History for the Future

Former TRC commissioner questions whether some should have received amnesty

Hlengiwe Mkhize was appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, and made chair of the Reparations and Rehabilitation Committee.

She served on the committee until 2003, and helped to establish the President’s Fund, set up to pay reparations to victims of apartheid identified by the TRC, as well as to fund exhumations and reburials.

In its last annual report, in 2015, the President’s Fund reported a balance of nearly R1,2 billion. It also reported that it had disbursed one-off grants of R30,000 to all the victims identified by the TRC save for 13 whom it could not trace.

A former academic and professor of Clinical Psychology, Hlengiwe Mkhize is currently the deputy minister of Telecommunications and Postal Service.

Journalist Pippa Green met her in her office in the Parliamentary precinct and asked her to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the TRC.

What did it do best?

The very question of amnesty, I wish we had had more discussions as to the criteria for granting amnesty.

Hlengiwe Mkhize, former TRC commissioner

She says young people who were drawn in by the apartheid regime and became perpetrators of apartheid crimes, could qualify for amnesty.

When they say at the age of 12, 15 or 16, I was given a weapon, and I did this. But the difficulty with our amnesty, it covered even an official of the State, who knowingly engaged in activities of destroying people, of committing crimes against other people.

Hlengiwe Mkhize, former TRC commissioner

The lack of discernment for different categories of those applying for amnesty, created a problem, she says. It did not help victims deal with their anger.

Time and again, when you talk to members of the community, it's almost like it didn't register in their mind that some of the security guys qualified for amnesty, as long as they made full disclosure.

Hlengiwe Mkhize, former TRC commissioner

In this 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.

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

Listen to this latest episode below, and click on 702 and CapeTalk to listen to the other episodes in this series.

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