The FW de Klerk Foundation writes regular articles on topical issues, supports language and cultural rights and participates in the national debate on racial and cultural issues. The Foundation also promotes communication by holding conferences and workshops.
As with other historical events, many South Africans still remember 27 April 1994 very well. A day of long voting queues and goodwill, the feeling of a new beginning. It was the birth of the “New South Africa”.
After that, many Freedom Days followed. Numerous South Africans, especially those who experienced 1994, will regard this year’s Freedom Day as the lowest point of all Freedom Days.
Why? Because we see what is happening to us in the political, economic and social arena. There is great tension in the ruling party - about the current President, but also in the leadership struggle for a new President. There is talk of corruption and state capture by government leaders and officials. We see the economy stagnate and that our country’s financial system has basically been downgraded to junk status. We experience racial tension and an apparent total lack of reconciliation and shared values.
- The FW de Klerk Foundation (the Foundation) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to upholding the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (the Constitution). To this end, the Foundation seeks to promote the Constitution and the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Constitution; to monitor developments including legislation and policy that may affect the Constitution or those values, rights and principles; to inform people and organisations of their constitutional rights and to assist them in claiming their rights. The Foundation does so in the interest of everyone in South Africa.
- Accordingly, the Foundation endeavours to contribute positively to the promotion and protection of our constitutional democracy. This includes the achievement of real and substantive equality and equitable access to land and other resources, but with due regard for those rights concerning property and administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair, as provided for in the Constitution.
As South Africans mourn the death of a great leader in Ahmed Kathrada, the broadest consensus on both social media and the mainstream, was one that expressed bereavement for a towering man who had lived through the worst of times and the best of times but died a sad man. Why was this so, we ask? Ahmed Kathrada’s poignant letter to the President summed up his and the views of millions of South Africans. We expected more, we expected better and are now bereft.
It was a poignant start to the Centre for Unity in Diversity’s Roundtable Series - held on 28 March in Cape Town - to pause and reflect on a great man’s legacy as we gathered to reflect on our first theme for the year, “Social Cohesion in Contemporary South Africa”. The Roundtable Series is crafted to stimulate discussion and debate on core issues that flow from the constitutional premise, “United in our Diversity”, captured in the Preamble.
Yesterday evening FW de Klerk spoke at the historic Frauenkirche in Dresden as part of the church’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureates lecture series. His topic was the accommodation of diversity as the main challenge to peace in the 21st century.
De Klerk pointed out that much of human history had been driven by the movement of people and the growth of populations. He said that now, once again, people were on the move. “The dominant image of our time might be the hundreds of thousands of refugees who each year are risking their lives in unseaworthy boats to reach Europe.”
He observed that all this was happening at a time of the unsustainable growth of the human population and dramatic changes in life expectancy and fertility.
In 1950, global life expectancy was only 47 years - by 2011 it had increased to 70. A Japanese girl child born today could expect to live to 107. At the same time fertility rates in many European countries had plummeted far below the levels required to sustain present populations.
In the coming years, more and more refugees could be expected to seek safety and a better life in the prosperous and secure societies of Europe and North America.
It is a great honour for me to address you in this beautiful church. The Frauenkirche is a symbol of the victory of faith and peace over the brutality and destruction of war. It was rebuilt and reconsecrated after it had been destroyed in one of the most dreadful episodes in a dreadful war. It stands as an indomitable symbol of mankind’s ability to resurrect the best qualities of our civilization from the ruins and ashes of the worst.
Demography, as they say, is destiny.
Much of human history has been driven by the movement of people and the growth of populations.
Just consider the impact of migrations on mankind’s history:
- The movement of tribes from central Asia against the ramparts of the Roman Empire;
- migrations of the Huns and Mongols across the Eurasian landmass; and
- the huge migrations from Europe from the beginning of the 16th century which dramatically changed the history and demography of much of the planet.
Now, once again, in our globalised world, people are on the move.
As we stare into the abyss as a nation the morning after the night before, we are asking ourselves, how can he, why did he, and could he really? A wholesale firing of a quarter of the Cabinet is a monumental act of confidence by the President as leader of SA Inc. Sadly, in this case, the act was not in the name of government or the electorate but driven by the antithesis of accountable leadership. The words of Howard Gardner, author and psychologist, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, came to mind as the nation woke up this morning. He describes a leader “as a person who is responsible, trusted, consistent, honest, and faithful. Leadership therefore exemplifies integrity and willingness to make sacrifices for the good of the governed”.
The actions of the President over the last 24 hours belie the very values ascribed to accountable leaders as described above but more painfully, contravene the very moral and ethical basis of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.
The country has come a long way precisely because of an abundance of ethical and accountable leadership, in the persons of Nelson Mandela and also FW de Klerk, who risked power and reputation to put country first at the dawn of democracy. Said FW de Klerk: “I played an integral part in helping formulating that new vision...that we must abandon apartheid and accept one united South Africa with equal rights for all, with all forms of discrimination to be scrapped from the statute book”. These powerful words attest to a man who sacrificed interest and power that came with the highest office in the land to nurture a democratic future guided by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“This Court and the country as a whole are now confronted with a situation where the executive admitted that it is unable to perform its constitutional and statutory responsibilities to provide social assistance to its people. And in the deepest and most humiliating irony it places its hopes in a private corporate entity to get out of this situation”
- Justice Johan Froneman, the Black Sash pronunciation, March 17, 2017
“The problem is that Hlaudi on went a campaign to appoint freelancers on a permanent basis. Now we are left with an exorbitant wage bill... They do not know what to do with all these people, because they do not have the skills to be moved to critical areas such as television and sales”
- Unknown senior SABC employee, Rapport, March 19, 2017
The FW de Klerk Foundation mourns the loss of a brave warrior for democracy, justice and non-racialism. Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, or Uncle Kathy as he was fondly called, leaves an indelible mark on generations of South Africans. His towering grace and humility leave a long shadow in a country he loved and served so unselfishly. It behooves this generation of South Africans to continue his lifelong principled quest for non-racialism and equality.
To Barbara Hogan, the Kathrada family and his legions of friends, we pay our respects.
Hamba kahle Ahmed Kathrada.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation