REMARKS BY FORMER PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AT FW DE KLERK’S 70TH BIRTHDAY,
MOUNT NELSON HOTEL, CAPE TOWN,
17 MARCH 20O6
Dit is goed om te sien hoe ons saam oud word. Ek het darem nog my hare – al is dit ‘n bietjie gryser. Ek kan jou verseker dat dis nie jy wat my hare gryser gemaak het oor die laaste 16 jare nie. Ek hoop ook nie dat ek oor die jare bygedra het om joune te laat uitval nie!
FW, you and I have shared in some not too unimportant events over the last decade and a half. I am very happy that we two retired and almost forgotten men also share the gentle quietness of aging. You might gloat that you are about 20 years behind me in this process but remember that I spent almost 30 years quietly relaxing on islands and other resorts while you were battling it out in the madding crowd – so in reality we are almost equal in age – and I therefore welcome to this club.
Seriously, we did share and jointly participate in moments that in all humility on our parts might have helped to shape our country, our continent, and in modest ways, the world. I had occasion in the past to say that our country does not sufficiently acknowledge the crucial role that FW de Klerk played in bringing us to where we are today.
I am happy to observe that that has changed. There is almost unchallenged recognition and appreciation that without the courageous foresight of FW de Klerk we might well have descended into the destructive racial conflagration that all were predicting. Last year’s invitation to you to address Parliament and share as a major participant in the celebration was such a great demonstration of a once divided country making peace with itself. President Mbeki has acknowledged you in many ways as one of the great contributors to our peaceful transition and to the building of a new nation.
Around the world people recognise you as a historic peace-maker and nation-builder. What more can I add but to repeat what I have said do often over the last 16 years? You have shown courage as few have done in similar circumstances.
It is not to reflect on your forebears when I comment on how remarkable it is that the direct descendant of Prime Minister Hans Strijdom and Senator Jan de Klerk – both stalwarts of the National Party and therefore of apartheid – could stand up when the moment came to decisively start the total dismantling of apartheid.
You and I have had our differences, some of them very public. Our basic respect for one another has never diminished and it was that respect for the other, irrespective of all differences, that made it possible for us and our organisations to work together and to negotiate that historic compromise that the world marvelled at.
If we two old and aging men have any lesson for our country, or for the world, it is that solutions to conflicts can only be found if adversaries are fundamentally prepared to accept the integrity of each other.
I am certain that you woke up this morning with a sense of fulfilment of observing how your country has progressed and developed during these 12 years of democracy – a dispensation which your courageous actions helped to bring about. And I respect you enormously for the manner in which you have gone around the world promoting our country and commending its achievements. At home you have worked tirelessly in the cause of national reconciliation and nation building.
My wife Graça joins me in wishing you a very happy birthday. May you and Elita enjoy the happiness of togetherness for many years still and may you continue to build on the foundations of our nation which you helped to lay. I am proud to have been able to share with you in so many historic moments in our country’s development.
Laat dit goed gaan en mag jy saggies oud word.