The staging of the hidden: interrogating an ambivalent response to a crime against humanity
Andrea Durbach (University of New South Wales)
In December 2018, a former member of a white supremacist group and perpetrator of a violent crime, Stefaans Coetzee participated in a panel discussion at a reconciliation conference in South Africa. In 1996, Coetzee was a key executioner of a bombing which killed four people and injured 67. After pleading guilty, Coetzee was sentenced to 40 years in jail and 20 years later, he was released on parole. Thirty years earlier, 25 black South Africans were convicted of the “necklace” murder of a black policeman. Fourteen of the 25 were sentenced to death. On appeal, a majority of the murder convictions were overturned and all the death sentences commuted.
Drawing on these two cases, this essay explores contrasting responses to engaging with perpetrators of political violence through the lens of implication. It examines the shifting boundaries of legitimacy in the realm of political crime and analyses the underlying influences and imperatives of accountability for crimes against humanity committed under apartheid and in a nascent post-conflict state…(read more)