Wednesday, January 25, 2012
De Kock/Mlangeni meeting 'could help'
De Kock/Mlangeni meeting 'could help'
A well-prepared meeting between apartheid police assassin Eugene de Kock and the family of victim Bheki Mlangeni could help both heal, the Restorative Justice Centre (RJC) said on Wednesday.
25 January 2012 | Sapa
JOHANNESBURG - A well-prepared meeting between apartheid police assassin Eugene de Kock and the family of victim Bheki Mlangeni could help both heal, the Restorative Justice Centre (RJC) said on Wednesday.
Mike Batley, of the RJC said: "A meeting between them that is carefully prepared and facilitated by a trained and sensitive facilitator would probably be of immense value to the both of them."
Independent Online reported on Tuesday that De Kock wrote in a letter that he would like to apologise to Mlangeni's mother Catherine. He accepted he could not seek forgiveness from the murdered man, nor ask her for forgiveness for his death. But, he said he wanted to apologise for the pain and suffering he had caused her.
Mlangeni was quoted as questioning his motives and asking why he had waited so long.
The RJC said it was not about condoning, excusing, or forgetting.
Batley quoted Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: "Forgiveness is not pretending that things are other than the way they are. But forgiveness benefits the victim as much as, if not more than, the offender. It is never too late for this to take place."
Bheki Mlangeni died of head injuries after a bomb built into the headphones of a Walkman portable cassette player exploded while he was wearing them.
De Kock had been part of preparations for the bomb, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was told was actually intended to kill Dirk Coetzee, a former police operative.
Coetzee, who at one stage worked with De Kock at the assassins' base Vlakplaas outside Pretoria, later crossed over to the African National Congress. Vlakplaas operatives had included cassettes by Neil Diamond and one on Vlakplaas operational matters, along with the Walkman, in a parcel intended for Coetzee.
Mlangeni opened the parcel when it arrived and used the Walkman, sustaining serious head injuries when it exploded.
The RJC offers its services to victims of crime, as well as the perpetrators of the crimes and their families.
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:: WHO SHOT MY DAD ? ::
This article appeared in the UK's Independent on Sunday on November 9, 1997 and in the South African Mail & Guardian for the week of August 29 to September 4, 1997
I began searching for my father's killer in 1989. I was living in New York City at the time. I read in the paper that an investigative journalist called Jacques Pauw had blown the lid on a place called Vlakplaas, South Africa's Death Squad HQ. Horror unfolded in the forms of Almond Nofomela and Dirk Coetzee and for the first time I pictured my father's murderer as a person, rather than a state or a system. I called the New York Times and asked them to put me in touch with Jacques Pauw. As it happened Jacques was going to be in town the very next week.
We had dinner in a restaurant on St. Marks Place, later we walked the chaotic, carnival streets of the East Village and all the time we talked about murder and mayhem in a country more than half a world away. Jacques said to me that night that he didn't think I would ever find my father's killer. I was more than sure that he was wrong, I was absolutely certain.
Now my search is over. I suppose the story was never going to have a happy ending, but I never expected the truth to be so depressing. The truth is I will probably never know who came to our house in Durban that night in January 1978. I'll never know who it was that fired the shot through my sister's and my bedroom window, who it was that ran away from the house as my father lay bleeding, who it was that left me trying in vain to resuscitate a dying man.
No one has applied for amnesty for the murder of Dr. Rick Turner. Over the years there have been a series of leads, flutterings of hope when it seemed we might discover who killed him and why, but we've always ended up with the fantasies of cranks or hitting the wall of silence surrounding BOSS and the Security Police. This week I slammed into the very last cul de sac. I am tired of it, tired of returning to the horror of the night my dad was killed, tired of pushing and pushing to get to the ever elusive truth about who killed him and why, tired of doing this alone. There is a chance - because the cut off date for receipt of applications is an ever-receding one - that someone will. But it's unlikely.
I was not the first to embark on this quest. I took it up where my grandmother, Jane Turner, left off. My father was her only child. She devoted more than a decade to the search for her son's killer. I took up the baton when she got too old and too sick to investigate any further. It has been a strange mission, one that has taken me into the some the darkest corners of South Africa. The journey has brought me closer to my father, but never close enough to his killer.
It has brought me all too close to the kind of people that must have killed him. I met Dirk Coetzee in London, just after the travesty of the Harms Commission. He didn't know who killed my dad, but after that meeting I cried. I cried becuase I was shocked to have met a chaotic, half-crazed, human being- not a cold, caclulating monster. I cried with horror at the realisation that we were connected, Dirk and I. We were all too intimately bound up by violence that he had perpetrated and that my father had fallen victim to. South Africa had screwed us both up.
In 1993 I came back to South Africa to make a documentary for British Television, following up on all the leads the police had left hanging.
Too many people had mentioned the name Andy Taylor in connection with dad's murder for it to be mere coincidence. Taylor used to come to our house, checking up on my father both before and after the banning. So I called Andy Taylor and asked to meet him. He refused. He said the murder was a great mystery which had long puzzled him. I said it seemed unlikely that he had never heard even the slightest rumour about who the killer might be. Taylor finally admitted that 'it might have been one of our guys, but we kept our noses our of each others business.' He was sorry, but he couldn't help me.
In the eighties my grandmother had pursued BOSS agent Martin Dolinschek all the way to the Seychelles. In 1993 I found him in Zambia - in ANC 'custody.' We talked for several hours. He said he didn't do it and I believed him, but was sure that he knew more than he chose to tell me. Martin Dolinschek is now a senior manager in the National Intelligence Agency.
There was one fresh lead. An ex-cop told me that he had heard, through friends in the security police, that policeman nick-named 'Rooibaard'had boasted a great deal about killing my father. According to my source this 'Rooibaard' was killed in a mysterious single vehicle accident around April '78. The source suspected he'd been killed in order to shut him up.
Then there were the Sluggett and Beelders stories - both long and involved and not worth explaining. I think those people are cranks, that they are as deluded as their stories.
I went back to London to edit the film, knowing only that South Africa was still a place where assassins could hide.
Whoever killed my father had the best assistance in covering their tracks. Chris Earle was the investigating officer at Durban Murder and Robbery in 1978. I came back to see him in 1995, when he was a Brigadier in Krugersdorp. He was still convinced that the murder was not a political one. I said that, given the circumstances, this was a ludicrous suggestion. His hands shook, but he stuck firmly to his story. I'm sure that he was lying and that someone ordered him to shut the investigation down when he got too close to Dolinschek, BOSS and the Branch. The docket reeks of a cover up.
Then there's Vic McPherson. A couple of Christmases ago I found myself in the desultory, livid pink interior of the John Vorster Square Officers Club. I'd been taken there by Vic McPherson, an ex-Security Policeman who had been in charge of surveilling my father's house. McPherson is a thin man with a whining voice and a shifty, crab-like gait. I've met him twice and each time the smell of alcohol on him hit me from several metres away. Vic bought me a double Bacardi and Coke for every one that he drank. I was straining to keep up and to stay focussed.
Vic McPherson admitted that my father's neighbour, a man called Jack Tubb, was one of his agents. McPherson spoke freely of his close relationship with the Tubb family. At one point he remembered something and exploded into giggles, almost falling of his stool. 'What '' I asked, perplexed. 'No, no, no - I can't tell you. It's not something I can tell a lady,' he spluttered, shaking his head. 'I'm no lady,' I answered acidly, wondering to myself what kind of ladies came to a place like this. McPherson paid no attention to my reaction, he launched into his nasty little tale regardless, giggling almost throughout.
Once upon a time there was a little upset in the otherwise regular and orderly surveillance at 32 Dalton Avenue. One Sunday night McPherson received an urgent summons to the Tubb residence. He found the household in a state of uproar. Mr and Mrs Tubb's son and daughter in law were over for dinner. Jack knew - from experience - that on Sunday nights a couple of the students who stayed in my father's commune would go into the spare room to have sex. Not wanting to miss a trick Jack had excused himself from the dinner table and gone into the surveillance room for his own private peep show. Troubled by her husband's over long absence from their family gathering, Mrs Tubb went looking for him and found him masturbating in the shed. The dinner was ruined - as you can imagine. Fortunately for the Tubbs, agent McPherson was on hand to smooth ruffled feathers. The surveillance continued, Jack Tubb was never caught wanking again and Vic McPherson is now a senior offficer in our new South African Police Service - having been promoted several times since 1990.
While all this detail gave me a vivid picture of the banality surrounding my father's death, it brought me no closer to the answer I sought. Then, out of the blue, this week the promise of a breakthrough arrived in the form of documents. Sitting in his rental car in Church Square, Pretoria, an ex- Security policeman put into my hands a ream of paper that was 'lifted' from NIA files by yet another ex-cop - who'd taken them as 'insurance.' My source believed this pile of papers would yield the vital clue, the missing piece in the puzzle of who killed Richard Turner www.turner.ukzn.ac.za. After several hours of reading I had made my way through the entire document and I knew it held no such thing. All it does is confirm the extent of the surveillance he was under for all those years. The most chilling documents in the pile are 'source reports' from people who got very close to my father - suggesting that there was at least one spy amongst his inner circle of friends and trade-union comrades.
The only possible clue is an unattributed and undated list of suspects which includes Dolinschek and his brother in law; Wladimir I. Van Scheers. Also 'Nick Rossouw (dood)' and one Corrie Van Deventer. I've never heard of Rossow or Van Deventer before. Why not' Was Rooibaard Nick Rossouw'
One particularly creepy transcript, stamped GEHEIM, is dated March 8, 1977. It's a report of an interview conducted on March 1st of that year by Martin Dolinschek. At that point my father had one year left of his five year banning order. In that last year he was often depressed. In many ways the banning had worked, isolating him from his teaching, from the new movements in the country and from friends who were also banned, or elsewhere. So he had applied to leave the country, in order to take up a Humboldt Fellowship in Germany. Dolinschek was there to assess his application.
Dolinschek reports that 'No one but the subject and the interviewer were present during the interview which was conducted in the lounge of the house. Once Fisher (my step-mother) entered the room and was introduced by TURNER as his wife. She didn't say a word, gave the interviewer a dirty and hostile look and left the room ... During the interview TURNER was relaxed, though at the beginning he was nervous and his hands were shaky. As the interview progreessed TURNER became completely at ease and in fact acted a role of lecturer more than that of a person being interviewed.'
It was very strange for me to see this, to learn about my father through the transcript of a converstaion recorded by an agent of Kruger and Vorster. Scanning the page I could hear him speaking the words; 'I don't smoke, I don't drink, or take drugs and I don't agree with any person who smokes, drinks or takes drugs. I mean, I think that the people who take alcohol, the alcholics are on a par with people who take drugs. They are both dangerous.' I hear him expressing his rage and pain about his own father's alcoholism. Through this secretly made transcript I hear him rebuking me for a lifestyle quite different to his own ascetic one.
I picture my father sitting on the sofa in the lounge at 32 Dalton Avenue, saying to Dolinschek with his little tape recorder rolling under his jacket 'our problem then is; the White's short term greediness. I've got the moral point of view which is condemened anyway, but what worries me is - now I am not talking as a moralist, but as a social scientist - that Whites cannot get away with it in the long run. If the Whites continue to monopolise the resources in a way that they are monopolising the resources now, they are going to produce an explosion ...'
Later on, as he relaxes, there is a moment in the converstaion which I think says everything about him. Dolinschek asks 'what do you think about white consciousness and radical actions'' Then the transcript reports 'TURNER- (laughs) - what do you think about it'' That was my father.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission offered the first and last hope that my father's assassination would be officially investigated. It was a real chance to breakthrough the wall of silence surrounding BOSS and the Security Police.
This week sources within the Commission told me that their investigations have uncovered a high level cover up. But that is all. It seems the TRChave been thorough in checking out the police, but have they requested BOSS and Security Police files' Have they subpoenaed everyone I listed in my submission with something to tell us about my father's murder' If not, why not.
Alex Boraine, the acting Chair of the TRC, explained to me that ; 'the time one would like to devote to individual incidents just isn't available, there are so many others to do.' I do understand. As Richard Lyster, Truth Commissioner, pointed out to me; 'in Natal there are twelve investigators and four thousand six hundred cases.' Perhaps the Truth Commission's Investigations unit was doomed from the start. Perhaps it would have been better to call it the Verification and Research Unit.
And yet, in an important respect the Truth Commission has helped me and my family. We testified in October 1996. After the hearing I felt lighter. I felt unburdened. To have told my story, to have been heard out by officials of Mandela's governement, to have our loss so publicly acknowledged - it was very important. Perhaps the emotional closure is what's most important.
In the end it was my father who restored me to the present. We had been filming in his house in 1993 and when the crew had wrapped all the equipment and loaded into the van I spent some time alone in the house, saying goodbye. I stood on the place where he died and had a vision or an hallucination, I'm not sure what to call it. My dad and me were in a tunnel with raging winds pulling us apart, but we held onto one another by our fingertips. The strain of holding on was exhausting, but I wouldn't let go. And then he did. We flew apart and suddenly I was alone. When I walked out of that house it was into the present, released of a burden on of the past.
In a sense that should be enough, but it isn't. It isn't because I know that there is someone out there who knows who killed my father and why. It is difficult to explain this need to know. It's so powerful, so visceral. But it has to do with needing to shine a light into the shadowy deed that ended my father's life and changed the course of mine. Why' Will someone please just tell us'!
My father's mother is 89. She spends her days alone in a flat in Somerset West, surrounded by fading photographs, her still sharp mind betrayed by an ever deteriorating body. I simply haven't got the courage to call and ask her how she feels about the fact that she will probably never know who killed her only child, her beloved son. How can I confront her with the knowledge that her chance at peace of mind has dissolved'
It is very, very hard to accept that I may never know who killed him and why. It is very hard to accept that the truth will remain obscured. You see some body killed my father. Somebody shot down this man who spoke gently of reason and freedom, who swore violently at the failures of his DIY projects, loved bad English cooking and Elvis and Hegel. A man who was thinking about going for a walk on the beach tomorrow with his daughters, if only the rain would let up. What do YOU think went through his mind in those twenty long minutes after the bullet ripped through him' Those twenty minutes before he died' How much fear' How much regret' How much love' How much forgetting' How much forgiveness'
There are people out there who know the truth. Will some body please just tell me'
:: EUGENE : FROM APOCALYPSE NOW
TO SCOTLAND THE BRAVE ::
Date: 28 May 1999
Over the last year and a half, Jann Turner has visited Eugene de Kock in jail several times. She found him angry and haunted `Eugene wants to see you. He says he doesn't bear any grudges." The call came from a lawyer I'd met during my work on SABC's Truth Commission Special Report. Eugene de Kock had recently been sentenced to 212 years in prison for a host of appalling crimes committed during his time as commander at Vlakplaas, apartheid's death farm. Grudges' I wondered. What on earth does De Kock mean' I had never met the man. All I knew was what I'd read of his horrifying effectiveness as an assassin and that on one of the more than 1 000 pages of his amnesty application he detailed his knowledge of my father's assassination, which was scant and nothing new.
But I was curious. And so it was that I found myself, one sunny morning in September 1997, driving up to Pretoria where I was to meet Schalk Hugo, De Kock's attorney. I had no idea of what to expect. I thought of the movie Silence of the Lambs; picturing myself as Jodie Foster staring down the restrained psychotic form of a South African Hannibal Lector.
I had seen De Kock only once before, during his trial in 1995, and I remembered the pure hatred I felt as I watched him and the rage and disgust I transmitted when our eyes met as he scanned the courtroom. I chugged into the car park of Pretoria Central Prison at the appointed time. The only other car in the lot was a silver-grey Mercedes. Hugo jumped out to greet me. He was young and well dressed, not at all the "perp lawyer" I'd expected. I'd never been inside a prison before. Stepping into the maximum security section was stepping into a world I'd rather have remained ignorant of. I was struck by the sounds; of voices, of gates clanging open and shut, of jangling keys. Outside the visitors reception was a tall glass bowl with two beautiful fish swimming in it, sunlight streamed through the water illuminating their brilliant colours. The sight transfixed me. A man with a baby face and sly eyes saw me watching them and approached. He was the keeper of the fish. "They're called Oskars," he said. "They're hunting fish. If you put another fish in there the Oskars would kill them in a minute. They're very aggressive fish. Very aggressive."
In the waiting room I asked Hugo if he liked his client. He looked at me and said, "Mmm." Then he looked away, as if that discussion was over, but suddenly he turned back and said simply, "You'll like him too." Yeah, right! I thought. I don't think so. But Schalk wasn't wrong. A minute later we were hustled into the prison itself, towards De Kock, who stood, flanked by two warders, waiting. I was amazed to find myself extending my hand, but I had no idea of how else to greet him. De Kock's handshake was powerful. "Hi, I'm Jann Turner," I said, a little shakily. Then we were led into a consulting room. The room was putty-coloured, with mismatching chairs chained to the table legs, which in turn were bolted to the floor. A warder brought us a tray of coffee. I gathered from De Kock's manner that he had ordered and paid for the coffees. Three more rounds would be brought in before I left.
I didn't know where to begin, so I launched in with the obvious. "Mr de Kock, I got a message that you wanted to see me." He smiled, a surprisingly shy, nervous, smile. "You don't have to call me Mr de Kock - you can call me Gene, or Eugene - or whatever you like." He did have something to tell me. He'd read a recent article in the Mail & Guardian in which I'd raised some questions about the identity and whereabouts of some of the former security policemen whose names had come up in the course of my investigation into my father's murder. De Kock had the answers. I thanked him for the information and said I would hand it over to the police. He insisted that if there was any theory or name I wanted to run past him, that I should not hesitate to do so. Why on Earth, I wondered, does he want to help' I'm still not sure that I know. As it turned out the information he gave wasn't much use. But somehow a conversation flowed from that beginning. Looking back I think it was he who initiated it. He simply started to talk. He was angry. He felt he'd been cut loose by the generals and his superiors. He felt they should be inside with him. "When they start negotiating they have to get rid of the cupboard full of dirty tricks, so instead of being the blue-eyed boy who would be the next general, I'm the leper they must dispose of." His glasses are so thick you can't see the colour of his eyes. I found I watched his mouth more than his eyes. His politeness and intelligence disarmed me. His shyness took me by surprise, the nervous smile and glance as he explained that if he'd known I was coming he would have shaved. He said he didn't often get attractive women coming to visit him. There was nothing lewd or sexual in the way that he said this, it was an artless, childlike compliment.
At one point Hugo got up and left the room. I wasn't really aware of how long he was gone although for a second I was conscious of being entirely alone with "Prime Evil". I wanted to know how he felt about remorse and forgiveness. I said that if I did ever meet my father's killer I don't think I would care if he were sorry or not. He said simply that he would never ask for forgiveness because he didn't deserve it. If he were in my shoes he would want revenge.
I wanted to know how he walked into his house after a hit, how did he switch from assassin to father reading bedtime stories to his sons' He said sometimes after an operation he'd drink it out of his mind. Sometimes he'd go home and burn all the clothes he'd been wearing, then wash obsessively. Did his wife know what he'd been doing all those years' He said she had an idea that he was no ordinary policeman, but she had no idea of the extent of it. He said the strange hours and the travel took its toll on their marriage; she'd even thought he was having an affair. He said the night he told her what he'd been doing, when it was all over and he knew he'd be arrested, "it was like tearing my own heart out". He talked about the horror that comes back to him at night. How he smells it, tastes it, sees it and he can't sleep. I remember at the time I found that reassuring, such a man shouldn't be able to sleep at night.
He described himself as a "veteran of lost ideologies". His war was over, he insisted. What would he do if he ever got out' He didn't know. He didn't think about it. He couldn't think beyond this amnesty application. After an hour and a half or so Hugo said it was time to go. De Kock said he hoped I would visit him again.
As we walked out I looked back into the prison, he was watching us go. He smiled and raised his arm in a kind of salute. I waved briefly back, then followed Hugo out through the massive wooden door toward the green moat where geese and goats roamed freely and warders were playing cards at a table set up on the grass. The air was warm and sweet with spring.
As we drove back through the prison compound to the car park neither Hugo nor I said a word. Three days after that meeting De Kock was moved to C-Max and there he hit rock bottom. Former National Party politicians were claiming they knew nothing of the torture and murder of their political opponents during apartheid. At best, they said, it was misinterpretation of policy, but they took no responsibility for the assassins.
Now De Kock was alone. His ex-wife and children had fled overseas; many of his former friends had ratted on him at the trial. When I visited him after Christmas I barely recognised the haggard, thin, depressed and disoriented man the warders brought in. He talked about dying, he seemed to feel he deserved to die. That day I sensed he was changing fundamentally. There is nothing like staring at the prospect of life in jail to make a person reflect searchingly on what has put them there. I believe that is what De Kock had begun to do. He was overwhelmed by regret, he felt his life had been a destructive waste and he was angry with himself for having been naive enough to believe.
One February morning, at the Guguletu Seven amnesty hearing, I rode up in the elevator with De Kock and his guards. I asked if he felt the truth commission had changed him. He said yes and he said it so certainly that I didn't doubt him. "You see," he went on, "the only friends I have now are my former enemies." And as the year wore on De Kock was up and down; some days he felt the process was worthwhile, some days he was tired and depressed. He was shunned by most of the other applicants he appeared with, but applauded by audiences and even embraced by the families of victims who thanked him for his refreshing candour. Hugo said to me once that he was thankful he wasn't landed with any of the other applicants as clients. "At least my boytjie - although in some instances he did worse things - at least I don't have to worry about him lying." Hugo was up and down like his client, strained by the impossibility of judging the outcome; there are no precedents, nothing to suggest how things may turn out.
De Kock fascinated me increasingly. My friend Jon Blair likened it to the morbid obsession of one who is terrified of snakes and who can't resist watching them from behind the safety of a glass wall in a snake park. Most friends didn't want to hear about it. He's a murderer plain and simple, they said, he had a choice, but he became an assassin for an unjust cause. He deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his life. Nevertheless I felt I had an extraordinary opportunity to understand this man, so my visits continued. One day in the middle of last year I went to see him in the privileged prisoner's section of C-Max, where he still resides. The rain clattered down noisily on the corrugated plastic roof, we had to speak up to hear each other. He was unshaven, wearing a grubby orange C-Max boiler suit, but energetic and very up, not a trace of the blues he gets sometimes. He grinned at me. "It's funny, I was just thinking about you last night," he said. "I was thinking it's nice to have you as a friend." He was hungry for company and conversation. We talked about books; he loves thrillers, especially Tom Clancy and Ken Follett and John le Carré. His favourite movies are war movies; especially Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now. All muscular, testosterone-fuelled flics, yet it's interesting that they also document the descent into madness of individuals caught up in the horror of war. He used to own a tape of the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now. He has a radio in his cell and listens to music. His favourites tunes are Scotland the Brave, the great march of Aïda and Flower of Scotland. He told me his great passion is bagpipe music - he wants a single bagpipe to play at his funeral and it must play Scotland the Brave.
After nearly two hours it was time to go, we stood up, shook hands and then he embraced me. Just briefly. He told me to take care; I patted his back and said he should do the same. It was a fleeting hug; a brief, seemingly uncomplicated goodbye, but this was not an uncomplicated moment. I've spent years looking for my father's killer, for the killer, instead I found a killer - and for me this is about understanding. Something had changed for everyone else too.
In September last year De Kock appeared at the hearings into the Cosatu and Khotso House bombings. It turned into a Vlakplaas reunion. At the lunch break I watched as his former colleagues circled fearfully, uncertainly round the man who was once their lion. Willie Nortjie was there, one of the men who'd testified against De Kock at his trial. Nortjie approached nervously and I saw his hand shaking in Gene's steady one, his gaze flinching in Gene's unflinching one. De Kock must have been boiling with emotion, but he betrayed not a flicker of it. Afterwards he said, "Six months ago I would have puked on him, or probably six days ago. But now - ag, whatever, if it makes someone rest easier tonight then that's fine by me. Finally it just comes down to him and his conscience." From the look of him nothing rests easy in Willie Nortjie's conscience.
During Pik Botha's testimony De Kock got up and walked out of the room. I'd seen him do this before - he sometimes gets panic attacks. I followed him out to the courtyard where he stood surrounded by warders. "Are you okay'" He said he couldn't take listening to Botha. "Panic attack'" "No. More the moer in." Then he said quietly, "I want to ask him who I was supposed to hate so much that I had to go and kill them. Who'" Silence for a bit, then he looked at me very seriously. "Jann, tell me honestly, what are my chances'" I was taken aback, not sure of the answer. "Tell me if it's bad news. Bad news is like cancer. You have to face it."
At Christmas I had a terrible dream. I was in a prison, alone. There was chaos all around me. De Kock had escaped. In The Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lector cut off someone else's face and disguised himself with the mask. In my dream De Kock had simply cut off his own face and was now at large. I woke with only a hazy sense of the dream, but felt burdened by this terrible knowledge that he was after all a dangerous psychotic and I felt somehow responsible for unleashing this brutal man onto the world. I saw him again this week, just before he was to appear at the first six-month cluster of amnesty hearings focussing on his time at Vlakplaas. De Kock smiled and hugged me warmly. In the conversation we snatched as he was waiting to testify I asked how he felt. He said he hadn't slept properly in weeks. Terrifying dreams haunt him; in one of them he is being bundled into a tarpaulin and shoved under a bed, he's unable to scream because his throat has been slit. In another he's caught in heavy surf and every time he comes up for air another massive wave dashes him down and pulls him under. The worst, he said, is a dream in which he's choking. He wakes up and is paralysed, unable to breathe, unable to scream for help and then, after what seems like an eternity, the breath comes and he's sitting bolt upright in bed, gulping air.
The warders moved, it was time to go in. He squeezed my arm. "Now it's life or not life," he said. "This is it." And seconds later he was out there in front of the cameras and the judges, talking calmly of what he knows best - murder and mayhem. "I take full responsibility for all operations carried out by my men while I was commander at Vlakplaas." And, later, "We destroyed lives, ruined the lives of the families of those we killed, by living past one another we destroyed one another. It was a futile exercise; we wasted the most precious thing. Life itself." Finally, he said, "I would like to tell these families that I'm sorry. There will always be a yearning and a sorrow, which will never be rectified."
:: January 8 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Rick Turner www.turner.ukzn.ac.za. His daughter Jann Turner talks about his life and the lessons we could still learn from him today ::
Cape Town. Christmas 1977. I was 13 years old. That seems like a very long time ago now, in a galaxy far, far away. We were living in a period of civil war. Rebel armies, gathered in hidden bases, were plotting strikes against the evil apartheid empire. Security police storm troopers hunted down rebels and imprisoned or killed them. And the empire’s sinister agents continued to enforce the banning order that had kept my father imprisoned in our home for five years.
I saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope for the first time that Christmas and the mythical tale of good and evil resonated in ways I’m sure George Lucas could not have imagined. Otherwise it was a quiet Christmas in Cape Town with my mum. On Boxing Day my sister and I flew unaccompanied to Durban to spend the rest of the holidays with our father.
He was unable to visit us in the Cape because the absurdly titled “Minister of Justice” confined dad’s movements to the magisterial district of Durban, forbade him from teaching, publishing or even being in a room with more than one person at a time.
We knew the minister’s agents were watching us because they made their presence felt with the slashes they left in dad’s car tyres, the fire bomb they threw into our house one night and the truck-load of cement they dumped on our lawn for a laugh. We saw them following us when we drove around the game reserve, we heard them listening in on our phone conversations and we met them when they raided our house in the middle of the night. I knew they would be there over the holidays because they’d been there, on the shadowy edges of our lives, ever since I could remember.
It rained heavily over New Year. On the day the news of Donald Woods’ escape broke we went for a walk along the flooded banks of the Umgeni River. It was raining in the early hours of the morning of January 8 when someone armed with a 9mm pistol walked up our driveway and shot my dad through the window of my sister’s and my room. The bullet hit him at point-blank range. He lost consciousness almost immediately and died 20 minutes later in a pool of his own blood. The empire triumphed again.
Nevertheless I knew, as we buried my father with voices raised in song and fists raised in defiance, that somewhere out there was a force called justice that would ultimately eradicate the evil that had shrouded my family and my country in darkness.
I knew this because in the days after dad’s death Kim and I were taken to see Star Wars a second and then a third time by concerned friends, who tried to keep our minds off our grief and the horror of what happened. My 13-year-old self hooked into the logic and the language of the film as a way of making sense of what happened to my father and of what was happening to me.
Perhaps it’s not so odd then that it’s scenes from Star Wars that have flashed through my mind during critical moments in our history. In 1994, as I stood among ululating, toyi-toyiing South Africans in the ballroom of the embassy in Trafalgar Square, watching the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela, I recall thinking of the scene at the end of episode IV when Han Solo and Luke Skywalker received medals from Princess Leia in a ceremony of huge gravity and celebration. I am sad for my father and for my country that he never lived to see that day and to enjoy life and work in the new South Africa that I am privileged to call home.
January 8 next year will mark the 30th anniversary of his death but, despite so much change in the intervening decades, I believe his voice and his presence would make an important contribution right now. I doubt that he would have been at Polokwane as an ANC delegate, but he certainly would have attended the conference as an observer and analyst, very probably doing exactly what he did in the Seventies — standing on the outside of the institutions of power, analysing and questioning in that calm, lucid, humorous and, above all, rational way that was his.
I would love to talk to him right now about the leadership contest and its implications. I would love to have his thoughts and his counsel, because I’m not sure the result of the ANC election will make a difference to my feeling that some of our Jedi Knight leaders have gone over to the Dark Side, that power has corrupted ideals and that vision has been replaced by an obsession with careers. He would at least have offered me a more complex, and perhaps hopeful, explanation.
But he might well have asked, as I do — where is the contest of ideas? Where are the visions for our society and its future? Where are the manifestos of strategy and policy? All we hear and read is that both leaders are loyal members of the ANC and that they will uphold the policies of the ANC. But are we merely to expect more of the same from the ANC in terms of social and economic policy for our country? If neither candidate, nor indeed the party, is offering a vision of a better and more just society, then does the vote really matter? Have we all been caught on the hook of a huge red herring? And is the casualty not then the stuff that really matters?
We’ll only ever be able to speculate on my father’s views; nevertheless we can still learn from the example of his life and the record of his work. I believe that now, perhaps more than ever, those lessons need to be remembered and applied.
If you google his name you’ll find descriptions along the lines of this one penned by Gail Gerhardt: “Turner, Richard (1941-1978), Visionary academic who inspired a generation of young activists and helped galvanise the labour movement’s resurgence before his assassination in 1978.”
My father was born in Cape Town in 1941, the son of working-class English parents who came to Africa for a better life. He grew up on a fruit farm near Stellenbosch and attended St George’s in Cape Town as a boarder. His father died when he was 12, so it’s probably the influence of his mother, Jane, that formed the confident, widely read and thoughtful young man who registered at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1960 for a BA in engineering. Against Jane’s wishes he switched to philosophy in his second year and graduated with honours in 1963. It was in the early Sixties that the chances of meaningful peaceful change ended with the arrest and imprisonment of the ANC and PAC leadership. Opposition to apartheid went underground and the National Party state became a monolith.
Alan Brooks, one of my father’s closest friends at UCT, chose to get involved by joining the mostly white African Resistance Movement. Brooks was arrested and badly tortured and, on his release, left for England. In 1974 dad commented: “The ARM episode, in which disillusioned students tried sabotage, shattered their own and others’ lives and did great damage to the cause they were fighting for [and] made me acutely aware of the dangers of students turning to violence.”
It was central to his world view that intellectual activity was crucial to the development of a strategy for change and the creation of a new society. Tony Morphet describes this facet of his character well. “He was entirely opposed, as every detail of his life makes clear, to the concept and practice of a small vanguardist group. He was constitutionally incapable of following an orthodox Leninist or Stalininst line.”
Morphet also writes: “He never, at any time, entertained the dream of a short-term conflict leading to massive change. His concern was with the value-creating processes through which such a struggle would develop. It is worth noting the distinction he consistently drew between the struggle in Mozambique and that in Zimbabwe.
“As the Portuguese dictatorship collapsed and the Frelimo leadership began to assume control Turner taught himself Portuguese to follow as closely as possible the developments in Mozambique. He was especially interested in the ways in which the consciously controlled process of the struggle waged by Frelimo had developed and concretised the ends they sought to achieve.
“By contrast he was gloomy about the prospects for the resolution of the conflict in Zimbabwe. Violence, uncontrolled by any sense of ends, had already become the deciding factor and he foresaw that the vaguely defined and sloganised socialist programme of the Patriotic Front would simply be swallowed up in an unending succession of bloody conflicts. In the absence of any coherent grasp of ends and means, violence was likely to become endemic.”
This thinking was shaped in the crucible of Paris and the emergence of the new left in the mid-1960s where he registered at the Sorbonne to study for a doctorate on Quelques Implications de la Phenomenologie Existentielle [Several Implications of the Phenomenology of Existentialism]. He wrote his thesis on the political implications of existentialism and Sartre in particular. What developed was a radical take on thinking and teaching.
In an article penned in 1968 he wrote: “Philosophy or the philosophic attitude is the questioning of assumptions, the attempt to discover and examine the assumptions on which any particular argument in any particular sphere is based.” What he brought back from France was the idea that since we have created society as we find it, we can also change it.
The act of thinking in a utopian manner, that of envisioning a new society, is an important one, because that vision can form the blueprint of change and, therefore, of the new society. As Eddie Webster has said, Rick Turner www.turner.ukzn.ac.za took seriously the injunction that it is the task of the intellectual not merely to understand the world, but also to change it.
This was dangerous thinking in apartheid South Africa.
He’d married my mother, Barbara, on the eve of his departure for France and I was born there in November 1964. On our return to South Africa in 1967, dad took up a series of teaching positions before settling into a permanent post in the philosophy department at the then-University of Natal in 1970. By that time I had a sister, Kim, and my parents marriage was disintegrating. Kim and I remained in the Cape with our mother, while dad settled in Durban.
Once there he quickly came into contact with the leaders of the emerging Black Consciousness movement through which he met and developed a personal relationship with Steve Biko, then a medical student at the university. My father’s response to Black Consciousness and to Biko’s injunction to him to work on conscientising whites was an important one because it galvanised white students to work in the one remaining legal area of political organisation and opposition, the labour movement. “In an important sense,” my father wrote, “both whites and blacks are oppressed, though in different ways, by a social system which perpetuates itself by creating white lords and black slaves and no full human beings.”
It was through Biko that my father met the woman who would become his second wife; Foszia, who was a student on what was then Natal University’s black campus. Their living together contravened the Mixed Marriages Act, the Immorality Act and the Group Areas Act. Barred from a civil marriage my dad converted to Islam to marry Foszia in a religious ceremony that was conducted by an imam in the garden of Fatima and Ismail Meer’s house.
Tony Morphet writes of this marriage that it “aptly symbolises the barriers which Turner was prepared to break through in his quest for a life that unified consciousness, values and actions. The liberal ethos out of which he had grown consistently stopped short of such an authentication of chosen values, withdrawing rather into uneasy compromises which insulated values from actions.”
As a teacher he was exciting and intellectually invigorating. His classes were always packed and the informal seminars and lectures that he organised with Michael Nupen and others were hugely popular with students of all disciplines
“Education is not,” he wrote, “about
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learning a group of key facts in some special order. What has to be learned is a particular way of thinking, the ability to analyse, to think critically and to think creatively.”
Eddie Webster said of him: “Turner provided a generation disillusioned by the repression of the Sixties … with a vision — a moral vision — of what a new South Africa could become and a strategy of how we could reach it.” Halton Cheadle, a student of my fathers, says his skill lay in his ability to communicate the most complex and nuanced of ideas without crudifying them.
Cheadle was one of the students who, with guidance and assistance from my father and Harriet Bolton among others, helped to get white students involved in the organisation of black workers, spurring the formation of the Nusas wages commissions. With Cheadle my father was a moving force behind the Institute for Industrial Education and the South African Labour Bulletin during and after the Durban strikes of 1973.
In 1973 he committed some of his teaching and ideas to a book. The Eye of the Needle: A Guide to Participatory Democracy in South Africa was first published by Ravan Press as part of the South African Council of Churches Spro-cas report. Alan Paton described the book as “ an essay on our condition, as searching as any that has ever been written. Turner writes without vituperation of censoriousness, but rather with a quiet moral authority.” In a letter to a newspaper replying to a critic my dad wrote of the book: “Whatever it’s faults [it is] cheap, short, non-academic and free from philosophical name-dropping.”
The impact of The Eye was far reaching, particularly among white South Africans looking for alternatives to underground activism and the liberalism then on offer. And the political activity around my father did not fail to come to the attention of the security police. Morphet writes that the state’s security apparatus saw him as “a revolutionary and as a man with a charismatic capacity to mobilise others”. While he was far from a party man he “had the potential to draw together a new formation of opposition groups — a formation that might include the whole spectrum of opposition from exiled organisation to the ‘homeland’ leadership and rank and file to Black Consciousness and white activists and even to some elements of the Progressive Federal Party”.
And so the state banned him in March 1973, with seven national Nusas leaders and eight Saso/BC leaders, including Biko. He continued to advise unions and student leaders informally, but the banning order effectively silenced him. A brief respite from his non-person status occurred when he testified as a defence witness during the 1975/76 trial of the “Saso nine”. To its eternal credit the University of Natal refused to recognise his banning order and continued to pay him a salary, which allowed him to pursue his philosophical studies. In 1976 the government denied him permission to take up an illustious Humboldt fellowship in Germany. He was killed two months before his banning order was due to expire.
As Tony Morphet writes, so beautifully and succinctly, of the death of his friend: “What is lost to South Africa, but in the same moment affirmed, is the meaning of a life lived in freedom. Turner revealed to a society caught in the defeating logic of oppression the shape and substance of life conceived in freedom and lived out through the enactment of rational choices.”
And that is why I say it is in his work and in the example of the conduct of his life that we can still learn from him. I can hear him today, still questioning. While we have political freedom, do we use it effectively? Do we have a contest of ideas in Parliament and the country at large, or — he would have asked — does the ANC function with a lock on power and an uncritical constituency? Why is there no political sanction for incompetence and corruption?
I believe he would have been deeply alarmed, as I am, that the moral compass of our politics appears to have gone haywire under the magnetic pull of greed for money and power.
It would have troubled him profoundly that corruption in the police and low-level white collar and public service crime runs as rampant as high-level corruption and cronyism on government tenders. The extent and violence of crime in the country would have appalled him. And I think that he’d have been particularly upset by the state of our education system.
He would have been quick to ring alarm bells last month when, on the day after some of the worst education statistics in living memory were published, our education minister’s only comment was on the conduct of the leadership race in the ANC.
For me the sharpest instance of this moral confusion was the flying of our flag at half-mast on the day PW Botha died. Even schools accorded him that recognition. If we had any sense of right and wrong, we would have left his death to be marked by obituary writers and columnists instead of according such honour to a man who presided over one of the most vicious, racist states of the 20th century and whose legacy for most South Africans was violence and poverty.
But, while we have our problems and our foibles, as all country’s do, I think there would have been a great deal in South Africa today of which my father would have been extremely proud. He certainly would not have thrown up his hands at the complexity of it all and retreated to the turrets of a foreign university. He was above all a South African and an activist academic and there is no doubt in my mind that the force of his intellect would have been brought to bear on work here at home.
Reason and imagination. Critical and visionary thinking. Those are the forces he would have deployed. Powerful forces that need to be nurtured and safeguarded. Forces that are eroding and will fade if we let them. It would be the most fitting memorial to him if we were to resuscitate those forces in our daily conversation and activity and in the wider politics of our country.
May the Force be with you and with all of us over the holidays and into the coming year.
JOZI: REHAB CITY
Jann Turner: Second Draft
December 6, 2006
This Christmas will be my fourth without red wine and come New Year I’ll be toasting 2007 with lime soda instead of champagne. This might sound like a deprivation too stringent to contemplate, but for me choosing not to drink is a liberation. Five years ago I could not have imagined a sober holiday season. From my corner of the bar sobriety was an appalling and absurdly unnecessary form of self-denial. I knew I drank a bit more than most, but I certainly wasn’t an alcoholic. Five Christmases ago I drank so much red wine with lunch that I have no memory of the occasion, only a sickly recall of the following morning when I woke with a stomach that felt like it was being excavated with a rake, a head that throbbed like the light on top of an ambulance and a mind filled with paranoia, regret and self hatred. But I bounced back and within a few days was ready to party again. This time I bought cocaine to pep up the champagne and I saw in the New Year passed out on the garden path of a friend’s house. Next morning I felt not only deeply ashamed, I also felt cheated – I hadn’t even had fun.
Nevertheless I persisted for several months before concluding that drink and drugs were no fun at all anymore. In fact they seemed to take me deeper and deeper into a numbed out depression. A friend suggested that I might have a problem and gave me a number for someone called Dan Wolf who ran a treatment centre called First Step. I still didn’t think I had a problem, but I called, thinking I’d do anything to get help to feel better, I’d even pretend to be an alcoholic. On my way to the centre I had an anxiety attack – what if they turn me away? They’ll see that I’m obviously not in the gutter and they’ll turn me away and then what will I do? But Dan Wolf took one look at me and said he could help – if I was willing to do the work. Like everyone else who wakes up from the party that’s gone on too long I was desperate, so I said, “sure I’m willing!” But I had no idea of the struggle that lay ahead of me.
It’s a long haul back from rock bottom. There are essentially three phases to recovery. First there’s detox, when you stop using and your body goes through withdrawal as you break the physical dependence. Second there’s a period of learning to sustain your abstinence - this requires facing your denial and getting honest about who you really are. And finally there’s the challenge of living happily ever after – that is of soberly and consciously getting on with all too often mundane day-to-day of adult life.
By far the biggest obstacle I faced in treatment was my own denial about the seriousness of my problem. I didn’t end up whoring myself in Hillbrow, I didn’t sell any of my worldly possessions for drugs, I didn’t crash any cars and I didn’t steal from my family or friends or anyone at all – therefore I wasn’t really sick.
But I did take up a lot of oxygen when I was high. And generally I got there on a mix of booze and cocaine. I spoiled more than a few dinner parties with loud and obnoxious behaviour. I vomited spectacularly at my cousin Patric’s wedding – his bride’s family had to replace the living room carpet because the stains of my red wine puke wouldn’t come out. I spent around R50, 000 on cocaine in the two years or so that I used it on a weekly basis. Now that might not sound like much to your average MEC with a business lunch account, but to me that’s money that could have been spent on several great overseas trips and a whole number of other truly worthwhile things. I had a rule for my drug using that made me feel in control – I wouldn’t touch it while I was working. Inevitably my working week got shorter and I worked less and less. I became unreliable in every way – as a colleague, as a writer for hire, as a friend.
My pattern was to start with a glass of wine around sunset. By eight I’d be too drunk to take more without a bit of a kick from some Columbian marching powder, so I call a dealer and have him deliver a gramme or two to me wherever I was. By midnight or thereabouts I would quite suddenly have had enough and I would need to sleep. Sometimes I would pass out on a sofa, sometimes on a garden path, sometimes right there at the table I’d been drinking at. Most times – if I didn’t wake up and drive myself home I would be carried there safely by family or friends who became increasingly distant the more hectic my using became. Thankfully I have never woken up in a place I didn’t recognize or in the bed of someone I didn’t know. Incredibly and mercifully I never hit anyone while I was at the wheel of my car and in no state to string a sentence together let alone navigate a road. Physically I remained fairly intact in the two or three years that were the worst of my drinking and drugging. But emotionally I was shattered.
The day after a days-long binge I would want to die. And I would only recall snatches and flashes of where I’d been and what I’d said and done. The shame was as paralyzing as the physical poisoning. I empty as a coffin.
And yet I struggled with getting clean. I could picture life without drugs, but life without a nice Merlot on a cold evening, or a chilled Castle on a hot day? I mean, what was the point? At first I believed that rehab might teach me to drink in a controlled fashion – the kind of elegant and sophisticated sipping that they do in Martini ads. Dan Wolf smiled when I argued this. He used to say to me: “Keep it simple Jann.” He said that over and over again in response to my complex, qualified questions and explanations. It took me months to understand and accept that recovery was not about controlling myself; it was about surrendering to the truth that I am powerless over drugs and alcohol. I can never have just one chilled Castle on a hot day – I’ll have two and then three and I won’t stop until I pass out. So if I choose to drink then that is what I’m choosing – to be someone I don’t like being doing something I don’t enjoy. It was months before I could to say with conviction “I’m Jann. I’m an alcoholic and an addict.”
It also took me a long time to accept that I was in any way similar to the people around me in treatment – people who really had whored themselves for heroine, who had squandered their parents retirement funds, who had extorted hundreds and thousands from their employers and had even abandoned their young children. What on earth was the connection between me and the pethadine addicted Chemist who manufactured drugs for a West African syndicate and the middle aged men and women addicted to perfectly legal and perfectly lethal prescription medication? “I often find myself telling a housewife that withdrawal she is about go through is no different to your average heroine addict,” says Wolf. “It’s a tough thing for a person to accept that although her dealer wears a white coat and has a respectable business, she’s not much different from a Hillbrow junkie.” Most shocking to encounter in treatment were the teenagers - kids from wealthy backgrounds going to smart schools and addicted to marijuana, coke, kat, ecstasy – you name it, they’ve done it. Dan Wolf points out; “twenty years ago there was cocaine in South Africa, but had to be quite an operator to get it. Nowadays, hard drugs are cheap and easy to get hold of. There’s a whole community of dealers invested in making access to cocaine and heroine and whatever else you want, as easy as possible. If you forget to phone them then they’ll phone you.”
But why am I an alcoholic? One argument says it’s a physical disease like cancer. Another view holds that it’s a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. Both my grandfather’s died alcoholics. My father’s father from sclerosis of the liver and my mother’s father expired in a corridor of Groote Schuur hospital – he was withdrawing from alcohol while being treated for a cancer of the tongue acquired from his forty a day smoking habit. But my sister isn’t an addict; in fact she’s revoltingly moderate in all her habits except perhaps chocolate consumption. So it’s not just my genes that have given me this perverse gift. I think what ignited my addiction was too much loss in general and my divorce in particular - which left me with a terrible sense of defeat and sadness and loneliness. But I didn’t want to feel sad and lonely and defeated – who on earth does? So I numbed out the feelings with booze and drugs. And almost obliterated myself in the process.
At the time I believed I was a free spirit, exploring my own limits and those of my world. And Joburg is a great place to do that. It’s a city of extremes – rich and poor, sophisticated and crude, compassionate and negligent, skyscrapers and deep tunnels, diamond bright skies and shadow cold streets. And if you look hard enough you will find whatever it is that you need here; establishments where you can drink yourself to your knees and have drugs delivered to you on the spot. Fortunately - if you’re looking for help getting off your knees then Joburg delivers again. This is the city to check in to Rehab.
There’s an impressive array of places to clean up and at least two new treatment centres have opened here in the last six months. Carl - a recovering addict with twelve years clean - says this boom in rehabs is a sign of the sheer entrepreneurism of the city. “A growing supply of addicts plus big bucks from medical aid equals an excellent commercial opportunity for anyone in the business of treating addiction.”
But whilst they may be savvy entrepreneurs, the kind of people who are in the business of treating addiction are also profoundly committed and compassionate individuals. Along with partners Allan Sweidan and Charles Perkel, Dan Wolf has developed a group of treatment centres called the GAP, or General Addictions Programme, which supports addicts in all phases of recovery.
The Gap at Crescent is a detox centre with a three-week programme. “It’s a psychiatric hospital,” says clinical psychologist Allan Sweidan; “so the Crescent is an addiction casualty environment. People go through withdrawal under supervision.”
The Gap at First Step was where I got clean. It was the first of the GAP centres and also the first intensive outpatient centre in South Africa, allowing patients to continue with their lives whilst in treatment. “It wasn’t my idea,” says Wolf, “I saw the model offered in the States and brought it to Joburg.”
The GAP in Ferndale is the newest of the centres. “What we are providing here is a long-term environment that allows people to heal. Sometimes a short programme doesn’t touch all sides of a person.” Says Wolf. Patients stay a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of six months. “This is not about punishment- it’s about learning to look after and value yourself and your relationships with others. Longer treatment often helps patients sustain recovery of what it is they lost or maybe never had. “In the end,” says Wolf, “recovery is a spiritual journey and I believe that spirituality is about doing the things that define us as human – making choices, delaying gratification, actualizing potential and going beyond our instincts and impulses.”
That’s not to say that everyone who goes into treatment recovers. In fact the stats are bleak. “One needs to assess what recovery means for each patient,” says Allan Sweidan. “If one is stuck with the idea that successful treatment implies that once our patients leave our programmes they are ‘cured’, then everyone involved is headed for disappointment.” More than a handful of the people I was treatment with are dead and yet more are back out there using and those I have bumped into look far from in control and far from happy. A reminder to me that I can never get complacent about my sobriety. That if I want to continue enjoying life as much as I have over the past few years and if I want to continue being productive in the world then for the rest of my days I need to choose - every day - not to drink or use drugs.
I’m not sure if it’s since I cleaned up that I’ve become more aware of drug and alcohol abuse in Joburg, or if in fact it’s really getting worse. Are the GAP centres full? “We are really busy – but our policy is to never turn people away if we can possibly help it.” Says Sweidan.
I am so relieved Dan Wolf didn’t turn me away. And I am so grateful for the challenges he confronted me with in my treatment. There were days when I could have happily strangled him for his stubborn persistence in pushing me to peel back and back and back the layers of my denial. But nothing recovery has demanded of me has ever been as hard as waking up with a force ten hangover and a suicidal self hatred. Three and a half years after calling Dan Wolf to ask for help I am just ecstatically grateful to be sober and looking forward to a Christmas and New Year with my family that I have a good chance of remembering with joy.
Copyright © 2007 Jann Turner. All rights reserved
De Kock’s letter
January 24 2012 at 09:22am
By Eugene De Kock
The mother of the late Bheki Mlangeni, Catherine Mlangeni, can't believe that after nearly 20 years, Vlakplaas operative Eugene de Kock wants to say sorry. She previously told The Star: "He can rot in hell." Photo: Itumeleng English
De Kock wrote to The Star:
1. I fully accept that Ms Mlangeni cannot forgive me for my involvement in her son’s death. Real forgiveness requires that the person against whom the deed was perpetrated be asked for forgiveness, but with murder, forgiveness becomes impossible.
2. With that in mind, I cannot ask Ms Catherine Mlangeni for forgiveness for the death of her son, and I will have to live with that pain and regret forever. There is no greater punishment than to have to live with the consequences of the most terrible deed with no one to forgive you. For me, even my own death can’t compare.
3. I, however, want to ask her for forgiveness for the pain and suffering she as a mother had to endure due to my terrible deeds.
Not only her, but also the whole family of Mr Mlangeni who suffered as a consequence of what I did in those years of madness. There might be no pain greater than the pain one experiences with the loss of a child. Your forgiveness will mean a lot to me, but it can in no way wash away the pain I have caused.
4. I am in jail now for approximately 17 years. I accept responsibility for my contribution to the evil of apartheid and deserve the years in incarceration. The isolation from my family and loved ones has given me some idea of what the Mlangeni family had to live through, although I understand that nothing can compare with their experience. Justice means I might be here for the rest of my life, and while I would like to have the opportunity to contribute to a democratic society in a meaningful way one day, I understand the justifications for my incarceration.
5. I had been a soldier and policeman most of my life. I had known no other life; war and jail is almost the sum total of my experiences as an adult. The violence I have seen, experienced and perpetrated is an almost unbearable feature of my mind. I have asked forgiveness at the TRC and also to victims and families who have visited me since my incarceration. I asked because it releases some of the guilt I experience, but I know it may not make it easier for those who were the victims of my justifications for apartheid at the time.
6. If you ever feel it will help you to deal with your pain and sorrow, feel free to visit me.
My deepest regrets