By: Carl Niehaus
Rudolph Paul Raphael and Botlhokwa Lenna I see you don’t know me. You think that you can corner me with posting this article reporting how Nxamalala praised #DeKlerk, and a photo of them shaking hands? You better think again!
You asked me to respond? Well, I am responding now:
As a junior member of the ANC’s negotiating team at CODESA, and the constitutional negotiations, I had little influence, and I was more responsible for ANC communications about the negotiations than being at the coal face, of the negotiations between our senior ANC leaders and De Klerk, and his team of negotiators, led by Roelf Meyer.
However, whenever I had a chance to make my views known to Madiba and our leaders (including Nxamalala) I made it clear that I did not trust De Klerk, that he was a double dealing two-faced liar, and unrepentant about apartheid. I shared comrade Chris Hani’s view that De Klerk and his senior negotiators were not negotiating in good faith, and that they did not dismantle the viciously destructive security apparatuses, among them third force operations, that they continued to use viciously against our people, and the ANC, with devastating effect, also during the negotiations to weaken and destabilize us. (The Boipatong massacre is only one terrible example of what they were busy with). That is why I, yesterday, tweeted the video clip of comrade Chris saying exactly that about De Klerk.
Privately, behind the public negotiating scenes, I know that Madiba had no time for De Klerk. He did not believe that De Klerk was genuine and trustworthy. He felt the man lacked integrity and was an opportunist. The ANC leadership who worked closely together with Madiba can confirm what I am saying. However, in public Madiba tried to keep his dim view of De Klerk under wraps for the sake of bringing the negotiations to the point where we could attain a democratic South Africa, with universal franchise.
Yet, every now and then De Klerk’s arrogance and duplicity became too much, and Madiba’s frustration and anger with the man boiled over into the public domain. One such a very public, and well known incident, was when Madiba dressed De Klerk down at CODESA 2, and openly called him a double dealer, liar, and a person without integrity.
That speech by Madiba brought us to the brink of the negotiations collapsing. Another, but less well known incident because it happened outside the country, was when Madiba and De Klerk travelled to Sweden and Norway, to jointly receive the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to them.
In private Madiba expressed his deep discomfort at having had to receive the Nobel Peace Prize together with De Klerk. This unhappiness of Madiba came to the fore at a banquet that the Swedish Prime Minister hosted for the two Nobel Laureates in Stockholm. When Madiba rose to speak he diverted from the prepared text of his speech, and talked about the terrible treatment that he and fellow political prisoners were subjected to during their long years of political imprisonment on Robben Island. How, when they were working at the lime quarry in the blazing sun, the warders would make them dig holes and forced them to get into those holes and cover them with sand and gravel until only their heads stuck out, and when they were dehydrated and pleading for water the warders would urinate on them.
While Madiba was describing these terrible atrocities, De Klerk sat stone faced, and visibly bristling with indignation and anger at Madiba, for talking about what happened, and thus embarrassing him in his moment of ‘glory’ for receiving a Noble Peace Prize. It was glaringly clear, for all to see, that the man had no grace, nor any contrition, and that he was obviously not deserving of receiving the Noble Peace Prize.
Once Madiba had described the atrocities that he and other political prisoners were subjected to, he then in typical Madiba style, proceeded to say that despite all of what happened he was prepared to negotiate with De Klerk, and the National Party, not because he liked them, but for the sake of his people and for peace and to attain democracy in South Africa.
The next morning Madiba called me from my hotel room in the Grand Hôtel Stockholm, where we were all staying, to his suite and showed me a handwritten note from De Klerk, that a messenger delivered earlier. In the note De Klerk complained that Madiba humiliated him the night before at the banquet, and that if it happens again he will be forced to reply in retaliation. I asked Madiba what he was going to do. He smiled and informed me that he had already sent a note back to De Klerk in which he told him that he better not make good on his threat, because then he (Madiba) will destroy him, and he reminded De Klerk about what happened at the opening session of CODESA 2.
You see Rudolph and Batlokwa, this is the principled Madiba I knew, not the ever smiling doting ‘saint’ that the white media had deliberately turned his image too in his old age, and especially after he passed away. Madiba, understood power, and thus he also understood the precarious balance of power during the negotiating period in the early 1990’s, before we reached the 27th of April 1994, and our first democratic elections. Tata was prepared to negotiate, and make compromises, for the sake of attaining our democracy, but he was never fooled about the nature of the apartheid devils that he was negotiating with.
You see I was there, so when you post me pictures of a smiling Madiba standing next to De Klerk, and Msholozi shaking hands with De Klerk, thinking you make a point to corner me, in order to justify the travesty of De Klerk’s presence on Thursday night at the SONA, you achieve no such, you only expose your own youthful ignorance.
At the time Madiba and the ANC negotiators had very little option but to negotiate, and to do what they had to do, in order to get us to the point of reaching democracy, and our first non-racial universal franchise elections on the 27th of April 1994.
During that whole process De Klerk was no courageous man, or hero. He was a sly, manipulating, negotiator who was forced to go to the negotiating table, because the courageous resistance of our people to apartheid forced him to go there, but his aim was to save as much as possible of the ill gotten apartheid privileges for the whites, and especially to secure the continuing ownership of, and control of the SA economy, by whites.
In that aim this white Lucifer, and his negotiators, led by Roelf Meyer, succeeded. Not because Madiba, and our ANC negotiators sold out, but because the balance of forces made it impossible to gain economic control AT THAT POINT.
However, we are now 26 years further down the winding rood of our long walk to freedom. During this period the balance of forces have certainly shifted back and forth. There were times, during the second term of President Mbeki’s administration, that we (the ANC) had a two thirds majority in parliament, and when we could have changed the debilitating limitation clauses in the Constitution that impede the return of the land, and property and the means of production in general, to our people. We could have radically transformed our economic landscape so that the black majority (especially Africans) could have gained control of the commanding heights of our economy. Instead we never got rid of the terrible shackles of the sunset clauses, and wasted our time and majority power on senseless neo-liberal economic policies, such as GEAR.
We actually had the power in our hands, and we allowed it to filter, like drift sand, through our fingers. What a terrible waste of power, we literally demolished our own democratic power, and de-campaigned ourselves! In doing so we failed Madiba and the ANC constitutional negotiators, who had established the democratic foundation which we could have used as the launch-pad, bringing about radical economic transformation, and the implementation of the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution. All of us who allowed this to happen should hang our heads in shame!
So here we are now in 2020: We still do not have full freedom at all. The control of our economy is still firmly in the sticky strangle-grip of white monopoly capital, and instead of moving resolutely, speedily, and with determination, to implement the pro Radical Economic Transformation (RET) Resolutions that were adopted at the ANC’s 54th National Conference, (already three long years ago). that can liberate our people from their continuing economic slavery, we instead literally smooch De Klerk on the steps of parliament. Cry my beloved country!
So let’s return for a moment to the article that describes how Msholozi praised De Klerk at the unveiling of the bust of Madiba in-front of the National Assembly on the 27th of April 2014. In all honesty, I am not comfortable with the praise that was heaped there onto De Klerk’s shiny, balled, head. By then we have passed the negotiations phase, there was no longer any need to buy the man’s face. Msholozi knows my views about that, and that I did not like what he did, because I have told him so.
When I was still a Member of Parliament (MP), I spoke in 1995 in the joint parliamentary debate of President Mandela’s State Of The Nation Address (SONA), and used my speech to remind De Klerk, who was then Deputy President in the Government of National Unity (GNU), about all the atrocities that were committed during his reign as the last apartheid president. Among other atrocities I reminded him of the infamous 1993 Mthatha raid, that he approved, and in which five innocent young students were shot dead while they were sleeping, as well as the Boiphatong massacre, and years of the most terrible stoking on of third-force violence – the list went on-and-on. I also pointed out to him that he was as a senior National Party Cabinet Minister an influential member of the State Security Council (SSC) from 1985 onwards, and that it was untenable that he was unaware that gross human rights violations were being committed on an ongoing basis. I pointed out to him that among the decisions of the SCC that he was party to was the establishment of a covert paramilitary force, trained and equipped by the army, that was responsible for much of the violence unleashed against anti-apartheid activists in the mid-1980s. I furthermore reminded him that he attended a meeting at which the SSC discussed “shortening the list of politically sensitive individuals by means other than detention”, and that he had refused to answer a question about that meeting at the TRC hearings. (Today he declines to interpret what the phrasing might have meant, but denies ever endorsing a decision to assassinate activists!).
While I was still busy addressing the National Assembly De Klerk became increasingly agitated. Eventually he shouted at me that he will not sit here and listen to this “nonsense”, and walked out of the House, as he was walking out I said to him; “Yes, walk out, walk your walk of shame!”.
After having finished my speech Madiba called me to the Presidential bench, where he was seated, asking me to sit down for a moment next to him. He then said: “My boy, I think you went a bit too far. Perhaps you should go and apologize to Mr. De Klerk” (Tata always called me, “My boy”). I replied: “Tata, please do not ask me to do that”. He then said: “Okay, let’s talk later more about this, go back to your seat now”. We never discussed the matter further, and of course, I never apologized to De Klerk.
Many years later when Madiba was well into his retirement, I visited him at his house in Houghton. The then chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Dr. Jakes Gerwel, was also present. While we were having tea, Madiba chuckled and said to Jakes, you know this one (referring to me) told De Klerk off in the National Assembly, and when I told him to apologize to De Klerk he refused, but he was right not to apologize.
So Rudolph and Batlokwa, while I told Msholozi that I did not like his, to my mind, unnecessary praising of De Klerk, I can still understand what informed his behaviour, and even Madiba’s ambivalence when he first wanted me to apologize to De Klerk, and then quietly let me off the hook, and years later acknowledged that I was right not to apologize. They were managing the uncomfortable fall-out (also in a personal sense) of the negotiations, and the compromises that the unfortunate historical balance of power at the time forced them into.
However, what irks and disturbs me deeply, is why we, now, still feel the need to continue to play this farcical reconciliation game with De Klerk, and his fellow un-rehabilitated racist cronies of apartheid apologists. Surely 26 years into our democracy De Klerk is no longer, by any flight of the imagination, a danger factor that can undo our democracy?
De Klerk is actually now only a decrepit old man, who obstreperously refuses to show contrition, and to apologize for apartheid. A apartheid killer who does not care for the many people that he, and his fellow apartheid murderers killed, and who refuses to accept any responsibility and guilt.
On the 2nd February 2020, only a few days ago, he again on national television refused to acknowledge that apartheid was a crime against humanity, and insisted that he had done nothing wrong! Really? Go and ask the parents of the young students who were killed in the Manthata raid, as ordered by him, how they feel about that statement!
Yesterday the FW De Klerk Foundation issued a rambling statement insisting stubbornly again (just to add insult to injury) that apartheid was not a crime against humanity, describing the 1966 UN National Assembly declaration of apartheid as a crime against humanity, insultingly as an ‘agitprop’ project.
With his recent behavior, and this statement by his Foundation, De Klerk has gone way beyond the pale. He has made himself persona non grata. He is now a social outcast, and should be treated as such.
This is the context, NOW, in which I argue that to continue to accommodate De Klerk, in any way whatsoever, is to encourage the many arrogant and un-rehabilitated white racists in our country to proceed with their racist attitudes and practices. That is the danger for our country now, and that is why De Klerk as their ‘poster boy’, and symbol of their racism and decrepitude, must not only be ostracized, but also prosecuted for his apartheid crimes.
This is why it is now, this year, totally different. De Klerk simply just cannot any longer be invited to any government event, especially not to high profile State of The Nation Addresses. Once De Klerk refused to acknowledge again that apartheid was a crime against humanity on the the 2nd of February, we should have immediately withdrawn his invitation to the SONA. To have continued to warmly welcome him, either by handshake or smooch (as that nauseating photo of the Speaker of the National Assembly so glaringly shows), is to betray everything we should be standing for, and working towards, right now!
I read that there is a campaign, inspired by a New Year sermon of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, that this must be the year of orange overalls for people who are alleged to be corrupt and having committed all kinds of crimes. Their most high profile candidate to don such an orange overall, has presented himself in the person of Mr. FW de Klerk. I am waiting to hear if the orange overall campaigners will do the right thing, and also call for De Klerk’s arrest and prosecution. It is high time that he pays the price for his terrible crimes against humanity.