Has some one ever hurt you, harmed you in some way that has changed who you are irrevocably.How did you deal with it?Did you confront your enemy?Did you wish them dead?Or did you try to forgive them and to move forward with you life? But you are just one person now how does a nation come to terms with the oppression and the heinous acts that were the repercussions of a complete policy of racial separateness?That is what South Africa had to face and why they formed the Truth and Reconciliation committee (TRC).The book A Human Being Died that Nightby Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is about her experiences in the post apartheid era as a member of the TRC and her interviews with a manreferred to as “prime evil”.
Apartheid came into existence in 1948, as a result of several political moves aimed at removing blacks not just from constitutional politics but from citizenship itself (pp 143).The national party’s bedrock goal was racial, cultural, and political purity (pp144).This goal was accomplished through several acts passed by the congress.The effect was not only to legalize all forms of discrimination against black, but to disenfranchise blacks and reduce them to second-class citizens (pp144).In 1912 the African National Congress (ANC) was formed on a campaign for non-racial democracy and human rights, which black people were denied in the colonial era (pp144).
These two parties came to a head in an event that shocked the world, on March 21, 1960, when several thousand unarmed black people gathered in the Vereeninging township of Shaepeville and marched on the police station to protest the hated pass laws, and the police opened fire in the crowd (pp144).The response was swift by the government banning all anti-apartheid organizations and then passing laws exonerating police from responsibility in acts committed against those involved (pp145).In this atmosphere of total white freedom, is where Eugene de Kock came to be who he is known to be today “prime evil”.
“When violators of human rights allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable, they are giving others a chance to encounter them as human beings. When this happens, it is inevitable for one to wonder: If they can feel like human beings, if they can share a human moment with those on whom they inflicted trauma, pain, misery, why did the good side of humanity fail when it was needed most?” (pp16) This is one of many questions Pumla asks herself. Where did their humanity go and can they ever get it back?
A prime example is with psychological experiments in our own country into the mob mentality, where ordinary college students were turned into prisoners and prison guards.The guards took their positions so seriously that they began to abuse the prisoners and to violate their rights.This shows us how easily a normal human being can turn into a monster if given the right circumstances.And those circumstances where present for de Kock.He did some pretty heinous crimes against humanity during the apartheid regime.But do these crimes mean that he can never come back to his humanity.That his humanity is lost to him forever and he should always be punished.Some believe this to be true and that is why he is imprisoned for life every time he appeals the sentence it is turned down.
But in order to commit the crimes he did, he would have had to put aside his humanity, or at least the part that sees others as humans.In war one is taught to dehumanize the enemy it makes it easier (not easy) to commit the acts you have to against them if they are less than you are.That does not mean that you are less human and that you have lost your humanity but it does mean that you have to live with the memories of these acts for the rest of your life when you come back to the realization that they were human.
Morally I believe that we all possess the potential for great good and for great evil, given the proper circumstances.I would like to believe that I could not have done the things that de Kock has done but ultimately until I walk in his shoes I can not know for certain.I feel that the African concept of Ubuntu, (my humanity is strengthened by embracing your humanity) is appropriate for this situation where when all is said and done these people the victims and the oppressors have to live together and form a new nation, it’s not like you can send one part away, or punish all of the white people of the nation. But only time will tell how well this healing method works for South Africa.
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