Apartheid crime was deprivation of blacks

FILE IMAGE: Anti-apartheid groups overseas were spurred by images of the Sharpeville massacre.The crime of apartheid declared that black lives were of less value than white lives, the writer says.
FILE IMAGE: Anti-apartheid groups overseas were spurred by images of the Sharpeville massacre.The crime of apartheid declared that black lives were of less value than white lives, the writer says.
Image: Corbis/ Greatstock

The EFF's behaviour in parliament during the president's State of the Nation Address was the definition of cheap populism. The question is: will it make the EFF more popular, or will voters be turned off by the naked opportunism?

If we were only talking about the demand that public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan be fired, most South Africans would probably feel the EFF's actions were undemocratic, crude and attention-seeking.

South Africans know that Eskom, SAA, Denel, Prasa and Transnet were robbed blind by Jacob Zuma's state capture commando and managed into the dirt long before Gordhan became the responsible minister.

We know that he got rid of most of the crooks on the boards and in top management. And we know that the EFF's often-repeated stories that Gordhan has millions stashed overseas or has large chunks of shares in banks are complete thumb-sucks.

But the EFF's demand that former president FW de Klerk be removed from the public gallery is different. The issue here is the great injustice of the past, an injustice most South Africans probably feel we are still living with.

The ANC defended the invitation to De Klerk. He wasn't only an elected MP after 1994, he was actually one of Nelson Mandela's deputy presidents. De Klerk has attended many openings of parliament since 1994 without the EFF or anyone else protesting.

But the EFF's objection was to De Klerk's statement last week in an SABC interview that apartheid wasn't a crime against humanity, as the UN had declared it in an official resolution. The EFF says this proves that he is condoning apartheid.

The only topic on the table is that he now denies that it was a crime. De Klerk should have known what a sensitive, emotional topic this is.

This is where it all becomes very muddy. De Klerk has indeed said several times that apartheid was wrong and apologised for it, starting way back when he appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997 - even if he qualified his apology and denied responsibility and knowledge of some of the evil actions by the security forces while he was in the cabinet and president.

De Klerk should have known what a sensitive, emotional topic this is. If he meant to show remorse for apartheid, but had problems with the language of a "crime against humanity", he should have said so.

But then his foundation rubbed salt in the wound over the weekend. The idea that apartheid was a crime against humanity was "an agitprop project initiated by the Soviets and their ANC/SACP allies", it said in a statement. Oil on the fire.

I suspect Dave Steward, head of the De Klerk Foundation, had a hand in this stupidity. Steward was head of the last two apartheid governments' communication services and, in my experience, he is still stuck in that mindset.

Now the ANC felt it had to react and asked the De Klerk Foundation to retract the statement. The debate on whether apartheid was a crime against humanity is decades old, at least among white South Africans. Those arguing against it make the point that apartheid cannot be compared to the genocide in Rwanda or the Balkans.

In my view, the crime of apartheid was not in the first place that many were murdered in its name, but that it had declared the majority of citizens aliens in their own country; that it humiliated and thwarted the natural development of millions of people over many generations; that it declared that black lives were of less value than white lives.

Think forced removals, pass laws, bantu education, bantustans, restrictions to full economic participation.

Was that not an offence grave enough to be called a crime against humanity?

*Du Preez is the publisher of vryeweekblad.com

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