South Africa experienced x xnumerous human rights x challenges during the x xapartheid era. The White-dominated x government committed serious atrocities x xagainst the Black majority. A number of brutal measures were adopted by the regime to deal with political activists and other x x x “offenders.”Cases in point include the ruthless handling x of the Sharpeville protests (1960 and 1984), the Soweto riots (1976) among x other resistance activities.
Because the police x sometimes resorted x to the use of live ammunition, a number of people (both children and adults) were either maimed x or fatally wounded during the x disturbances. Some forms of punishment meted out to x opponents of the regime included x torture, detention, imprisonment and banishment x of their organisations. The x proscribing of the African National Congress (ANC), Pan-Africanist x Congress (PAC) and the Black x Consciousness Movement (BCM), in particular, was ruthlessly x carried out and this threatened x to silence the Black voice.
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However, x Black communities (together with x their Coloured and x Indian counterparts) staunchly x resisted these actions x which informed state x response in the pre-independence period.The lack of x racial harmony in the country x between 1960 and 1994 x prompted the first democratically x xelected government of Nelso x n Mandela to institute, in 1995, a commission of inquiry x based in Cape Town (known as the x Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC) into all x apartheid-related crimes with the x objective of mending hitherto x unbridgeable x racial disparities. Thus, x when South Africa emerged x from the nightmare of apartheid, x the country launched a x new struggle to deal x with a history of x pervasive human rights violations x while at the same time x working to unite x and rebuild the nation.Some Black people x wanted harsh penalties x for the perpetrators of apartheid crimes. Others thought that investigation of past x wrongs would jeopardise the fragile new democracy, while others simply wanted to forget the x past. In the end, the new government opted to establish a commission to document what happened x during South Africa’s most troubled times, and offer limited amnesty to those who confessed their x complicity.
The TRC was based on x the Promotion x of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995. It resembled x a legal body that x was bestowed with the x authority to hear and try x cases, resolve disputes, or x make certain legal x decisions. The policy of x reconciliation embodied in the x inquiry was predicated x on the fundamental principle that “To forgive is not x just to be altruistic, but x it is the best x form of self-interest.”