Racism, unemployment, housing crisis De Klerk’s legacy: Malema

2010-02-11 14:57

RACISM, unemployment and the housing shortage were all the legacy

of former state president FW de Klerk, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema

said today at the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of president Nelson

Mandela’s release from prison.

It was De Klerk, as head of state, who took the momentous decision

in 1990 to free Mandela after 27 years behind bars.

But Malema, addressing a crowd of several thousand people at the

Drakenstein Prison near Paarl, said the former National Party leader, who shared

the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, was neither a hero nor an icon.

Malema said De Klerk made the February 2 1990 announcement that

Mandela would be released simply because the people of South Africa had demanded

that the ANC be unbanned and Mandela freed.

“De Klerk never released Mandela, De Klerk must never be

celebrated. De Klerk is a product of apartheid. De Klerk sponsored

black-on-black violence. De Klerk sponsored the IFP to kill our people in

KwaZulu-Natal,” he said, adding that the former statesman had never loved the

people of South Africa.

“Racism is the legacy of De Klerk. Unemployment is the legacy of De

Klerk. Shortage of houses is the legacy of De Klerk. De Klerk must never be

compared with Mandela.”

Earlier, Malema was one of a number of VIPs who symbolically

retraced Mandela’s first steps to freedom through the gates of Drakenstein,

formerly known as Victor Verster Prison.

Struggle veterans Mac Maharaj, Cyril Ramaphosa, Ahmed Kathrada and

Andrew Mlangeni were in the front row of the marchers.

Mandela was not at today’s celebration, nor was his former wife

Winnie, who in 1990 was at his side.

But there was a galaxy of other ANC luminaries, including several

Cabinet ministers, and comrades from the tripartite alliance, among them Cosatu

general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

While Mandela’s walk came after a year of nominal imprisonment in a

warder’s residence on the prison grounds, today’s march followed a sumptuous

breakfast laid on by the ANC, with corporate sponsorship, for invited guests in

a marquee on the prison grounds.

As the marchers walked the few 100 metres from the marquee to the

gates, officials pleaded with journalists to give them space to move.

“Don’t make it a long walk, make it a short one please,” joked

Maharaj.

At the gates, where they were met by a crowd of several thousand

people, they halted for speeches at the life-size bronze statue of Mandela that

stands there.

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who was a member of the national

reception committee set up at the time to coordinate Mandela’s release, told the

crowd that the day of the release in 1990 was etched on everyone’s memory.

In his first public speech, Mandela had said he would place his

life in the hands of his fellow South Africans to continue as “a fellow soldier

in the struggle for liberation”.

“Today Madiba continues with that promise,” Manuel said. “He hasn’t

ever given up the responsibilities. It was not something that he said because he

was happy to be out of prison. He said it because it was fundamental to his

belief system.

“We were here with him then, we are here with him today

still.”

Manuel added that it had to be recognised that on that day Mandela

wasn’t just any individual but a disciplined and loyal cadre of the ANC.

“Important as Madiba was, he was a symbol. Because the ANC always

said release Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners.

“Today we celebrate the symbolism, but we don’t focus only on

Madiba. We remind ourselves of where we’ve come from in the struggle to

establish a deep and durable democracy in this country, that touches the lives

of all of our people.

“We remind ourselves of where we’ve come from, but we remind

ourselves also of where we need to go.”

Ramaphosa, former head of the reception committee and now member of

the ANC national executive committee, said the ANC was not unbanned by former

state president FW de Klerk.

“You unbanned it yourself. You hoisted the flag of our people high,

and you said the ANC leads, the ANC lives,” he said. “When comrade Nelson

Mandela was released, as he walked out of these prison gates, we knew that his

freedom meant that our freedom had also arrived. As he became free we also knew

that we were now free.”

At a subsequent rally on the prison sportsfield, the South African

Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said it was important while

celebrating Mandela as an icon to not lose sight of him as a

revolutionary.

Nzimande, who is also the minister of higher education, said the

challenge facing the country was to translate political freedom into economic

wealth for the people as a whole.


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