Death of Frederik Willem De Klerk | Person’s hero

Laura-Julie Perreault

The last president of the apartheid regime in South Africa, Frederik Willem De Klerk decided to leave with a bang. In a posthumous message released Thursday, just after the news of his death was announced, the former politician apologized “wholeheartedly” for the injuries and damage the racist regime had inflicted on tens of millions of its citizens. .

An apology long awaited, but which goes wrong.

“Why is he apologizing after his death?” He could have done so much more! In addition to the apologies, he owed us all South Africans the truth, ”thundered South African photographer Greg Marinovich on Thursday, joined in Cambridge in the United States, where he teaches his art.

A member of the renowned Bang Bang Club – a group of four photoreporters who documented South Africa’s stormy transition from apartheid to democracy – Greg Marinovich was at the forefront of the violence of the segregationist regime and then of the deadly clashes between South African factions before the first democratic elections were held in 1994. His punchy images won him a Pulitzer Prize.

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Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem De Klerk, in 1996

The photographer believes that Frederik De Klerk could have enabled the country to truly heal by revealing all he knew about the exactions of the old regime and by urging the soldiers and the apartheid police to break the law of silence. “It’s too late now,” he said, comparing De Klerk to a wallet thief who allegedly confessed to his crime while refusing to return the content to its owner. “It really makes me angry,” says Greg Marinovich.

Watch FW De Klerk’s posthumous message in full

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The death of the former president at the age of 85 rekindles many memories in South Africa. Few individuals have had a more complex role in the history of the most southerly of African countries.

Belonging to the Afrikaner white minority, FW De Klerk, as his compatriots call him, was a member of the hard wing of the Nationalist Party and long collaborated in the maintenance of the brutal regime controlled by the white minority.

However, it is this same man, in 1990, who signed the death of apartheid.

In a landmark speech at the opening of Parliament in February that year, he announced the end of the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and the release of its leader, Nelson Mandela, as well as several other political prisoners. .

In the months that followed, he negotiated the terms of the transition to a constitutional democracy, recognizing equal rights to all citizens of the country, with the legendary Mandela, elected president by universal suffrage in 1994. In the government of unity which followed, De Klerk held the role of Vice-President for two years. A few months before the election, the two men had jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem De Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

On Thursday, it is this part of his life that the current South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, hailed, noting that De Klerk had “played a key role in the advent of democracy”.

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Playwright, actor, filmmaker and visual artist, Guy de Lancey associates the name De Klerk with the end of his exile. Born in a “conservative and deeply racist” town in northern South Africa, Mr. de Lancey took refuge in Europe during apartheid. A conscientious objector, he refused to do his military service in an army which fought rebels opposing white supremacism.

“I was in Berlin when the wall came down. I knew then that it would soon be the time to go home, ”he says today, explaining that the fall of communism played a big role in FW De Klerk’s decision to abandon the apartheid. It was only a matter of time before the regime’s allies – freed from the Cold War they had just won – abandoned it completely, he said. “There were profound changes in the world order, and De Klerk recognized that compromises were necessary,” notes Mr. de Lancey.

The move earned the former president a strange place in the South African pantheon. “The whites in favor of apartheid see in him a traitor who let them down, many other South African citizens have never forgotten where he came from”, underlines the artist who has rebuilt his life in Cape Town after returning from exile, but currently living in New York.

FW De Klerk. Central historical figure. Hero of no one.

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Death of Frederik Willem De Klerk | Person’s hero