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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 407

Paragraph Numbers 64 to 73

Volume 1

Chapter 12

Subsection 10

60 When the Commission moved into an area, an initial workshop was held to bring people together in order to find out how they could assist. Groups that were interested in supporting the work of the Commission helped logistics officers set up pre-hearing meetings and organisations volunteered to assist in the hearing preparation process. A similar gathering concluded activities in the area, including people who had made statements to the Commission. Support was solicited from a wide range of role players and stakeholders. These included the local councils, NGOs and community-based organisations, religious groupings and community leaders. As a result of such workshops, organisations assisted with communication (pamphleteering, putting up posters and loud-hailing) and logistics (helping to find and prepare venues for hearings and assisting with catering), and community briefers were trained to provide support to witnesses and to assist with debriefing and follow-up work.

61 The national office provided general communications materials and event-specific material for distribution by local organisations. The regional office produced posters, pamphlets (in the language(s) spoken by local people) and banners for each of the areas in which a hearing was held or where statement taking took place. Logistics officers often used loudhailers to inform community members of the time and venue for hearings. Community-based organisations and NGOs distributed pamphlets and posters and directed the logistics officers to the most appropriate places to call people to hearings.

62 It became clear that the pamphlets distributed were not necessarily reaching potential statement makers, so the communications strategy was broadened through the use of radio. Radio was used as a means of communicating with the public at large and with potential statement makers. Talk shows became a popular way to address specific issues that related to statement taking. Radio Xhosa, Bush Radio, Radio 786 and Voice of the Cape gave the Commission regular slots.

63 In general, the regional office found it difficult to draw white South Africans to hearings. The Paarl hearing provided an opportunity to try new ways to encourage members of that community to participate. As noted earlier, the hearing was preceded by an exhibition held at the local museum, which included material from conscripts, newspaper clippings and photographs which told of the struggles of the people of Paarl and the surrounding communities. In addition to the exhibition, the Commission organised a number of church services in Paarl, Pinelands and Bellville.

64 Organisations repeatedly expressed the need to know about the work of the Commission and how they could assist. A national newsletter was issued, and teams working in different communities made efforts to keep interested role players informed. Similarly, many schools and churches, university and women’s groups invited commissioners to make presentations at their meetings.

65 A recurring theme was that of payment for services rendered. The Commission’s policy was that it could not raise funds on behalf of organisations, but could provide letters of support for organisations that did work that assisted the Commission. Despite a decision to pay for the performance of or assistance with core tasks, this too proved impossible.

66 The socio-economic realities in rural areas added a particular dynamic to partnerships with NGOs and community-based organisations based there. NGOs in the vast rural areas of the Karoo, the southern and northern Cape and the West Coast and Namaqualand are severely under-resourced in contrast to NGOs in urban areas. They were particularly concerned to receive payment for their work. They were also often less able to provide the necessary services. It proved, for example, very difficult to set up support networks for deponents in the Karoo, where there was no NGO working in the mental health care field and where government services were scarce.2 Thinly spread Commission, church and other resources made it impossible to provide coherent services in these areas.

67 Organisations (especially in rural areas) assisted with logistic arrangements for statement taking and hearings. These were normally conducted on a very short-term basis and were event focused. Unlike relationships with support networks, these contacts were normally short-lived, and the Commission found it difficult to arrange long-term assistance.

68 In all areas where the Commission worked, it identified advice office structures, as well as organisations and individuals that would be able to provide mental or medical health care and support to deponents. In most cases, the Commission negotiated an agreement that they would provide services to people referred by the Commission.

69 In the early stages, the Cape Town regional office identified the possible positive aspects of using designated statement takers recruited from local organisations. Local statement takers enjoyed levels of trust in their communities and had a good understanding of and were proficient in the language of the community involved. Thus, the regional office gave the go-ahead for the training of volunteers in the Peninsula as well as in the areas where the first three hearings were planned (George, Worcester, and Kimberley). The regional office also spearheaded the training manual for statement takers. Lack of resources, however, led to the suspension of most of these activities until the formal introduction of the designated statement taker programme.

70 Support networks extended not only to people invited to testify at hearings, but enabled statement takers to refer people who made statements to appropriate organisations and individuals. Informal referrals were also discussed at case conferences on a basis of urgency. A good example of such a network was the Mental Health Response set up in the Cape Peninsula. Unfortunately this type of network only functioned in the greater Cape Town area because of the lack of resources in rural areas.

71 Community briefers were also identified and trained to assist at all public hearings. These people were normally linked to community or NGO structures and provided their services free of charge. This strategy provided a positive answer to the lack of language representivity on the part of the briefers employed by the Commission. It had the further advantage that, after the Commission had left an area, people in the community could themselves provide support or set up peer support groups.

72 The regional office also developed post-hearing follow-up workshops in response to the ‘circus-left-town syndrome’ experienced after the first hearings. The close involvement of NGOs was the key to the effort to link people who made statements to existing support services in their immediate vicinity. Post-hearing workshops also provided feedback and a way of challenging individuals and organisations to take control of the ideas developed at the workshops. The issue of reconciliation was discussed, and it was made clear that the Commission could only initiate this process. Ultimately, reconciliation was something that the community would have to come to terms with itself.

73 Finally, research seminars took place on a monthly basis. These were the responsibility of the Research Department. The seminars took the form of panel discussions on issues of public interest, focusing largely on reconciliation and amnesty. Invitations were circulated widely amongst academic institutions and human rights organisations in the Peninsula and Boland areas.

2 For example, during the life of the Commission, only one psychiatrist supported by two psychiatric nurses served the area stretching from De Aar to Colesberg and Noupoort.
 
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