Monday, October 26, 2009

Racism, Retribution and Forgiveness

It’s exciting to see young people becoming mobilised and active in society. However, are the reasons behind this type of activism well informed?

Today, the SRC of Rhodes University along with SASCO, ANCYL, DA, YCL, NEHAWU and DASO organised a protest against racism. This was in light of Professor Jonathan Jansen’s, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, decision to allow the Reitz 4 to continue their education at UFS. According to the SRC at Rhodes University, this protest was against such a decision by Prof. Jansen.

Those who were involved in the protest, I can only hope, took the time to research the matter clearly. I am in no way for any sort of racist action. However, I do not believe one should blindly follow the other without determining the facts and making a well informed decision.

If I did agree with the protest’s aims I would have been more than willing to give up my lunch time meal of a Cornish pie and chips. However, this was not the case.
Vice-Chancellor Jansen’s decision is solely based on the ideals of forgiveness and reconciliation. The charges of the Reitz 4 have not been dropped. Their case is on-going with the UFS, the Human Rights Commission and the Directorate of Special Prosecutions. By allowing these perpetrators to continue their tertiary education is an act of transformation and an attempt to emulate the actions of the men who built the country we live in today. Archbishop Desmond Tutu pointed out in a letter to Vice-Chancellor Jansen that Nelson Mandela is a man much admired today because of his ability to forgive rather than his ability to execute revenge.

A case many years ago that we cannot forget is that of Amy Biehl. An American woman who’s work is greatly respected and marvelled at the world over. Unfortunately she was brutally murdered in 1993 as an act of ‘political mob violence’. Her parents participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s hearing and publicly forgave these men.

Therefore, I must ask members of the student body to remember such men and women and why we revere them. It is forgiveness, rather than retribution, that will serve us well in the long term.

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