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There Was This Goat.

A disturbing period of racism in our times, coterminous to slavery, Apartheid in South Africa was another way to reject and humiliate part of the human race because of colour. Apartheid has been dissolved for a few decades still it is perplexing and troublesome to think that we are subjected to this kind of discrimination and uneven justice to this day. Consider Treyvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jnr et al. This kind of discrimination still occurs with the same results partly due to social standing. There Was This Goat shows a deep social ignorance and discrimination where class, wealth, education, intolerance together with a total disregard for understanding of another persons culture is rife.

Failing to understand Mrs. Konile’s statement was made while in the process of grieving for her son, who was publicly brutally murdered she was still in a state of shock. Her testimony could well have been entered into “2500 random things…”. Mrs. Konile’s testimony was judged to be lacking ‘communicative competence’, before its analysis by the authors of this book. Communicative competence is a necessary skill needed in order to take part in social interaction. This made all to clear the differences in culture and social status which played a part in the elucidation of Mrs. Konile’s statement, and made all to clear the ignorance and discrimination she had to endure. One can make an argument that Mrs. Konile suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to the nature of the heinous barbarism she was made to explicate. After reading the book I looked at some video on YouTube from the hearings. Seeing the images after reading the description of how these young mean were treated, their disfigured bodies after being assassinated, was truly unbelievable. Even though the three other mothers forgave those responsible, that Mrs. Konile could not. The three mothers who forgave the police officers were said to be from urban neighbourhoods and recited each testimony using euphemisms aligned with the procedures arranged by the commission which led them to find forgiveness. They were lured and lulled into a false sense of security by the one officers confession and appeal for forgiveness. Mrs. Konile knew nothing of the city. In her early testimony, after finding out that her son was killed she talked of not knowing anything of Cape Town. She did say it was her sons wish to live in Cape Town. She talked more of what her son was going to do and the way he was going to help her, and look after her. She had a vision of a goat, and this apparition was a warning that something untoward had or was gong to happen. Mrs. Konile is one who is firmly entrenched in rural traditions and customs, we see that when she reels off her ancestral tribal names. This tradition and respect for her heritage gives her the courage to reject appeals for forgiveness.

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4 Responses to There Was This Goat.

  1. David Liburd says:

    I wanted to share this recent atrocity. I neglected to add this link to the end of my post. It is a link to a recent lynching that took place at the beginning of this month in Mississippi. http://www.euronews.com/2015/03/20/mississippi-lynching-black-man-found-dead-hanging-from-tree/
    Ignorance is never a virtue and the act of forgiveness can only go so far and only be attributed to true unconscious acts.

  2. Your post made me think about the dangers of generalizing. Initially, the first of the two hypothetical conversations with two white characters demonstrate possible identities and responses to the initial translation of Mrs. Konile’s testimony. There is the explicit statement of wanting to understand the “other” while at the same time, distancing oneself from doing so, “I am left with a feeling that no, I am not like her! … then I find her testimony frightening in it’s confirmation of every stereotype I have of blacks” (21). The “first white” uses Mrs. Konile’s testimony as an excuse or possible explanation for his racism. The authors demonstrated through their research, how to interpret Mrs. Konile’s testimony, nonetheless, even if she was crazy and made no sense, why would her single testimony be enough of an excuse to not “want to share a country with this kind of ‘blackness'”? Why do the privileged find it acceptable to judge a population on the actions of one as a representation of the rest? Especially when, in this case, the rest of the testimonies fit the narrative style of the white population and therefore do not inspire these types of conversations.

  3. Hi David. I think you’re right that Mrs. Konile’s official testimony in English — that is, the one on record with the TRC as resulting from the official interpretation — does read very much like a list of 25 random things. What an interesting link! When Nosisi translates the Xhosa, though, and we see that she is from Indwe, it all makes sense in the way the white mind, and Antjie says, needs it to make sense. So the tension between what makes sense in different cultures, with different frames of reference and different idioms, is a heady one. Understanding the context of her financial poverty in Indwe, the commonplace coal-picking experiences and that she was literally pinned under a rock for many hours, the population of goats, all make what originally seemed random click into narrative, social and geographic sense.

  4. I think your post, David, will be interesting in the context of Berni’s questions regarding reconciliation (individual, group, and national, and how these interact with personal, community, and global considerations), and I’m looking forward to the discussion on Tuesday. I have always tended to think of the act of forgiveness as a very personal thing… that it comes and goes from each of us in different ways (some too easily, most in the middle, and some not at all) for a variety of reasons including upbringing, experience, etc., and in relation to the severity of the circumstances. Looking at the variations you mention in forgiveness from Mrs. Konile to the other mothers is an interesting perspective, even just in terms of their immediate environment, as you pointed out: city versus country and all the differences that one might think could arise in lives between the two. And also there is this larger question of an individual’s forgiveness in contrast to a group or a wider notion of forgiveness.

    The authors posit that perhaps Mrs. Konile’s “unforgiving stance” has roots in that she “could not find any connection between her devastated and impoverished life and the life of the perpetrator” (p. 199). Then, they posit that perhaps she “couldn’t forgive Mbelo because she couldn’t recognize any humanity in him…that he showed no humanity as he shot her child who was also asking for forgiveness” (p. 200). Then, they juxtapose her stance at the commission with her words in the face-to-face meeting some time later, where she “suggests it was ‘wrong’ of her to be unforgiving,” (p. 200) vis-a-vis the fact that she has begun to think of it in relation to the forgiveness shown by the fellow Gugulethu Seven mothers, as well as the “children,” Thandeka and Khanyisa.

    This question of forgiveness generally is so complicated, no matter the topic (from small fibs to larger transgressions) and compounded when thinking of it against environment (immediate to larger context) and then as “viewed” (as example or moral) or “private.” I found the descriptions of Mrs. Konile’s “unforgiving stance” in the book so natural (as in, to identify with) and situated in strength. It seemed to me that she was unswayed, and more so that she was working within the context of her own healing process and not someone else’s.

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