Former anti-apartheid cleric, Dr Allan Boesak’s pardon, hailed and faulted
South African President Thabo Mbeki’s pardon for convicted cleric and anti-apartheid activist Dr Allan Boesak has been welcomed by the country’s Anglican leader but condemned by the official political opposition as cronyism. Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town said the pardon for the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches was "good news. It will enable Allan to make a fresh start and enjoy the fruits of the struggle in which he played a big part."
But the main political opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said that in the absence of any more convincing reasons it had to conclude Mbeki’s decision announced on 15 January was "merely a pardon for a political crony". The party’s justice spokesperson, Sheila Camerer, said that Boesak deserved no pardon because he had not only shown no remorse, but also had never admitted guilt for his offence. Ndungane said he trusted that Mbeki had granted the pardon for the right reasons.
Boesak was at the forefront of peaceful resistance to apartheid and was also the president of the world grouping of Reformed churches from 1982 to 1991. But in 1999 he was convicted of fraud and theft for diverting 400 000 rands (US$65 000) of donations from development agencies to his own account. Denmark’s DanChurchAid, the Swedish International Development Agency and the Church of Norway had channelled funds through the Foundation for Peace and Justice, of which Boesak was director, for development projects and to help victims of apartheid. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment but released after two years. Though his career was wrecked, he continued to enjoy considerable support from the ruling African National Congress party of which he was a member.
The late justice minister, Dullah Omar, once gave him a hero’s welcome and dismissed his offence as "struggle accounting" done in the name of the liberation movement. More recently the ANC-run Western Province government awarded Boesak its top honours, the Order of the Disa, for his role in the struggle against apartheid. The Inkatha Freedom Party said the reprieve would be justified only if it was the first of many other pardons - including some for its own members who had been locked in a violent power contest with the ANC in South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu Natal provinces in the 1990s.
Motsoko Pheko, the president of the Pan Africanist Congress, a minor opposition party, said he was indignant that Boesak had been allowed to "jump the queue" while former PAC freedom fighters were still languishing in jail. "It is a travesty of justice," he said in a statement.