Healing eclipses expiry dates

It is common cause that the political violence in the 1980s and early 1990s left indelible psychological scars among many victims and families who lost their kin.

It is common cause that the political violence in the 1980s and early 1990s left indelible psychological scars among many victims and families who lost their kin.

With wounds still unhealed, many have proceeded with their lives conscious or unconscious of the emotional trauma they carry from the legacy of internecine violence.

This is not to detract from the important role played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in healing the wounds caused by conflict between political movements such as the ANC and IFP as well as by the apartheid regime's military onslaught against its enemies.

In fact, many still owe their healing to the TRC's invaluable work in bringing both foe and victim together to embark on a path of reconciliation. But lingering public criticism of the TRC holds that it had succeeded only in scratching the surface in so far as healing the nation amid white denial and cynicism.

Lending credence to this view is the observations of a non-governmental organisation based in KwaZulu-Natal, Sinani-KZN Programme of Survivors of Violence, which has found nearly 50percent of victims of violence in the province are still traumatised long after the conflagration.

In the absence of official intervention, hundreds of victims and families in the province and other parts of the country have been left to their own devices to cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from exposure to the trauma of violence. PTSD is known to produce extreme behaviour, including intense fear or helplessness, aggression, insomnia, detachment and recurring flashbacks, according to the US-based National Institute of Mental Health.

Lack of post-TRC intervention highlights a serious oversight in government's approach in having crafted the commission as a short-term project and without continuity to oversee reconciliation into the future.

This underlined a flawed perception of reconciliation as being a one-off event rather than a process.

This niche could provide the South African Human Rights Commission the opportunity to reinvent itself as the role of Chapter Nine institutions come under public scrutiny.

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