Photo: Adrianne Vlok, Minister of Law in Apartheid regime. Credit: SABC - Photo: 2023

South African Apartheid-Era Minister Who Sought Amnesty Dies

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | PRETORIA (IDN) — There were many heartless, soulless, violent men and women who defended apartheid during the years of racist white rule in South Africa. Some held government jobs, some were brutal enforcers of law, some gave quiet approval as tens of thousands of Blacks were detained, locked up without trial, deprived of their lands, their rights and finally their lives.

But one man was the “face of evil”, according to many who lived during those times. His name was Adriaan Vlok.

As minister of law and order, Vlok was at the forefront of South Africa’s “dirty war”—overseeing bomb attacks on churches and trade unions seen as hostile to white-rule. Thousands died—all under the watch of Adriaan Vlok.

“I believed that apartheid was right,” he told AFP, the French news service in 2015. “It was our job to make people fear us.”

But his side lost the war and as the years went by, he claimed to have changed his mindset. He confessed his misdeeds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—one of the very few apartheid-era leaders to testify and apologize—and sought redemption by handing out food to the poor.

Vlok admitted that his police had carried out bombings, including that of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches. He was given amnesty for making the confession.

Seeking redemption, he also washed the feet of prominent anti-apartheid cleric Rev. Frank Chikane—an outspoken activist Vlok had tried to assassinate by lacing his underwear with insecticide in 1989. He also washed the feet of the mothers and widows of 10 activists murdered by police after being lured into an ambush.

“I feel very ashamed of many things I have done,” he said at his sentencing in 2007 for the attempted murder of the Rev. Chikane.

The 85-year-old Vlok died in the early hours of January 8 in a hospital in the capital, Pretoria, after a short illness.

Not all South Africans agreed with the amnesty or accepted Vlok’s acts of contrition. These acts scarcely redeemed oneself from the grand acts of violence that Vlok, and many others, committed during apartheid, said journalist Sibusiso Shabalala.

Framing Vlok as a symbol for white repentance falls short, wrote Shabalala. “It assumes we can rebuild a country anew with a few symbolic gestures from some perpetrators and truth commissions that absolve them of real responsibility—so long as they ‘tell their part of the story’ with contrition.”

“Which is why reconciliation, an ideal championed by Nelson Mandela—has failed in South Africa,” he continued. “Not because Black South Africans are unwilling to forgive, but because apologies, like that of Vlok’s, expose the limitations of reconciliation: it has done little to change the material conditions of Black South Africans, and too few white South Africans understand how destructive apartheid was.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 09 January 2023]

Photo: Adrianne Vlok, Minister of Law in the Apartheid regime. Credit: SABC

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