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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 4 of Episode 83

TimeSummary
36:01Time for another portrait of the people behind the Truth Commission process. Truth Commissioner Denzil Potgieter recently joined the amnesty committee. Our cameras caught him at work in Port Elizabeth this week.Full Transcript
35:56I was born in the Eastern Cape in Uitenhage but I had spent wonderful early schooling years in a village where my mother was eventually the school principle of a church school and I had actually schooled there up to Standard four when I returned to Uitenhage, finished off eventually my high schooling in Uitenhage. Was then accepted into the medical school at the University of Natal in those days. Unfortunately I could not take up that immediately because of financial constraints and so on. In fact my father had died at a fairly early age, I think I was in Standard seven when he died. So my mother really raised the family as a single parent. So given that situation I decided to work for a year and I worked in Uitenhage for a year, which was quite a sobering experience for me and during that time I obviously had much more exposure to the real world out there. We’ve grown up in a rather protected environment. And it dawned on me that there is something which is more close to my heart ...moreFull Transcript
38:10Denzil Potgieter started his career in Cape Town, working with Dullah Omar, our present Minister of Justice. In 1995 he was asked by President Mandela to coordinate the process of appointing a Truth Commission.Full Transcript
38:26Once I was done with that I got back to my chambers and I was hardly there for a few weeks when I got another telephone call to say that, well you know the president has decided that he wants to appoint you to the Commission. Of course that was again a surprise but a great honour and the next moment I was out of my chambers and I was in this process and you know I’ve never looked back since. Here we are.Full Transcript
38:50There is not very much spare time at this stage but I like to read, I don’t read as much as I would love to and as I used to. I read virtually anything. I love sport, I play a bit of golf but I have very little time for that now. That is something that I miss quite a lot. I try to spend a bit of time with my family, the little bit of time that I have. I find that presently I’m virtually at home only over weekends. I’m married, I’ve got two sons. In fact I’m married to I suppose to what you can call a high school sweetheart. She’s also from Uitenhage but she settled with me in Cape Town and we’ve got two big sons, you know, a bit of pride and joy in my life.Full Transcript
39:54Potgieter now sits on the amnesty committee which was expanded at the end of 1997 to cope with the unexpectedly heavy case load.Full Transcript
40:02We are obviously committed to getting the work done as quickly as possible so with the result that we are forced to take on that little bit more, so that I find that there is very little time for personal matters. If I’m not sitting in a hearing I’m preparing for a hearing. If I’m not in some or other place where the hearing take place, I’m travelling to that place. So in that respect it has been quite demanding and quite hectic. And the amnesty hearings themselves, too is quite demanding, it goes with fairly high stress levels, high concentration, it concerns very important questions. You’ve got to be alert, you’ve got to be on top of what is happening and that’s the only way in which you can actually eventually arrive at a fair and an informed decision. So that it does take quite a bit out of one, but we have somehow managed to carry on and as I say we’re not really complaining. Full Transcript
41:17Although he says it’s hard to reflect in the midst of such a hectic process Denzil Potgieter has given a lot of thought to the significance of his work.Full Transcript
41:27By the end of the process we would have had a good dose of the truth; we would have had quite a bit of exposure of what had happened during our mandate years. I am not quite sure whether we have given much direction in actually striving for reconciliation and I’m not convinced that we have really canvassed this difficult concept to such an extent that we can say well we know exactly what to do and it’s now for the country and the people out there to actually pick it up and run with it.Full Transcript
42:07But in spite of missing home Potgieter has no other regrets. // You know it’s very easy as a professional person to control what comes your way. If you don’t take to a particular kind of case or if you don’t necessarily want to engage in a certain kind of direction you can actually avoid it. You’re not compelled to take everything that come your way, but of course this process is totally different, you’ve got no choice. You are there, it comes in, it streams in all the time and there is no place to hide. I think hopefully the best moment will still come when they tell me that we’ve written the last amnesty judgement and I might now pack my bags and go home. I hope that comes soon.Full Transcript
 
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