South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Process as Applied Positive Psychology in Nation Building

  • Marié P. WissingEmail author
  • Q. Michael Temane
Part of the Cross-Cultural Advancements in Positive Psychology book series (CAPP, volume 6)


The deep and sometimes heartbreaking narratives related to the historical process of the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, as part of the transition course to democracy, are majestically described by Marié P. Wissing and Q. Michael Temane in this chapter. The insights regarding processes to build a more just and positive society are thought provoking and extremely well supported in a profound knowledge of the positive psychology field. Concepts as diverse and relevant as leadership, justice, social awareness, meaning-making, peace-building, harmony, compassion, spirituality, hope, optimism, forgiveness, gratitude, mindfulness or post-traumatic growth are amongst the ones discussed and intertwined with a historical perspective and an African soul, recounted while we ‘hear’ a compelling chorus of voices from the narratives of the ones that lived the experience.


Positive Psychology Restorative Justice Character Strength Public Hearing Nation Building 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alais, L. (2007). Forgiving without forgetting: Forgiveness and the TRC. SA Publiekreg/Public Law, 22(1), 255–263.Google Scholar
  2. Aldwin, C. M. (1994). Stress, coping and development: An integrative perspective. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Antonovsky, A. (1987). Unravelling the mystery of health: How people manage stress and stay well. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blomfield, O. H. (1985). Parasitism, projective identification and the Faustian Bargain. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12, 299–310.Google Scholar
  6. Boraine, A. (1996). Alternative and adjuncts to criminal prosecutions. Paper delivered at the conference on, Justice in cataclysm: Criminal tribunals in the wake of mass violence, Brussels, Belgium.
  7. Borer, A. T. (2003). A taxonomy of victims and perpetrators: Human rights and reconciliation in South Africa. Human Rights Quarterly, 25(4), 1088–1116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brand, G. (2002). Speaking of a fabulous ghost: In search of theological criteria, with special reference to the debate on salvation in African Christian theology (Contributions to philosophical theology, Vol. 7). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapman, A. R., & van der Merwe, H. (Eds.). (2008). Truth and reconciliation in South Africa: Did the TRC deliver? Philadelphia: Penn Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chenyang, L. (2008). The philosophy of harmony in classical Confucianism. Philosophy Compass, 3(3), 423–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. In C. L. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105–128). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emmons, R. A. (2007). Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
  14. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (Eds.). (2004). The psychology of gratitude. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  17. Gibson, J. L. (2002). Truth, justice, and reconciliation: Judging the fairness of amnesty in South Africa. American Journal of Political Science, 46(3), 540–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2002). Remorse, forgiveness and rehumanization: Stories from South Africa. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 42, 7–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2003). A human being died that night: A South African story of forgiveness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  20. Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2008). Trauma, forgiveness and the witnessing dance: Making public spaces intimate. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53, 169–188.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Government Communications (GCIS). (2003, April 27). Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): Build a people’s contract for South Africa. Sunday Times, 8.Google Scholar
  22. Gyekye, K. (1987). An essay on African philosophical thought: The akan conceptual scheme. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Gyekye, K. (1997). Tradition and modernity: Philosophical reflections on the African experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hay, M. (1999). Grappling with the past: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. African Journal on Conflict Resolution, 1(1), 29–51.Google Scholar
  25. Kagee, A. (2006). The relationship between statement giving at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and psychological distress among former political detainees. South African Journal of Psychology, 36(1), 10–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kashdan, T. (2010, August 23). Why are we afraid of having regrets? Retrieved from
  27. Keyes, C. L. M. (1998). Social well-being. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61, 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Keyes, C. L. M. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62(2), 95–108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kinman, C. (2010, September). The nation as rhizome. Presentation at the First Portuguese conference on positive psychology: Positive nations, September 29–30, 2010.Google Scholar
  30. Krog, A. (1998). Country of my skull. Johannesburg: Random House.Google Scholar
  31. Krog, A. (2008). This thing called reconciliation: Forgiveness as part of an interconnectedness-towards-wholeness. South African Journal of Philosophy, 27(4), 353–366.Google Scholar
  32. Mamdani, M. (2002). ‘Amnesty or impunity? A preliminary critique of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRC). Diacritics, 32, 33–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Markel, D. (1999, Summer). The justice of amnesty? Towards a theory of retributivism in recovering states. University of Toronto Law Journal, 49(3), 389–445. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.411783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Markel, D. (2001). Are shaming punishments beautifully retributive? Retributivism and the implications for the alternative sanctions debate. VanDerBilt Law Review, 54(6), 2157–2242.Google Scholar
  35. McCullough, M., Pargament, K., & Thoresen, C. (Eds.). (2000). Forgiveness: Theory, research and practice. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Méndez, J. E. (2005, April 1). How to take forward a transitional justice and human security Agenda: Policy implications for the International Community, Cape Town.Google Scholar
  37. Ndebele, N., & Krog, A. (2012, August 9). The vision for SA in 2030. City Press, 31.Google Scholar
  38. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: American Psychological Association/Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Seligman, M. E. P., Reivich, K., Jaycox, L., & Gillham, J. (1995). The optimistic child. New York: Houghton Mifflia.Google Scholar
  40. Setiloane, G. M. (1976). The image of God among the Sotho-Tswana. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema.Google Scholar
  41. Skaar, E. (1999). Truth commissions, trials—Or nothing? Policy options in democratic transitions. Third World Quarterly, 20, 1109–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Snyder, C. R. (Ed.). (2000). Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications. San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  43. South African Government Information. (1994, May 10). Statement of the president of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, at his inauguration as president of the democratic republic of South Africa, Union Buildings, Pretoria. Retrieved from the internet
  44. South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SATRC). (1998). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa report. Cape Town: Author.Google Scholar
  45. Soyinka, W. (1976). Myth, literature and the African world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Statman, J. M. (2000). Performing the truth: The social-psychological context of TRC narratives. South African Journal of Psychology, 30(1), 23–32.Google Scholar
  47. Stein, D. J., Seedat, S., Kaminer, D., Moomal, H., Herman, A., Sonnega, J., & Williams, D. R. (2008). The impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on psychological distress and forgiveness in South Africa. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43, 426–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stevens, G. (2005). Truth, confessions and reparations: Lessons from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. African Safety Promotion: A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention, 3(1), 23–39. Retrieved from Scholar
  49. Van Binsbergen, W. (2001). Ubuntu and the globalization of Southern African thought and society. Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy, 15(1–2), 53–89.Google Scholar
  50. Van der Merwe, E. J., Venter, C. A., & Temane, Q. M. (2009). Untold stories of a group of black South Africans about the apartheid era. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 19(3), 395–400.Google Scholar
  51. Wissing, M. P. (2013). A framework for future research and practice. In M. P. Wissing (Ed.), Well-being research in South Africa. Volume in series Cross-cultural advancements in Positive Psychology with Antonella Delle Fave as editor in chief. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  52. Wissing, M. P., & Temane, Q. M. (2008). The structure of psychological well-being in cultural context: Towards a hierarchical model of psychological health. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 18(1), 45–56.Google Scholar
  53. Wong, P. T. P. (2010). Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 40, 85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Psychosocial Behavioural SciencesNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations