We celebrated Daniel's birthday today with a visit to Lilies Leaf Farm - where the Rivonia trialists were captured on the 11 July 1963. What a great museum. The exhibitions were fun and engaging for the children and inspiring and moving for the adults. I am finding regular visits to our museums keep reminding me that the struggle against injustice and oppression is far from over. I keep finding the stories of those in the apartheid liberation struggle provides lessons and examples to our continued struggle for justice, equality and freedom in our nation.
Today was no exception. I was particularly moved learning more about Braam Fischer's story. Nelson Mandela spoke of Braam Fischer as follows "Braam was a courageous man who followed the most difficult course any person could choose to follow. He challenged his own people because he felt that what they were doing was morally wrong. As an Afrikaner whose conscience forced him to reject his own heritage and be ostracised by his own people, he showed a level of courage and sacrifice that was in a class by itself. I fought only against injustice not against my own people." How difficult that must have been.
This is what Braam said at his trial "I am on trial, my Lord, for my political beliefs and for the conduct which those beliefs drove me to. My Lord, when a man is on trial for his political beliefs and actions, two courses are open to him. He can either confess to his transgressions and plead for mercy, or he can justify his beliefs and explain why he has acted as he did. Were I to ask for forgiveness today, I would betray my cause. That course, my Lord is not open to me. I believe that what I did was right… My Lord, there is another reason, and a more compelling reason for my plea….I accept, my Lord, the general rule that for the protection of a society laws should be obeyed. But when the laws themselves become immoral, and require the citizen to take part in an organized system of oppression…then I believe that a higher duty arises. My conscience, my Lord, does not permit me to afford these laws such recognition as even a plea of guilty would involve. Hence, though I shall be convicted by this Court, I cannot plead guilty. I believe that the future may well say that I acted correctly." He was sentenced to life in prison. When he died, the Apartheid government's prison services demanded his ashes go back to prison where they were subsequently lost... how cruel to his family this must have been.
One last quote which perhaps is quite apt for our times was this ""What is needed is for White South Africans to shake themselves out of their complacency, a complacency intensified by the present economic boom built upon racial discrimination. Unless this whole intolerable system is changed radically and rapidly, disaster must follow. Appalling bloodshed and civil war will become inevitable because, as long as there is oppression of a majority, such oppression will be fought with increasing hatred." Perhaps as relevant today as it was back then in a society now described in studies as the most unequal in the world.
Check out the museums website here