Like many other societies that have dealt with the question of how to achieve closure
of a past of oppression while simultaneously working toward national reconstruction
and reconciliation, South Africa turned to the concept of a truth commission. Public
testimony constitutes the central mechanism in the South African Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) process. Through the use of social constructionism as a
broad framework in which the testimony method may be located, this descriptive
study examines various narratives to uncover understandings of healing and the
modes of healing invoked by both victims and those facilitating the healing process.
Two data sources were used: testimony transcripts from public hearings of the TRC
and transcripts from interviews with key players in the process. Thematic analysis
revealed that there are multiple understandings of healing but overall, the narratives
affirmed the therapeutic value of the testimony method. The central issue under
discussion in the article is the connectedness between individual healing and national
Pubished when Prof de la Rey was a lecturer in psychology at the University of Cape Town.