South Africa: Separate but Sequel - the Eternal Return of FW De Klerk

Former South African president FW De Klerk, second from left, and his wife Elita, far left, with parliamentary presiding officers before the February 13, 2020 State of the Nation address.
analysis

He's back. He never left.

"Everyone wavers between the emotionally still-alive past and the already-dead future."

Ivan Chtcheglov

The redaction of the historical record began the moment apartheid ended -- indeed before apartheid ended: official history in this country is a palimpsest written over on endless occasions. (Remember: the National Intelligence Agency destroyed 44 tonnes of documents at the close of the ancien regime, a black hole filled mostly with revisioning, mythologising and Nando's adverts.)

So perhaps it is to be welcomed that, during the recent State of the Nation Theatrical Extravaganza, FW de Klerk was rolled out on history's rusted gurney and defibrillated before a yawning nation. We need not go into the specifics of this event, which has been covered extensively elsewhere. But let's just say that this was a Julius Malema/Economic Freedom Fighters gambit that paid massive dividends, but nonetheless begged an urgent question for those hoping for a bathroom break: why bother exhuming the old frog now, given that he's been a regular guest at SONA for years, and was hardly a wallflower when it came to decrying the corruption and mismanagement of the Zuma era?

He has never shut up and gone away. Rather, he's...

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