Picture the ideal man – sincere, loving and kind (heart-stopping-smile included). What’s more, he helps to rebuild broken societies through HIV/AIDS care, self-sustainability and gender equality programs.
His name is *Sizwe and unlike many of us, he hasn’t remained stagnant is the fight for humanity. I met him for an interview last year. His face, and real name, was splattered onto the pages of many newspapers and I picked up on it via a BBC report. Now I sat down with him to hear his story for myself.
“I love [to] see people changing; [to] see a bit of development in our under-resourced communities.” He’s been working with people for twenty years, but it was during one workshop that his own life changed.
My imagination takes me into the room: men proudly boast about their place in society and how they can take what they want from any woman without question.
Sizwe says he had heard these stories over and over again, and that made him go back to his own past. Almost thirty years back: he had raped a girl as a teenage boy.
He was the outcast: the boy who did his homework and went to church with his parents. He wasn’t man enough. So his ‘friends’ decided he would be accepted into manhood if he raped a girl.
“I was terrified. The date was now set, that at 4 o’clock on a Saturday this is going to happen.”
This story was tough. One, because the distaste I had couldn’t be masked.
He looks down, still hanging his head in shame. He mumbles that they (the boys) saw he was scared, and gave him alcohol and marijuana. Then they disappeared and Sizwe was left, waiting for the target.
“[One of the boys stayed and] he pulled her down and started raping her and then said ‘it’s your turn’.”
Sizwe completed his task that day, brushed off the guilt and lived his life.
Yes, this story was tough. Two: because it’s in our nature to distrust – I had to fine-tune my sensors – was he sorry?
He decided that he needed to ask the girl, now probably a grown woman with children, for her forgiveness – even if it meant his admittance could take him to jail.
“That would be justice for her, but I have to admit it and apologise.”
So Sizwe journeyed back to his home village and did just that.
“She just looked at me and started crying; I just stood there and let her cry.” He listened to find out that she had been raped and abused ever since he raped her first.
“I felt terrible. I immediately thought of how I lived my life for nearly thirty years and it never bothered me. I would just go about my business, my normal days and yet there was someone who was suffering in those years because of my actions.”
“I then was on a new journey – how do I forgive myself?”
That’s what nobody has asked him before, and that’s what I could find out…
His head is held higher than before. Suddenly there is life in his body and his eyes have joined our conversation. I can tell that he has forgiven himself. In fact, Sizwe says he was tested in a way he never imagined. He’s own daughter was raped.
“I had to learn to forgive that man when I looked into all of this, trying to understand what it means to love even your enemy.”
He leans forward and continues, “It’s a concept that I just read but I think it is a big challenge for humanity today to understand love. I learnt that you need something more. You don’t just need psychology to help you to forgive that way.”
That’s what I could find out – how do you forgive yourself?
“You need God”, he says.
Once you understand this, he urges, a second chance awaits you.
Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
Watch the Turning Point programme for this true story