Guilt speaks in back­ing SADF

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

I TAKE is­sue with Rod­ney War­wick’s be­lief that the SADF was a sta­bil­is­ing force, that there were only a few peo­ple re­fus­ing to serve, and that there were more women in the End Con­scrip­tion Cam­paign (ECC) than men (Week­end Ar­gus, Novem­ber 14).

I was not a leader in the ECC nor a very se­ri­ous ac­tivist but rather some­one who be­came in­volved be­cause con­scrip­tion was a deeply per­sonal is­sue. Against the wishes and ad­vice of my fam­ily I chose not to serve in the SADF be­cause I did not want to take up arms in sup­port of the Na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment and their crazy poli­cies.

While only a small num­ber were brave enough to go to jail for ob­ject­ing to ser­vice, tens of thou­sands of oth­ers de­lib­er­ately avoided con­scrip­tion. The ECC pro­vided tremendous moral sup­port for those re­sist­ing the call-up and a non-vi­o­lent and creative out­let for the frus­tra­tions that we faced.

Rather than the SADF be­ing a force for sta­bil­ity as War­wick claimed, the ar my brought vi­o­lence wher­ever de­ployed. I wit­nessed atroc­i­ties by the army and po­lice in Cross­roads and KTC. I was also de­tained without trial and held in soli­tary con­fine­ment in Pollsmoor prison for peace­fully protest­ing against the army’s in­volve­ment in the town­ships.

I have no re­spect for peo­ple who are un­re­pen­tant about serv­ing in the SADF and par­tic­u­larly those who at­tacked their un­armed fel­low coun­try­men in our town­ships. The is­sues in­volved were too clear-cut to be ig­nored or to make ex­cuses about pro­mot­ing sta­bil­ity and pre­vent­ing chaos.

Ev­ery­body had a choice and peo­ple like War­wick made the wrong one; that is to go into the SADF and par­tic­i­pate in a civil war on the side of what was in­ter­na­tion­ally re­garded as the worst fas­cism since Nazi Ger­many.

While War­wick was able to live “nor­mally” and em­bark on a ca­reer, many of us were un­able to hold down jobs be­cause of the state pres­sure around con­scrip­tion. Oth­ers spent time in ex­ile or prison rather than “re­port­ing as or­dered dur­ing my sum­mer va­ca­tion” as stated by War­wick.

In­stead of mak­ing snide re­marks about the ECC, War­wick should apol­o­gise to the peo­ple of South Africa for not only wear­ing a uni­form that sym­bol­ised op­pres­sion, but also par­tic­u­larly for wear­ing it on ac­tive duty in­side his own coun­try.

I won­der how many chil­dren he shot at while on his town­ship camps and to what de­gree his present stance is an at­tempt to over­come his guilt by jus­ti­fy­ing his par­tic­i­pa­tion. YOUR ar­ti­cle “West­ern Cape schools join the quest for ex­cel­lence” (Oc­to­ber 17), re­gard­ing 15 West­ern Cape high schools recog­nised for “con­sis­tently de­liv­er­ing the right stuff ”, gives the griev­ously mis­taken first im­pres­sion that this is an ob­jec­tive, in­de­pen­dent sur­vey in which all the schools in the prov­ince have been in­de­pen­dently and ob­jec­tively as­sessed.

This is in­ac­cu­rate, in­ju­ri­ous and ir­re­spon­si­ble.

I write this let­ter not only as an ag­grieved par­ent but as some­one re­ally fas­ci­nated by how a news­pa­per sug­gests it is re­port­ing the out­come of an in­de­pen­dent ed­u­ca­tional sur­vey when in fact it is re­flect­ing es­sen­tially ill-dis­guised ad­ver­to­rial con­tent sup­plied by the de­lighted schools, re­lat­ing to a very spe­cific, highly com­mend­able pro­gramme with ac­cess via in­vi­ta­tion only.

In other words, if you haven’t been ap­proached to join the Alan Gray Or­bis Foun­da­tion or de­liv­ered suc­cess­ful candidates in the Al­lan Gray Fel­low­ship – whether by over­sight or in­tent – you won’t make it into this exclusive cir­cle.

This is no fault of the en­tirely laud­able AGO Foun­da­tion pro­gramme, which is en­ti­tled to nom­i­nate who­ever it wishes for what­ever rea­sons it chooses. It is just ques­tion­able jour­nal­ism on the part of your news­pa­per.

Red­dam House Col­lege – the school my child at­tends – stands tall among the ma­jor­ity of the in­sti­tu­tions re­flected in the ar­ti­cle both in terms of con­sis­tently de­liv­er­ing aca­demic ex­cel­lence and ac­tively stim­u­lat­ing and pro­mot­ing en­trepreneur­ship. And it’s not just about re­sources – some of the more un­der-re­sourced schools in this cir­cle may well stand out as cen­tres of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­cel­lence – it’s about the school cul­ture.

I’m proud to be a part of a school that is not only in the top aca­demic, cul­tural and sport­ing ech­e­lons in the West­ern Cape and the coun­try, but ac­tively nur­tures and en­cour­ages in­di­vid­u­al­ity, per­sonal growth, self-con­fi­dence and free­dom of ex­pres­sion – as well as pro­mot­ing the spirit of giv­ing back, which hap­pens to be the school’s motto: “We shall give back”.

There are many other schools well wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion which are not part of the Alan Gray Or­bis Foun­da­tion. Nu­mer­ous state and in­de­pen­dent West­ern Cape schools spring to mind.

So for­give me if I’m a bit miffed at your so-called in­de­pen­dent sur­vey, be­cause your cir­cle is quite sim­ply in­com­plete.

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