Leading Article: Truth can hurt reconciliation

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THE TRUTH must hurt to set you free. The best thing that could have happened to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that the ANC should have attempted to stop publication this week of its report - and failed.

If the Commission was to retain credibility, it had to tackle head-on ANC torture. Of course the dominating theme of past history has been the struggle against white domination by the local black population. But in waging that war the "freedom" movements of southern Africa have perpetrated far worse atrocities on their black rivals and their own members than ever they have against the "enemy".

That truth may help the victims, but it doesn't help reconciliation, which may sound warm and comforting in theory, but is all too hard and uncomfortable in practice. To the average citizen of South Africa, investigating the past has one overriding aim. It is to put the spotlight on the sins of the oppressors. Demonising Winnie Mandela only serves to lessen the heat on De Klerk and Botha.

In Archbishop Tutu's Christian view, there may be no gradation of evil; only admission and forgiveness. In President Mandela's high-minded reach for multiracialism there may be only one course: putting the past behind you. But in the hard politics and recent memory of South Africa, the struggle is to stamp out every remnant of white supremacy. To that extent the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could pursue the former only at the expense of the latter.