Except for one, I have never missed any of the anniversaries of 2 February 1990 when Mr De Klerk made that major speech which put us where we are today.
I think it might help for people to understand why, when Mr De Klerk approached me, we came to that conclusion about the release of Mr Mandela. Many people do not know that Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the ANC who was my uncle, was married to King Dinuzulu’s eldest daughter, my grandfather’s daughter. And I did errands for my uncle when I was doing Matric. In fact, when I was rusticated from Fort Hare for being involved in demonstrations against the then Governor General G Brand Van Zyl in 1950, Dr Seme wrote to one of our leaders of the ANC, Prof Mathews, trying to intercede for me to be allowed to write my exams. I was of course involved in those demonstrations as a cadre of the ANC Youth League.
After Fort Hare, when I landed in Durban, every afternoon I would go to Lakhani Chambers where the ANC offices were, where I got very close to Inkosi Albert Luthuli who was my mentor. I think this background is important in understanding why in fact when Mr De Klerk approached me, we quickly came to an agreement about the importance of negotiations.
As you know we come from many wars in this country. You know that my people, the Zulu people, were involved in 1838 in the sad Battle of Blood River and in 1879 in the Anglo Zulu War. So in 1912 the founders of the ANC said there will be no more war and that from that time onwards they would only negotiate. So I stuck to that. And His Excellency Mr Motlanthe knows that I always said that I stuck to the principle of our founding fathers more than the ANC who had said, no more war.
At the unveiling of Mr Tambo’s tombstone in Benoni, our former President Mr Motlanthe was present when the interim leader of the ANC in Gauteng, Mr Cleopas Nsibande, announced that Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo sent him to approach my sister, who was married to a medical doctor in Benoni, to say that although we as ANC were opposed to the homelands policy, if the traditional leaders of KwaZulu choose me, I must accept leadership, so that we could actually control where this thing goes.
I worked with Mr Tambo until 1979. We had a meeting, as you know, in London with Mr Tambo for two and a half days where we discussed two issues. The first one was the issue of disinvestment and economic sanctions against South Africa. And of course, I could not support that. We could not agree, but our discussions were not acrimonious. And the second issue was taking up arms, being involved with the peoples’ war which the ANC was waging, with which I could also not agree.
So with that background ladies and gentlemen I am delighted then to share once again in marking the anniversary of that watershed moment in our country on 2 February 1990 when our former president, Mr De Klerk, made that speech. I must thank Mr De Klerk and Mrs Elita de Klerk for all that they continue to do for our nation through the FW de Klerk Foundation. And I must thank Mr Steward himself who has worked with Mr De Klerk for the last 25 years. I know very well that patriotism never retires. I think that was demonstrated by the speech that Mr De Klerk made this morning. The love of country that resides in Mr De Klerk’s heart will no doubt continue to produce a very valuable contribution towards the building and defending of a non-racial constitutional democracy.
Today it is a particular pleasure to be present at this conference as we are joined by Lord Robin Renwick of Clifton, the former British Ambassador to South Africa, who served during that time of transition and negotiation. I admire Lord Renwick for his dedication to capturing the truth and the details of that complex time and committing them to paper. In fact, Mr De Klerk was right to say that history has been written and rewritten in this country. Throughout my long career I have learned the value of placing the facts on record rather than assuming that they will be remembered, and remembered accurately.
Thus, even 25 years later, I still admire Mr De Klerk for acknowledging, as he did in Parliament on 2 February 1990, the role I played in opening the way for constitutional negotiations. In fact when Mr De Klerk approached me and said that we must negotiate the future – he was approaching other leaders as well – we decided to set up a small committee with the approval of the National Party and Inkatha. And one of Inkatha’s non-negotiables was that Mr Mandela and other political prisoners must be released and exiles be allowed to return. We said that was not negotiable.
I really must sincerely thank Mr De Klerk for having actually been receptive to that. Attempts may be made to modify the narrative of the past as future generations pursue political gains. We have seen that happen before. Neither Mr De Klerk nor I are strangers to propaganda. As you can see, there is a debate raging in the media just now about whether a street can be named after him. It is really shameful that there could even be any voice expressed against naming just a street after what Mr De Klerk did for us in this country. But once the truth is on record it becomes very difficult to subvert.