Psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Her new book is A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness. It's about Eugene de Kock, the commanding officer of state-sanctioned apartheid death squads. Gobodo-Madikizela served as a psychologist on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and she spent many hours interviewing de Kock in prison, where he is serving a 212-year sentence for crimes against humanity. The book raises questions about the nature of evil and the limits of forgiveness.
Other segments from the episode on January 20, 2003
DATE January 20, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/Aâ¨ TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/Aâ¨ NETWORK NPRâ¨ PROGRAM Fresh Airâ¨â¨Interview: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela talks about Eugene De Kock,â¨who is serving life in prison for apartheid crimes and who isâ¨the subject of her book "A Human Being Died That Night"â¨TERRY GROSS, host:â¨â¨This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.â¨â¨After working with the victims of apartheid, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela tried toâ¨get into the mind of one of the apartheid government's most notoriousâ¨assassins. Madikizela is a black South African psychologist who served on herâ¨country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was established in 1995 andâ¨offered amnesty to people whose crimes during the apartheid era wereâ¨politically motivated and who gave honest accountings of those crimes to theâ¨commission.â¨â¨In 1997, after his 18-month trial, she began a series of interviews withâ¨Eugene De Kock, who presided over a police death squad. His crimes were soâ¨numerous and so horrible, he was nicknamed Prime Evil. He has been grantedâ¨amnesty for all crimes except two, for which he is serving a double lifeâ¨sentence.â¨â¨Madikizela's new book about her encounters with De Kock is called "A Humanâ¨Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness." I asked her toâ¨describe Eugene De Kock and the crimes he committed.â¨â¨Ms. PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA (Author, "A Human Being Died That Night: A Southâ¨African Story of Forgiveness"): Eugene De Kock was the head of apartheid'sâ¨covert operations unit, which is a unit of the security department, of theâ¨National Security Department. He headed up this unit on a secret farm locatedâ¨just outside Pretoria, which was--is still the administrative city of theâ¨government of South Africa, and he had in his command a whole lot of people ofâ¨men, young men and women, who were working under him who he trained as hitâ¨squads and covert operators, people who went in, infiltrated the townships andâ¨pretended to be working for the ANC while, in fact, they wanted to win theâ¨trust of the young activists in these townships. And he committed, bothâ¨through these operatives and in his own attacks, he committed hundreds ofâ¨killings and assassinations.â¨â¨GROSS: Is there anything that set him apart at the Truth and Reconciliationâ¨committee, his testimony vs. the testimony of other people who had committedâ¨crimes in support of the apartheid regime?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Absolutely. Eugene De Kock, from the moment heâ¨stepped on the first hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hisâ¨mission was to speak as truthfully as possible. He, in fact, made it veryâ¨clear at his very first hearing that he intended to expose all his leaders,â¨the generals who had given him commands, and his subordinates as well. So Deâ¨Kock was set apart firstly just by the level of truthfulness of his testimony,â¨and secondly by the degree of remorse that at least I observed in him and someâ¨of his victims observed in him, and so he really opened up a lot of unknownâ¨material that the apartheid government had committed and so, for that reason,â¨he became the kingpin of the Truth Commission perpetrator testimonies.â¨â¨GROSS: He also named names.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Oh, absolutely. He just named everyone, fromâ¨ministers of police to police commissioners to generals. He named many names.â¨In fact, many of the people who came to testify in the Truth andâ¨Reconciliation Commission were names that had been mentioned by Eugene Deâ¨Kock, people who would otherwise never have come to apply for amnesty, butâ¨they were forced to apply for amnesty because De Kock had mentioned them onâ¨the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.â¨â¨GROSS: Now in order to get amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliationâ¨Commission, you had to do two things. You had to tell the truth and you hadâ¨to show remorse.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: No, actually. The remorse was never a part of it.â¨Remorse was never a requirement for amnesty. The first condition for amnestyâ¨was truthfulness, the full disclosure of the atrocities committed by theâ¨applicant, including those who gave them orders, as well as theâ¨proportionality of the crime for which the applicant is applying for amnesty.â¨In other words, the deed had to be proportional to the political motive thatâ¨the applicant was claiming, so it's really three conditions.â¨â¨Remorse, apology, those were never a requirement, and I remember wonderingâ¨about these and kind of feeling that how can--where is the moral rightness ofâ¨an amnesty that does not require an apology, minimally an apology. I rememberâ¨feeling very uncomfortable about sitting on a committee that did not recognizeâ¨the importance of an apology. But then I thought about it, and I realizedâ¨that if we had legalized, if we had required apology or remorse from theseâ¨people, then there would have been many of them who just said it for the sakeâ¨of getting amnesty. I think the whole experience of apologies and the Truthâ¨Commission and forgiveness on the co--it gave it meaning when people did itâ¨spontaneously rather than for them to be required, to be forced to do it.â¨â¨GROSS: De Kock, when he testified, asked to meet with the widows of some ofâ¨his victims, to apologize to them privately. Was that unusual, or was thatâ¨pretty typical?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It was very unusual. It was very--up till then, mostâ¨perpetrators who had appeared before the TRC were happy to be public aboutâ¨their apologies, it seemed to me, at least, to be, you know, a show in publicâ¨that they were able to apologize. But I was struck by De Kock. I found itâ¨intriguing that he asked to meet privately with the widows of his victims, andâ¨even the way he requested it, he recognized that they might say no. He wasâ¨able to say, `I do not have any expectations about my need to meet with you,â¨but if you can, I would really appreciate if you meet with me.' So I thoughtâ¨I found that very striking, and it had not happened. None of the perpetratorsâ¨had done that before.â¨â¨GROSS: You spent 46 hours interviewing De Kock between 1997 and 1998.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: When you interviewed him, how did he explain his crimes to you? Whatâ¨were the motivations that he gave you?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: De Kock was very interesting to me, because from theâ¨very first day I met with him, he seemed to be just searching for answersâ¨himself for why his life had come to this, but now more concretely, heâ¨explained that the path that led him to perpetrate these crimes, whichâ¨essentially was that while he believed in the principles of his government--heâ¨believed that the communist threat was real and that the ANC and otherâ¨liberation fighters had to be eliminated, that they were a group of people whoâ¨were trying to just get rid of the government by force and to overthrow theâ¨system of apartheid and to govern South Africa, and he believed, as he hadâ¨been told from his childhood that if a black government were to take overâ¨control of South Africa, South Africa would go the way of other countries likeâ¨the Congo and other countries in Africa that had basically had several warsâ¨since their independence. And he was protecting his folk, you know, theâ¨Afrikaner folk. He was protecting the white people of South Africa and hisâ¨government, and because he believed that, he believed in the supremacy of hisâ¨tribe, of his race.â¨â¨GROSS: Now he told you that he didn't think he was a racist...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah.â¨â¨GROSS: ...and he said to you, `I don't see you as a black person.'â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah.â¨â¨GROSS: So if he didn't think of himself as a racist, what was his rationaleâ¨for killing so many black people? Now I know you said that he thought...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: ...he was doing this in support of his government, he was afraid of aâ¨communist takeover and so on, but you know, let's face it, what the governmentâ¨was doing...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right.â¨â¨GROSS: ...was preventing all black people in South Africa...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right.â¨â¨GROSS: ...from having any rights at all, so you know, what did he say to youâ¨in support of his perception, you know, that he was not a racist?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Well, I didn't believe him, as I point out in theâ¨book. It's really just his way of avoiding confronting a bad part of hisâ¨character, and I think he knows racism is supposed to be a negative thing.â¨Now De Kock wanted very much to portray himself as a professional, as aâ¨counterinsurgency operative. According to him, he was stopping the ANC inâ¨their tracks. The ANC was bombing civilians, the ANC was planting bombs atâ¨restaurants and other places in the cities, and so they had to stop them, soâ¨that is a justification. That is how perpetrators think. That's what enablesâ¨them to go on committing their crimes. It enables them to deny their hand inâ¨evil and to behave as if they are really responding or reacting to what theâ¨enemy is doing.â¨â¨GROSS: One of the things you asked De Kock about was his tactics. One of theâ¨things he did with this covert police assassination squad was recruit blackâ¨South Africans to become collaborators. What was his methods of recruitingâ¨people?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: What they did was to capture the ANC activists as theyâ¨infiltrated the country. Most of the ANC liberation fighters were brought wayâ¨across the border in Lesotho, Botswana and some of the neighboring countries,â¨and so when they were sent back to South Africa to plant bombs, they wouldâ¨infiltrate the country, and by the time they came, De Kock and his men wouldâ¨already have the information, so they would trap them, and so arrest them.â¨And so they would torture them and force them to inform on their colleagues,â¨and so once they had successfully tortured them, they then offered themâ¨moneys, you know, to do terrible things, and the first thing that they wantedâ¨them to do would be to kill one of their own to mark them, so to speak, asâ¨people who were on De Kock's side. And once they had committed one or two ofâ¨those murders, then there would be no going back, and then, you know, theyâ¨offered them money and other privileges, and so they lured them to work forâ¨them.â¨â¨GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's the author of the newâ¨book, "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."â¨We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South Africanâ¨psychologist who served on her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.â¨Her new memoir is about her series of prison interviews with Eugene De Kock,â¨the man nicknamed Prime Evil. He headed a government death squad during theâ¨apartheid era.â¨â¨You asked De Kock to describe his worst memory of one of the raids that heâ¨conducted. What was the worst memory that he gave you?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Eugene De Kock described an incident that occurredâ¨after he had just murdered ANC operatives in Lesotho. He was on his wayâ¨driving back from the murder scene back home. And as he approached home, heâ¨started experiencing a smell, feeling that something was smelling on his body,â¨and it was increasingly becoming unbearable. As he entered his living room,â¨he took off his clothes and put them in a pile in the living room floor andâ¨went straight for the shower. And he took a shower, and after the firstâ¨shower, he toweled himself dry and realized that the smell was still clingingâ¨to his body. And so he took three more showers after that. And he took theâ¨clothes--the smelly clothes--and threw them in a garbage bag and with theâ¨towel that he used for after his first shower. And he went--you know, he wentâ¨to bed to sleep with his wife. And so that for him was the most ready memoryâ¨that he had at the time.â¨â¨GROSS: You're a psychologist, and I assume that one of the things--one of theâ¨questions you had was, `Is this man a sociopath? Is he a psychopath? Does heâ¨have a conscience?' Did you have a way to assess whether he was, you know,â¨mentally ill or a sociopath, or whether he really knew what he was doing andâ¨truly believed that it was the right thing?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah. One of the things that we know in psychologyâ¨about what are called in legal terms psychopaths is that they have anâ¨inability to feel. They have an inability to feel love, to feel any realâ¨emotion. And for them, killing is like a, you know, routine thing. Itâ¨becomes something that they just do without any feeling. And these kind ofâ¨people do not reflect for any moment, do not have a moment of, you know,â¨standing back and saying, `Wow,' you know, `that was something terrible Iâ¨did,' and, you know, being awoken by a sense of conscience.â¨â¨Now I was interested to see with De Kock that along the path of his terribleâ¨deeds, along the path of his actions, when he was an operative of theâ¨government, there were moments when he seemed to stand back and to reflect.â¨And this I gathered from some of the things he told me. So for example, thisâ¨incident of the smelling clothes, where he felt that this was somethingâ¨irremovable, the smell was just clinging to his body, couldn't remove it. Heâ¨didn't know how to get rid of it. Now in psychological terms, that isâ¨splitting. That is the idea that it's not what I did, it's the smell on myâ¨body. Now for that to happen--that in itself points to the fact that there isâ¨a stirring of the conscience. And that for me was one of the indications thatâ¨De Kock might have a conscience. And because I spent these hours with him,â¨there were other instances where I realized that this man has really awoken toâ¨the presence of his conscience, remorse being another very clear indication.â¨â¨GROSS: What else made you think that this man has a conscience in spite ofâ¨all the horrible acts that he committed?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: On the first day that I met De Kock, I asked him toâ¨talk about the meeting he had had with the two widows. Now this, again, wasâ¨just the first...â¨â¨GROSS: These are widows of people who he had ordered killed.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right. Right. And he met the widows who had forgivenâ¨him, who had reached out in forgiveness to De Kock. And I asked him toâ¨describe what it was like to be in one room and to look them in the eye. Andâ¨De Kock, without saying and responding verbally, he took off his glasses, heâ¨put them on the table, he started shaking. And I could see tears in his eyes.â¨And his response was very shaky. His voice was very shaky. He said to me, `Iâ¨wish I could say--I wish I could bring their husbands back. I wish I couldâ¨say I'm sorry.' And he was shaking, and his voice was shaking and there wereâ¨tears in his eyes. And I immediately--I really just felt a sense of empathyâ¨for this man who was breaking down just before me. And I reached out andâ¨touched his hand right then. And so this was the beginnings of my--just of aâ¨feeling that there is a conscience; somebody who is able to feel this, to haveâ¨this empathic feeling for some of his victims.â¨â¨GROSS: How could you tell that it was empathy and not theater? What made youâ¨think that he just wasn't playing you and trying to, you know, win you overâ¨and, you know, he might have just been acting the part of a compassionate manâ¨as opposed to actually feeling any sense of empathy or compassion?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: There is a word in psychology that is calledâ¨congruence. Congruence means that there is a congruity between your responseâ¨to this person and what they are communicating to you. In other words,â¨there's a rightness about your response to him. In other words, my responseâ¨of empathy to De Kock's own feelings of helplessness and remorse at thatâ¨moment, there was a sense that this is right. There is nothing incongruousâ¨about his apology or his expression of remorse and my response to him.â¨â¨May I just say one other thing?â¨â¨GROSS: Sure.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At the last--that was the first meeting. In theâ¨penultimate meeting De Kock stood up and was not--you know, it was clearly aâ¨sign that he wants to say something but it seems to be somebody who doesn'tâ¨know how to quite say it. And so I waited to see what was going on, what heâ¨was going to say. And so he--when he finally got himself to speak, he said,â¨`Pumla, I've been meaning to ask you from the second interview, have I everâ¨killed any of your friends or family?'â¨â¨Now that question--it was a plea, like a begging to be readmitted in the worldâ¨of humanity. And at that moment, as I stood in front of him and he stoodâ¨there with shoulders hunched and trying to find out if he had done me anyâ¨harm, I saw through that just his posture and the way he spoke and the appeal,â¨the begging, you know, you have this sense when someone is truly remorseful,â¨is in pain. And that's how I felt. I think actually the word `pain' wouldâ¨describe best what I felt De Kock was feeling at that moment.â¨â¨GROSS: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela will be back in the second half of the show.â¨Her new memoir is called "A Human Being Died That Night: A South Africanâ¨Story of Forgiveness." I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Announcements)â¨â¨GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation with South Africanâ¨psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela about her interviews with the head of anâ¨apartheid government death squad. And David Bianculli reviews "Clone Highâ¨USA," the new animated series that premieres on MTV tonight.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Pumlaâ¨Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South African psychologist who served on herâ¨country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In her attempt to understandâ¨the nature of evil, she conducted a series of prison interviews with the manâ¨who was nicknamed Prime Evil, Eugene De Kock. He headed a government deathâ¨squad. Her new memoir about their encounters is called "A Human Being Diedâ¨That Night."â¨â¨In trying to understand how he became a man capable of ordering the murders ofâ¨so many people, of so many black people, because I think virtually everybodyâ¨he murdered was black, right?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.â¨â¨GROSS: Yeah. Did you try to see if, like, he was brought up in anâ¨environment that might have twisted him psychologically? Was he abused whenâ¨he was a child by his father or a teacher, you know, that kind of, like,â¨psychological analysis that is sometimes informative in explaining somebody'sâ¨actions?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes, I did. It's very crucial to do that, to find outâ¨where does this come from. And, indeed, De Kock's father was a very hard man.â¨He abused him physically and De Kock was very afraid of him. He describes himâ¨himself as a very hard and strong man who was also an alcoholic. And inâ¨addition to just that, all those attributes, he was also a Bruderbund. He wasâ¨a member of a special club, one might say, of the Afrikaners, which is veryâ¨close to some of the secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan, for example.â¨It was a secret society, you know, in South Africa, of the Afrikaners, andâ¨very strongly anti-Communist. And so they were fed the diet of anti-communismâ¨from a very early age, and so there was that abuse. There was also theâ¨coaching, the psychological coaching to hate any person who was opposed to theâ¨government.â¨â¨GROSS: When you started feeling some empathy for Eugene De Kock, were youâ¨worried about feeling--I mean, did you want to feel any empathy for this man?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I never did, actually. I went--my intention was toâ¨have just that one interview with De Kock for two and a half hours maximum andâ¨to go back and report to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I neverâ¨intended to reach out in the way that I eventually did. But what really drawâ¨me back, to go back to De Kock, was the deep questions of: `What is evil?â¨What is--if somebody who has earned the name of Prime Evil can have this--canâ¨experience this level of remorse, how do I understand evil? What is thatâ¨brought him to this place?'â¨â¨And I think, also, because I had done this work with black perpetrators, youngâ¨black activists in the township who had committed the necklace murders--and Iâ¨had spent several hours with young ANC activists and came to understand themâ¨and came to understand how they arrived at their lives of being murderers.â¨And so looking at De Kock, it seemed to me that it was a mirror just turnedâ¨the other way, you know, just seeing the other side of this terrible tragedyâ¨of apartheid violence.â¨â¨GROSS: These necklace murders that you refer to, these were young black Southâ¨Africans who put burning rubber tires around the necks of other black Southâ¨Africans who they thought were collaborators.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes. Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: And they killed them with these burning tires.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm.â¨â¨GROSS: So you interviewed a lot of--or some young people who were responsibleâ¨for some of these necklace murders...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.â¨â¨GROSS: ...acts that you thought were evil, too. And you saw some kindâ¨of--What?--moral equivalency between De Kock and the necklace murders?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At the time when I went to see De Kock, that was notâ¨on my mind at all. In fact, when I interviewed the young activists, it wasâ¨interesting because somehow I could find a place in my heart to identify withâ¨them. You know, their world was my world. We'd shared worlds. I grew up inâ¨a township and I knew the experience of being a child under apartheid andâ¨having parents who had struggled under apartheid. And looking at De Kock,â¨having that first experience with De Kock, made me realize that there is aâ¨moral equivalent, and it was then that I drew the parallel and was motivatedâ¨to speak to De Kock further and to understand how he came to be the personâ¨that he was.â¨â¨GROSS: Now De Kock said to you--and you say that a lot of perpetrators andâ¨human rights violators say this kind of thing. He said, `Well, you can lookâ¨at me and see me as evil, but your side did bad stuff, too.' An example ofâ¨that would be the necklace murders. And, you know, that's one way you canâ¨kind of absolve yourself of your crimes if you're a human rights violator.â¨You say, `Well, your side was responsible for bad things, too.'â¨â¨On the other hand--I mean, as awful as the necklace murders are, and I'm notâ¨going to try to say anything to support that, these are people who had allâ¨their rights stripped from them and were feeling very helpless in fightingâ¨back...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.â¨â¨GROSS: ...whereas De Kock was the person who had the power and representedâ¨the regime that had the power and he's committing murder. So, you know,â¨it's--the moral equivalencies are a little different.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: A little questionable?â¨â¨GROSS: Yeah.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Very different. I think the word `power' is probablyâ¨best to use here in the sense that De Kock, you know, grew up in a system thatâ¨told him that the black liberation fighters are wrong and they're out toâ¨destroy the country. And so these were his beliefs, in that sense. It's theâ¨environment, it's the political environment of his side. It's really aâ¨question of us and them. It's always in group dynamics and group violence.â¨This is the central issue, that it's us against them.â¨â¨And all perpetrators will try to justify what they do by blaming the otherâ¨side. But the important thing here is that there is that moment where theyâ¨realize that they were wrong, that what they did was wrong. They stoppedâ¨seeing the other as less of a human being, because what enables them to commitâ¨the crimes is to dehumanize the other person, to dehumanize the enemy. Andâ¨once they're able to feel remorse, they see the other as a human being likeâ¨themselves. But of course, because this was their life, it's uncomfortable.â¨Remorse is a very painful process. So there are moments when although theâ¨remorse is felt, there are moments when they will go back to definitions thatâ¨will make them feel comfortable, which is a justification.â¨â¨GROSS: Since you do feel that Eugene De Kock has shown genuine remorse, whatâ¨do you think is behind that change in feeling? Do you think it was beingâ¨tried and, you know, being accused, being held up as an example of evil to hisâ¨country? Do you think it was watching the widows of his victims telling theirâ¨side of the story? What was it that changed him, if you really believe he wasâ¨changed?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes. It's several things. I think the one beingâ¨being isolated from his group. I've noticed that--and this, again, is justâ¨part of the psychological reality of group dynamics, that when people areâ¨within their group, they're able to maintain the denials and theâ¨rationalizations. But once they're out of their group, they're able toâ¨reflect. Now De Kock has been isolated not only by his leaders, but also byâ¨his own people, and he says that several times, `And my own people, you know,â¨have ostracized me,' and...â¨â¨GROSS: Because he named names. He...â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Exactly, because he named names. First of all,â¨because he named names, but also because his own people don't want toâ¨associate with his crimes. You know, while they were happy when De Kock wasâ¨committing, you know, his crimes, you know, they had power, they had positionsâ¨of privilege and they were the protected society, the protected race withinâ¨South African society, it was fine.â¨â¨But now when you hold up the mirror and say `This is who you are. This is whoâ¨you supported. These are the people who you voted for,' they can't deal withâ¨that. But then they are able to deny their hand in apartheid and all the evilâ¨of apartheid, but De Kock can't. And so he finds himself alone in the prisonâ¨cell. And, of course, there is the element of, you know, not liking being inâ¨prison. There is that element. But then there is the deeper level that he'sâ¨alone now and he realizes that he has to think as an individual.â¨â¨And, I mean, it's interesting, actually, because what the Truth Commission didâ¨was to enable perpetrators to look truthfully within themselves and toâ¨acknowledge wrongdoing and reward them for that, whereas in a court of law,â¨perpetrators are encouraged to deny wrongdoing. The attempt in a court ofâ¨law, in an adversarial situation, is to admit as little as possible. Butâ¨here, they're given the opportunity to be truthful, and in that journey ofâ¨truthfulness, they are able to look into themselves and to really acknowledgeâ¨that what they did was not simply obedience to orders. They were murderers,â¨and so that is the first step that I think is important in this isolation, inâ¨this prison isolation. So that's what contributed to their remorse, I think.â¨â¨GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's the author of the newâ¨book "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."â¨We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South Africanâ¨psychologist who served on her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.â¨Her new memoir is about her series of prison interviews with Eugene De Kock,â¨the man nicknamed Prime Evil. He headed a government death squad during theâ¨apartheid era.â¨â¨One of the questions that led you to do these interviews with Eugene De Kockâ¨was: What is evil? Is he evil? So let me ask you if you reached anyâ¨conclusions on what is evil, or is Eugene De Kock evil.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It is a very complex question, but I know that peopleâ¨do commit evil deeds. But I'm still very unsure about whether people, like Deâ¨Kock, who can express remorse, can be defined as evil as such. I think thatâ¨De Kock was functioning under an evil system of apartheid. I grapple withâ¨these issues in the book. I grapple with the potential for evil in all of us.â¨Within myself when I am afraid to touch De Kock, when I'm afraid to reach out,â¨when I react with just this confusion to touching De Kock's hand. Iâ¨questioned that and I questioned my own sense of empathy toward De Kock. Iâ¨wonder if this is the right thing to do. So I really struggle with--I thinkâ¨these are perpetual questions. These are questions that will be with us forâ¨as long as we have atrocities. So it's always a potential, it's always a fearâ¨that, you know, could I have been like them, you know?â¨â¨GROSS: Yes. Well, this experience of interviewing De Kock made you wonder ifâ¨there was any evil like this within yourself and it made you think about anâ¨incident in which you celebrated the mutilation and murder of somebody. Whoâ¨was that person?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: That person was Craig Duli. Craig Duli had beenâ¨working with the South African--he had been trained by the South Africanâ¨Defense Force to go to the Transkei and topple the regime of the then--Bantuâ¨Holomisa, who at the time was the head of the normally independent Transkei.â¨Now Holomisa had opened the doors of the Transkei to ANC activists as soon asâ¨former President Nelson Mandela was released. Holomisa, ahead of Southâ¨African government, had opened his doors to ANC liberation fighters. And soâ¨the South African government, well, was not pleased, and so they sent Craigâ¨Duli and an army to topple Holomisa's regime.â¨â¨And on the day of the attempted coup, the whole town of Umtata, which was theâ¨capital of Transkei at the time, the town came to a standstill. And I was inâ¨the crowd witnessing the events as there was firing back and forth. And soâ¨when eventually this man was taken out of the building and we were told thatâ¨they had been captured and subsequently was killed, I celebrated withâ¨everybody else. And now the moment of shame for me came when I was on theâ¨Truth and Reconciliation Commission several years later and this man's wife,â¨Craig Duli's wife, was one of the witnesses before the Truth andâ¨Reconciliation who came to talk about her husband's death at the hands of theâ¨Transkei army who--you know?â¨â¨And I was just so filled with guilt because I remembered; the incident justâ¨came back to my mind and I saw myself celebrating when this man was dying.â¨And I just felt that these are the things that we never question ourselvesâ¨when done. You know, you kind of find yourself. You know, this is how youâ¨talk about it, you found yourself dancing in the streets celebrating whenâ¨someone was being killed. And you don't reflect on it at that moment, and itâ¨was not only later on that evening that it really came to me that, myâ¨goodness, I was dancing and singing because this person was being killed.â¨â¨GROSS: Well, Eugene De Kock, the person who you interviewed who headed upâ¨this secret assassination squad during the apartheid era, he'd been granted aâ¨full amnesty for all his crimes except the two for which he was serving aâ¨double life sentence. He wants that double life sentence reversed byâ¨presidential pardon. Would you like to see him get that pardon?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I really would like to see him get some kind ofâ¨pardon. Perhaps not a full pardon, but to be released. Let me put it thisâ¨way: I'd like to see him released one day before...â¨â¨GROSS: Why?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I think of all the perpetrators in the top echelonsâ¨of power under apartheid out there, and he has been more truthful than any ofâ¨them and he has really led the way to demonstrate what it is to be--for aâ¨perpetrator who has done these terrible things to be remorseful. We are in aâ¨phase in South Africa where we have embraced perpetrators, some of whom haveâ¨never even acknowledged wrongdoing. And I think that for him to spend theâ¨rest of his life in prison being a scapegoat, that the scapegoat that he hasâ¨been both for the the privileged society and apartheid government, and as anâ¨operative of apartheid, is not fair for him. And I think it would be moreâ¨healing for all to admit that De Kock was indeed working for the state and hadâ¨done something for whites in South Africa, for white people to acknowledgeâ¨that and for President de Klerk to acknowledge what De Kock did.â¨â¨GROSS: It's Martin Luther King Day in the United States, and I'm wondering ifâ¨his civil rights work has had any influence on your thinking.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It has absolutely had influence, not only on myâ¨thinking, but on South Africans' thinking. In the 1960s, which was really theâ¨beginning of the struggle, of the strong anti-apartheid struggle, we have beenâ¨influenced. And many of us in South Africa of my generation who at the timeâ¨belonged to the Black Consciousness movement were very influenced by Martinâ¨Luther King and Steve Biko, who in fact drew a lot from Martin Luther King'sâ¨policies.â¨â¨GROSS: What was it about King's work or thinking that most affected youâ¨personally?â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It was the non-violence. It was the non-violence andâ¨the empowerment of black people, the psychological empowerment of blackâ¨people. What we--and the resilience, just the resilience, staying on theâ¨cause, the resilience to be non-violent. And for a long time, the struggleâ¨against apartheid was a non-violent struggle. ...(Unintelligible) when I wasâ¨in high school, started off being non-violent. And the weapon that we learnedâ¨from Martin Luther King was to be psychologically sound, to be psychologicallyâ¨proud to be black, to be proud of who we are and what we're capable of doing.â¨And many people in my generation still carry that with them, that sense ofâ¨pride, that sense of confidence, being able to stand up in the midst ofâ¨adversity and just pressing on, that was the driving force for most of ourâ¨generation.â¨â¨But then, you know, in the 1970s, the definition of what it is to be black andâ¨what it is to be struggling against apartheid sort of changed.â¨â¨GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.â¨â¨Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you very much, Terry.â¨â¨GROSS: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is the author of "A Human Being Died Thatâ¨Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."â¨â¨There's a new documentary about the freedom songs of the apartheid era. It'sâ¨called "Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony." It will be released toâ¨theaters next month and shown on HBO in the spring. From the soundtrackâ¨recording, here's a song by the Robben Island Prison Singers.â¨â¨(Soundbite of Robben Island Prison Singers)â¨â¨GROSS: Coming up, David Bianculli reviews MTV's new animated series, "Cloneâ¨High USA." This is FRESH AIR.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *â¨â¨Review: New MTV animated series "Clone High USA" is original andâ¨weirdâ¨TERRY GROSS, host:â¨â¨Tonight MTV premieres its new animated series, a show with a concept soâ¨unusual TV critic David Bianculli says it just might catch on.â¨â¨DAVID BIANCULLI reporting:â¨â¨Last year MTV took everyone by surprise with a reality series called "Theâ¨Osbournes," which caught on way beyond all expectations. Over the summer Foxâ¨scored big with "American Idol," a live variety show competition. And thoughâ¨there were no breakout hits this fall, the new year already has brought someâ¨popular, though outrageous, new series. There's "Joe Millionaire" on Fox,â¨which has women fighting over a pauper masquerading as a prince. There's alsoâ¨"The Bachelorette" on ABC, which has last year's loser on "The Bachelor"â¨getting revenge by rejecting loser men instead. Both of them premiered in theâ¨top 10, making them more successful than any other new network series thisâ¨season. These days, TV isn't a vast wasteland; it's a big circus.â¨â¨That's why MTV's new cartoon series, "Clone High USA," is so worthy ofâ¨attention. In a season of reality shows, it's pure fantasy. In a year ofâ¨variations and rip-offs of established themes and genres, it's a trueâ¨original. It's also truly bizarre, so please try to keep an open mind as Iâ¨describe the show's premise.â¨â¨"Clone High USA" is a cartoon show about a mad scientist's secret geneticsâ¨experiment. He's acquired DNA samples from hundreds of historical figures andâ¨cloned them, then put them all in one place to mature. It's the same premiseâ¨as "Jurassic Park," except that instead of extinct dinosaurs, these are copiesâ¨of famous humans. And since the human clones have to develop slowly, the madâ¨scientist has to wait as they grow up. Meanwhile, he sticks them all in theâ¨same secret high school, Clone High USA.â¨â¨This puts Joan of Arc in the same science class as Abe Lincoln, and Gandhiâ¨attending the same beer parties as John F. Kennedy. Each of these high schoolâ¨clones has inherited some recognizable traits. JFK is a womanizer, Cleopatraâ¨a seductress, and Abe has feelings of dread about becoming student bodyâ¨president. Yet there's also the universal angst of high school having its wayâ¨with these young replicants. Gandhi is so tired of his goody-goody image he'sâ¨trying to reinvent himself by acting like a frat boy. JFK is a frat boy, aâ¨sex-obsessed high school bully who, like Cleo, is one of the most popular andâ¨manipulative students at Clone High. Joan of Arc has a crush on Abe, but heâ¨doesn't notice. He has a crush on Cleo, who doesn't notice him. She's tooâ¨busy hatching her own schemes, as in next week's show when she seduces JFKâ¨into running for class president so she can inherit the office.â¨â¨(Soundbite of "Clone High USA")â¨â¨"CLEOPATRA": Oh, JFK, I can't bear to talk about it.â¨â¨"JFK": Thank God, because I hate it when...â¨â¨"CLEOPATRA": It all started freshman year. I was elected president. Butâ¨now--oh, JFK.â¨â¨"JFK": There, there.â¨â¨"CLEOPATRA": It's term limits, Jack. Dirty, dirty term limits. My only hopeâ¨is if someone, and I have no idea who, could run for president, win, abolishâ¨term limits, resign and endorse me as his replacement. But who? Who?â¨â¨"JFK": Huh?â¨â¨"CLEOPATRA": Oh, thank you, JFK. Thank you for your courage.â¨â¨"JFK": Can we make out now?â¨â¨"CLEOPATRA": Totally.â¨â¨"JFK": Mm.â¨â¨BIANCULLI: Yes, it's weird. Yes, it's irreverent. But it's also funny andâ¨has a very distinct tone and sensibility. That was true of "The Simpsons"â¨when it started. Actually it's true of "The Simpsons" now. And it was trueâ¨of MTV's last big animated hit, "Beavis and Butt-head," and of Comedyâ¨Central's "South Park." Not surprisingly, some writers from "The Simpsons"â¨and "South Park" are involved, but the two guys who created "Clone High USA,"â¨Chris Miller and Phil Lord, are young unknowns. They got the job and kept itâ¨on the strength of their very strange, very original idea. It's nice to knowâ¨in these days of "Joe Millionaire" that an original idea can also be a goodâ¨one.â¨â¨GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.â¨â¨(Soundbite of music)â¨â¨(Credits)â¨â¨GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.