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A Letter to Frederik de Klerk

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DEAR President De Klerk:

I have done a mental toyi-toyi three times in the last two years - once when the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress were unbanned, once when Mr. Nelson Mandela walked free from Polls-moor Prison, and then last month, when white South Africans agreed to support you in your negotiations within the Convention for a Democratic South Africa.

This latest act of exuberance on my part surprised me, as in the final days leading to the referendum I was beset by an anger, frustration, and despair that, once again, I and millions of other black South Africans were standing aside while whites decided our future. (You will forgive me that I don't dwell on the "voting rights" your government gave me in 1983. I pride myself in not having exercised that "right.")

But only the most cynical would suggest that the landslide vote by whites in favor of reform means nothing. For whatever reasons whites voted "yes," they are to be commended. The vision of a non-racial democracy now seems less of a mirage.

You have shown great courage, leadership, and insight. That must be remembered in the difficult days ahead - and there will be many. But, for a moment, I return to our inglorious past.

In an interview after the referendum, you were asked if an apology was not in order for the hurt that the National Party's (NP) apartheid policy has caused. You said that while you apologized for the hurt, "separate development" remained a sound political doctrine, albeit unworkable in South Africa. Like apartheid demagogues in the NP's 40-year reign, you referred to Europe's example: French, Germans, Italians, and others who pursued separate political and cultural identities.

Inherent to the political justification of your government's pol-icy is the appeal to the moral righteousness and soundness of apartheid. In fact, you have steadfastly refused to apologize for or concede the immorality of apart-heid. That you believed fervently in the apartheid cause is not doubted. And clearly your political justification for this policy might find a sympathetic ear in a world where ethnic separatism is increasingly the norm. But don't try to hoodwink us about the morality of your faile d cause.


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