Vlok case leaves toxic taste

Eat your heart out because I also have struggle credentials.

I once spent a night on the now world-famous Robben Island and this was not in post-apartheid South Africa. The country was boiling and about to implode at the time.

Bah! He must be lying now, many might say, but it's true.

The difference is, though, except for being born black, I had not committed any treasonable offence nor any other crime for that matter.

I may as well spit it all out. Robben Island had long ceased to be a jail when I became its willing inmate.

Only memories and reminders remained of its famous former residents, liberation struggle icons such as Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and other long-timers.

The reason for this piece will become clearer as you read on.

As Sowetan's parliamentary correspondent in the years leading up to the historic 1994 elections, I was invited with other political scribes by Adriaan Vlok to the Island.

Yes, the same Vlok who washed the Reverend Frank Chikane's feet in a please-forgive-me- my-brother public gesture not so long ago.

Vlok was the last minister of law and order in the National Party government under FW de Klerk.

The NP was performing its last jitterbug - the final dance when Vlok feted the most influential bunch of public opinion shapers on a let-us-know-each-other sojourn to the Island.

But, it was too little too late because the ANC and PAC had already been unbanned.

Mandela was back at Orlando West, fulfilling Hugh Masekela's, albeit short-lived wish of "seeing him walking hand-in-hand with Winnie Mandela in the streets of Soweto".

The freedom song, Siyaya ePitoli -We are marching to Pretoria - is now heard for reasons other than wresting power from the nationalists.

Vlok was one of the verkramptes - conservatives - and not a verligte dove or liberal in the past government. He was one of apartheid's hardliners.

It was for this reason that few eyebrows were raised when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) initially announced it might prosecute Vlok and his apartheid police chief, Johann van der Merwe, for the 1989 poisoning of Chikane, then an activist and secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches.

The poison attacked Chikane's central nervous system.

Vlok and Van der Merwe were meant to stand trial in 2004 but the NPA reversed the decision to prosecute.

I think this decision inspired Vlok, now an old man, to ask Chikane for his forgiveness.

And so Vlok washed Chikane's feet at the latter's church last September.

And the former anti-apartheid firebrand forgave Vlok.

The NPA yesterday said it was deliberating the poisoning matter with the legal teams of Vlok and Van der Merwe and the decision would be announced later.

The fact is that the matter has not been taken to court for whatever reason.

However, I smell a rat. Legalese or not, I think the public hugging and kissing between alleged perpetrator and victim is clouding the country's top legal minds.

I suggest the old man be slapped with a strong warning in a court of law and then be left to laze on his farm just as other former Nats do.