The Contributions of Truth to Reconciliation: Lessons From South Africa

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is undoubtedly the most widely discussed truth and reconciliation process in the world, and by many accounts, the TRC is among the most effective any country has yet produced. What is the explanation for its success? This article has two objectives. First, it seeks to identify the characteristics of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process that contributed to its performance. Second, it then asks whether the truth and reconciliation process is itself endogenous. Thus, the ultimate objective is to assess whether truth and reconciliation processes can have an independent influence on reconciliation and especially on the likelihood of consolidating an attempted democratic transition. The conclusion of this article is that the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa did indeed exert independent influence on the democratization process through its contributions toward creating a more reconciled society.