Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Help me make sense of De Klerk

Mhambi is trying to make sense of his Presidents. In a second extract from Country of my skull, Antjie Krog wrestles with the enigma that is FW de Klerk.

Today is obviously the day.

As usual, the Chairperson lays the table for the fatal encounter. He praises De Klerk for his contribution to peace in the country, he quotes from the Bible, he prays, he speaks Afrikaans, he smiles. But accross the table De Klerk seems in total control. He alone takes the oath. He alone is going to speak. Former State President PW Botha has refused to cooperate with the NP (National Party) on its submission. No predecessors, no Ministers, no Generals to escort De Klerk. His isolation form the senior leadership of the past is total.

And it becomes lawyer against lawyer. In his submission, De Klerk says that the gross human rights violations committed in the past were due to the bad judgement, overzealousness or negligence of individual policemen.

In his questioning, Glen Goosen (advocate and TRC investigation unit head) takes up De Klerk's phrasing. It becomes a chorus: 'The Cradock Four, those who were resonsible - was it bad judgement, over zealousness or negligence? The Pebco Three, those who were responsible - was it bad judgement, over zealousness or negligence?

'But this is ridiculous' De Klerk protests.
'Please answer my question,' says Goosen.

It soon becomes clear the the Truth Commision will get nowhere with this line of questioning.

The Commission sees De Klerk as a leader come to explain the past; but in fact he is fighting for the survival of his party. The Commission has not taken into account the fact that the National Party is in serious trouble.; Roelf Meyer, De Klerk's second in command and the most prominent NP figure in negotiations, has resigned just the day before the submission. De Klerk is not there to look the past in the eye.

He is there to minimise damage and play on the sentiments of his voters.

And these are: we did not know, we are just as shocked as you are and we feel that these people are criminals who should be punished. De Klerk sates repeatedly that his whole upbringing, his entire experience of politics allowed no room for the kinds of atrocities now coming to the surface.

And yes, then everybody, from General Johan van der Merwe (the previous Commissioner of Police under De Klerk) who misled him, down to the foot soldier who did the deed, is a bad apple. And he resists the line of questioning, the documents used, the assumptions made, his delegations errupts: 'Shame!.... Sies! ... Witch-hunt!'

The end of the hearing is in sharp contrast to the previous day. No inspiring words, no prayer from the Chairperson, who sits deeply sunken in his chair.
I go to the cross-examiner: 'What the fuck did you want him to say?'
'I wanted him to say: "Although I did'nt know about it, the fact that we never condemned these killings outright may have led people lower down in the ranks to belive it was our policy."
'My God, but that is not so impossible to say! Except you allowed him only one route to it, and that is the route he as an embattled political leader could not afford to take.'

I pack up my recorder, laptop and cassettes.

Outside in Addderly street someone tugs at my skirt. 'Do you know Brecht's poem "In favour of a long, broad skirt?"

I am so distressed, so full of unformulated despair that I cannot answer. Come he says... he gives me wine. He ties up my hair, He washes my feet in the cool water. He feeds me thin slices of raw meet.

'Help me make sense of De Klerk.'
'It's easy. The safety net they strung up for the ANC yesterday was not there today. They were out to get him and they could'nt'
'Then why do I expect better from the Commission, but not from De Klerk?'

'There you are wrong. De Klerk has just dissapointed millions of people because he refuses to think of more than covering his wickets against Roelfie. De Kelrk has always been like that. All the changes were made because of some small practical reason - he has never had vision.'

'But the Truth Commission are the moral lot. If they give up on De Klerk and the Afrikaner, then how can they expect the rest of the country to live with us?'

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