Violence, Inequality and Transformation: Apartheid Survivors on South Africa's Ongoing Transition
Countering claims that transformative justice is largely a normative project, this compilation dissertation argues that the activities of Khulumani Support Group—the South African apartheid survivors’ movement—are an example of transformative justice in practice. They provide an opportunity to expan...
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|Countering claims that transformative justice is largely a normative project, this compilation dissertation argues that the activities of Khulumani Support Group—the South African apartheid survivors’ movement—are an example of transformative justice in practice. They provide an opportunity to expand the definition of transitional justice and thereby promote a more just transition in South Africa, which survivors note is still incomplete. The dissertation is based on participatory action research with Khulumani members from 2015 to 2020, as well as additional research with the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation nongovernmental organisation on the evolution of transitional justice as a field and the practice of transitional justice in Africa.
The dissertation shows that since the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2002, Khulumani members have adopted practices that challenge marginalisation and power structures at multiple levels. Engaging not only with the state but also other actors and sites of contestation, members highlight inequality and poverty as a legacy of past repression and ongoing marginalisation. They emphasise pluralism, drawing diverse people and multiple generations into their activities, while engaging in iterative, co-created activities at the local, national and international levels, enabling cross-pollination of ideas.
Despite documentation of these transformative approaches, the literature on Khulumani tends to bind them to a victim/survivor positionality and a focus on mainstream transitional justice. The dissertation argues that a range of such civil society and even state initiatives have occurred in South Africa that continue to deal with the links between past and present injustices. They have not been recognised as transitional justice because of the field’s localisation to the TRC period and the initiatives’ divergence from mainstream transitional justice. The dissertation suggests that transformative transitional justice is not a new approach, but rather one that is already in practice in South Africa, offering the opportunity to engage in new ways with justice in transition.