Washing feet in act of forgiveness

Adriaan Vlok was Minister of Law and Order in South Africa from 1986 to 1991, in the final years of the apartheid era. Facing increasingly intense opposition and political unrest in this period, the South African government – through the State Security Council of which Vlok was a member – planned and implemented drastic repressive measures, including hit squads, carrying out bombings and assassination of anti-apartheid activists.

His position as minister became especially controversial after 1990 during the negotiations to end apartheid, with the African National Congress insisting on his dismissal. President FW de Klerk responded by moving him to a less controversial post as Minister of Correctional Services in July 1991. In 1993–1994 he was the last chairman of the minister’s council of the House of Assembly, the white chamber of parliament. In 1999, Vlok was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – the sole cabinet minister to have admitted committing crimes, including the bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches at Khotso House, and the COSATU trade union headquarters.

In mid-2006, Vlok came forward with public apologies for a number of acts that he had not disclosed to the TRC, and for which he could therefore be prosecuted. In a dramatic gesture, he washed the feet of Frank Chikane who, as secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, had been targeted by Vlok for assassination. Subsequently, he washed the feet of the ten widows and mothers of the “Mamelodi 10”, a group of anti-apartheid activists who had been lured to their death by a police informant.

He said he had become a born again Christian prior to his public apologies for his actions as Minister of Law and Order and cites this as the cause of his change of heart about his role in apartheid and his need to seek forgiveness. President Thabo Mbeki commented on the event: “I was deeply moved that an elderly Afrikaner, with Adriaan Vlok’s history and pedigree, could speak as he did and break with his past in the manner he has.

What his words and actions said to me was that our society, which includes those who matured under circumstances very different from today’s, is gradually growing out of its traumatic past…the gesture was from a committed Christian, who said that if Jesus Christ could do it, he could also.” On 17 August 2007, the High Court in Pretoria handed him a suspended ten-year sentence for his role in the 1989 plot to kill Frank Chikane.

In 2014 he publicly called for more apartheid era perpetrators to come forward and apologise for their actions. As of 2015 he started and runs a child feeding charity named the Feed a Child initiative. (Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adriaan_Vlok and http://www.joymag.co.za/article.php?id=90 )