A vexing lesson in humanity

The debate on whether President Thabo Mbeki and the government officials did the right thing by attending the funeral of PW Botha will stay with us for a long time to come.

The debate on whether President Thabo Mbeki and the government officials did the right thing by attending the funeral of PW Botha will stay with us for a long time to come.

As the iron-fisted oppressor was being buried in his home yesterday, there was a clear division among South Africans about the wisdom or otherwise of Mbeki and his officials.

Those opposed to this act of reconciliation say that the Groot Krokodil was an unrepentant oppressor and mass murderer who spurned the hand of friendship and forgiveness offered to him by the new government. They correctly point out that reconciliation is not a one-way street.

On the other hand, there are those who feel that Mbeki's gesture was consistent with the government's efforts at nation building.

In the week preceding Botha's burial, the president ordered that the national flag be flown at half-mast across the country, and also offered the Botha family a state funeral, which they declined.

Whatever his intentions, Mbeki showed true statemanship and scored full marks for reconciliation with his gesture.

We are not going to shower Botha's legacy with praise. Still, we are not savages who rejoice at the death of another human being, especially a spent force. Let's hope that his fellow die-hard racists learn to reciprocate this generosity of the African spirit.

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