chapter  1
25 Pages

Reassessing South African truth and reconciliation

John Kani’s Missing and performative demands for justice
WithKerry Bystrom

Building on the deep if not always recognized links between theatre and performance, political communities, notions of justice, and democratic transitions, this chapter investigates the changing fortunes of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission through a close analysis of the prominent dramatist John Kani’s Missing (2015). It explores this play first in relation to Kani’s larger dramatic oeuvre, then within the field of South African politics and governance since 1994, and finally in a policy discussion on transitional justice spanning the United States, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Poland, South Africa, and beyond as it emerged towards the end of the Cold War. As it does so, the chapter maps shifting meanings and hierarchies of the key terms democracy, truth, reconciliation, and, especially, justice from the late 1980s to today. It ends by showing how, in contemporary political performances such as #RhodesMustFall demonstrations, the terms truth and reconciliation have been bracketed from political discussion and the order and weight of the terms democracy and justice have been flipped.