'South Africa is still a deeply traumatised country'

Former TRC Commissioner Yasmin Sooka says the country needs to realise the dream of the Constitution.

Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Yasmin Sookasays 20 years after the first hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), South Africa is still a deeply traumatised country.

Sooka is one of 13 former commissioners interviewed by Eyewitness News for a special series of podcasts, focusing on the state of reconciliation in the country today, 17 years after the commission handed in its report.

She has asked what South Africa needs to do to realise, what she calls, the dream of the Constitution.

One is the persistent problems of poverty and inequality, in particular the dangerously high levels of unemployment among young people.

She has called for a type of youth corps, through community or public works programmes, which will employ young people to build infrastructure such as roads and public housing.

The second is food security; surveys by the National Income Dynamics Study, based at the University of Cape Town (UCT), have shown that half the country goes to bed hungry.

"The third issue is the question of accumulation and consumerism, which is driving corruption in the country. The notion of ethical leadership is critical and it's about asking if this is what we fought for."

Sooka adds it's crucial that the business sector participates in this kind of social compact.


Sooka has urged the prosecuting authorities to charge those who were refused amnesty by the TRC.

The majority of those who applied for amnesty were not granted it yet and there have been only a handful of prosecutions.

Sooka and her TRC colleague Howard Varney gave 300 names to the prosecuting authorities when the TRC concluded its work, but until recently, only one or two have been prosecuted.

Now, as a result of the pressure - mainly from her family - those who abducted, tortured and murdered ANC courier Nokuthula Simelane are finally facing the law.

"I think not to prosecute makes a mockery of the one who came before the commission. For instance, for families like Nokuthula Simelane's, who have been using their own money to investigate these matters, I really think this is an issue that state needs to take to heart."


Sooka says there is a sense of hopelessness in the country that needs to be countered.

She says the country is not as bad as many others, yet it urgently needed the leadership to stem a sense of despair.

Sooka has called on civil society to help rebuild democracy.

"There is rage in the country. We burn books, libraries clinics and now people. Somebody has to put a stop to that.