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The beating I suffered at the hands of white thugs is nothing compared with Madiba’s 27 years in prison, says Fr Victor Phalana.
Pretoria - Yes, I was attacked by a group of white hooligans, from the age of 20 to 30 (Pretoria News, December 16). This does not mean that all whites are racists.
The following week, I travelled on Gautrain from Pretoria to Park station. I travelled with the true rainbow nation.
Among the passengers was an English man who wanted to go to FNB for Mandela’s memorial service. In the same coach, I met a white South African man who is a member of the ANC in the Sandton region – and he was proud of that.
These hooligans thought that by beating me up (in Gezina), they were retaliating for the attention Mandela was getting at his funeral.
We had a memorial service – a high mass presided over by Cardinal Turkson, the official representative of the Holy See at the funeral.
He did not receive the kind of respect and service he expected as the chief representative of the Vatican State.
And he confided this to me.
The ill-treatment, the ridicule he suffered as he was trying to get accreditation for both FNB and Qunu, leave much to be desired.
But we must accept that perhaps it was part of the logistical challenges of the protocol services.
Thank God, we received him well as the Catholic Church of Pretoria Archdiocese and gave him the respect he deserved as a representative of Pope Francis.
The beating I suffered is nothing compared with the 27 years of Madiba in prison.
The humiliation I suffered from these boers is nothing compared with the suffering of the millions of South Africans at the hands of our oppressors.
I will not retaliate.
No, I did not get their plate numbers. I do not need to know who they are.
I simply forgive them, because Mandela taught us to forgive our enemies. Jesus taught us to forgive and bless our enemies.
When they attacked me, and I went down to the ground bleeding, they asked: “Where is Mandela now? Where is your Mandela now?”
Well, the truth is that Mandela is dead. Mandela is buried.
If they are still angry at the fact that South Africa is free from racial oppression and that our first democratically elected president had passed on, then it is not my problem, but their problem.
Many families lost their loved ones in the time of apartheid.
The blows I got and the insults, what are they, compared to the deaths of Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu and the Riberios? We forgive them.
We are going to forgive them, because without that, there is no future for South Africa.
All non-racists must stand up and really speak out against racism.
I am worried about the young man, Martin, from Cameroon (who assists at the cathedral and was with me), who has never experienced this kind of racial hatred.
He was trying to intervene on my behalf when they attacked him and left him bleeding just like myself. Martin is traumatised.
His family is incensed.
But he needs to know this side of our history.
He must know their brutality, their anger and their violence. I have seen all that in my own life.
We must also make sure that our leaders are protected from these racists.
Maximum protection from all those who would like to derail our hard-won liberation and the sacrifices of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
In the first reception I attended, Judge Mavundla acknowledged the presence of Judge Moseneke and other judges from around Gauteng.
He appealed to the young black lawyers to stand up and work hard to defend the hard-won liberation and to study for the sake of transformation. Fr Mkhatshwa who concelebrated with me (after the incident), echoed the same sentiments.
We must not relax. We must continue to work hard for justice, peace and reconciliation as Mandela did.
Let us continue to pray for them. One day the light will shine and they will give up racism for love and peace.
I missed the wedding reception, but I am grateful that I am still alive.
God forgive them.
Fr Victor Phalana, Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral, Pretoria
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.