History for the Future

TRC commissioner Mary Burton praises radio and TV coverage of the hearings

Mary Burton has been a tireless fighter for social justice and worked for decades in the human rights advocacy group the Black Sash for decades, before being appointed a commissioner on the Truth and reconciliation commission.

Journalist Pippa Green spoke to Burton about her time at the TRC.

Burton says the way the TRC organised it's public hearings had a very big impact both on those who attended, but also heard and watched summaries on television and radio.

The radio was fantastic. it covered all of those public hearings so well.

Mary Burton, former TRC commissioner

Burton says people ask what we can do now to talk about the poverty and inequality.

How do we raise the level of concern about those issues?

Mary Burton, former TRC commissioner

She says a number of 'speak-outs' were arranged after the TRC, by the churches, but these did not continue for long.

The impact of the TRC on the country was very powerful, and she wonders why we did not learn from that, and use that more.

Burton says it is hard to keep the commission's work in memory as the report is hard to access, and the film footage of the hearings, most of which is owned by the SABC, is expensive to buy, particularly for NGOs.

She says she had also hoped that after the TRC, there would be an array of investigations into the broader structural effects of apartheid such as land issues, poverty and education.

It was a great frustration and a great disappointment to find that it didn't.

Mary Burton, former TRC commissioner

Veteran journalist Pippa Green's interview with Mary Burton forms part of a series, History for the Future , where 13 TRC commissioners look back at the experience of the TRC from the first human rights violation hearing 20 years ago until the conclusion of the report. They explore strengths of the TRC and its weaknesses.

They also reflect on where we are now as a nation, and answer the critical question: where to from here?

Listen to the entire podcast with Mary Burton below, and click to listen to other episodes from this series on CapeTalk and 702:

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