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    Posted December 6, 2013 by
    Southlake, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Nelson Mandela: Your memories

    cfh123 and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Remembering Nelson Mandela
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    An Apartheid-era Cop Looks Back on Mandela's Forgiveness


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Johann Lochner says, 'I was a cop in South Africa from 1986 to 1990 during the height of the Apartheid years. I first worked as a uniformed officer and eventually became a detective in the South African Police Child Protection Unit. It was an amazing experience, as I remember so clearly how I had to personally take steps to overcome the ingrained apartheid mentality in South Africa.'

    UPDATE! Read his essay on CNN.com: 'The power of forgiveness'

    He described his experiences:

    'I was freshly out of Police College when I experienced my first dose of racism. One example was when the officer I was riding with would charge onto groups of blacks who would play a gambling game on the sides of the streets. They would have to scatter and run to avoid being run over by the police van. This officer would then chase them away with his 'shambock' after which he would take their money and pocket it. I was so horrified by what I saw.'

    'During those years, if a white officer had a black officer with him as a crew member and he would stop by his house, the black officer would usually have to wait in the police van. One day, I invited a black sergeant into our house. He was very uncomfortable and just stood around in the living room. When I invited him to have a seat, he was surprised. I offered him a cup of tea after which our maid (a wonderful Zulu lady) whispered to me and asked, 'Which cup should I use?' In those days, blacks would normally have to use tin cups and would not be allowed to use porcelain cups. They were both shocked when I did the most basic thing such as offering him a cup of tea from the same kind of cup I would use. The sad thing was that I knew some white people who would allow their dogs to lick their plates clean after dinner but would not allow a black man to use the same plates.'

    'We ended up taking our maid's (who we believe may have later died of AIDS because some of her children did) little boy into our house. He lives there in South Africa with my mother to this day.'

    'The point I am trying to make is that I am so passionate about the role forgiveness played in Madiba's life. I never experienced the kind of suffering he did, but I can relate to him as I know he must have had to work hard at overcoming his prejudices too. When you look at him that day South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, you see a man that is truly free and filled with joy, and I truly believe it is forgiveness that gave him that strength. You will be so surprised to know how much the Afrikaners respect and admire him.'

    The video above was made on December 6, in snowy Texas, while the photos behind it were shot in 1982 while Lochner was in police college.

    View a video of a speech Lochner wrote on YouTube or CNN iReport.
    - nsaidi, CNN iReport producer

    It was a beautiful spring evening in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was a young man fresh out of police college when I suddenly found myself stepping over fingers, arms, legs and other body parts blown apart by one of Nelson Mandela’s Umkhuntu we Sizwe terrorists.


    The stench of death and destruction was once again hovering over the nation of South Africa. Mandela’s militant freedom fighter accidentally blew himself up as he was planting a bomb at one of Johannesburg’s most popular shopping malls – a mall where my mother shopped and my friends and I played put-put. I was the first officer on the scene and that experience was permanently seared into my memory.


    Across town where blacks were living in squalor many of my colleagues were terrorizing black families who were crying out for the rights of simple human dignity – the simple right to have a vote in the country of their forefathers, the simple right to drink water from the same faucet as a white man. A right they had been denied by an oppressive minority white Apartheid government.


    The racial and tribal tension in South Africa was a powder keg ready to explode into full scale civil war. Civil wars have destroyed many African nations, and South Africa seemed destined for the same fate.


    Then a miracle was born. It was February 11, 1990. The white Apartheid president took the whole world by surprise when he announced the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela from prison.


    Nelson Mandela was a human rights lawyer and freedom fighter – and to white South Africans and the west, he was a terrorist. Mandela was the Marxist friend of the Communist Soviet Union, from where he received training and weapons to wage his struggle. Mandela was a friend of brutal dictators like Fidel Castro, Muhammar Gadhafi, and Robert Mugabe.


    In 1964 after the Rivonia trials, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for his participation in several bombings around South Africa - some deadly. Joy Cain wisely quoted Kate Parkin in her article Mandela, Man of Peace as Mandela being “a real man…a real flesh-and-blood human being. He is not a plaster saint.”


    The white minority who was enjoying power under the apartheid system was terrified - many were convinced they would be brutalized and driven out like those in neighboring Zimbabwe.


    After Mandela’s release, South Africa suffered some of its most severe political violence as Mandela and the white minority struggled to find a peaceful transition to a one man one vote system. South Africa was at the brink. It was during this time that Mandela’s strength and humility became evident. 0n the 10th of May 1994, with the entire world watching in awe, Mandela was peacefully and joyously inaugurated as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president.


    Mandela had the daunting task to unite groups of people who had been at war with each other for decades. How could he succeed? How could Nelson Mandela overcome decades of hate, decades of distrust? How could Mandela father a nation who would soon be called a miracle, a rainbow nation?


    Amazingly, Mandela’s 27 years in prison became the catalyst to his success. As Mandela wrote in his autobiography “a long walk to freedom,” he was suffering at the hands of his captors, and he became determined to study his enemy. He wanted to understand them. He wanted know them. Mandela did the unthinkable. He befriended his white Afrikaner prison guards. He learned their language and studied their culture. Nelson Mandela even went to church with them, and his heart was changed. Mandela’s friendship with his prison guards was sincere and endures to this day.


    So what is it that allowed Mandela to miraculously unite a nation?


    Nelson Mandela forgave the Afrikaners.


    Forgiveness. Yes that same forgiveness Jesus expressed when he cried out to his father while hanging on a cross: “Father, forgive then, for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness removed the shackles of hate, and Mandela knew that mutual forgiveness was the key to national reconciliation. Mandela wanted to find a way to unite all the people of South Africa - something only the power of forgiveness could produce.


    Mandela found the answer in Rugby. Rugby was the favorite sport of the Afrikaners. It was a symbol of Apartheid, and it was despised by blacks. South Africa had been banned from international rugby for decades, but suddenly found themselves back on the international scene after the 1995 rugby world cup was awarded to South Africa. Mandela chose a symbol of hate and turned it into a symbol of hope. As seen in the movie Invictus, Mandela insisted on forgiveness as the key to uniting his beloved country.

    The entire country united behind their rugby team, and their world cup victory became one of the most storied events in the history of international sports.


    Nelson Mandela went from political prisoner to people’s president. Forgiveness freed Mandela.


    Madiba, as he’s lovingly called.


    Yes, forgiveness freed Madiba, and forgiveness freed his country.

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