Cape Town – Former president FW de Klerk’s comments about apartheid and the homelands were reminiscent of politicians who did nothing more than talk about reconciliation, anti-apartheid activist Allan Boesak said on Monday.
He said the activist Beyers Naude had been right when he warned of people who committed themselves to reconciliation but did not follow through, making their promise “nothing but cheap talk”.
“Naude said the talk of reconciliation remains meaningless and even dangerous if words are not transformed into deeds… We look at the signs of an unfulfilled, unfinished, even somewhat forced reconciliation process.”
In an interview on Thursday, De Klerk reportedly said that in as much as apartheid trampled human rights it was morally indefensible, but that providing an own state where people with one culture and language could fulfil their democratic aspirations was not repugnant.
He reportedly denied that blacks in the homelands were disenfranchised.
“They were not disenfranchised, they voted. They were not put in homelands, the homelands were historically there. If only the developed world would put so much money into Africa, which is struggling with poverty, as we poured into those homelands. How many universities were built? How many schools?” he asked.
“At that stage the goal was separate but equal, but separate but equal failed.” He said he later became “a convert” against the system.
Reacting to criticism of his remarks on Monday, De Klerk asked why he would have nostalgia “for that which I abolished and for that which I apologised?”, adding: “I don’t want to get into the twisted interpretation of what I’ve said.”
He said he was optimistic about the country’s future, despite its many “challenges”.
“What is wrong in South Africa can be put right and I think that it’s time we all join hands, stop shouting at each other and we work together to improve things.”
Speaking in Stellenbosch to commemorate what would have been Naude’s 97th birthday, Boesak said South Africa’s post-apartheid reality was far from what Naude envisaged.
Addressing a crowd in Durban in 1973, the activist and theologian had spoken of an unwavering belief that the black man would eventually be free.
Boesak said South Africa in 2012 was still marginalised, with a growing gap between the rich and the poor.
The “denial and insidiousness of racism” continued to reveal itself, he said. “It makes us believe that non-racialism is the failing dream of idealistic fools.”
He said this generation had failed in realising equality, but that the next generation had more hope.
Asked about corruption in post-apartheid South Africa, Boesak said people should remember that corruption was as old as time.
“We should not act as if it’s a disease that started in 1994. We see corruption as a problem with government, but we forget that corruption needs two parties – the one that comes with the bribe and the one who takes the bribe.”
He described it as not only a political and economical problem, but also a “deeply moral issue” because money was being diverted away from the oppressed.
Boesak said that if politicians chose to follow through on their promises, they would begin to realise Naude’s dream.
“His challenge still stands… It is time to transfer words into deeds. The time for pious talk is over.”