Title page for ETD etd-08032006-092530

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Nomoyi, Nontuthuzelo Caroline
URN etd-08032006-092530
Document Title Trauma experienced by women who made submissions at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings
Degree DPhil (Criminology)
Department Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Prof R Pretorius Committee Chair
  • political crimes and offenses South Africa
  • South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • witnesses psychology
  • reconciliation South Africa
  • women South Africa.
  • post traumatic stress disorder
Date 2000-04-01
Availability unrestricted
This study focused on the impact of the revelations at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings on 30 female victims of all races. An explanatory model, the TRC Revelation Aftermath Model was designed to direct the research and to interpret the data. Researcher made use of a non-probability sampling strategy. Five respondents were selected by purposive sampling and 25 were selected by means of the snowball sampling. The sample of this study consisted of three components, namely ten Commissioners of the TRC, ten Coordinators who worked in the TRC offices, as well as 30 female victims of all races. The Commissioners were interviewed to validate the data obtained from the victims while the Coordinators were consulted merely to obtain general information on the criteria which was used to process the applications submitted by the victims in order to receive the reparations.

The analysis of the data revealed that the respondents accepted three assumptions, namely, they were invulnerable with regard to trauma such as that caused by the revelations of the TRC. In addition to this they viewed life as meaningful and that they also had a positive attitude towards it before the political conflict of the apartheid era in South Africa impacted on them. These assumptions were interpreted in terms of Janoff-Bulman and Frieze's theory. The research findings indicated that the assumptions were not only affected by the revelations but that they also influenced the way in which these women experienced the TRC process.

It was found that the victim respondents, whose family members had disappeared and were never confirmed dead, had suffered exacerbated emotions which were characterised by denial. This was the result of repressed memories associated with the grief. Of importance too, was the finding that a few of the victims were successful in deriving meaning from their suffering, while others, who could not achieve this, could not reconcile with their perpetrators and this was determined by their age. As the former were willing to forgive their perpetrators they had thus found inner peace.

During the interviews, the victims mentioned that although the TRC had appeared to be necessary before they made their submissions, however, after it had disappointed them by not granting them reparations, this exacerbated their suffering as they felt that they had been discriminated against in favour of the perpetrators who were granted amnesty irrespective of not having made full disclosures. According to Parsons General Action System all the respondents experienced their trauma as biological entities, and thus suffered symptoms related to psychosomatic illnesses such as, inter alia, headaches, insomnia, and ulcers. These were accompanied by personality characteristics such as anger, aggression, as well as hatred. As the victims could not function in isolation, they also endured ostracisation related to cultural stereotypes and in this way, their suffering was perceived as secondary to that of males. Furthermore, within the social system, the victims who perceived the TRC as biased, believed that it had caused the country embarrassment by bringing up the conflict of the apartheid era. However, others verbalised that the Commission was a good initiative for South Africa so that peace as well as reconciliation could be facilitated for the sake of unity. It is crucial to stress the finding that some of the respondents, although few, who had been granted reparations, were satisfied with the TRC and perceived it as fair and thus could reconcile with their perpetrators. The research report concludes with a number of recommendations for the establishment of support services for the traumatised victims as well as integrative mechanisms, which could encourage co-operation between the citizens of South Africa so that the reconciliation which the TRC facilitated can be sustained.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, amnesty, violence, human rights, reconciliation, apartheid, trauma, grief, bereavement.

2000, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Nomoyi, NC 2000, Trauma experienced by women who made submissions at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-08032006-092530/ >


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