Alert! Of all those clamouring to comment on the pending (or not) pardon for Eugene “Prime Evil” de Kock, perhaps no one is better placed to lend insight into what the man and his deeds mean for South Africa – its past, its system of justice, its future – than Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, who interviewed him extensively for her 2003 TRC book, A Human Being Died that Night.
In a recent Mail & Guardian piece, Gobodo-Madikizela puts forth a carefully constructed argument in favour of the pardon. Her hopes are that the act would catalyse “a new politics of remembrance” among South Africans – one in which the socialisation of violence is recognised as a culprit as much as any violent individual. Keeping de Kock behind bars, she writes, “would encourage ‘the great forgetting’ – to paraphrase Adam Rothschild’s description of the forgotten horrors of colonial Europe”.
Wishful thinking? Here’s Gobodo-Madikizela’s piece:
A question that most people have asked concerning De Kock is whether he deserves to be released. Those who oppose the idea of his release say that he is too tainted with the blood of victims, too “evil” to be allowed to rejoin the world of moral humanity. Yet, how “innocent”, how “pure” is our society of free men and women? It is not very long ago that we witnessed our young white men being sent to fight the apartheid government’s war against freedom fighters across our borders.
De Kock was introduced to the badge of “evil” he has to wear through the same system of army conscription at the tender age of 16.
Where are these men who fought the same battles as De Kock in Rhodesia, Namibia and Mozambique, what did they do in the service of apartheid, and what painful and gruesome secrets do they harbour? Have we forgotten the times when we faced the cruel irony of watching or reading about black vigilante groups and young white soldiers killing black people in the townships in the name of rooting out communism?
- A Human Being Died that Night: A story of forgiveness by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
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