The eighth annual Sol Kanee Lecture on Peace and Justice was presented by Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela on Sept. 29.
Gobodo-Madikizela served on the Human Rights Violation Committee of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a restorative justice body formed out of the abolition of apartheid, from 1996-2003.
The lecture series honors Mr. Sol Kanee, a past chair of the Board of Governors at University of Manitoba, and was arranged by the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice of St. Paul’s College.
Through her work, Gobodo-Madikizela has witnessed the power of forgiveness in its rawest form. As coordinator of public hearings in Western Cape, Gobodo-Madikizela facilitated private encounters between perpetrators of human rights violations and victims or their families.
Gobodo-Madikizela has received many awards for her work, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award in 2007. She is also a published author and her opinion pieces have appeared in newspapers such as the New York Times.
Gobodo-Madikizela’s address was entitled “Narratives of Dialogue and Healing: Stories of Remorse and Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Mass Trauma and Violence.”
Gobodo-Madikizela spoke about the role of forgiveness in the journey of healing. She argued that although the people who choose to take part in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have committed mass atrocities, there is always room for forgiveness.
Gobodo-Madikizela explained that the force behind the commission is the importance of communal ethics. In order to deal with the shame of their past, the perpetrators must face it.
“This way they can rise above their sense of guilt which is so often denied,” she said.
Mavis Matenge, a PhD candidate in Peace and Conflict studies at the U of M, who attended the lecture, says it is these kinds of ethics that can help a community build peace in a way that is culturally appropriate to all of its members.
“Such an approach also helps create a sense of collective ownership of the post-conflict peace building and transitional justice processes being implemented,” said Matenge.
Gobodo-Madikizela says that through her qualitative research, she has realized that the ability to reach out and forgive is the truest experience of human empathy and “the essence of being human.”
“We are created for connection but this is ruptured because of laws and violence,” she said.
Gobodo-Madikizela explained that a sense of responsibility allows the perpetrators to come to terms with the truth.
She said that the dialogue process is a kind of self-punishment because the perpetrator must acknowledge, reflect on and revisit sites of trauma.
Rather than demonizing wrongdoers, the process presents them as “human beings who have failed morally,” she said, emphasizing