When Ginn Fourie’s daughter Lyndi was killed 10 years ago during
an attack by a South African freedom fighters, she began a long and
difficult journey that would ultimately teach her the power of
grief and the importance of reconciliation.
Speaking last night at the University’s Modern Language
Building, Fourie, a South African of British descent and professor
of physiotherapy at the University of Cape Town, recounted the
unusual chain of events that resulted in her eventual friendship
with the former rebel commander Letlapa Mphahlele – the man who
ordered the attack on the Cape Town bar where her daughter was
After three black South Africans were arrested for the murder,
Fourie confronted them in court and found herself struck by her
inability to wish harm on those who killed her daughter in a
violent demonstration against white dominance brought on by years
“As I looked at them standing in the dock, I couldn’t muster any
hate because in their eyes I saw what I thought must have been
enormous confusion,” Fourie said. “I sent them a message through
the translator that if they were or felt guilty, then I forgave
The perpetrators thanked Fourie for her forgiveness and in 1997,
when they were granted amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission of the post-Apartheid government, they met with her in
person, taking the opportunity to suggest they all engage in some
form of cooperative therapy.
While the suggested therapy never took place, the idea of
cooperative healing and reconciliation stayed with Fourie for years
and eventually resurfaced in the form of the Lyndi Fourie
Foundation. Fourie is touring the United States to tell her story
and create support for the foundation.
“It’s a mission for me to help other people become aware of how
our prejudices are ill-founded,” she said.
The proposed non-profit foundation will seek to bring together
former victims and combatants in the conflict over apartheid and
also provide diversity training to large companies in need of a way
to deal with the shifting nature of race relations in South Africa.
The organization was co-founded by Fourie and Mphahlele after the
two met at his book signing in Cape Town in 1997.
“We spent two hours discussing what our backgrounds were,”
Fourie said. “I understood completely how he could become so
disillusioned,” she added, noting that years of poverty and
oppression had led Mphahlele down a violent path.
Though he has given up violent means of addressing conflict,
Mphahlele is still classified as a terrorist by the U.S. State
Department and was not permitted to enter the country with
Fourie’s stop at the University was made possible by sociology
Prof. David Williams, who met her during a trip to South Africa for
research and thought that her story should be told in Ann Arbor
when he heard she would be in the United States.
“I think Ginn’s story is such a compelling one and it
illustrates a level of humanity that literally takes our breath
away,” Williams said. “To think of her reaching out to them and
working together: It’s a mind-boggling story.”
Students present at the event were also deeply impacted, noting
that Fourie’s speech gave a deeper insight into the struggles of
South Africans and the lasting effects of racism and hate.
“It was different, but definitely worthwhile,” Rackham student
Aleisha Langhorne said of Fourie’s speech. “It’s not about just
reparation or some money and acknowledgement that this happened.
There are still lasting effects.”