The Common Good
January-February 1998

The Slow Healing of South Africa

by Diane Nunnelee | January-February 1998

As a United Methodist minister serving with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in two townships outside of Cape Town, you can well understand my interest and empathy with "Signs & ...

As a United Methodist minister serving with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in two townships outside of Cape Town, you can well understand my interest and empathy with "Signs & Wonders" (by Joyce Hollyday) in the September-October 1997 issue. The wounds and scars of apartheid are so deep that, even in the fresh air of freedom, the struggle is hard and the healing unimaginably slow and so vulnerable to renewed bleeding.

While Hollyday was present for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings that finally exposed the reality of apartheid through the stories of its victims, we (my husband and I) are here while the perpetrators—from all areas of the struggle—now testify before the Commission in the amnesty hearings. The testimonies reveal the continued unwillingness of people to take responsibility, even to admit their culpability, in the wrong. The week of October 12 held an interminable debate over the meaning of the word "eliminate"—and the security forces’ upper echelon continued denial of even allowing themselves to think that their underlings might "misinterpret" the word. And pain is deepened in the victims once again as unbelieving nods indicate the realization that "apartheid of the heart" has not been ended by a vote for freedom.

Then again, hopeful signs emerge as five top judges admitted finally in their submission to the TRC that the collaboration of the justice system with the "legislated" injustice of apartheid kept the political system well in control. And several admitted to "acquired attitudes" that increased their own personal complicity. So, the journey toward justice continues.

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