In This Review

Coming to Terms: South Africa's Search for Truth
Coming to Terms: South Africa's Search for Truth
By Martin Meredith
PublicAffairs, 1999, 392 pp
Facing the Truth: South African Faith Communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Facing the Truth: South African Faith Communities and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Edited by James Cochrane, John De Gruchy, and Stephen Martin
Ohio University Press, 1999, 256 pp
Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa
Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa
Edited by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Wilhelm Verwoerd
St. Martin's, 2000, 343 pp

Written for different audiences at different levels, these three books explore the political, legal, and moral principles at play in South Africa's ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Meredith offers a lively journalistic description of the background and operation of the commission, its major dramatis personae, and the findings in its voluminous 1998 report. An afterword by Tina Rosenberg sets the South African exercise in the context of truth commissions in Latin America, eastern Europe, and elsewhere. Villa-Vicencio and Verwoerd have assembled 28 essays that collectively survey the origins, philosophy, achievements, and weaknesses of the commission. Readers will need some prior familiarity with South Africa's history and the workings of the TRC to absorb the full import of many of these intellectual reflections, which are written mainly for a South African audience. The authors, some of whom are prominent figures, are drawn from all South African ethnic groups. The more specialized work edited by Cochrane and his colleagues illuminates how South African religious organizations sought to explain, apologize for, or in some cases justify to the TRC their actions and inactions during the apartheid era. All three books are important tools for understanding what some commentators have judged to be the world's most effective national truth commission to date.