Article on De Klerk untrue

2013-10-13 10:00

TO Molefe’s article “Dirty slates wiped clean” (City Press, October 6 2013) is a classic example of the old journalistic ploy of setting up a straw man and then knocking him down.

Molefe attacks DeKlerk for views that he does not hold and for things that he did not do.

To start with, it was not DeKlerk’s idea to be involved in the 21 Icons project.

But he felt that it was appropriate that such a project should represent the full spectrum South Africa offers, including white males in their late 70s.

It was certainly not DeKlerk’s wish to be cast in a Buddhist pose on one of Franschhoek’s mountains.

It took all Adrian Steirn’s persuasive powers to convince him to do so, but he went along with good humour in the spirit of the project despite his “bony shins”.

Molefe took exception to the Icon project’s description of him as the person who “led the dismantling of apartheid?...”

Well, he certainly did so from the side of the government of the day.

What does Molefe think happened on February 2 1990?

Nelson Mandela, the leadership of the ANC, the Nobel peace prize committee and, indeed, most of the world acknowledged the key role DeKlerk played.

There are very few people in South Africa who are haranguing Molefe to accept that DeKlerk was “a man of peace and justice”.

DeKlerk’s contribution to our new society is downplayed.

His role is discussed in hushed, embarrassed or bitter tones because of the unacceptability for many South Africans that anything positive could possibly have come from a leader of the National Party.

Even DA-led provinces and cities avoid the political opprobrium of according him any recognition.

Molefe is wrong about DeKlerk’s role as education minister. He says DeKlerk “supported racially segregated universities”.

In fact, during his tenure as minister, there was wide-scale integration of former white universities so that by the end of his presidency in 1994, they included 22?000 nonwhite students, with 57?000 more enrolled at Unisa.

Molefe claims that when DeKlerk was minister of education, the state was spending “10 times more on white children than on black children”.

In fact, DeKlerk worked towards closing the gap. In 1984, the ratio was 6.55:1; by 1994, the gap had been closed to 2.26:1.

Teachers’ salaries had been equalised and the state was actually spending more per capita on black university ­students.

During the 1980s, despite massive disruption of high schools, there was unprecedented growth in black secondary school education.

In 1980, only 29?973 black South Africans wrote matric; by 1994, 410?784 wrote matric, producing more than three times the number of white matriculants.

In his final year as president, there were more blacks registered at universities than whites.

Black education was still inadequate and unequal, but there can be no doubt that there was substantial progress during DeKlerk’s tenure as minister.

We challenge Molefe to find an instance where DeKlerk used “the threat of war as a stick” during the negotiations to end apartheid.

Molefe’s contention that DeKlerk “refused to ­cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)” is equally untrue.

In fact, it was he who proposed that all leaders involved in the conflict of the past should make submissions to the TRC about their respective roles and motives.

John Allen, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s biographer and close associate, writes that “the commission’s frustration at failing to pin responsibility for violations of human rights on DeKlerk, or to engage him in Tutu’s effort to find a white leader to accept accountability for atrocities, was displayed in the embarrassing weakness of its finding against him”.

Molefe then trundles on that DeKlerk “insists to this day that apartheid was an innocuous, two-state solution that went wrong only in implementation”.

Again, untrue.

In fact, DeKlerk has apologised – profoundly – for the harm caused by apartheid and repeats in every second speech that it led to unacceptable injustice.

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