During Nelson Mandela’s 19 years of incarceration on Robben Island, one warden was particularly brutal. Badenhorst - was his name - could have easily won an award – if there was one - for being the “baddest” warden on Robben Island in Mandela’s time.
Our theme for reflection today is an extract from Nelson Mandela’s acclaimed “Long Walk To Freedom” on Badenhorst:
“A few days before Badenhorst’s departure, I was called to the main office. General Steyn was visiting the island and wanted to know if we had any complaints. Badenhorst was there as I went through a list of demands. When I had finished, Badenhorst spoke to me directly.
He told me he would be leaving the island and added: ‘I just want to wish you people good luck’.
I do not know if I looked dumbfounded, but I was amazed. He spoke these words like a human being and showed a side of himself we had never seen before. I thanked him for his good wishes and wished him luck in his endeavours.
I thought about this moment for a long time afterwards. Badenhorst had perhaps been the most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island.
But that day in the office, he had revealed that that there was another side to his nature, a side that had been obscured but still existed.
It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency and that, if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.”
Would this explain the spate of apologies being piled on Malawians? Are the people throwing around apologies mere conmen driven by greed to once again dupe the masses?