Apartheid-era minister in act of contrition

A former South African Cabinet minister has performed an extraordinary act of contrition—by washing the feet of an anti-apartheid activist he allegedly tried to have murdered.

Presumably in imitation of Christ, who washed the feet of his guests after the Last Supper, Adriaan Vlok chose to perform his act of atonement on the Reverend Frank Chikane, a senior official in the South African Presidency.

The ceremony took place in private earlier this month and was disclosed at the weekend by Chikane. It immediately reignited debate in South Africa over whether South African whites have gone far enough to show repentance for the abuses of apartheid.

Vlok has been accused of responsibility for an attempt to kill Chikane in an incident in which his clothes and baggage were impregnated with poison while travelling in the United States in May 1989. Chikane headed the South African Council of Churches (SACC) when it was one of apartheid’s fiercest critics.

The former minister of law and order has previously admitted responsibility for blowing up the offices of the South African Council of Churches and has received an amnesty for the incident.

Chikane, who is now director general of President Thabo Mbeki’s office, said he was surprised and uncomfortable when Vlok got down on the floor and washed his feet.
Vlok had sought a meeting to discuss “a personal matter”.

He had blamed apartheid for generating hatred which derived from “lack of love and pride and the belief that some in our country were superior to human beings of another race”, according to the South African Press Association. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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