By Willem Ratte
This is an open letter I wrote to our former South African Deputy Minister of Defence, Adriaan Vlok, knowing fully well that he will in all probability never read it, and that it would not mean much anyway. But, still, I want to put it on record here, where I can:
"Dear Sir, You will always retain a special place in my heart as a result of what probably was, to you, a routine little gesture, but was something that meant a lot to us who stayed on the border. It was a small ‘thank you’ card that your office in the middle-eighties sent us at Western Area Battalion at Nepara, signed by your secretary Mr Koegelenberg if I remember correctly. As then 2i/c of the Battalion, I appreciated this gesture very much, and passed it on to our members in base. Those who had worked so hard to welcome, treat and entertain visitors like you, as good manners and the respect we had for you and our government and our leaders of the time prescribed. In my, albeit limited, experience of such matters it was the only time that a VIP had bothered to thank us afterwards in writing. I shall always remember and appreciate it. – In the meantime, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. And I could not help noticing that in 2006 you washed the feet of one so-called Reverend Frank Chikane, - a political priest and supporter of the race-based Black Consciousness Movement, and later an influential member of the African National Congress' National Executive Committee, which had earlier waged terrorism against us. Your motivation, according to an interview with one Khanya, was because, quote, the Lord spoke to (me) and showed (me) exactly how evil apartheid was. And so (I) repented of (my) pride, (my) arrogance, and above all (my) lovelessness in supporting a system based on lovelessness, unquote. Thereafter you apparently in 2009 washed the feet of thirteen former members of our former police and defence force, - allegedly to ask their forgiveness ‘for leading them onto "the wrong path’. Now for all it is worth, Sir, I would like to say this to you: In principle, your washing of other people’s feet, and so by implication the imitation of what Our Heavenly Lord and Master did to his disciples, is something you have to live with yourself. But if the purpose of the feet-washing was to ask forgiveness for what you allege to have been a lack of love and a wrong path, then, dear Sir, you need never wash the feet of any of my mates and former comrades-in-arms. The defence force you represented was not lacking in love. And the path we walked was not wrong. On the contrary. It was love of our people and our country that made our defence force and us who served in it fight against the insurgents and terrorists who attacked and killed our people. And it was right, not wrong, to arrest and detain people who aided and abetted terrorism. The British and Americans do it every day, now that they have the same problem we had. Let those who went too far in their war on terror wash the feet of those they might have wronged themselves if they want, - you, as former Deputy Minister of Defence representing our proud South African Defence Force, should not have done it. If you were really unable to resist an inescapable urge to wash feet, you could have washed the feet of the thousands and thousands of ordinary soldiers who served in the former SADF, - but not because you led them on the wrong path. Actually, for the work you did at the time you would deserve more compliments than criticism, as far as I can remember. No, it is rather for afterwards leaving us in the lurch, and doing nothing or too little to stop our government and your party from selling us out, up the river without a paddle in 1994, that you could wash feet. For THAT wrong path of injustice and treason you are more than welcome to ask our forgiveness. Here’s a bowl and towel….