Thursday, April 17, 2003

South African government agrees to reparations

So, finally, the South African government has given in and has agreed to grant some reparations to those who appeared before the TRC. According to SAPA, South African President Thabo Mbeki announced, on April 15, that victims of apartheid abuses would receive a once-off final reparations grant of R30,000 (about US $3,842). Mbeki made the announcement during a special debate in parliament on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final report. Mbeki said the commission had reported that about 22,000 individuals or surviving family members appeared before it, and 19,000 of these required urgent reparations. They would be eligible for the grant.

Needless to say, the grant will be less that what the TRC suggested, i.e. a grant for 6 years. This means SA government will pay out about $85 mil rather than the $365 suggested by the TRC. Of course, money is not the issue, it cannot bring back the dead. However, I doubt the victim groups will feel satisfied. The government burnt some bridges by delaying for so long (they received the recommendations in October 1998). This has left many feeling angry, and their anger will feed into their views of the current plan. I regret the issue has become about money, rather than acknowledgement - but many still feel they have not been heard. That said, a new chapter in the reparations debate has begun.