De Klerk bit the bullet

In “De Klerk’s ‘goodwill’ was just realpolitik” (June 15) by Charles Leonard, we are informed that FW de Klerk finds himself in an unenviable position after his recent comments on international television and, 20 years after Boipatong, doubt is cast on his intentions in “reforming” South Africa in the early 1990s. What we are not informed of is how little he can do to rectify this position. On the one (public opinion) hand, he is castigated for not leaning far enough in the direction of the greater good; on the other (personal, or Afrikaner), he is sometimes crucified for having leaned in that direction at all.

This is something many Afrikaner leaders and intellectuals who venture out of the laager have to cope with. How exactly do you embrace popular opinion without going against the preconceptions of your own tribe? It is much easier to adopt a pro-Boer stance and discount other opinions with an all-too-familiar abrasiveness or even downright aggression. Moreover, you are still welcome at Sunday lunch – or the Saturday night braai, as the case may be.

It is vexing to see how easily English-speaking whites adopt a liberal, all-embracing stance. An Afrikaner who attempts the same thing is seen as a traitor to his or her people, and not only by workers. Even prominent figures with impressive educations repeatedly call on us to look after our own. At heart, we are an endlessly self-defining bunch who do not care for it when relatives stray outside the family.

I don’t think a liberal Afrikaner offers much more than amusement value to the liberals from other cultural groups. They keep expecting you to show your true colours and they keep expecting those to be the old Vierkleur or the oranje-blanje-blou. The sad thing is, of course, that it happens as the old loyalties and the new indifference of other groups draw you back.

De Klerk has done and is still doing admirable work. Realpolitik? I want to venture: So what? Necessity is a fine taskmaster. In history it happens time and again that someone fills a power vacuum at the right moment to effect change. And we will agree that it was good change. De Klerk is a man of his times who rose above them. – Jaco Fouché, Sandbaai

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