Skip to main content

TV critic David Bianculli

Bianculli reviews Clone High, a new animated series on MTV.

04:20

Other segments from the episode on January 20, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 20, 2003: Interview with Pumla Gobodo-Madkizela; Review of the television show "Clone high."

Transcript

DATE January 20, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
 TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
 NETWORK NPR
 PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela talks about Eugene De Kock,
who is serving life in prison for apartheid crimes and who is
the subject of her book "A Human Being Died That Night"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

After working with the victims of apartheid, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela tried to
get into the mind of one of the apartheid government's most notorious
assassins. Madikizela is a black South African psychologist who served on her
country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was established in 1995 and
offered amnesty to people whose crimes during the apartheid era were
politically motivated and who gave honest accountings of those crimes to the
commission.

In 1997, after his 18-month trial, she began a series of interviews with
Eugene De Kock, who presided over a police death squad. His crimes were so
numerous and so horrible, he was nicknamed Prime Evil. He has been granted
amnesty for all crimes except two, for which he is serving a double life
sentence.

Madikizela's new book about her encounters with De Kock is called "A Human
Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness." I asked her to
describe Eugene De Kock and the crimes he committed.

Ms. PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA (Author, "A Human Being Died That Night: A South
African Story of Forgiveness"): Eugene De Kock was the head of apartheid's
covert operations unit, which is a unit of the security department, of the
National Security Department. He headed up this unit on a secret farm located
just outside Pretoria, which was--is still the administrative city of the
government of South Africa, and he had in his command a whole lot of people of
men, young men and women, who were working under him who he trained as hit
squads and covert operators, people who went in, infiltrated the townships and
pretended to be working for the ANC while, in fact, they wanted to win the
trust of the young activists in these townships. And he committed, both
through these operatives and in his own attacks, he committed hundreds of
killings and assassinations.

GROSS: Is there anything that set him apart at the Truth and Reconciliation
committee, his testimony vs. the testimony of other people who had committed
crimes in support of the apartheid regime?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Absolutely. Eugene De Kock, from the moment he
stepped on the first hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, his
mission was to speak as truthfully as possible. He, in fact, made it very
clear at his very first hearing that he intended to expose all his leaders,
the generals who had given him commands, and his subordinates as well. So De
Kock was set apart firstly just by the level of truthfulness of his testimony,
and secondly by the degree of remorse that at least I observed in him and some
of his victims observed in him, and so he really opened up a lot of unknown
material that the apartheid government had committed and so, for that reason,
he became the kingpin of the Truth Commission perpetrator testimonies.

GROSS: He also named names.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Oh, absolutely. He just named everyone, from
ministers of police to police commissioners to generals. He named many names.
In fact, many of the people who came to testify in the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission were names that had been mentioned by Eugene De
Kock, people who would otherwise never have come to apply for amnesty, but
they were forced to apply for amnesty because De Kock had mentioned them on
the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

GROSS: Now in order to get amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, you had to do two things. You had to tell the truth and you had
to show remorse.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: No, actually. The remorse was never a part of it.
Remorse was never a requirement for amnesty. The first condition for amnesty
was truthfulness, the full disclosure of the atrocities committed by the
applicant, including those who gave them orders, as well as the
proportionality of the crime for which the applicant is applying for amnesty.
In other words, the deed had to be proportional to the political motive that
the applicant was claiming, so it's really three conditions.

Remorse, apology, those were never a requirement, and I remember wondering
about these and kind of feeling that how can--where is the moral rightness of
an amnesty that does not require an apology, minimally an apology. I remember
feeling very uncomfortable about sitting on a committee that did not recognize
the importance of an apology. But then I thought about it, and I realized
that if we had legalized, if we had required apology or remorse from these
people, then there would have been many of them who just said it for the sake
of getting amnesty. I think the whole experience of apologies and the Truth
Commission and forgiveness on the co--it gave it meaning when people did it
spontaneously rather than for them to be required, to be forced to do it.

GROSS: De Kock, when he testified, asked to meet with the widows of some of
his victims, to apologize to them privately. Was that unusual, or was that
pretty typical?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It was very unusual. It was very--up till then, most
perpetrators who had appeared before the TRC were happy to be public about
their apologies, it seemed to me, at least, to be, you know, a show in public
that they were able to apologize. But I was struck by De Kock. I found it
intriguing that he asked to meet privately with the widows of his victims, and
even the way he requested it, he recognized that they might say no. He was
able to say, `I do not have any expectations about my need to meet with you,
but if you can, I would really appreciate if you meet with me.' So I thought
I found that very striking, and it had not happened. None of the perpetrators
had done that before.

GROSS: You spent 46 hours interviewing De Kock between 1997 and 1998.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.

GROSS: When you interviewed him, how did he explain his crimes to you? What
were the motivations that he gave you?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: De Kock was very interesting to me, because from the
very first day I met with him, he seemed to be just searching for answers
himself for why his life had come to this, but now more concretely, he
explained that the path that led him to perpetrate these crimes, which
essentially was that while he believed in the principles of his government--he
believed that the communist threat was real and that the ANC and other
liberation fighters had to be eliminated, that they were a group of people who
were trying to just get rid of the government by force and to overthrow the
system of apartheid and to govern South Africa, and he believed, as he had
been told from his childhood that if a black government were to take over
control of South Africa, South Africa would go the way of other countries like
the Congo and other countries in Africa that had basically had several wars
since their independence. And he was protecting his folk, you know, the
Afrikaner folk. He was protecting the white people of South Africa and his
government, and because he believed that, he believed in the supremacy of his
tribe, of his race.

GROSS: Now he told you that he didn't think he was a racist...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and he said to you, `I don't see you as a black person.'

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah.

GROSS: So if he didn't think of himself as a racist, what was his rationale
for killing so many black people? Now I know you said that he thought...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.

GROSS: ...he was doing this in support of his government, he was afraid of a
communist takeover and so on, but you know, let's face it, what the government
was doing...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right.

GROSS: ...was preventing all black people in South Africa...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right.

GROSS: ...from having any rights at all, so you know, what did he say to you
in support of his perception, you know, that he was not a racist?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Well, I didn't believe him, as I point out in the
book. It's really just his way of avoiding confronting a bad part of his
character, and I think he knows racism is supposed to be a negative thing.
Now De Kock wanted very much to portray himself as a professional, as a
counterinsurgency operative. According to him, he was stopping the ANC in
their tracks. The ANC was bombing civilians, the ANC was planting bombs at
restaurants and other places in the cities, and so they had to stop them, so
that is a justification. That is how perpetrators think. That's what enables
them to go on committing their crimes. It enables them to deny their hand in
evil and to behave as if they are really responding or reacting to what the
enemy is doing.

GROSS: One of the things you asked De Kock about was his tactics. One of the
things he did with this covert police assassination squad was recruit black
South Africans to become collaborators. What was his methods of recruiting
people?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: What they did was to capture the ANC activists as they
infiltrated the country. Most of the ANC liberation fighters were brought way
across the border in Lesotho, Botswana and some of the neighboring countries,
and so when they were sent back to South Africa to plant bombs, they would
infiltrate the country, and by the time they came, De Kock and his men would
already have the information, so they would trap them, and so arrest them.
And so they would torture them and force them to inform on their colleagues,
and so once they had successfully tortured them, they then offered them
moneys, you know, to do terrible things, and the first thing that they wanted
them to do would be to kill one of their own to mark them, so to speak, as
people who were on De Kock's side. And once they had committed one or two of
those murders, then there would be no going back, and then, you know, they
offered them money and other privileges, and so they lured them to work for
them.

GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's the author of the new
book, "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."
We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South African
psychologist who served on her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Her new memoir is about her series of prison interviews with Eugene De Kock,
the man nicknamed Prime Evil. He headed a government death squad during the
apartheid era.

You asked De Kock to describe his worst memory of one of the raids that he
conducted. What was the worst memory that he gave you?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Eugene De Kock described an incident that occurred
after he had just murdered ANC operatives in Lesotho. He was on his way
driving back from the murder scene back home. And as he approached home, he
started experiencing a smell, feeling that something was smelling on his body,
and it was increasingly becoming unbearable. As he entered his living room,
he took off his clothes and put them in a pile in the living room floor and
went straight for the shower. And he took a shower, and after the first
shower, he toweled himself dry and realized that the smell was still clinging
to his body. And so he took three more showers after that. And he took the
clothes--the smelly clothes--and threw them in a garbage bag and with the
towel that he used for after his first shower. And he went--you know, he went
to bed to sleep with his wife. And so that for him was the most ready memory
that he had at the time.

GROSS: You're a psychologist, and I assume that one of the things--one of the
questions you had was, `Is this man a sociopath? Is he a psychopath? Does he
have a conscience?' Did you have a way to assess whether he was, you know,
mentally ill or a sociopath, or whether he really knew what he was doing and
truly believed that it was the right thing?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah. One of the things that we know in psychology
about what are called in legal terms psychopaths is that they have an
inability to feel. They have an inability to feel love, to feel any real
emotion. And for them, killing is like a, you know, routine thing. It
becomes something that they just do without any feeling. And these kind of
people do not reflect for any moment, do not have a moment of, you know,
standing back and saying, `Wow,' you know, `that was something terrible I
did,' and, you know, being awoken by a sense of conscience.

Now I was interested to see with De Kock that along the path of his terrible
deeds, along the path of his actions, when he was an operative of the
government, there were moments when he seemed to stand back and to reflect.
And this I gathered from some of the things he told me. So for example, this
incident of the smelling clothes, where he felt that this was something
irremovable, the smell was just clinging to his body, couldn't remove it. He
didn't know how to get rid of it. Now in psychological terms, that is
splitting. That is the idea that it's not what I did, it's the smell on my
body. Now for that to happen--that in itself points to the fact that there is
a stirring of the conscience. And that for me was one of the indications that
De Kock might have a conscience. And because I spent these hours with him,
there were other instances where I realized that this man has really awoken to
the presence of his conscience, remorse being another very clear indication.

GROSS: What else made you think that this man has a conscience in spite of
all the horrible acts that he committed?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: On the first day that I met De Kock, I asked him to
talk about the meeting he had had with the two widows. Now this, again, was
just the first...

GROSS: These are widows of people who he had ordered killed.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right. Right. And he met the widows who had forgiven
him, who had reached out in forgiveness to De Kock. And I asked him to
describe what it was like to be in one room and to look them in the eye. And
De Kock, without saying and responding verbally, he took off his glasses, he
put them on the table, he started shaking. And I could see tears in his eyes.
And his response was very shaky. His voice was very shaky. He said to me, `I
wish I could say--I wish I could bring their husbands back. I wish I could
say I'm sorry.' And he was shaking, and his voice was shaking and there were
tears in his eyes. And I immediately--I really just felt a sense of empathy
for this man who was breaking down just before me. And I reached out and
touched his hand right then. And so this was the beginnings of my--just of a
feeling that there is a conscience; somebody who is able to feel this, to have
this empathic feeling for some of his victims.

GROSS: How could you tell that it was empathy and not theater? What made you
think that he just wasn't playing you and trying to, you know, win you over
and, you know, he might have just been acting the part of a compassionate man
as opposed to actually feeling any sense of empathy or compassion?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: There is a word in psychology that is called
congruence. Congruence means that there is a congruity between your response
to this person and what they are communicating to you. In other words,
there's a rightness about your response to him. In other words, my response
of empathy to De Kock's own feelings of helplessness and remorse at that
moment, there was a sense that this is right. There is nothing incongruous
about his apology or his expression of remorse and my response to him.

May I just say one other thing?

GROSS: Sure.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At the last--that was the first meeting. In the
penultimate meeting De Kock stood up and was not--you know, it was clearly a
sign that he wants to say something but it seems to be somebody who doesn't
know how to quite say it. And so I waited to see what was going on, what he
was going to say. And so he--when he finally got himself to speak, he said,
`Pumla, I've been meaning to ask you from the second interview, have I ever
killed any of your friends or family?'

Now that question--it was a plea, like a begging to be readmitted in the world
of humanity. And at that moment, as I stood in front of him and he stood
there with shoulders hunched and trying to find out if he had done me any
harm, I saw through that just his posture and the way he spoke and the appeal,
the begging, you know, you have this sense when someone is truly remorseful,
is in pain. And that's how I felt. I think actually the word `pain' would
describe best what I felt De Kock was feeling at that moment.

GROSS: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela will be back in the second half of the show.
Her new memoir is called "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African
Story of Forgiveness." I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation with South African
psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela about her interviews with the head of an
apartheid government death squad. And David Bianculli reviews "Clone High
USA," the new animated series that premieres on MTV tonight.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Pumla
Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South African psychologist who served on her
country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In her attempt to understand
the nature of evil, she conducted a series of prison interviews with the man
who was nicknamed Prime Evil, Eugene De Kock. He headed a government death
squad. Her new memoir about their encounters is called "A Human Being Died
That Night."

In trying to understand how he became a man capable of ordering the murders of
so many people, of so many black people, because I think virtually everybody
he murdered was black, right?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Yeah. Did you try to see if, like, he was brought up in an
environment that might have twisted him psychologically? Was he abused when
he was a child by his father or a teacher, you know, that kind of, like,
psychological analysis that is sometimes informative in explaining somebody's
actions?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes, I did. It's very crucial to do that, to find out
where does this come from. And, indeed, De Kock's father was a very hard man.
He abused him physically and De Kock was very afraid of him. He describes him
himself as a very hard and strong man who was also an alcoholic. And in
addition to just that, all those attributes, he was also a Bruderbund. He was
a member of a special club, one might say, of the Afrikaners, which is very
close to some of the secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan, for example.
It was a secret society, you know, in South Africa, of the Afrikaners, and
very strongly anti-Communist. And so they were fed the diet of anti-communism
from a very early age, and so there was that abuse. There was also the
coaching, the psychological coaching to hate any person who was opposed to the
government.

GROSS: When you started feeling some empathy for Eugene De Kock, were you
worried about feeling--I mean, did you want to feel any empathy for this man?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I never did, actually. I went--my intention was to
have just that one interview with De Kock for two and a half hours maximum and
to go back and report to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I never
intended to reach out in the way that I eventually did. But what really draw
me back, to go back to De Kock, was the deep questions of: `What is evil?
What is--if somebody who has earned the name of Prime Evil can have this--can
experience this level of remorse, how do I understand evil? What is that
brought him to this place?'

And I think, also, because I had done this work with black perpetrators, young
black activists in the township who had committed the necklace murders--and I
had spent several hours with young ANC activists and came to understand them
and came to understand how they arrived at their lives of being murderers.
And so looking at De Kock, it seemed to me that it was a mirror just turned
the other way, you know, just seeing the other side of this terrible tragedy
of apartheid violence.

GROSS: These necklace murders that you refer to, these were young black South
Africans who put burning rubber tires around the necks of other black South
Africans who they thought were collaborators.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: And they killed them with these burning tires.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So you interviewed a lot of--or some young people who were responsible
for some of these necklace murders...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes.

GROSS: ...acts that you thought were evil, too. And you saw some kind
of--What?--moral equivalency between De Kock and the necklace murders?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: At the time when I went to see De Kock, that was not
on my mind at all. In fact, when I interviewed the young activists, it was
interesting because somehow I could find a place in my heart to identify with
them. You know, their world was my world. We'd shared worlds. I grew up in
a township and I knew the experience of being a child under apartheid and
having parents who had struggled under apartheid. And looking at De Kock,
having that first experience with De Kock, made me realize that there is a
moral equivalent, and it was then that I drew the parallel and was motivated
to speak to De Kock further and to understand how he came to be the person
that he was.

GROSS: Now De Kock said to you--and you say that a lot of perpetrators and
human rights violators say this kind of thing. He said, `Well, you can look
at me and see me as evil, but your side did bad stuff, too.' An example of
that would be the necklace murders. And, you know, that's one way you can
kind of absolve yourself of your crimes if you're a human rights violator.
You say, `Well, your side was responsible for bad things, too.'

On the other hand--I mean, as awful as the necklace murders are, and I'm not
going to try to say anything to support that, these are people who had all
their rights stripped from them and were feeling very helpless in fighting
back...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...whereas De Kock was the person who had the power and represented
the regime that had the power and he's committing murder. So, you know,
it's--the moral equivalencies are a little different.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: A little questionable?

GROSS: Yeah.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Very different. I think the word `power' is probably
best to use here in the sense that De Kock, you know, grew up in a system that
told him that the black liberation fighters are wrong and they're out to
destroy the country. And so these were his beliefs, in that sense. It's the
environment, it's the political environment of his side. It's really a
question of us and them. It's always in group dynamics and group violence.
This is the central issue, that it's us against them.

And all perpetrators will try to justify what they do by blaming the other
side. But the important thing here is that there is that moment where they
realize that they were wrong, that what they did was wrong. They stopped
seeing the other as less of a human being, because what enables them to commit
the crimes is to dehumanize the other person, to dehumanize the enemy. And
once they're able to feel remorse, they see the other as a human being like
themselves. But of course, because this was their life, it's uncomfortable.
Remorse is a very painful process. So there are moments when although the
remorse is felt, there are moments when they will go back to definitions that
will make them feel comfortable, which is a justification.

GROSS: Since you do feel that Eugene De Kock has shown genuine remorse, what
do you think is behind that change in feeling? Do you think it was being
tried and, you know, being accused, being held up as an example of evil to his
country? Do you think it was watching the widows of his victims telling their
side of the story? What was it that changed him, if you really believe he was
changed?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes. It's several things. I think the one being
being isolated from his group. I've noticed that--and this, again, is just
part of the psychological reality of group dynamics, that when people are
within their group, they're able to maintain the denials and the
rationalizations. But once they're out of their group, they're able to
reflect. Now De Kock has been isolated not only by his leaders, but also by
his own people, and he says that several times, `And my own people, you know,
have ostracized me,' and...

GROSS: Because he named names. He...

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Exactly, because he named names. First of all,
because he named names, but also because his own people don't want to
associate with his crimes. You know, while they were happy when De Kock was
committing, you know, his crimes, you know, they had power, they had positions
of privilege and they were the protected society, the protected race within
South African society, it was fine.

But now when you hold up the mirror and say `This is who you are. This is who
you supported. These are the people who you voted for,' they can't deal with
that. But then they are able to deny their hand in apartheid and all the evil
of apartheid, but De Kock can't. And so he finds himself alone in the prison
cell. And, of course, there is the element of, you know, not liking being in
prison. There is that element. But then there is the deeper level that he's
alone now and he realizes that he has to think as an individual.

And, I mean, it's interesting, actually, because what the Truth Commission did
was to enable perpetrators to look truthfully within themselves and to
acknowledge wrongdoing and reward them for that, whereas in a court of law,
perpetrators are encouraged to deny wrongdoing. The attempt in a court of
law, in an adversarial situation, is to admit as little as possible. But
here, they're given the opportunity to be truthful, and in that journey of
truthfulness, they are able to look into themselves and to really acknowledge
that what they did was not simply obedience to orders. They were murderers,
and so that is the first step that I think is important in this isolation, in
this prison isolation. So that's what contributed to their remorse, I think.

GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's the author of the new
book "A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."
We'll be back after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's a black South African
psychologist who served on her country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Her new memoir is about her series of prison interviews with Eugene De Kock,
the man nicknamed Prime Evil. He headed a government death squad during the
apartheid era.

One of the questions that led you to do these interviews with Eugene De Kock
was: What is evil? Is he evil? So let me ask you if you reached any
conclusions on what is evil, or is Eugene De Kock evil.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It is a very complex question, but I know that people
do commit evil deeds. But I'm still very unsure about whether people, like De
Kock, who can express remorse, can be defined as evil as such. I think that
De Kock was functioning under an evil system of apartheid. I grapple with
these issues in the book. I grapple with the potential for evil in all of us.
Within myself when I am afraid to touch De Kock, when I'm afraid to reach out,
when I react with just this confusion to touching De Kock's hand. I
questioned that and I questioned my own sense of empathy toward De Kock. I
wonder if this is the right thing to do. So I really struggle with--I think
these are perpetual questions. These are questions that will be with us for
as long as we have atrocities. So it's always a potential, it's always a fear
that, you know, could I have been like them, you know?

GROSS: Yes. Well, this experience of interviewing De Kock made you wonder if
there was any evil like this within yourself and it made you think about an
incident in which you celebrated the mutilation and murder of somebody. Who
was that person?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: That person was Craig Duli. Craig Duli had been
working with the South African--he had been trained by the South African
Defense Force to go to the Transkei and topple the regime of the then--Bantu
Holomisa, who at the time was the head of the normally independent Transkei.
Now Holomisa had opened the doors of the Transkei to ANC activists as soon as
former President Nelson Mandela was released. Holomisa, ahead of South
African government, had opened his doors to ANC liberation fighters. And so
the South African government, well, was not pleased, and so they sent Craig
Duli and an army to topple Holomisa's regime.

And on the day of the attempted coup, the whole town of Umtata, which was the
capital of Transkei at the time, the town came to a standstill. And I was in
the crowd witnessing the events as there was firing back and forth. And so
when eventually this man was taken out of the building and we were told that
they had been captured and subsequently was killed, I celebrated with
everybody else. And now the moment of shame for me came when I was on the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission several years later and this man's wife,
Craig Duli's wife, was one of the witnesses before the Truth and
Reconciliation who came to talk about her husband's death at the hands of the
Transkei army who--you know?

And I was just so filled with guilt because I remembered; the incident just
came back to my mind and I saw myself celebrating when this man was dying.
And I just felt that these are the things that we never question ourselves
when done. You know, you kind of find yourself. You know, this is how you
talk about it, you found yourself dancing in the streets celebrating when
someone was being killed. And you don't reflect on it at that moment, and it
was not only later on that evening that it really came to me that, my
goodness, I was dancing and singing because this person was being killed.

GROSS: Well, Eugene De Kock, the person who you interviewed who headed up
this secret assassination squad during the apartheid era, he'd been granted a
full amnesty for all his crimes except the two for which he was serving a
double life sentence. He wants that double life sentence reversed by
presidential pardon. Would you like to see him get that pardon?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I really would like to see him get some kind of
pardon. Perhaps not a full pardon, but to be released. Let me put it this
way: I'd like to see him released one day before...

GROSS: Why?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: I think of all the perpetrators in the top echelons
of power under apartheid out there, and he has been more truthful than any of
them and he has really led the way to demonstrate what it is to be--for a
perpetrator who has done these terrible things to be remorseful. We are in a
phase in South Africa where we have embraced perpetrators, some of whom have
never even acknowledged wrongdoing. And I think that for him to spend the
rest of his life in prison being a scapegoat, that the scapegoat that he has
been both for the the privileged society and apartheid government, and as an
operative of apartheid, is not fair for him. And I think it would be more
healing for all to admit that De Kock was indeed working for the state and had
done something for whites in South Africa, for white people to acknowledge
that and for President de Klerk to acknowledge what De Kock did.

GROSS: It's Martin Luther King Day in the United States, and I'm wondering if
his civil rights work has had any influence on your thinking.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It has absolutely had influence, not only on my
thinking, but on South Africans' thinking. In the 1960s, which was really the
beginning of the struggle, of the strong anti-apartheid struggle, we have been
influenced. And many of us in South Africa of my generation who at the time
belonged to the Black Consciousness movement were very influenced by Martin
Luther King and Steve Biko, who in fact drew a lot from Martin Luther King's
policies.

GROSS: What was it about King's work or thinking that most affected you
personally?

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: It was the non-violence. It was the non-violence and
the empowerment of black people, the psychological empowerment of black
people. What we--and the resilience, just the resilience, staying on the
cause, the resilience to be non-violent. And for a long time, the struggle
against apartheid was a non-violent struggle. ...(Unintelligible) when I was
in high school, started off being non-violent. And the weapon that we learned
from Martin Luther King was to be psychologically sound, to be psychologically
proud to be black, to be proud of who we are and what we're capable of doing.
And many people in my generation still carry that with them, that sense of
pride, that sense of confidence, being able to stand up in the midst of
adversity and just pressing on, that was the driving force for most of our
generation.

But then, you know, in the 1970s, the definition of what it is to be black and
what it is to be struggling against apartheid sort of changed.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Ms. GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you very much, Terry.

GROSS: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is the author of "A Human Being Died That
Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness."

There's a new documentary about the freedom songs of the apartheid era. It's
called "Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony." It will be released to
theaters next month and shown on HBO in the spring. From the soundtrack
recording, here's a song by the Robben Island Prison Singers.

(Soundbite of Robben Island Prison Singers)

GROSS: Coming up, David Bianculli reviews MTV's new animated series, "Clone
High USA." This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New MTV animated series "Clone High USA" is original and
weird
TERRY GROSS, host:

Tonight MTV premieres its new animated series, a show with a concept so
unusual TV critic David Bianculli says it just might catch on.

DAVID BIANCULLI reporting:

Last year MTV took everyone by surprise with a reality series called "The
Osbournes," which caught on way beyond all expectations. Over the summer Fox
scored big with "American Idol," a live variety show competition. And though
there were no breakout hits this fall, the new year already has brought some
popular, though outrageous, new series. There's "Joe Millionaire" on Fox,
which has women fighting over a pauper masquerading as a prince. There's also
"The Bachelorette" on ABC, which has last year's loser on "The Bachelor"
getting revenge by rejecting loser men instead. Both of them premiered in the
top 10, making them more successful than any other new network series this
season. These days, TV isn't a vast wasteland; it's a big circus.

That's why MTV's new cartoon series, "Clone High USA," is so worthy of
attention. In a season of reality shows, it's pure fantasy. In a year of
variations and rip-offs of established themes and genres, it's a true
original. It's also truly bizarre, so please try to keep an open mind as I
describe the show's premise.

"Clone High USA" is a cartoon show about a mad scientist's secret genetics
experiment. He's acquired DNA samples from hundreds of historical figures and
cloned them, then put them all in one place to mature. It's the same premise
as "Jurassic Park," except that instead of extinct dinosaurs, these are copies
of famous humans. And since the human clones have to develop slowly, the mad
scientist has to wait as they grow up. Meanwhile, he sticks them all in the
same secret high school, Clone High USA.

This puts Joan of Arc in the same science class as Abe Lincoln, and Gandhi
attending the same beer parties as John F. Kennedy. Each of these high school
clones has inherited some recognizable traits. JFK is a womanizer, Cleopatra
a seductress, and Abe has feelings of dread about becoming student body
president. Yet there's also the universal angst of high school having its way
with these young replicants. Gandhi is so tired of his goody-goody image he's
trying to reinvent himself by acting like a frat boy. JFK is a frat boy, a
sex-obsessed high school bully who, like Cleo, is one of the most popular and
manipulative students at Clone High. Joan of Arc has a crush on Abe, but he
doesn't notice. He has a crush on Cleo, who doesn't notice him. She's too
busy hatching her own schemes, as in next week's show when she seduces JFK
into running for class president so she can inherit the office.

(Soundbite of "Clone High USA")

"CLEOPATRA": Oh, JFK, I can't bear to talk about it.

"JFK": Thank God, because I hate it when...

"CLEOPATRA": It all started freshman year. I was elected president. But
now--oh, JFK.

"JFK": There, there.

"CLEOPATRA": It's term limits, Jack. Dirty, dirty term limits. My only hope
is if someone, and I have no idea who, could run for president, win, abolish
term limits, resign and endorse me as his replacement. But who? Who?

"JFK": Huh?

"CLEOPATRA": Oh, thank you, JFK. Thank you for your courage.

"JFK": Can we make out now?

"CLEOPATRA": Totally.

"JFK": Mm.

BIANCULLI: Yes, it's weird. Yes, it's irreverent. But it's also funny and
has a very distinct tone and sensibility. That was true of "The Simpsons"
when it started. Actually it's true of "The Simpsons" now. And it was true
of MTV's last big animated hit, "Beavis and Butt-head," and of Comedy
Central's "South Park." Not surprisingly, some writers from "The Simpsons"
and "South Park" are involved, but the two guys who created "Clone High USA,"
Chris Miller and Phil Lord, are young unknowns. They got the job and kept it
on the strength of their very strange, very original idea. It's nice to know
in these days of "Joe Millionaire" that an original idea can also be a good
one.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

(Soundbite of music)

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

41:53

Soccer Star Megan Rapinoe On Equal Pay, And What The U.S. Flag Means To Her

Rapinoe has been an outspoken advocate for pay equity and the Black Lives Matter movement. "I see patriotism as constantly demanding better of ourselves," she says. Originally broadcast Nov. 9, 2020.

09:37

New Takes On Old Songs In 'Standing In The Doorway' And 'The Waylon Sessions'

Chrissie Hynde sings Bob Dylan and Shannon McNally performs songs associated with country singer Waylon Jennings. They both use the structures the men built to create their own rich emotional spaces.

42:20

'Hamilton' Star Renée Elise Goldsberry Becomes A 1-Hit Wonder In 'Girls5Eva'

Goldsberry played Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, and was also in the Broadway productions of Rent, The Color Purple and The Lion King. On TV, she's appeared on Ally McBeal, The Good Wife and One Life to Live.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue