The dramatic repentance of a South African Apartheid leader

In a dramatic story of repentance, one of South Africa’s Apartheid leaders is now washing the feet of those he persecuted, saying he has found Jesus and is seeking to follow him.

Adriaan Vlok was Minister of Law and Order in the latter years of Apartheid in South Africa. During his time in office an estimated 30,000 people were detained, mainly for their involvement in anti-Apartheid groups.

Vlok is one of the only Apartheid-era leaders to testify and apologise before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in the mid 1990s to uncover human rights violations that had occurred during apartheid. In 2007, Vlok was given a suspended 10-year prison sentence for the attempted murder of Reverend Frank Chikane, an anti-Apartheid figure in the 1970s.

This week Vlok spoke to BBC World Service Newshour about his path to redemption, the beginning of which Vlok says started when his wife committed suicide in 1994. Here’s an excerpt from the interview (listen in full, here). 

“I started reading the Bible and today I believe in Christ. I’m a follower of Jesus.”

>> Although you were a Christian before, weren’t you?  

“I was a Christian but I never know the heart beat of God, of the Lord. And the heartbeat of the Lord is love. And, you know, people said Apartheid was evil, Apartheid was a sin, and I struggled with that. What was the root sin in apartheid? I’ve come to the conclusion that a lack of love – lovelessness – was the root evil in Apartheid. Because, I did not obey the Lord. I grew up in a Christian home, I’ve been born from Christian parents, I was in the church in South Africa for more than 53 years before this started happening to me. I started to read the Bible and to see what Jesus did. Today, I’m trying to obey what he told me to do. He told me to love your brother and your sister.”

“I can never repay people for what I have done to them. I’m still going to people that I remember from that past, and believe that, according to the Word, I must go to them and ask for forgiveness. And then we can find reconciliation.”