SA President pays tribute to FW de Klerk


Standing at the pew of Die Groote Kerk, a church attended by a succession of apartheid presidents, South African head of state Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to FW de Klerk, the racist regime’s last leader who passed away a month ago.

The South African government hosted an official memorial service for De Klerk, who was buried by his family in a private service.

At the memorial service in Die Groote Kerk in Cape Town, Ramaphosa joined De Klerk’s widow Alitta and his son, Jan, in eulogizing the former leader. A tribute from Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was also read.

In his eulogy, Ramaphosa praised the courage and conviction of De Klerk in helping guide South Africa towards a peaceful negotiated settlement.

Ramaphosa said: “I have just returned from Dakar in Senegal, where, in 1987, a historic meeting took place between the ANC and a delegation consisting of, among other others, Afrikaner academics, teachers, journalists, artists, business leaders, writers and professionals.

“This meeting was among several pivotal events that laid the ground for the negotiations that were to follow between the ANC and FW de Klerk’s National Party.

“Significantly, these talks were the inspiration for the planned establishment of the Nelson Mandela Centre for Forgiveness on Gorée Island in Senegal – which was one of many sites where millions of Africans were sold into slavery – demonstrating the embrace by many on the African continent of reconciliation and forgiveness over hatred.

“The fact that it was the struggles of the South African masses that forced the perpetrators of apartheid to the negotiating table does not render their contribution any less significant, nor their pragmatism any less genuine.

“They were prepared to put aside their differences and were ready to talk with their sworn enemies. The path we followed – of negotiation over conflict, of reconciliation over recrimination – was in no small part thanks to the courage and the conviction of FW de Klerk.”

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