Ubuntu: Caring for people and community in South Africa— Elmarie Kotzé et al.



Since the first hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in April 1996, South Africans over the next two years heard the revelations about the nation’s traumatic past. The TRC received 20,000 statements from victims, 2,000 of these were heard in public hearings (Krog 1998, p.vii). Through the TRC we came face-to-face with this country’s volatile history and began to grasp an understanding of the human cost of apartheid.

Different options were available regarding amnesty for perpetrators who testified before the TRC. Negotiators decided against the sort of trials held at Nuremberg after WWII, and they also decided against offering a blanket amnesty. A third way, granting individuals amnesty in exchange for full disclosure of the crimes for which amnesty was sought, was a preferred way of dealing with perpetrators. This way of conditional amnesty has often been described within a framework of Christian forgiveness, but it was also consistent with ubuntu, an African worldview (Tutu 1999, p.34). In this paper, we will be describing the significance of ubuntu in our work in South Africa.