South Africa turns gallows into anti-apartheid memorial
Dec 15, 2011, 17:17 GMT
Johannesburg - The gallows where 134 South African political prisoners were hung during the apartheid era were transformed on Thursday into a memorial for those who died.
President Jacob Zuma said the transformation was a chance to allow people the 'opportunity to know and understand the painful history of the executions that were carried out by the apartheid state.'
A museum at the site of the gallows and prison in Pretoria would be opened to the public next year.
Including common criminals, approximately 4,000 people were executed by the former regime, which was dismantled in 1994. South Africa has since banned the death penalty.
'The right to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights in our country. The South African State does not need to kill people to show that killing people or committing serious crimes is wrong,' said Zuma.
Zuma used the speech to offer a hand of reconciliation to the former executioners, saying many of the wardens were recruited as minors into the service of the apartheid state.
'They need healing too,' said the president, who himself sat in jail for over a decade during the years of white minority rule.
Zuma also acknowledged the violence perpetrated by South African fighters who battled against apartheid.
'In any war there are casualties. Today we remember all of them, as we know that it cuts both ways,' he said.
The country has several museums focused on the years of racist rule, including the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island near Cape Town, where many political prisoners, including former president Nelson Mandela, were incarcerated.