South Africa: The Myth 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.

I have never bought into the myth of what FW de Klerk or his foundation means. Here's why.

As part of the interviewing panel of journalists for a 1994 pre-election debate between apartheid's last president FW De Klerk and Nelson Mandela, I remember thinking in the television studio how much less presence the balding leader had than his media image suggested.

Short in stature and with a thinnish voice, his answers were rehearsed, clearly meant for the television cameras.

In the flesh, he lacked the substance that the reams of adulatory copy about him as a great reformer had suggested since his surprise decision to unban the ANC and a string of liberation movements and organisations on 2 February 1990.

This image of a De Klerk press conference in the wake of that decision may offer one explanation of how the myth was constructed.

Because of journalism and the media's structure at the time (a reflection of...

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