Radical reconciliation: The TRC should have allowed Zacchaeus to testify?
This article seeks to point out that, the inclusion of a theological term – that is ‘reconciliation’ (at the request of F.W. de Klerk on behalf of the National Party) to what was supposed to be the ‘Truth Commission’ (Boesak & DeYoung 2012; Stevens Franchi & Swart 2006) – was for the purpose of taming the work of this commission and using reconciliation to merely reach some political accommodation which did not address the critical questions of justice, equality, and dignity which are prominent in the biblical understanding of reconciliation (Boesak 2008; Boesak & DeYoung 2012:1; Lephakga 2015; Terreblanche 2002). However, it is important to point out that, the problem was not the theological word – that is ‘reconciliation’– but the understanding and interpretation of it in South Africa. This is because previously in South Africa the Bible was made a servant to ideology (Lephakga 2012, 2013; Moodie 1975; Serfontein 1982) and thus domesticated for the purposes of subjection and control (Boesak & DeYoung 2012). As such, this article contends that, the call for the inclusion of ‘reconciliation’ within the ‘truth commission’ was not to allow reconciliation to confront the country with the demands of the gospel but to blunt the process of radical change (Boesak & DeYoung 2012). Therefore, this article will point out that the shortcomings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) need to be understood against the following events which occurred between the period 1989 to 1995: (1) the fall of the Soviet Union (Cronin 1994:2–6); (2) the National Party’s (NP) and South African business sector’s interest in negotiations with the African National Congress (ANC) (Cronin 1994:2–6; Mkhondo 1993:3–43; Terreblanche 2002:51–124); (3) the elite compromise (Terreblanche 2002:51–124); and the sudden passing of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, no 34 of 1995 (TRC, Vol. 1998). This paper will use the story of Zacchaeus to contend that the TRC should have allowed Zacchaeus (so to speak) to testify in order to hear from him what reconciliation means (Boesak & DeYoung 2012:64). This is because, on the one hand, this commission made an extraordinary move when it appointed a Christian priest (which is unusual in the history of these commissions – Boesak & DeYoung 2012; Lephakga 2015; Stevens et al. 2006; Terreblanche 2002), namely Desmond Tutu (Boesak 2008; Boesak & DeYoung 2012; Lephakga 2015; Stevens et al. 2006; Terreblanche 2002), as its chair and on the other hand, the chair – that is Desmond Tutu – made another extraordinary move when he Christianised the whole process of this commission when he opened most of the sessions with prayer, invoking the name of Jesus Christ (for forgiveness), and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the proceedings of this commission (Boesak & DeYoung 2012; Lephakga 2015). However this commission invoked the name of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for the purpose of forgiveness but ignored what Jesus Christ is asking in terms of justice which is clearly illustrated in the Story of Zacchaeus (Boesak & DeYoung 2012; Lephakga 2015). Therefore, this article will argue that if Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were invited into the processes of this commission, then Zacchaeus too should have been allowed to testify – so to say.