Letter: South Africa's time to forgive

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The Independent Online
Sir: The campaign against John Lloyd, the Labour Party candidate for Exeter, is ill-founded and vindictive (" 'Terrorism' returns to haunt candidate", 27 October).

I was a friend of John Harris, the anti-apartheid activist who (as your story tells) was executed in Pretoria on 1 April 1965. After the explosion at Johannesburg station on 24 July 1964, I was among those arrested by the security police and held for interrogation in Pretoria jail. Following my release on 27 August, I attended the whole of the Harris trial in the Transvaal Supreme Court and was present when Lloyd gave evidence against Harris (who had, by then, signed a full confession). I corresponded with John Harris in the death cell after his conviction and visited him regularly in Pretoria jail, our last conversation being on the day before his execution.

I want to place on record that John Harris bore John Lloyd no grudge, said so, and tried (I believe) to convey this message to Lloyd - whether successfully or not I do not know. Indeed, he had no grounds for any grudge. Lloyd was innocent of an act planned and executed entirely by Harris but found himself at risk of being charged as an accessory to an offence carrying the death penalty. He succumbed to unbearable pressure and went into the witness box.

John Lloyd was guilty of human frailty, but then who isn't? After these many years I for one wish him good luck.

Yours faithfully,

Maritz van den Berg

London, SW15