Facing the Truth (Part Two)

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In part two of this program, Bill Moyers continues the report on the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as it investigates human rights violations, heals the country, and helps South Africa in its process of reinvention.

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ACTOR: Rest in peace soldier of the nation.

BONGANI LINDA: This is not just a fictional play. It is stories that I’ve gathered around—

BILL MOYERS: True stories.

BONGANI LINDA: True stories, yes.

ACTRESS: I am a widow from Soweto.

BONGANI LINDA: It’s stories of the 80s. It’s stories of people I know.

ACTRESS: I was married to a policeman and he gave me a son. Both of them are not here today.

BONGANI LINDA: One was killed by apartheid. One was killed by the ANC outside the country. I know that family. I know that boy, he was my bosom friend. We grew up together. But he’s no longer here today.

ACTRESS: My son was a student in one of the township schools.

BONGANI LINDA: So, you know what, every time I see it being portrayed I just… I just, y’know, for me it just becomes so heartbreaking, y’know.

BILL MOYERS: Bongani Linda joined the liberation movement as a guerilla fighter. Now he directs a community theater group in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg.

ACTOR: Why is it that my people, black people have agreed for so many years to be subjected to this holocaust?

BONGANI LINDA: I’m a very angry person. Y’know, I’m, I’m so angry firstly because I have lost my childhood completely, fighting for the liberation of this country. I was forced into exile at a very, very young age when I was supposed to be having fun enjoying with people of the same age as me. But, you know, it was just a situation of, do you submit to the system and let them kill you helplessly or do you leave the country and die like a warrior?

BONGANI LINDA: The name of the play is called, (in African language).

BILL MOYERS: Which means, in English?

BONGANI LINDA: It’s, eh, speak so that I can speak.

BILL MOYERS: Speak so that I may speak? Why did you call it that?

BONGANI LINDA: That, that play is-is-is-is directed to the ordinary people. The ordinary victims, direct victims of apartheid.

ACTRESS: We must move away from the past. But we must never forget.

ACTOR: I-I’m glad you acknowledge that. We must never forget.

BONGANI LINDA: So, I’m saying to them, let’s speak. Here is what the National Party and the ANC is offering. They are offering the TRC.

ACTRESS: I told them that I received an invitation from the Truth Commission.

BONGANI LINDA: The TRC, think about it, look at it. Is it something worth doing? Is it something that we need?

ACTRESS: We are understanding the past. It will make us to move into the future.

BONGANI LINDA: Can we solve the problems of the past by just hearing the perpetrators telling us how they’ve committed the crimes? Or not? Y’know, that’s what I’m saying. Think.

ACTOR: Going to the TRC is like putting acid to a healing wound. Besides, the TRC is the perfect place where all these bastards were supposed to burn in Hell, are allowed to escape the law.

BONGANI LINDA: What I’m worried about… It’s becoming an easy way out for apartheid assassins to be given amnesty. That’s where they buy their freedom.

BILL MOYERS: You said to me that you lost an uncle.


BILL MOYERS: Killed ostensibly by the State.

BONGANI LINDA: Obviously, yes.

BILL MOYERS: You lost friends.

BONGANI LINDA: Yes. Many, many, many, many.

ACTOR: They are given amnesty, and they walk out leaving us with more broken heart than any other healing.

BONGANI LINDA: So now for me to see someone who’s removed my uncle. And who’s taken, who’s made us go through so much hell, will make me very, very upset, very angry.

Actress and actors (in succession): Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!? Forgive them?!?

ACTORS: Please forgive us.

BILL MOYERS: At the end, forgive them, forgive them, forgive them, but forget? Never.


ACTRESS #1: Forgive them?!? Maybe we can. But forget, definitely not!

ACTRESS #2: You say, you want peace.

ACTORS: (Singing).

BILL MOYERS: It sounds like you’re saying forgive them.

BONGANI LINDA: Yes. That’s what I’m saying. I have already forgiven slightly. I’ve forg-I’ve forgiven because I’ve just told myself that look, my uncle is dead. Whether I like it or not, he will never come back. So you know, let me rather have that little conviction inside me that wherever he is, he is laying, y’know, in God’s arms. But let me never forget what he lived and died for. That’s what I mean. Let’s not forget where we come from.

BILL MOYERS: Very, very small cells, I mean…


BILL MOYERS: Hardly enough room in there to turn around.

ALBIE SACHS: And, uh, unless it was used for isolation, you can be sure a number of people would be packed in here.


ALBIE SACHS: And something that was very common, by all accounts, would be for the people to be stripped naked and for them to be hosed, hosed down in freezing cold weather. It was total humiliation. It was treating people as though you’re not human beings, you’re our subjects. You’re under our control and we’re the boss.

African men were just jam-packed in there.

BILL MOYERS: Albie Sachs is a justice on South Africa’s new constitutional court, a court radically different from the one that long undergirded apartheid.

What was apartheid?

ALBIE SACHS: It was total control of individual human beings and communities through the law, through the state, eh, through the administration, eh, which determined where people lived. You had to live in an area designated. You were rooted out of other areas. The kind of jobs you could have, the school you went to, even where you were born, and even where you were buried. Your whole fate was determined by the color of your skin and only whites had the vote. They had the power, uh, and they could determine the fate and destiny of the rest of the population.

BILL MOYERS: How many prisoners could they keep in here at one time?

For people who broke any of apartheid’s hundreds of laws, or resisted in any way, this prison, number four in Johannesburg, was destiny.

ALBIE SACHS: …certainly would’ve been into the hundreds…

BILL MOYERS: Like so many other activists, Sachs ended up in apartheid’s jails. In the early 60s, he was detained in solitary confinement without trial.

ALBIE SACHS: I would, uh, whistle. I would try and communicate with other people. In the end, I found another whistler. I never knew who it was. And I used to try over the traffic sounds and the noises around us to, to determine, uh, what background the person was from, the music that they knew.

BILL MOYERS: What would you whistle? A song?

ALBIE SACHS: Well, the one way we made contact was the Going Home theme from the Dvorak New World symphony, “Going home, going home… (whistles).” And then I would hear, coming back, “(whistles).” But, of course, much less loud than that. But it was marvelous. There was another person there.

BILL MOYERS: Through this door?

ALBIE SACHS: I was politically active. I hated apartheid. In those days, it was 1963 and then into ’64. The ANC had been banned. The Pan African Congress had been banned. The Communist Party had been banned. Meetings were banned. Newspapers were banned. Individuals were banned. So, you either submitted and went along with that, or you went underground.

Interviewer: Mr. Sachs, what do you regard as the motives of the South African government in proceeding with this trial?

ALBIE SACHS: [as activist] I’d say the primary motive is to teach South African newspapermen that there are certain subjects that are taboo.

I was practicing as a lawyer, and, uh, at the bar in Cape Town and I had a big civil rights practice and, uh, one day the police just descended on me and hauled me off and threw me into solitary confinement. And it was called the “90-day Law,” for interrogation and after 90 days I was released for five minutes and I was detained for another 178 days. And then, two years later I was detained again, for another three months. This was very hard. In some ways, uh, the solitary confinement wasn’t as severe. But they kept my eyes open. They kept me awake for quite a long time, possibly put something in my food to weaken my resistance. I collapsed. They poured water on me. And, um, that’s the most humiliating moment in my whole life without a doubt.

BILL MOYERS: to carry on his opposition to apartheid, Sachs left the country. He spent 23 years on exile, part of that time in Mozambique.

Then one day, in 1988, heading for the beach, you opened the car? You entered the car?

ALBIE SACHS: So I believe. So I’m told. The car was found, uh, all smashed up. Uh, people pulled my body away.

BILL MOYERS: The car bomb shattered his body— four ribs broken, a foot fractured, his eardrums split, his liver ruptured, an eye ruined, an arm blown away.

ALBIE SACHS: I was in and out of consciousness and through the darkness, I just heard a voice saying, ‘Albie, uh, you’re in Maputo Central Hospital. Your arm is in lamentable condition. And, uh, you’ll have to face the future with courage. And I-I fainted, but into joy and happiness because I knew I hadn’t been kidnapped. I knew I was in safe hands. And I just felt total elation. That was that terrible moment that every freedom fighter is waiting for when the State hits back: will you survive, will you be courageous? And, like the optimist that I am, I said, ‘Ninety-five percent of me survived.’

REPORTER #2: After 24 years exile, home to Cape Town, and reunion with his mother.

BILL MOYERS: Was there a moment after what happened to you when you lusted for revenge?



ALBIE SACHS: Never. But I-I think there’s something wrong with me.

BILL MOYERS: (laughs)

ALBIE SACHS: But afterwards it stood me in very good stead. You keep your eye on the prize. And that’s freedom and transformation. And for me to do to someone else what they did to me, that’s not gonna make my arm grow. But for me to live in a free society, I feel that there are roses and lilies growing out of my arm. I feel liberated. I feel it wasn’t for nothing, it was for something.

I will uphold and protect the Constitution of the Republic and the fundamental rights entrenched therein. In accordance with the Constitution… and the law of the Republic so help me God.

BILL MOYERS: Has the Truth Commission made a contribution to all of this?

ALBIE SACHS: A huge contribution. And what’s been so extraordinary is no one can deny the horrors of the past. Maybe one of the worst things about horrors is denial. That they didn’t even happen. And the people know it happened, they know it happened, and yet the others say it never happened. No one can day it never happened now.

BILL MOYERS: For some people the truth is not enough. They want justice so the guilty don’t get away with murder. The family of Steve Biko opposes amnesty for the men who killed the best known martyr of the resistance.

STEVE BIKO: We feel that our duty is to ensure that the nation does not take upon itself the responsibility of absolving people who are not deserving of absolution.

BILL MOYERS: Nkosinati, Steve Biko’s son, has been trying to find out the truth about his father’s death for twenty one years. The family’s lawyer challenged the perpetrators’ testimony at the hearings.

BIZOS: The evidence of, uh, Snyman is to the effect that you punched Biko. Do you say that that evidence is false?

PERPETRATOR #5: I did not punch him first.

BIZOS: …punch him second?


PERPETRATOR #5: During the incident, I also hit him.

BILL MOYERS: You don’t think they’re telling the truth?

STEVE BIKO: Well, not in our case, certainly not.

BILL MOYERS: Nkosinati was only six years old when his father was arrested in1977.

MALE VOICE (DRIVER): There is the building…

BILL MOYERS: Steve Biko was taken to this building in downtown Port Elizabeth.

MALE VOICE (DRIVER): It’s Sanlam building, the most notorious building in the Eastern Cape.

BILL MOYERS: Biko was the founder of the black consciousness movement in the mid-1970s, when parties were banned and resistance leaders were in exile or jail.

STEVE BIKO: (From vintage footage) Changes which are to come can only come as a result of a program worked out by black people. And for black people to be able to work out a program they need to defeat the one main element in politics which was working against them, which was a psychological feeling of inferiority.

SGT. NIEUWOUDT: Mr. Biko was arrogant, aggressive and didn’t answer the questions at all.

BILL MOYERS: The security police who’ve applied for amnesty in the Biko case have admitted that in this room they interrogated and beat him.

PERPETRATOR #6: Several punches were planted. Sgt. Nieuwoudt had a hosepipe.

SGT. NIEUWOUDT: I hit Mr. Biko with several blows.

BILL MOYERS: They say they left him hanging, shackled from bars in the cell.

SGT. NIEUWOUDT: …the bars on the security gate with his hands in an outstretched position.

BILL MOYERS: They admit they then transported him, naked, 750 miles to Pretoria to another prison, where he died six hours later.

BIZOS: Did you cause his death?

BILL MOYERS: But none will take responsibility for his death.

PERPETRATOR #5: His death was caused by the incident which took place.

BIZOS: It’s a simple question. Did you cause his death? You personally?

PERPETRATOR #5: I would not be able to say if it was, uh, my own, if I was the uh, responsible. There were a few of us present there.

STEVE BIKO: Well, we are no better off now than we were in 1977, in terms of knowing what happened.

BILL MOYERS: These security police had already told their story at a government inquest in 1977, but the apartheid government judge took just three minutes to absolve them of any responsibility.

STEVE BIKO: We can sit and piece together the, the story that they are presenting to us. — and it seems there are inconsistencies between their stories and inconsistencies between their collective story, and the forensic evidence that explains his death.

WITNESS: There was evidence of severe brain injury which was initially disregarded by the doctors. A medical certificate written at the request of the head of the security police was falsified.

PERPETRATOR #7: …and Siebert was on the other…

BILL MOYERS: The police say that Biko’s death was an accident

PERPETRATOR #7: There was a scuffle and we were against the bars..

PERPETRATOR #5: And in the process, we fell…

SGT. NIEUWOUDT: And we struggled and as the result of our momentum, Mr. Biko’s head hit the wall—

PERPETRATOR #3: I would almost explain it like someone who had been knocked out in a boxing match. You could see that he was dazed.

STEVE BIKO: This process is designed in favor of the applicants for amnesty. And if they take the opportunity to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they automatically get their amnesty. And I do not understand why it is they keep to the scuffle theory, which distributes, uh, y’know, equitably the responsibility for my father’s death.

BIZOS: If you feel you’ve done nothing wrong, is it really for you, is it really necessary for you to apply for amnesty?

PERPETRATOR #7: Frankly, it’s not necessary.

ZUKILE SINAMA: They are lying. No they are lying. They are not telling the truth. I was there.

BILL MOYERS: They say that they smashed Biko against the wall. They…

ZUKILE SINAMA: No, no. No, no . They didn’t say that. What they say is that Steven Bantu Biko, he has a temper, uh, he hit himself against the wall. This is what they say, and they are lying.

BILL MOYERS: Were any of them the men who took part in your beating?

ZUKILE SINAMA: Yes. Yes. The many of them who took part in my beatings here.

BILL MOYERS: Who also beat Biko.


BILL MOYERS: Zukile Sinama, a follower of Steve Biko, was, like dozens of other men in the 70s and 80s, interrogated and tortured in this very building in the same room where Biko received his final blows.

ZUKILE SINAMA: I must say, they beat me thoroughly.

BILL MOYERS: How did they do that?

ZUKILE SINAMA: Uh, in terms of, one, they smack me and uh, with punches, kicking me and all the like.

They took this chair, they put it here. They said to me, uh, I must sit down. And then I said to them, man, I-I mean, I’m handcuffed here, I cannot sit, OK? He says, OK, we’ll make it easier for you, (snaps his fingers) then they take me down. Then I went down and went like this, OK? And, uh, they put this thing right, I don’t know, what do you say, a rubber, whatever, you know, plastic, whatever-

BILL MOYERS: Covered your head?

ZUKILE SINAMA: Yeah, covered my head, and uh, I couldn’t breathe. They said to me, uh, you’re lying, you’re-you’re going to tell us the truth, what we want, OK? Uh, we’ll throw you down here, OK? You’ll die just, there was another fellow which was called Lungile Tabalaza. He also died here. So, they told me that you will die just like Lungile Tabalaza. Now, what they did, they hold me here with my belt. Y’know

BILL MOYERS: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

ZUKILE SINAMA: Yeah, with my belt and another one hold me here and uh, y’know, they want to push me, y’know, so I screamed, OK? Kicking, y’know? (Mock screams) So, they pulled me back again. I told them really, I don’t know, OK? Uh, what you are asking me, I mean, I don’t know.

BILL MOYERS: The Biko family wants to take the perpetrators to trial, so they mounted a constitutional challenge to the commission’s power to grant amnesty….the constitutional court turned them down and the amnesty hearings continued.

PERPETRATOR #3: Your honor, it is my conviction in the depths of my heart that our actions were wrong.

ZUKILE SINAMA: I-I feel really they must face justice

BIZOS: We oppose the applications of all the applicants for amnesty.

STEVE BIKO: We believe that in our country, there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, there shall just be people.

WITNESS: Post-mortem examination showed brain damage, disseminated intravascular coagul—

STEVE BIKO: And those people would have the same status before the law and they will have the same political before the law.

Sadly, the truth of what happened here is known only to the four walls of this room.

COMMISSIONER: Do you swear the evidence you are about to give will be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, say so help me God?

DAWIE ACKERMANN: … so help me God.

There was about twelve-hundred people in the church. The main attack happened in this area over here. The perpetrators burst into the church.

[testifying] The doors burst open, and, uh, I saw two gunmen, or—two people—come in. It all happened very quickly.

I was sitting right here where we are standing in this pew here.

[testifying] I saw and heard shots being fired. I saw a grenade flying through the air.

The first hand grenade landed in that little triangular carpet section over there. Uh, about, oh, about, uh, five paces from where my son was sitting. Although people around him, uh, were, um, were injured or even killed, he didn’t have any visible scratch on him.

COMMISSIONER #15: Where was your wife at that time?

DAWIE ACKERMANN: [testifying] My wife was sitting right at the door where the perpetrators burst in.

BILL MOYERS: It is referred to as the St. James Church Massacre. The attack on an Anglican church in a suburb of cape town on the 25th of July in 1993. It left 11 worshippers dead and 58 injured.

DAWIE ACKERMANN: [testifying] It was very horrific. There was just blood everywhere

In this area over here, there were three bodies lying. I stepped over the bodies, reached my wife, saw that she had been shot, uh, why I say that, I could see a little bit of blood, uh, on, um, on her blouse. Um, the bullet holes, as you can see, are still in the bench here.

[testifying] Immediately after the attack and after my, uh, I’d taken my wife to hospital where she died about twenty minutes later, I returned to the church, uh, in search of my children.

BILL MOYERS: Not only was the act itself shocking, so was the timing. In 1993, the political parties were negotiating a peaceful settlement and arrangements for the first democratic election in South Africa’s history.

DAWIE ACKERMANN: Realizing that the attack was perpetrated in order to cause instability, I sought out the, um, the-the camera crews immediately, knowing that it was very important immediately to defuse any, um, eh, any angst that might have been, uh, that might be going out. In other words, getting the correct Christian message, uh, out. Um—

BILL MOYERS: And that message was?

DAWIE ACKERMANN: No bitterness. Not seeking revenge. And offering forgiveness.

BILL MOYERS: That very night?

DAWIE ACKERMANN: That very night.

BILL MOYERS: Knowing your wife was—

DAWIE ACKERMANN: Knowing my wife was dead.

BILL MOYERS: Three guerrillas fighters with APLA, the military wing of the Pan-African congress, sought amnesty at the truth commission. The Ackermann family listened.

KYAYA MAKOMA: The struggle that was going on this country—

BILL MOYERS: One of the applicants, Kyaya Makoma, has previously been tried and convicted of murder in the attack. Getting amnesty from the TRC would free him from jail.

KYAYA MAKOMA: I threw a hand grenade. I fired shots, obeying the instructions from my commander. I know there is no one who had the right to kill. But the situation in South Africa led us as we were young as we were to do those things. Because we grew up in a violent country. We’re seeing our fellow Africans being shot and killed by the whites.

ADVOCATE: Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Chairman. We’d then like to call Mr. Dawie Ackermann.

DAWIE ACKERMANN: In the papers before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission we heard, we read, that they were asking for forgiveness, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to hear from them face to face, whether they actually meant it.

[testifying] May I ask the applicants to turn around and face me? This is the first opportunity we’ve had to look at each other in the eye, talking. I want to ask Mr. Makoma, actually entered the church. My wife was sitting right at the door when you came in, where you came in. She was wearing a long, blue coat. Can you remember if you shot her?

KYAYA MAKOMA: I do remember that I fired sh-some shots. But, I couldn’t identify, I don’t know who did I shoot or not, but my gun pointed at the people.

DAWIE ACKERMANN: I would like to hear from each one of you, as you look me in the face, that you are sorry for what you have done. That you regret it. And that you want to be personally reconciled.

KYAYA MAKOMA: We are sorry for what we have done. It was the situation in South Africa and also asking for an apology as we were working under orders. I also say, please forgive me. To everybody who is white and black, who are in this new South Africa.

BILL MOYERS: Do you believe them?

DAWIE ACKERMANN: Yes, uh, qualified. The qualification being that I can’t look into their hearts, but they’ve asked. And The Bible teaches that if someone comes to you to ask forgiveness you must forgive, whether they come 7×70, that one, and you can look up the passage. Uh, it doesn’t say that you have to know whether they mean it. They’ve asked and you forgive. Whether or not they meant it is between them and God.

[testifying] While Mr. Makoma was testifying, he talked about his tortures, and that he was suicidal. I could identify with that. I thought to myself, and I wrote you a note, to bring your cross-examination to an end. Because what are we doing here? The truth, yes. But I—I looked at the way in which he answered you, and his anger. How on earth are we going to be reconciled?

BILL MOYERS: What are they doing here?

MCUSTA JACK: Now, we are putting pipes here to, for water, connections to houses. There will be a house here. Standing here.

BILL MOYERS: How many houses all together on this—

MCUSTA JACK: We will be putting 1,200—


MCUSTA JACK: Houses here. And this whole site is goes down back there…

BILL MOYERS: How serious is the housing shortage in South Africa?

MCUSTA JACK: Oh, it is serious. Very, very serious. I mean, if you can take note that the apartheid regime for years, it didn’t build houses for black people, and uh, this has led to a very serious, uh, shortage of housing. And these are the kinds of things that will improve the lives of all people—

BILL MOYERS: Mcusta Jack is a well-known businessman in Port Elizabeth. His company paves roads and builds badly needed houses. He was also famous, back in the 1980s, as a community organizer and a leader in the anti-apartheid movement.

MCUSTA JACK: [as activist] They are not going to do anything to us. We are going to speak here, whether we-they like it or not. Because our people have died, why can’t we…

BILL MOYERS: How many times did you go to jail?

MCUSTA JACK: Oh, well, I spent eh, eh, more than five-and-a-half-years in detention. Detention, it means that being locked up without being taken for trial and in that five-and-a-half years, I have gone in and out more than eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, over a period of say, uh, uh three months, more than 14 times.

BILL MOYERS: Were you tortured?

MCUSTA JACK: Oh yeah, I was tortured.

[testifying] They screwed these handcuffs…

BILL MOYERS: At the TRC hearings in Port Elizabeth, Jack described those years of arrests, detention and torture.

MCUSTA JACK: I was tied like this, in this position. Well, they used various methods, I mean at the beginning they used to hang us through, uh the window in the 7th or 9th floor of Sanlam building and hang you with your shoes outside and say they gonna throw you down and they used to, y’know, come with a gun, you know, come with a gun, let’s say they sk-step-put a gun on your head and click it, pcchhh, you’re thinking they’re ready to kill you. And they used to put, uh, bags over our face, y’know, and suffocate us.

[testifying] And they were dragging me now because I couldn’t walk. They were dragging me on my stomach. He said, ‘What’s going on with you?’ I said, ‘Just look at this, I can’t even walk.’ Bezuidentoud said, ‘Give him a microphone to address the people.’

BILL MOYERS: Did you ever think you would die?

MCUSTA JACK: Oh yes, I have, I always say that I am living on the discounted part of my life now. I have budgeted to die long abo-long ago. I thought in 1976 I escaped death then when a bullet hit, y’know, we were lying on the floor and the police was really firing at us. And then it missed, uh-myself and my colleague, we were lying like this, facing each other. And hit the other one in the face like this, pchhh. And then it just missed me like that. But ever since, of course, I have been, uh, attacked at my house, uh, bomb thrown, and uh, shorted, but I have…

BILL MOYERS: But you didn’t break?

MCUSTA JACK: No! I couldn’t.

BILL MOYERS: Despite his brutal treatment at the hands of apartheid operatives, in the new South Africa, Jack has hired a former enemy.

Lourens du Plessis was a colonel in the South African defense force, decorated for fighting terrorism. As an intelligence officer, he kept tabs on Mcusta Jack’s activities in the old days.

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:It was around about the middle, uh, 80s or early 80s, when I was a colonel in the-in the army, posted at command headquarters. And Kist was an activist. He knew about me and I knew about him.

BILL MOYERS: What did you know about him?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:I knew about all his activities, as chairman of the consumer boycott, chairman of PEYCO, and that sort of thing. We kept tabs on him.

BILL MOYERS: You kept tabs, you had uh, you had inside sources and uh…

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:Yes, we had our, our sources of information. I was in the intelligence then, you see. And uh, we knew about each other, let’s put it that way.

MCUSTA JACK: It was-I was in the business of fighting for freedom. And he was in the business (laughs) of stopping freedom.

BILL MOYERS: How did you see him?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:Well, uh, they were uh, in fact seen as attempting to take over the country illegally, you see.

MCUSTA JACK: (Laughs).

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:Uh, uh, that’s about it. They were trying to take over the country illegally.

BILL MOYERS: And… that’s what you were trying to do wasn’t it?

MCUSTA JACK: Well, (Jack and du Plessis laugh) that was a different, that was enemy’s version, that we wanted to take the country illegally. We believed that the country was governed by an illegitimate government. Therefore we wanted to take it via legal means. And uh, install a le- legitimate government.

BILL MOYERS: So, when did you meet?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:Well, uh, we met, uh, when these Cradock Four, as they were called, Goniwe and his friends were murdered.

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:I was actually the author of the signal requesting them to be killed.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote the order.

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:I wrote the uh-request. We sent the signal from Port Elizabeth to the secretariat of the State Security Council in Pretoria, requesting that he be removed from society permanently.

BILL MOYERS: And what did you know that to mean?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:It meant that he had to be killed, or they had to be killed.

BILL MOYERS: The signal was supposed to be secret but was leaked to the press

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:And the moment the signal was leaked, the army got hold of me and said I must come to Pretoria. And I had an interview with a state attorney in Pretoria and he said to me ‘What does this signal mean?’ and I said ‘It means these people had to be killed.’ And from that moment on I was despised, as Mcusta says, and I stuck to my guns. They expec—expected me to say it meant they—he just had to be transferred.

BILL MOYERS: You told the truth?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:And I stuck to the truth, you see—

BILL MOYERS: And for telling the truth you were ostracized by your fellow officers?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:I was ostracized, yes.

BILL MOYERS: When you signed that signal, was there any doubt in your mind that you were carrying out the wishes of your superiors?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:No, there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. I was instructed to send the signal, you see—

BILL MOYERS: Instructed by?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:By my commanding officer.

BILL MOYERS: And whose authority was he acting on?

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:He was uh then chairman of the uh regional uh organ of the State Security Council, you see.

BILL MOYERS:The chain of command ran all the way to the top, to the highest level of government, to the president, and his closest advisors.

LOURENS DU PLESSIS:The State Security Council was chaired by the President.

BILL MOYERS: So, you were ostracized for telling the truth. You had met him. What did you do?

MCUSTA JACK: Well, I uh thought that uh look— I understood the dilemma of being ostracized. I’ve seen people when they’ve got ostracized, but I thought he was on right track and I wanted to encourage him, only to show that you can have new friends in the struggle who, because, it has been a biggest mystery in the South African revolution, the death of these comrades. So, when he came up with it, really, it was something that I personally felt like whoever have brought that truth, one day, I would love to reward him in whatever fashion. Yeah.

WORKERS: (Unintelligible).

MCUSTA JACK: No! C’mon, I’ll be here, I’ll be watching things developing. OK, then. I’ll see you later.

WORKERS: (Unintelligible).

MCUSTA JACK: OK, sorry, but I’ll…

BILL MOYERS: Those people all work for you?

MCUSTA JACK: Oh yes, yeah. (inaudible).

VOICE: Hello!

BILL MOYERS: That’s a real change, isn’t it? Three, four White men working for a Black South African?

MCUSTA JACK: (Laughing). Yes, yeah.

ACTOR: Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy. Happy freedom. day. I can smell freedom. I can feel that liberation is here to stay.

BILL MOYERS: Have any whites in South Africa seen this play?

BONGANI LINDA: No, which is a problem. Y’know if you talk about reconciliation, firstly, we have to deal with racism. We have to deal with white superiority complex that exists here in South Africa. And we have to deal with black inferiority complex as well. If we can start there, make the people to acc-to-to start looking at it, at a s-at each other as people, eh, you know, then I’m sure we can then as a, as a next stage we can talk about reconciliation.

ACTORS: [singing]

BONGANI LINDA: The truth is, if you look at the TRC, the lot of people who go there are black people. White people are not prepared to go there because they are not prepared to reconcile.

ACTOR: I am white and my ideas are bright. I don’t care about reconciling with blacks.

BONGANI LINDA: And you live in a community where-the class difference is so extreme. The rich are so extremely rich and the poor are extremely poor. So what on earth can you do? Y’know, I-living in South Africa is frustrating. When you look-you loo-I live in Alexandra. Very, very, very poverty stricken area. Very, very, very poverty stricken area and then, we have about 85% of unemployment rate.

BONGANI LINDA: (African language).

BILL MOYERS: The segregated township where Bongani Linda lives is typical for South Africans who are not white.

BONGANI LINDA: This is where I was born. This is my home. Very, very important place.

BILL MOYERS: Apartheid was a massive distribution of wealth to the white minority, and its legacy is a society more deeply divided today between rich and poor than almost any other country.

Whites still control four-fifths of the farms, ninety percent of the capital, and ninety-five percent of industry.

Even when they have jobs black households earn barely a quarter of white income. Except for a small black elite, the whites—only thirteen percent of the population here—are still top of the heap.

DESMOND TUTU: Aren’t they amazed that four years down the line black people live in shantytowns —many, many, many. There are very few white people, if any, who live in shacks. These black people wake up in the morning in these depressed conditions. No running water, no street lighting, no nothing. They wake up, they get on whatever means of transport they have. They go off to some of the most salubrious, the most affluent parts of South Africa, which are the former white enclaves. They work in a beautiful house, they clean, they cook, they wash. At the end of the day, from all of the splendor, they go back into the squalor. I am amazed, and I would say to our white compatriots, don’t you want to wake up and realize it is in fact in your interest that transformation happens?

HASHE: I am really frustrated about my situation. I don’t want to cry, really I don’t want to cry. But I would like the Commission to help me.

MAX: It doesn’t matter what the Truth Commission achieves. If we cannot snap out of our cycles of poverty in this country, if we cannot close these huge gaps, we will not have reconciliation, we will not have peace.

ALLEN: I am a 20 year old white South African. I am trying to sort of—I am now at that stage of my life where I’m soon going to finish varsity and I’ve got to go out into South Africa and try and, first of all, find an occupation and make a life for myself. And I am scared because of stuff like affirmative action which they said was going to be four years and they’re still practicing and stuff like that and where does that leave us? We’ve got to trans-transgress past it.

FEMALE STUDENT: Basically, it leaves us to—everyone must work as hard as they can and do whatever they do. And that’s basically all option you have and I think it’s marvelous.

BILL MOYERS: The University of Stellenbosch has long educated some of the best and the brightest of the white community.

MALE STUDENT: I think what the TRC is doing now is forcing many of us, normal, white South Africans to, um, confront actually what happened and take responsibility

FEMALE STUDENT: I’ve got a problem with this whole collef—collective responsibility thing

BILL MOYERS: The issues raised by the truth commission are now debated as classroom curriculum.

Let me ask you, did you know that the State was using violence? That go-government security forces were really a police state?

ALLEN: No, I knew that, I knew who the captain of the England football side was in and the South Afri-I didn’t have a clue about politics. You knew who the president was and that was it.

BILL MOYERS: Have the revelations of the Truth Commission come as a surprise to you?

ALLEN: Yeah. Absolutely.

FEMALE VOICE: Uh, to some extent.

MALE STUDENT: If I tell you that I didn’t know about what’s going on, I would lie to you. I knew so-some of my friends beat up Black guys just for the fun at weekends. I knew about this and—

MALE STUDENT: Think there actually lot of, lot of whites who are in a state of denial. And that denial doesn’t allow us to, to actually accept the culture that we grew up in and, and if we do accept that, that the culture that we grew up is, is, um responsible for apartheid, um, it’s gonna force us to, um, look at our culture again, and it’s go-a reappraisal of everything we believe in, of everything we stand for.

LIESEL: I think the past we must actually see is the past as if it’s our sins, because at the end of the day, we’re only going to feel regret and we’re going to do nothing about it.

MALE STUDENT: Apartheid—I received benefits, and I mean, the benefits I that received came with a moral stain. I mean, the benefits were begotten by evil means, so I can’t receive the benefits without receiving some of the moral blame.

LIESEL: We are not responsible for what happened in the past, we as children of apartheid. But we are responsible for the future, for what lies ahead, our mor-moral growth and to what e-extent it is going to grow, and that’s where it lies, not at feeling guilty, or feeling regret. But, at doing something to change what happened.

ALLEN: I really think it’s time South Africa left the past alone. Um, the TRC’s been called to, sort of speak about grievances and um, find out what actually happened in circumstances. But, I think the longer it goes on, the greater rift it’s causing between the races. I mean, we’re trying to sort of come together now. But, it’s almost having reverse effect now because people are hearing stuff which they’re trying to forget.

BILL MOYERS: But your generation will have to sacrifice, won’t you?


BILL MOYERS: In order to k-raise the standard of living of people who for so long were denied—


BILL MOYERS: opportunity, isn’t that right?


INGRID: I think we must teach people how to help themselves.

MALE STUDENT: Well, we’re dealing with uh, a very fine balance because I mean, I think everybody’s, uh, prepared to sacrifice up to a point, but I mean, after that you’re going to start losing people. They’re going to have a grudge against paying taxes, against doing their bit for education.

BILL MOYERS: Would you think about leaving South Africa in the new order here?

MALE STUDENT: Oh, yeah, definitely.

BILL MOYERS: You would?

MALE STUDENT: Definitely.

MALE STUDENT: People talk about going overseas, and uh, to experience it, so but I mean, you’re going to come back here. You don’t have a choice. This is where you come from. This is where you’ll end up eventually.

INGRID: (and others simultaneously) It’s in your blood.

BILL MOYERS: South Africa’s in your blood?

INGRID: Wait, stay for a while and you’ll see.

DON MATTERA: If we need to find a solution for the future, children represent that solution.

BILL MOYERS: The Randfontein public school outside Johannesburg. Many of these students come from nearby impoverished townships and squatter camps.

DON MATTERA: This land, thou land, each grain of sand, North to South, East to West, the given Earth, the best land, this land, my land, your land, Mandela’s land, Makwetu’s land, Bram Fischer’s land, Helen Joseph’s land, the land of the Zulus and the Tswanas and—

BILL MOYERS: The poet and journalist Don Mattera travels the country to motivate students with the vision of a new South Africa.

DON MATTERA: the land of our people, the twilight people who want their country but are afraid to take it. This land, our land, belongs to all of us.

BILL MOYERS: What significance does the Truth Commission have for these kids?

DON MATTERA: These children can look at their parents, and say, my father and my mother and these teachers come from a sordid, terrible history. They will be my mirrors. I will help to look at them and see this terrible past where they come from and I will not want to make the same mistakes again.

[to students] People like myself, and others here, were classified colored. We lived in colored townships. We went to colored churches. We interacted only with coloreds. The Tswanas interacted only with the Tswanas. The Zulus with Zulus. The whites with whites.

That whole problem became endemic, the problem of race consciousness. I—

BILL MOYERS: Was it codified in the law?

DON MATTERA: It was codified. And I call it pigmentocracy. And, uh, the rule through skin.

DON MATTERA: [to students] When you broke-break off the chain and the chains are gone, then we say this person is free. But, what about the chains around the mind? The chains around the mind are the dangerous chains. So, we have to watch what we say. So, the language of apartheid has to die as well.

BILL MOYERS: And you were under house arrest for eight-and-a-half years, weren’t you?

DON MATTERA: Yeah, eight-and-a-half years house arrest and banning order. My house was raided more than 50-350 times. I was detained more than a hundred and fifty times, ribs broken, fin-fingers broken, shot at and so on. Y’know and I still don’t hate these people. What a miracle. Now, the fact that I have not driven them to the sea, the fact that I have not murdered them, the fact that I am not killing my interrogators and those who have, uh, persecuted my people and myself. This calls for the gracest award to be bestowed on my people and myself. The greatest award. We have defied human nature that calls for revenge.

FEMALE STUDENT #1: My dream was to be, like, uh, the British, uh, president, Margaret Thatcher, yeah, yeah. Yeah, also to be a prime minister or a, First Lady of our country, and I believe I can do it.

FEMALE STUDENT #2: We’re living in the new South Africa and I think we’re all fortunate as youth because now we have the chance, chance to change it all, to bring something better for each other and to show that Mr. Mandela has paved the road to freedom. Now, we must walk it. And we must, we-we must walk it proud, and promote that. And if we can look to the good we can find more courage and determination to turn the bad points into good.

DON MATTERA: [to students] Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… (class applauds).

For me, the collective responsibility for the terror and the horror has not sunk in into the minds of white people. They suffer from forgetfulness. The South Africans refuse to look at the inquisition of their souls, white South Africans. They fear to look at themselves and say, yes, but we were privileged. Yes we did have this kind of life. Yes, we remained silent when others were dragged out at night. Yes, we remained silent when children walked around with bloated stomachs, suffering from malnutrition. Yes, now what is our collective responsibility to these people?

BILL MOYERS: But, how do they do it as a whole? How do you five million white people say, collectively, I’m sorry?

DON MATTERA: But they can. Sorry is not just a word, it’s a deed. It is an act. Contrition is not, bless me Father for I have sinned. Contrition is, I have taken from thee. Therefore, I give thee back. I have hurt thee. Therefore, I help to heal your pain. Listen, your children walk barefoot 13 kilometers to come to this school. Can I help in some way to provide a free bus for them? Can I help to provide shoes? Can I help to give soup and food? Each human individual has to decide seriously what their role must be to the collective, to the collective reconstruction of our country.

[to students] This beautiful country must be healed with all the love it takes to pump one heart and fill it with a dream.

BIZOS: Was it your general view that a black man had to obey an order of a white man?

PERPETRATOR: It had been our thinking that that it is the way things should be done.

MALE VICTIM: You can’t just acquit guilty people like that who shot at our children.

THANDI SHEZI: The Truth Commission, what it is doing is tearing the bandages, and the wounds have become rotten, so we need to clean those wounds.

PERPETRATOR: I say we are sorry.

FEMALE VICTIM: I often find myself back in the dungeons of solitary confinement ready to take away my life.

PERPETRATOR: How can I ever apologize for an act of war? War is war.

KYAYA MAKOMA: If you do forgive me, or you don’t, it’s all up to you.

DESMOND TUTU:Basically, there is no future without forgiveness.

PAUL VAN VUUREN: If you look at it at the point of view, now, backwards, it was a total waste of human life.

MARIA NTULI: Now how can you forgive a person who has done such a thing to you?

VICTIM LAWYER: I put it to you, Mr. Lotz that you are going to remember these events for the rest of your life unless you tell the committee the truth, and that you’re not doing so today.

PERPETRATOR: I will remember it for the rest of my life in any event.

FEMALE VICTIM: And it will take a long time. Healing takes a long time.

THANDI SHEZI: [reading names.]

BILL MOYERS: What do you think when you read these names, when you see these names?

THANDI SHEZI: I’m thinking how many doctors, lawyers, nurses, leaders that we have lost. Some of them were very young when they died.

[Thandi reading names]

THANDI SHEZI: This country have lost their engineers. The scientists, the psychologists, we may name them in this sheet, but that’s not all. There are thousands and millions of stories that will never be told in this country.

This transcript was entered on April 1, 2015.

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