Talking about things that hurt us: Constructions of Childhood in the TRC

Presented by
Seminar Date
August 18, 2010
As a result of the wide scale abuses against children and their particular vulnerability at the hands of the apartheid state, the TRC’s Special Hearing on Children and Youth sought to establish “a human rights framework for children and young people in order to ensure that they be given the opportunity to participate fully in South Africa’s new democratic institutions.” That process, along with the Commission’s investigation of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and her Soweto-based Mandela United Football Club (MUFC) demonstrates, however, that participants and observers brought their own frameworks of understanding into the hearing, and within a complex and shifting web of power relations, struggled to bring these understandings to bear on the process, often subverting commissioners’ attempts to impose a new moral order premised upon a shared perception of violence. An examination of the complex constructions of child activist Stompie Sepei reveals a great deal about how childhood has been constructed in South Africa, with all of its specific contingencies and generalizations; how history and narrative are used in different ways, to serve differing interests and agendas, and with consequences that impact the living and the constructions of the dead. It also sheds light into the indeterminacy of everyday life for Africans, and how apartheid succeeded time and time again in making people turn on one another while also uniting them through shared commitments to the call for freedom.
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