Historynotes More on reconSILLYation.....
- Nelson, "What's Going On.."
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: More on reconSILLYation.....
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 08:36:58 -0500
From: "Rodney Cash" <Rodney_Cash@...>
In S. Africa, Truth Panel Data Upset Parliament
Apartheid Battles Live On as Legislators Assail Each Other
By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 1, 1999; Page A14
CAPE TOWN, South Africa?In full-throated battle, South Africa's black
and white lawmakers waged psychological war. They heckled and harangued.
They shouted each other down. They hurled moral denunciations. Blacks
accused whites of having the blood of the past on their hands. Whites
accused blacks of using guilt as a blunt instrument.
When the 490 members of South Africa's Parliament gathered in joint
session last week for a debate on the nation's Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, it was clear that the effort to lay bare the nation's
apartheid past had become perhaps the most polarizing issue in
South Africa's political terrain may have undergone a sea change five
years ago with the end of repressive white-minority rule, but the
battles of the past live on -- over right and wrong; over guilt and
innocence; over national
reconciliation and whether it can ever be achieved.
Reconciliation has been a central goal of President Nelson Mandela's
government since it was elected in 1994 in South Africa's first
nonracial election. And although Parliament, on the surface, represents
the successful post-apartheid blending of all political and racial
elements, it is a fractious and inherently unbalanced body. It is
dominated by a black majority representing groups that fought the battle
against apartheid. It is led by the ruling African National Congress,
Mandela's party, which holds a 63 percent of its seats.
But black power is resented and feared by the white minority, which
politicians who were part of the apartheid system of racial separation.
Parliament is riven by racial friction, just like the society at large,
as a new national identity is being forged.
The bitter seven-hour debate in the packed chamber of the National
Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, was another official step in
the long process of national healing, intended to chart the way forward
now that the truth
commission has largely concluded its work. The truth-telling process was
intended to foster reconciliation by uncovering past abuses, offering
amnesties to perpetrators who confess their crimes and making
reparations to their victims.
But the process has been marked by the refusal of politicians from the
apartheid era to acknowledge what the ANC as well as the truth body say
is crystal clear: That murder, torture, abduction and other such crimes
were the approved policy instruments of the white-minority regime.
Although some apartheid-era officials have offered apologies for past
suffering, none has admitted authorizing or even knowing about the
Justice Minister Dullah Omar, an ANC member, criticized his white
colleagues as people who "arrogantly refuse to acknowledge that they
cleanse their hands, which for decades have been dripping with the blood
tears of millions of victims." They have refused, he said, despite the
fact that they "have been so generously permitted to participate in the
new democracy without recrimination."
Still, Tony Leon, the sharp-tongued leader of the predominantly white
Democratic Party, seized upon Omar's words as symbolic of the deepest
fear of the white political minority -- being subject to the whims of
the black majority.
"When the minister of justice says that certain parties are graciously
permitted to be here today, I say it is an infamous day because the
minister who is gracious enough to permit you to be here today will be
ungracious enough to take you away tomorrow," Leon declared.
Further to the right on the white political spectrum -- among the
Afrikaners who descended from 17th-century Dutch settlers -- members of
the Freedom Front and other hard-right parties are hard pressed even to
concede the extent to which apartheid was wrong.
"Mistakes were made," said Freedom Front leader Constand Viljoen, whose
still pines quixotically for a volkstaat, or territory for the Afrikaner
"Apartheid was an immoral and unjust system," said Marthinus van
leader of the New National Party, which -- before it started calling
"new" -- was the party that created apartheid a half-century ago.
Van Schalkwyk also touched on a raw ANC nerve. He said that torture by
apartheid government soldiers was no different from torture by
liberation guerrillas -- a kind of moral equivalence that the truth
commission itself made in accusing the ANC, like the apartheid regime,
of committing human rights abuses during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Peter Mokaba, a fiery and popular deputy cabinet minister from the ANC,
had had enough.
"Apartheid was not a mistake; it was a criminal system against
humanity," Mokaba said, to applause in the chamber. "Honorable
Marthinus, you have not accepted this."
Then, addressing Mandela, who sat through the entire exchange, Mokaba
"Comrade President, we are ready to forgive, and also not to forget --
but only when they accept the basis of our pain. They should not argue
with us about our pain. They must listen and understand what we suffered
at their hands."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
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