200131 FWDK

It is a great pleasure for me to address you this afternoon - on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the speech that I delivered to Parliament on 2 February 1990 - which initiated the constitutional transformation of South Africa.  

It was the beginning of the resolution of the core problem that had dogged South Africa since the establishment of the Union in 1910.  That problem arose from the fact that - in keeping with the colonial approach of the times - Britain had vested total power in the new Union in the hands of the minority white nation. 

In a rapidly changing world, this relationship would prove to be increasingly untenable.

As the tide of imperialism ebbed from Africa, South Africa found itself floundering in the last pool of white rule.  We were glaringly out of step with the new international norms of non-discrimination, equality and self-determination that had been articulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

Between 1960 and 1989 South Africa entered a vortex of deepening isolation and escalating conflict.  

By 1986 my colleagues in the National Party and I had accepted that the only solution to this problem lay in dismantling the injustices of apartheid and in reaching agreement with the genuine representatives of all South Africans on a new and inclusive constitution.

At the end of the 1980s history opened a window of opportunity for change:

  • By 1987 both the ANC and the government had accepted that there would have to be negotiations.
  • After the decisive South African victory at the Battle of the Lomba River in southern Angola in October 1987, President Gorbachev pulled the plug on Soviet and Cuban military intervention in southern Africa. He instructed the Cubans and Angolans to reach an agreement with South Africa.
  • The ensuing Tripartite Agreement of 1988 led to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and to the successful implementation of the UN independence plan for Namibia. 
  • In February 1989, in a surprise move, PW Botha resigned as leader of the National Party.I was elected in his place by a National Party caucus that clearly wanted change;
  • In November 1989 the fall of the Berlin Wall signalled the collapse of Soviet Communism and the victory of liberal democracy and free market economics.

2 February 1990 was not the result of a Damascus conversion - neither was it forced on us by the ANC, by sanctions or any other external factors.  

Speech by Former President FW de Klerk, to the FW de Klerk Foundation Annual Conference, Radisson Blu Hotel, Granger Bay
31 January 2020

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