I have been reading and listening to the racial anger that is being shouted out from all manner of leaders in our country.
Although South Africa was praised for the Truth and Reconciliation process – many people felt that we did not go far enough. It was felt that there should have been apologies for many of the historical events that led up to our freedom in 1994.
Here follows a letter, written in 2002. Some of the role-players have passed on and others are no longer in their positions of influence – this does not change the principle, nor the opportunities that we have to heal. More on our Apologies Blog.
I would love to get your input.
A letter to the many people of Africa and South Africa who suffer, or who have suffered, as result of the legacies of the past.
During our workplace diversity training and team conflict resolution programmes we often come across people who are in pain over matters that happened in the past. Not only the recent past, many people are still affected by events that harmed their ancestors. This pain can be healed but often group belief systems stand in the way of peace.
Africa has a history of incredible harsh acts, programmes and policies by various groups targeting other groups. The British against the Afrikaner. The British against African and Indian communities. African versus Eastern South Africans. The “whites” against the “blacks.” The Afrikaner versus the “coloured”, “Indian” and “blacks.” Clan against clan. One political group against another. There have been far too many to mention.
These events caused a deep-rooted legacy of anger which will not be cleared until the “descendants” lay down the past through apology and forgiveness.
There is a fairly commonly held belief amongst the more traditional African cultures that one’s well-being and good fortune is dependent on the well-being of one’s ancestors.
Should an ancestor still be in pain because of a past injustice his living descendants will suffer. The only way that life can be lived normally is if there is an apology from the “descendants” of the original perpetrators and if that apology is accepted. At this point the living can move on and their lives will become far better.
Thus the apology by the British government to the descendants of a Zulu King, who was buried in manacles and recently exhumed and re-buried a “free” man, has healed the spirits and souls of many South Africans.
In the Northern Province we came across a young Bapedi man who could not look at any “white” person without feeling aggrieved. He was a young boy when he was caught up in the 1976 Soweto riots, where apartheid forces shot at and killed friends, relatives and neighbours. He watched many people die and still lived with the anger. Two “white” people apologized to him and his relief was visible and immediate.
Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe continuously brings up the terrible British colonial past. He uses his anger and that of his people to build the deep-rooted hatred of the “whites.” That Britain is no longer a “colonial” force is irrelevant. The damage has been done and the healing path has not been walked.
Tony Blair and his nation stand now on a “moral” high ground – founded upon centuries of injustice and domination. The result of the injustices will not go away without any action. If the British, through their leaders and Monarch, apologise there could be an immediate reduction in tension.
Yes, it is time for us to lay down our past, but not in the Western way of “let bye-gones be bye-gones.”
If we believe that past events were unacceptable and that we can heal the hearts and souls of our fellow humans, we must take the time to publicly apologise for the actions of our ancestors. In order to do so we must accept that even if it was not directly “my” or “your” ancestors who are responsible, in the eyes of those aggrieved, we represent the people/ ancestors who are.
Everyone, including the British government, PW Botha (deceased), the “descendants” of those who acted badly in any nasty or violent acts can heal our people/ continent through apologies. In so doing we will have a chance of a brilliant future together.
In closing, we the undersigned, unconditionally apologise to the people of Africa for any pain that I, or my ancestors, have inflicted upon them or their ancestors.
We ask them for forgiveness and wish that they are healed with time and that we can find a way to be humans together for a better World.
Written in 2002. Relevant today.