Unfinished Business

Brian Madasi, one of the killers in the Heidelberg Tavern massacre.

Brian Madasi, one of the killers in the Heidelberg Tavern massacre.


Twenty years after the first free elections in South Africa, the country still struggles with lawlessness, social equity, and the structures of civil society. But, across the bitter divides of race and class, many have begun to make their peace with each other: black and white, the privileged and those with little hope. From the documentary series The Long Walk to Freedom, which first aired in 2004, Philip Coulter tells the story of a massacre, and one woman's act of grace and reconciliation.

In 1994, South Africans took part in the first free elections in their history. The country had just emerged from decades of apartheid and, before that, centuries of oppressive rule. They elected Nelson Mandela as their President and began the difficult work of rebuilding their country.  The years since then have been both painful and exhilarating: high unemployment, slow economic growth, the AIDS crisis, stubborn lawlessness and violence, but also hope, healing, and a self-conscious effort to create a modern state.

A decade ago, on the 10th anniversary of those elections, IDEAS broadcast a five-part series about South Africa. The Long Walk to Freedom examined the challenge of the future and the price extracted by a dreadful past. Part of that price is the legacy of oppression, the healing necessary from so much violence: reconciliation.

Participants in the program:

Brian Madasi, Ginn Fourie, Paul Haupt, Letlapa Mphalele, Potiphar Nhkoma, Nomfundo Walaza


Letlapa Mphalele at his home in Seleteng, Limpopo. He was a leader of the Azanian People's Liberation Army, and gave the order for the attack on the Heidelberg. Photo by Philip Coulter.


The Heidelberg tavern in Cape Town, as it is today. This is the door the killers came through. Since 1993, the door remains closed; the entrance today is around the side. Photo by Philip Coulter.


The township of Khayelitsha near Cape Town. The Race Acts of apartheid dictated where blacks were allowed to live, on the outskirts of the city. Today, more than 300,000 black South Africans still live here, (and 87 whites). Photo by Philip Coulter.

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