De Klerk: Afrikaners will mourn Madiba's death

Lynley Donnelly

Honouring Nelson Mandela, former president FW de Klerk says that most Afrikaners "have very warm feelings towards Nelson Mandela".

A file photograph of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as they arrive for the 70th birthday celebrations of FW de Klerk in Cape Town on March 17 2006. (Reuters)

Former president FW de Klerk called on South Africans to do more to recapture the nation building spirit of 1994, and hoped the loss of Madiba would refocus the country on the need for reconciliation.

De Klerk was speaking at a press conference in Cape Town on Friday, the morning after the death of Nelson Mandela.

"I think everybody in South Africa could do more, we have a tendency recently to fall back a bit into shouting at each other, instead of solution-orientated dialogue," said De Klerk.

His foundation has been critical of some of the actions of the ANC-led government – including the failed application of employment equity and black economic empowerment policies.

But he refrained from taking "pot shots" at South Africa's current leaders when he was asked if there was more they could do to generate the sense of national building and reconciliation that Mandela began.

"I don't think today is the time to take pot shots at each other," said De Klerk.

"I'm critical of some things, which are happening now, but I think the South African nation stands united today in our grief, our mourning for Nelson Mandela."

It was his hope that Madiba's death would remind South Africans of the need for reconciliation.

'Greatest people on earth'
The biggest tribute South Africa could give Madiba was to uphold the Constitution negotiated between 1990 and 1996 as it encapsulated the values for which Mandela lived, said De Klerk.

De Klerk did not exclude the Afrikaans community from this.

While a small minority still believed De Klerk, and his then administration, were traitors, and plotted "ugly deeds" in "dark corners", the majority "have very warm feelings towards Nelson Mandela and will pay tribute to his heritage", he said.

Recalling his first meeting with Mandela, De Klerk said he was struck by Mandela's aura of dignity and authority.

"He was taller than I expected, he was ramrod straight," said De Klerk.

"My gut reaction was 'I like this man'."

De Klerk said he ranked Mandela where other world leaders ranked him in the numerous tributes they have made in the wake of his passing.

"He deserves the image as one of the greatest people on earth during the past century".

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