South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission
South Africa was formerly ruled by a minority white population that denied political participation to the majority black population. During this time, black groups fought for recognition of their rights, including the right to self-government, and were frequently brutally oppressed. As part of the process of moving to majority rule, a commission to investigate human and civil rights violations was established.
- Some view the commission and the exposure of past violence—including murders committed in support of apartheid—as the best hope for community healing for the future.
- Some criticize that the individuals who committed the violence should be tried and punished—not merely confess their crimes.
- Critics view the investigation as political and believe it will delay focus on the future. In addition, they believe the commission disproportionately focuses on crimes committed by white people and ignores crimes committed by the former rebel (black) groups.
- In addition, detractors allege that individuals should not be held responsible for crimes committed while representing the government.
From the 1960s South Africa gained international notoriety for its policy of apartheid. However, the roots of apartheid—a system of racial segregation—began long before the twentieth century. Apartheid had existed early in the twentieth century, but it was only after the National Party, the party of Afrikaner nationalism, came to power in 1948 on a platform of apartheid that racial segregation was applied in ever more extreme forms. Before 1948 black Africans had been the chief sufferers of racial discrimination; after 1948 those designated "Coloureds" (mixed ancestry) and "Asians" found themselves subject to similar racially discriminatory laws. The provision that black African males should carry and produce on demand a "pass" document was applied to African women as well, and rigid barriers were set up against Africans moving from the rural areas to the towns. Under Hendrik Verwoerd, National Party Prime Minister from 1958, apartheid came to include the creation of separate small states for Africans (the Bantustans, or "homelands"), to which millions of people were forcibly relocated.
There was a long history of black protest against racial segregation in South Africa. The African National Congress (ANC) took the lead in peaceful, nonviolent protest in the 1950s, but that era came to an end when the police opened fire on unarmed protesters at Sharpeville, in Transvaal province, in March 1960. Shortly after the Sharpe-ville massacre, the ANC and a newly formed rival party, the Pan-Africanist Congress, were declared unlawful organizations. Both organizations continued to work in secret and began to organize armed resistance, though only the ANC's armed resistance achieved any measure of success, and that only after more than a decade. In the face of armed resistance, the apartheid state became even more repressive than before. Legislation was passed to provide for detention without trial and the police acted with ever-increasing brutality. When police opened fire on unarmed schoolchildren demonstrating in Soweto township outside Johannesburg in June 1976, resistance and repression both escalated. Armed guerrillas committed acts of sabotage and the police began to use such extreme measures as poison and assassination to get rid of political opponents. In the 1980s, many believed that this increasingly brutal conflict could only end in a racial bloodbath. To most people's surprise, such a bloodbath was avoided through a process that provided for the dismantling of apartheid and the transition to a democratic society.
One of the aspects of South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy that has attracted most interest in the outside world is the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission was created to investigate the truth about the long history of conflict brought about by the system of apartheid. It was hoped that this would aid the process of reconciliation of the races in the post-apartheid era. But, in fact, only certain aspects of the past were explored, with results that remain controversial.
The Establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) emerged out of the negotiated settlement in South Africa, and should itself be seen as an integral part of that settlement. In the mid-1980s, there appeared to be a stalemate: the National Party government refused to abandon apartheid, and its main opponent, the ANC, was committed to waging an armed struggle until apartheid was overthrown. In the course of the struggle, the ANC had become radicalized, and many of its members believed that apartheid was integrally part of the capitalist system in South Africa, and wished to overthrow both apartheid and capitalism. In the mid-1980s, therefore, it seemed unlikely that the two sides would be willing to compromise sufficiently for a negotiated settlement to be reached. Yet, both sides came to realize that neither could defeat the other, and that a continuation of conflict would bring the economy of the country to its knees and involve vast suffering. In the late 1980s, a series of talks were held, most of them in secret, between members of the ANC and people with links to the government. As a result, each came to some understanding of the other's position. South Africa's rulers had been concerned about the influence of communism in the ANC, but decided to alter course in part because of the winding down of the Cold War, and particularly the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in late 1989. The ANC, for its part, presented itself as an organization not dominated by Communists, more pragmatic than ideological.
In February 1990, South African president F.W. de Klerk, though from a conservative Afrikaner background and heir to the apartheid traditions of his predecessors, decided on a bold move designed to seize the initiative. He announced that his government was un-banning the ANC, the Communist Party, and other organizations, and was now willing to enter into negotiations for a new democratic order. This paved the way for formal talks between the government and the ANC, which began some months later. In August that year, at one of its meetings with the government, the ANC agreed to suspend its armed struggle, and in December 1991 the first formal multi-party negotiations began at what was called the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, held at the World Trade Center near Johannesburg airport. The process of negotiating a new democratic constitution for the country broke down in mid-1992, but in the face of the threat of economic collapse and racial civil war, the parties decided to return to negotiations, which resumed early in 1993. They were successfully completed in November of that year, when an agreement was reached at the World Trade Center for transitional arrangements leading to a democratic election and for an interim constitution that would come into effect when the founding election for the new South Africa was held.
Only through a series of compromises was agreement on the interim constitution reached. Most of these compromises concerned the form of government to be introduced in the new South Africa, but a crucial one related to the question of amnesty for political offenders—people, including the police, who had committed illegal or violent acts in support of or against apartheid. The National Party, which had already granted amnesty to some of its officials, wanted a blanket amnesty, of the kind that had been granted when Chile returned to civilian rule, or had been granted to South Africa's neighbors, Zimbabwe and Namibia, when those countries had become independent after long periods of bitter conflict. The National Party had relied upon the security forces—the police and the military—to support its rule, and could not now abandon those who had worked on its behalf. But the ANC would not agree to a general amnesty, arguing that amnesty would be to sweep under the carpet what had happened in the past, thus starting the new democracy off on the wrong foot. Under apartheid rule there had been a culture of secrecy, in which the security forces had become virtually a law to themselves: Many people had disappeared without a trace, and some had been murdered, but the circumstances of the disappearances and deaths had not been revealed. The case of the Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko, who died in police custody in September 1977, was only the most notorious of these. Relatives of Biko wanted to know who had been responsible and for those responsible to be put on trial for their crime. Many other South Africans had seen their loved ones disappear, die under suspicious circumstances, or become the victims of torture and felt such atrocities could not just be forgotten. Indeed, many people feared that unless the secrets of the past were exposed the fragile new democracy would be undermined.
Ideally, all victims of human rights abuses would receive justice, and all perpetrators and those who gave them the orders to commit their crimes would be punished. Some in the ANC wanted trials of apartheid officials similar to the Nuremberg trial at the end of World War II, in which the leading Nazis were charged and tried for their horrendous crimes (twelve were sentenced to death). But in South Africa, there had been no victory over a defeated enemy, and the very nature of the negotiated settlement precluded a Nuremberg-type trial. Some suspected there was even a secret agreement between the National Party and the ANC that the apartheid politicians should not be put on trial. So while some, such as the Biko family, continued to demand justice, others were prepared to accept that in the interests of national reconciliation, it was necessary to provide for a process by which people could obtain amnesty for past offenses. The ANC decided that if the perpetrators revealed what had happened they would be given amnesty for their acts, since the acts had been committed during a struggle that was now over. As part of the negotiated settlement founding democratic South Africa and paving the way for majority rule, it was agreed that a clause should be inserted at the end of the interim constitution of 1993 to deal with the question of amnesty. The clause stated, "in order to advance … reconciliation and reconstruction, amnesty shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offenses associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past." In not speaking of a blanket amnesty, it left the door open to amnesty being granted on certain conditions, and out of that clause the Truth and Reconciliation Commission grew.
Nelson Mandela was elected the first president of a democratic South Africa in 1994. Dullah Omar, the Minister of Justice in Nelson Mandela's first government, introduced in 1995 legislation into the first democratic Parliament to establish a Commission to deal with "the conflicts of the past." The Commission would not only to find out what had happened in the past, but would grant amnesty from prosecution to those who made full disclosure of what had happened. The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act was approved by parliament after much debate in July 1995, after parliamentarians and others had studied truth commissions in other parts of the world, most notably in Chile. The South African commission bore certain similarities to previous ones, but there were also striking differences. Chief among these was that amnesty would only be granted on "full disclosure" of what had happened.
Some South African lawmakers wanted the TRC to follow the Chilean model and meet behind closed doors. But it was decided that the hearings should be in public unless there was a very strong reason not to (and few hearings were held in private). The Commission was designed to bring about a process of healing, and for that a public catharsis was needed. After the hearings, it was hoped, the country could "put the past behind it" and move into a new future, after the truth about the conflicts of the past had been revealed and a measure of reconciliation achieved.
President Mandela, in consultation with his cabinet, appointed the members of the Commission. Public nominations were called for and interviews held, after which the president decided on the final appointees. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed as chair of the Commission, with Dr. Alex Boraine, an ex-minister of religion and parliamentarian, as his deputy. Critics of the Commission were later to allege that those appointed were mainly ANC supporters, and that flawed the entire process. It was certainly the case that the great majority of commissioners had a strong anti-apartheid background, but once appointed to the commission, they were required to be evenhanded. A panel of judges was appointed to decide on amnesty for political offenders.
The Commission had a complex structure. Separate committees were appointed, one on Human Rights Violations, another on Amnesty, and a third on Reparation and Rehabilitation, while a Research Department investigated human rights' violations and played a crucial role in drawing up the detailed five-volume report, which the TRC published in October 1998.
The Work of the Commission
The Commission was required to investigate "the conflicts of the past," and the first volume of its report did provide a general historical context to the events it investigated. But those events were necessarily specific and individual, and there were numerous aspects of apartheid and the resistance to it, which the Commission did not explore at all. Its life was to be only two years, for it was thought that the Commission's work should be completed before the second democratic elections, due in mid-1999. Yet, there were far more amnesty applications than had been expected and the amnesty hearings continued into 2000.
Given the limited time available to it, the Commission had to limit the scope of its work. The first important limitation to its work was that the period it was to explore was to begin on March 21, 1960, the date of the Sharpeville massacre, in which sixty-nine unarmed people had been shot by the police outside the Sharpeville police station when demonstrating against the pass laws. There was no doubt that the massacre was a major turning point in the history of apartheid rule, but apartheid rule had begun in 1948 and racial segregation in South Africa had an even longer history. The major piece of legislation dividing the land dated from 1913, for example. A full understanding of the conflict that had led to the military struggle of the last decades of apartheid rule would have required a detailed examination of the earlier period. In the event, most of the TRC's work concerned the years from the early 1970s. As apartheid had moved into a reform phase from the early 1970s it had also become more repressive and human rights violations had greatly increased.
As the TRC hearings revealed, this repression was for complex reasons. In the aftermath of the Rhodesian bush war, which had failed to prevent the coming to power in Zimbabwe (formerly ruled by a white minority) of the radical (black African) Mugabe, many disgruntled whites returned to South Africa determined to do anything needed to prevent a similar development in South Africa. A number of men who had been involved in atrocities in South Africa's war against the South West African People's Organisation in Namibia—the most notorious was Eugene de Kock, who became head of the Vlakplaas unit—now returned to South Africa, and began to use the methods they learned in Namibia. Deaths in police custody in the 1970s had become almost routine until the Biko killing, and had led to inquests in which considerable evidence had emerged regarding police methods, even if culpability had not been assigned. The inquests led some elements in the security forces to believe that it would be easier to assassinate people and cover their tracks. This led to the formation of death squads, begun at Vlakplaas. This was also the time when actions by Umkhonto we Sizwe (also known as M.K.), the armed wing of the ANC, increased dramatically, with high profile attacks on the gas-from-coal plant in the Transvaal (1980) and the Koeberg nuclear power plant outside Cape Town (1982). It appeared to the government that the war was escalating—a war against a revolutionary force determined to create a socialist South Africa. In such a climate, some elements in the security forces—as the police and military were now working closely together in the National Security Management System devised by President P.W. Botha soon after he took office in September 1978—came to accept the need to use assassinations and other human rights violations as weapons of war, to turn back the "revolutionary onslaught" on South Africa.
It was, however, with the township revolt that began in September 1984 that the use of such un-orthodox methods reached the apogee. Behind the revolt that engulfed most of South African townships, lay a host of socio-economic and political factors, including issues such as high rents, poor housing, unemployment, and the deterioration of municipal services in the townships. It was a time of economic recession, and the introduction of the tricameral (three house) parliament that excluded black Africans; these issues and a new black local government system stirred the anger of the township masses. The rebellion followed a decade of political mobilization, beginning with the Soweto Revolt of 1976. From the late 1970s, numerous community-based organizations were formed, mainly to address issues such as rent increases, inadequate housing, and other material grievances facing the township residents. Unlike in 1976, in the 1984 revolt material grievances, rather than ideological ones, lay behind the rebellion. Students demanded the institution of Student Representative Councils, an end to corporal punishment, free books and school supplies, an end to sexual harassment, and age limits in classes. These demands meant almost continuous school boycotts, arranged by the Congress of South African Students, an organization of high school students founded in 1979. The United Democratic Front, a deliberately loose confederation of organizations sympathetic to the broad goals of the ANC, had been launched in 1983 to protest against the tricameral constitution and the Black Local Authorities Act.
The actions of the security forces—raids, tear-gas, beatings, and shootings in the townships—inflamed the situation, and in many of the townships the system of control by the state broke down. The banned African National Congress had called upon the people to "Make South Africa Ungovernable," and there was much talk of "people's power." Township youth sought to direct the struggle against those with links to the government and many youths lost their lives in skirmishes with the police and the army. Some police and informers were killed by the "necklace" method. Tires were put over the person's neck and set on fire. In an effort to regain control the security forces used a host of tactics or "dirty tricks." It was at this time, evidence before the TRC suggested, the government decided to launch, at considerable cost, a chemical and biological weapons program, one of the purposes of which was to deliver an effective gas that could be used against demonstrators. This program would result in vast corruption—for which its chief architect, Dr. Wouter Basson would later be put on trial—and attempts to develop highly dangerous substances.
If the beginning date of the TRC's work was relatively uncontroversial, the closing date of its work did become bitterly contested. Initially the closing date was set at December 5, 1993, the date on which the transitional arrangements for the founding democratic election had come into force. Many argued that this marked the irreversible beginning of a process of democratization. But General Constand Viljoen, leader of the right-wing Afrikaner Freedom Front, which had not joined the process until early 1994, argued strongly for a later date, in part because some of his supporters had been involved in acts of violence after December 5, 1993. In the end, Mandela, in the interests of reconciliation, agreed to extend the final date to May 10, 1994, the day of his inauguration as president. This brought within the range of amnesty those who had been responsible for such crimes as the terrorist attack on the Heidelberg tavern in Cape Town, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) incursions into Bophuthatswana in March 1994, and the bombing campaign immediately before the 1994 election.
Recent History and the Future
The Human Rights Violations committee began in April 1996. Meetings were held at venues in different parts of the country. Victims of atrocities, or relatives of those who had suffered, testified to killings, abductions, torture, and other forms of severe ill treatment. Most witnesses told of security police brutality, and found it difficult to express any forgiveness for what had happened, though, occasionally, there were remarkable instances of reconciliation. According to Looking Back, Reaching Forward, the mother of one of those killed in the attack on the Heidelberg pub in a Cape Town suburb in December 1993 told the killers, when they applied for amnesty, "I am happy that you are well … You could not tell us here how you felt while killing innocent people, which indicates to me that possibly you have been trained to 'not feel' and I recognise how important that would be in a killing machine … I have no objection to the granting of amnesty for you … Thank you for being able to look me in the eye and for hearing my story."
Those who were granted amnesty did not have to express contrition, but merely had to make full disclosure of their actions, which had to have been done for a political reason. If granted amnesty—and only a small proportion of applicants were—they were then exempt both from criminal prosecution and from any civil action for damages. The families of some of the most prominent people killed by the security forces attempted to have this overturned in the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that they had a right to seek damages. But the Court rejected this, on the ground that the intention was to encourage the guilty to apply for amnesty. The Reparations Committee of the TRC would eventually suggest a large sum be paid to the twenty thousand victims of violations and their families, but the matter was then referred to the government, which by mid-2000 had made no decision on the matter. In the meantime, only extremely meager payments in emergency relief were paid out to victims.
Towards an Assessment
Much new information has emerged from the TRC, including information regarding the scale of M.K. operations in the late 1980s and the way in which people—such as Steve Biko and Matthew Goniwe, a leading resistance figure—had been murdered. Because of its amnesty provisions, the policemen responsible for Biko's death identified themselves and sought amnesty. After giving their testimony, they did not receive amnesty, however, because they were found not to have made a full disclosure. They claimed that Biko had hit his head against a wall during a scuffle, a claim that, ironically, ruled out a political motive for their crime. At the hearings, the TRC heard much about the work of Vlakplaas, a farm near Pretoria from which "dirty tricks" operations of the security police had been conducted. The TRC learned of the way in which a number of key activists had been killed and their bodies disposed of, including Stanza Bopape, whose remains had been thrown into a crocodile-infested river, after which the police engaged in an elaborate cover-up of his murder. The TRC was able to identify the remains of some of those buried in unmarked graves and to arrange for their bodies to be reburied.
Alongside the TRC, a number of key apartheid criminals were put on trial. Eugene de Kock, head of Vlakplaas, received a sentence of more than two hundred years for his many crimes, and then applied for amnesty for a number of them. Because of the work of the TRC, Dr. Wouter Basson was put on trial for his role as head of the country's chemical and biological weapons program, in which he had allegedly assisted in the murder of hundreds of captured "terrorists." As the state did not have the resources to put on trial all the many apartheid assassins and torturers, however, it was only through the TRC that the stories of their crimes came out. Some of what now became general public knowledge had first appeared in the alternative press from the late 1980s, particularly the Weekly Mail and the Vrye Weekblad, whose courageous reporting was now vindicated and authenticated.
What did not come out before the TRC was the full story of the chain of command. How much had the leading politicians of the time known of what was happening? Former president P.W. Botha justified all his actions as falling within the prerogative of a head of government defending his country against a dangerous ideology, refused to admit any guilt, and would not appear before the TRC. Botha's successor, F.W. de Klerk, appeared before the TRC, but he continued to deny concealing any human rights violations. He did accept responsibility on behalf of his party for "cross-border raids against military bases and facilities, actions in terms of existing security legislation and propaganda actions," but not for "murder or assassination or the kind of criminal activities that organisations such as the Vlakplaas unit and the C.C.B [the Civil Co-operation Bureau, a military "dirty-tricks" unit] are alleged to have committed." He said that he acted to deal with such crimes as soon as knowledge of them came to his attention, and he refused to apply for amnesty, on the grounds that he had committed no crime. Many did not believe him.
Much of what the military had done in the apartheid years was not explored. There had been many raids on neighboring countries, and vast destabilization efforts, especially after P.W. Botha had come to office in 1978. But the generals were able to argue that they could not disclose what they had done in other countries, for they might then be prosecuted in those countries. Attempts to get the neighboring countries—Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique—to provide reciprocal amnesty failed.
The ANC's record did not escape scrutiny by the TRC, though it had itself begun to explore human rights violations in its camps in exile before the TRC was set up. A relatively independent Motsuenyane Commission had, in 1993, severely criticized the ANC's security department for brutality and the national executive for not having kept proper control over the camps. When Deputy President Thabo Mbeki appeared before the TRC in August 1996, he commented, "We should avoid the danger whereby concentrating on these particular and exceptional acts of the liberation movement, which could be deemed as constituting gross human rights violations, we convey the impression that the struggle for liberation was itself a gross violation of human rights." Yet many believe that the ANC could not claim that everything it did was moral just because of the morality of its struggle. When the TRC's report was about to be handed to Nelson Mandela in October 1998, the ANC wanted it stopped, because of the way it sought, in the organization's view, to criminalize the struggle, but neither Tutu nor Mandela accepted this position.
The Inkatha Freedom Party was much less ready than the ANC to come before the TRC and much of the violence that had occurred between its supporters and the ANC, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, went uninvestigated. Some critics pointed to this and other major gaps in the Commission's work and called it a failure; others pointed to the Commission's successes and believe that by uncovering the truth the Commission has helped set in motion a process of healing. Others claimed that by opening wounds, the TRC helped to keep the hatreds of the past alive. In the middle of 2000, the work of its amnesty committee was approaching an end. Only with the passage of time will it be possible to look back and assess to what extent its work did indeed promote reconciliation in what remained a deeply divided country.
Davenport, Rodney and Christopher Saunders. South Africa: A Modern History. Johannesburg, South Africa: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
de Klerk, F.W. The Last Trek. London: Trans-Atlantic Books, 1998.
Krog, Antjie. Country of My Skull. Johannesburg, South Africa: Random House, 1998.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Report. Cape Town, South Africa: Groves Dictionaries, 1998.
Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness. London: Doubleday and Co., 1999.
van Zyl, Paul. "Dilemmas of Transitional Justice: the Case of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Journal of International Affairs, Spring 1999.
Villa-Vicencio. Charles and Wilhelm Verwoerd, eds. Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Zed Books, 2000.
1948 The National Party comes to power in South Africa on a platform of apartheid, which is severe and institutionalizes discrimination against non-whites.
1950s The African National Congress engages in non-vio-lent protests of apartheid.
1960 A massacre of unarmed protesters occurs at Sharpe-ville. The ANC and other organizations begin to organize for armed resistance. Years of mistreatment, including deaths in police custody and disappearances, follow.
1976 Police fire on unarmed schoolchildren in Soweto township.
1990 South African president de Klerk lifts the ban on the ANC and other parties and announces plans to negotiate for majority rule.
1991 Negotiations for majority rule begin at the Convention for a Democratic State. The negotiations continue sporadically, finally leading to an agreement.
1994 Nelson Mandela is elected the first president of a democratic South Africa.
1995 The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act is approved by parliament.
1996 Hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission begin.
1998 The Truth and Reconciliation Report is published.
1918- Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918, in Trandskei, South Africa, and was raised to assume leadership of his tribe. Instead, he attended University College of Fort Hare until he was suspended in 1940 for political activity. After completing his bachelor's degree by correspondence, he earned his law degree in 1942 from the University of South Africa.
Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944. After his acquittal on charges of treason in 1961, Mandela founded Umkhotno We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the ANC. While imprisoned for leading a strike, he was convicted of sabotage and given a life sentence in 1964.
Mandela was incarcerated until he was hospitalized in 1988, spending eighteen years of his sentence at Robben Island Prison. Under internal and international pressure, then-South African president de Klerk released Mandela on February 11, 1990. Mandela returned to leadership of the ANC, becoming its president in July 1991.
Mandela and de Klerk cooperated in transitioning South Africa to a non-racial democracy, and were awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. After winning the first open elections in April 1994, President Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and introduced sweeping social reforms. In 1996 Mandela over-saw creation of a new constitution; the following year, he resigned his post with the ANC and did not run again in the 1999 presidential election. After leaving office, he retired from active domestic politics, though he has continued to work to establish peace throughout Africa.
1931- Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is well known for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, for which he received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. Although he retired from church leadership in 1996, he continues to head South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to advocate for human rights throughout the world.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, South Africa. He graduated from the University of South Africa in 1954, and taught high school until 1957. In 1960 he was ordained as a priest and moved to London, where he earned a master's degree from Kings College in 1966. He taught theology in Johannesburg until 1972, when he became assistant director for the World Council of Churches. He served as dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg from 1975-76, and as the Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until he became general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978.
Tutu repeatedly risked imprisonment for advocacy of non-violent opposition to apartheid, and for encouraging economic sanctions against South Africa. In 1986 he became the head of South Africa's Anglican Church when he was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town. After South African independence he was appointed to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995.