Memoirs of Life in South Africa

English 162: Literature and Place (A Queens College Study Abroad Course)

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Blog 11: TRC… What good is it in the end?

January 25th, 2012 by stephaniejeanbaptiste · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

The piece I chose from the TRC website was in the Women’s hearing section was the Case of Kedeboni Dube. This testimony is the story of a woman who had been falsely accused of stealing from bodies and was then raped and contaminated with syphilis. She then describes the hassles of living with the disease and how difficult it was for her to relate the event to her family and boyfriend. How her neighbors curse at her. Her story shows that although the attack happened a while ago, she still living in fear and in pain. Indeed, her rapist still roams freely and his in her immediate surroundings as they are, she says, related.

This testimony was highly controversial to me… The very beginning makes no sense whatsoever in the South African context; indeed the chairperson said:

“ I will request you to stand up and take an oath and raise up your right hand”

I do not know much about Xhosa or Zulu but I am rather unsure if this very gesture has any value whatsoever to the speaker, who does not share the western culture highly predominant in this court. It is true that the point is to “show” that she was indeed telling the truth, but it was however clearly exactly that a “show”, there is no guarantee the truth will or has been told. I do however believe that the story that I read was factual, I just believe that there was not respect of cultures by asking someone to tell the truth based on a purely western or European belief.

What was the most difficult for me was that after she has shared her story, she was not guaranteed justice:

“after a rape, there are certain examinations that must happen so that one can actually identify whether in fact the person you say raped you , is in fact the same person that you identified. (…) So whilst we will try to investigate this matter, it is going to be quite difficult, because it will be in a sense your word against him.”

The whole format of this discussion is very interesting. You have along paragraph in which the chairman is saying what the TRC has been trying to do with women, says it’s going to be difficult to help her, then goes back to her sickness and advises her to take treatment. To which she simply answers “yes” then there is another long paragraph and then the chairman says “Thank you very much for talking to us today” to which she anwers “yes”. Her opinion in the matter of getting justice or not was completely dismissed and she simply wasn’t asked how exactly that made her feel.

This passage reminds me of what made me so uncomfortable about the TRC. What exactly can the TRC guarantee? Now that the truth has been told, will justice be served? It doesn’t seem to be so in this testimony and that in turn is highly upsetting.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Talisa Feliciano

    I agree completely with the issue of justice after the TRC. Of course, there are people who claim that being able to speak publicly is better than jail time for the perpetrator. If the Western ideal of “justice” cannot be guaranteed in this sense than relief is, according to the TRC through being able to speak about it. Personally, any crime committed to my person or the ones that I love requires vengeance, but thats just me. I am sure not everyone agrees with the method of the TRC, but it is effective for some, but clearly not all as shown in this case.

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