Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation
Title South Africa Reconciled? To what extent can the South African society be regarded as reconciled, eighteen years after the first democratic elections?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL http://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/handle/1874/268378/South Africa reconciled - Stefanie​Schutten.pdf?sequence=1
I met Bianca on a hot February day in Camps Bay, a beautiful costal spot just outside of Cape Town.
Bianca was seventeen, the mother of a lovely baby boy and lived in Hanover Park, one of the city’s
coloured townships. When I first saw her, she was begging for money with the little boy quietly
sleeping in her arms. Since I was interested in her story, we had lunch together. What was most
striking about this encounter was that Bianca had never heard of apartheid. How was this possible in
a country where the system of state-sponsored racism had only ended eighteen years ago? She was
born after the transition but her obliviousness still amazed me. For my part, I have never felt so
conscious of my “whiteness” as I did in South Africa. I simply couldn’t disassociate my skin-colour
from the apartheid era, when a white minority deprived blacks, coloureds and Indians of almost
everything. My own impression was that too many apartheid legacies persisted. How could black
people not blame whites for their poor circumstances? But then there was Bianca, who had never
heard of apartheid and who was probably more concerned about how she could provide for her baby
the next day. I started to wonder how important “race” and “apartheid” had actually become for
South Africans in this day and age. Was it really history that kept South Africans apart? Or was it
much more inequality that continued to divide the country?
I came to South Africa to research the long-term impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
(TRC). The Commission operated from 1996 until 1998 as an instrument for society to deal with its
past. My initial research question turned out to be insufficient to cover the full scope of the
reconciliation process. Dealing with the past is certainly a central endeavour of every reconciliation
process. However, it must not be forgotten that apartheid policies left South Africa the most unequal
country in the world. In the last couple of years, poor South Africans have expressed their frustration
about their living circumstances in thousands of “service-delivery protests” every year. One of the
most dreadful examples was probably the uprising in the Lonmin platinum mine in August 2012,
where miners were protesting for higher wages and safer work conditions. The situation went out of
control and the protestors were confronted with an extremely violent intervention by police. This
incident boosted the popularity of former ANC youth league leader Julius Malema, who is known for
his highly polarising statements against white people, who still own the majority of mines, land and
business. Malema’s expulsion from the ANC underscores that his views are controversial. At the same
time, his popularity seems to have been increasing rather than decreasing recently. These incidents
demonstrate that the reconciliation process cannot be understood as a psychological endeavour
alone. Material circumstances must be taken into account, too.

Related studies