MyNews24 is a user-generated section of The stories here come from users.

Comments: 7
Article views: 2206
Latest Badges:

View all Tony_Soprano's badges.

Was FW Africa's biggest loser?

05 December 2011, 07:01

The New York Times newspaper columnist Bill Keller wrote  earlier this year how South Africa's FW de Klerk and Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev were the 21st century's biggest losers. Is that true though of FW de Klerk?

In apologising for Apartheid in 1993, did FW de Klerk lose his grip of control of South Africa gracefully?

The superlative “greatest” applies both to the scale of the loss,the magnitude and the manner in which they lost it — Mikhail Gorbachev lost Russia and all of its colonies whilst F. W. de Klerk lost the richest country in Africa.

Our hearts understandably thrill to the courage of those who stand up to power — from Tiananmen Square to Tahrir Square and all the streets that were teeming with the young and freedom-hungry.But there is another sort of unspoken heroism which is rather scarce and undervalued and which  accrues to those who know how to stand down gracefully.

What Gorbachev and de Klerk did was not always pretty, and neither man is much celebrated in his own country since then.But each of them relinquished the power of an abusive elite without subjecting his country to a civil bloodbath. Afterward,neither did either of them  flee to the comfort of a Swiss bank account.

On the contrary,they managed a feat that was almost unthinkable in most of today’s erupting Autocratic Governments after succumbing to democracy.They contributed to its legitimacy by becoming candidates for high office — and in so doing losing  fair and square.

De Klerk actually pressed the flesh and pleaded for votes in the poorer black townships,professing a kind of civic kinship most of us thought he genuinely felt. De Klerk and Gorbachev were triumphant partners in their own defeats,and thus in their countries’ victories.

It is always tricky comparing one country’s experience with that of another’s,but in the examples of these great losers there are some broad lessons for all the countries that were convulsed by the revolutionary spirit — and for those of us who watched and assess them,not to mention those who bankrolled and armed them.

Freedom is a slippery slope.

Both Gorbachev and de Klerk began as reformers —that is, politicians devoted to making a dreadful system less dreadful, not to actually abolishing it.

Because of the pressure exerted by years of international boycotts and decades of domestic insurgency,FW de Klerk was quicker of the two to realize and recognize that the Apartheid Regime's life project —ie a South Africa carved into a commonwealth of separate and independent nations,majority poor black ones and prosperous minority white ones — was cruelly absurd and totally ungovernable.

In 1992,he was already dragging his own party and a few diehard white separatists into a raucous convention of factions, races and tribes to write a new constitution.Minority white rule was clearly ending, and the only question was how the end would be for South Africans.

Those regimes along the Mediterranean rim that are now trying to hold back an angry tide by shuffling the cabinet or promising so-called reforms  like Syria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia may buy themselves some time,but revolutions have a way of overrunning reformers.

A little glasnost here and there is a very dangerous thing.
The regimes that have sent their thugs against the press and tried to unplug the Internet are right to fear the media.Media reporters have cringed under the truncheons of Iran’s official vigilantes for example.

Watching how the seep of information stirred ordinary Russians in the Moscow’s spring back in the day tells you what can happen.That Cold War voice of Radio Liberty in Central and Eastern Europe, the underground copies of Solzhenitsyn and especially Gorbachev’s own attempts to deputize the Russian press by letting it expose corruption and incompetence — they all chipped away at the invincibility of the Soviet Union.

Today it is newsmakers like Al Jazeera or WikiLeaked cables that tell about the extravagant lifestyles of the ruling elites and social media are the fuel of popular insurgency.This is how the unhappy learn that their complaints are justified and that they have company. And with their vast reach and immediacy, Facebook and Twitter are not only sources of information but also organizing tools — samizdat on steroids.

Some of your best allies are in your jails...

Gorbachev freed Andrei Sakharov from exile and de Klerk released Nelson Mandela.Both leaders then enlisted their liberated adversaries as negotiating partners,buying some credibility at home and abroad.These partnerships inevitably fell victim to mistrust,but they helped assure that the end of the old order was manageable rather than catastrophic.

Armies are people, too...

We tend to think of armies as just instruments.But they are also constituencies with families to feed, jobs to protect, a stake in the future,a yearning for respect. If a leader can command his army only with threats of summary execution or by holding family members hostage, as Libya’s desperate despot, Muammar el-Qaddafi did,then you can safely bet your days are numbered.

One of the smartest things de Klerk did to prevent the civil war many feared in South Africa was to negotiate job security for the Apartheid-era army.And one of the smartest things Nelson Mandela did was accede to that demand,so that when he became the first president of free South Africa,he inherited a military that regarded him as their paymaster.


Winning was the easy part...

Congratulations,you ousted an evil regime, you won an election, your inaugural address stirred the hearts of your people.

Today South Africa is a disillusioned democracy.Wretched poverty,high crime,corruption allegations and bad governance bedevil South Africa.Yet South Africa has grown a bigger middle class,expanded individual liberties and mostly kept its army at peace. And if South Africans do run out of patience with their imperfect leaders,they have some hope of remedies other than the streets.

De Klerk is 75 and made history by gracefully getting out of its way.


Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Credit Ombud

The Credit Ombud plays an important role to protect credit consumers from unfair practices Read more...

0 comments 210 views
Submitted by
Arthur Freitas
Too late...

It is not good management to wait for problems before addressing them. Read more...

0 comments 232 views
Submitted by
Samantha Rodseth
Yes I am a Christian and no I am ...

I am tired of people feeling like they can say what ever they want about Christians, that they can make fun of and joke about Christians, yet they would not dare do it to other faiths or denominations. Read more...

0 comments 1513 views
Submitted by
Stannich Makiele
RUGBY - A closed contest

I have written this article just after the Rugby world cup last year but I had to wait before posting it as there we too many rugby related article at that time. Read more...

0 comments 304 views
Submitted by
Lore Vanhooren
People’s Education for People’s P...

Is there a link between the recent violence (lately the student protests and last year against immigrants) in South Africa and neoliberal policy? I believe so. Read more...

0 comments 79 views
Submitted by
Ripley Evans
Remove the Financial Vampire: The...

The Government of the Republic of South Africa is controlled by the ANC, via its unassailable majority in Parliament. Read more...

0 comments 543 views


E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

TV Get us in your home, on your television.

Interactive Advertising Bureau
© 2016 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.