Tributes for Van Zyl Slabbert
Johannesburg – Tributes flowed in on Friday for former politician, academic and businessman Frederik van Zyl Slabbert following his death in Johannesburg.
The opposition DA, a descendant of the Progressive Federal Party, which he once led, said he presented a non-racial alternative "with determination and principle".
"He devoted his life to the development of a just South Africa, and he left our country a far better place than before," said DA leader Helen Zille.
The Independent Democrats called him a true patriot and said all South Africans owed him a debt of gratitude for the principled stance he took in all the positions he occupied throughout his life.
Facilitated talks with ANC
The ANC said he had made an indelible mark in shaping opposition politics against apartheid.
"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," said ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu.
In 1985 he travelled to Lusaka 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 government into negotiating with all political groups.
In 1987 he led a delegation of influential white business people to Dakar, Senegal, for talks with the then banned ANC.
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.
"A mobile political library", "a living embodiment of active citizenship" and a "person who left South Africa better than what it was" were some of the other tributes.
Parliamentarian par excellence
In a moving tribute to his "dear friend", Inkatha Freedom Party 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 also kept to himself information that the daughter of the old far Right-wing Conservative Party's leader Andries Treurnicht had asked him for help to move to the United States 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.
"Van Zyl Slabbert confidentially told me the story, but 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. 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."
Websites also carried tributes to him, with "Cape Town Fan" saying "You did well for us" and "rb" writing "RIP Van Zyl. One of the few true South Africans. Unfortunately a breed that is fast becoming extinct".
However, some people commenting on the TimesLive website, took a different view, with Ntebaleng writing: "He was a good man but truth is he lacked balls - if a man decide to get in a fight he must fight to the end - he was easily getting disilutioned (sic) - in politics you need men of steel".
Camps Bay wrote: "I wish all pinkies were like him. RIP Comrade".
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".