KATHMANDU, Nov 20: "I got a phone call and the reception said that a man named Henri wants to meet me," Justice Albie Sachs, a South African constitutional court justice who retired recently, starts a personal story of reconciliation while sharing his experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there after the end of apartheid in 1994.
He sits on a chair in the middle of the podium, not trying to conceal one of his amputated arms. He also lost his sight in one eye after a car bomb explosion in 1988 carried out by South African security agents during his exile in Maputo, Mozambique.
The ´white man´ born a Jew, who got into the bad books of the apartheid regime as an attorney defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws,went on, "I remembered this man Henri who had called me a week before and said he had got the bomb planted on my car."
Henri wanted to meet him ahead of testifying before the commission. Sachs recalls Henri walking with a military swagger toward his office and him trying to slow Henri down. Henri talked about everything, and without any hint of remorse. "At the end, I said ´I used to shake hands at the end of a meeting before (car explosion). May be one day…´ and left without shaking his hand," Justice Sachs reminisces. "He returned a defeated man," he adds.
Justice Sachs then went on with his keynote address during the Nepal Peace Panel on the fourth and last day of the 2009 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference at Soaltee Crowne Plaza Thursday with Krishna Sitaula of Nepali Congress, Pradeep Gyawali of CPN-UML and Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara--persons directly involved in Nepal´s peace process-- as panelists.
He talked about the dilemma facing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission regarding what to do with security personnel perpetrating crime and atrocities during the apartheid regime. The interim constitution there made no mention of the amnesty promised by their white bosses to security personnel during apartheid.
"The security persons didn´t threaten a coup. They just said they would resign and would not be doing their duty defending against the extreme rightists, if they ultimately were to be punished," Justice Sachs says.
The commission felt for them and organized open hearings that were telecast live across the country. He cited the example of a police sergeant who headed the interrogation department in Cape Town. "He was asked how he could cover the heads of detainees with a cloth for torture and he had a man lie down on the floor and showed how he did it and ended up in tears at the end of it."
There were numerous confessions--many of them came without being summoned, to lift their guilt --before the commission from security personnel. "Their children would see them on television and ask ´Daddy did you do that?´ The wives would say ´So that was what you were doing all the time?´" Justice Sachs says.
"So, it was not impunity. It was acknowledgment. Truth Commission converted knowledge (of atrocities) into acknowledgments," Justice Sachs reasons.
He also said the commission established that an atrocity was an atrocity, whether it was committed by the regime or the African National Commission (ANC). "Though 85 percent of the South Africans are black, the ANC men apologized for the killings and sufferings they afflicted," he discloses.
He argued that reconciliation was needed because if they had a white memory and a black memory of the past, they would not have a better common future for South Africa. "It (reconciliation) meant all of us were living in the same country as equal human beings."
Concluding his keynote address, Justice Sachs returned to the Henri story he started with. "Months passed, and I´m at a party at the end of the year, and the band is playing. I´m very tired. I hear a voice says, ´Albie!´. I looked around. And it´s Henri.
"Henri said he went to the Truth Commission, and spoke to Bobby and Sue and Farouk. He was calling me Albie. He was using the first names of people who were put into exile with me, who also could have been victims of the bomb," Justice Sachs goes on.
"He said he told them everything and he reminded that I had said may be one day... And I put out my hand and shook his hand. He went away elated, and I almost fainted." While South Africa became reconciled Justice Sachs also had a personal reconciliation.
I am not reconciled yet this reconciliation idea is far fetched and needs loads of time to be corrected in a millieau of ANC lies and untruth and sweeping facts under carpets (e.g> camp 32 or Quatro )etc their own membership are equally hard pressed to find reconciliation with compatriots :
here are some of my own accounts http://umkhontotruths.blogspot.com/ and the way forwards too: http://truthandreconciliationpartyofrsa.blogspot.com/