My PhD examines the effectiveness of truth commissions as a mechanism for dealing with past human rights abuses in transitional societies. In this research, South Africa serves as a case study through which to consider the issues pertaining to a wider situation of a world that is fast resorting to truth commissions in order to address past human rights violations.
It focuses upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process in South Africa, and specifically its recommendation of a one-off “solidarity tax”. The proposed solidarity tax was a major TRC recommendation in response to appalling levels of poverty and a widening gap between rich and poor in the country. The taxes were proposed in consideration of historical injustices that had occurred during decades before South Africa achieved democracy, in 1994. It is for this period when the apartheid government systematically excluded black people - from meaningful participation in the country's economy that, the TRC argued, that reparations in the form of a solidarity tax was needed to redress socio-economic harms initiated by apartheid and currently experienced socioeconomic harm.
The TRC proposed that the solidarity taxes should be imposed upon businesses which had operated in South Africa during the apartheid period in order to fund development programmes which would be effective in uplifting the marginalised out of poverty. This would be the way, suggested the TRC Final Report (1998), South Africa will achieve full reconciliation. This research examines this view and analyses the feasibility of implementing such a tax and the form the solidarity tax could take, as well as assessing alternative policies that may be needed to redress inequalities in post-apartheid South Africa.
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