Good, bad and ugly side of Vlok’s legacy

Is Adriaan Vlok a good ex-sample or a good example, asks the writer.

Is Adriaan Vlok a good ex-sample or a good example, asks the writer.

Published Jan 22, 2024


Thembile Ndabeni

Those who have watched the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly surely are shocked about this rearrangement of the title.

Relax, it is tailored to suit the character in this one. Normally a person who is growing under an evil environment is likely to start by becoming bad because of the environment itself.

They become worse as they grow up because of the influence and indoctrination with rhetoric and propaganda being soul partners. As a result you graduate from bad to ugly because you want to become like them. Depending on the change of times and you as a person you change to good.

Is Adriaan Vlok a good ex-sample or a good example? Vlok did not just do a lot of bad things but evil things that led to the suffering of people.

The bad:

In his book the The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (2009), David Welsh writes: “Van der Merwe’s attempts to persuade Botha and his minister of law and order, Adriaan Vlok, that detention did not work and that a political solution was required, were rebuffed.”

The reason for that, among other things, is the rhetoric, propaganda and influence he grew up under and was involved in. In his book Into the Heart of Darkness (1997) Jacques Pauw quoted Vlok: “The ANC is a barbaric organisation of killers that doesn’t care about the destruction of human life ... the (police) force has always maintained Christian norms and civilised standards.” The force has ensured the acknowledgement and maintenance of individual freedom of faith and worship and has ensured the inviolability of freedom in our country.”

The ugly:

As presented by Professor Anton Harber, a former journalist, Vlok was part of the decisions that were taken. It was during his time as a member of the State Security council or a minister. Among the worst varying in degrees are the following: Killing of the Cradock Four, young, unarmed men going to a meeting, 10 trapped under pretext that they were crossing the border but ruthlessly dealt with by the “Vlakplaas Gangsters”, a close death for the Reverend Frank Chikane through poisoning of his underwear and bombing of Cosatu House.

I am impressed that Vlok did not deny the evil things he did. He did not end there but went to the people to apologise, wash their feet, and rendered free service, a soup kitchen to the communities of the people he ill-treated. I am also impressed by Chikane, who accepted Vlok’s apology, yet he narrowly escaped death orchestrated by him. Though it did not really go well, he also apologised to Shirley Gunn, who was a white MK woman combatant during the Struggle. He and his “apartheid regime gangsters” jailed and implicated her afterwards.

After taking her to jail, his security forces took her child away, hurled insults at her. It was not until near the end of FW De Klerk’s presidency in 1994 that Vlok informed him that he was going to apply for amnesty for authorising several illegal acts, including the destruction of Cosatu House in May 1987; the placing of dummy explosives in cinemas across South Africa in June 1988 to provide a pretext for the banning of Cry Freedom, the film about the murder of Steve Biko; and in August 1988 rendering Khotso House (headquarters of the SA Council of Churches) in Johannesburg “unusable”. Vlok claimed that PW Botha had ordered the attack on Khotso House – which Botha denied. He had also accused Gunn of complicity in the episode, while congratulating the Vlakplaas operatives who had actually been responsible (Welsh, 2009).

The good:

With the bad history he had, there is a good thing which forms a component of the good side of his history. He is one of the apartheid system’s ministers who went to the TRC. He accepted involvement in the atrocities of the apartheid system and apologised.

That is not only by providing the needy with food, but also by healing them through closure, apology and making peace with them.

By doing so, in the process he was healing himself and paving the way to die peacefully and face his master with that “clean conscience”. He achieved what his masters, Botha and De Klerk could not achieve, forgiveness, peace, and conciliation from the people he inflicted pain on.

Ndabeni is a former history tutor at UWC and a former teacher at Bulumko Senior Secondary School in Khayelitsha.

Cape Times

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