What is the Nature of Witnesses "Being Heard" in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Testimonies?



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ABSTRACT WHAT IS THE NATURE OF WITNESSES “BEING HEARD” IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION TESTIMONIES? This dissertation investigates what it may mean for witnesses to “be heard” during the proceedings of the SA TRC and not only to have the opportunity to be heard. Selected testimonies from the proceedings before the SA TRC are investigated as an instrumental case study from within a critical narrative perspective, supported by perspectives from different traditions on the opportunity to be heard including procedural fairness (or due process more broadly); also aspects drawn from the literature on violence and trauma (termed the “voice” literature herein); and aspects from procedural justice, all which approach the question of “being heard” from different perspectives to form a broad framework in order to conduct the initial research. This initial framework was further supplemented subsequently with insights gained from the inductive research approach adopted in this dissertation. Key findings include that the concept of elaboration of narrative which also forms part of the critical narrative analytic approach emerged as a central concept for a witness to possibly “be heard” and was therefore utilized to develop four narrative organizing principles to analyze and illustrate the different directions in which the testimonies and narratives developed, and also their respective impacts on a witness possibly being heard. A second key finding is that the logic model utilized in the international development to evaluate results could potentially be useful to better understand elaboration and “being heard” specifically within the SA TRC proceedings. This is so, as the TRC was seemingly focused on narrative “results” based on its mandate inter alia to seek facts, truth and reconciliation. The stories and experiences of witnesses were also a focus but still within the framework as set out in the TRC Act and the quasi-judicial nature of the TRC. The logic model was therefore adapted to broadly situate the perspectives, concepts and insights developed in this dissertation within that approach based on the notion that the “outputs,” “outcomes” and “impacts,” which feature in the logic model, are all considered to be the results of the “inputs.” Concepts such as (for instance) narrative public spaces; positioning and repositioning in the narratives; building of a witness’s moral agency; the impact of prior witness statements, interruptions and disruptions on the narratives; empathy from contrasting perspectives; narrative cues introduced by the witness as potentially valuable starting points for further elaboration; the narrative resistance of the witness as she develops her narrative; and even instances of a possible false consciousness being present due to an over-emphasis on procedural justice at the cost of substantive justice aspects, to name a few of the perspectives seemingly important (or not) to a witness possibly being heard, are accordingly situated in the logic model adaptation and discussed.