Zille steps in to defend Sparks amid Verwoerd furore

2015-05-09 20:58
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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WATCH: Allister Sparks explains his comments on Verwoerd

2015-05-09 18:35

Veteran journalist Allister Sparks, who is at the centre of a twar after saying apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd was a smart man, is incensed over the furore it has caused. WATCH

Port Elizabeth - Outgoing DA leader Helen Zille has come to the defence of veteran journalist Allister Sparks following an uproar over a comment he made about apartheid-era prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

During a farewell tribute to Zille at the party's federal congress in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, Sparks said he had known several intelligent politicians "including Hendrik Verwoerd" and many other "dull and stupid" ones.

This prompted extensive criticism of Sparks on social media sites.

Netwerk24 reported that Zille said she was aware of the storm around the comment, but emphasised that Sparks did not express admiration for Verwoerd.

Anyone who says Sparks did this was busy "taking a part out of the speech and completely distorting it".

"This is totally wrong in the context of the speech.

"I feel sorry for Allister that things are happening to him in this manner," she was quoted as saying.

"If anyone heard what he said and the context in which he said it, they will know how his remarks were fundamentally distorted and manipulated."

Sparks later clarified his comments and blamed political analyst and author Eusebius McKaiser for creating "manufactured outrage".

"I was speaking... in that context mainly about effective speakers who were able to carry their parties and do things like that, which I think Verwoerd did with great success... and he was a very effective speaker. I did not admire him - I spent the bulk of my life fighting against him.

"This is what I call a manufactured outrage that was created by Eusebius McKaiser."

He said McKaiser should have checked the facts of what he said with him first before criticising the comments on Twitter.

"He is supposedly an intellectual and academic," said Sparks.

"If I say that I thought someone was 'smart', that doesn't mean I agree with them. I think [former US secretary of state] Henry Kissinger was smart, but I don't agree with most of what he did."

McKaiser told News24 that he challenged Sparks to a public debate to discuss the " moral weight of the comments"

"You do not go to a political party's congress where there is a predominantly black audience and tell them that Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, was intelligent," he said.

"We are outraged and we are justified."

Read more on:    da  |  helen zille  |  port elizabeth  |  politics

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