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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 406

Paragraph Numbers 58 to 63

Volume 1

Chapter 12

Subsection 9


58 From the start, the Cape Town regional office sought to develop meaningful and constructive interaction with different organisations and structures in order to maximise the Commission’s activities in all areas. In the Western Cape, a strong lobby of interested NGOs had already expressed its desire to be involved in various aspects of the Commission’s work. At the outset, it seemed likely that relationships with organisations could be built to assist the Commission in various ways. First, such organisations could help communicate the Commission’s aims and objectives to local communities. Second, they could help it arrange public hearings, take statements or provide support for statement taking. Third, they could support people who testified before the Commission by providing individual and community support networks. Finally, they could help the Commission think through problematic or contentious issues at research seminars.

59 The Cape Town regional office benefited in particular from three experiences in formulating its strategies and determining its relationships with NGOs and community based organisations in the region: first, a workshop held with major stakeholders on 20 July 1996; second, on the ground experience gained during the first ten week hearing cycle and, third, lessons drawn from training sessions with designated statement takers. As a result of these, the region identified five categories of organisations it could work with.

a those interested in providing mental health support: social welfare officers, psychiatric nurses, religious groupings, respected local community workers and organisations such as the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture and Ilitha Labantu; b those interested in promoting human rights: including advice offices, the Human Rights Commission, religious organisations and institutions and the Land Commission; c those interested in promoting and supporting the Commission in general: Reconstruction and Development (RDP) forums, local councils and political parties; d those interested in the debates and policy issues that arose in the course of the work of the Commission; e academics and others.

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.

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