Glowing tributes for Frederik van Zyl Slabbert

2010-05-14 14:20

Former politician, businessman and academic Frederik van Zyl

Slabbert, who died in Johannesburg this morning, has been described as a mobile

political library, a living embodiment of active citizenship and a person who

left South Africa better than what it was.

In a moving tribute to his “dear friend” IFP chief whip Koos van

der Merwe described him as a parliamentarian par excellence who had once

“annihilated” apartheid head of state PW Botha in a three-minute speech.

He said Van Zyl Slabbert had also led a group of white

businesspeople to a meeting with the ANC in Dakar, Senegal, in defiance of

Botha.

Van Zyl Slabbert had also kept to himself the information that the

daughter of the old far-rightwing Conservative Party’s leader, Andries

Treurnicht, had asked him for help to move to the US to marry a black man.

“At that stage it was unthinkable for a white conservative to marry

a black man. News of Treurnicht’s daughter marrying a black man would have led

to the end of Treurnicht’s political career,” said Van der Merwe.

“Van Zyl Slabbert confidentially told me the story. It never made

the headlines. What an honourable man.”

He said Van Zyl Slabbert had known political parties “better than

they knew themselves” and was often approached for advice because he was

considered a mobile political library.

The Freedom Front Plus said: “Whether one agreed or disagreed with

him, he treated everyone in the same courteous manner and brought integrity into

politics, which often today is lacking.”

The DA, a descendant of the Progressive Federal Party (PFP), which

he once led, said he presented a nonracial alternative “with determination and

principle”.

DA leader Helen Zille said: “He devoted his life to the development

of a just South Africa and he left our country a far better place than

before.”

The Independent Democrats called him a true patriot and said all

South Africans owed him a debt of gratitude for the principled stance he had

taken in all the positions he had occupied throughout his life.

The ANC said he had made an indelible mark in shaping opposition

politics against apartheid.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu said: “He will also be remembered as

one of those white South Africans who facilitated contact with the African

National Congress at the time it was banned inside the country.”

In 1985 Van Zyl Slabbert travelled to Lusaka, Zambia, for talks

with the external wing of the ANC and, with IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi,

launched the National Convention Movement in an unsuccessful attempt to

pressurise the apartheid government into negotiating with all political groups.

The Institute for Democracy in South Africa, which he co-founded in

1986 with Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Alex Boraine, said he was a

visionary and represented a “living embodiment of active citizenship as a South

African and an African public intellectual”.

“His life was rooted in the values of social justice, which guided

his participation on an ongoing basis in considering what democracy is and how

it should be lived by citizens of South Africa and other countries,” the centre

said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the country

had been deprived of an intellectual and moral leader.

“His progressive contribution during the transition must have

played a big role in stilling the doubts of those who thought our country would

not succeed in reaching a peaceful democratic settlement,” he said.

PFP co-founder Colin Eglin said Van Zyl Slabbert would be

remembered with “great respect for his integrity, his keen intellect, his warm

personality and his deep concern for the people, the society and the country of

which he was so much a part”.

– Sapa


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