The Mercury

Patriot dies in exile as villains live in freedom

GeorgeWauc­hope,whosaidhew­asframedby­afellow activist,couldnotco­mehomebeca­useacrimin­alcharge andthethre­atofarrest­blockedhis­wayback

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the Black Consciousn­ess Movement. It was during his stay in Harare that he completed his theologica­l studies that led to his being ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church.

In that capacity, he ministered to the Anglican flock in both Zimbabwe and Botswana.

For some of us and his family, the heartache started when exiles were coming home in 1994 and George could not return because a warrant for his arrest was awaiting execution. The democratic order he sacrificed so much for was waiting to pounce on him.

The irony that riles us is that the villains who murdered political activists in a failed attempt to preserve oppression, such as Dirk Coetzee, Joe Mamasela, Craig Williamson and many others, are walking our streets as free men, enjoying the liberty that Wauchope could only imagine.

He sneaked into the country from Botswana a few times to bury relatives, only to beat a hasty and undignifie­d retreat through the bush when his presence in South Africa was detected by the police.

At the behest of Azapo, I met successive ministers of safety and security and of justice to seek ways of helping George to come home.

While they all understood the political and moral dilemma presented by his continued exile, they had no legal power to interfere with a warrant that awaited execution.

Most suggested that the best option was for him to come back, get arrested and clear his name through the courts.

But that was not an easy route, especially much later when his illness intensifie­d.

The thought of him being detained, perhaps refused bail on the basis of his having skipped bail before, and then standing trial while so ill, could not sit well with most of us. It was not a gamble we could easily contemplat­e.

In response to the suggestion that he “confess his deeds” to the Truth Commission, to enable him to get a pardon so that he could come back home, George insisted that he had nothing to declare as he was framed.

As a highly principled man, he maintained that it was only people who had committed gross human rights violations who could submit to that commission.

Because he was never tried and convicted of a crime, his case fell outside the work of the panel appointed by the president, chaired by Tertius Delport, a member of parliament, to advise on the possible pardon of political activists who might have been bypassed by the Truth Commission process.

In the case of George Wauchope, it seems every legal technicali­ty that could stand in the way of his return home, stood high and firm.

The George Wauchope conundrum brings into sharp relief the fact that while reconcilia­tion between the oppressor and the oppressed was pursued at a formal level, the same was not done among the oppressed.

It is an omission that needs to be rectified in order to assist healing in the ranks of those who were “wronged” by fellow activists during those difficult times.

He asked that his ashes be brought home from the UK and be scattered in South Africa.

That’s George Wauchope – the consummate patriot!

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