No Future without forgiveness

no future without forgiveness 2  Desmond Tutu Doubleday, 1999,

  New York

  On 27th April 1994 South Africans off all races, colours and background went to the polls to elect for the first time ever a leader who would represent a united people, a multi-racial people, a multi colored people. But this could not end the liberation process, for there still remained wounds and hurts that had been inflicted under the old regime that needed immediate attention. ;-In No future without forgiveness, Archbishop Desmond tutu, who served as the chairman of the truth and reconciliation commission, offers his reflection on the on the commission through which the healing process began In pondering the process that would be suitable to enable the new nation deal with the atrocities of its past, the south African people oscillated between two extremes: they could simply bring to trial everyone suspected of crime (as done in the Nuremberg trials after the second world war); or they could adopt a ‘let bygones be bygones’ approach (the ‘National Amnesia’ or ‘Blanket Amnesia’ model). They rejected the first model because the burden of proof in criminal cases was proof beyond reasonable doubt, which would be difficult to discharge, particularly as in many cases, there were no witnesses left alive and the old regime had, in its final days, destroyed a significant amount of evidence. Furthermore many cases would be time barred by virtue of the Statute of limitations. The national Amnesia model was also rejected because it was argued that unless one looked the beast in the eye, it has an uncanny habit of returning tom hold the victim hostage. The south African people, in light of those observations, opted to go down a third road ;granting amnesty to individuals in exchange for a full disclosure relating to the crime for which amnesty was sought was sought. The commission took as it foremost objective the unearthing of the truth, truth that may otherwise have been unreachable due to the destruction of evidence and absence of witnesses. Tutu expound that the model they chose was based on the understanding that justice is restorative, not simply punitive. This was the kind of justice characteristic of African jurisprudence in which the central concern was not retribution or punishment, but the restoration of broken relationships. Here the aim was to rehabilitate both the victim and the perpetrator, who was given the opportunity to be reintegrated into community he injured by his offence. Under the commission both the offenders and the offended, were given the opportunity for confession and forgiveness. Tutu admits that asking the offended to forgive was a big step; however, many of those who testified before the commission showed that it was not an impossible request. Tutu postulates that the victim need not depend on the offender’s contrition and confession as a precondition for offering forgiveness, though he advocates that the confession of the offender is very great help to the one who wants to forgive. Confession, he says, is not indispensable, though preferred. Only after the truth has been uncovered and forgiveness been given, he argues, can a relationship have a chance at mending. Confession, forgiveness and reparation form part of a continuum. Although the nation could never compensate the victims of the past regime for the evils they suffered, the State gave reparations to those who testified at the commission’s hearing. These were meant as a symbolic gesture to the victim that the nation acknowledged their pain, suffering and grief. The archbishop expounds that this gesture was meant as a beginning point on the road toward removing the tremendous rift between the races inflicted by the regime of Apartheid. The three values in his mind had to be taken together if the nations healing were to become a reality. Archbishop Tutu admits that the process was not flawless, and indeed had its many weaknesses. However, he sees the model as one that gave the people of South Africa the opportunity to deal, as much as possible, with their past and hopefully to begin to move on toward nation building.

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