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.
The release of Nelson Mandela from prison 30 years ago was the first momentous consequence of the announcements made by President FW de Klerk in Parliament nine days earlier. As Mr De Klerk observed in his autobiography: as he watched Nelson Mandela walking through the gates of Victor Verster Prison, he was struck by an inescapable truth: “...an irreversible process had begun and nobody could predict precisely how it would end.”
Now 30 years later we can answer part of that question:
- the constitutional democracy that FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela took the lead in negotiating during the following six years is still intact;
- South African has rejoined the international community;
- it has rid itself of the albatross of minority racial domination;
- all South Africans enjoy nominal equality;
- the new multi-racial middle class has flourished.
The Board of Trustees of the FW de Klerk Foundation awarded the 2020 FW de Klerk Goodwill Award to Mr Moeletsi Mbeki.
The FW de Klerk Goodwill Award was established in 2010 to give recognition to individuals and organisations that have made extraordinary contributions to the promotion of goodwill between South Africans. Past winners include Pieter-Dirk Uys (2012), Studietrust (2013), Patrice Motsepe (2014), Afrika Tikkun (2015), Adv Thuli Madonsela and the Office of the Public Protector (2016), the coach and athlete team of Mrs Anna (Ans) Botha and Mr Wayde van Niekerk (2017), and Gift of the Givers (2018).
The road to 2 February 1990 can be traced back to the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
In 1909 Britain decided to establish a union of its principal colonies in southern Africa along the lines of the successful federations that it had set up in Australia and Canada. The difference was that in the other dominions the white populations greatly outnumbered the indigenous peoples - while in South Africa they comprised less than 25% of the total population.
Nevertheless, in keeping with the colonial approach of the times, Britain gave white South Africans a monopoly of power in the newly established Union. It was an arrangement that, in a rapidly changing world, would eventually prove to be untenable.
For the next 40 years South Africa developed along the lines of the other Commonwealth dominions. Until the mid-fifties, in a continent that was still dominated by European powers, white minority rule in South Africa seemed unexceptional. In a world in which racial discrimination was still shockingly the rule, South Africa’s segregation policies elicited little criticism.
It is a great pleasure for me to address you this afternoon - on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the speech that I delivered to Parliament on 2 February 1990 - which initiated the constitutional transformation of South Africa.
It was the beginning of the resolution of the core problem that had dogged South Africa since the establishment of the Union in 1910. That problem arose from the fact that - in keeping with the colonial approach of the times - Britain had vested total power in the new Union in the hands of the minority white nation.
In a rapidly changing world, this relationship would prove to be increasingly untenable.
It is generally acknowledged that the first cracks in the apartheid system appeared in 1976, when the youth of Soweto (near Johannesburg) started to protest against the system that they experienced as unjust. The ANC in exile claimed credit for this uprising. This was met by stern measures by the South African government. That, however, did not quell the internal or external resistance. When the National Party Government used the 1983 General (but whites only) Election to get a mandate to establish a tricameral parliament, thereby including so-called coloureds and South Africans from Asian descent, but cementing the exclusion of Africans, the resistance increased. A variety of internal organisations, ranging from labour unions to community organisations, formed the United Democratic Front (UDF) to channel the resistance. The UDF was, cleverly, established in such a way that it was very difficult for the government to ban it as an organisation.
Last year the Wall Street Journal wrote that South Africa was at a crossroads, in 2018 the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement was too titled ‘South Africa at a Crossroads’, stressing the difficult economic and fiscal choices confronting the government, and in 2017 South Africa was once again at a crossroads according to a discussion held at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. No doubt an expert in something, somewhere, was saying we are at a crossroads the year before that, and again another ten years before that.
In thinking through how we might edge closer to the vision in the Constitution, it would be trite of me to say that we are at a crossroads now, upon which the future of entire constitutionalism depends. Because more often than not, there is a fork in the road and choices to be made. There is seldom novelty in it, we are constantly presented with choices of profound significance that will lead us in one direction instead of another. I say this because when I present what I think are our choices, this is not a singular crossroads or watershed moment. Rather some of our temporal choices until we soon are confronted with another fork in the road.
The deadline for comments on the draft amendment bill on section 25 of the Constitution (the so-called Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill) is fast approaching. Numerous organisations are busy putting their comments in writing. The majority of these will oppose it, while committing themselves to the urgent need for land reform in terms of the present Constitution.
1. The FW de Klerk Foundation (the Foundation) was established in 1999 to protect and promote the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, as the most important legacy of its founder, former President FW de Klerk.
2. Accordingly, the Foundation endeavours to contribute positively to the promotion and protection of our constitutional democracy. As such, the Foundation welcomes the opportunity to make a concise submission - per the invitation by the Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce legislation amending section 25 of the Constitution (the Committee) on the Bill published in Government Gazette Notice 42902 of 13 December 2019.