The unreasonable demand to forgive the past in today's South Africa in the absence of an adequate programme of redress and reparation

Limpho Hani, widow of the late SACP leader Chris Hani and daughter Lindi at the Dawn Park cemetery. (Apr 2013) Limpho Hani, widow of the late SACP leader Chris Hani and daughter Lindi at the Dawn Park cemetery. (Apr 2013) Picture: TNA

Sisonke Msimang, a regular contributor to the Daily Maverick, has written a powerful piece called 'Limpho Hani and the Power of Refusing to Forgive'. (See attached below). The context is the time frame that has been given to Minister Michael Masutha, newly installed Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, by Judge Thokozile Masipa to respond to the recommendation of the Parole Board that Clive Derby-Lewis, one of two men convicted for the murder of Chris Hani, be released from jail on parole.

Sisonke highlights that Hani's widow, Limpho, continues to refuse to forgive his killer in a situation in which the unspoken rule imposed on peoples' grief by the TRC was that family members of victims should not be so angry, "because frankly, there is no space or time in this democracy for victims and survivors of torture and losses beyond imagining to be angry."

Sisonke calls for the voices of hurt and outrage of families of victims of apartheid crimes to have a place in our country today. She calls for an understanding of the value and meaning of rage in a country that has lived through atrocities which have not yet been redressed because no effective eparations programme to support affected individuals and families to heal and to see their lives being repaired, has yet been implemented in South Africa.

Sisonke questions the validity of the prevalent attitude in South Africa that the 'refusal to forgive' violates the unspoken founding promise of the nation that "black forgiveness would be exchanged for white loyalty to the country." She suggests that one reason for the lack of a groundswell of rage at the failure of the state to design and implement an adequate programme of reparations for victims of apartheid crimes is because Mrs Hani and 'others like her in the Khulumani Support Group' are somehow seen as "reneging on an unspoken post-Apartheid agreement".

Khulumani exists to work for the resolution of all the issues raised by the TRC and left unresolved almost twenty years later. Khulumani continues to ask the questions:

i) How can black people be expected to forgive the unspeakable things that were perpetrated against them, when there has been no equivalent acceptance of responsibility for the harms committed and no adequate remedies to assist affected families to survive with an adequate standard of living so many years later? For some 100,000 individuals in South Africa, these harms have never yet even been acknowledged.

ii) What if the state has failed to meet its obligations to provide adequate reparations within a reasonable time period?

iii) What if the door on all this unfinished business of the TRC has been prematurely slammed closed by government?

Khulumani has yet to hear a growing groundswell of voices of those who find themselves comfortably off in post-apartheid South Africa, calling for an adequate programme of reparations for victims of apartheid crimes. A stable and durable peace can only arise where reconciliation is built on a foundation of justice, redress, reparation and restitution. There is nothing for mahala!


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