THE CITIZEN
The Citizen is a tabloid-style daily founded in 1976 and headquartered in Johannesburg. It was acquired by the CTP/Caxton printing and publishing company in 1998.
Photo of former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk who died yesterday at age 85
Geopolitics

De Klerk’s Death: How South Africa Saw Its Last White President

Having shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, former President Frederik Willem de Klerk was largely credited with courageous leadership and a key role in dismantling apartheid. But his legacy, both before and after the transition, is decidedly mixed.

Mourned, derided, in equal measure…

Since South Africa's last white ruler Frederik Willem de Klerk died at his home in Cape Town on Thursday at the age of 85, the reactions of South Africans have mirrored the contradictions that characterized de Klerk's political life.

De Klerk is widely heralded for his role in dismantling the brutal apartheid state and ushering in the dawn of South Africa's democracy, having shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with Nelson Mandela, who succeeded him as president.

In a statement on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa labeled his actions "courageous," and celebrated his "decision to unban political parties, release political prisoners and enter into negotiations with the liberation movement amid severe pressure to the contrary from many in his political constituency."

"He became a small man"

But not all reactions were positive. In an article by South African weekly Mail & Guardian, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation acknowledged de Klerk's pivotal part in the country's transition to democracy. But the foundation also chose to repeat the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu — another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — who said before de Klerk's death that he "could have gone down in history as a truly great South African statesman, but he eroded his stature and became a small man, lacking magnanimity and generosity of spirit."

After becoming the leader of the National Party in 1989, F. W. de Klerk was expected to continue the system of racial segregation and repression of dissent of the party — a party that his grandfather helped form in the 1940s.

But instead, on February 2, 1990, at the opening of parliament in Cape Town, de Klerk gave a quantum leap speech that stunned the world: announcing a series of reforms including lifting the ban on the African National Congress. A week later, he sanctioned the release of Mandela, the charismatic freedom fighter with whom de Klerk would negotiate the end of apartheid.

A complicated legacy

The Star Nov. 12 front page

South African daily The Star's Nov. 12 front page

The Star

The pain of apartheid

However, there are many South Africans who will never view de Klerk as the national hero which he has largely become to the international community.

While, As Deputy President from 1994 to 1996, de Klerk played an instrumental role in the Government of National Unity, many still hold he missed the many chances he had to fully reconcile with South Africans. The most glaring example is de Klerk's failure in February 2020 to fully acknowledge the extent of the damage caused by apartheid, telling public broadcaster SABC he felt there weren't enough deaths to qualify it as a crime against humanity, despite it being declared such by the United Nations in 1962.

In a video released by his foundation on the day he died, de Klerk didn't backtrack on the matter, even though he apologized for the "pain" inflicted by apartheid, or what he called in the video "separate development."

Ending apartheid

@eNCA, 11/11/2021

Failing to reconcile

The controversy over de Klerk's death, only weeks before the 25th anniversary of South Africa's democratic constitution, also comes at a time when the risk appears greater than ever that the country's hard-earned progress could be undone.

Already reeling from decades of economic decline and the corruption-plagued rule of Jacob Zuma, South Africa is also suffering the brutal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, with looting and riots having swept the poverty-stricken country during the summer. In June, as hundreds were killed in a mix of political and protest against structural poverty, President Cyril Ramaphosa called it some of the worst violence witnessed in South Africa since the 1990s.

De Klerk's death is a reminder of both the oppression and liberation of the past, but also the uncertainty of South Africa's future.

A return to the past?

The Citizen's Nov. 12 front page reading "FW's dying words"

The Citizen's Nov. 12 front page

The Citizen

Syrians demonstrated in the city of Idlib against the presidential elections which were held this Wednesday, with Bashar al-Assad expected to win a fourth term
BBC

The Latest: U.S. Probes COVID Origin, Macron In Rwanda, Hello Friends

Welcome to Thursday, where Joe Biden calls for a deeper investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, France recognizes its responsibility in the Rwandan genocide and six famous friends are reunited after 17 years. Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London also reports on how the pandemic, combined with dire economic conditions and government repression, has had a profound impact on Iranian's mental health.

• Biden orders investigation into coronavirus origin: U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to "redouble" efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19, including the theory that it came from a Chinese laboratory. China has already rejected this theory, accusing the U.S. government of politicizing the pandemic.

• Macron recognizes French "responsibility" in Rwanda genocide: On a symbolic visit to Rwanda on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron recognized France's "political" responsibility in the 1994 genocide, though adding that France was not complicit in the genocide.

• Azerbaijan captures six Armenian troops: Azeri troops have captured six Armenian soldiers near the border, the latest incident in continuing tensions since war reignited last year in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.

• Eight killed in San Jose mass shooting: At least eight people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a California rail yard before taking his own life, the latest mass shooting as Congress debates legislation to curb gun violence.

• Dozens missing after Nigeria boat sinks: Dozens of people are missing in northwest Nigeria after an overloaded boat carrying around 160 passengers sank in the Niger River.

• Manhunt in Belgium for suspect who threatened to kill COVID expert: A manhunt for career soldier Jürgen Conings, 46, has entered its second week in Belgium, after the suspect allegedly stole an arsenal of deadly weapons from a military barracks and threatened to kill one of the country's most famous virologists.

• Hello, old Friends: The long-awaited Friends reunion special will be aired today, 17 years after the final episode and featuring such acquaintances as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

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Statue of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa
WORLDCRUNCH
Stuart Richardson

O Mandela, Where Art Thou?

-Analysis-

Exactly four years have passed since Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon, died at the age of 95. Over the course of his remarkable life, the South African became the embodiment of moral political leadership, forgiving his jailers and rising to the nation's presidency.

Sadly, Mandela's successors, most notably current South African President Jacob Zuma, have largely led without the same moral compass. Allegations of corruption have mired the African National Congress (ANC), the political party Mandela founded, even as it has remained in power ever since the end of apartheid.

A particularly distasteful new scandal has been added to the mix this week: A special investigation unit of South Africa's public corruption watchdog found that during Mandela's funeral ceremonies, in December 2013, nearly 300-million rand ($22 million) had been unlawfully or negligently spent. Local ANC leaders misappropriated money earmarked for "sanitation, the replacement of mud schools and the refurbishment of hospitals," according to a 300-page report published by the Office of the Public Protector.

South African daily Mail & Guardian reported Monday that authorities instead used these funds to purchase t-shirts and catering services and transport mourners during the globally televised funeral.

"Those hyenas of the ANC in the Eastern Cape saw an opportunity to use taxpayers' monies to line their pockets," opposition leader Bantu Holomisa decried. "They saw a gap and used it, the shameless bunch of crooks."

South African daily The Citizen"s Dec. 5 frontpage

South Africa is hardly the only country facing a bankruptcy of moral-minded political leadership these days. From Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump formally threw his support Monday behind Alabama's Republican candidate for Senate Roy Moore, who stands accused of sexually assaulting numerous underaged girls. Trump, of course, also faces several accusations of sexual impropriety from the past, not to mention all sorts of suspicions of high crimes and misdemeanors related to Russian attempts to sway last year's election. (The latest bad news for Trump comes from Germany, where Bloomberg reports special prosecutor Robert Mueller has subpoenaed records on the president's financial dealings with Deutsche Bank.)

But more broadly, Trump threatens the very idea that politics should be driven by higher ideals than personal gain and ambition.

So if virtue can't be found in our political leaders, perhaps we must look elsewhere: There is always Bono, the frontman of the band U2 and notable globetrotting humanitarian. But what can we say about the Financial Times report on Monday that the singer offered to write a "protest song" in support of the consumer product conglomerate Unilever during a hostile takeover attempted by Kraft Heinz? No, we still haven't found what we're looking for …

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South Africa Paper Reacts To Pistorius Verdict

"Justice at last" writes Johannesburg-based daily The Citizen, one day after Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of murder as a South African appeals court overturned an earlier manslaughter verdict.

Pistorius could now face a 15-year prison term, after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned his earlier conviction of culpable homicide to murder for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013.

While he awaits a new sentencing, the six-time Paralympic gold medalist will remain under house arrest after serving just under a year of his original five-year sentence.