Heart-wrenching stories will stay with TRC commissioner forever

Alex Boraine is now 85 years old and has seen a great deal of changes in South Africa during his lifetime.

From his early years as an ordained Methodist minister, through his twelve years in parliament for the then Democratic party, Boraine was always someone who questioned what was going on around him.

During the 1980s his watershed moment facing the truth about life for millions of oppressed South Africans was a catalyst to leaving parliamentary politics.

He became dedicated to bridging the divide between South Africans and launched the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa).

Alex Boraine has always stayed engaged in political debates about this country and building a democratic future.

Not least demonstrated when he was appointed vice chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 with Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu at the helm.

Veteran journalist Pippa Green sat down with Dr Boraine and asked him about his experiences at the TRC and how he sees the future in South Africa.

Despite being in the autumn of his life, he has authored two books on South Africa, and is as as engaging as ever about lessons from the past, and what is happening right now in our country.

Dr Boraine talks about the hours spent listening to heartbreaking testimony from families of those who lost loved ones through apartheid atrocities.

The ones who came to us, I was impressed mainly by black women who were often left behind when their loved ones went into exile or into prison and had to face the sheer brutalities of police on a day to day basis

Dr. Alex Boraine, former Vice chair TRC

He says it was the telling of their personal stories that seemed to help bring these families closure on the often unimaginable suffering and loss they had endured.

What amazed me also, was that many of the victims asked us to arrange meetings with the perpetrators.

Dr. Alex Boraine, former Vice chair TRC

Boraine says the capacity for forgiveness by people whose family members had been tortured and killed was inspirational.

Pippa Green's interview with Alex Boraine forms part of the series, History for the Future.

13 TRC commissioners look back at the experience of the TRC from the first human rights violation hearing 20 years ago until the conclusion of the report. They explore strengths of the TRC and its weaknesses.

These podcasts are available on the 702 and Cape Talk app as well as the websites for download.

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