Legal truth and discourses of violence in Post-apartheid Commissions of Inquiry: The TRC and Marikana Commission

Lester, Claire-Anne Louise (2021-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis offers an analysis of the official discourse of two post-apartheid commissions of inquiry investigating state violence – the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Marikana Commission of Inquiry. I trace both continuities and shifts within the apartheid and post-apartheid period in the way questions of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ have been approached in relation to past (political) violence. Moreover, I point to Marikana as exemplifying a continued problem in the post-apartheid dispensation, which has been to keep the major facets of economic organisation largely intact, reproducing structural violence and social inequity by workers in the South African mining sector. Following Adam Ashforth, my method involves an analysis of the official discourse produced in and by a commission of inquiry; however, I develop this approach to focus on the official discourse on violence in both the TRC and Marikana Commission of Inquiry. I assess various scholarly analyses and characterisations to discern their functions in terms of the following analytical schema: fact-finding, truth seeking, their discursive or narrative role and ideological function. Through an in depth analysis of what Adam Sitze calls ‘tumult commissions’, official commissions established throughout British colonialism to investigate excesses in violence by state security in quelling a major uprising in the mining sector, I trace how this institutional form has continued through the South African transition in the TRC, and into the democratic era. I argue that on a basic level these commissions of inquiry are concerned with the law; that they are instruments used in the attempt to bring society more in line with the law when other institutions like the courts or police have been stretched to capacity or when their legitimacy has been severely undermined. I proceed to focus on the TRC and Marikana Commission’s concern with the law and how the legal conceptualisations of ‘violence’ and ‘violation’ constrain the findings published in the final Report, and subsequently the possibility for restitution or justice for victims of state violence. This attests to the difficulties of both truth-telling and enacting justice in a society that remains characterised by past and continued structural violence. I find that post-apartheid commissions of inquiry have used increasingly legal approaches to address direct forms of violence, violation and injury but that they bump up against limits internal to international law itself when violence is structural and domination takes a more abstract form. As such, the production of past and present material inequalities could be glimpsed but not fully digested by the TRC and Marikana Commission’s legal orientation. Nonetheless, an analysis of these Commissions’ mandated deliberative and inclusive process facilitates challenges to official discourse on violence from civil society groups to include focus on structural violations. I show how claims to truth and justice by the public have allowed post-apartheid commissions of inquiry to be moved in various directions of their own volition, which has allowed for structures of power and the discourses that sustain them to be challenged in meaningful ways. It still stands, however, that the legal approach sets limits on a commissions’ findings, and while these commissions may describe violence; legal discourse lacks the sufficient theoretical and explanatory capacity to elucidate the root causes of repeated abuses in the mining sector, those that result as an inevitable consequence of the class relations that define capitalist production.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis bied ʼn analise van die van die amptelike diskoers van twee post-apartheid ondersoekkommissies wat staatsgeweld ondersoek – die Suid-Afrikaanse Waarheids-en- Versoeningskommissie (WVK) en Marikana-kommissie van ondersoek. Ek spoor beide kontinuïteite en verskuiwings binne die apartheid- en post-apartheidtydperk na in die manier waarop vrae oor 'waarheid' en 'geregtigheid' benader is in verband met voorafgaande (politieke) geweld. Bowendien wys ek op Marikana as 'n voorbeeld van 'n voortdurende probleem in die bestel na apartheid, wat daarop gefokus was om die belangrikste fasette van die ekonomiese organisasie grotendeels ongeskonde te hou, soos weergegee deur die strukturele geweld en sosiale ongelykheid onder werkers in die Suid-Afrikaanse mynbousektor. Vervolgens Adam Ashforth behels my metode 'n ontleding van die amptelike diskoers wat in en deur 'n kommissie van ondersoek voortgebring is; ek verfyn egter hierdie benadering om te fokus op die amptelike diskoers oor geweld in die WVK en die Marikana-kommissie van ondersoek. Ek evalueer verskillende wetenskaplike ontledings en karakteriserings om hul funksies in terme van die volgende analitiese skema te onderskei: feitelike ondersoek, die soeke na waarheid, diskursiewe of narratiewe rol en ideologiese funksie. Deur middel van 'n diepgaande analise van waarna Adam Sitze verwys as 'onstuimige kommissies' – amptelike kommissies wat dwarsdeur die Britse kolonialisme ingestel is om buitensporige geweld deur staatsekuriteit te ondersoek om 'n groot opstand in die mynbousektor te onderdruk - spoor ek na hoe hierdie institusionele vorm voortbestaan het deur die Suid-Afrikaanse oorgang in die WVK, tot in die demokratiese era. Ek voer aan dat hierdie kommissies van ondersoek hul op 'n basiese vlak met die wet besig; dat dit instrumente is wat gebruik word in die poging om die samelewing meer in ooreenstemming te bring met die wet wanneer ander instansies soos die howe of polisie tot kapasiteit gestrek is of as hul legitimiteit ernstig ondermyn word. Ek fokus verder op die WVK en die Marikana-kommissie se omgang met die wet en hoe die regskonseptualisering van 'geweld' en 'oortreding' die bevindinge beperk wat in die finale verslag gepubliseer is, en daarbenewens ook die moontlikheid vir restitusie of geregtigheid vir slagoffers van staatsgeweld. Dit getuig van die beswaarlikheid van waarheidsvertelling en die instelling van geregtigheid in 'n samelewing wat steeds gekenmerk word deur eertydse en voortgesette strukturele geweld. Ek vind dat post-apartheid kommissies van ondersoek toenemend wettige benaderings gebruik het om direkte vorms van geweld, oortreding en besering aan te spreek, maar dat hulle bots teen die perke wat inherent is tot die internasionale reg, wanneer geweld struktureel is en oorheersing 'n meer abstrakte vorm aanneem. As sodanig kan die produksie van wesenlike ongelykhede in die verlede en hede skrams gesien word, maar nie volledig aangespreek word deur die WVK en die Marikana-kommissie se regsgerigtheid nie. Desnieteenstaande bevorder 'n ontleding van hierdie kommissies se mandaat beraadslagende en inklusiewe prosesse uitdagings tot die amptelike diskoers oor geweld deur burgerlike samelewingsgroepe om die fokus op strukturele oortredings in te sluit. Ek toon aan hoe aansprake op waarheid en geregtigheid deur die publiek toegelaat het dat post-apartheid kommissies van ondersoek na eie gelang in verskillende rigtings beweeg, wat dit moontlik gemaak het om magstrukture en die diskoerse wat dit onderhou op sinvolle maniere uit te daag. Dit bly egter steeds van krag dat die wetlike benadering perke stel aan die bevindings van 'n kommissie, en hoewel hierdie kommissies geweld kan beskryf; regsdiskoers nie genoeg teoretiese en verklarende vermoe het om die oorsake van herhaalde misbruike in die mynbousektor toe te lig nie, die wat die resultaat is van 'n onvermydelike voortvloeisel van die klasseverhoudinge wat kapitalistiese produksie definieer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/110355
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