OPINION | De Klerk, time was always going to unmask your truth

18 February 2020 - 07:30
Former president FW de Klerk has sparked more controversy with his latest statement.
Former president FW de Klerk has sparked more controversy with his latest statement.
Image: Gallo Images / Nardus Engelbrecht

How do you sleep at night? This is the question that usually pops up after someone does something despicable.

For years, many South Africans saw former president FW de Klerk celebrated by the new democratic South Africa and painted as the hero’s right-hand man. For them — those who suffered under the mighty thud of apartheid and who continue to suffer its residual effects – this question has lingered quietly at the backs of their minds.

It took the EFF — again — to highlight that De Klerk had answered the question.

Like scales being lifted off black people's eyes, South Africans finally understood what gave this man the audacity to accept a Nobel Peace Prize and get a good night's sleep, knowing how many people his government, directly or indirectly, “murdered”.

De Klerk can and does sleep soundly, because his truth has been that apartheid wasn’t a crime against humanity.

A video clip of an SABC interview with De Klerk was recently brought to light again by the EFF. It has sparked widespread rage. In it, De Klerk said he didn’t think apartheid was a crime against humanity. The former president said it shouldn’t be categorised with genocide and dismissed the mass murders that took place under apartheid as “black-on-black” violence.

Watch the clip below:

The justification from the FW de Klerk Foundation that followed the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi thrusting the interview back into the spotlight was cringeworthy.

The support that came from apartheid apologists left me nauseous. The “damage-control” stench of the foundation's apology after the outrage nearly burnt De Klerk’s good guy image and made me gag!

Black people gave their lives to end apartheid. It didn’t require De Klerk to do anything. Its time was up.

Unfortunately, the rainbow-nation branding that followed needed to create a picture of unity and it so happened that De Klerk was available for the photo opportunity. One that would coincidentally paint him as the saint who “helped” black people back into power.

I’m making it sound much simpler than it was, but De Klerk and his people need to know that we don’t owe him anything. We are not indebted to him for anything except “gracefully” handing over what belonged to us.

Former SACP leader Chris Hani, who was assassinated in 1993, was onto something when he said: “I disagree with a lot of people who think that (former apartheid president) FW de Klerk and others have changed.”

It was all an illusion, which seemed to have worked. It was time that led the good sir to believe that we are living in a country where the people that oppressed us also get to tell us how to define what they did to us and how we must feel about it.

De Klerk wouldn’t have said what he did if he did not truly believe it and his foundation wouldn’t have said labelling apartheid as a crime against humanity was Soviet-era propaganda.

It must be disconcerting to be seen for who you are after living “successfully” in a “make-believe” world for so long.

I guess the joke is on him, because he probably thought he would die a hero.