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WATCH: FW de Klerk criticised Mandela over speeches at Chris Hani's funeral, says he did not behave like a statesman

Former presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. File Picture: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters

Former presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. File Picture: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters

Published Aug 18, 2023


A recorded interview with FW de Klerk, the last white South African president, criticising Nelson Mandela for a speech he made at the funeral of Chris Hani in April 1993, has emerged.

In it, De Klerk says that while Mandela excelled in bringing calm to South Africa on April 10, 1993, after the assassination of Hani, his speech at the funeral was very disappointing.

Hani was assassinated by right-wing extremist Janusz Waluś, a Polish immigrant who followed him to his Boksburg home and shot him dead.

The FW De Klerk Foundation released the recorded interview on Friday as an exclusive where De Klerk aired his opinions about several issues, including Hani’s assassination, the negotiations, and the friction between him and Mandela, among other issues.

The interview was recorded before De Klerk died on November 11, 2021, aged 85, and is among many others that have been released before.

De Klerk said when Hani was assassinated, he was on holiday, and he was behind the idea that Mandela should take the lead on calming the nerves of ANC supporters who were likely going to be violent and throw the country into turmoil.

He said he could have gone on national television and calmed the nation, but because he was in a far-flung town in the Free State attending a family get-together and could not do it, he roped in Mandela, who was the president of the ANC at the time.

"And I felt that the right alternative was we must ask Mandela to take the lead on this one and go on television to calm his people because it is from the ANC supporters that the violent reaction might come.

"He acceded to the request and, in a very statesman-like manner, made an appeal on TV for his people to remain calm.

"He stressed the fact that by then Janusz Waluś has been arrested already because a white Afrikaner woman took down his car’s registration number and provided it to the police," he said in the interview, which was conducted by Dave Steward, a long-time associate and friend.

Steward is also the chairperson of the FW de Klerk Foundation.

De Klerk said it was wrong for Mandela to use the funeral of Hani to accuse the security forces of the time of making it possible for Hani to be killed like that.

"We couldn’t control what they do or say; of course, our reaction was one of entering into an argument about it, saying it's unfair to try again and accuse the government or the security forces of being on the wrong side of the law in this.

"And that it was they who created the atmosphere for this (Hani’s killing) to take place, there has always been a risk from radicals on the right and on radicals on the left of getting out of hand," De Klerk said in the interview.

He said there was always a risk of extremists from all sides trying to derail the negotiations and create an atmosphere where negotiations could not occur.

"I was very disappointed in the fact that Mr Mandela didn’t carry on being a statesman on this issue and that he did fan the flames with his speeches.

"The negotiations were under threat," he added.

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