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From under nourishment to under achievement…

By Kole Omotoso
01 March 2020   |   7:23 am
A couple of weeks ago FW de Klerk said that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. FW de Klerk was the last white president of South Africa. He it was who announced the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years.

A couple of weeks ago FW de Klerk said that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. FW de Klerk was the last white president of South Africa. He it was who announced the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years. He did not, and he could not have been able to, on his own puny efforts, engineer the release of Mandela from apartheid imprisonment. In spite of his inabilities to affect history, History placed on him the possibility of opportunistic greatness. He and Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela also appointed him the second Vice-President of the country along with Thabo Mbeki. FW (Future Worries) a wag predicted in those heady days of Mandelaism, contrasting his initials with those of PW Botha (Past Worries)! FW de Klerk was praised for his courage for going against the white Afrikaner establishment and releasing Mandela, unbanning the various organisations and setting the white population for roasting.

In 1994 when the first ever democratic election was held in South Africa, the black population consisted 70 percent of the population of the country. That 70 per cent had access to seven percent of the land. And it was the poorest land in the country and only down to six feet into the ground. Beyond that belonged to the white person, 10% of the population, enjoying Europe-type life style amidst the grinding poverty of the black population. Verwoerd prescribed servant education to all black people concluding that that was all they were good for – being servants to the white population.

Drive around any city, town or village in South Africa today, you will see the effects of separate-development on the living space geography of South Africa. That geography was fashioned through the 1913 Native Land Act which still rules South Africa today. Sol Plaatje, the first Secretary General of the African National Congress, has penned a moving testimony to the effect of the land act on the blacks of that time. Which has left the writing of the effect on contemporary blacks unnecessary.

At the state of the nation address the Economic Freedom Fighters called out for FW de Klerk to be thrown out of the joint sitting of parliament because of his statement that apartheid was not a crime against humanity. He further elaborated on his point. Apartheid was not genocide. Therefore, it was not a crime against humanity. The speaker parried the EFF point of order and finally it was the EFF that walked out of parliament and FW de Klerk was saved for another day.

Naturally, many minds, small and large, black and white have commented on FW de Klerk’s statement and his apology for making such a statement. Some accepted his apology. Others did not accept the apology. All were agreed that such a statement was definitely out of place. The phrase ‘crime against humanity’ was not an invention of the Russians. A full session of the United Nations Organisation sat to pass that judgment on apartheid being a crime against humanity.

By depriving the black population of the natural nourishment they are born to apartheid infringed on their humanity. By being greedy and morally deprived apartheid belittled the humanity of white people. By releasing Mandela and unbanning the various organisations that opposed apartheid FW de Klerk released the white South Africans and unbanned their humane possibilities.

White Afrikaner commentators, especially writers such as the poet and intellectual Angie (Antjie) Krog, mentioned that FW de Klerk missed the opportunity to cleanse himself and the white community at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when he pleaded that he knew nothing, heard nothing, saw nothing of the atrocities that everybody was speaking about. Moreover, he continued, and mentioned in the recent interview that more black people were killed as a result of so-called ‘black-on-black’ violence. How black on black violence becomes the birthright of black people our FW de Klerk does not tell his audience.

Part of his three monkeys’ act of seeing nothing, hearing nothing. The Inkatha Freedom Party of Zululand and the African National Congress found themselves at each other’s throat because of apartheid. In the ensuing conflict between the two FW de Klerk’s government armed the IFP and supplied it logistical support. What moral depravity made FW de Klerk claim that black people were killing themselves for no reason?
Black commentators on FW de Klerk’s statement were nuanced. They did not go into proving statistically that apartheid was a crime against humanity. First of all, if apartheid was a crime against humanity, what happens to the criminals? In what courts of justice were they tried? There was no Nuremberg trial for the criminals of apartheid. So, if there were no criminals of apartheid why can’t FW de Klerk not claim that apartheid was not a crime against humanity.

From there it is a slight step to saying that apartheid was not a crime against black people. After all, like colonialism, it brought them education (!) some education, aeroplanes and Jesus Christ the Saviour. As if all of these so-called benefits could not have been had without the crime of colonisation and apartheid.

Second of all, the black commentators insist that if the black people who took over from de Klerk and the apartheid government had been able to achieve something in 25 years of democratic government, if the lives of black people had been better than it was under apartheid, if corruption and kleptocracy were not the other of the day among the African National Congress deployees FW de Klerk would not have had the mouth to utter the rubbish about apartheid not being a crime against humanity. Where are the promises of the Freedom Charter? Where are the promises of reconciliation and transformative justice? Where is the forgiveness and the rainbow nationality?

Like in the rest of Africa of when will independent end, people in Alex and other townships are asking when will apartheid return? If, with the resources at their disposal, the ANC had been able to overcome under-nourishment, it would have been able to mark up incredible achievements worthy of the respect of the architects of apartheid like FW de Klerk.

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