Letter: Feuding, fading Afrikaners; touching moment on screen; and all South Africa's children

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Sir: One of the most moving moments in the whole South African election period came on Channel 4 News (27 April) when Joe Slovo and Pik Botha, old ideological enemies now embarking together on a future of national unity, discussed the murder of Joe Slovo's wife at the hands of the agents of the government of which Pik Botha was Foreign Minister. Slovo spoke about the enduring pain. But he also spoke about the need to leave the past behind.

Turning to the Foreign Minister, Jon Snow asked him if he cared to apologise. Without hesitation he did so, movingly echoing Slovo's remarks about the need for optimism and co-operation. It was an extraordinary moment and every bit as potent as the sight of Nelson Mandela dropping his vote into the ballot box in Natal.

I was struck by the parallel with Northern Ireland, one which is so often drawn. Ian Paisley is Eugene Terreblanche, but with a dog-collar instead of a silly khaki uniform. While the governments of the Republic and of the UK try to forge some sort of unified way out of the bloodshed, the bellowed rhetoric of 'no surrender' catches them out, over and over. I can't think of a South African parallel for Gerry Adams, all side-stepping sanctimony, never able to condemn the murders of his cohorts.

Next time I hear cry 'no surrender' uttered by Ian Paisley, or hear another denial by Gerry Adams, I will remember Joe Slovo and Pik Botha together.

Yours faithfully,


London, W2

28 April