“Who said apartheid was wrong, it was evil, it was a heresy, and it must die?”
For a moment it seemed as if the faithful at the National Party’s federal congress m Kempton Park on Wednesday night did not know how to respond to the black praise-singer on the stage. Then as one, the delegates bellowed: “FW!”
It was a different NP that gathered in the World Trade Centre. Although two thirds of the delegates were white, the symbols, the sentiments and the enthusiasm were all-inclusively South African.
The chairman was David Chuenyane, the skriflesing and gebed done by Reverend M Pheteni, who read: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”
The congress was opened with a rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Not many knew the words.
Then FW de Klerk himself appeared on the stage. “Today five years ago the NP did me the honour of choosing me as their leader. It was a white caucus that chose me. Today the NP represents the full spectrum of South Africa’s people.” It was the introduction to a speech carefully warded to tug the heartstrings.
The first part was aimed at reminding the faithful that the NP had led them out of a “hopeless” situation. South Africa was once again a respected member of the international community. No mention of who got the country in the mess in the first place.
The second part focused on the NP’s successes at the negotiations. Far from capitulating to the ANC, the NP achieved everything it promised in the teeth of ANC resistance. “Mr Slovo has the gall to say it was the NP which made concessions!”
The third part focused on the trustworthiness of the NP – a party that “has kept every single promise it made”. De Klerk assured his new followers — those previously barred from joining an all-white NP — that “nobody is going to prevent us from completing our historic mission”.
At this point FW drew the battle lines: “It is becoming clearer that the real battle will be between the NP and the ANC.” The rest of the speech centred on the ANC and its shortcomings.
Unlike the NP, the ANC was not a party that kept its promises. Voters would have a clear choice between the new NP and the old ANC. The ANC was trapped in the past; it lusted for power; it only had experience in the politics of protest and destruction.
Next came the NP’s vision for the future: security, prosperity, homes, education, peace, power-sharing… The faithful got to their feet to sing Die Stem. This time they knew the words.
As the VIPs left the hall, black women waving little NP flags, stormed the stage and started dancing. White delegates looked bemused.The new NP had arrived.