Adriaan Basson

Adriaan Basson: De Klerk and Malema’s gift to Ramaphosa

2020-02-17 06:00
FW de Klerk when the EFF interrupted the SONA to ask for him to removed from the sitting.

FW de Klerk when the EFF interrupted the SONA to ask for him to removed from the sitting. (Bertram Malgas, News24)

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Malema desperately tried to show that by inviting him to the SONA, the ANC had endorsed his views about apartheid. This is nonsense; the ANC did not invite De Klerk to address its national executive committee or lekgotla, writes Adriaan Basson.

As I watched the e-mails drop in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa's fourth State of the Nation Address last week, it dawned on me what a great gift Ramaphosa had received from Julius Malema and FW de Klerk.  

Instead of the country debating every single detail from Ramaphosa's speech - and there is plenty to debate - South Africa is talking about whether apartheid was a crime against humanity or not, and if De Klerk should have been allowed to attend the SONA. 

This gives Ramaphosa a welcome reprieve from answering tough questions about the details lacking from his annual address, including how a state bank and sovereign what-what will save us from economic demise.  

Malema, who had his bluff called by Speaker Thandi Modise on Thursday night, is a master of diversion.

He realised that his party’s unsubstantiated and defamatory claims against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan alone would not be enough to get them ejected by Parliament’s infamous white shirts. 

He needed something else that would stir up emotions and get them the same level of public sympathy the EFF had during the #paybackthemoney Zuma years.  

De Klerk, in a moment of acute derangement, came to Malema’s rescue by telling an interviewer that he disagreed with the United Nation’s declaration that apartheid was a crime against humanity.  

De Klerk’s argument goes something like this: we only killed a few thousand people, not hundreds of thousands like in Algeria, Kenya or Rwanda. And this is from someone who has a Nobel peace prize medal on his mantelpiece! 

Let there be no doubt that colonialism and apartheid inflicted physical and mental scars on millions of South Africans for centuries and to deny that would be a crime against humanity in itself.

If you are white and agree with De Klerk’s statement, do yourself a favour and ask any black person to tell you their life story.  

Malema realised the potency of this incredibly insensitive and foolish statement and took full advantage of De Klerk’s presence at the SONA to score political mileage.  

Of course, as Modise pointed out to him, there is a big difference between inviting former government leaders (De Klerk was one of former president Nelson Mandela’s deputies after 1994) to attend the SONA and agreeing with their views.  

Malema desperately tried to show that by inviting him to the SONA, the ANC had endorsed his views about apartheid. This is nonsense; the ANC did not invite De Klerk to address its national executive committee or lekgotla.

He was a guest of Parliament. Even if you don’t agree with him, he has the right to be there. It’s called democracy.  

Back to Ramaphosa’s speech: it was disappointing in its lack of detail and clarity. With all respect; a university in Ekurhuleni, a state bank, a sovereign wealth fund and a smart city in Lanseria will not resurrect our economy.  

If you read Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s sobering growth plan for the country, it is clear that deep cuts and less dogma are needed. I expected Ramaphosa to ask harder questions of the country and his administration on the way forward.  

The president knows SAA should and could not survive in its current form. He should stop the political posturing by pretending to be upset about route closures.

It’s the only realistic outcome.  

His diagnosis of the state of the economy was spot-on, but the rest of his address fell flat on details and inspiration. The speech was more of a cut-and-paste job from different government departments, than a tour de force of a determined leader who knows what he wants.  

It’s now up to Mboweni to fill in the gaps – primarily on Eskom and its R450 billion debt, but also on the future of energy and how government will make it easier for the private sector to create jobs.  

Next week’s budget speech may yet turn out to be the real state of the nation address.  

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  fw de klerk  |  thandi modise  |  julius malema  |  pravin gordhan  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  parliament  |  sona  |  politics  |  leadership
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