In 1993 Mahmood Mamdani first went to South Africa to study apartheid as a form of the state: ‘I realized that basic institutions of apartheid had been created long before the name and the state came into being. The ethnic cleansing of the African population of South Africa began as early as 1913 when the Natives Land Act declared 87% of the land for whites and divided the remaining 13% into so tribal homelands into which to herd the native population. These homelands were called “reserves.” I wondered why the name sounded so uncannily like the American “reservation.” ‘
Because the (South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission) focused on perpetrators and overlooked the beneficiaries of mass violations of rights abuses – such as the pass laws and forced expulsions – it allowed the vast majority of white South Africans to go away thinking that they had little to do with these atrocities. Indeed, most did learn nothing new. The alternative would have been for the TRC to show white South Africans that no matter what their political views – whether they were for, against or indifferent to apartheid – they were all its beneficiaries, whether it was a matter of the residential areas where they lived, the jobs they held, the schools they went to, the taxes they did or did not pay, or the cheap labour they employed.