Khulumani Support Group

July 27, 2022 Sarah Slasor
March 1, 2022 Jesi Carson, Participedia Team
February 28, 2022 Jesi Carson, Participedia Team
February 8, 2022 Sarah Slasor
January 26, 2022 Paul Emiljanowicz
November 12, 2021 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
November 11, 2021 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
November 11, 2021 Paul Emiljanowicz

The Khulumani Support Group (KSG) supports the victims of apartheid and promotes government accountability and democratic practice.

Mission and Purpose

The Khulumani Support Group's (KSG) mission is to support the victims of apartheid and to promote government accountability and democratic practice. [1] It works to ensure that victims receive support – social, economic, physical/mental, and political – and create a space for the voices of members in a deliberative process so that their demands drive the organization’s campaigns, positions, and activities. The KSG works with other civic and community organizations to develop capacity for advocacy support in regional, national and international contexts. 

Origins and Development

The apartheid system in South Africa, based on the Afrikaaner principle of separateness, systematically classified people into distinct racial categories with corresponding rights and privileges. From 1948 to 1994, the apartheid system violently restricted Africans to overcrowded reserves and specific spheres of economic activity. All Africans not involved in the mining economy were displaced to reserves outside of white urban centers. Under apartheid, many people suffered mental and physical trauma, poverty exacerbated by the loss of family members or destroyed homes, and the inability to access education, social services, or basic support. With the success of the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela and his calls for non-violence and reconciliation, the National Unity and Reconciliation Act was passed in 1995 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) commenced. With Archbishop Desmond Tutu acting as Chairman, the hearings started in 1996.

The KSG was founded in 1995 by a group of survivors of apartheid human rights violations to provide support and assistance to people testifying before the TRC. The KSG has since expanded to cover a broad range of advocacy, campaigns, coalition-building, and interdisciplinary mixed-method approaches to assist those affected by apartheid and to hold the South African government accountable to its TRC reparation commitments. 

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The KSG's membership is over one hundred thousand and is composed of survivors and family members of victims of gross human rights violations under apartheid. Khulumani’s membership continues to climb because of the impact and scope of the apartheid system and its legacy.

Khulumani is governed by a Board of Trustees comprising persons elected by Khulumani’s National Steering Committee at the Annual General Meeting. The Khulumani Board is in the process of establishing an Advisory Support Group with specific expertise related to Khulumani’s core issues. The National Steering Committee oversees the development and support of Khulumani’s community-based membership. [2]

Khulumani’s National Contact Centre, now based in Pretoria, serves as the coordinating center of the organization and the point of access to the organization for the general public. Its management is the responsibility of the National Director assisted by the Finance and Human Resources Officer and the Member Liaison Officer.

The National Steering Committee comprises three representatives from each of the Provincial Steering Committees and meets as far as possible every six months to inform the work of the organization through cooperative planning and to advise the Board. The office-bearers of the National Steering Committee assist with Board with all planning and decision-making of Khulumani member groups.

The Provincial Steering Committees comprise representatives from different districts within each province and provide leadership on strategic issues affecting their regions of the country.

For a list of members and further information about the governance and management structure, consult:

Specializations, Methods, and Tools

The Khulumani Support Group specializes in using advocacy networks, creative interdisciplinary mediums, and a variety of support and campaign tools to support Khulumani members. The organizational work and mixed-methods approach of the KSG are centered on 5 principles: [3]

  1. To secure acknowledgment of what happened to victims through ongoing truth-recovery processes. Khulumani uses narrative, ‘art and memory.’ and oral history to document these histories and to produce publications, installations, and exhibitions.
  2. To support the collective struggle for social justice to fully realize the achievement of the TRC’s recommendations for rehabilitation and community reparations, and to promote an environment that supports the rule of law, that provides equal access to justice for all citizens and that promotes a culture of accountability. Khulumani pioneered outreach to its members to build capacity in access to and the use of information through the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to try to hold government at local and national levels accountable. Khulumani members have used their information-gathering skills to develop dossiers of information on the cases of the forcibly disappeared to advance the right to have all cases of the ‘disappeared’ investigated by the National Prosecuting Authority. Khulumani members have developed considerable competence in taking forward advocacy on the human rights issues that affect the members of their local communities.
  3. To work for the economic reintegration of victims and survivors through the development of livelihood activities in partnership with various agencies. The Khulumani framework for member enterprises is linked to activities that meet the social and economic rights contained in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to food, water, and sanitation, quality education, a safe and healthy environment, housing, and access to quality health care.
  4. To facilitate youth participation in social justice issues. Khulumani has a Forum Theatre group of young people who create pieces about problems and issues in the community as a tool for community participation in problem-solving. Khulumani has facilitated processes to reintegrate former combatants through skills building in computer literacy, oral history techniques, and community-based research into the practices of companies in different sectors.
  5. To promote justice and reconciliation globally through knowledge exchanges and visits to victims’ groups in countries in the African region and to international meetings where processes for achieving justice and the empowerment of the victims are explored.

Coalition building is also a central method for Khulumani advocacy.

Major Projects and Events

The KSG was a key member in the formation of the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice, which was established in 2011 with the aim of holding the government responsible for its reparation and policy commitments emanating from the TRC. [4] In addition to the KSG, this coalition also involved other South African civil society organizations: the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the SA History Archives, the Human Rights Media Centre, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, the Freedom of Expression Institute and the Trauma Centre for Victims of Torture and Trauma.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Khulumani’s Apartheid Reparations Database contains the biographies of both those who were harmed and those who participated in the struggle against apartheid. The database has informed Khulumani’s litigation against multinational companies, charging them with aiding and abetting the perpetration of gross human rights violations.

See Also