Self-righteous FW de Klerk a case of the kettle calling the pot black

The last apartheid president FW de Klerk's administration has a lot to answer for its role in making South Africa such a violent country, says the writer. /AMBROSE PETERS
The last apartheid president FW de Klerk's administration has a lot to answer for its role in making South Africa such a violent country, says the writer. /AMBROSE PETERS

No amount of spin-doctoring and revisionism will ever change the fact that Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the Lord of KwaDakwadunuse, and his cronies robbed and pillaged South Africa, and ran it into the ground.

You can combine the skills of Andile Mngxitama and Bell Pottinger, give them the whole century to burnish the man's image, but the truth will remain: he left a turd on the national table, and it will take generations to get rid of the smell.

That having been said, I find it disappointing that South Africans have never really called out another man who did the same.

I am of course referring to FW de Klerk. It is good that De Klerk, perhaps in an attempt to insinuate himself into the history books as the man who brought reconciliation to the country, has been in the media this week.

He has, rightly, vilified Zuma for his kleptomaniac proclivities while in office. But in doing so, he has contrived to remind those of us who "were there" that he himself was not an angel while occupying the highest office in the land.

Having ousted PW Botha, the finger-wagging Groot Krokodil, from the leadership of the then ruling National Party, and also from the position of president, De Klerk set out to make reforms within the apartheid administration.

Under his watch the liberation movements, including the PAC and the ANC, were unbanned. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were released from prison.

Did De Klerk do that out of the kindness of his heart? Hell no! The country was on fire.

Making these adjustments was an attempt at putting out the fire.

The masses had spoken. The international community had listened. They had put pressure on the apartheid government to make the changes.

Needless to say, the international capitalists had their agendas which, at the time, converged with the national sentiment in SA.

For his reforms, De Klerk was rewarded with a Nobel peace prize, shared with Mandela.

But here is the truth: while he was smiling and shaking hands with Mandela, his cronies were conducting a scorched earth policy. They were emptying the public purse and spiriting money to their offshore accounts; this in an attempt to make sure that when the new democratic government came into power, it would inherit a bankrupt state.

While De Klerk was being feted for a miraculous transition, the killing squads that he had helped create and finance, some of them operating under the aegis of Inkatha, were busy killing ordinary black people.

Boipatong, Shobashobane, Thokoza, Richmond, Crossroads are not just place names. These are names of specific massacres on the eve of our 1994 election, while De Klerk was in office.

Some of these truths did come out through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But did De Klerk and his cronies truly atone for these outrages? No.

Which then made the TRC something of a damp squib. It set the right tone but did not go far enough. Maybe we need a second TRC.

It is thanks to De Klerk's administration that SA is such a violent country, that there is such a strong gun culture. The strategy of his administration was to entrench a long internecine war among the people of SA, to make sure that when the ANC and others went to the negotiating table they did so from a weakened position.

Just as no amount of spin-doctoring will change the truth about Zuma's years in office, no amount of revisionism will change the reality that De Klerk's administration pillaged, robbed and killed, leaving us a harvest of thorns.

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