When I was nine months old my father was brutally murdered by an Apartheid assassin by the name of Eugene De Kock, by the time I was nine, a book had been published titled Into the Heart of Darkness by Jacques Pauw. Every time a we would have guests my mom would ask me to go get this book.
I knew two things about this book; one was that the man who killed my father was on the cover and the other was that a picture of my dad was in the book. Out of pure curiosity on yet another day my mom had sent me to get a copy of the book and rushing me out of the room, I decided to eavesdrop on what page she told our guests to turn to. I quickly ran to scribble it down and awaited my opportunity to be home alone so I could take a look.
My opportunity came a lot faster than I anticipated. As my mom reversed out of the yard, I quickly ran to the closet where the book stayed, grabbed it and sat at the edge of my mom’s bed, my feet dangling off the edge. Excitedly I turned to the page number and what I saw sent shivers down my spine and brought fearful tears to my eyes. On that dreadful page my young eyes were met with a picture of my dad’s charred body clutching a steering wheel with his eyes protruding.
I quickly shut the book, threw it at the back of the cupboard and ran to my bedroom to silently sob, knowing I would never be able to tell my mother what I had saw. In the years that followed with that image etched in my mind, I became increasingly serious and depressed. By the time I was sixteen, I had been admitted to hospital and the doctor said that my body was killing me and if I didn’t change what I was doing, I was going to die.
That moment was the first time I painfully came to learn that our emotions impact our physiology and whoever or whatever controls your emotions, controls your life. As I slowly undertook the healing journey and fighting back to reclaim my life, I encountered versions of myself that had long been hidden by my trauma.
By the time I was twenty-four, I felt content and as though I had outlived my diagnoses and therefore in the front seat of my life. Until I arrived home one day and my mom said she had received a call from the National Prosecuting Authorities about whether we would like to see Eugene.
My heart sank as the pictures I had gathered over the years flooded back, yet I immediately said yes. knowing that if I didn’t I would regret it for the rest of my life. As the days passed and the rest of my family went back and forth about who would come along with me, I reflected on how many years of my life I had given away to Eugene and he had no idea I even existed and how often we tend to do that. Thinking that the anger we carry inflicts harm on another when in reality, resentment corrodes the vessel that carries it.
CONFRONTING MY PAIN
The day arrived and we headed to Kgosi Mampura Prison where Eugene had been imprisoned. After a short briefing and everyone being situated, Eugene joined us and by some design, I happened to be seated the closest to him, separated only by the priest who was to lead the dialogue. After we were individually introduced, my mom took the lead and asked “Eugene, I want to know what happened to my husband”
Surprisingly forthcoming, he told us in great detail that my father had been identified as a potential troublemaker and radical who was incredibly skilled and brave, along with three other gentleman. Eugene’s team set in an informant into my dad’s camp to create a “false mission” which was simple, since my dad was the most skilled driver, he would transport three men into Nelspruit and go back home.
However, as my dad approached the Nelspruit bridge, Eugene and his team started firing at the vehicle.
When Eugene realised from his watch post at the top of the bridge that the car wasn’t stopping, he ran down the bridge and emptied out his magazine cartridge on my dad. When he still saw signs of life, he doused them in fuel and set them alight. As the conversation continued with more questions being asked and answered by Eugene, we got to final remarks.
My family individually stated their forgiveness, until it got to me and I said “Eugene, I want to say I forgive you but before I do, I need to know one thing” He looked at me and said “Anything, what’s that?”
I said “Do you forgive yourself?” For the first time during our encounter, he became uneasy and looked around the room, avoiding eye
contact with me. When he looked back, he wiped the side of his eye and said “anytime a family walks in here that’s one thing I hope they never ask. When you have done the things I have done, how do you forgive yourself? ”
In that moment I broke down and started sobbing, what surprised me is I wasn’t crying for myself but rather for this human being sitting across from me. When the meeting was dismissed I got up first and walked to Eugene and asked “would you mind if I gave you a hug?”, he looked at me slightly confused, stood up and embraced me and said “I am so sorry for what I have done and your father would have been so proud of the woman you have become”
We went our separate ways and he later received parole.
The lessons I learnt from my encounter was forgiveness does not condone or allow one to forget, it simply removes the emotional
attachment we hold towards and incident person or thing.
When we refuse to forgive, we go into a cycle of re-traumatisation, whereby the initial incident occurred however every time we relive it in our minds, it happens again and again and again, giving it power over our lives. However, when we forgive we allow ourselves to claim back our stories.
We can say this thing happened to me but it is not who I am. Each and everyone of us deserve to be
in control of our narrative, if you are still standing and breathing, it simply means that incident that
was supposed to break you only served to build you and you have the power to move on with
more strength than you had before.
Healing may not be easy but trust me when I say it is so worth it
Candice Mama is the author of Forgiveness Redefined
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