After Apartheid was abolished in the early 1990s, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) was set up to do exactly what it says on the tin: to reveal the truth about what had happened under the insanely oppressive, institutionally racist and overwhelmingly violent Apartheid system, and to reconcile differences between victims, perpetrators and their families. It essentially granted amnesty to those charged with atrocities such as murder under the Apartheid regime, but only if those crimes had been politically motivated and the entire truth was told to the TRC (i.e someone who went on a senselessly violent killing spree for no reason would not be freed or pardoned). It also charged and imprisoned those responsible for other atrocities.

Of course, for such a system to work then nobody, from the poorest people of the land to the President, could be outside the reach of the court, and that is the way the system operated: policemen could be and were charged and imprisoned. The approach was to allow anyone to come forward and give testimony to the commission as to the despicable and often violent acts committed on both sides, with emotional scenes as murderers begged for forgiveness from the families of those whose relatives had died and many broke down in tears while recounting the sheer horror of the era.

Eventually, the TRC released a report in 1998, which scolded both sides of the metaphorical Apartheid fence for committing their respective atrocities.

Home page of the TRC: http://www.doj.gov.za/trc/

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