FW ROAD RAGE

Twenty-seven peo­ple – his­to­ri­ans, re­li­gious lead­ers, cap­tains of in­dus­try and three house­wives – pro­posed that Ta­ble Bay Boule­vard be named after FW de Klerk. Now SA is de­bat­ing: what’s in a name? A so­phis­ti­cated Steve Hofmeyr

CityPress - - Front Page - MONDLI MAKHANYA news@city­press.co.za

ANC veteran De­nis Gold­berg has bro­ken ranks with his party dur­ing a dis­agree­ment about re­nam­ing a Cape Town street after FW de Klerk, say­ing even Nel­son Man­dela would have ap­proved of the decision.

Rivo­nia Tri­al­ist Gold­berg spoke out as a na­tional de­bate raged after the City of Cape Town’s nam­ing com­mit­tee ac­cepted a pro­posal to re­name Ta­ble Bay Boule­vard after De Klerk. In 1993, De Klerk and Man­dela shared the Nobel peace prize for their role in end­ing apartheid.

The ANC re­jected the pro­posal. Na­tional spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa said De Klerk “did not lib­er­ate us”.

“All that he did, among other things, was to main­tain apartheid,” Kodwa said ear­lier in the week.

A fi­nal decision on the re­nam­ing will be made by a full sit­ting of the city coun­cil.

But Gold­berg, who was im­pris­oned on Robben Is­land with Man­dela, said the states­man was “a great rec­on­ciler”.

“Per­haps a lesser road would have been prefer­able, but still,” he said. “De Klerk, I be­lieve, put his life on the line when he pushed through with those ne­go­ti­a­tions. He was brave enough to risk the wrath of right wing Afrikan­ers.

“I wish he’d ended apartheid ear­lier, but still, he played a role in his­tory,” said Gold­berg.

Man­dela’s for­mer per­sonal as­sis­tant, Zelda la Grange, stoked the fire when she tweeted yes­ter­day: “It’s very clear from Ja­cob Zuma, whites are not wanted or needed in South Africa.”

She then re­ferred to, among other things, the anger caused by the city’s decision to hon­our De Klerk.

The crux of the de­bate about the re­nam­ing of a road in Cape Town after FW de Klerk is the ques­tion of whether the for­mer pres­i­dent should be hon­oured at all.

It is about whether South Africans should for­get the bad that he did and just re­mem­ber the fact that he freed Nel­son Man­dela and set the coun­try on the path to democ­racy. The ques­tion is whether we should re­gard him as a great South African and cel­e­brate him as such.

In essence, it is about whether we should de­velop am­ne­sia about the real FW de Klerk and his role in our dark past. This am­ne­sia trap is one into which we have so eas­ily fallen in the past two decades as we got drunk on the wine of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and na­tion-build­ing.

What we should not for­get is that while there were ad­mit­tedly no an­gels in the con­flict of our past, there was a good side and a bad side. On the good side were the lib­er­a­tion move­ments, the re­li­gious com­mu­nity and broader civil so­ci­ety who sought to re­move apartheid. On the bad side were the Na­tional Party (NP) and its Ban­tus­tan sur­ro­gates – one of whom is still po­lit­i­cally ac­tive and who also wants to rewrite his­tory – which sought to pro­long the apartheid sys­tem.

Apartheid was a sys­tem that De Klerk served loy­ally for most of his adult life. His rise through the ranks of the NP was due to his skills, his po­lit­i­cal acu­men and, very im­por­tantly, his en­thu­si­asm for his party’s apartheid poli­cies. He en­er­get­i­cally sup­ported and im­ple­mented them in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties as party ex­ec­u­tive, MP and se­nior mem­ber of the John Vorster and PW Botha cab­i­nets.

Are we now to for­get that at the height of apartheid, he was the chief en­forcer of sep­a­rate and un­equal ed­u­ca­tion? Are we sup­posed to for­get his as­saults on aca­demic free­dom at univer­si­ties in the form of the 1980s “De Klerk bills”? Are we to for­get that he served in cab­i­nets that over­saw cruel re­pres­sion of anti-apartheid for­ma­tions, a cab­i­net that presided over death squads and tor­ture cham­bers?

We are told that his Fe­bru­ary 1990 speech paved the way for change and he ne­go­ti­ated the Na­tional Party out of power. That it was Man­dela and him who led us across the River Jor­dan.

This view ig­nores the fact it was dur­ing the early 1990s that his se­cu­rity forces ran the so-called Third Force that fanned the flames of vi­o­lence in the black town­ships and vil­lages.

It was on his watch that peo­ple were butchered on trains and mas­sa­cred in places like Boipa­tong, Se­bo­keng and Eden­dale.

The post-1994 De Klerk has been a con­sis­tent anti-trans­for­ma­tion voice, us­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ex­co­ri­ate the nec­es­sary resti­tu­tive ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment.

In­stead of lead­ing his for­mer con­stituency – which still holds him in high re­gard – into the common South African fu­ture, he has been sound­ing like a so­phis­ti­cated Steve Hofmeyr. He has opted to be a spokesper­son for a sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion rather than the elder states­man that his apol­o­gists tell us he is.

De Klerk has al­ready been er­ro­neously re­warded by the Nobel com­mit­tee, which gave him the peace prize along­side Man­dela in 1993. He does not de­serve any hon­ours in a free South Africa. To hon­our him would be an en­dorse­ment of the evils he took part in as one of apartheid’s lead­ing lights.

FW de Klerk

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