Frank Chikane, the director-general in the presidency, says his decision to forgive former apartheid police minister Adriaan Vlok, former police commissioner Johann van der Merwe and three senior police officers who tried to kill him was a very difficult one.
He was speaking at the first monthly public forum entitled Enriching Tomorrow - Sharing Ideas for the Future under the theme of Forgiveness, Repentance and Accountability in Houghton on Tuesday night. Chikane shared the podium with Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein.
Chikane said while he forgave Vlok and others, he told them that they must still face prosecution by the National Prosecuting Authority to account for their actions.
Chikane, then general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and an anti-apartheid campaigner, miraculously survived when security police laced his underwear with poison.
He said it emerged during the trial of the five that the poison was manufactured at the army chemical laboratories and was meant to kill him.
During the trial, one of the officers told him: "You are damn lucky you are alive, that chemical was meant to kill you."
He believes he was targeted because he had called for sanctions and the isolation of the apartheid regime.
"I never carried a gun in my life, but my name was put on the state list," said Chikane.
Vlok and Van der Merwe were sentenced to ten years suspended for five, while Christoffel Smith, Gert Otto and Johannes Van Staden were sentenced to five years suspended for five as part of plea-bargaining with the NPA.
Some congregants in Chikane's church were mystified that the "men who nearly killed our pastor were walking free".
"The congregation came to understand that forgiveness is too costly," said Chikane.