Ralph Mathekga: FW de Klerk debacle further exposes the ANC’s moral decline

It is not by accident that the decline of the moral stature of the ANC to lead society seems to coincide with increased racial tension, writes Ralph Mathekga

The storm caused by former president FW De Klerk  is a perfect example of poetic justice; showing how the ANC-led government was set up to have to defend the presence of the motormouth (last) apartheid president who almost escaped the wrath of history had he only shut his mouth for a few more years.

The opportunistically witty Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stumbled upon De Klerk’s sermon in which he proclaimed that he did not think apartheid was a crime against humanity.

The issue was gift-wrapped manna from heaven for the EFF which was desperately shopping for issues to leverage so that they could disrupt the SONA.

The De Klerk issue came in very handy; and it caught the ANC and apartheid apologists by surprise. 

The backlash was not anticipated and the EFF walks away with another set of political points in a very dry season for competitors. 

I am enraged by De Klerk’s daring attitude towards South Africans of all races; and his unfounded confidence that he might be representing a significant fraction of the white population.

If the agenda upon which the FW De Klerk Foundation is to offend South Africans by attempting to whitewash apartheid atrocities, then the funders of the foundation need to have an urgent meeting.

The FW De Klerk Foundation is facing its Bell Pottinger moment, unless the organisation stops digging in its heels on unwinnable positions, notwithstanding the apology it released on Monday.  

There is another part of the story that goes beyond the fact that De Klerk and some among our society believe that apartheid was not a crime against humanity.

On this, I pay respect to the naively honest De Klerk who has been willing, up until Monday’s (some would suggest pressure-induced) mea culpa, to come out and publicly proclaim his beliefs.

Had he held quiet for a while; he might have escaped the wrath he is facing now, possibly even receiving forgiveness from history and not because he deserves it. 

The question that interests me also is the reason why De Klerk would find it opportune to have said it out loud recently and previously.

This is also the same question I asked when Helen Zille found it suitable to share her views that colonialism was has left an admirable institutional legacy.

The truth is that those individuals would not dare utter such statements during the time of Nelson Mandela’s presidency.  

The explanation for the daring attitude when it comes to expressing politically insensitive statements comes down to the fact that the moral decline of the ANC as a governing party is misinterpreted by some to entail the moral decline of the liberation movement and the struggle against oppression.

If one concludes that the ANC has no moral basis to lead society, this consequently leads to the conclusion that everything the party stood for in the past can simply be dismantled, including the history of the liberation movement.  

It seems to be the psyche of our society that the history of black liberation movements in in South Africa is the history of the African National Congress, hence the discrediting of the ANC should be the discrediting of the history of the liberation movement in South Africa.  

The ANC is doing a great job discrediting its own legacy by engaging in rampant corruption and showing further how the party is struggling to lead a modern society.

The mere fact that the ANC is discredited should not be interpreted to mean that the struggle for those who have been historically disadvantaged should be trivialised in the manner that De Klerk is going about it.   

It is interesting that it is the ineptitude of the ANC in government that has resulted in people such as De Klerk willing to cross the line and defend apartheid simply because the ruling ANC has lost the moral basis to lead society properly.

We all know the vulgarity of our politics whereby racist remarks are often preceded by a quick evaluation of the ANC-led government, often showing frustration with the party’s record.

Imagine being called an idiot simply because someone who looks like you is messing up in government; yet you never get a thank you card when someone who looks like you do things right.   

De Klerk’s matter is very interesting – in the sense that the ANC had to defend De Klerk, whose daring attitude is fuelled by the current negative sentiments towards the ANC-led government following years of corruption.

It is not by accident that the decline of the moral stature of the ANC to lead society seems to coincide with increased racial tension.

The ANC, losing the moral base from which to lead due to corruption within its ranks, has negatively impacted the image of black people and their dignity, even though black people are not the ANC.

The joke (and irony) is on the ANC, which had to justify why De Klerk was a guest at the SONA, while, with his statements, he was openly mocking his host, the ANC.   

– Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa’s Turn.

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