Some time earlier this year Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a statement about white south africans not having responded adequately to the generosity of black forgiveness for South Africa’s apartheid past. He spoke of the fact that there was no mass apology from white south africans, no outpouring of remorse or regret.
I gave this some thought for a while. At first I thought to myself, “lets get over it” why is this man going on about this thing. Then later I thought that perhaps he is right. There is a need for an apology and an acknowledgment of wrong doing…. But how? Through what mechanism? Then I thought let me not bother about the great “mass” of white South Africans. Let me concern myself rather with my own experience and history. Let me make my “full disclosure”; but let me do it in such a way that others may join me if they see fit.
An so this little blog is born. Anyone can post a message here. You are free to “subscribe” so you can receive by email the contributions that may be made to this blog as and when they are made.
So here goes my story….
What troubles my conscience is the time I spent in the South Africa Defence Force from January 1986 to December 1987.
The country was going through great difficulty at that time and the South African Defence Force was a significant piece of state apparatus used to perpetuate and deepen apartheid rule. If the South Africa Defence Force did not exist; apartheid would not have survived as long as it did. South Africa would have been driven out of Angola and Namibia much earlier or would not have been able to establish a presence there in the first place. The ANC and other liberation groups would have organised with far greater freedom in Lesotha, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. If the South African Defense force did not exist, the State’s of emergencies declared in the eighties would not have restarded the mass mobilisation of ordinary people in the towns and cities to the extent that it did.
In short; the South African Defence Force prolonged and expanded the suffering of Millions of South Africans. If the SADF did not exist that suffering would have been less, and if people like me did not serve time in the SADF then it, in itself, would not have existed nor been in a position to cause the suffering it did. And therein lies my culpability. I served in the SADF. I gave of my time. I was trained and went into active service inside and outside the borders of the Republic of South Africa. For this I seek forgiveness.
I can of course not expect forgiveness from anyone if I don’t supply the full details of the actions that I would like to see forgiven. I will set them out as best remember them in the blogs that follow. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts, memories, disclosures (and photos) they will be displayed immediatly for the world to see at http://www.slegtroep.blogspot.com.
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2 thoughts on “Talk about it!”
Tim, this is awesome. At first I could not understand why you, of all people, would want to apologise for being conscripted into the apartheid “defence farce”. I’ve been thinking about this for 24 hours, and its beginning to make sense.>>I don’t know how to explain that sense right now, mainly because trying to understand your position is teaching me some interesting things about my own. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share those soon.>>Until then, I think instinctively you are doing something really great here.
Well as you will have gathered in other Slegtroep content by now I was fortunate enough to atone for my role in trying to turn the clock back, by exposing myself to jail and many other traumas, only some of which materialised, for refusing a “camp” call-up. Together with learning some isiZulu, this effort made me far more at home in the new SA than I could have been without doing so.