President Jacob Zuma praised FW de Klerk at the unveiling of a bust of Nelson Mandela at Parliament as part of the 20 years of democracy celebrations.
President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to the last apartheid leader, former president FW de Klerk, for his role in ending the apartheid system and creating suitable conditions for the birth of a new democracy at the unveiling of late statesman Nelson Mandela's bust in Parliament on Monday.
Zuma, speaking off the cuff, praised De Klerk, who was in attendance with his wife and among the many dignitaries who attended the unveiling. The president said it was important to remember [De Klerk] as the country honoured Madiba.
"I'm sure it should be remembered that since we are celebrating our democracy, president De Klerk was the last president of the apartheid government.
"And it was him and through him that we were able to make the breakthrough to create the conditions for the birth of a new democracy."
Zuma spoke about how De Klerk had, on occasion, a "very tough task" during the negotiating process where he was "on the other side of president Nelson Mandela in the negotiations".
"I didn't envy him faced with Madiba; he was squeezing out every compromise from him. [But] I think it was because of his appreciation of the fate where the country was, that at times he agreed on points that some wouldn't have agreed to.
"On this occasion, I think it's important to remember that and recognise it."
Zuma made reference to a documentary aired on eTV, which reveals that the apartheid police and army generals were planning to abduct Mandela and De Klerk and force them to consider a different settlement.
"Indeed, FW de Klerk, our former president, played a very pivotal role. And those who must have seen the current film … [understand] how much we averted a disaster in our country," said Zuma.
Zuma said the day's activities demonstrated just how far our country has come since 1994.
"Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to install a bust or any symbol of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in the South African Parliament. Madiba was then regarded as a persona non grata by the regime and the establishment.
The South African people were told that he was a terrorist and a prisoner that they should forget about, he said.
Thus, there can be no better 20th anniversary gift for South Africans than to have this symbol of Madiba in Parliament, said Zuma.
He said the unveiling of the bust confirmed that Parliament, which was once a symbol of white domination, has been transformed into a progressive institution that upholds the values of unity, equality, freedom and the dignity of all South Africans.
"By unveiling this statue, Parliament is declaring that we will continue to walk in Tata's footsteps, that we will continue to draw lessons and inspiration from his exemplary life and that we will continue to honour his memory," he said.
Among the people who attended the unveiling were members of the Mandela family.
National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu revealed that Parliament, in collaboration with the City of Cape Town, will erect a statue of Madiba at a suitable location in Cape Town.
It was revealed earlier this month that Parliament didn't follow the normal procurement processes for the construction of the Madiba bust because the statue was deemed "an emergency procedure".
Senior parliamentary officials insisted on April 15 that the process followed in awarding the R2.5-million contract was not flawed as the legislature's supply chain management policy makes provision for a closed procedure to be followed in emergencies.
They refused to say how Parliament decided to give the contract to Koketso Growth, a company owned by Dali Tambo, son of former ANC president Oliver Tambo. The company was commissioned to create the statue of Mandela at the Union Buildings, which was unveiled in December last year.
"I don't know about Dali Tambo, or how we arrived at him … because I received a recommendation from the officials in the supply chain process as to the appropriateness of this group headed by Mr Tambo as the appropriate personalities to manufacture and construct the bust," said Michael Coetzee, the secretary of Parliament at the time.
Following the unveiling, Tambo told the Mail & Guardian he was happy with the response to the bust, although he had been little nervous earlier.
Honouring 20 years
"It's a special way of honouring 20 years of a democratic Parliament," he said.
"It's a lovely symbolic gesture that says we've reached a milestone, 20 years of democracy. We are stable, we are moving forward with vigour as a democratic society and this is the heart of that society, this Parliament," he added.
Tambo said it had been quite a feat to make the bust in five weeks instead of the normal three or four months.
"We did him with a smile, because Madiba smiled a lot. But we didn't make it a big smile, we made it a controlled smile because we wanted to convey the dignity of the office that he bore, that of president of South Africa," he said.
The bust is 1.5m wide and 2m high, and stands on a plinth outside the steps of the National Assembly. It can be seen from Plein Street, which faces Parliament.