The first free elections in South Africa's history were held in 1994. Within a year legislation was drafted to create a Truth and Reconcilliation Commission to establish a picture of the gross human rights violations committed between 1960 and 1993. It was to seek the truth and make it known to the public and to prevent these brutal events ever happening again. From 1996 and over the following two years South Africans were exposed almost daily to revelations about their traumatic past. Antije Krog's full account of the Commission's work using the testimonies of the oppressed and oppressors alike is a harrowing and haunting book in which the voices of ordinary people shape the course of history.
WINNER OF SOUTH AFRICA'S SUNDAY TIMES ALAN PATON AWARD
This wrenching book tells the vital story of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the body charged with exploring human rights violations in the apartheid past and with recommending amnesty and reparations. Krog, a poet who covered the TRC's two years of hearings as a radio reporter, presents a national (and personal) process of catharsis, cobbling together transcripts of testimony, reportage and personal meditations. The TRC, headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gave voice to the anguished, often eloquent stories of numerous victims of apartheid, most--but not all--of whom were black. It put faces on stealthy killers and torturers seeking amnesty. And while it exposed the evil of the apartheid state, it did not ignore the dirty hands of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress or of his ex-wife, Winnie. Krog--who, like some other journalists covering the TRC, experienced psychological strain--presents Tutu and the TRC as heroic. While her partisanship is mostly excusable, this book has other flaws: published last year in South Africa, it lacks analysis of the TRC's October 1998 report and recommendations. More troubling are Krog's somewhat muddled meditations on the slippery nature of truth and narrative and her implication that small falsehoods are permissible--even necessary--for the discernment of a larger truth. While Country of My Skull shows evidence of an enduring racial divide, its ultimate hopefulness counterpoints Rian Malan's powerfully pessimistic My Traitor's Heart (1990). In both books, Afrikaner authors, members of the tribe that instituted apartheid, seek a place in their tortured, beloved country.