My en­counter with the man who killed my fa­ther

CityPress - - Voices - CANDICE MAMA voices@city­press.co.za Mama was only eight months old when her dad and the rest of the so-called Nel­spruit Five were killed in 1992

FOR­GIVE­NESS IS LIB­ER­AT­ING From left: Ash­ley Mama (older brother), Vuyo Mama (younger half-brother), San­dra Mama (mother), Eu­gene de Kock, Candice Mama (the au­thor) and Roy Mama (grand­fa­ther)

The Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity reached out to my fam­ily to en­quire about whether or not we would like to meet Eu­gene de Kock.

As many would imag­ine, it wasn’t a decision we came to with­out many din­ner-ta­ble dis­cus­sions and some trep­i­da­tion from mem­bers of the fam­ily.

We agreed to sched­ule our meet­ing for the fol­low­ing Tues­day. In the days to come, a sense of self-re­flec­tion en­veloped me.

My dad, Gle­nack Masilo Mama, was bru­tally killed in a vi­cious and un­just time in our coun­try’s his­tory. My mem­o­ries of him were noth­ing but com­pi­la­tions of dif­fer­ent peo­ple’s sto­ries and pic­tures we col­lected over time.

How­ever, the one thing I knew for sure about my fa­ther was that he was burnt to death by a man named Eu­gene de Kock.

I went on to read nu­mer­ous ar­ti­cles and books about the man dubbed Prime Evil and his legacy, which was that of be­ing the face and em­bod­i­ment of an un­jus­ti­fi­able sys­tem of hate and op­pres­sion.

Grow­ing up in a house where read­ing and in­tro­spec­tion were en­cour­aged al­lowed me to be able to con­tex­tu­alise my dad’s killing. Which, in my mind, made his death mean some­thing.

He died fight­ing a sys­tem and want­ing a dif­fer­ent coun­try for my brother and my­self, which we are ex­tremely for­tu­nate to now be liv­ing in.

This made me re­alise I couldn’t hate De Kock be­cause love and hate can­not op­er­ate in the same space.

If I wanted to re­sent him, I would never be able to fully en­joy the life my dad and so many oth­ers will­ingly or un­will­ingly died for.

So I did what I had to do and I for­gave him. He had robbed me of a fa­ther and I re­fused to give him the power to take away my joy and en­thu­si­asm for life.

Twenty-two years and a few months later, here I am with my fam­ily ready to fi­nally meet the man who took away not only my fa­ther but so many oth­ers – friends, hus­bands and sons. I was sur­prised at how I froze and al­lowed my mum to lead the line of ques­tion­ing un­til I be­came present again.

With ev­ery ques­tion asked and ev­ery an­swer given, my em­pa­thy grew for this com­plete stranger who spoke so sin­cerely that I couldn’t help but let my de­fences down.

I looked on in awe as I wit­nessed DEARLY DE­PARTED The au­thor’s fa­ther, Gle­nack Masilo Mama, as a young man my­self cry­ing not be­cause of who I had lost, but be­cause I saw a man who was cre­ated by a regime and who took the fall for a gov­ern­ment. A man who lost so much more than I would bear had I been in the same sit­u­a­tion.

I left hav­ing felt like I had just been lucky enough to meet one of the most bril­liant thinkers of my time and some­one who was also a vic­tim to a sys­tem of in­doc­tri­na­tion. I had for­given him then, but hav­ing met him, I can say I have been changed by this en­counter for­ever.

The ANC’s strate­gic ob­jec­tives are to build a united non­ra­cial, non­sex­ist and pros­per­ous so­ci­ety. I be­lieve in or­der to do that and ful­fil the vi­sion of the greats like Nel­son Man­dela, we have to go through the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process as a coun­try, be­cause there can be no progress with­out rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

As was the mantra within the strug­gle: “The main en­emy is the sys­tem and those who con­tinue to support the sys­tem.”

There­fore, should we not ex­tend a cour­tesy of fair­ness to a man who was or­dered to com­mit those atroc­i­ties in the same way we ex­tended a cour­tesy of fair­ness to those who or­dered him to com­mit them?

This doesn’t make Eu­gene de Kock a mar­tyr in any way, shape or form. It does, how­ever, mean we re­move the venom in our sys­tem as a coun­try to move for­ward un­crip­pled by the past.

As for­mer states­man Man­dela said: “For­give­ness lib­er­ates the soul.”

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