n Journal for Contemporary History - The value of the victim hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa in sharing narratives

Volume 34, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



Every individual, family and place has a history of its own which may contribute knowledge and understanding to the study of history and wider themes. Unfortunately, written sources are not always available on all themes or time periods and / or are, at times, not adequate enough. Oral narratives may provide a type of historical source, among others, to gain information, fill the gaps and add to a more balanced view of events and occurrences.

By using oral narratives the researcher may obtain from the lips of the living survivors / victims a fuller record of their participation in events of historical significance. Hereby ordinary people may express their views and enlighten a fragment of the past transmitted by word of mouth. In this process ordinary people take part in the course of creating historical awareness. For this reason, it has an important role to play in the reconstruction of South Africa's past and especially in the lives of the ordinary people who lived it.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRC) shone a profoundly illuminating spotlight on South Africa's past. The truth-seeking purpose of the TRC lay in the official confrontation of past human rights abuses, with the aim of fostering individual and national reconciliation, through the catharsis of testimonies and confessions by the perpetrators of human rights abuses and their victims. This process opened the possibilities of public acknowledgement of the atrocities of the past. The hope was that it would lead to healing for victims and their families, forgiveness and ultimately reconciliation throughout the post-apartheid society of South Africa.

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