I am an African, De Klerk tells Europe

2013-10-26 09:09

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Former president FW de Klerk put his own spin on former president Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech, at the 12th Europe lecture in The Hague, the Netherlands.

“My ancestors were Huguenots from France who came to South Africa via Holland in 1688,” he said yesterday in a speech prepared for delivery.

“My culture, like the cultures of so many peoples throughout the world, is suffused with the unparalleled literature, art and music of Europe. And yet, I am an African,” he said.

De Klerk said that even though he had deep roots in European culture, he identified with Africa and regarded himself as an African.

“I strive to promote its interests in its relationship with other parts of the world, and I support its sports teams when they are playing teams from other continents.”

European imperialism deeply affected Southern Africa, and was indelibly changed though the British conquest wars with the Xhosa, the Zulus and the Afrikaners.

“The withdrawing tide of European rule left country after country floundering on the beach of independence, surrounded by the flotsam and jetsam of empire.

“Constitutions that were not rooted in African traditions and ideas of government were hastily written and just as hastily torn up.”

Many African countries were left with a “love-hate relationship” with Europe, criticising them at the UN, but enjoying the shopping and culture of European capitals.

In recent years, Africa’s rapidly growing economy and Europe’s waning global prestige had changed the dynamic between the two continents.

“The reality is that the European single market just is not functioning as effectively as it should,” De Klerk said.

Declining birth rates were also contributing to Europe’s problems, but large-scale immigration from other parts of the world would fundamentally change the continent’s character.

Europe needed Africa to be prosperous, because political and economic problems in Africa would result in an “unstoppable torrent” of African refugees.

“But Africa also needs a strong Europe that will be able to play its proper role in the world.”

De Klerk said that Europe needed to give Africa greater attention in its strategic world view.

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