Don’t let fake news and revisionists tarnish the contribution of leaders like FW

By Alec Hogg

We are hosting former SA president FW de Klerk at the Biznews London Forum on September 13th. It’s a great honour for us, given the role he played in SA’s miraculous transition and the resulting esteem in which he is held internationally. We’ve booked a prestigious venue and are expecting a full house for the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

What I did not expect, however, was the reaction to the event from some back home. From the comments on social media, there are many South Africans on both sides of the political spectrum who are furious at FW. The right wing label him a sellout. Young radicals are less polite.

We forget all too easily where the country was heading when De Klerk pulled his nationalist party and most of SA’s white population into a negotiated settlement. The Boipatong massacre, Richmond’s killing fields, the farmer “invasion” of Bophuthatswana, Chris Hani’s assassination, the Wit Wolf of Strydom Square, the St James’ Church slaughter, hundreds of bombs exploding in shopping centres – such events could have become everyday events had De Klerk not stepped up to the plate.

With the abundance of fake news and revisionist historians, the unique contribution of people like De Klerk and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev are too easily overlooked. Whatever their earlier failings, those who experienced those troubled times know they did right when it mattered. We need to give credit where it is due.

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