The day Eugene de Kock said sorry for taking away a father

2015-07-31 21:00
(Tammy Petersen, News24)

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - She had not yet turned a year old when Eugene de Kock emptied a gun magazine into her father and set him alight, Candice Mama said candidly at a dialogue on trauma and healing hosted by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation on Thursday night.

But when the communications and psychology student met his murderer last year, the last thing she asked him was for a hug.

"He stared at me and I backtracked, saying I was just kidding," Mama recalled with an embarrassed laugh.

"But then he stood up and said he was taken aback. Then he hugged me.

"He said: 'You know, I am sorry for causing you to grow up without a father. He would have been so proud of who you have become'.

"At the moment, this man became human. We had a human bond."

Mama, her siblings and her mother met De Kock in prison last year.

De Kock told her the details of her father Glenack Masilo Mama's violent death. Mama was one of the "Nelspruit Four" killed by apartheid operatives in 1992.

"I asked him: 'Do you forgive yourself?' He responded: 'How do I forgive myself for what I did?'"

She described the meeting as emotionally draining.

"It took a physical and emotional toll... What happens when you meet your father's killer?"

But by the time they took a photo at the end of the encounter,  she had decided to forgive him and later publicly supported his parole application.

"The spirit of forgiveness is like an investment in a person where you trust them not to do that thing again," she said.

This was met by nods of agreement from her audience.

The dialogues, part of a joint project of the University of the Free State and the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, saw Mama and Judge Albie Sachs share their stories about trauma and healing. 

Sachs, at the time a lawyer who defended those charged under apartheid's laws and statutes, went into exile in the 1960s.

He lost an arm and sight in one eye in a 1988 car bombing in Mozambique.

"I only lost my arm. But you lost your daddy, " he told Mama.

When she asked him if forgiveness was a journey for him as it had been for her, Sachs responded that he had never used the word.

"It was not appropriate for me, but it was for you." Sachs said that while forgiveness "fits into someone like Desmond Tutu’s belief system, that’s not part of my background".

He said he had, however, chosen "not to be trapped in history, but to turn it around, into something positive".

Read more on:    eugene de kock
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