pain returns to the victimized individual. This is more than the Commission can practically manage and it is visible that reconciliation, or forgiveness even, are acts it cannot facilitate. There are moments of truth and reconciliation within the Commissioned sphere, but judged by its goals the SATRC cannot be said to have been successful.
The individual has to turn to other forums in order to heal traumatic memories, and the workshop case exemplifies a socially intimate "healing of memories" project. In this context the Self is acknowledged and the internal "thou" may surface in a secure intersubjective field. The contrast to the public SATRC with all its recording equipment and staged performances is striking. As the Commission cannot enter the private sphere of the workshop, the individual cannot experience her/his uniqueness during the broadcasted public hearing, except very infrequent, I argue. However, the Commission has instigated a commemorative project of paramount importance and for which it will be remembered.