Khaya Dlanga

Malan owes his peaceful death to Mandela

2011-07-19 08:50

Khaya Dlanga

Before the angry commenters comment without reading, let me implore you to actually read right to the end, no matter how angry you feel.

Magnus Malan died yesterday on the birthday of the man he wanted to keep in prison. He died on the birthday of the man who forgave him for his transgressions against a whole population group. There are very few black families that were unaffected by what Malan did during his tenure as chief of the SA Defence Force in 1976, and Minister of Defence from 1980 until 1991.

As minister of defence, Malan's troops were used to subdue resistance against apartheid in townships. In 1986, after the state of emergency was introduced, he argued that political rights were not a relevant concern among the black masses. He seemed to fail to realise that the very reason he had to send troops to the townships was because the people wanted political rights.

Malan died in his sleep. Thousands of people died screaming precisely because of his department. When Malan was acquitted for his involvement in a conspiracy to create war between the IFP and the ANC in order to maintain white rule, then president Nelson Mandela said that the verdict ought to be respected by the nation. How he died is an indication of how forgiving the formerly oppressed have been.

I don't think that the formerly oppressed get enough credit for the patience, restraint and forgiveness they have shown over the years. Sometimes I get the sense that some former oppressors think that the oppressed were obliged to forgive. They were not. Neither was Nelson Mandela.

Instead the formerly oppressed are seen as living in the past. Dragging what has happened to the present. But this is not the case. The people have forgiven and have moved on, the only thing that pains them is the fact that some of the forgiven don’t want to deal with what happened. Why live in the past they say.

Addressing the past is not living in it.

The past needs to be addressed precisely because we want to avoid the case of people wanting to live there. There is no future in living the past. We know it. We have seen it and it was ugly.

In order for South Africans to move forward, we ought to speak the hard truths about our past, then we will truly forgive. South Africans are too afraid of dealing with the hard realities that we need to talk about. We cannot be afraid of ourselves. We cannot and should not fear our history. We should leave a better history for generations that follow. If we do not deal with this, they will have to. Because we were cowards. This won’t fix itself.

Forgiving was the right thing to do for the country. It was right for the oppressed and the oppressor. We all wanted to inherit a country, not ruins.

Therefore it is the duty of every South African to try to understand the other. The formerly oppressed feels as if their efforts of being forgiving go unnoticed. As if they had to do it. They see this in the manner in which they are treated every day. By condescending actions, by being disempowered here and there. In some cases by very subtle forms of racism that it becomes difficult to identify some of these acts as such.  They worry that they are not allowed to have a hand in the economic pie. Over time, this will build over and result in anger if all sides do not try to manage this. The forgiver feels that he is owed some courtesy, however he is getting it, but he only gets it because the law says so.

On the other hand, you have the former oppressors who feel that they have to protect themselves and what they have because they are in the minority. They feel that they are not being listened to, precisely because they are a minority. There is great fear in looking back at the past because to them, dragging the past to the present means that they are meant to feel guilty all over again. Why, some may ask, should I feel guilty for something I never did, for benefiting simply because of the draw of the card of birth?

If we are to remember and live the preamble to our constitution, it states the following.

"We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;                    
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

United in our diversity. How then do we become united in our diversity when we are constantly divided? The truth is we have not yet achieved unity as a country. On the surface we appear to have, but in general we not. In the boardrooms and in our work places we are. After that, we are no longer.

Therefore the question we need ask ourselves as South Africans, before we start pointing fingers at other groups in the comments section, what should we do in order to make sure that we are a united nation in our diversity? Yes we have problems and we all know what the other is doing wrong, but what can we do to make it better? What can you do as an individual to make sure that this is the country you are proud of? How can we remain united to fulfil Mandela’s dream? Actually, it is not just his dream, it is a dream we want. It is a dream we chose. Since we chose it, we have to make it work. If we are to have a blame game. Let’s blame ourselves, our groups and refrain from blaming the other. From there, we will be able to come up with solutions.

I wrote earlier that the oppressed do not get enough credit for forgiving. I suppose one can say that forgiving is not for the perpetrator, it is for the victim.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

Send your comments to Khaya

News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.