South Africa

Using a victim accompaniment process to provide emotional support for testimony

When addressing human rights violations in a public reconciliation process, it’s important to make the process comfortable for victims who testify. One tactic is “accompaniment” of victims by volunteers trained in psychosocial support and the practical realities of the process. The goal is to give victims an empowering experience that helps their healing and does not contribute to re-traumatization.

To address gross human rights violations committed during apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by legislation in 1995. Their mandate was to document violations committed by state bodies or armed opposition, to promote national unity and reconcili­ation, and to offer policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings were held, focused on abuses suffered by women and children. These hearings were held around the country and were covered exten­sively by all media.

Examining budgets to reveal social and economic inequities and persuade the government to rectify them

The Children’s Budget Unit (CBU) at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) uses national and provincial budgets to reveal whether the government is meeting its commitments in protecting the rights of children and to provide recommendations.

For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.

Using surplus space to showcase artistic expression

The Cape Creative Exhibition was the brainchild of Patrick Schofield and the Indalo Project in Cape Town, South Africa. The multi-disciplinary exhibition showcased the creative talent of Cape Town during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and brought together selected ranges of craft, design, fine art, film and performing art in a refurbished empty building. Mr. Schofield stated, “We had an empty building, a whole country in celebration for a month, visitors from all over the world; together, a fantastic opportunity to showcase creative Cape Town.

Using a nomination campaign to identify new potential allies for human rights

Domestic violence is an issue that affects the lives of men, women and children, yet it is often seen solely as a women’s issue. A group in South Africa uses a unique tactic to get men involved in curbing domestic violence.

The Everyday Hero Campaign of the 5-in-6 Project in South Africa asks women to identify men with a positive at­titude toward women and then invites these men to become new advocates for women’s rights.

Mapping personal histories and mobilizing memory to reclaim a place in history and recover lost land

The District Six Museum in South Africa spearheaded a land claim in which people ultimately recovered both the property and dignity they had lost under apartheid. It continues to be a space where people can collect, dissemi­nate and exchange memories of the neighborhood and is also actively involved in promoting civic dialogue about humane cities in South Africa.

Establishing a formal truth commission to investigate and acknowledge gross human rights violations

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was initiated by national legislation in 1995, after a period of public debate. Its mandate was to collect information about gross human rights violations committed by state bodies or the armed opposition during apartheid and its goal was to promote national unity and reconcili­ation. The Commission was expected to offer suggestions for policy reforms to prevent future abuses. In addition to amnesty and human rights hearings, special hearings focused on abuses suffered by women and children and others were held on the role of faith communities, the medical establishment, the legal sector, the business com­munity and other institutions that had passively or actively contributed to rights violations.

For more information on the "victim accompaniment" tactic within the context of the South African TRC, read our in-depth case study.

Defying laws in order to pressure for their change

In June 2000, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) began importing generic HIV/AIDS drugs in defiance of pat­ent laws, trying to pressure drug companies to reduce drug costs and to compel the South African government to allow the importation of generic versions of patented drugs. The goal of the tactic was to increase access to afford­able HIV/AIDS prescription drugs for all South Africans. Over four million people are infected with HIV in South Africa and high prices for patented drugs have made treatment inaccessible to most people.

I'll Walk Beside You: Providing emotional support for testifiers at the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission

People testifiying at the truth and reconciliation commissionThe South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) developed the concept of “briefers” to install a victim-friendly process. Victims were provided with the opportunity to testify and be supported before, during and after the process. The TRC selected briefers—chosen from the caring professions, such as ministers, social workers and nurses—from the community to provide this support. The briefers acted as volunteers and were trained to perform various tasks with regard to the entire structural process of the TRC.

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