Aug 30, 2010
Coetzee does not talk about his childhood. He speaks about the planning that went into the bombing, how he was chosen for his excellent military skills, the years he has spent in prison. He asks for their questions, and the group responds. How did he learn to hate black people? How did he unlearn this hatred? How does he spend his days now? Is he sorry? And if he is so sorry, what can he give them? Coetzee admits he has nothing material to give the world except the leather belt that holds up his overalls. But, he says, God willing, if he gets out of jail, he can begin to attempt to compensate for what he has done. "There are children now in South Africa," he says, "children without parents. They might be tempted to get into violent gangs, to follow anger instead of love." He says, "I can show them that the first life you have to change is your own."
When Coetzee is asked about the dreams he has for his future, he says he would like to get married. He says he will have to tell his future wife and any children he may have that he is a murderer.
Now Harris Sibeko intervenes. "Listen here, chief, you must wait until a child is old enough to understand what you are telling them, otherwise the child will hate you." Sibeko turns to the group and asks, "Do you really think we can call this young man a murderer? What do you think is a better name for him?" Then Sibeko answers his own question. "I think you should be called a military operative. Yes, that would be better."
The group agrees with Sibeko. Then Sibeko asks Coetzee whether he receives any visitors in jail. Coetzee replies that one former prisoner comes sometimes. Sibeko is shocked. "None of your family visit you?" Coetzee replies, "No."
The interview goes on for two hours. Finally, Olga Macingwane gets to her feet. Unusually, she is fighting with her emotions. She says, "Stefaans, when I see you, I see my sister's son in you, and I cannot hate you." She extends her arms. "Come here, boy," she says in Xhosa. Coetzee walks into her embrace. "I forgive you," Macingwane says softly. "I have heard what you said, and I forgive you."
...."I forgive him, but that does not mean I pardon him," Macingwane tells me afterward. "We are a country of laws now. We are a country who respects the voices of all people. It is up to the laws of my country to decide whether or not to pardon Stefaans."
...."When I forgave Stefaans," Macingwane says, "that label of 'victim' no longer had such power for me. Physically, of course, the pain will always be there. Mentally, I have at last found some peace. I am not Olga the victim. Now I am Olga. I am Mrs. Olga Macingwane."