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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 60

Paragraph Numbers 42 to 51

Volume 1

Chapter 4

Subsection 6


42 The Act states that:

… 'gross violation of human rights’ means the violation of human rights through - (a) the killing, abduction, torture or severe ill treatment of any person; or (b) any attempt, conspiracy, incitement, instigation, command or procurement to commit an act referred to in paragraph (a), which emanated from conflicts of the past and which was committed during the period 1 March 1960 to 10 May 1994 within or outside the Republic, and the commission of which was advised, planned, directed, commanded or ordered, by any person acting with a political motive (section 1(1)(ix).

43 This definition is a reminder that the responsibility for building the bridge between a dehumanising past and a just and democratic future does not belong to the Commission alone. Furthermore, in making its own limited contribution, the Commission had to walk a tightrope between too wide and too narrow an interpretation of gross violations of human rights. The Commission would have neither the lifespan nor the resources to implement a broadly constituted interpretation. Too narrow an interpretation, on the other hand, might have added insult to the injuries and injustices experienced by the many victims who would have been excluded.

44 Segregation policies and practices have their roots far back in South Africa’s colonial past. Building on an inherited social practice, apartheid imposed a legal form of oppression with devastating effects on the majority of South Africans. The NP government came to power in 1948 and, over almost half a century, apartheid became the warp and weft of the experience of all who lived in South Africa, defining their privilege and their disadvantage, their poverty and wealth, their public and private lives and their very identity.

45 Under apartheid, millions of people were deprived of the most basic rights. Through a huge body of laws, black people were shunted out of areas reserved for whites; evicted from their homes; forced out of the cities into shanties, homelands and what Father Cosmas Desmond has called, ‘dumping grounds’, where there was neither water, nor shelter nor a living to be made.

I have seen the bewilderment of simple rural people when they are told they must leave their homes where they have lived for generations and go to a strange place. I have heard their cry of hopelessness and resignation and their pleas for help. I have seen the sufferings of whole families living in a tent or a tiny tin hut. Of children sick with typhoid, or their bodies emaciated with malnutrition and even dying of plain starvation.6

46 Apartheid redrew the map of South Africa. The wealth, the cities, the mines, parks and the best beaches became part of white South Africa. A meagre thirteen per cent of largely barren land was parcelled out in a series of homelands in which African people were forced to live, while the able-bodied were driven to seek a living as migrant labourers in the cities. And, as legislation formalised the divide between African, Indian, coloured and white, so the apartheid government sought, too, to divide African people on the basis of ethnicity.

47 ‘Separate development’ was the magic formula. All over South Africa, public buildings and amenities were divided and sometimes even duplicated according to race group, retaining the best for the white group. African, Indian and coloured children were thrown out of city parks. Beaches and benches, trains and buses, and other public facilities and spaces were allocated according to the racial divisions of apartheid. Separate meant far from equal and often resulted in no facilities at all for those who were not white. Private sector space was also subjected to rules: banks, restaurants, shops, places of worship, bottle stores, hotels and cinemas were all segregated, often by legislation and often by self-imposed segregation.

48 Private life too was dominated by apartheid. Who you knew, whom you consorted with, whom you worked with and how you conducted your relationships all depended on remaining within your group. Law prohibited marriages and sexual relationships across the colour line. Even entertainment between races was severely restricted by curfews and a prohibition on serving drink to African people.

49 One of the most iniquitous acts of apartheid was the separation of educational facilities and the creation of the infamous system of Bantu education. Mission schools which had provided some schooling to African people were closed down and generation after generation of African children were subjected to teaching that was deeply inferior in quality to that of their white counterparts.

Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the ‘architect’ of apartheid, said:

The school must equip the Bantu to meet the demands which the economic life will impose on him … What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? … Education must train and teach people in accordance with their opportunities in life …7

50 Indian and coloured people were subjected to similar restrictions. The notorious Group Areas legislation moved people out of their homes and trading areas and onto the fringes of the cities. Separate education, separate amenities and other restrictions bounded their lives.

51 It is this systemic and all-pervading character of apartheid that provides the background for the present investigation. During the apartheid years, people did many evil things. Some of these are the gross violations of human rights with which this Commission had to deal. But it can never be forgotten that the system itself was evil, inhumane and degrading for the many millions who became its second and third class citizens. Amongst its many crimes, perhaps the greatest was its power to humiliate, to denigrate and to remove the self-confidence, self-esteem and dignity of its millions of victims. Mtutuzeli Matshoba expressed it thus:

For neither amIa man in the eyes of the law, Nor am I a man in the eyes of my fellow man.8
6 Dumping Grounds, Christian Institute: Johannesburg, Second Edition, circa 1970. 7 Quoted in Illustrated History of South Africa: the Real Story, Readers Digest: Cape Town, 1988. 8 Mtutuzeli Matshoba, Call Me Not a Man, Ravan Press, 1979, page 18.
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