In This Review

After the TRC: Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa
After the TRC: Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa
Edited by Wilmot James and Linda van de Vijver
Ohio University Press, 2001, 238 pp
A Country Unmasked: Inside South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
A Country Unmasked: Inside South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
By Alex Boraine
Oxford University Press, 2001, 481 pp

These two postmortems on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission cast doubt on the widely held view, more common outside than inside South Africa, that the exercise was a huge success. The first volume includes four pieces by high-profile critics of the commission and around a dozen responses by commentators, including some members of the commission itself. Meanwhile, Boraine -- the principal figure in the commission's conception and formation -- presents his version of its history and significance. He takes a warts-and-all approach that incorporates frequent swipes at critics -- again including some members of the commission -- whom he regards as ill-informed or ill-intentioned. One effect of all the charges and counter-charges is to peel away South Africa's "rainbow" image and expose its ongoing tense racial and ideological divisions. Truth? Reconciliation? Justice? Amnesty or amnesia? Debates remain hot, but the good news is that bombs and bullets are no longer involved. Moreover, those observers who think that on balance the trc was beneficial will find plenty of intellectual ammunition here. One point of broad consensus is that the government of President Thabo Mbeki has lost credibility by ignoring trc recommendations that victims receive reparations.