De Klerk speaks at Glencree Summer School

I am just back from a weekend spent at the Glencree Summer School, where a variety of speakers gave presentations to a mixed audience from both sides of the Ulster community, the Republic and the UK.

The keynote address was given by the ex-President of South Africa, FW de Klerk. Though it was clear from the discussion that followed his initial address that there were few direct parallels between the circumstances in the two situations, a number of interesting points did arise.

1 The higher echelons of the National Party concluded by the late 1980’s that change was not only necessary it was also morally imperative. Around 1987, the party took a ‘long hard look at itself. As a result it accepted the need to develop a solution through inner conviction. “It was a moral decision to do what we did. Had we failed to bring justice to the majority it would have be immoral.”

2 They also accepted that the ANC would have to do likewise.

3 Win/win was the ultimate aim. “One sided solutions rarely last the test of time – they often give rise to new conflicts; recriminations; and grievances”

4 Leadership was also crucial. De Klerk claimed, “I spent as much energy and time on taking my party with me as I did in negotiating the new settlement.” So too did Mandela.

5 With regard to cultural identity, with up to 34 parties in South Africa and numerous language groups he emphasised the importance of creating a pluralist state. Later when he said: “Never make a person choose between two different realities in his life – I am both an Afrikaner and a citizen of South Africa. It’s a question of and/and – not and/or!”