Tributes for Van Zyl Slabbert

2010-05-14 14:19

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".

  • AVG - 2010-05-14 14:28

    Farewell Dr. Slabbert. You were an inspiration to many of us and defined the term 'leader'

  • ron - 2010-05-14 14:36

    Now that he is dead the ANC mourn him - is this actually true when the likes of ANCYL etc seem hell bent on denouncing all that is white. There were and are a large number of "whites" and afrikaners who felt the same way as Van Zyl and tried in their own way to make a difference. Will their efforts also only be recognised by ANC when they are dead? Is this recognition sincere, if so then stop allowing the fuelling of racial tension by the likes of Malema and co and try working with the "white" citizens of S.A. in the likes of Van Zyl who saw the need for compassion and rights for all irrespective of race, creed or colour.

  • Chris Potgieter - 2010-05-14 14:50

    Farewell to a great Wilgenhoffer, a great Afrikaner and a great South African.

  • Lulama - 2010-05-14 15:12

    What a great intellectual and statesman who was selfless in all his endevours .

  • katman - 2010-05-14 15:33

    What a loss.

  • Allan - 2010-05-14 15:38

    I am going to quote part of what was said above. "He will also be remembered as one of those white South Africans who facilitated contact with the African National Congress ....," said ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu.
    Why did Brian have to use the word 'white' South African? He could have just said '... as one of those South Africans who...'????

  • camelthief - 2010-05-14 15:42

    I had the honour of having him as my sociology lecturer in the late 80's after he walked out of parliamentary politics. A true giant of this country, who contributed enormously to peace and to change for the good. Young South Africans should learn about this man and read his papers and books - he can teach us all a great deal.

  • Karin Kotze - 2010-05-14 15:43

    He was the reason that I never voted for the National Party. I was a student in the 1970's and he was one of the few politician's who made sense and was in accord with my Christian beliefs. He was a true gentleman. RIP.

  • VINO CHIBABHAI - 2010-05-14 15:44

    A great politician and a honourable human being.

  • Themba - 2010-05-14 15:46

    What a man!His analysis and political inputs will be solely missed. Highly regarded and respected by all he met. His pronouncements were honest, well thought-out and articulated. May his soul rest in peace.

  • granny - 2010-05-14 16:20

    Ntebaleng says on the TimesLive website that "he lacked balls". He was in fact once accused of this and his response? He said "ja, the problem with this country today is that there are too many politicians with balls but no brains" which to me about sums it up. The man was a legend!!

  • tony sollons - 2010-05-14 16:23

    Hamba Kahle Comrade Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert.South Africa salutes a true democrat,politician , intellectual , pioneer & true Son of SA.Rest in peace

  • LS - 2010-05-14 22:07

    You were a good guy, I salute you and have a lot of respect for you. Condolences to your famly. Go well......

  • Bernadette Murchie - 2010-05-15 00:03

    A wonderful man I always respected him - if only all S African were like him it would have far less problems - my sympathy to his wife and family Truly sad news Kathy and Bernadette USA

  • Edwin - 2010-05-15 09:02

    Just a pity he could not teach these idiotic whites that are ALLOWED to comment on news 24 ( any other opinion gets blocked) some values. Read a lot about him- true south african. As usual this post will not be posted

  • Alicia Myburgh - 2010-05-15 09:54

    "Be quiet all, for there goes a great, great man" to whom so many of us owe so much.
    May he rest in eternal peace. Alicia, India.

  • Margaret Lambrechs - 2010-05-15 10:28

    A true gentleman, R.I.P

  • Gerrit - 2010-05-15 12:15

    If there ever was a worthy Nobel Peace Price winner....

  • Warren Jones - 2010-05-15 12:15

    I had the privilege of meeting the good man on several occasions as I was in school with his daughter and spent time in his family home. A true gentleman with morale and integrity. My condolences to his famuly and daughter Tanya.

  • Dawn Atkinson - 2010-05-17 15:24

    This country has lost one of it's greatest sons! I worked under him many years ago when he was leader of the PFP. Camelthief put it perfectly - read his books and papers, there so much we can learn from him. It might also teach us a thing or two about our own country! Farewell to a great man, whom I always had the greatest respect for. Condolences to his family. He will be greatly missed by those who were honoured to know him. To those of you who didn't - go read about him and his beliefs/views - you might learn something!We need more people like him!

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