Apartheid cops’ change of heart

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The end of apartheid turned South Africa upside down: Heads of the anti-apartheid groups that were once considered terrorists now govern South African and Namibia. And the Johannesburg DAILY MAIL & GUARDIAN reports that many former members of the Koetvoet, the apartheid-era police unit that specialized in killing anti-apartheid activists, are torn with remorse on realizing, too late, they were fighting for the wrong side.

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It’s true that the elite unit known for cutting off the ears of its victims still retains a certain perverse pride in the group’s effectiveness (“We did good work. We were described by many an international journalist as the best anti-terrorist unit in the world.”)

But, looking back, many Koetvoet veterans feel they were lied to by the apartheid regime. “They told us we were fighting the swart gevaar (black danger) and communism. But now SWAPO and the ANC have the most democratic constitutions in the world,” lamented one former member. Guilt and public condemnation have taken a heavy toll, leading to nervous breakdowns and suicides.

The retired apartheid flunkies feel a certain comradeship with castoffs from an American conflict: “It is the Vietnam syndrome. You are not being acknowledged for who you are, that you fought as a soldier for your country.”

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