The other side of history: An anecdotal reflection on political transition in South Africa, by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert.
The other side of history is Frederik van Zyl Slabbert's reflection on political transition in South Africa. This extract is from the chapter Inventing the past to secure the future.
One thing the 'old' and the 'new' South Africa have in common is a passion for inventing history. History is not seen as a dispassionate inquiry into what happened, but rather as a part of political mobilisation promoting some form of collective self-interest. Not for one second do I pretend to know the 'whole' or 'real' story of what happened in the old South Africa, or what is happening in the 'new'. I know that significant parts of what has been, or is being invented, are not the way I experienced it. For example, in early 2000, I was sitting next to General George Meiring at a discussion workshop in a hotel near Hermanus. He was the last head of the SADF under President de Klerk and the first under President Mandela. The theme of the workshop, which was attended by young Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals, students and journalists, was to find out if some of the 'magic' of our transition could rub off on their situation. Heribert Adam, a close friend and former academic colleague from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, had made it depressingly clear that there was very little joy to be had for Israel and Palestine from our transition. (He and his wife, Prof. Kogila Moodley, have subsequently written a book about this, so I will not repeat their compelling arguments: H Adam and K Moodley, Seeking Mandela.) And then, FW de Klerk came on: 'First,' he said,'I made sure that I had my party, my people and the state behind me. Then I made sure I had the majority of Whites behind me. And then I could release Mandela and face the risk of the negotiations', or words to that effect. I glanced sideways and saw Meiring shaking his head with a look of incredulity on his face. 'So, General, what do you say?' I asked. In Afrikaans he said, 'Hel, hy vat 'n bietjie kortpad met die waarheid.' Literally translated: 'Hell, he takes a bit of a short cut with the truth.' Over drinks that evening, he elaborated by saying that when De Klerk made his famous 2 February 1990 speech, it came as a complete surprise to most in the security establishment. They knew that a policy shift had to come, in fact most of the top generals, including Meiring and particularly Constand Viljoen, made it clear repeatedly that there was no military solution to South Africa's problems and that a political one had to be found. De Klerk called the generals together in November and told them that he was mindful of their views and was thinking along those lines, particularly to avoid the folly of having Mandela die in prison. But the scope of De Klerk's reforms, and the complete lack of consultation to prepare for the consequences, caught the security establishment off guard. Meiring said that once the speech became public, he, as head of the defence force, was concerned that there would be some kind of internal revolt. In the few months prior to the onset of negotiations, I had some discussions with General Constand Viljoen and he made no secret that, on behalf of the military, he felt a deep sense of betrayal and anger. He and other generals were urged from various quarters to stage a coup. (Read Days of the Generals by Hilton Hamann, for a fascinating account of this period.) 'I have 30 000 men under arms who will rise at a moment's notice,' he told me a number of times in those first few months. Viljoen, who is an expert on revolutionary warfare, was well aware of the folly of a coup option, but he was also very frustrated and angry at the political marginalisation of, what he saw as, the interests of the Afrikaner minority through the unfolding process of negotiations. And for this, he put the blame squarely on De Klerk's shoulders. I was so concerned about Viljoen's anger and his intended abandonment of the whole process of negotiations that I managed to raise some foreign funds (West Germany) to employ his identical twin brother Braam to help with involving Constand in the process. (...)
This is an extract from the book: The other side of history: An anecdotal reflection on political transition in South Africa, by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert.
Book title: The other side of history
Subtitle: An anecdotal reflection on political transition in South Africa
Author: Frederik van Zyl Slabbert
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town, South Africa 2006
ISBN 9781868422500 / ISBN 978-1-86842-250-0
Softcover, 12x20 cm, 173 pages, several b/w photo
van Zyl Slabbert, Frederik im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The other side of history is Frederik van Zyl Slabbert's reflection on political transition in South Africa.
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