Washing sin with muddy water

The greatest human quality is the capacity to forgive and to free oneself from the shackles of hatred, resentment and a quest for revenge.

The greatest human quality is the capacity to forgive and to free oneself from the shackles of hatred, resentment and a quest for revenge.

Forgiveness allows us to move on with our lives instead of being trapped in the past and carrying the burden of the pain in the present and into the future.

Thus, it is noteworthy that the Reverend Frank Chikane, the director-general in the president's office, forgave apartheid security operatives who tried to murder him by poisoning his clothes in 1989.

Much later, the aftermath of the incident took on a poignant note when former law and order minister Adriaan Vlok washed the cleric's feet and asked for forgiveness.

This week, Chikane reiterated his decision to forgive Vlok and the operatives responsible for the incident.

Someone once said: "Forgiveness is the scent that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it."

If Chikane's forgiveness of Vlok had left a scent on his sense of guilt, the prosecution process initiated against the former minister and his co-conspirators by the National Prosecuting Authority is certain to achieve the opposite effect.

That this process enjoys the cleric's support is rather paradoxical and detracts from the magnanimity of the very gesture of forgiveness which suggested closure of the unsavoury chapter.

In essence, this development paints a picture of the scent from the crushed rose unexpectedly transforming into a thorn in the side of those whom Chikane had forgiven.

Could it be a case of former adversaries burying the hatchet but not forgetting where they buried it?

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