Has the failure to conduct post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission prosecutions in South Africa contributed to a culture of impunity for economic crimes?
The end of Apartheid and the transition to a new constitutional democracy in South Africa was ushered in by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The purpose of the TRC was to promote a dialogue between victims and perpetrators of gross human rights violations to try and achieve reconciliation in the country. To this end, the TRC was given the power to grant conditional amnesty to those who came forward to reveal the full truth to the country about the crimes that they had committed. Those who refused to apply for amnesty or who did apply but were denied amnesty were supposed to be prosecuted. A number of years have passed since the final TRC report was submitted and hardly any prosecutions have taken place. This paper argues, by comparing the transitions in Argentina and Chile to the one in South Africa, that the lack of post-Truth Commission prosecutions in South Africa has contributed to nurturing a culture of impunity for acts of corruption in high offices of state. It argues that in countries transitioning from repressive and authoritarian regimes to democratic governments, prosecutions of gross human rights violations are necessary for the creation and strengthening of the rule of law and a human rights culture. Therefore, the impunity for economic crimes such as corruption is detrimental to democracy.