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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?'
Saturday, August 18, 2007
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Friday, August 17, 2007
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Xolela Mangcu must now be recognised as not only South Africa's columist with consistently the most rigorous analysis, but also the one with the best lines. This week he laid into President Mbeki's shameless and tragic response Aids.
PRESIDENT Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki has become an albatross around the neck of our political culture.
He has bequeathed to our political culture a terrible quality — the instinctive denial.
Intellectuals are interested only in whether their ideas are interesting and not in their relevance for their people.
At every turn, Mbeki has tried to pass himself off as an interesting intellectual, irrespective of whether his ideas are relevant to the reality of the population. That surely must partly explain the instinctive denial. If it does not emanate from the “private lair of his skull” then it cannot be true. It’s the perpetual intellectual quest for originality gone haywire.
Antjie Krog covered the Truth and Reconcilation Comission hearings as a journalist. Journalism she won severla prizes for, and which she compiled into the book Country of my Skull.
The hasty arrival of a bodyguard and senior politicians brings me to my senses.
"You have fallen hook line and sinker for the ANC's attempt to put the blame on the Afrikaner. And I am sorry - I will not tkake the blame for people who acted like barbarians, who ignored the paramaters of their duties, they are criminals and ought to be punished."
I think of her (her mother) and how I love her. How I was brought up with what is the best and the proudest in the Afrikaner. And I wonder about the responsibility of a leader.
Should'nt he be establishing a space within which we can confront ourselves and our past? Should'nt he bring to the table the Afrikaners blunt honesty and fearlessness to grabble with the impossible? So that we canb perticipate in the building of this country with self-respect and dignity?
Can't he just say: " I did'nt know, but I will take the responsibility. I will take responsibility for all the atrocities committed under the National Party's rule over the last 50 years. I will lay wreaths where people had been shot, I will collect money for the victims, I will ask forgiveness and I will pray. I will take the responsibility. I will take the blame."
Is truth that closely related to identity? It must be. What you believe to be true depends on who you believe yourself to be.
I look at the Leader in front of me, an Afrikaner leader. And suddenly I know: I have more in common with the Vlakplaas five (Police death squad members) than with this man. Because they have walked a road, and through them some of us have walked a road, and hundreds of Afrikaners are walking this road - on their own with their own fears and shame and guilt. And some say it, most just live it. We are so utterly sorry. We are deeply ashamed and gripped with remorse. But hear us, we are from here. We will live it right - hear - with you, for you.
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The BBC made a pretty serious mistake in their reporting on the VLok case.
In an aricle titled "South Africa reopens old wounds" they claim:
In South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to try to ease the pain.
Past wrongs could be confessed to and forgiven.
Many refused to attend, including the last white President FW de Klerk.
But De Klerk of course did attend, but he refused to admit that he knew of state sponsored killings. It was the previous President PW Botha that refused to attend.
They go on to say that:
The fighters of South Africa's African National Congress (ANC), Namibia's Swapo and Zimbabwe's Zanu or Zapu did not win the long-predicted and much hoped for military victory.
Their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Sam Nujoma and Robert Mugabe respectively, agreed on a simple but unspoken compromise: political power would pass into the hands of the majority black population, but whites would be allowed to retain most of their wealth.
And all sides would put the atrocities of the past behind them.
In this they learnt from Angola and Mozambique, where the Portuguese left taking everything they could carry - including any light bulbs that could be unscrewed.
Which is a bit like comparing apples and pairs. One of the main differences in all the countries mentioned bar South Africa, is that they had tiny white populations that described themsleves as Portuguese or English rather than African and who at best were 3rd generation African and probably first. Angola at its height had 350,000 whites, the majority of who arrived after WW2 to 1970. Today there is not even 10,000 whites in Angola. Ditto Mozambique, although their white population was allot smaller. Zimbabwe had a white settlement of 400,00 at its height that was not even 100 years old, now they have less than 40,000. Namibia had 70,000 Afikaners from South Africa with a smattering of Germans. Today they still have about the same.
Compare that to South Africa's 5 million Afrikaners (Africans) who had almost all arrived by 1800.
Monday, August 06, 2007
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Today the UK Guardian covered - in a full page article - the possible threat of prosecution of FW De Klerk for Apartheid era crimes.
The cases in question revolved around a 1993 raid by army Commandos on what is claimed was thought to be a Pan Africanist Congress(PAC) safe house used to plan terrorist attacks. The dead in the raid were 5 teenagers. Allegedly, shot in their beds.
De Klerk has gone on record stating that he seeked assurances that the targets where indeed justified, and were horrified at the botched execution.
Potentially legally more damning is the case of the poisoning of Frank Chikane. Former Law and Order minister Adriaan Vlok is being prosecuted in this matter, and according to a Sunday newspaper, Vlok is plea bargaining with the prosecution and implicating De Klerk.
Mhambi studied law. And although I have little information on this case I would be surprised if Vlok had anything more than his word with which to implicate FW even if he wanted to. But this is not just a matter of law.
De Klerk was a member of the state security council from the mid 80's. And there is proof that he attended meetings where members of the council discussed "shortening the list of politically sensitive individuals by means other than detention". He refused to answer a question about that meeting at the TRC hearings. Today he declines to interpret what the phrasing might have meant but denies ever endorsing a decision to assassinate activists.
The Guardian names another example of potential De Klerk SSC complicity:
Secret minutes of another state security council meeting attended by Mr de Klerk show he supported a decision to "remove" Matthew Goniwe, a black teacher in the Eastern Cape described by security forces as "at the forefront of a revolutionary attack against the state".
Two days after the meeting, a security policemen visited Cradock, where Mr Goniwe lived, to size up how best to kill him.
De Klerk claims today that although he was a member of the state security council it was not briefed "on clandestine operations involving murders, assassinations or the like - all of which were evidently carried out strictly on a 'need to know' basis".
This is not surprising. It would be too easy to get caught.
And legally this may enough. But it is another indicator sign-posting the pathetic leadership path travelled by De Klerk.
German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling before the Poles.
After making his paradigm shifting move in 1990, unbanning the ANC and releasing Mandela, and instigating investigations into state death squads, extra responsibilities rested on his shoulders. But he failed this promise and us. De Klerk made serious moral blunders, while conviction and courage to see it through suddenly escaped him.
His failure to go back to his white electorate after promising at the 1992 referendum that he will, was the smallest of these blips. His sulky vanishing from public life in 1996 after he was humiliatingly out-negotiated at the peace negotiations left his constituency in the lurch when he could have helped to solidify the transition and reconciliation.
And when he was called upon to do what no other Afrikaner could legitimately do, he failed Afrikaners completely. De Klerk maintained at the TRC that although he attended these meetings of the State Security council that he knew nothing, he explained nothing and he was not prepared to offer a wider apology.
Antjie Krog was there at the TRC and explains her utter dejectedness well in Country of my Skull. When Afrikaners needed a leader to admit and say sorry for all the hurt they caused De Klerk stormed out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing. Where was our Willy Brandt when we needed him?
De Klerk must have known something was going on and that it was extra legal. Why then the reluctance to admit it? Why not point out that the state thought it necessary to fight fire with fire? There was a violent revolution going on aimed at overthowing the state. That this revolution was in many ways justified is a seperate matter in which lies the rub: it was the systematic discrimination of apartheid that made apartheid especially bad, not it's defence.
He could point to the fact that after the brutal intervention of the security branch in places like Mamelodi, these townships became peaceful.
De Klerk could show that relatively few people died in political conflict in the 40 years of Nationalist rule in African and even South American comparative terms.
According to the TRC report (which Mhambi reckons is actually an underestimation) just over 20,000 people died in political violence during Nationalist rule (1948 - 1994). That's a years worth of South African homicides. Discounting miltarty casualties, compare that with 27,000 women and children and 14,000 plus black South Africans dying in British camps during the Boer war. And the same number of killings in one year of Robert Mugabe's rule.
It pales against the intensity of the violence of the French war in Algeria, or Britains suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion on Kenya. And De Klerk could well argue that the stakes were higher. Let's not even go into the details of the violent conflicts in Biafra, Ethiopia, Rwanda, the Congo and now in Darfur. If violence is the barometor of guilt, the Nationalists would be more complicit for their involvment in the Angolan conflict than at home.
It's for the systematic discrimination that infected our town planning, architecture and inter personal relations that cemented inequality into the fabric of South African society, that an Afrikaner leader needs to say a deep heartfelt and profound sorry for.
Is it because the self righteous and religious De Klerk believed his own hype? Or perhaps he could not admit to his own ultra religious constituency that his and his colleagues denials of impropriety over the years were in fact just lies, damn lies?
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
Last week Mhambi was checking out his personal Facebook Newsfeed. The feed, described by Sam Leith as "the Reuters of irrelevance, the AFP of inanity" should really not be that important.
But not that day. I could see that my friends were joining and leaving a group called "Afrikaans is a dying language, LETS KILL IT!".
Soon some of my friends sent me an email, help report that group, it's hate speech. They were clearly upset, and so I have to admit, was I.
The group is managed by a Simon Nova (South Africa) calling himself as being from the Anti-Afr. ELITE. He is assisted by Charles Killer (Portsmouth) for the British Rep? Mmmm...
And on closer inspection one Mhambi decided that one should probably not be so bothered. The group appears to be a bunch of i'll informed teen age posh tossers, nothing more.
Except it did upset me much more than I thought. But Why? Mhambi has gone on record to say that having many languages in one country is problematic. Still that night I slept very badly, and woke with a terrble sense of dread. I jumped out of bed, to some sound in our lounge.
Half asleep and convinced that we have a killer in our flat I stormed out of the bedroom. Only to find my girl friend's perplexed brother. Weird. Us Afrikaners are full of fright.
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Wednesday, August 01, 2007
While kids in Europe in the USA are either into ironic indie rock or electro clash, Afrikaans music is for the most part somewhere else.
Cape Town based DJ Donald of Wedding DJ fame is on the while not impressed. To him Afrikaans rock is not cool. The musical style is out-dated and the lyricks, way too serious. Que bands like Fokofpolisiekar.
Afrikaans dance, is for the most part monopolised by bubblegum pop merchants.
While I agree that the musical style of most Afrikaans rock is basic and dated. Fokospoliskar sounds as naive as The Presidents of the United States of America. Basic drums, and simplistic epic guitar riffs characterise their music.
Fokofs lyricks, on the other hand is wonderfully existential if a bit too didactic. Nihilistic, fatalistic and despairing, it expresses the angst of post-Apartheid Afrikaners brilliantly. Nothing I have listened to from the West compares.
And now Mhambi has found another example. Soldaatvolk's (Soldier people) Foto na dans (Picture after a party).
It features a party in an up market house, full of girls with beautiful frocks, which turns into an orgy of drug taking and sex. The singer tries to make sense of all the excess amid the angst - everything is falling apart. There is only place for one person in his coffin he sings. I could only look on while everything is destroyed.
Mhambi stands accused of dropping his musical tastes. It has been eroded by nostalgia, caused by years away from my vaderland.
Well, here's another track which runs the borderline between cool and zef (chav). But definitely come down on the cool side in Mhambi's opinion. It's Loslap by the artist Snotkop. (Afr: Slapper by Snothead).