Conference focuses on healing and justice

Director of the Institute for Healing of Memories, Father Michael Lapsey, speaking at the conference.

Until we can address individual pain caused by apartheid, we are not going to get meaningful national reconciliation, says new National Assembly Speaker, Thandi Modise.

Ms Modise was the keynote speaker at a three-day international conference organised by the Institute for Healing of Memories (IHOM), a Claremont non-profit.

The conference, “Healing Journeys: The relationship between healing and justice”, was held at the Fountains Hotel in Cape Town from Monday June 24 to Wednesday June 26.

It was attended by more than 100 people from various non-profit organisations, including the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, The Restitution Foundation, the District Six Museum and various speakers sharing their views on pain and healing.

Ms Modise said she, along with many South Africans, needed to find healing to fix the wounds of the past.

She was a member of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) and was imprisoned for eight years.

“My first year was hard because I was locked alone away from the other female political prisoners in a cell that overlooks the death cells in Pretoria. It was traumatic, we could not get any visitors or letters,” she said.

After 1994 she was appointed premier of North West from 2010 to 2014 and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces from 2014 to 2019. She is also the Chancellor of CPUT.

While the country had seen 25 years of democracy, not enough had been done to foster reconciliation, she said.

Land, the objectification of women, the issues of language, and discrimination based on the disability or ability to work were just some of the issues needing attention.

“We need to work on the minds of the victims, liberate those minds and by doing that we can liberate the wounds and let them heal,” she said.

Director of IHOM, Father Michael Lapsey, said he wanted the conference to examine transformative and restorative justice.

“When we don’t see justice, be it transformative or restorative, is it still possible to be on the journey of healing? Can I become whole, can I try even when I don’t see justice?” he said.

The conference also looked at the issue of gender-based violence and healing.

Loret Loumouamou, workshop organiser for IHOM, said: “We wanted to bring men to the discussions, we wanted men and women to listen to one another’s stories, to raise the issue of gender-based violence in order to bring change to the issue that we are fighting.”

Dr Samah Jabr, a Palestinian psychiatrist, spoke at the conference about the pain experienced by young people in Palestine and the psychological impact of poverty, home demolitions and poor access to education, health and social services.

“The barriers to trauma healing can be man made, deliberate, and a collective experience where we don’t have individual solutions,” she said.