Introduction by

the Minister of Justice,

Mr Dullah Omar

After a long process of discussion and debate, inside and outside of Parliament, the scene is finally set for the appointment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is important to understand the context in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will take place. The Commission is based on the final clause of the Interim Constitution which reads as follows: I could have gone to Parliament and produced an amnesty law - but this would have been to ignore the victims of violence entirely. We recognised that we could not forgive perpetrators unless we attempt also to restore the honour and dignity of the victims and give effect to reparation.

The question of amnesty must be located in a broader context and the wounds of our people must be recognised. I do not distinguish between ANC wounds, PAC wounds and other wounds - many people are in need of healing, and we need to heal our country if we are to build a nation which will guarantee peace and stability.

A critical question which involves all of us in how do South Africans come to terms with the past. In trying to answer this important question honestly and openly, we are fortunate in having a President who is committed to genuine reconciliation in our country and to the transformation of South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist democracy based on a recognition of universally accepted human rights.

The President believes - and many of us support him in this belief - that the truth concerning human rights violations in our country cannot be suppressed or simply forgotten. They ought to be investigated, recorded and made known. Therefore the President supports the setting up of a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation. The democratic government is committed to the building up of a human rights culture in our land.

There is a commitment to break from the past, to heal the wounds of the past, to forgive but not to forget and to build a future based on respect for human rights. This new reality in the human rights situation in South Africa places a great responsibility upon all of us. Human rights is not a gift handed down as a favour by government or state to loyal citizens. It is the right of each and every citizen. Part of our joint responsibility is to help to illuminate the way, chart the road forward and provide South Africa with beacons or guidelines based on international experiences as we traverse the transition. We must guard against dangers and pitfalls! We must involve our citizens in the debate so as to ensure that human rights is not the preserve of the few but the birthright of every citizen! We must embark upon the journey from the past, through our transition and into a new future.

I wish to stress that the objective of the exercise is not to conduct a witch hunt or to drag violators of human rights before court to face charges. However, it must be stressed that a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation. I invite you to join in the search for truth without which there can be no genuine reconciliation.


of the Commission

The objectives of the Commission will be to promote national unity and reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and divisions of the past by:


of the Commission

The function of the Commission will be to achieve its objectives and to that end the Commission shall:


of the Commission


of the Commission

Committee on Human Rights Violations

Apart from the powers and duties referred to under Functions of the Commission, this Committee shall take into account the gross violations of human rights for which indemnity has been granted during the period between 1 March 1960 and 9 May 1995, or for which prisoners were released or had their sentences remitted for the sake of reconciliation and for the finding of peaceful solutions during that period.

The Committee may record allegations and complaints of gross human rights violations.

The Committee may also:

The Committee will exercise the powers of investigation granted to the Commission in Chapter Six and Chapter Seven of the Act. This entails the establishment of an Investigating Unit which will investigate any matter falling within the scope of the Commission's powers, functions and duties, subject to the directions of the Commission, and shall at the request of the Committee investigate any matter falling within the scope of the powers, functions and duties of that Committee, subject to the direction of the Committee.

Committee on Amnesty

This Committee will facilitate and promote the granting of amnesty in respect of acts associated with political objectives by receiving from persons desiring to make a full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to such acts applications for the granting of amnesty in respect of such acts and by publishing decisions granting amnesty in the Government Gazette.

Any person who wishes to apply for amnesty shall within 12 months from the date of the proclamation make such application to the Commission in the prescribed form. The hearings of the Amnesty Committee, which will have a Judge of the Supreme Court as its chairperson, will be held in public unless, in the judgement of the chairperson and the committee, this may jeopardise life or limb, or contradict a process of fundamental human rights. The procedure can take different forms. Once the application form has been received by the Committee the Committee can, if it is satisfied that the requirements have been complied with, that there is no need for a hearing and that the act or omission or offence to which the application relates does not constitute a gross violation of human rights, in the absence of the applicant and without holding a hearing, grant amnesty and inform the applicant accordingly.

If, however, in the view of the Committee, a hearing is necessary the Committee will inform the person of the place and time when the application will be heard and considered. The Committee then will deal with the application by granting or refusing amnesty. One of the provisions laid down is that the applicant must make a full disclosure of all relevant facts. The Committee shall be guided by the consideration of certain laid-down criteria:

However, this does not include any act, omission or offence committed by any person referred to in subsection (2) of the Act who acted:

Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation of Victims

This Committee will:

The Committee may:

The Committee shall submit to the Commission a final comprehensive report on its activities, findings and recommendations.

The Committee will establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of victims and restore the human and civil dignity of such victims by granting them an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations of which they are the victims and by recommending reparation measures in respect of them.

Applications for Reparation

Any person who is of the opinion that he or she has suffered harm as a result of a gross violation of human rights may apply to the Committee for reparation. The Committee shall consider any such application and may exercise any of the powers conferred on it, as outlined above.

In any matter referred to the Committee and in respect of which a finding as to whether an act, omission or offence constitutes a gross violation of human rights is required, the Committee shall refer the matter to the Committee on Human Rights Violations.

If, upon consideration of any matter or application submitted to it and any evidence received or obtained by it, the Committee is of the opinion that the applicant is a victim, it shall, having due regard to the prescribed criteria, make recommendations in an endeavour to restore the human and civil dignity of the victim.

Over and above making recommendations which may include urgent interim measures, the Committee will report to the Commission with its findings and make recommendations which will be considered by the President with a view to making recommendations to Parliament and making regulations.

President's Fund

The President may, in such manner as he may deem fit, in consultation with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance, establish a Fund into which shall be paid all money appropriated by Parliament for the purposes of the Fund and all money donated or contributed to the Fund or accruing to the Fund from any source.

There shall be paid from the Fund all amounts payable to victims by way of reparation in terms of regulations made by the President.

Victims of Human
Rights Violations

When dealing with victims, the actions of the Commission shall be guided by the following principles:


Although the commission will be independent and will have a full-time staff drawn from many different categories, it will not be able to achieve its objectives without the fullest cooperation from voluntary organisations.

There are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have an outstanding track record of service to the community. Some of these are human rights organisations, some are psychological and/or social support service organisations whilst others are religious bodies. All of these have the potential to complement the work of the Commission.

Many of these organisations have already been involved in the preparation leading up to the appointment of the Commission. If you are a member of one of these organisations or belong to a church, mosque or synagogue, please encourage your organisation to play an active role in assisting the Commission.

If you have been a victim of political violence and are not sure how to contact the Commission or what your rights are, get in touch with an NGO or religious organisation closest to you and ask for their help. They will be able to put you in touch with the Commission.

Once the Commission is appointed it will advertise very widely on radio, TV and in newspapers and this also will assist you both in linking up with the work of the Commission and being in a better position to make direct contact with the Commission, should you wish to do so.

Whatever else is true, South Africa needs to be transformed and needs to move towards the consolidation of democracy and the development of a culture of human rights. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission can make a contribution in this direction but its work will be enhanced, broadened and strengthened with your assistance.

and Answers

1. Why should there be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

2. When will the Commission start its work?

3. What will the Commission do?

4. How long will the Commission be operational and where will it be based?