History for the Future

TRC was safe space for apartheid victims to tell their stories - Judge Khampepe

Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe, was one of the first black attorneys in South Africa to specialise in labour law, at a time when black workers had few rights under apartheid.

In 1995 President Nelson Mandela appointed her as a commissioner to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Journalist Pippa Green spoke to Judge Khampepe about her experience at the TRC and what lessons it has to teach us today.

That's what the Truth Commission did. It facilitated the safe environment for healing

Judge Sisi Khampepe, former TRC commissioner

It is sixteen years since the TRC ended.

I think as a nation we should be proud of where we are. As a nation we can now speak on the same page

Judge Sisi Khampepe, former TRC commissioner

She says the TRC created a public acknowledgement of the trauma and suffering that the majority of the population was subjected to.

I don't think there is anyone who can claim convincingly that he or she does not know the oppression that the apartheid system visited on black people.

Judge Sisi Khampepe, former TRC commissioner

Khampepe hopes we have learned the importance today of entering into constructive debate to sort out differences.

We now live together, respecting our differences, and in my view I think we celebrate our differences.

Judge Sisi Khampepe, former TRC commissioner

Reconciliation is a long process, she says, and only twenty years into democracy, there is still a lot of work to be done.

It's like a tree, that needs to be watered continuously, until it grows, and takes firmly to root, and then you enjoy the benefits of the shade the tree will provide.

Judge Sisi Khampepe, former TRC commissioner

But there are many challenges to be faced. One of her key concerns is the growing gap between rich and poor. We need to ensure that all South Africans commit to building this nation, she says.

Veteran journalist Pippa Green's interview with Judge Sisi Khampepe, forms part of a series, History for the Future , where 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.

They also reflect on where we are now as a nation, and answer the critical question: where to from here?

Listen to the entire podcast with Judge Khampepe below, and click to listen to other episodes from this series on CapeTalk and 702:

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