Helen Zille and FW de Klerk are two sides of the same coin when it comes to understanding how apartheid really affected millions of black people
Our critical mission is – and always has been – to build a nonracial, nonsexist and democratic society for all.
We have fought for a long time to achieve this.
In the early days, we did this in our struggle for freedom.
More recently, we have had to be kind, generous and encouraging to those who do not understand the sacrifices many of our people made to achieve this.
Although sometimes hard, we must not regret our generosity – especially that shown to those who presided over our brutal treatment under apartheid.
But we must not get distracted by the pretenders who claim to have fought alongside us and who today accuse the democratic state of passing more discriminatory laws than the apartheid regime. We need to stick to our mission.
But this does not mean we should not challenge bigotry. It’s rather how we should challenge it.
Helen Zille and FW de Klerk remain two sides of the same coin in their understanding of apartheid: Both are appear to be glaringly irritated by the demise of that unjust and cruel regime.
De Klerk still has not accepted that apartheid was evil.
Zille has upped the ante by suggesting that the democratic state has passed more discriminatory laws than that of the apartheid regime.
They appear to believe that the new laws discriminate against the white minority – the main constituency of right-wing organisations which challenge anything that upsets the apartheid status quo.
De Klerk and his ilk seem determined to fight back to preserve whatever little of apartheid they can salvage.
The best way to describe De Klerk and those like him is to call them freeloaders.
A freeloader is described as someone who abuses the generosity of others without giving anything in return.
De Klerk and Zille lead a pack of freeloaders who appear to suffer from some form of amnesia.
They seem to have forgotten about the racial bigotry that was legislated and brutally enforced.
De Klerk and his ilk somehow believe that they contributed to making South Africa a democracy.
And Zille does not understand the struggle for freedom.
This brigade suffers from an extraordinary form of entitlement. It indicates that there is merit to the expression ‘a leopard never changes its spots’.
Because De Klerk suffers from this amnesia, it is important to remind him constantly that he was an apartheid leader and will remain as such for the rest of his life.
He must be reminded that he presided over the inheritance called racism and brutality towards Africans and that, under his stewardship, many black people suffered immensely. Many died.
Words such as generosity and apology do not exist in his vocabulary.
The phrase ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’ comes to mind.
Those who wrongly believed that De Klerk was the better devil than PW Botha should reconsider their position.
Apartheid was plain evil and any leader who presided over it cannot be less evil than the evil system.
When the colonial bigots landed on our shores, they exploited the generosity of our forebears. Freeloading appears to be a generational problem in the same way that African generosity is a generational issue.
De Klerk remains unrepentant. He is delusional. He confuses our generosity with his imagination that he ended apartheid.
It’s probably for this reason that he continues to believe he has the right to speak about freedom.
He forgets that apartheid was about the minority using rights to dominate the majority.
A conscious decision was taken in 1994 to foster national reconciliation – a concept De Klerk did not appreciate or understand.
He still believes he has the right to champion the cause of white superiority.
Does De Klerk not remember that the UN declared apartheid a crime against humanity, and the debates that followed?
Does he expect us to believe that he does not remember that South Africa was expelled from the UN and suffered international isolation because of apartheid and its brutality?
De Klerk continues to subscribe to the policies of apartheid. It is hardly surprising and it might be unreasonable to expect anything different.
However, what is appalling is when he pretends that he is against any form of oppression.
De Klerk’s apartheid regime was not only murderous and brutal but also corrupt to the core.
His lack of moral courage has not allowed him to own up to the corruption of the apartheid regime. He refused to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He has also refused to come clean publicly and accept full responsibility for apartheid.
De Klerk is a freeloader. Even during the negotiations held in the lead-up to South Africa becoming a democracy, his government massacred people, probably in an attempt to derail the talks.
When De Klerk left office, his dying government continued to kill and brutalise our people. Yet he continues to benefit from the generosity the ANC and the people of South Africa extended to him and his ilk.
It is a complex situation. It was never the intention of the liberation movements and the people to be vengeful.
As many past black leaders have painstakingly explained: This was the price we had to pay for peace, stability and national reconciliation.
De Klerk and other apartheid bigots are no different from an untransformed criminal who is released on parole and then commits more foul deeds.
Our constitutional ideal is of a diverse society that promotes human rights.
De Klerk and his followers – and even the exclusionary people of Orania – qualify for their human rights to be protected under our Constitution.
But we must distinguish between what De Klerk and his ilk represented and continue to represent, and whether they have a right to express their views.
We must ensure that we do not degenerate to the low life of apartheid bigotry, curtailing the rights of others to express their views even if we fundamentally disagree with them.
Our society is premised on the management and acceptance of our diversity.
There are two ways of dealing with this: Subject De Klerk to a fair trial and, if convicted, send him to an orange garb venue.
And, if we do not subject him to a trial, we must allow him to fully enjoy his human rights.
It is important that De Klerk be judged by the court of public opinion for the evil of apartheid.
To prevent him from engaging in public debates will protect and insulate him from being held accountable in the public domain.
De Klerk and those who think like him will not be able to explain away apartheid or give it context.
The world knows that apartheid was evil. But it is necessary for the world to see the face of apartheid and interrogate it.
Mannya is an advocate, writer and executivedirector of legal services at Unisa