In Fiona Ross’s Truth and Reconciliation we get to examine the results of the new government’s attempts at making reconciliations with some of the wrongs that the people of South Africa had endured during apartheid by means of “truth commissions” vis-a-vis people’s testimonies to the level of personal victimization they had endured. However, not all people chose to portray their involvement (however they want to define it) in apartheid as pure victimization. If one chose to recognize their involvement in apartheid in a more assertive manner, where they were not passively suffering, they were denied the rights to reparations.
I find it unjust that only those who played the part required of them for the judicial system were rewarded, but it is also something that makes good sense. How else would the state of Zwelethemba distinguish between those affected by apartheid and those who managed to escape personal detriment? The fact is that if you are seeking to rebuild your future, you must reconstruct your past, at least for a short period of time. And that notion is something that the South African Commission tries to validate through supporting personal testimonies.
Ross says that the Commission believed that “speaking of suffering was in some measure cathartic and would give rise to interpersonal and national reconciliation” (pg239). Many women, however, did not want to testify about any sexual violence they may have endured. The case is there, as it is here, that sometimes women are stigmatized as to blame for the sexual abuse they have endured and because of social stigmas attached to sexual violence, the insistence for women to testify should be seen as intrusive and humiliating. Some hurts do not heal and avoidance may be a coping mechanism through which individuals manage past hurts” (pg 241). The Commission probably thought that testimonies would be the most effective method of giving personal and monetary acknowledgment to these individuals, and it’s impossible to say if it isn’t, but bringing up past memories can be more damaging to individuals than simply letting them dissolve.