On the 23rd of June, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory hosted a handover ceremony in which Lourens and Lorato Labuschagne donated their Apartheid South African flag to the Nelson Mandela Foundation archives in exchange for the new South African flag. The ceremony was followed by an insightful and moving panel discussion with the Labuschagnes, Candice Mama, author of Forgiveness Redefined: A Young Woman’s Journey Towards Forgiving the Apartheid Assassin who Brutally Murdered Her Father and Gaongalelwe Tiro, author of Parcel of Death: The Biography of Onkgopotse Abram Tiro, facilitated by the Foundation’s Verne Harris.
In 2019, the Equality Court declared gratuitous displays of the Apartheid South African flag as hate speech after the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s application. During the litigation, we were approached by Lourens and Lorato Labuschagne. Lourens’ father, Abraham Labuschagne, was a police officer who was killed by a bomb planted in a predominantly Black shopping centre by right-wing terrorist agents aiming to destabilise race relations and derail the 1994 elections.
Lourens and Lorato approached us to help them work out what to do with the Apartheid flag which was draped over the coffin during Labuschagne’s funeral and has been kept by the couple ever since in honour of him.
The handover ceremony, which was officiated by Minister Ronald Lamula and the Department of Art, Culture and Sport, was an emotional and deeply moving moment that embodied the Foundation’s beliefs and proposals on ‘belonging’ as opposed to othering. The evening's guests, who included, former Constitutional Court Judge, Justice Van Der Westhuizen who has supported the Labuschagnes since the beginning of this process and Apartheid-era cabinet Minister who later became a Human Rights Commissioner, Leon Wessels, were there to bear witness, to acknowledge Lourens and Lorato as belonging with us, acknowledging the multiple intersections of pain and hurt they are navigating, and receive this act contrition and nation-building.
In his opening reflections, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang reflected on how “wounded nations continue to wound”, highlighting the urgency and the extent of the work that continues needing to be done in reckoning with the past in pursuit of the country described in the Constitution.
Through the panel discussion, Candice Mama and Gaongalelwe Tiro illustrated how important community is in the work of reckoning with the past. Not only in the sense of accessing archives that are at times dispersed and under the guardianship of national institutions who sometimes make themselves less than accessible, but also, as in the case of Tiro, we need community in reckoning with the past because sometimes the archives are held in the personal memories and artefacts of those we live with. Further, Lourens and Lorato taught us how there are no geniuses, and that learning and relying on each other is vitally important in confronting the mammoth task of nation-building ahead of us.
Guests from the evening were invited to share a message of support for the Labuschagne family as they continue on their journey of healing. Lorato also shared a gift for each member of the audience which included books she and Lourens read in rebuilding trust, finding courage and wisdom to do the work they are doing in their marriage as well as in the public domain.
If you would like to watch the recording of the event, it is still available, along with many of our recent and past dialogues, on our YouTube channel.