Perpetrators of apartheid crimes should be given the chance to tell their stories to enable closure for their victims and for themselves, Director General in the Presidency Frank Chikane said on Tuesday.
"We want to free all those young people who are in their forties and thirties now and who are carrying the burden of this secret that threatens them day and night fearing that one day its going to be found out. Why can we not just finish that now?" Chikane said.
Speaking at a press conference at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Chikane said while there was an opportunity at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the hearings were never meant to get all the perpetrators and all the victims.
"It was clear in the end you could only have a sample of people who have gone to the TRC," he said.
He criticised those who say the book on apartheid-era crimes should be closed.
"If you had somebody who is missing in the family and you don't know where the body is, you can't forget this. You need to be assisted to find the body [and] if you find the body, you want to know who the person is who put the body there," Chikane said.
"I believe that it is important that we close this chapter not by asking families not to remember that they are missing somebody; we close the chapter by getting people to tell the story."
But, Chikane said perpetrators should not be condemned for only coming forward now and telling their stories.
"Why should people who wake up in the morning and say, 'I have just seen the light. In the midst of the transition I was scared, did not know what to do. But now I have realised this country is normal -- actually this country is better than the one in which I lived,' and they come forward and say, 'I want to end this pain,' why should we not give them a chance to do that?"
Speaking a day after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that it will go ahead with the prosecution of apartheid-era police minister Adriaan Vlok, former police chief Johann van der Merwe and three former high-ranking police officials, Chikane said there is a difference between forgiveness and the legal process.
The NPA has filed papers with the Pretoria High Court and the matter will be heard on August 17. The charges relate to an alleged plot to kill Chikane in 1989, when he was secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, by lining his underwear with poison.
Last September, Vlok asked Chikane's forgiveness and washed his feet.
Chikane said he has forgiven Vlok and others who acted against him in the apartheid era. "I made a determination that I need to make a stand to forgive them, because not to forgive them means I carry a burden, and the bitterness," he said.
full story from M&G here