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Feb-24-2012 18:37printcomments

Former South African President's Visit Should Not Be Celebrated

Mandela later connected members of de Klerk's ministry, at the very least contiguously, to attacks.

Harvard University Gazette
Harvard University Gazette

(PORTLAND, OR) - The Wholistic Peace Institute is hosting a visit of the last apartheid president of South Africa, F. W. de Klerk, to our city. President de Klerk was presented the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and is thus deemed a spokesperson of world peace by the Institute.

Alan Wieder - The Beacon

Let us not forget that Henry Kissinger also received the prize. In fact, while de Klerk clearly deserves mention and even praise for his part in negotiating the end of apartheid, he did it with blood on his hands, and he was even soiled further throughout his participation in the "peace" process.

Clearly, it is important to give de Klerk credence in terms of unbanning the African National Congress (ANC) and beginning personal and then official discussions with Nelson Mandela. It is also important to note that the build-up secret negotiations that took place from 1984 until 1990, when de Klerk did free Mandela, as well as the world economic sanctions and the disinvestment movement against South Africa, South Africa's negotiated defeat in its invasion of Angola and the great changes in the Soviet Union under Gorbachev as well as the coming down of the Berlin Wall, made the end of apartheid in South Africa inevitable.

What is most important in terms of F. W. de Klerk as a man of peace is that throughout the entire official negotiation process, 1990 through 1994, de Klerk was at worst ordering government inflicted black-on-black violence in an attempt to destabilize the talks, and at best turning a blind eye to what became known as the government's "Third Force."

Between 1990 and 1994 over 5,000 people were killed as the negotiations transpired. De Klerk was aware of the fact that his government was supporting, financing and in some cases fighting along side the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) members in their attacks on blacks who supported the ANC.

It is beyond the scope of this short document to provide the political history of the conflict between IFP and ANC. The leader of the former wanted power, as did de Klerk, and politics makes for strange partners to say the least.

There were numerous incidents of IFP attacks that Mandela, and later members of de Klerk's ministry, connected at the very least contiguously, to F. W. de Klerk.

- July 1990: ANC warned de Klerk's Minister of Law of coming IFP attacks in Sebokeng – nothing was done.

-October 1990: Mandela confronted de Klerk about "The Third Force." His own Minister of Defense had already briefed him. De Klerk ordered an investigation that was clearly a whitewash and nothing else was done.

-April 1991: After many more murders Mandela, demands the firing of key ministers but de Klerk refused.

-June 1991: David Beresford's "Guardian" article showing documents proving government financing of IFP violence on the ANC follows this. De Klerk's reaction is to fire Vlok and Malan from their minister posts but he keeps them in his cabinet.

-June 1992: IFP and white men in black face attack black people who support the ANC in Boipatong.

There were many more attacks culminating in March 1993 when Mandela warned de Klerk there was intended IFP violence at ANC headquarters. De Klerk did nothing, and IFP members shot into the building with ANC guards returning the fire. More people died. It was after this confrontation that de Klerk finally admitted that there was a sinister force within his government. But of course he never took responsibility.

Just after he and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Prize, Mandela said, "De Klerk has allowed the slaughter of innocent people because they are black. It will remain a stain against him."

At the very least F. W. de Klerk turned a blind eye to murder. During Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) hearings, ministers in his government made veiled admissions and apologies. Later Adriaan Vlok said that de Klerk was giving the orders. We will never know if that is true. De Klerk only said his government never authorized assassination, murder or violence. Later he said he had a clear conscious while one of his commanders said that his Nobel laureate hands were soaked in blood. When F. W. de Klerk's TRC testimony ended, Bishop Tutu, truly a man of peace, could only cry.


Alan Wieder taught at the University of South Carolina for over 20 years and currently lives in Portland. He is on the faculty of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and is currently working on a book on the lives of South African struggle leaders Ruth First and Joe Slovo. He can be contacted at

First published by The Beacon - The Student Coice of the University of Portland since 1835

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