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.