About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

13 Aug 2001: Burton, Mary

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POM     I want to talk for a minute about something that has nothing to do with the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and that is a question that I've become obsessed about in this country, HIV/AIDS. No matter how many times I come back I always find either a lack of leadership, that a form of denial still exists and a kind of an attitude that it's now become a world problem and that the world will have to solve it, it's kind of out of our hands. But certainly, to me, President Mbeki didn't help. Two problems: when he went on the BBC and said more people were killed by violence every year than HIV, it sounded to me like he was discounting the problem, number one, and two, by saying that more people were killed by crime, he certainly gave the prospect of foreign investment here a blow.

MB     Well AIDS is a terrible disaster, a plague that is affecting SA as well as other parts of the world, but for us it is a huge, huge problem that we face in this country. I think you're right that most of this country has not really come to grips with the magnitude of the problem. I think that there are a number of positive signs of awakening of a sense of responsibility in the ways in which we are seeing some of the big employers begin to put into place projects among their workforce, having given up hope of the government really taking very strong and dramatic action. So there is an enormous amount to be done and it involves all the medical aspects but it also involves making the necessary preparations to care for the people who are left without parents, without breadwinners, to support them through this and it is a huge, huge problem.

POM     I suppose what I get is the absence of fear and if we go into townships or wherever there is no impending sense of catastrophe.

MB     Yes I think that's true, I think partly because the problems of poverty, of lack of opportunity, are so enormous among the majority, the  great majority of this population, that unless they have a very direct contact with AIDS at the moment it does not appear to be a catastrophe. It does seem to be at the moment that it's academics and big employers who are beginning to recognise the magnitude of the problem but there isn't this huge sense and what we hear from the kind of people who are working at the coalface with AIDS sufferers, with the bereaved families, is that trying to change habits, trying to change lifestyles, and trying to take preventive measures is really just not happening. You are sure when you've lost a partner or a parent, then it impacts, and most of those people are saying that until we reach a kind of factor where there isn't anybody left in SA who has not been personally affected we're not going to get that sense of tremendous catastrophe. The media have tried, there are publications, maybe not enough, about the disease. And I think it is partly because the poorest of the poor are the people who are the worst affected and their lives are so affected by so many problems that this is just one more.

POM     I was just going to ask you that if you are a poor person, you're living in a shack, you've no job, life is just one long struggle to barely make ends meet and along comes AIDS and it's just really one more thing among many things that has no particular priority. In a world of calamity it's just one more calamity you have to deal with. Do you think it's because the horizon of opportunity is so limited that you, I won't say look at life differently, but have a different expectation of the plight it's about than people who are more educated?

MB     Exactly, I think that is one of the very big issues.

POM     Because I know in Europe when it broke among the gay community in the 1980s, one, they were very quick to organise and, two, the fear factor jumped in. For a while in the US, particularly when people actually became fearful, it was a catastrophe awaiting to fall.  You don't get any sense of that here from anybody. That's where I must say I bet you didn't expect a first question on HIV/AIDS.

MB     No.

POM     Let me go to reparations. What's happening on that front?

MB     At the moment the government's official position is that they will make decisions about all the Truth Commission recommendations, including reparations, when they receive the final report which ought to be before the end of this year. I understand there have been references by government spokespersons that a committee or a think tank has been given the task of looking at those recommendations. That's all we know formally. So we catch really at statements that come from different representatives of government, of course particularly the President himself, or for example the Minister of Finance who has made provision in this year's budget for some reparations which was a great sign of faith to the TRC and also to the community. Our guess is that there will not be the amounts that the Truth Commission recommended, that there will be some different amount, but we have no indication of what that may be. The government has spoken positively about some of the aspects of reparations that are included in the recommendations, like symbolic reparations on the community level, but they have down-played the aspect of individual financial reparations. There have been phrases used such as, "Our people didn't join the struggle in order to be paid", that kind of remark.

POM     You know my particular interest in Boipatong and when I went back there last year some families were saying they had received like R5000 compensation, other families had received R3000, and in fact the matter had become a bone of contention in the community as to why one family was receiving more than another.

MB     Yes that is a big problem with the issue of reparations. That initial money that has been paid out, I hope by now to every single person who was found by the TRC to be a victim, was to be an amount between R2000 and R5000, I don't know whether it exceeded R5000 in any case, and it was intended not as reparation but as the initial acknowledgement of having been found to be a victim. It is defined in the legislation as 'urgent interim relief', so that was what enabled us the Truth Commission was never supposed to be the body that paid out reparations but the way the legislation covered the possibility of urgent interim relief has allowed the commission to pay that amount and we have no idea what more may follow. The decision about anything other than R2000 which is to be given to everybody who was found to be a victim, anything above R2000 was calculated on the basis of that family's need, for example size of family, number of young dependants and people with particular medical problems.

POM     Now was this administered by the Department of Finance?

MB     No, that was administered by the Truth Commission through it's Reparations Committee.

POM     Do you know for a fact whether all that money has in fact been paid out?

MB     I don't know it myself.

POM     I'm asking you because last year I was talking again to some people about AIDS and the really shocking thing is that the money set aside for AIDS and the money that comes in from abroad to help fight it wasn't spent, there's money left over. It's like the pension money or the welfare money, money set aside for the poor, somehow at the end of the year it's just sitting in the Treasury.

MB     Yes, the capacity of government departments to deliver is really a cause for concern.

POM     How would I find out?

MB     You mean whether all the reparations have been paid? The only people who might not be paid, as I understand the situation, and we can ask the administration here whether that is so, will be people where there is still an appeal, for instance, an appeal pending. As far as I know all of those have been dealt with, so as far as I know everybody has been paid. If there is anybody who has not yet received payment it would be quite urgent for them to come forward and make a claim and make a complaint that they haven't received it. It's not a question that I've asked within the last few weeks: has the last person been paid? This can be clarified, the way that process works, when I say the TRC has paid it is not entirely accurate. The TRC's Reparations Committee does the final check and gets from the victims the details of the bank account into which the money should be paid and it's then direct to the fund which is administered by the government, the details, the name of the person, details of the bank account and the amount to be paid. So the decision as to the amount remains with the Truth Commission's Reparations Committee but the actual payment comes from the fund. The government has appointed a person who doesn't exercise any decisions on whether or not to pay.

POM     So what you would do is you would send government a list of people and say R2000, R3000, R5000 should be issued to bank account number blah, blah, blah, for the government to do that but what you don't know is whether in fact they do it as expeditiously as you want it to be done.

MB     That's right.

POM     Let me ask you this question. It arises out of a conversation I had last year, and you mentioned it in our interview, and that was about the participation of the IFP in the process and how they didn't come forward in any number till close to the end when they realised they might miss out on reparations and that served as an incentive to get in there and get their story told. Given that people knew that there was a possibility, or a strong possibility, or that they expected reparation, do you think that to a degree that might have affected the way people told their stories and that they told them in a way that would maximise the possibility of their getting the maximum amount of reparations?

MB     It's a difficult question because at the very beginning we, ourselves, did not expect that anybody would receive cash and I remember in all the public meetings that we held at the very beginning explaining what we were about to do and how we were going to do it; that this was an exercise in exposing what had happened, not an exercise in claiming reparations. I honestly did not believe that there would be anything more than that. But towards the end of the second year of the TRC when the Reparations Committee was beginning to put forward its recommendations then there was more public debate about what reparations we were recommending and what would happen. I remember that there was an interview with Wendy Orr where she was quoted as assessing, which was a wild guess, but it contained the figure of what would need to be paid out in reparations. I think that raised people's expectations. So perhaps at the end there would have been a flurry of people who made statements in the hope, obviously, of receiving reparations but there was no knowledge or no criteria that people could expect a match, so it wasn't a case of coming forward and exaggerating their injuries for example, but it may certainly have prompted people to make a statement where they hadn't done so before.

     More of a worry, I think, is that a long time had elapsed since people made statements, since they received replies from the Truth Commission and now I think the expectations of reparations are much, much greater than they were in the 1990s and I think that is a problem for the government because in a way whatever it does now it's going to be seen as too little and of course the whole world debate about reparations has escalated which is also a problem.

POM     It's difficult to go to Durban and demand reparations of the West for the wrongdoings of centuries ago and then to deny your own people reparations for wrongdoings of the very recent past.

     We touched on this again last year and to me the problem seems to have gotten worse. The race card seems to be being played more and more often particularly in parliament, at public forums, to a point where rather than facilitating reconciliation the issue itself has become some kind of barrier to it.

MB     Yes, that's where I've just come from is a press conference announcing a Western Province conference against racism. It is a very difficult issue as it is at the moment in the world, that there's no denying that racism exists, that it affects many people's lives, that it affects many people's livelihoods, that we are all affected by the history that we've been through in this country in particular. The question is what does one do about it? We have to take some action partly in order to minimise that aspect of race and racism being used to discount other political issues. But it is a factor.

POM     But this is being done at the highest level.

MB     Yes.

POM     Sometimes one gets the impression that quite deliberately that it's a useful political tool.

MB     And there's no other answer.

POM     Throw it in. That trips them up and they don't have an answer.

MB     That's true but then surely the way to undercut that is to work towards eliminating the ways in which racism does affect so many issues here. Part of it, yes, has to be to call their bluff and say this is not a question of racism and this is a question of really being able to address the issues. I think we are seeing that, although it has been a very poor excuse often for inability to deliver. I think that there is a growing feeling among MPs, for instance, that we need to look at inequality and inequalities which now exist between a new wealthy class and the continuing poverty that's out there.

POM     In fact I was looking at figures that showed that if you took the richest 20% of black people and the poorest 20% of black people, the Gini coefficient is higher than for the 20% of the population as a whole who are rich and the 20% who are poor. The gap widens not between black and white but it is widening between black and black.

MB     That's interesting. I've seen the figures about the fact that SA has moved into a worse situation as far as that is concerned and is now the third worst in the world or something.

POM     The third worst?

MB     Well I've seen worst and I've seen other   That is really, in spite of AIDS, I think that is the problem we face, is how do we narrow that gap? How do we narrow that gap between the new rich but also between the old rich, who are not doing too badly, and with huge poverty? In that sense I agree with President Mbeki that AIDS is suffered worst by the poor who have all the worst other situations to deal with. Questions like tuberculosis, it's very hard now to sort out the statistics for deaths from TB and deaths from AIDS, one doesn't know exactly which is the main factor. So what we have to address is that issue, that somehow we've got to make some dramatic changes. It's not easy to know what the solution is. At the moment I'm on a kick of advocating a basic citizens' grant. There's a campaign to try and persuade the government to pay something called a basic citizens' grant. We have no dole here so many families exist on a pension of an elderly grandmother which involves all sorts of other abuses, abuse of the elderly for example, or just simply acute poverty of the old person as well as everybody else. And the people who advocate this basic grant say that if every single SA citizen receives from the state a very small monthly grant, say R100, it would immediately make a tremendous difference to people's lives. It's very little in terms of assistance and yet families who are existing on nothing or on one old age pension of R530 a month, a family of say five, would suddenly have it's income doubled. People would then be enabled.

POM     This would be R100 per individual?

MB     Yes, whether the individual was six months old or 60, and whether they were rich or poor.  And that means that you don't require a huge administrative bureaucracy to do a means test and to see whether people are deserving, for example, of a disability grant or a maintenance grant. Everybody gets it. You simply have to be a citizen to get it and the wealthy would pay in income tax, and the poor would benefit immediately from an injection of money which would go straight to you, so it would have other spin-offs. But so far I haven't found an economist who can tell me what's wrong with the plan. It seems so simple. Obviously one has to find the money but it's nowhere near some of the other things which the government has spent money on, such as on defence. There could be other ways in which that money could be raised.

POM     Just on government, for reasons that now elude me, I could understand in the beginning a necessity to show prudence but it almost amounts to an obsession showing that the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP comes down every year seems to be of far greater concern to government than actually saying we should be expansionist in our expenditure.

MB     Yes I know. To try and look at it objectively, I find it very, very disturbing myself. I think the money should be spent on all sorts of social programmes. We have to recognise that the government doesn't seem to have the capacity to ensure that money is well spent even when it does vote it and I have spoken to Cabinet ministers about it and they express a sense of frustration in this sphere. Sometimes the inevitable race card comes in, "These are all white civil servants who are deliberately slowing down the process", sometimes they acknowledge that there is also corruption or sheer lack of efficiency at the delivery point. I think that also makes them cautious. What is the good of voting more money into programmes if it's simply going to go in corruption? So that's one thing. Then our questions are, "Well what are you doing about training and putting in better systems?" Those are the questions that need to be asked. But that's why I think that this scheme is in fact not being rejected by the government. I understand that there is a group within the Finance Committee who have been getting the cost of considering the pros and cons of this suggestion, which comes admittedly from a left-wing perspective but which seems to me to have so much common sense. So maybe that will come forward. It would be absolutely fantastic.

POM     Since the beginning the President's campaign was that we have gone through the lessons of learning and now we are at the point of having gained the skills to deliver. One gets the very strong impression that in most areas delivery has not improved to a significant extent.

MB     It is very, very disappointing but that is very much the case. One keeps on thinking there's a little sign of hope here, there's a little sign of hope there, something will be happening and then once again

POM     There's a problem.

MB     Now I'm talking about organisations like the Black Sash. Our experiences has been very largely at the local level and that there are serious blockages in communication up and down, between the Cabinet ministers and their departments. They don't always get given the information and I am speaking now of things that we know about.

POM     Ministers and their departments?

MB     Minister Skweyiya seems to us to be saying everything we want him to say. Determined to  root out corruption. He's given the Black Sash the task of monitoring the pay-out of pensions in the different provinces and we are to report directly to him and when we try and do so, it isn't always so easy, but if we can get his ear, like bumping into him at a conference, he wants to know the truth but he does not seem always to get the support from his department. Now why that is we don't know. So we are constantly doing battle at middle management level within the government departments, either at national or provincial level.

POM     Is this a matter of, just let's say his department has not appointed a senior management team that can get into the middle ranks and whose task is ?

MB     Whether it is true, as some people in government say, that unfortunately they still have inherited the people from the past because of the sunset clauses and all of that sort of thing, or whether there are simply not enough people with the skills to do that work. We have to ascertain exactly what the problem is but certainly as far as we can see the problem is at the delivery end rather than at the policy end and the question is how can one get the minister, in this case, to ensure that his department works the way he wants them to.

POM     Back to the TRC for a moment. I met with Clive Derby-Lewis the other day and it was very interesting. A couple of days before he had been visited by Penuell Maduna and Bulelani. This was in connection with the so-called plot.  In the course of conversation Maduna asked him what he would do to solve the crime problem and he had lots of ideas about setting up structures on the land in the Transkei and teaching people farming skills and then moving them onto land when they're trained and whatever. But he believes, strongly believes, that there would be a collective amnesty. Do you get any sense of that being on the cards whatsoever?

MB     I don't have any sense on it but I don't have any connections with It has been raised at various times and I certainly would find it very dismaying if that were to happen, partly I suppose selfishly because it would make such nonsense of the system. What was the point of going through all of this process? I don't know. But what I do think is that there is not a political will to engage in prosecutions.

POM     That's what I was going to ask you. I've talked to a number of security people who when the Truth Commission was established said, "They'll never come after us, they just won't have the capacity or the will. Unless one is named there's no way, no prosecution will follow." So those who haven't stepped forward, and I will name one particular person, because I have interviewed him for ten years, or two, and in both cases we've kind of developed friendships. One was Jac Buchner who was in Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, and then was Commissioner of Police in Natal/KwaZulu. He said, "They're never going to do this", and he was named on a couple of occasions as being involved in things and it would appear that he won his bet. Another is Louis Botha who was part of the group including General Malan who were acquitted at the trial in KwaZulu before the Truth Commission.

MB     I think you're right but I don't remember all the details.

POM     But he was mentioned on a number of occasions too but he said, "They'll never come after me."  There were all those senior people who may have given orders or whatever, "We'll take our chances." It would appear that their chances have paid off at least for the moment.

MB     At least for the moment. One can't be certain whether I'm right not to pursue prosecutions but there isn't a big public clamour for the prosecutions. That might follow but at the moment it doesn't look to me as if from the Justice Department there's a great push. I don't know that from any inside knowledge. I know that in some cases Bulelani is seen to have come to the Truth Commission and had been given some information, so they have at least taken that step. There will be people who will say, well then the commission has failed altogether in its work and that is certainly a criticism that will justifiably be levelled at us, that we didn't reach many of the people who did the planning.

POM     Let me follow up on that in a different way. Did you reach, which would have been in a way a 'target audience', and that is the white population? We may have talked about this before but from either individuals, particularly individuals, and just the ones that I have talked to, they kind of drew a curtain at some point and said, "Oh there were bad people among us and they did horrible things of which we were all ashamed and stunned to hear about and of course had we known about them we would have in no way condoned them", even though they might have seen it happening all around them but it's been tuned out and remains tuned out and in that sense that barrier has not been broken, which is part of the barrier that makes them so unwilling to entertain the notion that there must be large-scale or significant redistribution of income.

MB     Yes, it's very difficult to know which motivates which because the prospect of a large redistribution of income will keep people behind that barrier. Yes I think that's true. I think there are very many whites who proving who were responsible for decisions and plans and implementation of violations of human rights in the past, who remain recalcitrant, who did what was necessary, it had to be done and would do it again if the circumstances were the same.

POM     I'm talking about ordinary people, the average family. The ordinary Joe who goes home, turns on his TV set and watches.

MB     OK, I think that group of people, there are many differences among them. I think there are some people who have quite a huge sense of disquiet even though they may not admit it. At the moment it seems to be expressing itself in anger and frustration.

POM     Anger and frustration?

MB     At the new developments in society, at being constantly blamed for being white, at feeling a sense of alienation and rejection. It expresses itself also in very overt criticism of the government, mal-administration and corruption. That is one of the issues which I am working with in this campaign that is known as 'Home for All Campaign' which is an attempt to draw white people into a different kind of atmosphere, a recognition that whatever one did in the past, even if you opposed apartheid, even if you paid a price like Albie Sachs did for opposing apartheid, you nevertheless benefited from it and so there is a particular responsibility to put something back into society. We have drawn up a declaration which we launched on the Day of Reconciliation in December last year and which so far about 1000 people have signed, partly because there is this resistance, partly I think because we have not had the capacity to take it much further and we hope to do more in the future. But there is quite a reservoir of white goodwill, part of it motivated by a sense of responsibility. So there are people who say, "What happened in the past was wrong and, yes of course, I didn't have anything to do with it but still I recognise it and by having been white I benefited unjustly and therefore I am willing to do something."

POM     But you had that cadre of people before who would say, "I send my domestic servant's children to school and I make sure they're housed properly and I make sure they get home and sometimes I sent them to university."

MB     Yes, but how does one move beyond that? That is our problem from the past.

POM     Do you think that in order for reconciliation to happen that in fact you need this kind of awareness of the issue, that you need on the one hand the expression of more white anger so that they start getting it out of their system and you need black always talks about ubuntu. I could never understand why blacks haven't hammered whites over the head. I believe that's anti human nature. If you are repressed and then suddenly but it's there, it has to come out and express itself in some ways and that the country hasn't yet moved to a point of where those two things are coalescing and then catalysing.

MB     I think that's true and I think maybe we were crazy to think it could move to a point so quickly. I think that white people are angry and alienated and I think what's changed is that probably before they were not as brave. I think that now there is for speaking out in anger now. I think people are bottling it up and isolating themselves and putting big walls up and fences round their gardens hoping to survive without getting involved, and the courage to step outside of that just as real a white laager as it used to be is hard to find. One of the things that one can do is try and open the gap for people to walk through and that requires effort on the part of black people as well so that when somebody tries to walk through a gap they don't get rebuffed. That's a long slow road.

POM     If you take that in the context of Zimbabwe. Here you have a country that went through a real war, there seemed to be reconciliation between blacks and whites. I remember often walking down the streets of Harare at two o'clock in the morning without the slightest sense of stress from any approaching people, black or whatever, completely unlike here. And now it's erupted and has erupted in a way which to my mind is the release of that pent-up anger that hung in there all the time and the farm issue is in fact only a symbol of that anger. Again it's a catalyst for it to express itself but it's not the issue itself.

MB     I'm sure that is so. That's why it's so urgent that we should learn that lesson. Many white people's fears here are, look what they're doing in Zimbabwe, it's coming to us too, get more police, get more security, instead of saying, let's address the real issue.

POM     Again, this is just my sense, among African leaders, while not overtly condoning Mugabe's actions, particularly the more they get to the collapse of the rule of law, nothing really happens against what he's doing. They're saying the land does belong to the black people, they are taking it back.

MB     They can't believe that. I think that probably the other African leaders - but I would have to say it about SA because that's what I know better - know very well that most of their voting support comes from people who have no land, have no houses, have no jobs, and to speak out too strongly against that is politically not very sensible. Then on the other hand, in SA's case, there is a need to speak out strongly in order not to deter investment and not do damage to the economy and so on. So they are treading a very fine line. I think we're going to have to look at announcements which come out of the present SADEC conference but I don't know whether we will see anything very much more critical of Zimbabwe than has happened so far, a little bit more perhaps but not much.

POM     That's by the SADEC leaders?

MB     Yes.

POM     Because?

MB     Because they have their own constituencies that they have to speak to many of whom will share the sentiments of the Zimbabweans. I think that the statements from the African leaders are not so much that they themselves may have a sympathy with President Mugabe but that they know that many of their supporters have sympathies with the landless.

POM     Tell me when you have to go. One last question. One of the things that it appears that the Democratic Alliance is trying to do, it would appear, is to break into the black community. They can't grow unless they reach out to blacks. People don't vote for you if they don't agree with your base of support. That's mocked with derision by the ANC, rather than something that's to be encouraged. When you get to the point where you have numbers of black people voting for the DA then you're truly becoming a multi-party, multi-cultural democracy. Do you think that if you do join the DA, a black who does join the DA, is regarded as some kind of turncoat, a sell-out, not a black black, passively giving in to the white man.

MB     Has been bought out.

POM     Yes, is that a problem? And two, do you think that the ANC, I'm going right back in a way through history, they have never had a particular, even among black organisations, a particular tolerance of opposition whether it's the PAC, AZAPO, it thinks it has, I won't say quite their country, but that they have special claim to ownership of black people?

MB     Let's take the first bit first. I think for the good of the country it would be a very good thing if the DA could become a party which represents everybody and which will grow it's black membership.

POM     Do you think they are genuinely trying?

MB     I don't know about the genuineness of it but I don't think that they're necessarily going about it the right way. Just in terms of democracy a strong opposition would be very useful. I think it would be a good thing, it would lead to political maturity in the country in the same way as I think that there would be if there were a greater spread of people in the ANC. I think it probably will happen. As far as the ANC's attitude to the DA I don't know. I think for a long time, yes, I would say that the ANC leadership and membership in exile and here will have seen themselves as the party of poor people and that if you were really a true South African that's where you belong and other parties were seen as breakaway parties. You either let them break away and hoped that they wouldn't be very powerful or you took them on as happened with the IFP. I don't know, I think at grassroots level, looking at political campaigning in the townships to start up other political groupings has led to a lot of violence. But it's been hard to sort out what exactly makes for that violence. It's very often the people who identify themselves, either as the DA or the PAC or IFP in this province, for instance, are people who are old enemies, old groupings fighting over land or a localised battle with a localised leader who then articulates his or her opposition to the other at the political level. So you see somebody who was, say, an old victim, for example, in the old days, a victim for one of the groups of people who were often embroiled in battles against people who defined themselves as comrades, ANC comrades versus witdoeke, (witdoeke is a white scarf on your head so you went into battle against the comrades wearing a white scarf).

POM     But you were black. In many cases so the comrades were challenging the leadership and authority of the elders which in tribal structures was   So very often those people who called themselves witdoeke were not necessarily the pawns of the apartheid regime, which is how they were often cast, and sometimes they were funded by the police, but the battles were there, the battle lines were there. Very often those groupings now, the old comrades are now ANC leaders, and the old witdoeke are now something else. It's very difficult to sort out. Is this a big political, national political question, an ideological question where you stand politically or is it simply a case of you're my enemy, you're ANC, therefore I'm the opposite? I think that has to be understood, understand the way that politics works among the poorest and most deprived. But the battle is for a little bit of turf, not necessarily for a vote in the national parliament.

POM     Two last questions. One is, it begins with the turf, and goes back to the TRC. If you were in KwaZulu/Natal and in one of these villages which was ANC one day and IFP the following day, which was literally fought over, let us say your village was controlled by IFP and you had been an ANC supporter and you kept your mouth shut from the IFP flag that's flying over the village and you had gone before the Truth Commission to tell of violations of human rights at the village committed by members of the IFP who might now be the local councillors or whatever, do you think that it's really that you could go back and live in that community? Or would he or she weigh the odds and say - ?

MB     I think they would be very careful and see what the situation was around then. I guess it's a thing that happens if you care enough and you were angry enough and if there was a chance to get back maybe you would.

POM     Even if the consequences might be that you would lose your life?

MB     I think perhaps the consequences now might not be as bad as that and the person would accept that. If the consequences were that you were likely to lose your life they wouldn't speak.

POM     But in the period when the Truth Commission was hearing?

MB     In some cases, in some towns, there was no way that people could safely come and testify.

POM     The biggest success of the TRC?

MB     Biggest success, telling a bit more of what was not known.

POM     And the biggest failure?

MB     There were so many failures.

POM     Well I could put it this way. Given that most lives were lost in KZN, KZN almost was probably the area where most human rights violations had been committed.

MB     But I don't know that KZN was our biggest failure. It was a failure but in a way I don't see it so much as the Truth Commission's failure, that failure from our political could almost have been predicted. For me the failures are the failures in the areas where we should have done better and that really is in a disciplined, better, good investigations into the incidents we investigated, absolute certainty on big, complex questions. I think we exposed some things but I don't think we dug deep enough. We've got a list of victims and we've got a list of perpetrators but we haven't got proof in many instances where people had big questions about who was responsible, about who gave the orders, about why these things happened. For me, I would have been happier if we had exposed more of the why and made it more possible for people to say that was a clear-cut issue, deliberate issue, to retain power, for example, in this area or in this instance, or to remove power and it was done deliberately and consciously and therefore it contributed in one way or another either to the maintenance of the status quo or it changed it. So if we had given people a clearer sense of resolution, I think what we have done is told lots of stories and put together a lot of pieces of the puzzle but the real work remains, I think, still for future researchers to complete the puzzle. Whether they will or not, whether they will remains to be seen.

POM     You've created an industry and you should know that. What about Alex's new venture?

MB     Well as long there is a need for it, he's invited all over the world to speak about the TRC.

POM     But the point that he's setting up a Centre for Transitional Justice, support foundations, 15 and 22 million, a like sum from the McArthur Foundation, Soros kicking in a bit at the end.

MB     You said it's a growth industry.

POM     I have a problem with it, it's almost like a form of cashing in to build a conference centre for transitional justice.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.