Max du Preez
“The poor whiteys just can’t win,” said Max du Preez in the Johannesburg Star. They’ve been pilloried for the last 12 years for not adequately apologizing for apartheid. But when one of them does so ostentatiously, in “an over-the-top, almost macabre fashion,” he’s told it’s not enough. Last week, apartheid-era police minister Adriaan Vlok got down on his knees in front of the Rev. Frank Chikane and washed the priest’s feet in a Christian gesture of repentance. Many people—blacks and whites—are calling Vlok’s gesture cynical and insincere. Chikane, after all, was just one black victim of Vlok’s reign of terror, albeit a major one: Vlok’s underlings tried to kill the activist priest twice, once by poisoning his clothing. And it is perfectly legitimate to ask Vlok: “Why do you think God moved you to perform this private ceremony now, and didn’t move you to wash Desmond Tutu’s feet in 1996, when he represented all of the former oppressed as chair of the Truth Commission?” Yet we shouldn’t entirely dismiss the impact of Vlok’s abasement. Just think if we could have “rolling, mass-action foot washing” by former Nationalist ministers and generals. The picture of Magnus Malan, the former defense minister who killed so many blacks, on his knees in front of President Thabo Mbeki “with a cloth and a bar of soap” would do “wonders for race relations.”
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.