Decision to cancel de Klerk’s invitation to speak on racism welcomed

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Pan African Bar Association of South Africa (PABASA) has welcomed the decision by the American Bar Association to cancel its invitation to former President FW De Klerk to speak on racism, constitutional democracy, minority rights, social change and global security.

The last President of apartheid South Africa was to address the United States association in an online sitting.

The American Bar Association’s decision to rescind its invite followed fierce criticism. The Pan African Bar Association’s Advocate Musi Sikhakhane, Former TRC Commissioner Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza and the family of struggle martyr Ford Calalata are among those who were opposed to De Klerk’s invitation.

“Seeking to rewrite our history is a revisionism in which, regrettably, de Klerk has an army of collaborators, especially within politics and the media, here and abroad, and it is just as well that PABASA has decided to stand up and be heard in reminding all of us, here and abroad, that decent people need to raise an outcry when this Apartheid era President, even as he was flying to Oslo to go receive the Nobel Peace Prize, had legally been implicated in a massacre,” says Ntsebeza.

The former TRC Commissioner says de Klerk was responsible for the killing of a number of Black people during his tenure as President.

“De Klerk was in a meeting of the State Security Council in 1985 that took a decision that Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Ford Calata and Mhauli must be permanently removed from society and indeed they were. Secondly, De Klerk in 1993 ordered a cross-border raid into Umthatha where five kids, the eldest of whom was only 16 years of age, were murdered in their sleep by a death squad which de Klerk admitted to us in the TRC to have ordered. I represented the Families of the murdered kids, and the father of two of them who were twins called me in the really hours of the morning after the raid, and I saw for myself the slaughter and damage that had taken place at Mpendulo’s house in Northcrest in Mthatha.”

Skhakhane agrees with Ntsebeza, saying honouring De Klerk in that manner would have been an insult to victims of the brutal apartheid system.

“Honouring De Klerk would have been an insult to the Cradock Four and many others who were killed by his murderous regime. We therefore welcome their decision and hope that the entire world would know that De Klerk deserves no honour; that De Klerk continues to deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity; that killing Black people and many others of all races who fought for freedom was a crime against humanity and we felt that honouring such a man would have been an insult to the anti-apartheid struggle and the people of South Africa as a whole,” the legal giant says.

In a statement, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was also against de Klerk’s invitation, branding the former president an unrepentant racist. The party says the invitation was a contradiction as De Klerk presided over a regime elected by a white minority and that was founded on a racist legislation.

“The invitation extended to De Klerk by the American Bar Association is a spit in the face of the efforts being waged by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the broader global call for the end to the violence and criminalisation of Black people,” the EFF said.

The party believes de Klerk has no right to speak on behalf of South Africans after his remarks, saying apartheid was not a crime against humanity.

“Most recently, De Klerk brazenly claimed that apartheid, a system deliberately under development and violence against black people, was not a crime against humanity. De Klerk, therefore has no right or standing to speak on behalf of South Africa in the US legal fraternity on topics of race or constitutionalism. He has no grasp of humanitarianism and undermines by his very existence any efforts for social change the realm of law or governance.”

In the video below, De Klerk says that apartheid was not a crime against humanity: