Pete Young (peteyoung) wrote in peace_studies,
Pete Young

Book review

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, A Human Being Died That Night: Forgiving Apartheid's Chief Killer, 2003
As a result of her involvement with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Gobodo-Madikizela went on to interview Eugene de Kock, the man dubbed "Prime Evil" by South Africans as a result of his years of covert government-sponsored violence against the ANC and other opponents of de Klerk's National Party. Clinical psychologist Gobodo-Madikizela has nothing to forgive de Kock for personally – she never lost any loved ones as a result of his campaign – instead her focus is on forgiveness as a useful tool (or otherwise) in a wider context, particularly as an alternative to revenge, when dealing with the actions of those who willingly destroy the lives of so many. Much of what she explores here is uncharted territory in terms of modern social experience, and where the focus of something like South Africa's TRC is rightly on the victims a degree of light also needs to be shed on the motives, conscience and possible remorse of perpetrators such as de Kock, who Gobodo-Madikizela now believes should be pardoned and released from his 212-year sentence. Some, such as the shameless Winnie Mandela, used the TRC in attempts to publicly absolve themselves of any guilt, while others exhibited an inability to empathise with the families of their victims at all. A useful, rare and rather far-reaching book in terms of what is humanly possible when dealing with extremes of violence at both national and personal levels.
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