Document Type Doctoral Thesis Author Nqweni, Zinziswa C URN etd-03202006-144157 Document Title A phenomenological approach to families victimized by political violence Degree DPhil (Psychotherapy) Department Psychology Supervisor
Advisor Name Title Prof R J Van Vuuren Keywords
- Victims of state-sponsored terrorism South Africa
- Phenomenological psychology
- Political persecution South Africa
- South Africa. Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- Victims of crimes Psychology
Date 2000-10-08 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe focus of this study is to establish how victimization through violence has affected the families who are interviewed. The purpose is to describe how the family’s world has changed in different moments during the political strife in South Africa. The different context or moments are those of political inactivity, the struggle years, the period after the struggle when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was constituted and the new world order in which the families continue with their lives. Using a phenomenological approach, the experiences of families subjected to different forms of political violence, such as disappearances of victims, torture in detention and death in detention, are discussed.
The literature review on violence in the South African context situates any discourse which occurred within the broader social, historical and political context. Systems Theory, Social Identity Theory and an Integrated Theory of Political Violence are used as theoretical perspectives in understanding the interconnectedness between violence which affected the families in the present study and the whole society.
The qualitative research interview method postulated by Kvale (1996) has been used to collect data from the families. This procedure has enabled the researcher to study the data as it emerged thus allowing an understanding of the essential meanings implicit in the participants’ descriptions of their experiences. The data consists of audio taped interviews conducted with twenty-two members from ten families. This resulted in twenty-two protocols which were transcribed and analysed. The analysis of the protocols, though used differently from the situated structure identified by Wertz (1983), brought essential themes common to all participants.
The research findings reveal themes which demonstrate that experiences of the families subjected to political violence had an impact on their lives. They remember living routinely before the struggle against the apartheid structures. This is remembered as a very long time. The struggle years brought disintegration of the family unit as people fled their homes into exile. Others disappeared, were detained, tortured and dies in prison. The relationship between the families and their children was that of concern, as parents discouraged their children to participate in the political activities. The effects of violence culminated in hardship for many families as they experienced an absence of a helpful community, alienation from political organizations, and distrust of the State during the time that missing family members could not be traced by the security police. This distrust also existed among the communities who were experiencing suffering through incidents of black on black violence.
The introduction of the TRC, as a major these with sub-themes of healing and forgiveness, is perceived positively by these families. At last, they feel that through this process their suffering of loss of their children, husbands and wives is acknowledged. However, there are divergent opinions about this acknowledgement, as research findings point to an incomplete sense of individual healing for these families though they have told their stories of pain and suffering. This is a controversial issue which needs further research to explicate if individual experience off the victim is perceived to be similar to the collective experience of the broader community. The performance of rituals and memories on behalf of their dead fulfils an important healing role for the families. There is ambivalence about forgiveness for many families as they feel that perpetrators who seek amnesty have not made full disclosures about their activities.
There is polarization that surfaces between the present government and the families who testified with regard to reparation which was included as a clause in the TRC process. The families in the present study perceive that in order to continue with the new world order, they have to be compensated for their suffering. Further research should investigate if reparations to individuals who testified before the TRC would be healing, before implementing processes that would heal the whole nation.
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