In a recent opinion piece, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Social Sciences research fellow Imraan Buccus says apartheid era president FW de Klerk has been erroneously painted to be a forward thinking leader. Twenty five years after he made his famous speech unbanning liberation movements like the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress, Buccus believes De Klerk did not aim for the Nobel Peace Prize he received later on, but rather, wanted to protect the interests of big business. He was commenting on the praised conferred on De Klerk, as South Africa marked 25 years since that historic State of the Nation address on 2 February 1990.
“Much of the credit De Klerk receives in South Africa, is misplaced. If people were to dig deeper into the history of the [former] National Party, they would find De Klerk was one of its more conservative members. He found himself in a situation where the Apartheid state of the 80s was in deep crisis,” says Buccus.
“Revolution was knocking, people were taking to the streets demanding change; the country really was ungovernable and the NP was in complete disarray. The economy of South Africa was struggling, exports from the country were not being accepted and were being turned away at various harbours across the world.”
Buccus says De Klerk was under immense pressure from internal and external forces to change the country’s outlook and policies. He believes the visibility of ambassadors from the ANC and PAC made his situation even more difficult.
“Representatives of the ANC and PAC, in various capitals around the world, were really gaining traction and visibility, drawing attention to the situation in South Africa. While the South African government certainly had ambassadors in each of these capitals, the liberation movements’ representatives were becoming the true ambassadors of South Africa.”
“One really cannot say De Klerk went out of his way to bring about change, it was certainly the context that forced him to make the decisions he did,” Buccus explained. VOC