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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 4 of Episode 86

26:28We have been introducing you to most of the 17 Truth Commissioners the last few months, but four Commissioners remain. And because next week will be our last programme we bring you four profiles tonight. Full Transcript
26:41Richard Lyster was born to a Catholic family in Durban in 1953 and has lived in Kwazulu-Natal for most of his life. Full Transcript
26:49I was one of five brothers and sisters. My parents are devout Catholics. My grandparents immigrated here from Ireland, came here as poor immigrants and I was brought up in a large Catholic family. And myself, my brothers and sisters all went to Catholic schools and I think that’s where I can date my if I can call it ‘my morality’ to, is that sort of Christian or Catholic, liberal upbringing. After I left school I went to university in Cape Town and I studied law there. And I think that was also a very, very important era for me for the development of my social consciousness. Because prior to that I had been in the army. I had spent a year in the army and I didn’t question my role, I thought that’s what young white men did and I went to the army without any moral question marks hanging over me. After the army I went to university and I think there I fundamentally changed the way I look at life, particularly life in this country. // I’m married. My wife’s name is Elda, she ...moreFull Transcript
28:52The most surprising and exciting moment in Richard Lyster’s life was when he heard the news that he had been appointed to join the Truth Commission.Full Transcript
29:00For me it came as a huge surprise, even to be nominated because there was a long public selection and nomination process. I think 3 or 400 people were nominated by various organizations. I was nominated by the Human Rights Committee and it came as a great surprise that I should have been nominated and I never for a moment believed that I would have been appointed by the Government. But on that particular day, I can’t remember when it was, it was early in December, the 6th of December 1995 I was telephoned by someone in the Department of Justice and I was told that I had been appointed by the State President. And again, it was one of those days which you can never, ever forget. // I’ve always believed inherently in the goodness of people and I thought there’s not much of that that we can see in this work that we’re doing. I saw a lot of evil that people committed and I think it affected my world view of what people are capable of. But then, just as you are sailing down that ...moreFull Transcript
31:15Mary Burton is a woman of many surprises. She was born in Buenes Aires, Argentina. Her mother is Argentinian and her father Uruguyan. She studied in Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland and England and started her professional career as a journalist with The Times of Brazil. Mary Burton speaks Spanish, Portuguese and French but it was her English she used to meet her South African husband on a skiing trip in Europe in 1961.Full Transcript
31:43I was very ignorant, I didn’t know what I was coming to but it was a very crucial time in South Africa’s history and many people were emigrating. And here was I, arriving, very innocent, knowing very little about South Africa. Full Transcript
31:56Mary Burton is widely known and loved for her work in the NGO, Black Sash. She became a member of the organization shortly after arriving in South Africa in the sixties and became its president in the eighties. Good preparation maybe for becoming a Truth Commissioner in the nineties.Full Transcript
32:13I didn’t think I would be very surprised by what I heard. I think all of us on the Commission have, in fact I think the whole country has learnt much more about what happened. Prepared in other ways I think I was very reluctant to accept nomination for the Commission. I didn’t want to do this work. I didn’t think I was capable of doing this work because one of my characteristics is to be able to see both sides of the question and I thought that that would be weakening. That one needed people with great tenacity to pursue issues and not to be affected by being able to consider all points of view. Now I believe that in fact if we are going to achieve reconciliation that it is essential that all South Africans are able to see each other’s points of view. To me that would what reconciliation would really be. If could you take, say a young white man and a young black man and let them both understand what motivated the other to do what they did in those years. That would be a symbol ...moreFull Transcript
34:59It is clear that Mary Burton is deeply affected by her work on the Commission, but how does her family deal with this deep commitment?Full Transcript
35:07I think in some ways it’s not so bad for my family as some of the years in the Black Sash were. It wasn’t very nice for boys at school to have their mother standing out on the street carrying a black board. As they grew older they accepted it much more and I have leaned on their support enormously. I know I’m very lucky. When I come home from the Commission I have a supportive husband, whose been supportive all the way through in spite of all the things that happened in the Black Sash. I have four sons who all live here in Cape Town, who we see often and they see each other often. Three of them are married and one of them has a child who is a great joy to us. And you can’t really bring home all that stress to that kind of environment. You just leave it behind. My parents live in Brazil. I was there this past Christmas with my grandchild, we introduced him to his great grandparents and they come here as often as that’s possible for them too. Especially in recent years over ...moreFull Transcript
36:21But for this great woman from Argentina who became a fighter of injustice in her adopted country one of the greatest moments was becoming a citizen of that country. Full Transcript
36:31I now realize that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. For many years, when I went to visit my parents in the very dark years here, I would sometimes sit in an airport on my way back and think what am I going back to? A country that doesn’t seem to be ever going to solve its problems and I would say if it wasn’t for my husband and children I would seriously think of whether I want to go back or not. And I never became a South African citizen at that time, because I felt that it was wrong to try to exercise a vote when other citizens, born citizens of the country didn’t have the vote. So I only became a South African in 1993. But I remember the feeling that there almost, the day almost that I confirmed my feeling, that I really felt I was a South African. I was flying back into Cape Town and it was a beautiful flight and it was a lovely golden light and a beautiful evening. And as we flew into Cape Town I had that almost physical sense of joy of coming home. That’s when I ...moreFull Transcript
37:39Yasmin Sooka attained her first degree in law from Wits in 1978. From here her path went through various law firms and related organizations. A second degree in law followed in 1982. She’s a devoutly religious person and today she is the President of the South African Chapter of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. Full Transcript
38:01My mother’s actually from Cape Town so I spent a number of years growing up in District Six. I have very fond memories of it. I went to school in Cape Town, in Kimberley and then finally went back home to my parents in Standard 3. I grew up the rest of that time in Lenasia. I spent two years at Durban-Westville University; got kicked out of the hostel and that’s how I ended up at Wits, in the late 1979 period. I think I was one of four students who were admitted to Wits, four non white students as they were then called. After a long period at Wits, it’s a very difficult period for me because I’ve not being used to mixing with students of other sorts of colour or background and it was a growing up process in those two years. I didn’t really find the practice of law so fulfilling and I tended then to work more with religious organizations and with NGOs involved in human rights work. Full Transcript
39:14Yasmin Sooka is a prominent and powerful member of the Truth Commission. She’s Deputy Chairperson of the Human Rights Violations Committee. She has a reputation for being passionate and forthright.Full Transcript
39:35I was actually leaving for Germany on the day when the Commissioners were announced and Sheena Duncan actually phoned me to tell me and shoe! It was incredibly exciting because for me I think that you have law, you have the whole question of jurisprudence, but law doesn’t often bring justice and I think that what the Commission represented for me was the chance to bring morality and law together to achieve justice. And for me it was the most exciting time of my life really. // When people look at the work of the Commission they should remember that within a two year period we’ve changed the discourse forever about human rights violations and nobody will deny that they took place. Initially when victims told their stories people were disbelieving. Now that we hear the perpetrators it’s actually worse than people really thought. And I think that if the Commission has achieved anything it has been that acknowledgement of victims and the fact that nobody can deny in South Africa ...moreFull Transcript
40:40After two years of Truth Commission Yasmin Sooka is showing the strains and stresses that this job like no other has had on those who do it.Full Transcript
40:50I tend to block it out. I talk about it at the hearing. I go home, the normality of a family life, the fact that I still have to be a mother, a wife, helps me to deal with the fact that I am not a super human being, I’m an ordinary person. But I don’t sleep very well, so I’ll read till the early hours of the morning and I accept that that’s one of the issues that I’ll probably have to deal with at some stage. They laugh at me in the Commission because I complain about the fact that I lost a lot of hair. I think it’s one of these sort of stress signs. And I decided in December that I would start swimming and I go to the Ellis Park swimming pool, I swim my 14 laps every day and that has helped me to relax quite a bit. But I am compulsive about reading or looking at things related to the Commission and I get angry when I socialize when other people don’t share that interest and I think I’m probably going to have withdrawal symptoms when the Commission is over but I ...moreFull Transcript
42:07Sisi Khampepe is one of only two Truth Commissioners on the Amnesty Committee. She was born in Soweto and calls herself a child of the township. She studied law at the University of Zululand and practiced as a labour lawyer.Full Transcript
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