Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani yesterday said South Africa’s last apartheid president FW de Klerk died with the secret of who assassinated Ovaherero chief Clemens Kapuuo.
He also described him as a controversial character.
De Klerk passed away yesterday after having been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He was head of state between September 1989 and May 1994.
He was also a key figure in the nation’s transition to democracy. In 1990, he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, leading to multi-party polls in 1994.
“President FW de Klerk was a controversial character, controversial in a sense that he supervised one of the worst inhuman political systems across the globe that was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations (UN),” Venaani said.
He added that De Klerk can be credited for being a reformer, but the fact remains that he was an apartheid apologist who never came out and denounced apartheid.
Also, De Klerk was a hawkish character who was secretive of how Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) and Ovaherero Paramount Chief Clemens Kapuuo died.
Kapuuo was one of the leading opponents of South African rule of Namibia until his assassination following the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference. He was assassinated by two gunmen in Katutura on 27 March 1978.
“I remember when I tried to reach his office on the death of Kapuuo and how Kapuuo died, he remained mum and secretive even to meet me, but he has played his role. History will judge him unkindly because of his role that he supervised one of the worst system,” he said.
“He could have been a reformer; he could have championed those reform agendas had he been open about the ills and the bad of apartheid. But he is a human being. He passed on. We honour the dead, but as political figure, he remains a controversial and hawkish character,” Venaani said. Describing him as a significant figure, Speaker of the National Assembly professor Peter Katjavivi said De Klerk seized a historic moment and unexpectedly rose to the occasion, playing an important role in paving the way for a new South Africa. “We extend our condolences and sympathy to his family and friends,” he added.
Political commentator Graham Hopwood said De Klerk played a leading role in imposing apartheid on South Africa for several decades.
As such, he said, De Klerk was responsible for a litany of serious human rights abuses and the oppression of the black majority.
“The fact that he eventually saw the light in the latter part of his political career and decided to accommodate a transition to democracy cannot really atone for his previous actions,” he noted, adding that he will be remembered for contributing to a mostly peaceful settlement, but more so for his role in bolstering the cruel apartheid system.
De Klerk abandoned apartheid late in his political career when it was clear that internal resistance and international sanctions had made it unsustainable.
However, Hopwood reiterated the fact that he eventually put his name to a transition to democracy cannot atone for the huge amount of harm he did as one of the leading proponents of apartheid for several decades.
“He was responsible for gross human rights abuses and the imposition of the oppressive apartheid system. This will outweigh his contribution to a peaceful settlement in terms of how he is remembered.”
Republican Party president Henk Mudge said, "FW de Klerk will always be remembered as the one who released Nelson Mandela from prison. That was a bold move and very few people expected that at the time.
That was a bold move and should be seen as a decision taken by a person who realised that there was no future for a white minority government in South Africa. He must have made peace with the fact that the release of Mandela would soon end the apartheid rule. He should be credited for having had the courage to act according to his conviction. What a pity that the euphoria was short-lived after Mandela left office." Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said De Klerk will be recalled for having been the last leader of the apartheid government as well as a leader who freed late President Nelson Mandela.