In the wake of Adrian Vlok's footwashing apology, it has emerged that a growing number of black former apartheid security police agents are approaching a support group formed to help perpetrators of atrocities to seek atonement. Marjorie Jobson, acting director of the Khulumani Support Group, said most of those who contacted her organisation were channelling their guilt by making the first steps to reconcile with survivors and their families. Many were concentrated in the East Rand.
But white offenders still preferred using the services of the Lifeline call centre, so they could maintain anon-ymity. Jobson, who is also a Lifeline counsellor, said that when she did shifts at the centre, she fielded a significant number of calls from former white security police. "Most are just looking for a place where they can download."
Since Vlok washed the feet of former SA Council of Churches secretary-general the Rev Frank Chikane, he has performed the same ritual on mothers and widows of the "Mamelodi 10" teen-agers killed in 1986 after being lured into an ambush. Khulumani's East Rand facilitator, NomaRussia Bon-ase, said some black perpetrators who lived among the victims and survivors had come forward to ask for forgiveness.
Some were police and others were ordinary citizens who had been apartheid spies. "Most have a guilty conscience. They can't sleep at night. They have bad dreams. "We are trying to establish what they are prepared to do to seek atonement. "The willing perpetrators wanted to apologise and ask for peace. In most cases perpetrators were willing to give a reason for their actions," Bonase said.
But in some cases, instead of seeking atonement, perpetrators still wanted to kill survivors. The support group was still in the process of establishing why others were not willing to come forward. Jobson said that at Lifeline, "there are a very significant number of white people who have been in military activity and their lives were completely disrupted. "Most had been involved in killings on the border and cross-border raids. "There is no structure to help them out."
She compared the situation to the Vietnam war, where veterans were not considered heroes and were left with immense guilt. "These people need psycho-social assistance," Jobson said. The Khulumani centre was formed in 1995 by survivors and families of victims of apartheid crimes to expose the truth about disappearances, assassinations, torture and other human rights abuses condoned by the regime and to identify the perpetrators.
Khulumani is worried about how perpetrators who have not sought amnesty are dealing with their past deeds. Pierre le Roux, research information manager of the group, said it was important for people like Vlok to come forward and atone so that others could follow suit. In an attempt to get white perpetrators to come forward, the centre has a forum where people can share their stories of the past.