The trial of Charles Bester, the youngest conscript to refuse to serve in the South African Defence Force, will resume on Monday in the Potchefstroom Magistrate's Court. Bester, 18, refuses to serve in the SADF on the grounds that he is a Christian. He could be the second white South African to receive a six year jail sentence for refusing to do military training.
The first was David Bruce, a 25-year-old university student. "The basic reason for my stand," says Bester, "is that I am a Christian and as a Christian must follow the path of love in every situation. I cannot put my life into compartments so that my religious life has no bearing on my political, sporting and other areas of my life."
According to a pamphlet released by the Charles Bester Support Group, Bester attended Grey College in Bloemfontein and St Martin's School in Johannesburg. "While at Grey College, in Std 7, he expressed doubts about serving in the SADF. Eventually, these doubts led him to stand trial rather that to serve the SADF,'' the pamphlet said.
The campaign to achieve community support for Bester’s plight, and that of other conscientious objectors, has been marred by smear pamphlets. Pamphlets, which look like the one's produced by the Charles Bester Support Group, have been posted to the press.
The Conscientious Objectors Support Group says it "is reminiscent of smear tactics used against the End Conscription Campaign and an attempt to denigrate the actions of young men of great at courage and integrity."
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.