Conflict transformation in South Africa : the impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on social identity transformation

Kriel, Hennie (2007-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Political Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


For a long time, conflict studies have focussed on the grand national projects of negotiating peace, concluded by the major actors in the country, like political parties, as well as international mediating actors like the UN. This view on solving conflict as a set top-down process were in recent years challenged by new theories on how to solve conflict. The conflict settlement theory had to make ideological and practical space for others like conflict resolution and conflict transformation, in the broader arena of conflict management. In the last 3 decades, conflict transformation has grown into a formidable tool in explaining conflict and moves toward peace-building. The fact that so many countries had collapsed back into civil war after their settlements, surely has something to say about the lack of longevity of some countries’ conflict settlement or conflict resolution approaches. This is why conflict transformation is such an attractive approach, especially in the case of South Africa. The political settlement of the early 1990s, that lead to an official peace, were also backed up by policies and programs to deal with the underlying causes and grievances that caused the conflict. The TRC was one aspect on post-1994 peace-building and enduring conflict transformation. The importance of the TRC as a transformative vehicle has been highlighted by the fact that so many institutions and individuals have made work of it to study the impact of the TRC on social transformation in the post-war era. Although many surveys indicate that South Africans have come to deal with the past to varying degrees and are seeing the various groups in the country as intertwined with the future of the country, there are still many worrying aspects that have to be addressed: interracial understanding and trust, and tolerance for one’s former enemies. The TRC has done much to build bridges between the formerly segregated groups of South Africa and the aim of this paper is to shed some light on these changes in attitudes.

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