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Forgiveness: the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The willingness to forgive not only sets the enemy free but more importantly sets you free. I watched a documentary about South Africa’s 1995 rugby world cup win, i have to say its one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen, let’s take this tale from the top.

May 26 1948 the Nationalist party won the elections and introduced its policy of racial segregation, apartheid. The concept of separating people based on the colour of their skin is something i still find very hard to understand, there were so many bizarre laws and policies made just to ensure the ‘enslavement’ of non whites. The population registration act required all citizens to register as black, white or coloured, this act alone caused untold pain and suffering as members of one family would be classed differently because one of them would have a much lighter skin tone than his brothers or sisters. The Immorality Act, making it a criminal offense for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race, The Group Areas Act, barring people of particular races from various urban areas, The list goes on and on. Basically the average black man had become a slave in his own land, people were jailed or killed without consequences, the Afrikaaners ‘took no prisoners’. There  was even The Bantu Education Act, designed to reduce the level of education attainable by black people, it was a really horrible time to be non white. Despite all the sanctions and appeals from the international community there was no end in sight, the injustice and inhumane treatment continued.

The Sharpeville massacre on the 21st March 1960. Police opened fire on people protesting (outside a police station in Sharpeville in the Vaal Triangle) against the pass laws, resulting in 69 people being killed and 180 wounded. Baragwanath hospital had been reduced to a war zone. Baragwanath housed 143 survivors – men, women and children – under police guard. Surgeons were shocked by the wounds normally only seen in battle, multiple gunshot wounds, bones powdered by heavy callibre bullets. Many wounds were inflicted from the victims’ backs. Of the 143 admitted; there were 110 men, 29 women and 4 children. Three of those admitted to the hospital died. The bodies of those who died were brought by truck to a mass funeral. What really shocked me about this wasn’t the fact that the police opened fire, but the fact that people were running away and they didn’t stop shooting, Man’s inhumanity to man, and it didn’t stop there.

16th June 1976, Soweto pupils revolt against the apartheid education system, where they were forced to be taught in Afrikaans (as their medium of instruction). Children protesing with banners were attacked by police firing teargas. The children replied by throwing stones and the police replied with shots.

I can’t claim to know how the the people must have felt, no one can unless they were there. To have land belonging to your family for generations taken away from you forcefully, to be told where to go and where not to go, to be forced to use separate ammenities, to watch your children, brothers, sisters get murdered in cold blood that’s more than enough to drive anyone insane with anger and hate. Nelson Mandela fought for the liberation of the people and he was promptly sent to jail for 27 years. 27 years is a long time by anyone’s standard, if it were me i’d have spent the whole time plotting my revenge, trying to figure out a way to make the enemy suffer for all the pain they had caused my people. Mandela didn’t do that, he chose to forgive the enemy. He believed there could not be democracy without reconciliation and forgiveness. His masterstroke was using the 1995 rugby world cup as a way to bring people of all colours together. Bearing in mind black South Africans saw the springboks (SA rugby team as a symbol of the oppressor), they even supported opponents during matches. The plan worked, he was their ’16th man’.

After all that he went through he went down the peaceful path. Honestly i’m not sure i would be able to pull that off, but he did and civil war was averted. Forgiveness: it not only sets the enemy free more importantly its sets you free.

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