The Risks of Reconciliation

The Risks of Reconciliation

Speaker: Allan Boesak

Respondent: Robin Turner

The Risks of Reconciliation was the first seminar in a series of seminars hosted by the Desmond Tutu Center and the Center For Faith and Vocation. On September 23rd, 2014, Allan Boesak, Desmond Tutu Center Chair of Peace, Reconciliation and Global Justice and highly visible player in the anti-apartheid movement, describes the decision of post-apartheid South African leaders to address the outcomes of the apartheid through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He claims the challenges of undertaking this decision are directly linked to the status of South African as one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Boesak explains that when South Africans decided not to pursue apartheid as the crime against humanity that it was, they did so out of a deep desire to move forward for a different kind of society—a society that would not settle for a ‘victims justice,’ but rather sought to create an inclusive justice that acknowledged all South Africans, whether victim or perpetrator, had survived apartheid and therefore needed to restore humanity through justice together.

But given the state of South Africa today, Boesak asks, “Was the decision to pursue reconciliation worth it?” South Africans now find themselves in a very difficult situation—a situation that is largely the result of clever politicians who have sought to delink reconciliation from justice. Today, South Africa more closely resembles a war zone than a democratized state and is now one the most unequal societies in the world, a situation that Boesak warns is simply not sustainable.

Even though the state of South Africa continues to decline, Boesak refuses to lose hope, declaring the decision to pursue peace and reconciliation over violence and retribution still stands. He upholds that no matter what, “it is always worth it to make a new generation understand that whatever the mistakes of this generation, the fundamental decision to have justice for the living instead of revenge for the dead still stands.”

In response to Boesak, Robin Turner, a political science professor whose teachings and research focus on state-society relations and political economy in southern Africa, posits part of the issue may have been related to the lack of political structure associated with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While she agrees that yes, the decision to move toward a just society as a united South Africa was worth it, there was never a determination around how they would create the society. She thinks it is important to recognize there are things—such as political systems and state structures—that still need to be put in place in order to bring about the society South Africans sought to create.

CLICK HERE to watch a video recording of the Seminar.

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