The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says it will oppose the state funeral of apartheid’s last president FW de Klerk “by all means necessary”.
De Klerk lost his battle with mesothelioma on Thursday morning. He was 85 years old.
Though President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a statement of condolences to the De Klerk family, said “the FW de Klerk Foundation will in due course make announcements regarding funeral arrangements”, it remains unclear if he will be afforded a state funeral.
Should it be granted, the EFF will be first in line to oppose it.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the EFF said: “As a president of apartheid, De klerk holds no legitimate claim to any title or honour of having led this country. He was a president of an undemocratic and racist society, which elected him as a minority. He was a president who led on the basis of the political and economic disenfranchisement of the majority black population of South Africa.”
“It is for the very reason that the EFF calls for De Klerk not to be given a state funeral of any category, as he lost the right to be honoured the day that the evil regime he led collapsed in 1994. It was the apartheid era that was best placed to honour De Klerk as its loyal servant, not a democratic society that is committed to reversing the ills of the dark days of black exploitation.”
The party has likened honouring De Klerk with a state funeral to spitting in the face of liberation heroes who suffered during the apartheid era and their children who died.
“A state funeral for De Klerk would be an insult to the families of the Cradock Four, it would undermine the memory of the people of Boipatong, Mthatha, Bhisho, the people of Vosloorus and many communities who were maimed by his state-sponsored black on black violence.”
The party will therefore oppose the state funeral through protest and “all means necessary”.
“A democratic society must never partake in assisting him to build a false legacy, which will erase the dead bodies his life is marked by.”
‘There was never a genocide under apartheid’
In an interview with the SABC in Cape Town on 2 February 2020, marking 30 years after Mandela’s release from Victor Verster and the unbanning of political parties, De Klerk said that while many were killed during apartheid, more died due to genocide, adding he did not “fully” agree with the UN’s ruling that apartheid was a crime against humanity.
He said: “I don’t fully agree with that. I’m not justifying apartheid in any way. I did [wreak havoc] to millions of South Africans and I apologise for that, profusely apologise for that but there’s a difference between calling something a crime. Genocide is a crime, apartheid cannot be, that’s why I’m saying this.
“It cannot be compared with genocide, there was never a genocide under apartheid. Many people died but more people died because of black on black violence and because of apartheid. I took steps about that.
“Absolutely, I took steps about that, I appointed the Goldstone Commission and we fired or put on retirement more than 28 senior officers in the defence force. I called police and said: ‘You are no longer involved in politics, your task is to safeguard the people of South Africa’. We did take steps.”
Watch the interview from the SABC:
De Klerk says ‘apartheid was wrong’
However, the former president seems to have changed his tune in his final days.
In a video released by the FW de Klerk foundation on Thursday, the former president apologised “unreservedly” for the system of “separate development”.
He said in part: “It is true that in my younger years I defended separate development as I never liked the word apartheid. I did so when I was a member of Parliament and I did so as I became a member of Cabinet. Afterwards, on many occasions I apologised for the pain and the indignity that apartheid has brought to persons of colour in South Africa. Many believed me, but others didn’t.
“Therefore let me today in this last message, repeat, I without qualification apologise for the pain and the hurt and the indignity and the damage that apartheid has done to Black, Brown and Indians in South Africa. I do so not only in my capacity as the former leader of the National Party but also as an individual.
“Allow me in this last message to share with you the fact that since the early 80s my views changed completely.
“It was as if I had a conversion and in my heart of hearts realised that apartheid was wrong. I realised that we had arrived at a place which was morally unjustifiable.”