Alex Boraine: Scratching where it’s not itching

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In a recent news article, former deputy head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) dr. Alex Boraine accused the National Prosecuting Authority of dragging it’s feet in the prosecution of people denied amnesty by the TRC. The United Nations Committee backed Boraine’s plea, claiming that people suspected of torturing prisoners during apartheid should be put "on trial and pay compensation to the victims."

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One cannot help but question why the prosecution of former leading figures under apartheid is still considered a major priority amongst South Africa’s new ruling class. Obviously justice should be served, but the current levels of violence, murder and mayhem under ANC rule eclipses the crimes committed during apartheid by far, in effect making a mockery of the whole idea of justice, not to mention reconciliation. Had South Africa transformed into the stable, prosperous and peaceful country its citizens hoped for, the justice in this act would have been understandable. The current ANC’s feet-dragging policy towards combating AIDS and violence though, seems to be conveniently overlooked in this plea.

The absurdity is exacerbated if one considers the tendentiousness on which the TRC was founded. In stead of a bona fide courtroom trial, in which first of all the nature of a crime has to be thoroughly examined before prosecution could take place, the TRC drew an a-priori conclusion regarding the criminal nature of apartheid and henceforth proclaimed to investigate to what extent the crimes committed could be considered crimes. In short: You are guilty, but exactly how guilty needs to be discovered, effectively leaving the administrators during the apartheid regime in a Kafkaesque "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" double bind. In doing so, the TRC placed itself in the position of the sole moral authority over South Africa, an act that portends the rise of a totalitarian regime where a minority now finds itself at the mercy of a "moral" majority.

Boraine’s plea follows two significant events pertaining to South Africa’s past and present. Firstly former president P.W. Botha passed away, and contrary to the expectations of many South Africans, president Thabo Mbeki hailed Botha as a leader who made a significant contribution to dismantle apartheid. Messages of gratitude and scorn were echoed world wide through media and discussion forums, some calling Botha a hero and man of integrity, other calling him a Fascist, oppressor and even a war criminal.

The other significant event was the release of the United Nations Human Development Index , where the declining state of health in South Africa is for all to see. What makes this report especially significant is the gradual increase of South Africa’s general health from 1975 onwards, reaching a plateau in 1990 and sharply declining from 1995, shortly after the ANC took power. South Africa slid down 35 places since 1990, currently ranking at 121 out of 177 countries. The main cause of this decline is attributed to the AIDS epidemic.

Even though the TRC issued a harsh sentence towards apartheid, general health statistics paint a somewhat nuanced picture. Indeed, life expectancy amongst Africans increased significantly during white rule from Verwoerd onwards. Tuberculosis was brought well under control and infant mortality rate fell sharply. During apartheid, the economy grew at a steady 3,5% per annum, the number of black school going children increased by 250% during the first 25 years and during the last 20 years of white rule, the total number of income earners in the entire South African economy saw blacks almost double from 20% in 1975 to 37% in 1995. These contributions left TRC head Archbishop Desmond Tutu unimpressed, claiming "a bad tree cannot bear good fruit". Along with this, Tutu launched a fierce attack on F.W. de Klerk for possessing knowledge regarding the Boipatong massacre, perhaps even orchestrating it. A preposterous accusation, especially given the volatile transition period. No leader would ever risk a civil war by inciting violence amongst tribes. Only when De Klerk threatened legal action to shut down the TRC, Tutu withdrew his unfounded accusation.

From this perspective, Boraine’s accusation to once again pay attention to past crimes merits concern. Not only has the TRC revealed its biased witch-hunting approach that paid little respect for great achievements that were made during apartheid, it also claims to be an organ superior to the rule of law. This is demonstrated further when three years ago a legal team led by Ed Fagan wanted to sue major American companies for profiteering from apartheid, as apartheid was declared a crime against humanity. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu stepped in the fray discouraging the plaintiffs, with Mandela stating that South Africans do not need outside interference and are capable to deal with issues of reconciliation, reparation and transformation among themselves (the irony being that the same international interference turned Mandela into a leading symbol of hope). This makes one wonder as to the honesty of the TRC’s accusation that apartheid is a crime against humanity, a view originally held by the Communist block in the United Nations and dismissed by the West. It should surprise few that many TRC members had Communist sympathies, and the TRC hearing should therefore be seen as an elongation of Communist deceptive facade politics. After all, what damage could a legal tribunal have done that the TRC could not?

The most reasonable assumption for the UN committee’s and Boraine’s actions would be to distract the attention away from the current political chaos that is undermining South Africa as a nation. It seems as if a need to establish a moral credibility is needed. The ANC is clearly a failing government. Ten years ago South Africa boasted as world leader in training medical doctors. Today the minister of health, dr. Manto Tshabalala Msimang advises the use of a garlic cocktail to treat HIV infections. Many qualified South Africans are leaving the country because of unpopular government policy, opinion makers have expressed doubt in South Africa’s ability to host the 2010 FIFA World Soccer event, and leftist anti-apartheid authors and poets have expressed their discontent with the ANC government. Breyten Breytenbach referred to the ANC as racist and Stalinist, André P. Brink called safety and security minister Charles Nquakula a monster and Nadine Gordimer typified some developments in South Africa as ‘very, very worrying’. Mbeki’s comradeship with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe does little to inspire confidence with white landowners, whom are according to certain experts already being threatened with genocide. Incidentally, veteran anti-apartheid politician Helen Suzman warned against Thabo Mbeki stating he is "most definitely anti-white".

Dr. Boraine is in effect defying that very same moral principle he proclaims to uphold. The message he sends out justifies governments’ draconian anti-white laws and condones the current mayhem. To delve into the past twelve years after the end of white rule seems to reveal a certain sense of fatalism, a perception that South Africa could not be saved on its current course. This in turn reinforces governments continuing strive to turn South Africa into a once again divided country, but this time between rich and poor. Time will tell which the bigger of the two evils would be, even though many people already made up their minds on this matter. Poverty and hunger enslave people more than any "whites only" poster could.

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