By Prince Kurupati
The last surviving leader of Apartheid South Africa FW de Klerk succumbed to cancer at his home yesterday. The 85-year old had been battling mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer which attacks the lining of lungs.
As a man who once presided over the discriminatory and widely condemned Apartheid government, de Klerk’s death was always going to result in a mixed bag of emotions. Following the news of his passing, many prominent South Africans and the ordinary populace took to the Twitter streets to air out their views. The varied views aired by the country painted two distinct pictures. On one hand, there are those who commended de Klerk for negotiating for South Africa’s independence and his work during the government of national unity (27 April 1994 to 3 February 1997). On the other hand, however are those whose wounds are still fresh regarding the repressive actions and gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the Apartheid government with de Klerk as its head.
Below, we take a look at some of the most popular views shared following de Klerk’s death.
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president focused on the latter part of de Klerk’s life commending him for working in government to uplift the lives of all South Africans during the government of national unity and afterwards. In a statement, President Ramaphosa said that de Klerk was “a committed South African who embraced the democratic constitutional dispensation and placed the long-term future of the country ahead of narrow political interest.”
Concurring with the President was Mangosuthu Buthelezi who worked with de Klerk during the government of national unity. In a statement, Buthelezi said, “We thank the Almighty that former president De Klerk had the opportunity to see South Africa become a country of freedom in which every citizen has equal rights.”
To some, the injustices perpetrated by de Klerk during the Apartheid era are just too hideous to wish away. The Fort Calata Foundation which represents the interests of Apartheid survivors said that “It is sad that yet another apartheid criminal died without having accounted for the crimes he helped to perpetrate against our humanity.”
Bold and vocal South African opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said that de Klerk died without accounting for the blood on his hands. Owing to this, the party said he does not deserve to be accorded a state funeral. EFF threatened to conduct massive protests countrywide if a state funeral is accorded to de Klerk.
“To honour de Klerk with a state funeral would be to spit in the face of gallant liberation heroes who suffered in his hands and had their children murdered in his quest to stifle the freedom of black people. A state funeral for de Klerk would be an insult to the families of the Cradock Four. It would undermine the memories of the people of Boipatong Mthata, Bhisho, the people of Vosloorus and many communities who were maimed by his state sponsored black on black violence,” the EFF said.
Popular South African actress Pearl Thusi supported the sentiments echoed by the EFF saying, “If FW de Klerk gets a state funeral… that will be a huge middle finger to the people who suffered under the apartheid regime in this country… We must disrupt that funeral if it’s declared a state funeral. There’s just no way.”