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De Klerk 'a product of apartheid'

Published Jan 11, 2010

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Racism, unemployment and the housing shortage were all the legacy of former state president FW de Klerk, ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema said on Thursday at celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from jail.

It was De Klerk, as head of state, who took the momentous decision in 1990 to free Mandela after 27 years behind bars.

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But Malema, addressing a crowd of several thousand at Drakenstein prison near Paarl, said the former National Party leader, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, was neither a hero nor an icon.

Malema said De Klerk had made the February 2, 1990, announcement that Mandela would be released simply because the people of South Africa had demanded that the ANC be unbanned and Mandela freed.

"De Klerk never released Mandela - De Klerk must never be celebrated. De Klerk is a product of apartheid.

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"De Klerk sponsored black-on-black violence. De Klerk sponsored the IFP to kill our people in KwaZulu-Natal."

He said De Klerk had never loved the people of South Africa.

"Racism is the legacy of De Klerk. Unemployment is the legacy of De Klerk. Shortage of houses is the legacy of De Klerk. De Klerk must never be compared with Mandela."

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Earlier, Malema was one of a number of VIPs who symbolically retraced Mandela's first steps to freedom through the gates of Drakenstein prison, formerly known as Victor Verster.

Struggle veterans Mac Maharaj, Cyril Ramaphosa, Ahmed Kathrada and Andrew Mlangeni were in the front row of marchers.

Mandela was not at Thursday's celebration, nor was his former wife Winnie, who in 1990 was at his side.

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But there was a galaxy of other ANC luminaries, including several cabinet ministers, and comrades from the tripartite alliance, among them Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Whereas Mandela's walk came after a year of nominal imprisonment in a warder's residence on the prison grounds, Thursday's march followed a sumptuous breakfast laid on by the ANC - with corporate sponsorship - for invited guests in a marquee on the prison grounds.

As the marchers walked the few hundred metres from the marquee to the gates, officials pleaded with journalists to give them space to move.

"Don't make it a long walk, make it a short one please," joked Maharaj.

At the gates, where they were met by a crowd of several thousand people, they halted for speeches at the life-size bronze statue of Mandela that stands there.

Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who was a member of the national reception committee set up at the time to co-ordinate Mandela's release, told the crowd that the day of the release in 1990 was etched on everyone's memory.

In his first public speech, Mandela had said he would place his life in the hands of his fellow South Africans to continue as "a fellow soldier in the struggle for liberation".

"Today Madiba continues with that promise," Manuel said.

"He hasn't ever given up the responsibilities. It was not something that he said because he was happy to be out of prison. He said it because it was fundamental to his belief system.

"We were here with him then, we are here with him today still."

Manuel said it had to be recognised that on that day Mandela was not an individual but a disciplined and loyal member of the ANC.

"Important as Madiba was, he was a symbol. Because the ANC always said, 'Release Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners.'

"Today we celebrate the symbolism, but we don't focus only on Madiba.

"We remind ourselves of where we've come from in the struggle to establish a deep and durable democracy in this country, that touches the lives of all of our people.

"We remind ourselves of where we've come from, but we remind ourselves also of where we need to go to."

Ramaphosa, former head of the reception committee and now a businessman, told his listeners that the ANC had not been unbanned by former state president FW de Klerk.

"You unbanned it yourself. You hoisted the flag of our people high, and you said the ANC leads, the ANC lives," he said.

"When comrade Nelson Mandela was released, as he walked out of these prison gates, we knew that his freedom meant that our freedom had also arrived. As he became free we also knew that we were now free."

At a subsequent rally on the prison sports field, SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said it was important while celebrating Mandela as an icon not to lose sight of him as a revolutionary.

He said the challenge facing the country was to translate political freedom into economic wealth for the people as a whole. - Sapa

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