Many regard South Africa’s reconciliation process as a model for a search for peace in and among nations. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission played an admirable part in this. However, problems remain in continuing and completing this reconciliation project. For many the failure to secure social justice through reconciliation remains one challenge. At issue is also how South Africans deal with their fractured and painful past. This article revisits issues of culpability and responsibility by asking whether a primary obstacle towards reconciliation might be that South Africans, instead of taking personal and collective responsibility for reconciliation, have hidden behind two major and completely opposite South African figures: Nelson Mandela and Eugene De Kock. It is argued that the ‘deification’ of Mandela and the ‘demonization’ of De Kock pose an important obstacle for the acceptance of culpability and responsibility for addressing historic wrongs with a view to true reconciliation.
Mahmood Mamdani‘Reconciliation without Justice’Southern African Review of Books46: November/December (1996): 3–5 at 5; Mahmood Mamdani ‘Beyond Kempton Park: Reflections on Nuremberg and the Question of Justice’ public lecture delivered at the African Memorial Day conference University of the Free State Bloemfontein South Africa 14 July (2010).
Ibid. pp. 144–5. The fact that De Kock was a soldier specifically trained for what he did and his upbringing were perhaps some of the reasons why Gobodo-Madikizela found it in her heart to forgive him; his remorse was another. See also Jeremy Gordin ‘De Kock ‘followed orders’ in murder’ Sunday Independent iol News 10 July (1999) <http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/de-kock-followed-orders-in-murder-1.4864#.U8h46FaupVg> [accessed 17 July 2014].
PauwDances with Devils pp. 147–8(original italics).
Parker J. Palmer‘The Politics of the Brokenhearted. On Holding the Tensions of Democracy, Essays on Deepening the American Dream’Deepening the American Dream: Reflections on the Inner Life and Spirit of Democracy(Kalamazoo mi: The Fetzer Institute Essay 2006) Essay No. 8 <http://www.fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/resources/attachment/2012–07–12/dad_palmer_essay.pdf> [accessed 18 July 2014].