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Opinion - De Klerk: Finally useful

2021-11-16  Johnathan Beukes

Opinion - De Klerk: Finally useful
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FW de Klerk’s legacy is not complex and he should not be lionised as some latter-day Moses or a repentant sinner who offered to wash our collective feet. 

Being a Nobel laureate does not position you beyond reproach nor does it make you a saint. 

FW de Klerk was a criminal with excessive amounts of blood on his hands and only the eagerness of the black political leadership to end apartheid and to get Namibia independent kept him and his bloodthirsty crew out of jail. 

Every single accolade his supporters would shower upon him could in fact be seen as actions taken because of the inevitability of a costly, unjust and unjustifiable war against black people. The rest was because of Nelson Mandela’s insistence on forgiving even those who were unapologetic about their sins. 

When black Namibians and South Africans negotiated for their freedom, there was a determination to get it done, to not walk away from the table hence the whites got away with murder. 

Quite literally. 

But while the generation of my parents was tired and forgiving and just happy that they don’t have to endure the sickening suffocation of teargas or run in front of Alsations anymore, the generation of my children is not as forgiving. 

They are tired of giving the other cheek and live like beggars in what we tell them are their countries. If we don’t want an ugly backlash from an increasingly angry underclass of unemployed youth, we need to rethink the terms and conditions of our freedom. 

FW de Klerk and his kin only knew comfort and privilege all their lives. His victims only know hardship and misery. Till this very day. 

De Klerk’s posthumous joke of an acknowledgement is an insult to those who still don’t know where their loved ones are and who killed their leaders.

Very few of those who ordered the assassinations, planned and implemented the policies and enforced them have ever been called to account. 

A sincere apology consists of acknowledgement, remorse and restitution.

We have not even gotten to the acknowledgement stage.

Even when South Africa held a truth and reconciliation commission, there were no reparations and the criminals walked away free. 

In Namibia, we didn’t even have that half-hearted attempt at dealing with the evil. 

There’s no need to mollify the apartheid apologists and beneficiaries. It’s not too late to hold inventory. We’ve swept enough under the rug. 

Too many Namibians, especially in my community, are still nostalgic about the ‘time under the Boere’. 

Too many still say we got homes then, it wasn’t that bad. 

Yes, apartheid was that bad. Apartheid was a crime against humanity. You didn’t have the right to choose or remove your own representative. 

Many brilliant and talented people ended up far below their true ability because the meritocracy white Namibians are now so fond of was non-existent. We were dehumanised and our histories, languages and art were reduced and trivialised.

How do you tell apartheid was that bad? Just look around you. Its ugly scars are everywhere. Half of our country’s population squat in makeshift shacks on the outskirts of urban centres far away from the economic opportunities. 

Half of our youth are unemployed. We aren’t allowed to do anything out of the ordinary to alleviate the poverty that apartheid enshrined in fear of the mythical ‘investor’ who might frown upon it. Apartheid left us with this capitalism that only allows a few elite to thrive at the expense of the masses. 

De Klerk was not only a supporter or complicit, he was also directly responsible for state-sponsored terrorism, in furtherance of an immoral, illegal and unjust policy, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. He didn’t fall from the heavens in 1989. He was very much part of the evil empire through being in parliament and the State Security Council. 

He denied apartheid was evil and a crime against humanity as recently as 2020. 

His supposed video apology “for the pain it has caused” has done nothing. 

It has changed nothing. The evil that apartheid brought about has never been addressed and the apartheid apologists now dare to urge us to move on, to remember that it stopped 30 years ago and that young white people have not benefitted from it. 

But you’re wrong. Young white Namibians still have it far better than their black and coloured peers. The privilege still help whites to benefit from their economic step ahead and the social capital they have inherited. 

De Klerk could at long last be useful for all of us as his death offers us an opportunity to finally wash our dirty linen in public, bloodstains and all.

2021-11-16  Johnathan Beukes

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